Why are Save Our Woods helping to promote the campaign against the disposal of an allotment site in Watford?
Because as with public forests, allotments are ‘green spaces’ that are proven to work for both public well-being and biodiversity.
In a tweet the elected mayor Dorothy of Watford inferred the development would include ‘decent open space’. This somewhat ambiguous statement is meant to allay fears that the development will not simply be the concreting over a final vestige of green space in a heavily populated area – but also translates as evidence that allotments are still seen by many policy makers as a blot on their idea of landscape.
But the allotment has a position as an historic and culturally important element in seeking sustainable green space within the urban and peri-urban landscape that to many their existence are vital case studies in progressing real sustainable development within the landscape of the masses and an opportunity to allow design by the people for their consumption – which invariably is hugely beneficial to flora and fauna also. We need allotments and the Farm Terrace campaign is very important in determining whether the presumption in favour of development as per the NPPF is really going to stand by its heavy usage of the word ‘sustainable’?
In June 2012 Dorothy Thornhill wrote to all allotment holders of Farm Terrace, to confirm that the Council were considering using the Farm Terrace Allotment site as part of the “Health Campus”. This has been described a voluntary agreement between the Council and Kier to regenerate the area with new housing, retail sites, and; subject to profits being generated from the scheme, ultimately expanding and improving Watford General Hospital. As a result The Farm Terrace Action Group was formed by Allotment holders with the single aim of saving the allotment.
In December 2012, the Cabinet of Watford Council voted for the entirety of Farm Terrace site to be used by the Developers Kier, justifying the decision that use of the land would make the entire development “more viable”; and that not to use the land would be scheme “more difficult”. A proposal to relocate Allotment holders to Paddock Road in Oxhey, a different council ward in excess of 2 miles from the current site, was made by the Council.
It is submitted by the Farm Terrace Action Group that;
1. No consideration has been made of the historic and cultural legacy of the Farm Terrace site. It is significantly old, and predates the Allotment Act of 1908. It was allocated from Harwoods Farm for the burgeoning working class population. It was started at the same time as the vast majority of housing stock of Victorian Terraces in the West Watford area, a significant portion of which have themselves become Conservation areas; such as “The Square” (Aynho Street, Souldern Street, Oxford Street and Banbury Street). Farm Terrace is thus inextricably linked to the history of this area of Watford, and to the housing stock which the Council have already deemed worthy of conservation.
2. The proposal of replacement plots at the site in Oxhey is not a feasible or fair replacement. The actual walking distance from the current site in excess of two miles. For the vast majority of all Farm Terrace plotholders, such a journey would require car transportation, which is clearly a poor planning decision, and will be unreasonable for those who do not have a car. This site is an urban allotment, and once it is taken it will never be replaced in what is becoming one of the most densely populated areas in Watford.
3. It is worrying that the proposal includes possibilities of a great deal more homes, a proposition which the Farm Terrace Action group are in no way against in principle, which are all very likely to be gardenless. In sacrificing the allotment land, the decision would be to also create a great deal more households who should have allotments available to them. As specified in S8 of the Allotment Act 1908, the council are under a duty to provide allotments when more than six individual constituents request a site. We say that the proposal represents an assault on the British Allotment movement.
4. Finally we say that the case for sacrificing the entire allotments has not been made out in any event. No clear proposal of what the Council will actually do with the land has been shown to us plotholders, but there has been a recent suggestion by the Council that it is to be developed for an “up market housing estate” of sixty houses. It is not clear that the hospital will actually be rebuilt as a direct result of the use of the allotment land. It emerged at the Cabinet meetings in December 2012 that the scheme was still considered viable without the allotment being used at all, and that representatives from the Hospital themselves are only interested in 20% of the allotment site. We say that the hospital expansion element of the Health Campus, is a speculative “red herring”, and that the primary use of the Allotment Land is for straightforward commercial gain.
The Council will be applying to the Secretary of State to alter the use of Allotment land very soon at the end of January. This is a link to Section 8 of the Allotment act 1925 which is the statutory provision which the Secretary of State must consider when he makes his decision.
Please contact the Save Farm Terrace Allotments campaign on the following numbers for any further information: