Posted on 28 January 2014.
“Save our allotments”. That is the message from villagers fighting against proposals that could see a valuable community amenity and an important green area in the heart of Cubbington being used as a development site for housing.
Rugby Road Allotment plot holders and like-minded residents of Cubbington have come together to form a campaign group dedicated to preserving the site for horticultural leisure use and to stop it being taken for housing development.
Allotments established as a salve to urban overcrowding in the 1800s are often sited centrally, in prime spots. But now developers look at the rows of beans and clusters of fruit bushes and see a wasted opportunity and an easy target.
The Rugby Road Allotment site owned by the Thomas White Trust is the ‘easy’ option for the local planners and has been identified as a preferred location for new houses by Warwick District Council, supported by Cubbington Parish Council.
Allotment holders in Cubbington fear the land will be sold by the Thomas White Trust for housing development following a worrying pattern which is gaining momentum across the country where allotment land appears to offer an easy option for developers, despite the loss of allotment land being against Government Policy.
In fact, if the land was council owned under the Allotments Act 1925 a local authority cannot sell, use or otherwise dispose of land which it acquired for use as allotments without first obtaining the consent of the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Secretary of State can only give such consent if he is satisfied that adequate provision will be made for allotment holders displaced or that such provision is not necessary or reasonably practicable.
The advisers at the National Society for Allotment Gardeners (NSALG) are fully aware of the issue. The organisation – set up to represent and advise allotment holders – until recently usually received about one call a month over threats to allotment land. Last year they noticed that this had increased and now they are getting several calls a week about potential development of sites, according to their spokeswoman.
A survey released to coincide with national allotment week last year shows that 74% of allotment users are concerned that local authorities will take their land away for building.
The 5.5-acre Rugby Road site has been an allotment site for over 60 years. In the last 20 years it has been fully occupied bringing joy, relaxation and healthy fresh produce to old and new generations of gardeners in Cubbington. There is consistently a sizeable waiting list for all allotments in Warwickshire; the official waiting list to get a plot on the Rugby Road site varies annually between 20 & 30 families (and a lot more local people have expressed a desire to obtain an allotment that are not on the official list).
In the Village Housing Options and Settlement Boundaries Consultation document it states that an alternative site needs to be found for the allotments, but there are no details of this site on the plan or any timescale given to provide it.
Cultivating an allotment is not a hobby that can be picked up and dropped. Gardeners invest labour, time and money. It takes years to get the soil into good working condition, to establish permanent crops and for trees to mature. The current site is full of mature fruit trees and fruit bushes and is home to small livestock (chickens) and bee hives.
An established allotment is manageable and rewarding, but starting again is soul-destroying. When it’s gone, it’s gone. It is regrettable that the council and developers can’t be relied upon to work around allotments with imagination – there is always an alternative before choosing the option of destroying what could not be replaced. A new site would take years to establish.
If land can be provided for an alternative allotment site, then why this land can’t be used for the housing development rather than the allotments?
Allotments are being recognised as a catalyst for encouraging sustainability, healthier living and social interaction as well as a resource for local food growing.
Research has shown that contact with the natural environment and green space promotes better physical and mental health, and self-esteem. Allotment schemes are low-cost compared to the benefits they bring.
Dozens of allotment holders gathered at the 69-plot site to demonstrate how much local people value the space. “We have a wonderful thing on our doorsteps and if we do not fight for it, we might lose it” said one demonstrator.
Chairman of the Allotments Association, Gordon Travis, said “Most of us only found out about the proposed development at the beginning of January and that a consultation exhibition was being held at the village hall on January 3rd. We tried our best to notify as many people of possible in a short time as representations regarding the proposal had to be made to WDC Planning by January 20th. We fear that 90% of Cubbington residents are still unaware of the development proposals, including some of those who will be badly affected if it goes ahead. We feel the Parish Council are at fault for not informing residents of this plan and the Consultation arrangements until far too late and question as to whether councillors, both local and district are trying to bring this development in ‘under the radar’ so as to face as little opposition as possible”.
“It is about raising awareness of the allotments. “ As a community we love our allotments and we want to preserve our heritage, our open space, our community asset which is in danger of being removed from the area. “We must fight to save it” said Eddie Young, the Secretary of the Rugby Road Allotment Association.
Villagers would also want answers why the site identified in 2009 by the council as unsuitable for development “due to the impact on open countryside in an area of high landscape value and the impact of the scale of development in relation to the existing built up area of Cubbington” and having policy restrictions of “Green Belt and Protecting Recreation Facilities (allotments)” is now the preferred location ?
For further information please contact:
Gordon Travis, Chairman of the Allotments Association email@example.com
Eddie Young firstname.lastname@example.org
Margaret Bull email@example.com