Despite the Farm Terrace Allotment holders winning the High Court case, Watford Borough Council have put in a third submission in an attempt to take the allotment land –
Although not surprised by this, Farm Terrace were taken aback by the Council’s refusal to communicate with the allotment holders and their utter determination to take possession of the land no matter what. Once again, there are no firm plans for anything on the allotment site other than a car park and housing estate. In this new submission, the Council has now added a ‘possible’ school development along with the ‘possible hospital buildings’ despite the Watford hospital trust stating there is no money for any sort of development for a decade!
Farm Terrace had until February 13th to submit their response to the application. The decision will then go back to the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles. With a looming election, they imagine a decision will be attempted before the election in May.
Using their experience in campaigning for Farm Terrace, the allotment holders have decided to launch a larger campaign to Save All Allotments as the current situation allows councils to provide weak or incomplete information when claiming exceptional circumstances for deregulating allotment land supposedly protected under law. Their decision to pursue the argument in this manner follows the disturbing information they found in their 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).
Only 4 were refused.
In view of this, Farm Terrace realised that this process of taking protected land to meet property developers’ appetites is occurring across the UK and they decided that a large, national petition was needed to help protect the UK’s historic allotment sites.
The Farm Terrace Allotment holders fought the local council and subsequently the national government to stop their beloved, historic allotment site from being turned into a housing development and car park. They took their case to the Royal Courts of justice – and won.
As spokesperson for the group, Sara-Jane Trebar has been involved in every step of the campaign and has been shocked by how easy the process of closure has become allowing property developers to target allotment sites and encourage local councils to deregulate the land. She had naively presumed that allotments were privy to some historic law forbidding development on them. The statistics above suggest that the Government has been rubber-stamping applications for deregulation with minimal review of the facts from the local area and certainly without genuine negotiation with the tenants. Their own experience has verified this.
The goal of the new campaign, which has begun in the form of a petition, is to call for a change in the law to help protect the UK’s allotments.
The Government group responsible for allotments is the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Around the time of Farm Terrace’s 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 –
The petition has been hosted by change.org and Farm Terrace were told that they should expect a few hundred supporters in the first week with peaks and troughs of support. Instead they have been inundated and have achieved 6000 votes in only three days. The petition is only in its infancy and these results demonstrate how wrong the Government is on this issue and how this is an issue that is concerning people across the UK.
What started as an issue of local concern has snowballed into a national issue that suggests the Government sees short-term profits as more important than the local needs. Green spaces and allotments are the lungs of a community and, when 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.
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.