Have you noticed what is happening to allotments around the country?
We are allotment holders at Farm Terrace Allotments in Watford and you may have seen us in the media recently having won a High Court decision that overturned the council’s attempt to de-regulate the land for development purposes.
When the allotment holders were first informed of the potential redevelopment we were told that the neighbouring hospital wanted to expand and there was quick agreement that this was a worthy reason. People started to drift away and the council stopped maintaining the site. Then it was discovered that most of the site was to be turned into apartments and the hospital could not expand. Further investigation revealed that the bulk of the plan was 700 new apartments in the most densely populated part of the town. The allotments are one of the few urban green spaces in the area.
To the surprise of the Watford Council the decision was challenged by the remaining allotment holders. Despite numerous attempts there has been little effort from the council to negotiate with allotment holders whose holdings only take up 15% of the land under discussion. It became clear that the only reason the allotments were required was to increase profitability and it has been conceded that the redevelopment plans would still be profitable without the allotment land.
The Council has now submitted plans to deregulate twice and the most recent decision of the Secretary of State was quashed by the High Court. Despite this the Council immediately announced plans to resubmit a de-regulation request but instead of the Health Campus expansion they now cite that there may be a primary school built on the site. Under current laws it is legal for the council to submit such requests as often as they like until they achieve the desired result.
Will You Be Next – #SignForVictory
One of the things we discovered while going through this process is the current legal situation allows councils across Britain to provide weak or incomplete information when claiming exceptional circumstances for deregulating allotment land supposedly protected under law. Exceptional Circumstances is the reason councils must provide to override the Allotments Act of 1950 that you thought was protecting your precious plot.
Using our experience in campaigning for Farm Terrace, we have decided to launch a larger campaign to Save All Allotments across Britain. Our goal is not to stop councils having access to land when it is genuinely needed but to have the exceptional circumstances section of the law tightened to reflect the protected status of allotments.
One of the things we discovered while going through this process is the current legal situation allows councils across Britain to provide weak or incomplete information when claiming exceptional circumstances for deregulating allotment land supposedly protected under law. Our decision to pursue the argument in this manner follows the disturbing information we found in our freedom of information request that showed that between 2007 and 2014, a total of 194 out of 198 applications to close allotments were granted by the Secretary of State (SOS).
In view of this we realised that this process of taking protected land to meet property developer’s appetites is occurring across the UK and we decided that a large, national petition was needed to help protect the UK’s historic allotment sites. We set this up and despite been told we could expect a few hundred signatures we achieved 6000 votes in three days and have now passed 13 000 votes, showing us that this was a national issue
Election time – A national issue
With an election looming we realise we need to increase the public and political awareness of the need to protect allotments and have a new campaign to push the issue further up the political agenda. We are running a ‘Sign for Victory’ campaign and are simply asking people to place a poster on their shed or allotment and take a selfie and pass it on while sharing with us. We want to let the political parties know that the people of UK respect and want to protect their allotments that have provided protection for the country in times of need.
The poster link is http://tinyurl.com/orcfv27
or you can send a self-addressed stamped envelope to C/O Evolve, 77 Vicarage Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0EJ and we will send you a poster.
Allotments have been vital to UK communities and have been key in feeding the population in historical times of crisis. They provide physical and emotional care of the citizens and the national removal of this resource would be an act of vandalism that future generations will judge the present on. Green spaces and allotments are the lungs of a community and nestled in between residential areas ensure that young people have the chance to experience food growth and natural development in a world becoming more distant from the natural process.
The government group responsible for allotments is the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Around the time of our successful and public court challenge the DCLG claimed to change the guidelines affecting allotment decisions to add greater protection and transparency to the process. Unfortunately that has not been the case and in fact the new guidelines make it easier for councils and land owners to close allotment sites.
Please have a look for yourself at the new guide lines here –
Your Allotments need YOU
Remember you only need to download the poster and place it on your shed, garden area or allotment and take a picture of yourself to show you support saving allotments.
And of course sign the petition.
Any help you can provide will ensure this issue is front and centre of political discussion where it must be to save the allotments we are custodians of.
Farm Terrace Allotment Holders