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.
So what do the candidates have to say about the allotments?
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.
Aidan Cottrell-Boyce - 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.
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.
The DCLG have just confirmed that the decision regarding Watford Borough Council's 3rd submission to have Farm Terrace Allotments deregulated will NOT be issued until the New Government is in place after the General Election.
This is great news for us and makes our fight an election issue!
Still no decision... we enter purdah on Monday so we presume if we don't hear on Monday that the decision will be announced after the general election.
Meanwhile here is our letter in the Watford Observer this week -
“It was interesting to see in the Watford Observer recently that Watford Borough Council had requested planning permission to Hertsmere Council to build a replacement allotment site for Farm Terrace allotments. This application is ahead of the Government making a third decision on whether to close the allotments after having failed on two previous occasions. This statement may puzzle some Watford residents on a number of fronts to why the Council have had to request planning permission from a different local authority. Unfortunately, the absurdness of this two and a half year battle is that the replacement site is outside of Watford which has always been one of the major issues that we have fought our case on. Government guidelines state that if an allotment site is closed it should be provided within ¾ of a mile which of course you would think is fair and logical. Unfortunately, Watford Council didn't think so and have requested to relocate Farm Terrace over two miles from West Watford into Hertsmere.
For those who have shown a keen interest in our fight to save Farm Terrace I would like to draw to one fact from the Watford Health Campus Board meeting notes of March 2012 where Watford Council officials were in attendance (this notes are publicly available from West Herts Hospital Trust). The meeting notes discussed at the time where Farm Terrace allotments could possibly be moved to if it was decided to include them in the Health Campus Scheme. Three choices were discussed, one of which is the current proposal by the Council to move them to the very back of Paddock Road in Oxhey and onto Hertsmere Council land. It was noted, and I quote from the meeting notes - “in terms of thinking of allotment relocation options – 2. Paddock Road – lots of space but potentially too far away”.
I believe this statement shows that if common sense had prevailed at the time and council officials had taken heed of the meeting notes then some kind of compromise which would have been fair and logical could have been discussed between the two parties. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, which has drawn the issue into the national press and at times has portrayed a Council that instead of working with his tenant and residents has done exactly the opposite and the town in a negative light which is something I myself would have liked to avoid.
Watford resident of 20 years and Farm Terrace tenant of 15 years”
Our letter to the Watford Observer regarding Watford Borough Council's treatment of media covering our story -
We have had to fight Watford council to save our allotments from being swallowed up for property developers. Our local council, but especially the 'elected Mayor of Watford', have attacked us for doing this since the whole episode began back in the summer of 2012. Despite being a small group of local residents we have stayed the course in the face of an aggressive approach from the very people elected to support and care for the residents of Watford. Our case has moved to a national concern for the UK and it would appear the council feels it can apply the same tactics to the national press as it appears to do in the local area.
It has been brought to our attention that Watford Borough Council appear to be regularly submitting formal complaints to the majority of the local and national paper and television companies who are covering our case! We have even been told that council spokespersons have gone as far as to warn journalists before going to press that they have submitted previous complaints about our story!
I believe that most of these claims are completely unfounded. It very much appears that the council is employing this tactic as a way of shutting down the fantastic media coverage we are receiving.
It is in my opinion an attempt to avoid negative publicity deliberately and restrict the free press!
This all started in 2012 when the council told us the allotments were needed to expand the hospital but we uncovered the truth that there was no money or plans for the hospital expansion. Ever since then we have stood up to the council and pushed to discover the real reason the allotments are such a sought after part of a housing development. We have experienced what feels like bullying and coercion following the council’s plans to obtain the allotment land.
The council continue to try and make the residents of Watford believe that it is a ‘hospital or the allotments!’ argument despite the fact that this has been shown not to be true. In fact at a council meeting of 3/12/2012 the Managing Director was asked about Farm Terrace allotments and stated clearly that the proposed development was viable without the use of the allotments. In the council’s third submission they have added a school, which has never been mentioned before, as the hospital argument was not working.
Threatening the National press takes the councils techniques to a whole new level.
We have had two high profile media opportunities that have backed off as a direct result of contacting Watford Borough Council. Luckily the Council’s approach has not put everyone off and we have found strong support once we get the chance to explain our side of events. The council’s behaviour has encouraged some journalists to persevere with the story but at the end of the day the press don't want complaints or having to answer to editors. I believe Watford Borough Councils complaints are unfounded and they are causing a negative environment that is not representative of the British system of governance.
Sometimes it feels that instead of living in a democratic Watford we are being pushed around by those in power. Whatever happened to our right to free speech?
Please see attached the DCLG's response to our petition and our reply -
Their response - https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-response-to-a-petition-on-protecting-allotment-sites
Our reply -
“The DCLG’s response repeats its mantra that the new guidance strengthened allotment protection. But repeating something many times doesn’t make it right. The guidance has not strengthened allotment protection, and the DCLG’s statement doesn’t mention the dilution of the previous long-standing requirement that replacement sites be within ¾ mile of the centre of demand. Instead the DCLG says that replacement sites have been provided when consent has been granted. But it is telling that they are silent about how near those sites were to the centre of demand. There is no point creating new sites or providing replacement sites if the people for whom they are created can’t get to them. Look at what Watford tried to do – they tried to move us all to a site over 2 miles away on the outskirts of town that many of us couldn’t get to. What the DCLG’s new guidance has done is enable any local authority to sell off allotment land in the middle of towns, which is prized by developers, and replace it with a cheap field on the outskirts, whether or not anybody can actually get there on a regular basis. What local authority wouldn’t want to do that? We could wait and see In a few years’ time how many allotments are left in places where people actually live, and we would see whether the guidance really has strengthened allotment protection or not. But by then it would be too late. It is time to act now! The distance under the policy criteria should be moved by a change of law to the statutory criteria to strengthen protection. We will continue with our petition and with our campaign until we see this done!”
Please continue to share our petition!
Please share. The full story of our ongoing fight to save our beloved allotments and our new petition to strengthen the protection of allotments will now run this evening on the BBC London news at 18.30. (BBC1) If you want to help us please sign this petition. It only takes 2 minutes! I will put the iplayer and you tube link up after the programme has gone out on our face Book and Twitter sites for viewers who not in the London area. Thank you! http://change.org/SaveOurAllotments
I would like to update you on the battle for Farm Terrace Allotments and to tell you about our new campaign.
Firstly Farm Terrace, despite us winning the High Court case, Watford Borough council have put in a third submission in an attempt to take the Allotment land - http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/11722660.Council_resubmits_application_to_minister_over_Farm_Terrace_land/
Although we are not surprised by this, we are taken aback by their 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 they have 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.
We have until February 13th to submit our response to the application. The decision will then go back to the secretary of state, Eric Pickles. With a looming election we imagine a decision will be attempted before the election in May. You may also contact them with letters of support.
The Farm Terrace Allotment holders fought the local council and subsequently the national government to stop our beloved, historic allotment site from being turned into a housing development and car park. We took our case to the Royal Courts of justice – and won.
As spokesperson for the group I have been involved in every step of the campaign and have 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. I had naively presumed that Allotments were privy to some historic law forbidding development on them. The statistics above suggest that the government have been rubber stamping applications for deregulation with minimal review of the facts from the local area and certainly without genuine negotiation with the tenants. Our 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 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 – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/276081/Allotment_disposal_guidance_-_Safeguards_and_alternatives.pdf
The petition is being hosted by change.org and we have achieved 6000 signatures 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.
Please add your name to the petition and share with friends.
Sara Jane Trebar
Anybody wishing to contact the planning manager regarding the 3rd submission of Watford Borough Council to build on the allotments please see the following contact details -
You can all email or write in support of us (or against) and obviously your support would be gratefully received.
(For more information please message me)
Senior Planning Manager – Central Team
National Planning Casework Unit (NPCU)
Department for Communities and Local Government
5 St Philip's Place
Tel: 0303 44 48075
email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
NPCU main enquiry number is 0303 444 8050
Hello again, firstly thank you to everyone who could make the party. I am sure you will all agree that it was a great success. I am very sorry that The One Show did not show our piece on Thursday night but I have been notified by the director to say that it will be shown tonight at 7.00pm on BBC1.
So sorry that our piece on the One Show didn't air tonight. Apparently it was supposed to go out but a last minute Children in need piece had to go out instead so it is now due to air Tuesday but I will confirm this before the day. Sorry for any inconvenience!
Share please! Our Celebration party and update on our successful legal challenge to keep our allotments will be featured on The One Show tonight on BBC 1 at 7.00pm. Thank you to all those able to attend and especially our fantastic legal team who joined us for the festivities! It was a wonderful evening of home made food and drink, live music and singing and lots of toasting the future of our SAVED Allotments!
It has been quite a week! We are still celebrating and still fund raising!
I am very humbled by my nomination to be Watford's local hero! You can vote here - http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/watford_local_hero/watford_local_hero/ It would be amazing if, as representative of Farm terrace, I did win and Mayor Dorothy had to give me the award!
Secondly I was lucky enough to be invited to join Vivienne Westwood and her group Climate Revolution on a march yesterday and am very hopeful she will support our campaign!
Lastly I am very pleased to announce that I will be on BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine Show tomorrow, talking about our successful campaign from about 1.00pm. Please tune in if you can!
WE WON!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!
Farm Terrace Community Association Press Release – 31/10/14
We are very pleased to announce that in the judicial review case of three tenants of Farm Terrace Allotments, Watford v SSCLG, Mr Justice Ouseley has now ruled that the second decision to deregulate our allotment site be quashed.
We are absolutely thrilled with this decision and feel we have been fully vindicated in our campaign to save our beloved allotments that have served the community and residents of West Watford since 1896. Because of this monumental decision, we now hope that central government will take extra care when deciding on future applications to close allotment sites.
We cannot believe that our own local council has put us in the position, not once but twice, of having to fight for what we always believed to be an unlawful decision. In his ruling the judge stated that Watford Council did not provide the Secretary of State with the relevant up-to-date information regarding the changes in plans to the Health Campus scheme after the council submitted their second application to close the site during September 2013.
