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: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
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.
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.