This is because we have a lovely allotment plot on a nice site behind Vicarage road football club in West Watford. We don’t tend to it religiously because we have a very young family and not much time. But at least once a week we all go down, plant, weed or harvest crops. We enjoy meeting and chatting with other plot holders. For my husband and me, it’s our chance to try our hands at ‘The Good Life’ and for our kids it’s an invaluable space for them to enjoy, explore, run about on and get dirty on!
We live in a small terraced house about a 5 min walk away. Our lovely house has a tiny back yard which we use to grow some food but it basically like an extra small room in the summer. The allotment has been a life line for us.
In June this year we received a letter from the mayor saying that she needed the land for the development of the Health Campus. We as residents had been aware of this plan to extend and update our local hospital for some time but so far had seen or heard very little on it and the bit we had heard did not need allotment land. So you can imagine our surprise when we received the letter suggesting that the council needed the land.
There then followed various meetings with the council which were always one sided and it soon became transparent that our precious allotment land would have housing built on it as part of a larger housing estate which is to be built on industrial and brown land behind the allotments. Watford is an already massively overcrowded and overwhelmed urban area. The extension of the hospital is we believe a red herring to acquire the land as there are neither firm plans nor funding in place for the hospital. In any event the hospital trust said if the proposal regeneration scheme did go ahead they would only need 2/5 of the land. The remaining 3/5ths would then be used for housing.
And although plot holders and other interested parties put up a good fight, Our mayor, Dorothy Thornhill and her Lib Dem council, voted to give the land to developers in return for a share of the profits of sale from any housing built on the land. This was objected to by members of other parties but the proposal was voted in again by Lib Dem councillors including Mayor Dorothy’s husband Ian Sharpe…..
The people of Watford have spoken about their unhappiness regarding this by writing to our local paper and completing a local petition (with over 1000 signatures) which was handed over to the council. But the mayor has not listened to her people preferring to hide behind the ‘health campus’ and using it as a guilt trip to make people believe that the Allotments must be sacrificed to allow the Health Campus to go ahead. She has also managed to release propaganda to make the residents of Watford believe that the fight is over and we have lost.
Around this time I got angry, VERY angry!!! How dare they sneak through this blatant land grab!! The allotments are an oasis of usable community green space in a highly urbanized and over populated area where the average back garden has space only to swing a cat in!
Farm terrace allotments, our allotments are over 100 years old. They date back to 1896 and have survived 2 world wars and various recessions yet this cocky council think they can come and pull this green land from under our feet?? How dare they?!!!
The next stage is for them to submit an application to the Secretary of State to have the use of land changed over. The council (bearing in mind there are no firm plans for the hospital) are therefore rushing through this application in order to get the blood off their hands and onto the Secretary of State’s, Eric Pickles.
We have put in a submission to make the land a community asset, which basically means that the local community have nominated the land as valuable to them; and that ultimately, if it were sold, we could have an opportunity to buy it and run it ourselves.
You don’t need me to tell you about the massive pros of an allotment, other than the obvious provision of space to grow our own food, however I will list a few:
1)Community 2) Health 3)Environment 4)Wildlife 5) History
You can take any one of these points and develop it further…
There are many reasons for Mayor Dorothy and her Council not to take our allotments and only one for them to do so…. ‘Financial gain’!!
They really are selling their souls and our lives! Many of our plot holders are elderly and to them their little piece of land is everything, and they have already devoted years to maintain their plots. If the council takes this land they might end up needing a place in the very hospital they claim to be regenerating!!
I got involved because in a year or two from now, I don’t want to walk past a big housing estate and have to remind my children that we used to grow food there. I want to teach them my children a lesson now! That no matter how hard the fight no matter how strong the opposition you stand up and fight for what you believe in!! I don’t want to say, as many plot holders and residents have been left to believe, that the council have already made up their mind and there is nothing we can do about it.
For this reason I started off our twitter Campaign; @SaveFarmTerrace
Our face book page; Save FARM TERRACE Allotments
and I have recently taken over the running of our web site www.farmterrace.btck.co.uk
We also have a petition:
Apart from my own personal FB page I have never done anything like this before.
I am not the only one campaigning. I joined an already passionate group of plot holders and we are growing daily with people who can’t stand back and let this injustice happen. It really is the thin end of the wedge and we are not the first allotment to be taken nor will we be the last. But as we fight this maybe others will feel the power to do so and stand up for their allotments. I hope to help others facing this problem and at the same time gather strength, advice and friendship from others