THE RIFT between a care home developer and people in Almondsbury is growing with villagers now poised to start legal action to give land earmarked for construction village green status.
Oaklands Drive residents said they were appalled at the way they had been treated and seemingly "kept out of the loop" by Options Group, the company behind plans to fence off the playing fields at the bottom of their cul-de-sac and develop a home for young adults with autism there.
They have now embarked on a mission to protect the woods and fields part of the company’s application by having them declared village green.
Tracy Sparrow, of the recently-formed Oaklands Drive Action Group (ODAG), said: "People have been using the fields for the past 20 years. Even the police station has been using it for dog training. That’s where our kids play. Almondsbury Football Club used to play there.
“The only thing holding me up is that I can’t afford the £1,000 before the New Year for a justice of the peace to sign the application. No-one can at the moment.”
Almondsbury Parish Council will consider whether it can spare some cash to help the residents with their village green application in the New Year.
Villagers initially feared the care home may be a secure unit as the application included fencing all around the proposed location. Although this turned out not to be the case, closing off the playing fields to the public remains a major issue for locals.
And Options Group’s apparent lack of interest in residents’ concerns and refusal to address their fears directly and openly, villagers said, has forced their hand. Despite the care home company’s claims that a meeting was set up with residents to explain the project, campaigners said no such gathering took place.
In fact, they insisted the only meeting was convened by ODAG - a meeting Options Group failed to attend. "A very young chap came to speak to one person on the street and that’s all,” Mrs Sparrow added. “He didn’t know anything about the application. They never met with us or sent us a letter. We had a huge residents meeting up at the football club on November 25. We invited Options Group but they didn’t turn up."
Graham Baker, Options Group chief executive, however said that a meeting was held by the firm at a resident's home in October. He also reassured residents the playing fields would not be fenced off in their entirety.
“Where possible we agree the local community should continue to use the home’s land as they have become accustomed to," he said.
“We’ve offered these accommodations based on the dialogue that we have had with local people to date including a meeting in late October between our representative and a group of residents at one of their homes. Residents present had previously said they intended to share that discussion with others.
“We fully intend to continue this conversation in ways which the local people find helpful and that are constructive.”