Additionally, the judge also stated that Watford Council’s maintained silence, in effect, represented to the Secretary of State that there had been no change in circumstances when in fact, as we now know, there had been significant changes to the scheme between September 2013 and before the final decision by the government was communicated during December 2013. A number of documents that Watford Council initially refused to release as part of the case were only eventually disclosed when court proceedings were initiated by our legal team a month before the judicial hearing took place in July. Ultimately a number of these documents formed the basis of the judge’s decision and are referred to in the judgement.
Due to these findings we feel that it is only right and fair to Watford residents that consideration is given to proceeding with an internal investigation at Watford Borough Council to ascertain exactly why the council did not see fit to keep the government informed of the significant changes to the Health Campus plans whilst also attempting to withhold documents relevant to the case. As we are well aware Watford taxpayers money has been spent on legal costs by the Council before and during these court proceedings.
We now ask that Watford Council discuss with its Farm Terrace tenants how the site can co-exist with the Health Campus scheme and also how the site can be brought up to the same standard as the borough's other allotment sites that have recently received an £800,000 investment. We also request that the Council now invites applications for new tenants at Farm Terrace after it had previously closed the site to new applications back in 2012.
Finally, we wish to thank our fantastic legal team who truly believed that an injustice had been made in our case, not once but twice and to everyone from the National Allotment Society, other allotment associations, allotment tenants and supporters from all over the UK and internationally who donated to our fighting fund.
This is a huge victory, not just for allotment holders but also for the average person who feels let down by their local councils and government. It shows that it is possible to fight injustice and win.
Lastly, I would like to leave you with one fact. A recent disclosure by central government shows that since 2007, 128 applications out of 132 made by local authorities to close allotment sites have been successful. We ask how many of these allotment sites could have been saved with the support we were lucky to receive?
Andy Moore, Massimo Trebar, and Bob Wakeling (Claimants)
So the judgement day is finally here. We will get the decision at a proxy 10.30 am this morning. We are holding a press conference at the Allotments this morning at the same time. Please come and join us in this last stage if you can. No matter what happens today we want to thank you all so much for all your hard work and support. We could not have come this far without you all. Thank you.
"They can shove their one thousand pounds up their Artichokes"
Following Watford Council's letter offering tenants up to one thousand pounds to vacate their plots, we would like to invite you to an informal gathering on Farm Terrace Allotments this Saturday the 2oth September from 2.00 onwards. Please bring a dish to share and refreshments. We look forward to catching up with you all and celebrating not taking the 30 silver coins...
Our national fight to save our Allotment Site from developers and protect others is being shown on BBC1 at 19.00 tomorrow, THURSDAY 21st August please watch if you can and tell your friends about it. http://www.gofundme.com/save-farm-terrace Please share, thank you!
No news! We are still waiting to hear back regarding a decision on our Allotment case. In the mean time our story has been filmed by the BBC's One Show and it will hopefully be shown NEXT WEDNESDAY (The 20th) on BBC1 at 19.00 but I will keep you up to date should anything change. Thank you again for your support and please keep the donations coming!
We are still waiting for the judge to make his verdict.
We are hoping to hear when that will be this week.
We will then have to go back to court for summary and verdict.
We will let you know the date as soon as possible.
We were extremely happy with the case our fantastic legal team put forward. The court was absolutely packed.
The 'Peasful Protest' was a great success and we were featured on the BBC online as well as various newspapers. Many Thanks to all who attended! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-28482330
Details of Court Date and 'Peasful Demonstration' !
Friday July 25th!
We are just a few days away from finally having our day at court! This is our chance to show the strength of our support, to display this publicly, meet with others who support our case and The Allotment Movement itself and to all be together to see this through to the end.
The case will be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice,
What time do we meet?
We will only know on Thursday what time our case will start and in which court. I will send out an email and put it on the social media sites.
Our plan currently is to meet outside the courts about 10.00am
What is the timetable for the day?
People if they want can then attend attend the court hearing. Others can go for a coffee or have a look around Westminster. Then we meet back outside the court at 12.00 get changed into Gardening gear, do a bit of face painting, put up banners, get the guitars and our placards out and hold our 'Peasful Demonstration' from 12.30 until 13.30pm. Obviously people do not have to participate if they do not wish. After that people can go back into court or wait to see if we get a result.
Who can attend?
Everybody!! Children, grandparents and people with disabilities are positively encouraged to come and take part. We want to show that this is a case which effects all people of all ages backgrounds and abilities. It will be peaceful and fun. Children under the age of 14 will not be allowed in to the hearing itself but should be allowed to go in and have a look at the actual building which is absolutely beautiful. When we are not campaigning we will probably take our children to the South Bank for a walk, or to one of the nearby gardens for a picnic lunch. You are welcome to join us.
Councillor Mo Mills has very kindly organises a large mini bus to take people to and from the court from Watford. The cost will be between £10.00 and £15.00 roughly. It leaves from the top end of occupation road at 8.00 am and will return there after the case. If you are interested in booking a seat please let me or Mo know ASAP!
What should you bring?
People do not need to dress up if they do not wish to but the brighter, more colourful and interesting the demo is the more chance we have of being in the media, and therefore raising awareness about our fight and also raising funds for our fight. I would ideally like people to dress in Gardening gear, wellies, gloves, hats etc or you can even dress in fancy dress as vegetables or insects! Please bring small watering cans and hand held gardening equipment such as trowels and forks. I have cleared these with the police.
I have asked and we should be able to leave placards banners scarecrows etc outside the courts behind the barriers set out for us. Obviously nothing 'valuable' should be left but I personally will be leaving my families' wellies, gardening gloves and gardening paraphenelia there. We can take things on the mini bus and bring them back too so if that is an issue you can always leave things with me on the Thursday evening, If anyone could get hold of a megaphone that would be brilliant. Also face paints?
People who can play guitars please bring those, If anyone could take photographs and videos on the day that would be great. Also if those able can tweet and face book as the day progresses that would be brilliant!. Obviously bring placards and banners, and maybe balloons? It was also suggested that we could hand out peas and beans in front of the court?
Really just bring anything vegetable, fruit or gardening related! The bigger and brighter the better!
lets put on a show that Westminster won't forget for a long time!!
Many thanks for all your support - See you there!!
Save Farm Terrace Allotments - Save All Allotments!
Great letter sent to the Watford Observer last week -
We, the chosen few, living in 'Oxhey Villarge' recently received a joyous message from Dorothy and Iain, thanking us for supporting them in their political ambitions and rejoicing about the refusal of planning permission to build three spacious cottages facing Oxhey green. Despite the fact that the government relentlessly bang on about how much we need affordable housing, building in the sanctified air of 'The Village' was refused, as it would offend the newly acquired ‘Conservation’
status of the area and much more importantly, in my opinion, adversely effect the lives and assets of the people nearest to the proposed development.
Good. We agree. It is morally wrong to build houses and ruin people’s lives and environments.
Not so over in West Watford, where our leader wants to build 750 houses, in the most densely populated and arguably the most multi cultural area of Watford and also one of the only labour wards. Our Mayor wants to build 750 houses. Originally under the pretence of an inclusive new hospital. Something which D T has finally had to admit was pure fiction. Designed to hoodwink and mislead residents of Watford, so that they would support her plans to concrete over FARM
Surely this proposed development, which would have a detrimental affect on thousands of
residents lives, is morally wrong too. A place where countless families, over as many decades, have farmed food for need or pleasure.
Hopefully the High Court will recognise that it is wrong to mislead people and misappropriate such valuable urban community space but not before half a million pounds of rate payers money has been wasted filling 'consultation rooms' with suited architects and developers, trying to
convince us that it is a ‘Good Thing’ to increase the population of West Watford by 3000, with all the incumbent problems; traffic, schools, doctors , dentists. Not to mention the strain on our local
We don't need more houses in West Watford, North Watford, Oxhey Village, anywhere in Watford. We are full up!.
Oh, and by the way. When Watford Borough Council lose, what will the court costs to Watford Rate Payers be?
Here is our legal skeleton argument. Please take the time to read it as we think it is very impressive and brings some up some very interesting points - particularly about Watford Borough Council but also on the implications of our case nationwide! https://t.co/6o3XofdasU
Our lawyers have now received the documents that the High Court ordered Watford Borough Council to disclose. They contain VERY interesting reading! Although we can not publicise any details we can report that "some documents have emerged that contain revelations"! Expect Fireworks!!!
ALLOTMENT COURT CASE AND 'PEASFUL' DEMONSTRATION FRIDAY JULY 25TH
ROYAL COURTS OF JUSTICE, WESTMINSTER
• We have been campaigning for over 2 years now to save our Beautiful, historic Allotment site from being concreted over by developers and Watford Borough Council.
• We found out that this is a national problem and that since 2007, Eric Pickles, Secretary of State has granted 128 out of 132 applications to close or relocate allotment sites.
• We have mounted a large National Social Media Campaign, appearing on BBC London, Local Radio shows, 5 live and in the National Press.
• We have forced the local council to admit that despite all their spin and propaganda their will be NO NEW HOSPITAL and that in fact the actual proposed use of the allotment land is for a Car Park and housing!
• On Friday the 25th July, we Farm Terrace Allotments FINALLY get our day in court! The outcome of which will decide if we get to keep our site and set case law protecting other Allotments!
• Court usually starts at 10.00 am and members of the public are welcome to attend. We believe this is the first time such a case regarding Allotments has ever been heard in the High Courts!
• We would also love you to attend our ‘PEASFUL’ demonstration. It will take place outside the Royal Court’s of Justice from 12.00 – 14.00 and is our biggest chance for us all to show just how important Allotments are and how passionately we all feel about keeping them as a growing part of British Tradition!
• This will provide a massive photo opportunity for the press and members of the media. We want people to attend in gardening gear, with placards and banners and also Gardening Paraphernalia such as; watering cans, hand held gardening tools, watering cans, scarecrows, fruit, Veg and even Scarecrows! We want to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to attend and we reinforce that it will be a PEASFUL demonstration!
• Allotmenters, Gardeners , Environmentalists and supporters of Farm Terrace Allotments – THIS IS
BREAKING NEWS!! “A High Court judge has ordered the Council to finally reveal what it knew and when about the hospital’s plans (or rather lack of them) for development, and about the changes to the development which we think mean that the allotments aren’t as important as they made out. All will be revealed on Friday 27 June, so watch this space!”
