LONG LEYS RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION (LLRA) ANNOUNCES the start of a 3-year project, to build a much-needed shop, community centre & allotment growing centre on Long Leys Road. If successful, the project will be the first in Lincoln to use Community Right to Build legislation under the Localism Act (2011).
The new facilities would serve 630 homes, 1,430 residents and 220 allotment plot holders in the Long Leys Neighbourhood Plan area and would be in place in early 2025. Once built, the community centre and allotment growing centre would be owned and operated by a Community Interest Company (CIC), managed by LLRA on behalf of residents and allotment plot holders. The general convenience store, with floor area of about 400 square metres, would be owned and operated by a specialist retailer.
Much Needed Facilities
A NEED FOR LOCAL FACILITIES in Long Leys has long been recognised but frustratingly never addressed. COVID-19 has brought home to everyone, how difficult life can be without easy access to basic amenities within a 10-minute walk, especially when bus services are cut back or cancelled. LLRA now proposes that, rather than wait for ever for amenities to be provided, the community should take control by planning and building them ourselves. This can potentially be done using new rights and powers for communities introduced by The Localism Act 2011.
There is now a huge amount of work for project volunteers, to turn initial proposals into a reality. It won’t be easy, and success is by no means guaranteed. But our community has shown that we are up for big challenges! As a bonus, the project could lead to better integration between the allotment and Long Leys communities, delivering a general convenience store, a community meeting place & decent facilities for those who lease allotments plots.
THE ONE-ACRE SITE (0.4 hectares) is located on 22 acres of statutory allotment land on Long Leys Road. The build would use allotment plots 1 – 10 from the 223 existing plots, 4% of the existing allotment area. Sandwiched between Cloverleaf Care Home to the north and Mitchell Drive / Tapin Close to the south the site is in a highly accessible location within a 500-metre radius of 92% of the homes in Long Leys.
What About Existing Allotment Plot Holders?
THE THREE PLOTS nearest Long Leys Road are currently uncultivated. Seven are currently under cultivation. LLRA acknowledges the impact on those currently renting plots 1 – 10 and the frustrations of having to move plot. As partial mitigation, LLRA will ensure:
- No building work would start until 2024.
- All affected are offered alternative plots.
- Most if not all mature trees are preserved.
- Assistance to relocate any mature bushes or shrubs.
- Assistance to relocate any temporary buildings.
- Access to toilet facilities for all allotment holders.
AND FOR ALL PLOT HOLDERS
To complement the existing allotments, a separate Allotment Growing Centre would support community growing initiatives.
LLRA will work in collaboration with specialist partners as well as allotment holders to detail the requirements, which currently include a greenhouse of circa 100 m2, demonstrations of emerging growing techniques and an area to share seeds, plants and produce between plot holders. That’s in addition to access to a nearby shop and toilet facilities as well as use of the community centre for growers’ competitions and allotment holder meetings.
What is a Community Right to Build project?
THE LOCALISM ACT 2011 introduced new rights and powers for communities and individuals. It introduced reforms to make the planning system more democratic and effective. The Act recognised that in some places, voluntary and community groups have ideas that do not always get a proper hearing from councils.
A Community Right to Build project gives local people the power to deliver the developments that their local community want, providing they meet minimum criteria and can demonstrate local support through a referendum. It replaces the need for a separate traditional planning application.
OVER THE NEXT 12 MONTHS LLRA will be consulting with all project stakeholders, including residents and allotment holders, regarding details of the project. This would then be fed into detailed designs. Watch out for further communication on how you can contribute your ideas and suggestions.
ONCE A FINAL COMMUNITY RIGHT TO BUILD ORDER has been produced by the project team, then it will go to an independent planning examiner, to check the plan meets planning requirements before going to referendum.
ALL REGISTERED VOTERS in Long Leys will get a chance to have their say in a local referendum, likely to be held as part of the May 2023 local elections. Every voter gets the chance to decide whether they support the Build Order or not. A majority in a referendum gives the project the equivalent of planning permission.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE would still have to give permission, as the land is part of a statutory allotment site as well as having important open space designation. Whilst these are significant challenges, LLRA considers they can be overcome.
Other Project Aspects
LLRA HAS SUGGESTED the following to City of Lincoln Council (CoLC).
- That 38 plots on the site, currently leased to a commercial grower, are returned to allotment use. This would provide 5 plots for those on the site waiting list, 10 plots to replace those used by the project and up to 23 surplus plots which could be used for Community Supported Agriculture.
- Currently there are multiple leased allotment plots across Lincoln which are poorly maintained and with little or no cultivation. Many don’t meet CoLC’s rules of allotment leasing. There is an opportunity for CoLC or partner organisations to offer advice, to those new to allotment growing or time-poor, on how to make more productive use of plots.
- CoLC’s allotment strategy (from the 2012 Strategic Review of Allotment Provision) should now be implemented in full. Six Lincoln wards: Abbey, Birchwood, Glebe, Hartsholme, Minster & Park still have either no allotments or a significant under provision. This strategy proposes:
* A standard of 27 allotment plots per 1,000 Lincoln households.
* That allotment holders should ideally be under 10 minutes’ walk from their plots.
* That new allotments should be targeted to areas of deprivation.
Note: Subject to change.
- Monday 28 February
- Initial project proposal approved and launched to Long Leys residents, allotment tenants and other stakeholders.
- Remainder of 2022
- Community consultations covering both online and offline stakeholders.
- Applying for grant funding from Locality to develop Community Right to Build Order (CRtBO) proposals in conjunction with a planning consultant. Set up a Community Interest Company (CIC).
- Seeking suitable partner organisations to provide input into the specification for the allotment growing centre.
- Selecting a suitable retail partner to jointly develop both concept and more detailed designs.
- Developing detailed business plans for financing the build and operations.
- Fund-raising activities including approaches to grant bodies.
- Preparation of CRtBO by Long Leys volunteer resource supported by grant funding from Locality
- Jan 2023
- CRtBO submitted to LPA for independent examination
- May 2023
- Long Leys Plan Area residents vote on the project in a community referendum on same
- September 2023
- Subject to majority in referendum, request for consent sent to Secretary of State
- Spring 2024
- Anticipated approval to proceed.
- Construction starts.
- Early 2025
- Construction completes.
- Kit out of buildings commences.
- June 2025
- Buildings operational!
Initial Outline Specifications
Note: Subject to change.
The site would incorporate separate shop and community centre buildings, with the community centre also linked to an allotment growing centre. All would have shared access and parking. Landscaping and tree planting would be used to provide a green frontage and screen nearby housing. A 3-metre width green corridor would be maintained to the south of the site, allowing continued access for wildlife moving to and from the east side of Long Leys Road to the allotments.
Retailer Requirements for Shop Area
Requirements are for a general convenience store with a floor area of circa 400 m2, on Long Leys Road with easy access and visibility. The position on the west side of Long Leys Road helps commuters departing the city to make purchases on their way home. Staff from the hospital opposite would also have easy access.
- 20 parking spaces + bicycle racks
- Other facilities offered at convenience store:
- Car charging points
- Benches and seating area
- Water fountain
- Top ups for electricity etc.
Community Centre Requirements
The requirement is for a main building with a floor area of 400 m2 which would accommodate most of the likely community uses. Possible facilities include:
- Main hall size of 18 x 12 metres suitable for seating circa 120 people
- Conference facilities
- Smaller area for multi-use including meetings, pop-up shop facility e.g., for crafts, local produce, local fund-raising projects
- Kitchen/Catering Facilities
- Toilets, including externally accessible toilet available to allotment users
- Area for coffee shop/small café, possibly with outdoor seating
- Bar facilities, to support social activities
- Stage with sound and lighting system
- Storage room for clubs
- Room for building services
The centre will be available to user groups on a pre-booked basis, for social functions and other uses on a private hire basis. It would also be available for community health initiatives and as a local polling station.
Allotment Growing Centre Requirements
To complement existing allotment growing activities close to the site, a separate structure to support community growing initiatives would also be constructed. Working with partner organisations LLRA would seek to incorporate the best elements and experiences from other successful allotment groups. Elements could include:
- Tool store
- Raised beds
- Greenhouse of circa 100 m2.
- Support for local school growing projects
- Demonstrating emerging growing techniques such as hydroponic growing
- Allowing allotment holders to share seeds, plants and produce
- Germinate and advance seedlings, before they are planted out on the nearby allotments.
A potential partner has also suggested:
- An agro-ecological market garden or small mixed farm, or possibly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and a direct supplier of food to the shop and the wider city.