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.
Posted by Sara Jane Trebar
"We the farm terrace allotment holders are bitterly disappointed that the Judge did not find for our case against the government and Watford Borough Council
This has been a very long, very emotional battle for us. We feel that at very stage where we have won the rules have been changed to make it increasingly difficult for us.
This judgement is in our view, a developers charter for development on any allotment site and could wipe out urban allotments forever. We are extremely worried about the ramifications of this case for all allotments. We still believe that the remits of ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ have still not been clarified nor explained. If there is no bench mark for what is an exceptional circumstance. We feel the term can and will be applied to get rid of many other plots and sites. There is evidence almost weekly of sites losing land to development or like us losing their whole site.
We are very frightened about the future of urban allotments, unfortunately as our case has shown, they can now be offered as a ‘blank cheque’ to cash hungry developers and councils. Farm Terrace plots are and always have been in demand. This point was not questioned in court and yet permission to dispose of it was given. Watford Borough council have now been given the opportunity to do whatever they want with this land, be it a car park, expensive housing or yet more flats.
After consulting with our loyal legal team, we have come to the very difficult decision not to appeal against this decision. This is the end of the road for us. We have got to give up the keys to Farm terrace on Friday the 4th. Give up keys to plots that are still being worked, still growing fruit and vegetables and still very much loved so that bulldozers can move in. Needless to say it is heartbreaking.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our supporters near and far and of course our prestigious legal team, who could not have worked harder for us or for the protection of all allotments. We now leave the defence and protection on England’s Allotment sites to the National Allotment Society who we hope will work hard to safeguard other sites.
We could not be prouder of ourselves and our supporters who have battled so tirelessly against the immoral and illogical act. We feel we have done ourselves proud. It is a very sad day for everyone involved.
We would like to thank everyone at the National Allotment Society who have supported us over the past 4 years, particularly allotment holders and sites up and down the country. We also now leave the Society to take forward the issues raised in the judgement for the sake of all allotment sites in the country."
I have now closed donations to the gofundme account.
We would like to thank all those who donated to our crowd funding site, no matter how little or large an amount you helped us take this fight as far as we could and we remain thankful for that opportunity .
Posted by Sara Jane Trebar
Royal Courts of Justice, Westminster, London
Friday October 21st 10.00am
“The story of Farm Terrace came to life in June 2012 when its tenants were advised by their elected Mayor, Dorothy Thornill that consideration was being given to include the allotments within the second reincarnation of the Watford Health Campus scheme (the 1st some years earlier included the allotments). In December of the same year and not surprisingly the majority Lib Dem council re-confirmed this thought and voted through the closure of the allotments that had served this mainly terrace housing area of West Watford since the late 19th century. The battle to save farm terrace had begun.
Although the council had voted through to close the allotments they still had to ask the government to deregulate the land so development could take place (requirement under the 1922 allotment act). So in January 2013 an extensive application by Watford Council was submitted detailing that the allotment land was critical to meet family housing needs and for Watford Hospital to extend their hospital whilst at the same time admitting that the allotments were not surplus to the area and were still well used. In early summer of the same year, the government agreed with Watford Council and gave permission to close the allotments.
However, we the tenants had felt that the decision had been taken incorrectly as the council had admitted that the allotments were still being used by the West Watford Community and were not surplus to the area. So with the help of our newly installed legal team, Deighton Pierce Glynn this was challenged with the government admitting it had not followed its own rules and the decision quashed at the a Royal Courts of Justice in late summer 2012.
We had then thought that the battle was over but unfortunately in autumn 2013 Watford Council started work again on a second application to close Farm Terrace with the tenants putting in an extensive submission to the government to challenge the council's application. Unfortunately and not surprisingly the government agreed for a second time to close the allotments stating that exceptional reasons prevailed in the council's application (the government had updated its own guidance in January 2014 to allow exceptional reasons if all the rules to close an allotment site had not been met).
Our legal team didn't agree that the second decision was correct and so the case was accepted and moved to a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in July 2014 where three farm terrace tenants came up against Watford Council and the government. The judgement handed down gave victory to the tenants for a second time with a decision being announced on the 31 October 2014 that Watford Council hadn't updated the government sufficiently to changes in the plans to the scheme during the application to close the allotments.
Unfortunately, Watford Council although accepting that it had made an error in December 2014 submitted an even more extensive application to close the allotments for a third time. Not surprisingly again and despite the council again admitting that the allotments were not surplus to the area the government agreed due to exceptional circumstances in May 2016 to grant the closure again. In July 2016 the tenants met and agreed with the help of their legal team to take the case to the Royal Courts of Justice for a third time with the argument that some of the exceptional reasons granted weren’t actually exceptional including the need to build housing.
Due to Watford Council giving notice to tenants to vacate the site by the 4 November the case will be heard on the 21 October with an initial view by the judge if there is a Judicial Review case be heard. If so the remainder of the day will be the formal hearing with a judgement hopefully made before the notice period expires. Either way this should bring an end to the four year battle of the Farm Terrace tenants against Watford Council and the UK Government”.
To show the strength of feeling of the importance of this case, allotment holders and supporters will be staging a ‘Harvest Festival’ outside the Royal Courts of Justice. At the previous Court hearing we staged a passionate and colourful ‘Peaceful Protest’ -
We wish to draw attention to the importance of this case, not just for allotment holders all over the country but also for green space and the environment. If the Judge refuses to quash the Secretary of State’s decision to grant consent in this case, thus allowing the site to be concreted over for the’ exceptional circumstance’ of profit, which green space is safe?
Please help fund our important case if you can -
Posted by Sara Jane Trebar
We are very pleased to announce that we have a date for our final court date!
Friday October 21st 2016!
We will be taking our 'Peasful Protest' back to the Royal Courts of Justice Westminster!
Please save the date, share this post and get your banners and colourful gardening paraphernalia ready!
This is the last push. This is the end. If we win we really will help protect all other allotments against being at risk of this ridiculous 'exceptional circumstances' (get out clause) by the government.
If we lose, well, it doesn't bare thinking about!
Please come and support us, attend the court case with us and help us show the Judge, Watford Borough Council, the Government and the National press Just how you " don't mess with allotments"!
It will be a one day hearing. It will be a rolled up hearing and it will be a great day out!
Posted by Sara Jane Trebar
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.
You put up such a great case to keep Farm Terrace as allotments, and it's sickening to see it end this way. Thinking of you all. It's also a very dark day for allotments everywhere.
So sorry to hear this. Today will be remembered as a sad day when greedy and selfish capitalist can trample on the lives and dreams of ordinary people.
what time does it start? I'd like to come along and give my support
Hi Sara-Jane and fellow Farm Terrace folk! The date is in my diary - what time should I get to the RCJ? Well done to all of you for fighting so long and hard to save your allotments from needless development. Hopefully, everything crossed for luck and justice, your rightful victory will set a useful precedent for the rest of us.
I've already donated and persuaded my allotment site to make a donation. Wishing you all the luck in the world, and it is amazing that you have all been so persistent and determined for so long.
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.