Urgent Update! The Council continues to refuse to show us what they knew and when, and how they have calculated the value of the allotments to the development. The Council would rather keep its commercial partners happy by keeping these documents secret than be transparent with its taxpayers and residents, so we have had to ask a judge to order them to stop hiding all this. The hearing of the disclosure application will take place tomorrow at the Royal Courts of Justice and anybody can attend! We expect some interesting new documents that the council would rather keep secret to come to light, should be VERY interesting!!
In reply to Mark Watkin's letter in last week's edition, I wish to take issue with his statement that the creation of a new public park as part of the Watford Health Campus is a justifiable replacement for Farm Terrace allotments. In fact, that park will be created whether or not the allotments stay or go; it is an integral part of the plan and has been all along. So everyone will have access to some enhanced green space. The contention of allotment holders - and many supporters of our campaign to save the allotments - is that the allotments can and should be retained alongside the other elements of the project. Allotments are a key element in the town's portfolio of green spaces. The fact that they are gated is not a material argument; they are one of several types of green space for public use and are an amenity that any resident of the town can apply for. This has been the case for a hundred years and is something to celebrate. But the council wants to concrete over them and move the allotment holders to an extension of the Paddock Road site in Oxhey, claiming in a statement to the Secretary of State that this is a mere 15 minute walk. I don't know how many people can walk 2 miles in 15 minutes (a pace of 8 miles per hour) but I for one would have to do a lot of sprint training to be able to do that! So I take issue with Mark Watkin when he says the Paddock Road replacement site is a suitable answer. Furthermore, I attended the Oxhey Village Fair on 7th June, helping to run a stall to raise awareness about Farm Terrace allotments. One of the people I spoke with is a lady who runs a riding school on the land at the Paddock Road site due to be compulsorily purchased by Watford Borough Council to make way for the new allotments. She is devastated, as she said that horses have had to be put down because there was no room for them now. She also commented that the land is totally unsuitable for allotments, being prone to flooding and in very poor condition for cultivation. Sadly, many people who we spoke with at the fair had thought we had lost our fight to save Farm Terrace allotments. Far from it! On July 25th we are going to the High Court when our challenge will be heard. We hope to win this fight against the use of allotment land for housing development that is a reflection of what is happening all over the country. Find out more on savefarmterrace.wix.com/savefarmterrace
Letter to Editor, Watford Observer
sent on behalf of Mary Reid, 107 Lower Paddock Road, Oxhey
I write to challenge Councillor Mark Watkin who last week claimed the Farm Terrace campaigners had created a distorted picture. They have not but I am afraid Councillor Watkin has.
No one has ever claimed the allotment site is a public open space. It is enclosed and is worked by tenants who pay rent. This is similar to other spaces like tennis courts, bowling greens and football pitches which are used by minority groups. It does however still benefit the wider community. It is a green lung for a congested urban area. It contributes to biodiversity attracting wildlife, helps offset climate change by capturing carbon and reduces flood damage in the valley below by absorbing rainfall and preventing surface run off. Open on 3 sides it is a visual amenity that is enjoyed by local residents as well as thousands of football supporters and hospital car park users. It is a heritage asset dating back to 1896 and contributes to the distinctive character of the local neighbourhood. West Watford will indeed be the poorer if this site is built over.
We are all aware that the Council is committed to maintaining the overall number of allotments but the location of sites is critical. Allotment holders typically visit their plots 2-3 times per week so need a local provision. Imagine how parents of young children would feel if they were to be told their local playground had to close but not to worry as there was a better one 2 miles away? Some Farm Terrace tenants could have plots on nearby Holywell and Brightwell but there will not be room for them all.
Yes, the Council is going to make some much needed investment in allotments but this is all in anticipation of the profits arising out of including Farm Terrace in the "Campus" development. At the Scrutiny Committee of 20 December 2012 Manny Lewis told us that the site had a land value of £7m and that it was expected to give a return of £10m.
The campaigners have not needed to talk about their compensation as they have been hoping they will not need it, preferring to keep their plots. Tenants have had assessment interviews on their plots to identify what would need to be replaced on a "like for like" basis. Legally they are entitled to compensation but I understand the details haven't yet been agreed and will be put to Cabinet in July. Campaigners know nothing about £500 so perhaps Councillor Wakin can enlighten us?
Two years ago when this debate started, we were told that the whole "Campus" scheme was financially risky so including the allotments would make it more viable. Also that land was needed for the hospital and houses.
Now we find that about 1/3 of the site is set aside for possible hospital use although there is uncertainty about its future size and configuration. The top terrace is to be a car park which will only benefit Watford FC and the rest of the site could offer 69 houses. The Local Plan states the "Campus" should deliver 500 homes. These were intended to be high density as it is a mixed development, with family homes going elsewhere to residential areas. As there could be 681 homes, mostly flats, there will be an even greater demand for allotments. In an improving economic climate it cannot be argued that 69 extra houses will really make a difference to the financial viability of the development. Should the hospital choose to use the site it would have to give up land on its own site which the Council and Keir would then develop and profit from.
The "Campus" development and any hospital rebuilding are both viable without using the allotment site. Farm Terrace is better left to provide a healthy recreational activity for local residents, particularly the over 50s, and to be a valuable green space for West Watford.
A big well done to June Stapleton from Oxhey who won the guess the distance competition between Farm Terrace and Paddock Road allotments, 3201 Metres! June wins a bottle of whiskey and port and two jars of sweets.
Letter to the Watford Observer from Association Member Marion Harvey -
In reply to letters from Mr Malcolm Wallace and Councillor Peter Jeffree I would like to make the following observations:
I agree that the derelict area around the old power station is an eyesore which is why the Farm Terrace Allotment Association is NOT and never has been opposed to it's regeneration. Most of the houses in West Watford have small or non-existent back yards (not well kept gardens and something to be proud of) which is why the allotments are important to them. The ONLY part of the West Watford Housing Development (AKA the Health Campus) that is being opposed is the actual building on the allotments.
As far as relocation to Paddock Road is concerned I can only say that a plot on overgrazed land that is prone to flooding with a shed thrown in is hardly adequate compensation for giving up a mature plot that has been well cultivated, for decades and has mature and productive trees and bushes. It is also over 2 miles away along some of the busiest roads in Watford – and there are several plot holders who do not drive.
The numbers of houses in this development WITHOUT the allotments is now greater than the number that The Mayor said she needed WITH the allotments in order to make the scheme 'stack up'. Along with the on going improvements in the economy in general and house prices in particular the very reason for including the allotments in this development no longer exists.
In terms of the redevelopment of Watford General Hospital again the Allotment Holders are NOT and never have been opposed to this – a fact that the submission to the secretary of state made absolutely plain. The Hospital Trust has yet to finalise it's clinical strategy and until that time NO ONE knows whether they will require land or not or for what purpose. I feel that the way that the council has presented the development has been very misleading and has led the general public to believe that the allotments are needed now to build a new hospital and this is NOT TRUE. It is worth noting that Kier Development Ltd refer to the scheme as a ' housing and commercial property development', not a new hospital
The final insult is the proposal to concrete over the best and most beautifully kept allotments in order to make way for a car park for the football club. The council kept this very firmly under their collective hats throughout all the early stakeholders meetings (in spite of several questions around where WFC came into this) and only revealed this aspect of the plans when concealment was no longer possible.
This development is very complex and requires a lot more thought and investigation into issues such as traffic management and flood risk and control
Is saving the allotments worth all the fuss? Considering all the evidence of the importance of green space, environment and biodiversity, as well as gardening, exercise and good nutrition in improving the nations health, both mental and physical then, yes it is worth all the fuss and the final outcome will be a finer and more health oriented development worthy of the title 'Health Campus'
Wow! Along with a personal donation we have received this message of support from JUSTIN SULLIVAN, frontman of the British Rock group NEW MODEL ARMY
"I have vivid memories of these allotments. Through my teenage years I spent every other Saturday watching Watford at Vicarage Road. Even in the hey-day of football hooliganism in the 1970s it was never a violent place (even if in my adolescent fantasies I sometimes wished
it was) and I'm sure this had something to do with the ground being right next to people slowly pottering about growing vegetables and sitting in sheds. And I can think of a thousand more reasons why things like allotments should be saved from the developers and the
March of Money. Small personal donation made and I wish you a big good
luck with the campaign"
Many people see our fight as continuing a long standing tradition which has permeated itself throughout English history. We say our fight is part of the struggle for common land; stretching from the Peasants Revolt through to the Levellers movement in the English Civil war. Allotments are a massive part of this and must be fought for!
As many of you know, we are fighting to save our beautiful, historic, urban allotment site,
Farm Terrace Allotments in Watford from being concreted over and we hope to help protect all allotment sites from future development in doing so. Due to the relaxation in planning laws, an increasing number of Allotment Sites in the UK are being sold off by Local Authorities or Parish &Town Councils for 'redevelopment'. Since 2007,128 out of 132 applications to close or relocate allotment sites have been granted by the UK Government. Our own allotment site that has been in existence since 1896 is now under threat from our local council who want to concrete over us, replacing us with a car park, housing and ‘possible’ hospital accommodation. The hospital can not say that it will need any of the land and we believe that this is an emotional red herring, as is calling the development a Health Campus, when in fact it will be a housing estate! We have launched a legal challenge against the UK government and our case will be heard in the Royal Courts of Justice, Westminster on Friday July 25th. This is a landmark case and if successful, we will set case law which will help protect other allotment sites.
Many families rely on the allotments as their only locally accessible growing spaces. They are the green lungs of many towns like our own. Allotments allow people of different backgrounds and ages to come together and grow fresh produce for their families, friends and neighbours. Recent academic research has shown that allotments provide all round exercise and stress release. But we have to stop allotments being consigned to the History books!
We need all the help we can get. This really is a David and Goliath fight so please if you can donate to our fighting fund do. The more money we get the more time our solicitors can give to the case. Please help us to continue the fight. Thank you.
As well as donations we also get many letters of support and sometimes other things... Here is a lovely picture from Sandrine Grillon and an emotive poem sent to us from Lucy Houbart! Thank you ladies!
Hi, wrote this poem this morning in support of the cause:
This gift enjoyed for over a hundred years,
A promise to people for evermore.
