Father who transformed council-owned derelict playground into green space allotment in DIY makeover faces £50,000 fine for ‘fly-tipping’ after using earth as topsoil to grow plants on patch of land
- Simon Martin, 43, said he just wanted to help improve his ‘declining’ local area
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A father who turned a derelict playground into an allotment in a bid to improve his ‘declining’ local area is facing a £50,000 fine and even jail after council bosses accused him of fly-tipping.
Simon Martin, 43, loaded up barrows of soil to transform the disused park in Barry, South Wales, which had become a jungle of weeds following its closure 15 years ago.
The Youtuber, who reviews craft beers online, said he wanted a community growing space in his town of Cadoxton, and with the help of other locals brought in top soil to help plants grow.
But council bosses say he had no permission to repurpose the patch of land, which sits right behind his home, warning that he must remove all the soil or face a fine or even prosecution.
Mr Martin said: ‘I am trying to do a bit of good. I am the reverse of fly-tipping – I’m making it better.’
Simon Martin (pictured) turned a derelict playground into an allotment in a bid to improve his ‘declining’ local area in Barry, South Wales
Simon Martin (pictured in front of the playground-turned-allotment), 43, loaded up barrows of soil to transform the disused park in Barry, South Wales, which had become a jungle of weeds following its closure 15 years ago
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Mr Buchan appealed to the Scottish government and claimed the work he was required to do on encroaching branches was ‘excessive’ – but lost the appeal
He claimed Vale of Glamorgan Council enforcement officers visited his house about the alleged fly-tipping on the council-owned former playground.
Mr Martin admits putting some of his own soil down but claims so too did a number of neighbours.
Mr Martin added: ‘There is no way I could move what seems like 20 tonnes of soil on my own. Not with my back problems, not with my arm problems.
‘As far as I am concerned, it is not fly-tipping because it is soil that has been moved no more than 10 meters from the same area.
‘When I think of fly-tipping, I think of empty barrels and mattresses and peoples’ waste. This is not waste.
‘This is soil that can be used to grass an area, to plant a tree, to re-wild an area.’
Mr Martin denied it was a ‘land grab’ – stressing that he only wants the community to be able to make use of this patch of land in a positive way.
It has a range of plants growing there, including pear trees, apple trees, blackcurrant bushes, rosemary and lavender.
Locals say the playground was originally an allotment when the Victorian homes were built some 140 years ago.
Mr Martin continued: ‘I am 43 years of age and I have lived here all of my life and I have slowly seen the decline of the area and it is heartbreaking.
‘We are in a cost of living crisis. People need to eat, there is land that was an allotment previously.
‘It is not perfect conditions, but if they were to put some top soil on it, they would then be able to plant – take it back to what it was 140 years ago when the houses were built. It was land for people to grow vegetables on.
‘But at the moment these busybodies from the council are my main concern. I don’t want to go to jail and I can’t afford a £50,000 fine, but I’m not giving in to them.
Mr Martin denied it was a ‘land grab’ – stressing that he only wants the community to be able to make use of this patch of land in a positive way
Council bosses say he had no permission to repurpose the patch of land, which sits right behind his home, warning that he must remove all the soil or face a fine or even prosecution
Mr Martin wanted to turn a disused playground into a community growing space for families in Cadoxton in Barry, South Wales (Pictured: Fly-tipping at the site of the allotment)
‘They turned up out of the blue – three of them wearing body cams and lanyards – and told me that what I’d done amounted to fly tipping and was an offence.
‘But there’s no way I’m taking our allotment down.’
The amount one is fined for fly-tipping depends on the severity of the case, but the maximum is £50,000.
Locals say they back Mr Martin, including one 87-year-old neighbour who remembers the disputed area as an allotment after World War II.
He said: ‘It is wonderful to watch it all tasking shape again. It brings back so many glorious memories.
‘He has my full support. This is a community space and I can’t think of a better use for it than helping feed people in hard times.
‘Buying fruit and veg in the supermarket costs a small fortune nowadays and this will cost nothing. It has to stay.’
Another resident said: ‘Simon should be applauded for what he’s achieved out here, not threatened with jail by these numpties. He’s a hero in my eyes.’
Locals say the playground was originally an allotment when the Victorian homes were built some 140 years ago – and he defended using it for growing food again
A Vale of Glamorgan Council spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Our Waste Crime Unit officers attended Mr. Martin’s property after receiving a complaint from a nearby resident of a large amount of garden waste that had been deposited in the former playground.
‘Mr Martin was warned that his actions could be considered a very serious case of fly-tipping but no enforcement action has yet been taken.
‘Our team had attended the property in response to a similar complaint in 2021. While the intention may have been to create allotments, in reality stone-borders have been placed along the rubberised surface of the playground and soil and turf deposited on top.
‘There is a large pile of garden waste and the rear wall of Mr Martin’s property also appears to have been knocked down to allow access.
‘Shared community spaces can enhance many areas but the site to the rear of Moxon Street is wholly inappropriate for this use. No permission or guidance was sought prior to a very significant amount of what could be considered controlled waste being deposited on the surface of the playground.
‘The Council’s waste enforcement team has given Mr Martin the opportunity to remove the waste from the site and return it to its previous condition, action that would otherwise cost the Council thousands of pounds, before determining whether to consider a criminal prosecution.
‘It is very much our hope that this can be resolved informally and amicably.’
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