Could your site be at risk?
As many of you know we at farm Terrace Allotment site Watford are in the middle of a bitter war with our council and central government who want to build housing on our site. This is becoming an epidemic, as more and more councils see selling off precious allotment sites as a way of generating cash. It is escalating in frequency as NSALG estimates that instead of receiving one call per week about such cases, it is now one A DAY! Since 2007 there have been 132 separate applications to close down allotments under section 8 of the 1925 Allotments Act. Out of these 132 applications 97% were approved (128 cases) and only 4 cases refused. Of course some of these sites were re-provided elsewhere but it should still be noted that these allotments have been closed on their original sites.
Is your site at risk? And what can you do to protect it?
As spokesperson for Farm Terrace I receive many enquiries about what happened to us from worried plot holder’s frightened that the same might happen to them or just pre empting any greedy councillors out to make a fast buck. Here are some pointers to look out with regards to ‘Warning Signs’ the council have you in their sights and a list of action points to make it very hard for the council to get rid of you. This is based purely on what has happened to us, please feel free to add your own and I am basing this on our site which is ‘Statutory’ (I.e. council owned) but the same applies to ‘Temporary’ sites (I.e. privately owned)
The Council ‘leaves you alone’
If your Council or whoever owns the land and therefore ‘runs’ it seems to be disinterested in your site, you could be at real danger. Our council, didn’t bother us at all , a point we thought was great as they turned a blind eye to people perhaps breaking tenancy rules but in reality they wanted the site to look ‘derelict’ and unkempt so that sympathies with us were lost. They didn’t bother about plots which were no longer being used and no new people were taking up plots.
There is no publicity for allotments
When we first got a plot it had been advertised on council notice boards, something they suddenly stopped doing!! We believe again this was to decrease interest and demand.
The waiting list is difficult to get on to or closed
One of the naughtiest things our council did was to close the waiting list for out site over a year ago. They said that this was because it was unfair to anyone looking for a plot as the site may or may not be in existence in the future. However if things go to the next stage you will have to show the Secretary of State that there is demand for your site. Impossible to do if you don’t have anybody on your waiting list!! So check it regularly.
Form an Association ASAP
This is extremely important and very, very easy to do. You do not need everyone with a plot to sign up and it does not cost any money. However you will need a chairperson, a treasurer and a secretary and obviously the more people you can get involved the better. Being an association gives you legal rights to protest against things and to get insurance etc for possible future gatherings.
Make sure your site supervisor is doing their job
A lovely sweet person who turns a blind eye to everything might seem like a blessing but in actual fact could be doing more damage than good. You need someone who has their wits about them and their ears open as they will be your first point of contact with the owners.
Attract as much wildlife as possible
Although some are seen as pests to plot holders the richer your diversity of wildlife the better, if you have bats, badgers, slow worms etc it makes it more difficult for the council to move them so encourage plot holders to use bat boxes, have trees and bushes etc and try to keep a record of exactly what you have and where.
Get any old buildings listed
Again Councils cannot demolish listed buildings so If you do have any buildings you believe could be listed then get local historians involved.
Get the Allotment listed as a “Community Asset”
Under the Localism Act 2011, a community association can nominate their allotment as a “community asset”. It is then recorded as such by the Local Authority, and can delay any proposed sale for up to six months, and allow for the community association to prepare their own bid for the land.
Get schools and community projects involved and hold open days
This is very important to the success of your site. You are part of your community – so show it! Get everyone you can think of involved! I believe schools and other community groups should be encouraged to come down and see our plots, plant a few things, get their hands dirty and see just what GYO is all about!
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE UNDER THREAT
Write to the council/owner and local MP
Straight away, open up lines of discussion and record everything (much easier to do if you are an organisation) get as many plot holders to write as possible, and not just them, anybody from your local community or any interested parties. Show the owners and local government just how passionate you are and that you are not going to go without a fight. But try to keep lines of discussion open if possible.
Get the local press involved
They will be your best way of publicising your fight. Don’t be scared of them, they are ‘usually’ on your side and love a fight between the ordinary person and the powers that be! Organise gatherings and invite them along and be prepared for impromptu photo shoots.
Start a petition
There are various ways of doing this but it has 2 main benefits, Firstly, it gets everyone involved and is an easy way for people to show their support and secondly it shows the council/owners just how much support there is behind you!
Form an association and join NSALG
See our above point. NSALG can help you but they too are under a lot of pressure at the moment. However if the fight goes to the Secretary of State, he will contact them for a report on your case so you need to get them onboard soon.
Gone are the days when allotments were a closed off community where everyone went about their own business privately. Of course there are those who still want to do that but unfortunately if everyone on your site does, you will be seen as easy pickings to greedy councils.
Show off your plots, open your gates and invite as many people as you can in, brag about the fantastic community aspects of your site. Get local celebs involved as well as local wildlife experts, historians, teachers, mental health patients, people with disabilities, children, elderly groups, the list goes on and on….
For real and instant advice, help and inspiration create a Face book and Twitter page for your site (It’s easier than you think and great fun) and get swapping and sharing stories.
This list might seem overwhelming but please don’t let what happened to us happen to you. Learn from our mistakes and help secure your site for now and for future generations so the gift of allotments long continues…