Open space shared by young and old,
For the ordinary - a piece offered to each.
A taste of deep, dark earth
To tend, nurture and play,
Connecting with the seasons
And earth's great elements.
Blending simple freedom
And delightful riches.
Harvests of fruit and flowers,
All this will soon be taken -
Farm Terrace Allotments closed.
Watford Council's social responsibility,
Deserved authority, honest integrity
Seems like a mirage to me.
Here are a few letters of support written to our local Newspaper -
FARM TERRACE - Weasel Words
When does Spin become a Lie?
If you were a determined local mayor, who was desperate to build 750 houses, you might claim that you were building a New Hospital too. Let's face it, what reasonably minded person would mind giving up their plot for a New Hospital?
Thing is though, we all now know that it isn't true! Their is no Hospital, no plans for a hospital, no funding for a hospital. Not even random Hospital buildings.
It is all emotional blackmail. Designed to disguise the fact that Watford Borough Council want to give away rate payer's green space to developers. What better way to keep the masses quiet. Just keep spinning the lies. Pouring out the weasel words.
But at what point is it not okay to spin and mislead? At what point does it become immoral?
Samantha Jones, Chief executive West Herts Hospital NHS trust, confirmed that they have no plans to build. Our elected Mayor is on record admitting that it might be "˜hospital facilities'.
Yet, last weekend a Lib/Dem leaflet floated through my door, claiming that "˜The future of the Watford Health Campus plan that will provide a new hospital'.This isn't true though. It is
misleading. It is not a New Hospital.
Somehow today we all accept that politicians misrepresent but should our elected officials be
allowed to mislead us and get away with it? You or I would be disciplined or sacked if we were to do it in the work place.
The Mayor is a very successful self publicist but is her economy with the facts over FARM
TERRACE ALLOTMENTS fair and honest? The answer is no it isn't, at best it is a political mud-dle, which might have far reaching financial implications for rate payers, not just the fact that we are giving away precious rate payer owned green space to greedy developers. If their current scheme hits the skids, rate payers will be footing the bill for all the expensive so called, "˜consulta-tion' too!
Leave Farm Terrace and the already crowded residents of West Watford alone and stop trying to pull the wool over their eyes, as the developers appear to have done so successfully with DT and her Lib/Dem conspirators.
It's 750 Houses not a New Hospital.
If the High Court challenge to Pickles is successful, then the residents of West Watford will
continue to reap the benefits of allotment land but they will also have won a battle to save
allotments Nationally. If the bid fails, then a bit like St James Park in Newcastle. The development will be known as "˜Farm Terrace Estate' and not the cleverly dreamt up and marketed
Paul Henley Washford
Watford's Green Spaces under threat
Reading the letter from Paul Henley in last week's Observer made me think of how our green space in Watford has reduced under our local Council. I am sure many of the residents of Watford make use of their local green spaces be it walking their dog, playing football, tennis or bowls, taking a stroll or even tending their allotment. Everyone has their own leisure pursuits or hobbies that our Council has a duty to provide and also protect for future generations of residents. The reason I write is that two of our green spaces are currently under threat or have been passed to build on. Some of you may not be aware but the west side of Oxhey Park created in 1920 will disappear forever over the next few years when the new access road into Watford Hospital is completed. Additionally, Farm Terrace Allotments created in 1896 are also under threat from developers for which the majority of the site will be used for housing and a car park. Both these spaces have been well used by its residents over the last century. This made me think that as both these public amenities were purchased by the Council on behalf of residents that any changes to green spaces in Watford should be placed to a vote to all residents before Watford Council deems fit to close them down. As we know once these spaces are built on they are gone for ever and with Watford being the most densely populated part of Hertfordshire these green spaces matter to Watford residents even more. It may be mindful to remind our Council that the Victorians created many of our public spaces precisely for this reason. In respect of Farm Terrace allotments our Mayor publically stated in April that without the allotments the Health (or housing) Campus as some residents are calling it would be harder to complete. I am sure that if our Council wanted to protect its green spaces it should be asking its residents if it should take the easy or hard option. Just because it is easy it doesn't make it the right option. Lastly, I for one will be thinking hard about who I vote for in the local elections to ensure that I trust the candidate I vote for. The reason for this is that I remember Cllr Sharpe of Oxhey Ward who made a public pledge that he would not allow a road to be built through Oxhey Park. It was poignant and a bit sad when I explained this to my son last week as we cycled through the park where the road will be built.
Save The Date!! We have our Court Date at the Royal Courts Of Justice, Westminster, London! Friday July 25th. You are welcome to come and support us! Please bring friends and family and help us (hopefully!) celebrate our win!!
Great news, I have a further development to report, which is the attached Order designating the case as "˜significant'. That means that the case will be prioritised by the Court so the hearing will take place before the end of July! https://db.tt/rKEjkRrQ
We need desperately to raise the remaining money! Any ideas for Fund Raising gratefully received! Also please see the enclosed video documenting why I personally am fighting so hard to keep our beautiful Allotments!
Received this lovely parcel through the post. A twitter friend @digWinstanley had a few of the following t-shirts made up for us and sent them with a letter of support. It was such a great surprise! The quote on the back is extremely powerful and so appropriate. We are all working really hard and sometimes it feels like we are hitting our heads against the wall of council spin and propaganda. But this gesture really cheered us up! Thank you Andy Maxwell!!
Hope you are all able to enjoy a bit of time on your plots or in your gardens this weekend. Please spare a thought for those of us who are unsure whether or not we will be here next year or we will have been replaced by a car park and high density housing. Please support us and help us save others!
High Court gives Farm Terrace Allotment Challenge the go-ahead
The High Court has given the Farm Terrace allotment-holders permission to proceed with a challenge to Eric Pickles's decision to allow Watford Council to build on their allotment site. There will now be a full hearing of the case later this year.
The claim has been brought by 3 plot-holders who face eviction to make way for housing. The site cannot be built on without the Secretary of State's consent, and there are strict criteria that have to be met before Council's are given the all clear. In this case consent was granted even though the criteria were not met, because everyone agrees that the site is not "˜surplus to requirements'. Consent was nonetheless granted because, in the Secretary of State's opinion, building on the allotments is in the public interest. The campaigners and many allotment holders and gardeners around the country disagree, arguing that the development could go ahead without building on the allotments, and that retaining allotments is also in the public interest.
On 14 April 2014 a High Court judge looked at the case carefully and, after considering the Secretary of State's and the Council's calls for the claim to be refused permission, has disagreed and has decided that the grounds of challenge are arguable. The Order can be accessed here. There will now be a full hearing of the judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice in London later this year.
Andrew Moore, one of the Claimants, said today:
"It is a shame that we have had to take the case this far. It's not too late for the Council and the Secretary of State to change their minds and accommodate the allotments within the development, as the developers have acknowledged they could.
I am glad that the judge has recognised that this case raises serious issues that merit a full hearing. This case is not only important to me and the other Farm Terrace Allotment holders. It will affect many other sites across the country that are also under threat from development, and we hope to set a precedent that will help to protect allotments for future generations as well as our own. I firmly believe that our children will thank us for standing up to the authorities."
Adam Hundt, of Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors, who represent the Claimants, said:
"The Secretary of State has criteria by which applications for consent to build on allotments are assessed, but he has effectively decided that those criteria can be ignored if profit margins are said to be at risk. One has to question what the point of having criteria that are designed to protect allotments from development is, if they can be ignored with so little justification. As a keen allotment gardener myself, I am hopeful that the Court will ensure that allotment holders can, in reality, rely on the protection from developers that the Secretary of State's criteria are said to give their sites."
Further details can be accessed here on the campaigners' website and on twitter @SaveFarmTerrace.
The allotment holders are represented by Adam Hundt of Deighton Pierce Glynn and Jason Coppel QC and Hannah Slarks, both of 11 King's Bench Walk.
Mayor Dorothy and I will be doing a live Radio Interview on BBC 3 Counties at 7.45 am tomorrow. (95.5fm, 103.8fm,104.5fm) I realise some of you will not all be able to listen to it but I will put up the I player link afterwards. It should be a lively debate!!
Watford Council misled the Secretary of State about the intended use of Farm Terrace Allotments, say lawyers
Legal representatives acting on behalf plot holders at Farm Terrace Allotments, Watford, have officially started the Judicial Review process to contest use of the land for a development by issuing papers at the Royal Courts of Justice.
This is the second challenge the plots holders have made during a battle to save their site that started in the summer of 2011. The tenants won their first legal battle against the Department for Communities in August 2013 when the Secretary of State backed down, reversing his original decision to grant permission to close the allotments.
The second decision taken by the Department for Communities and Local Government in December 2013 granted permission to Watford Council for a second time to close the site and redevelop the allotments, but it has since come to light that the land will be used for car parking for Watford Football Club, as well as housing and a small number of possible hospital buildings.
The allotment tenants will challenge the legal validity of the Secretary of State's decision, on grounds that include the assertion that the Secretary of State was misled about the allotment land being critical to the viability of the development project. Watford Borough Council also failed to update the Secretary of State, it is claimed, about certain key information and changes to the project such as the car park.
The Farm Terrace tenants are not only fighting for their own site but hope that if the legal challenge is successful, other allotment sites under threat from development due to the relaxation of planning laws will also be protected.
Andrew Moore Chairman said "It is a shame that it has had to come to this, but we are convinced that the Court will see through the Council's PR and recognise that the allotments are being built on to generate profits for the private sector and a car park for footballers, rather than hospital buildings that we now know are unlikely to ever materialise".
"Farm Terrace Allotment Holders raise over Â£3,000 since BBC programme on 3 March"
Since the BBC aired the story of the fight by the allotment holders to save their site on 3 March, a further Â£3,000 has been raised towards their legal fighting fund. The case will now be taken to the High Court in the summer. Donations have come in from all across the country including Leeds, Waltham Forest and East Sussex. The North Watford Allotment Society have pledged Â£1,000 towards the cause, demonstrating the unity of plot holders across the Borough in fighting the Council's proposals.
