Farm Terrace Allotments – The Watford Parliamentary Candidates’ Opinions

The Save Terrace Farm Allotments campaign in Watford has grown into a national campaign and an election issue. This was demonstrated when the BBC chose the Farm Terrace Allotments to interview local candidates for MP.
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So what do the candidates have to say about the allotments?

We asked them…….

Here are the responses as we received them

Matt Turmaine – Labour

I’m sure it goes without saying but for the avoidance of doubt, Labour locally and I as your parliamentary candidate, are opposed to the concreting over of the allotments for the health campus development.

It is my view that, as expressed by previous chief exec of the hospital, the campus development can take place without it – sure, it may make it harder but it demonstrates a total lack of political vision, imagination and willingness to engage with the local community to go ahead with it as the council proposes.

If I am elected as Labour MP for Watford, I would lobby against such use.

Dorothy Thornhill – Liberal Democrats

I disagree the decision will have been made but due to purdah it will now have to wait. Such judgments are not political; ie the outcome of the election will make no difference to the decision as it is based on strict criteria which are as you know are  subject to law and judicial review. Whoever is mp will of course, make  no difference to the council’s position which is that jobs,homes, new hospital facilities are  more important than allotments, which will be replaced. I am pleased that we are treating allotment holders fairly by  giving them a new plot , new  shed ,plants etc and compensation. Tending an allotment in a building site is just not a good thing it will quite honestly be awful.

Nick Lincoln – UKIP

My stance re the allotments is to protect and preserve these unless clear proof can be offered that they are indispensable to the Heath Campus development. In my opinion this proof has not been evidenced in any conclusive fashion. As such I am happy to endorse your (high profile!) campaign to protect this bit of rare green land in West Watford. The allotments should not be built on full stop, whether this is an expansion of the hospital OR (the likely route) houses / new school / whatever other plan the Town Council has this week!

Richard Harrington – Conservative

My views on this case are in line with the Hospital’s wishes, and their position, as it has been all along.

I can totally appreciate the upset that potentially having to move from Farm Terrace may have for some of the plot holders, which we discussed when I came and met with you all originally. It’s clear why there is such an emotional attachment to the allotments, and the amount of work that several of the plot holders have put in. I think this is clear, and therefore don’t honestly believe that anyone would make any decision to change the use of allotment land lightly or without a very good reason.

The NHS Trust have said clearly in public, and also personally to me, that the additional land will help them to meet the requirements of the Hospital – and the new facilities and services they want to offer. My position, as it always has been, is to support the Hospital and help them to secure what they need for the redevelopment and new facilities. They have argued that the additional land will improve the Health Campus scheme for a number of reasons, and as such I have sided with the Hospital on this over the past couple of years.

It’s true that I don’t agree with the way everything has necessarily been handled with the case, but I do still accept that the Hospital are arguing for the land in order to improve the scheme and that underlying principle has not changed – and therefore nor has my position. It may seem like an easy thing for me to do to attack Dorothy over this, but I genuinely don’t believe that is the right thing to do for the whole of Watford or the Hospital which has to be put above anything political.

In terms of the wider points you have made about protection for allotments generally, I do think your wider campaign is admirable and have an awful lot of respect for you. I know you have already had a response from Stephen Williams in his capacity as the Minister responsible, but just to reiterate that the Government has taken action to support allotments over the past few years.

Allotment provision has increased under this Government, with a survey from the National Allotment Society showing that 2000 new allotment places have been created. There was also new guidance issued last year which strengthens allotment protection, and ensures that waiting times must be considered. There are also new community rights that have been created, for example through neighbourhood plans, and a best practice guide for establishing community orchards and other spaces for growing food has also been issued.

While that is positive, I can imagine it will come of little comfort or assurance while the fate of Farm Terrace still hangs in the balance. Given that the Department had considered Watford Borough Council’s latest application for several months, and this has now been delayed further, I do believe that this is being taken seriously and that the legal position is being considered thoroughly and properly.

Aidan CottrellBoyce – Green Party

The war waged by the Lib-Dem led council against the allotment-holders at Farm Terrace is testimony to a staggering lack of imagination. It seems bizarre to most people with even a passing knowledge of the issue, that the destruction of valuable green space with a long history of promoting exercise and healthy eating, is the only way to increase the housing stock in Watford. There are myriad solutions to this problem. It speaks to a profound lack of imagination that the council has focused – with such a monomaniacal fixation – on this particular, very unsatisfactory, one.

But the issue is more profound than that. The ongoing battle which the Lib-Dem led council has fought against the allotment-holders demonstrates a willingness to stand up for the wrong people. We, as a society, and therefore our elected officials, should be fighting tooth and nail to preserve allotments, a shrinking but incredible valuable resource, and to support allotment-holders. The allotment project was initiated to create islands of community cohesion and cooperation in an otherwise ferociously, competitive urban landscape. In that endeavour, across the country, it has proved successful and valuable time and again. The decision by the council demonstrates the short-sightedness of governance which is dictated by the logic of electoral cycles: ploughing money into healthcare whilst destroying green spaces which are so valuable for promoting healthy living.

The Green Party in Watford have stood up for the allotment-holders at a local level and, if elected MP, I would argue in their favour at the national level.

 

Conclusion

We appreciate the responses from all the candidates as communication must be key in such cases.

We want to make it clear that we are in full support of regenerating the area on the existing brownfield land, and supporting any hospital expansion. The NHS in Watford have made it clear they are in no position to expand for a number of years and the current submission by the council revolves around a housing development, not a hospital or even a possible school.

We have been committed to compromise and innovative ideas to integrate the allotments into any regeneration or health plans as they could be key to both. It is has been distressing to be continually misrepresented by a council who have so far refused to compromise in any manner. The current Mayor has not even set foot on the site and has been unwilling to even meet the plot holders and listen to their concerns and suggestions.

It is difficult to find any facts to back up the idea that the current government has increased allotments, despite asking for them. The only facts we clearly have is that only 4 out of 132 applications to de-regulate have been refused.

I cannot tell you who to vote for. I hope you do vote, I really do and I personally hope you vote for somebody who supports Farm Terrace.