Farm Terrace Allotment Fighting Fund
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!
Although we 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 ALL allotments.
We the Watford Farm Terrace Allotment holders are angry that the Secretary of State has rubber stamped a 3rd decision to allow Watford Council to build houses and car parks on our historic allotment land on the basis that the need for houses and a car park is an “exceptional circumstance”. As we know the allotment is situated in one of the most densely populated areas of Hertfordshire.
We have consulted with our legal team at ‘Deighton, Pierce and Glynn’ and we are confident that we have strong grounds for another Judicial review as we believe the Council’s plans to develop the land for profit do NOT meet the criteria for ‘exceptional circumstances’.
You may ask yourself what is exceptional. Unfortunately the Government produces one small paragraph on “exceptions” within its guidance without explaining what could be exceptional and leaving it in turn to let the courts decide instead.
After having two previous decisions overturned Watford Borough Council in its 3rd submission again admitted it didn’t meet all the criteria needed to deregulate Farm Terrace Allotments as set out in the Government’s policy Section 8 of the 1925 Allotment act. However in 2014 the policy act was changed and so that if the criteria were not met the deregulation could still be allowed if there were ‘exceptional circumstances’. This third application was allowed on in this basis alone in May 2016.
Our Legal team believe that the council have not in fact met the criteria for “exceptional circumstances”, and we will argue that the only justification for the development is profit and convenience. In our view this is not exceptional as every developer wants to build for a convenient profit!
Watford's elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill has tried to convince everybody that the development is part of a ‘Health Campus’ but the Councils latest submission shows that the majority of the site would be used for housing and could house a number of car parks to be used by Watford Football Club and the Hospital. In our view this is basically a land grab, of a beautiful green space in the centre of Watford. This is the only allotment capable of serving the centre of Watford. Once it is concreted over it will be lost forever. This Allotment was created for you and me, the people of west and central Watford, by the Council in the 1896, ironically because the previous privately owned allotment was being sold for housing developments!
We feel that this has been a dishonest fight from the beginning and the way our Council has behaved towards us makes it feel like a personal vendetta!
Watford Borough Council repeatedly refers to the land as being an overgrown waste land. The truth is that much of Farm Terrace is derelict because Watford Borough Council has not let anybody take up empty plots since 2012 and ‘encouraged’ remaining plot holders to vacate with generous compensation terms. This allotment is YOUR public amenity that YOUR elected council has taken away from you.
We the plot holders cannot believe that the council think we can be persuaded off the allotments for money. As 80 year old Vincenzo Santasiero, who has had a plot for over 40 years, told me “£1,000 might buy one nice thing but my plot gives me joy every day and feeds my family every year. You can never put a value on that!”
The council continues to present the allotment holders as a small group of selfish locals whilst the reality is that the fate of Farm Terrace will have far reaching implications for allotment sites up and down the country. We feel we have to stand up or else other councils across the UK will be able to take what should be ‘protected’ green spaces and sell them to developers for nothing other than short term monetary gain.
We were invited to a meeting with Manny Lewis, the chief executive Managing Director of WBC in November 2014, following our last win at the High Court. At that meeting we offered to compromise and agree to a smaller allotment site on the Farm Terrace site. That proposal was thrown back in our faces with a terse response that no agreement could be reached. This council does not want to compromise with us.
Returning to the High Court will be expensive and we will be funding the case through crowd funding as we did last time. Meanwhile the council will have to use the tax payer’s money YET AGAIN to fund their costs which we are reminded constantly by our Mayor. This of course is not what the Allotment holders want but they feel they have a duty to protect their land for future generations of Watford residents that has been farmed by West Watford residents since the 1890’s. In today’s climate, protection of local Green spaces should be a priority for a government claiming to ‘represent the ordinary working people’. This is the end game not just for us but for allotments up and down the country.
If we win the government will know that it can only allow development on allotment land when the circumstances truly are exceptional may have to review its guidance to define exactly what could be “exceptional”. If we lose developers and cash hungry councils will be able to easily claim ‘exceptional circumstances’ to get round the legal protection of allotment land that has been in peace for over a hundred years, and build anywhere they want.
We believe that if we win this Judicial review with a judge deciding that there is nothing exceptional then it would be extremely hard for Watford council to attempt a fourth submission and in turn would add a degree of protection to other threatened allotments. If we lose the flood gates may be opened. But if we don’t fight we have lost already!
The sad fact is that the Government have weakened protection for allotments by watering down our legal protections and forcing us to revert to the Courts for justice. Just think how many ordinary allotment holders would be able to get as far as us. Not many and that is why we are making a stand.
Sara Jane Trebar
Spokeswoman for the Farm Terrace Association.
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.
This is great news for us and makes our fight an election issue!
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”
Sarah Jane is there some specific wording we could use when contacting Ray Colbourne?
Delighted to hear that the Farm Terrace allotments have been saved and well done on a brilliant campaign. Happy growing, and all the best for the future :)
This is an amazing victory! Well done! What an achievement in the face of heartless bureaucracy. Please keep us updated about the threatened appeal from your Council.
So happy for everybody that was involved and that you have now set a presidence for future allotments that face the same challenge. Well done :)
Best wishes from Crayford Way Allotments in Kent for a sunny, or at least dry gathering on the 20th. With you in spirit and we still have everything crossed for a judgment in your favour!
Keep Fighting, I met with Dorothy to push for self management in 2010 at Callowlands when she assured me that they did not need any allotment land to develop the Hospital site and Farm Terrace was safe from any development! And so was the land at Callowlands.
Yes, WBC is after the allotments,with no sense of ethics, and respect of the laws, no understanding of what it means to preserve natural resources, how many times we heard us being called the fenced allotments, but WBC can walk in any time, without weighting their decision, and our own stand. How far do we have to go to be heard? Is this a democracy?
Just found the sudden reversal of Eric Pickles. I just can't believe we are able to keep Farm Terrace Allotments, but this is true, it's happening! Although Mayor Dorothy thinks it's a simple point of law to elude.
Can I suggest that you reach out to the media / local newspapers, I.e. if you can get someone like Monty Don to even mention this case on his show I am sure there would be a lot more support and maybe he might be generous enough to donate something as well!! :)
Manor Garden Allotments: their destruction for the Olympics was an unnecessary tragedy. I hope you will be more successful.
I'm so delighted we have exceeded 2000 that I am going to celebrate with a glass of pink plonk.
No land open to the community, and that's statutory, should be played with, and used for completing a public- private deal-.That's not what Farm Terrace is for, and we can't just go ignorant of what's happening all over England, or nearby. Farm Terrace has been a haven for me, since i stepped in England.