The land has been used as allotments since 1896; the plot holders claim that the term 'Health Campus' is a misnomer, and that the development is mostly about building houses and commercial units. Whilst they recognise the need for a new hospital, they claim the allotment site is not needed in order to renovate the hospital, and that the 750 homes now planned for the site is excessive and unnecessary. Watford Borough Council has held a public consultation, but no results or summary of comments (both positive and negative) have been published. The plot holders believe that, once residents understand the full facts about the development plans - including that the flood plain issues have now been resolved meaning that homes can be build in other parts of the site previously deemed impossible - they will support the fight to save the allotments. The Farm Terrace Community Association will hold one of their regular meetings on Monday 24 March at 7.30 pm at St James Church, St James Road, West Watford and have invited members of the public to attend to find out about the fight to save this historic site.
We have now had confirmation that the Secretary of state Eric Pickles is not backing down. He is sticking by his decision to allow the council to concrete over our allotments. So we are going to get our day in the High Court and hopefully stop this from happening to us and others! But we need your help to get there. Please tell people about our case and encourage them to help us too! Many thanks, the FarmTerrace Association.
Great news! Because of the success of the case so far... The legal team has agreed to reduce its overall fees to £25,000! We already have a total of £12,000 from the Go Fund Me account, private donations and promised money. According to the lawyers this means that we now have enough to cover the letter before claim but now need to reach the target of £15,000 to get the papers sent to the Court! So please if you haven't already donated, now is the time! We really need to get these papers to court!
Calling all allotmenteers! Please can you help us raise funds by forwarding this message to your various associations and groups. Any help you can give will be gratefully accepted!
"Save Farm Terrace Allotments, Watford and protecting all allotment sites from future development.
Did you know that due to the relaxation in planning laws an increasing number of Allotment Sites in the UK are being sold off by Local Authorities or Parish/Town Councils for redevelopment? Since 2007, 128 out of 132 applications to close or relocate allotment sites have been granted by the UK Government. Our own allotment site that has been in existence since 1896 is now under threat for a second time after we have previously launched a successful legal challenge in August 2013 against the UK government. We are now taking the Government to court for a second time and if successful, will help protect other allotment sites as a successful challenge by us will become case law. If you would like to know more about our story or wish to help in anyway please take a look at our website which has a link to our fund raising page - http://savefarmterrace.wix.com/savefarmterrace.
Andrew Moore & Bob Wakeling Chairman, Farm Terrace Community Association"
Farm Terrace Community Association February 6th 2014
"ERIC PICKLES CHOOSES HEALTHY PROFITS OVER HEALTHY LIFESTYLE"
The Farm Terrace Community Association has announced that Farm Terrace allotment holders plan to take their case to judicial review in a bid to save the Farm Terrace allotment site in the heart of West Watford. This could prove to be a historic test case.
Farm Terrace allotments have been under threat from developers since June 2012. In May 2013 the Secretary of State decided that, under section 8 of the 1925 Allotment Act, the change of use of land could be granted. The plot holders disputed this and with the prestigious law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn, planned to challenge this in the High Court. But the Secretary of State backed down before the case reached the court and the association won the first battle with all parties being allowed to provide further evidence before a review of the original evidence was made in the autumn of 2013.
Just before Christmas 2013, the Secretary of State again decided to allow Watford Borough Council to incorporate the allotment site into the so-called Health Campus, which includes a development of some 700 houses. Plot holders have always supported the need for a new hospital and during consultation put forward ideas to Watford Borough Council as to how the vision of a hospital, the allotments and housing could all work side by side. But the council would not embrace these ideas, stating that the development would only be marginally viable without the extra housing that would be possible by using the allotment land. Whilst the council's figures put the range of profitability as somewhere between a Â£10 million profit and Â£3 million loss if the allotments are not included, it has not been forthcoming with the level of profits that it anticipates by using the allotment land.
The Council's own submission concedes that the development could go ahead without incorporating the allotment land, but justifies using the land by saying that "financial viability is more likely to be secured through the inclusion of the allotments". In other words, the profit margin is greater if the allotments are built on.
Despite this, the Secretary of State granted consent for the allotments to be built on despite the normal criteria not being met. He justified this by saying that if the allotments were not built on then the health campus would not be built. But not even Watford Council has claimed that. The allotments affect the profit margin, not whether or not the development happens at all, as the Mayor of Watford has stated publicly.
Andrew Moore, Chairman of the Farm Terrace Community Association said "We believe that Watford Council and the Secretary of State are putting profits before the healthy lifestyle offered by allotments. We have always believed that this decision was illegal and immoral and now we plan to prove it in the High Court. We are working with a legal team that is extremely highly regarded including a very well established Queen's Counsel. We aim to fund our campaign through http://www.gofundme.com/3ig1fo."
Furthermore, on 7th January 2014, Watford Borough Council revealed a ground plan for the site that shows that some of the allotment land will be converted into a car park for Watford Football Club. This use of the land was not included in either of the council's submissions to the Secretary of State; they claimed the land would be solely for housing and the hospital. "This just adds insult to injury", added Andrew Moore. Then on the 29th January Kyle McClelland, Associate Director for Strategic Developments at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust said "It is not "absolutely certain" the main hospital for West Hertfordshire will remain in Watford." http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/10971850.Health_trust_executive_not__absolutely_certain__main_hospital_will_remain_in_Watford/?ref=var_0
Since 2007 there have been 132 separate applications nationally to close down allotment sites under section 8 of the 1925 Allotments Act. Out of these 132 applications 97% were approved (128 cases) and only 4 cases rejected. The plot holders believe their case will not only save Farm Terrace allotments but it will also strike a blow on behalf of all allotments in England and make it much harder for councils to sell their sites to developers despite the current Government's relaxation of the planning laws.
They have the support of NSALG (The National Allotment Society) who have highlighted their campaign on the front page of their website http://www.nsalg.org.uk/ and the support of gardeners and environmentalists who have contributed to the online fundraising campaign.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, faces a protracted legal battle after he gave permission to allow developers to build on the site of Farm Terrace allotments in Watford, Hertfordshire.
Following a climb-down last August after allotment members applied for a judicial review, Mr Pickles reapproved plans for the proposed Watford Health Campus shortly before Christmas. According to the Government, the project will provide 700 new homes, hospital facilities and green spaces, and create 1,600 jobs.However, campaigners plan to challenge the decision, claiming that the Government's alternative plots do not meet legal requirements because they are not a "like-for-like" replacement.Approval for the Farm Terrace construction followed The Independent on Sunday's Dig for Victory campaign that led to Prime Minister David Cameron and Mr Pickles renewing their pledge to protect allotments in 2011, after the 1908 Smallholdings and Allotments Act was put under review. The Act stipulates that councils must provide sufficient plots to local residents where there is demand.After the judicial review, Mr Pickles's department admitted it had made a legal error in not specifying why it had approved the disposal of the allotments. Campaigners will meet their lawyers on 7 January.Campaigner Sara Jane Trebar said: "This alternative site... is tagged on to an already existing site and has been used for horse pasture, so it's not going to be good soil to grow things on. It's not like-for-like."The new site is 2.6 miles away over lots of busy roads. I don't drive, so there's no possible way to get there with the kids and a wheelbarrow. Legally it should be within a mile radius."Communities Minister Stephen Williams said: "This application, backed by the local council, local MP Richard Harrington and Watford's elected mayor Dorothy Thornhill, opens the door for new NHS hospital facilities and a regeneration scheme, as well as replacement allotments. Having carefully considered all the issues and representations, ministers have approved the application."
The SOS Eric Pickles has once against found in favour of Watford Borough Council developing on our precious allotment site. This time we are however in an even stronger position to fight it thanks to your support and generosity. We will now leave it in the hands of our very capable lawyers. We are not giving in or giving up until we save Farm Terrace and save all allotments!
Thinking about the 5th of November normally reminds me of bonfires and fireworks. But not this year. This time it takes me back to last year in East Dulwich and the morning after the festivities. We were staying at my cousin's house and I was up early with all the kids. They were very happy playing games while Cbeebies was on in the background. Looking through her book shelves my eyes homed in on a book she had previously told me about "˜Our Plot' by Cleve West. We have been given or have bought, lots of books on gardening and allotments and I usually dip in and out of them as necessary. But this one I could not put down and in the space of about 3 hours I had read it all and it really got me thinking. It talks a lot about the importance of community and what Cleve's site means to all the individual plot holders and tells their story. It was a pivotal moment.
Back in Watford we were about 6 months into a battle to keep our allotments from basically being sold off to developers for housing. My husband had been the one involved. I, if I'm honest, really honest... couldn't be bothered. What's the point? It's the council, they wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't really necessary (see how naive I was!). I also honestly thought that if it wasn't legal or right someone else would take up the fight. Someone more qualified and more knowledgeable. But after reading "˜My Plot' it hit me that if we wanted to save our site we all had to get involved. At this point let me clarify that many, many plot holders were massively active in trying to fight for our site. Passionate does not even touch on it. People who had before just nodded at each other or had brief discussions about their various growing methods had come together as a team in our local community centre ready to fight this.
Now I wanted to get involved. How could this happen and us be COMPLETELY powerless to stop it? I began by putting a personal rant on face book aimed at our elected mayor Dorothy Thornhill. The buck stopped with her and surely she would listen to reason. I was of course completely wrong and her response when I posted it on her page was shockingly despondent and worryingly attacking! My friends on face book backed me up and came up with more and more arguments in our favour. It was clear to me that local residents and others felt very passionately about it.
It is hard to write this blog without going in to all the politics of our case, please if you are interested and don't know, read my other blogs on word press. I want to keep this blog about just how far and how much can be achieved in one year. But in a nut shell there were lies, spin and in my personal opinion underhand tactics involved.
I had been so moved by Cleve west's book that I contacted him, hoping he could point me in the right direction as to how and where to go next. To my amazement and gratitude Cleve answered my email and was very helpful. He suggested that setting up a group face book and twitter account would be a good idea. The face book page was fairly easy for me to set up as I was quite confident of how to use face book but I was scared, very scared of Twitter. It was like entering a strange world where you had to behave in a different way and speak in a different language. My first tweet was along the lines of "˜Help! Our mayor wants to sell our beautiful allotment site to developers.' I tweeted everyone I could think of. It all very very quickly kicked off. But I hadn't realised!! I couldn't check my feeds properly, I kept retweeting my own tweets and I was, well, let's be honest in need of a LOT of help
But I received SO much support and so many people offered help and advice. It was not just extremely useful but also reassuring that the community spirit we want to preserve on the allotments is also very much prevalent even on places like Twitter. I know about the recent debates by gardeners about the use of twitter and I can see both sides. But I can honestly say as far as "˜campaigning' goes it has been priceless!
Now, as a mum of three small children 6, 4 and 2 at the time. I spend a lot of time sat on the sofa administering much needed cuddles and doing boring household chores so I don't and didn't have time to sit at a computer and do all this. The minute our lap top is out (like now) world war kicks off between the kids, drinks are spilt and accidents happen. But in late November my phone was upgraded and suddenly the world of social media really opened up to me, I could do almost everything from this phone and with only 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there it was absolutely ideal.
I had one main objective. To raise our media profile - No council wants bad publicity. I have absolutely no media training whatsoever but I do have a big mouth and I'm not afraid to say what I think. I spent that Christmas tweeting people and asking to be retweeted. My mother despaired of me as I sat at the table with my phone but at that point I was addicted, perhaps tweeting up to 300 times a day. One day I reached the limit - 1000 tweets! But it worked. By January we had about 800 Twitter followers and the phone had started ringing. We did our first radio interview (live with Mayor Dorothy) at 8.00 in the morning down on the allotments with a crowd of cold hungry but passionate people and children. There then followed many journalists' phone calls and telephone interviews, newspaper articles and You Tube videos.
My own personal favourite memory of this time was having a telephone interview with a newspaper journalist, whilst stood in my small bathroom with one foot holding the door firmly shut to stop my screaming kids from entering because they wanted my attention. This brings me on to the saddest memory. My kids did suffer. Not ridiculously but it became like a full time job and Mummy's attention was not on them at all but neither was any extra money coming in. But I learnt the hard way that if journalists and the media need you then and there, they do not wait and it took a long time for me to be able to say no. I felt sometimes like the future of farm terrace Allotments and all allotments really did depend on me tweeting/emailing or speaking to someone at that exact time. Of course it didn't and it doesn't.
At the height of our campaign we received devastating news. The government, the secretary of state for communities, Eric Pickles, had accepted the council's application to deregulate the site and to develop on it.... I cried. I honestly did. How?? While I had been busy on face book and twitter our chairman and many others had been working on an amazing submission of our own, in defence of our site and counter arguing all the spin the council had put out. How could the government possibly find in their favour? But they did. I felt deflated, let down and foolish even. Everyone had warned us that it was never going to be a fair fight and many had said all along that this was a David and Goliath fight which Goliath would surely win.
But out of the darkness cometh the light and we were soon contacted by law firms interested in our case. This was because of the media attention we had gained through social media sites. Finally the right person came forward. A brilliant lawyer with experience of taking the government to court and better still a fellow plot holder who REALLY understood us and the impact losing our plots would make.
We needed funding, the prestigious barrister who took us on worked pro bono but solicitors need paying and although we would hopefully win and costs be awarded, nothing is ever certain and we needed to prove we had the economic backing....but how?
The lawyers told us about crowd funding. We researched it and decided to give it a go. Originally and still quite naively I hoped one our many mysterious influential supporters would step in but yet again I was proved wrong and yet again I was over whelmed by the response
Very Proud!! Together we have now raised over £10,000 pounds!! (Including private donations!!) This is an amazing achievement. A massive thank you to everyone who has donated and those who have helped spread the message about our fight! We are still waiting on the Secretary of State Eric Pickles second decision regarding whether he will give permission for Watford Borough Council to deregulate our beloved allotment site and build housing on it. He backed down last time, in the face of legal pressure provided by us with your help but we are now awaiting his second decision. We expect to hear by the end of November. If he does agree then we will ask our prestigious legal team to look at the case again and we may well end up taking it to a judicial review again. So please continue to support us and thank you for all your help. Save Farm Terrace - Save ALL allotments!!
Great night at our Benefit Concert! We managed to raise a whopping £823.00!! Massive thank you to everyone involved and especially to our dear friends and fellow campaigners Bob and Ruth for all their hard work! Well done everyone!!
Watford borough council and Mayor Dorothy will have sent in their submission to deregulate Farm Terrace Allotments now. We have also put in our own submission in defence. It is all in Eric Pickles hands now. Let us hope that this time he will make tje right decision in our favour first time!!
This is one of the many letters of support we are receiving daily. This one, I think, sums up the feelings of many Watford residents and Farm Terrace supporters extremely well ~
I have recently moved to (west) Watford and came across the Watford Health Campus plans. I was surprised by the plans, which don't appear to take the surrounding infrastructure (within a five mile radius) into account. Essentially, building 600 homes in the current design/location would be catastrophic for the area, given the current road layout, one-way systems, the limited number of schools and other such facilities. For 600 homes to exist successfully in this plot, cars would need to be prohibited, with an emphasis placed on walking and cycling instead (and considering safely cycling around Watford is difficult at best, this seems unlikely). Alternatively, the surrounding road networks would need significant rebuilding to cope with 600 new families. Based on the idea that each home had only one car (likely to be more and ignoring the new hospital and businesses on the Campus itself) the area between Farm Terrace and Watford High Street would require the demolition of other houses (mainly the terraces around the Cardiff Road area) to accommodate the larger roads and traffic systems required to cope with the extra demand. And this is before school places and local facilities are even taken into account.
However, there is another element that the designs appear to have missed; allotments have a lot of historical and communal relevance. There is an important part to be played by green urban spaces. At present, the majority of these allotments are empty, and it strikes me as counter-intuitive for the council to want to concrete over this rare area of greenery, particularly in our 21st century, eco-friendly era. These allotments should be viewed as a commodity and asset of which the council should be proud and protective of. For instance, would it not be better and more enterprising to preserve the allotments and for the council to offer the empty plots to local schools and community centres? This would promote healthy living, natural understanding and interaction, and also social enterprise, to grow food and reconnect with nature. The allotments should become the centre of any new community developments.
Watford council could put itself on the map, so to speak, as a model of how to utilise green urban spaces for the benefit of communities. School children would learn about health, food sources and caring for their environment, something becoming increasingly important. The area would retain its green space and the food produced could raise money or save money (in school meals, through wholesale etc). City-farms and gardens are on the increase worldwide as cities grow, and over the coming decades will become even more important. The council should really be looking at investment in these areas rather than poorly planned housing schemes which will be irreversible.
The benefits of a new hospital cannot be denied, but this does not necessarily require the destruction of a community asset, which could be utilised to the benefit of many and incorporated into any plans to support generations to come, in ways which will far outweigh 600 houses; which will inevitably be bought to let, exploiting the tenants and putting even more pressure on the already strained local services and resources.
The council currently has an opportunity to set an example and demonstrate how well-thought policy and urban planning can build and benefit communities, rather than destroying them further. The allotments should be incorporated into any plans for the regeneration of the area, as pioneered in Welwyn Garden City, Bournville, and more recently in New York, Detroit and South Korea.
Just reached a #whopping £7000.00 (thank you Fay;-) So PROUD of you all! Well done to everyone involved!! I am starting to update all the sites but please continue your support. We are living proof that if people stand united they can not be divided!! We represent the David and Goliath case, that councils and developers can not point their greedy fingers at ANY green space and build on it! Allotments are as sacred as Parks and cemeteries and we need to unite to fight them. We can do it - we are doing it!! #peoplepower THANK YOU !!
We have now received the sealed order from the court https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/74284927/474657 Sealed court order 28 8 13 (1).pdf Watford Borough Council are going to put in yet another submission for our precious, historic, allotment site to have housing built on it! We are putting in our own submission but need your support now more than ever!
Thank you for all the great letters you have been sending Watford Borough Council in support of us! Please keep up the pressure! Here is a great letter sent last week -
Wednesday 28 August 2013
Dear Mayor Dorothy Thornhill
I am writing in response to recent events regarding Farm Terrace allotments and the national interest expressed in your council's desire to dispose of the site for development.
Allotments in this country are of great historical and social importance. It is possible to draw a direct line from the strip farming by peasants in the 12th century through the enclosure of the commons during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, to allotments as we know them today.
Allotments came into being as a result of three key concerns:
To alleviate poverty among the working poor "“ many who had left rural communities for the cities at the outset of the Industrial Revolution
The enclosure of the commons that culminated in the General Inclosure Act 1845. This effectively finalised the centuries old attacks on commoner rights to cultivate, graze, collect timber, and cut fuel from the commons.
To provide useful recreation during non-working hours (and keep them out of the pub!).
Allotments have often fallen in and out of fashion, but perhaps had their greatest heyday during WW1 and the Dig For Victory campaign of WW2 "“ indeed they were the domestic engine that helped prevent Britain starve during the Atlantic blockade by Axis powers.
In uncertain economic times there is a strong case for developing more allotments to serve population centres, not disposal. At the end of WW1 there were 1.5 million allotments "“ as of May 2011 it was reported there were approximately 152,000 allotments left.1 Meanwhile the UK relies on 68% EU imports to feed the population, while agricultural productivity continues to decline from its peak in the 1980's.2
The difficulty that faces many local authorities in the 21st Century is the competing demands placed upon it by government and the tax payer "“ obvious examples are housing, business and industry, healthcare provision, social care, and leisure. Such demands were never envisaged when allotment legislation was drafted. This however should not be detrimental to the existence of allotments when councils consider whether sites are "˜unnecessary or surplus to requirements', and nor should it lead one to neglect the varied positive contributions made by these havens of horticultural endeavour.
They provide access to fresh air and green spaces for urban populations, and are important educational assets for our communities (being a former teacher I'm sure you would recognise).
They're healthy as they offer the opportunity for exercise and are proven to help reduce the ravages of mental illnesses such Post Traumatic Stress Disorder3 and depression.
With continued development and expansion of our towns and cities allotments are vital areas for urban and suburban biodiversity. Trees are seen as the green lungs of a town or city, and it can be argued that allotments are the green nervous system for our communities.
Another thing to consider with allotments is that whilst it may seem a simple exercise for councils to move plot holders from one site to another it takes no account of the hard years of cultivation, sweat, failure and success. Plot holders are heavily invested in the soil they work. Not just materially but physically and spiritually.
What account do local authorities take of this? It becomes much more than an economic matter with developers dangling the carrot of investment. What about the moral investment in your citizens? What of the transaction of integrity?
Coalition government policy is inconsistent on the issue of allotments in the UK. On the one hand Eric Pickles has championed Community Assets and the Localism Bill handing more power to communities, yet his department has been responsible for a 97% approval of all allotment disposal requests. Then, in the face of a legal challenge he admits his department got it wrong and didn't follow its own policy framework.
"The Government recognise that allotments are valuable green spaces and community assets providing people with the opportunity to grow their own produce as part of the long-term promotion of environmental sustainability, health and well-being, community cohesion and social inclusion."
Andrew Stunnell MP, Liberal Democrat 20124
"People will be able to vote against excessive council tax rises, elect a mayor for their city, save a community treasure or take over running a local service. The days of tick box consultation processes are over, communities will be the ones making the planning decisions for their neighbourhood."
Eric Pickles MP 20125
In respect of allotments DCLG went further and produced the Space For Food Growing guide, published just over a year ago,6 actively encouraging more allotments and space for community food projects. Such support and recognition of the worth of the allotment movement nationally couldn't be more contrary to the course of action you seek.
3 http://www.gardeningleave.org/ - Armed Forces Charity
As leader of Liberal Democrat controlled Watford please take the time to reconsider the best interests of all your citizens and communities. Allotments enjoy a global heritage and yet are persistently under threat of development. The history of mankind can be found in the first human settlements when they began to till the earth. In this respect the instinct for provision is no different if you're a wheat farmer in Hertfordshire, a smallholder in Malakal, or a plot holder in Watford.
If I may, I finish with some further context to consider.
"Stop to consider how the so-called owners of the land got hold of it. They simply seized it by force, afterwards hiring lawyers to provide them with title-deeds. In the case of the enclosure of the common lands"¦..the land-grabbers did not even have the excuse of being foreign conquerors; they were quite frankly taking the heritage of their own countrymen, upon no sort of pretext except that they had the power to do so." George Orwell, 1944
Mr Andrew Maxwell
allotment holder and activist @digWinstanley
RECLAIM THE COMMONS
We are still waiting for a response from Watford Borough Council and Mayor Dorothy (who was out of office until yesterday) but Anthony Tiernan (Director of Corporate Affairs and Communication at Watford, St Albans and Hemel hospitals) has responded to a tweet saying he has read our letter and will discuss it with colleagues as well as Watford Borough Council and Mayor Dorothy. I will keep you informed as to what happens. We have received the first of a few messages sent to Mayor Dorothy - but we really do need more people writing so please continue to ask friends and relatives to help out. It doesn't need to be a long email just a short one will do send them to email@example.com and copy us in on all emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is really useful people sending us their communication with mayor Dorothy as we can use all these letters in our own submission should it come to that.
We are also in this months Which? Gardening magazine PG 6 and 7 of the Gardening news part.
Next month we will be in Kitchen Gardening Magazine and Grow Your Own magazine hopefully in November!
Thanks again for all your support and donations! Please keep donating. We need to recuperate the money we had to spend on putting the letter in the Watford Observer but the feedback has been extremely positive!!
Our Open letter to Mayor Dorothy and co, which we put in this week's Watford Observer Newspaper -
Dear Elected Mayor Dorothy and Liberal Democrat Councillors of Watford Borough Council,
We the Farm Terrace Association feel compelled to write an open letter to you to express our deep and bitter disappointment about the contemptuous way you and the majority of the Council have behaved towards our campaign to keep our allotments.
We believe that at no point in this process have you stopped to listen to what the people of Watford, the local community of West Watford, and the tenants of Farm Terrace allotment site wanted.
In good faith, we entered into your consultation process. At the beginning, we met with your consultants and showed we were willing to work with them and the hospital to ensure that, if the allotments were integrated into the Health Campus, we would help create a community garden that would maintain and increase the biodiversity of the area and could be broadly enjoyed by the local community, hospital patients and other groups. You lacked the vision to include the beautiful historic allotments into the Health Campus scheme, and you lost our goodwill and co-operation.
When we became impassioned in pleading with you to listen, you said we were being unreasonable. You battled on with taking Farm Terrace, repeatedly claiming it was either allotments or a new hospital - when in fact your private sector partner Kier stated at meetings with our members that the development could be viable without the allotments, just less profitable. You have consistently led the people of Watford to think that the Watford Health Campus is synonymous with developing the hospital whereas we believe they are totally separate projects. As you know, Watford Hospital has requested a small amount of the allotment land to allow them greater flexibility to develop the hospital. However, as you are also aware the Hospital has to raise its own funds through Central Government to do this and as of yet this has not happened.
When we pointed out that it seemed that your real aim was to build lots more houses, (your original plan was for 300 until you decided to take the allotments and revise the overall development to 600 homes), you claimed we were being selfish. But we do not wish to stand in the way of a hospital redevelopment or even the wider health campus. We just don't believe it is right to build on green space that should be available to local residents, living in one of the most densely populated areas of Watford, to grow and cultivate fresh fruit and vegetables. We believe that other considerations have been ignored "“ those of biodiversity, sustainability and environment.
You have used a "˜divide and conquer' approach with many of our plot holders, having individual meetings and promising extravagant amounts of sheds, equipment and plants; this feels as though they might be being offered extra compensation if they leave plots quietly now.
You have never carried out a broad consultation with the people of Watford to find out whether they agree with taking the allotments. You have forged ahead, omitting to promote the availability of allotments and allowing Farm Terrace site to become overgrown with weeds on the increasing number of plots which are empty due to this lack of promotion. We are sure there are more Watford residents who would like a plot were they not under the misapprehension that all plots are occupied and that waiting lists are long.
Even in the last few weeks, when Secretary of State Eric Pickles has admitted that he made a mistake in granting you permission to develop on this land, you are still sending planners and surveyors to the site despite not currently having permission to build on it. You have even allowed these surveyors to spray paint on our lovingly tended plots! This is possibly not illegal but is insensitive and invasive and feels like bullying.
Many of our fellow plot holders and many of the people of Watford have been led to believe that this was a fight that Farm Terrace Association could never win. You have, however, been unprepared for the strength of feeling this issue has raised.
We firmly believe that the majority of people of Watford are behind us. After all, the allotments belong to the people of Watford. We are just current custodians of land that has been used since 1896 and should be there for future generations - land that in years to come will become increasingly important to support local and sustainable food production.
We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the residents of Watford for the level of support they have shown us over this past year. The extent of the support speaks for itself. Participation in our online social media campaigns has been utterly phenomenal; we have over 1800 followers on twitter, over 500 on face book. We have had articles printed on us in The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent to mention but a few. When we launched our "˜Go fund me' site www.gofundme.com/3ig1fo to help fund our court case against the Government's original decision to grant you permission, within a month we had received nearly a third of the money needed to take this fight all the way. At the time of writing this letter over 400 people have already donated money to help our fight, and the fund is growing still.
Dozens of people have written to the Watford Observer in support of keeping the allotments "“ and these are not just our members "“ whereas it is only a handful of Councillors and the Hospitals' management who have written in favour of losing them. We receive messages every day thanking us for taking this cause on.
For these reasons we ask Watford Borough Council not to send another submission to the Secretary of State. We would like to ask the people of Watford to show their support for us by writing directly to you via email@example.com and copying us in on all emails at firstname.lastname@example.org. If any of the residents of Watford would be interested in having a plot on Farm Terrace now or at any time in the future (instead of having to walk 2-3 miles to the next nearest site), could they please inform Watford Borough Council and ourselves of this. We ask everyone who does write, to copy the communication to us so that we too can see the extent of the support. Amazingly, Mr Pickles' office lost some of the original correspondence sent in objecting to the proposed closure, so we want to ensure that no more goes astray!
Once again we would like to thank the people of Watford for all their support so far and hope that we can call on them again, if the Council refuses to listen and again attempts to destroy the allotments in favour of housing.
Here is the court order that settles round one of this case in our favour. A new decision will now be made and we might have to challenge it, but we have already achieved a huge amount "“ the court order shows that if statutory allotments are to be built on they need to be "˜unnecessary and surplus to requirements', and if they aren't then good reasons need to be given for building on them. The Secretary of State has agreed that the reasons given in our case weren't good enough. Similar arguments could already be used to help other allotment sites, so you have already helped to set a precedent. Hopefully we won't have to go back to court to fight the other issues, but I'm not counting any chickens yet. Please continue to spread the word about our campaign and continue to donate to our fighting fund.
It's Martina here from Farm Terrace Community Association.
I just want to thank everyone again for all their donations, practical advice, words of encouragement and support.
When the going gets tough or when we feel downhearted it's great to know that we have so many fantastic people out there following our cause and backing us all the way. It really does mean so much to us. So THANK YOU to you all!
And if you haven't already seen the photos that Sara Jane took then take a look here: Photos from Farm Terrace Allotments! http://t.co/vDiCFPDb2X
Thank you and please continue to spread the word.
If you believe in the under dog, if you believe in David when faced with Goliath, if you believe that we can, that we MUST stand up to local council bullies and that green, open, community land is worth saving, worth putting your money exactly where your mouth is, then please please donate - if everyone who shares these beliefs does then we can save Farm Terrace Allotments, Protect all allotments and strike a blow for the safety of the environment for now and more importantly for the future generations. Please share our story...
The Council has promised not to sell, appropriate use or dispose of the allotments while the Secretary of State looks at this again, but they have said that they will continue preparing on the assumption that consent will be granted to build on the allotments. We're going to watch them like hawks, and hope that the Secretary of State will genuinely look at this afresh, but I wonder how much public money they plan to spend on something that may never happen! !
Thank ypu so much for your continuing donations!
I did a radio interview with BBC Three Counties Radio on Monday Afternoon. Please click here to listen and FFWD to 2.47 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01cxg7f
SHAMELESS BULLIES! We asked Watford Borough Council to put things on hold now that the Secretary of State has withdrawn his consent, but they have said they will press ahead with plans to relocate plotholders and to get planning permission to build on the allotments! Looks like we'll have to get a court order to stop them, so funds will definitely still be needed!
Amazing weekend celebtating our bit of good news but while this is a battle victory.... the war is far from over! We still need to raise funds because the Secretary of State will, as a result of this climbdown, have to go back to the drawing board, and he might issue a new decision also granting consent, in which case we'll have to challenge that too. So please please keep donating to help protect allotments!
ROUND ONE TO THE PLOT HOLDERS!!!
Farm Terrace is safe for now! In the face of legal action the Secretary of State has backed down, and agreed that he got it wrong, so the decision to allow the Council to build on the allotments will be withdrawn. A new decision will be made, and hopefully consent will be refused this time, but if it is granted again then we'll be ready to challenge it! For now, it's round one to the plotholders!
The Secretary of state Eric Pickles is unfortunately still deliberating his response to our letter of claim, and has asked for more time even though our solicitors have already allowed them extra time. We are on a very tight time schedule and the government promised respond by Thursday 1st August, but they now say they'll respond by Monday 5th August. We at Farm terrace would like to believe that maybe he has finally seen sense and will back down, but we fear it might be yet another tactic to put us in a difficult position and give us as little time as possible to prepare our case.
Watford borough council's reply is in and it's sadly predictable! More spin and they are not willing to take any blame. The council refuse outright to put any plans to develop on the site on hold until after the judicial review! They plan on bringing the bulldozers in anyway!! Also they will still not consider the position of non drivers who can not possibly get to and from the proposed site easily. And this is supposed to be a green government? ?! Watford Borough Council you really are a group of nasty bullies!! For more details. Including our response please see ~ https://www.dropbox.com/sh/afsvuwn0cy1hlyl/L34RD5H7eA
The Secretary of state Eric Pickles has just 24 hours to respond to our letter of claim! Will he back down? Let's show him what #peoplepower can do! Let's get the gofundme site up to £6,500 bringing grand total to over £10,000!!!
Today, July 31st, Just 24 days into our campaign the gofundme total stands at a total of £5,915 (but it changes constantly!) We are also very pleased to say that we also have another £3,627 from cheques and fund raising, including a generous fund match of £2,000 from The National Allotment Society.
The total therefore, stands at £9,542!
Which means in under one month we have raised nearly 1/3 of the total we need to see this trial through to its' hopefully victorious end!! That is an amazing achievement in an extremely short time, especially in these hard economic times! We would like to thank everyone who has donated to our Fight Fund! As things stand we do not know when exactly the trial will take place, but it is likely to be in a few months' time. For this reason we need to continue raising funds as quickly as possible. The more funds we have the more time our fantastic legal team can give to our fight.
Many people who support us are unable to donate anything and this is completely understandable. In that case we simply ask that they continue to tell friends and family about our fighting fund.However should anyone or any organisation wish to they can donate larger amounts of money and stipulate on donating that they would like this refunded to them should we win and costs be awarded.
We are doing so, so well! So please keep the faith, keep spreading the word and if you haven't already please donate here to our Fighting Fund, fighting for the future of allotments and much, much more!
The ball is indeed rolling now so please give generously to help us show the Government that they can NOT act illegally and that We are going to help protect the future of ALL allotments and ALL green space!!
Morning all!! Spending the day on your plot or in your garden today? Please spare a thought for us and tell your friends family and neighbours about our fight. If everyone chips in a tenner we can stand up to these bullies and show them the true meaning if people power!!!!
I'ts SJT I'm back! And what amazing work you have been doing!! Brilliant work everyone! THANK YOU SO MUCH! ! Now we just need £10.00 to make it up to the milestone of £5000!!!! Come on who wants to be the one to take us there? ???
Hi all. This week we began contacting allotment and gardening organisations, etc, to let people know of our plight and to ask for help. Well, all I can say is that we are overwhelmed by the support and the donations that have been coming in. THANK YOU SO, SO MUCH. We do try to send a personal thank you to everyone who has donated - apologies if anyone has been missed out.
As far as we are aware we are the first allotment site to take our case to judicial review - history in the making! - and we hope that a precedent will be set to help protect other allotments up and down the land.
As I have already asked of some of you, please help us further by spreading the word.
Many thanks, Martina
on behalf of all of us at Farm Terrace allotments.
The donations are still coming in - which is fabulous! Thank you so much. And thank you to allotment holders from other sites who have donated money to our cause. We are fighting to save not only Farm Terrace but to protect all allotments everywhere for now and for future generations. If you wish to follow our progress here is a link to our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SaveFarmTerraceAllotments
Farm Terrace Bites Back. Check out our latest video update on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV6HnxBSG7U
Please circulate to anyone you know who may be interested in supporting our cause. Many thanks.
A big thank you to everyone who has donated to the fund in the last few days. Your contributions are much appreciated and will help us with our fight.
Good news - the total amount of donations and fund-raising has now reached the £6000 mark which is FANTASTIC! Well done and thank you!
Just got my t-chirt: I'd rather be down the allotments.
The fight goes to preserve all allotments.
Thanks to all our supporters! Martina and Andy will keep you posted, as it's my turn to have a break, until our dear Sara Jane is back from her holidays. x Virginie
we'd rather be down the allotments, every penny counts for our fight!
Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs) commitments needs to include allotments.
Why are allotments discarded in the bigger scheme of preserving man made environment? Virginie
Defra specifically says:
3. We will mainstream the value of nature across our society by:
"¢ facilitating greater local action to protect and improve nature;
"¢ creating a green economy, in which economic growth and the health of our natural resources sustain each other, and markets, business and Government better reflect the value of nature;
"¢ strengthening the connections between people and nature to the benefit of both; and
"¢ showing leadership in the European Union and internationally, to protect and enhance natural assets globally.
Another 13 days before we hear from the Sec of State
whether the challenge letter will be followed through or the Sec of State admits:-
hmmm, yes, I did say the allotments aren't surplus, so in view of my own admission, they are needed, and intrinsically part of the urban landscape.
Yes, we'd rather be at the allotments. But we're taking the time fighting to be heard, it all started with a friendly consultation at the town hall, eventually to find out they had never taken account of our views, that after all they were after the allotments, without, in front of us, ever admitting it plainly!
So please keep donating, as we'll need a fair amount to see us through. Any donation counts!
It's going to be a gorgeous day so put on the sun cream and come along to our Open Day. Cakes, ice cream, plants and more! The fun starts at 11am. Everyone is welcome from near and far. See you there. Virginie and Martina
The whole situation with PayPal reminds me of
a song from Pulp, called I Spy, i have now sent them numerous documents, and even faxed them on the top of that. Being the treasurer of non for profit organisation isn't just your thread of the mill. This morning again, PayPal team sounded more positive, an other 48 years...no 48 hours, but cross fingers it's moving through the net now!!! so please keep up with us! we're preparing for the Open Day now. Virginie
Well, dear supporters, been through a big day in terms of liaising with Paypal, but we're still at a standstill. Please stick with us while we're trying to resolve it. If you want more updates, please check the Facebook SaveFarmTerraceAllotments. Virginie
Early morning, early rise,
Early call to Paypal,
Please bear with us,
For the sake of our dear allotments!
Paypal has confirmed on the phone they're looking through our documents, once you reach a £1900 limit, they put in preventive measures to check money laundering! This may take 24-48 hours or less. Virginie
Hi to all,
i'm signing in on behalf of Sara Jane, who's off for a well deserved break . We've done very well so far, but we still need it to push it.
Bear with us though, as we're experiencing some technical difficulties with PayPal, who needs to go through some clearance with us, as they questioned why we reached £1,925 . Hopefully, they'll cleared it by tomorrow. Virginie
Hi everyone, I am signing off for a couple of weeks for an ill timed but much needed family holiday. I leave you in the very capable hands of Virginie and Martina. Who will be posting updates regularly. I will check in when I can but staying on a volcano in Sicily it might be quite hard. Please remember to keep plugging us to everyone. We only need £10.00 from each of our supporters! The legal team are very happy with our progress and are starting procedings but obviously we need as many donations as possible. Look forwarded to the updates and remember #savefarmterrace #saveallallotments !!!!
£1,130.00 within 24 hours! Pretty impressive! Thank you so much every one who has donated! THIS IS ENOUGH FOR LAWYERS TO SEND OUT FIRST LETTERS!! We now need to reach £2,000 asap as we have been promised a 'fund match' at this point!! Which would bring us to £4,000! Come on! We can do it!!
Terrace Allotment site Watford has existed since 1896. It stands
in the centre of the hugely urbanized town of Watford. An oasis in an Urban
Jungle. However we 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. 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.
Plot holders feel powerless to protest about these closures because the
government have such power "“ until now.
Our case showed that the
Secretary of State had not applied his policy lawfully and in the face of legal action the Secretary of State backed down! However our Lib Dem council is not backing down and plans to put in
another submission to develop on the allotments as the original case now has to
be revisited. We in defence will be putting in our own submission with new data
and facts. The Secretary of State will then make a new decision again in the
Autumn. If we win, not only will we save Farm Terrace but we also
will strike a blow for the protection of allotments all over the UK as it will
make it much harder for them to be developed on!
successfully challenged the first decision we may have to continue our fight in
court dependant on what the decision is in the Autumn.
So far, we have
received support from individuals, allotment holders, allotment associations
nationwide as well as members of our local community.
Please donate as much as you can, we believe
that if all our allotments are
still needed now, more than ever. If all allotment holders keep quiet and do
not stand up and be counted alongside us it is our very real fear that
allotments will, in the very near future, be assigned to the history books.
Please help Save Farm Terrace. Please help save
Thank you for the update. I have donated before but do so again as I feel so passionately about keeping our connection with the land alive - this land that has its own history with growing, with communities, with children who are now adults who are now passing on those same values and skills to their own children.
You simply cannot substitute ANY land as 'replacement' allotments. You cannot replace that history, that connection, that relationship and sense of ownership that belongs to the community, without damaging that community.
If a health argument is the emotional trump card (a new Hospital), what financial value is attributed to biophilia? Is there a way to assess the social benefits of keeping an allotment that can be quantified as reducing the strain on the NHS?
Such good news! Now we as citizens can make a political decision as to which Candidate to vote for in May based on their stand on the Home Farm Allotments.
It has put some community decision making back in the hands of the public - not salaried Mayors.
PLEASE Sara-Jane stand for MP or Elected Mayor or at least Councillor. You have my vote for all 3.
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