Hosepipes and the law

London's oldest surviving allotment is facing the threat of being built on thanks to plans by its landlord to construct a new housing development on part of the allotment site. 

We desperately need to raise funds to pay for legal and specialist advice to help save our much loved allotments. 
If you can spare just a few pound we would be very grateful for your help and support.



In early September 2016 the charity, Pathways, contacted plotholders at Northfield Allotments in Ealing to announce its proposal to build on 10% of the allotments. The development would include a five to six story block of social housing and four houses for sale to help fund the development.

Northfield Allotments are the oldest allotments in London. They were given by the Bishop of London to the people of Ealing in 1832, and are held as a permanent endowment. The charity Pathways is our landlord and the site is managed by a committee of seven plotholders. There are 141 plots.


The plotholders are a diverse range of ages and nationalities. Twenty nine of our plotholders live in flats – this is their only garden. We have around 50 children who have a safe place to play and learn about fruit and veg and get a chance to see tadpoles, stag beetles, bats and hedgehogs.
There are more than 25 pensioners who have a place to grow their own food and there is always company, someone to talk to. You are never alone when you have an allotment. People are friendly here and we share seedlings and produce.

We have counted 27 different nationalities – the only qualification to getting a plot is a love of gardening and the patience to wait on our waiting list (currently 72 people).


The hedgerow around the site is around 900m long and has been designated, by Ealing Borough council, a SINC - Site of Interest for Nature Conservation. It is an important and safe habitat for our hedgehogs, many nesting birds and insects. The allotments are a habitat for stag beetles, which are endangered and protected. With perfect timing the many visitors to our Halloween open day saw our bats flying around the site catching night flying insects.


On the 25th September at a special general meeting, the plotholders unanimously voted to oppose Pathways’ plans to concrete over the allotments.
We understand that social housing is important – but so are green open spaces. It shouldn’t have to be a choice of one or the other. We believe Pathways’ trustees have not fully considered alternatives to their proposal to ‘temporarily’ move 18 residents into what will be a permanent development on the allotments.

We believe a permanent endowment should be permanent.


The original allotments were much larger than they are today: 60% of the allotments were lost in the 1970s due to compulsory purchase by the council and building by Pathways. Our concern is that if planning permission is granted this time around it will be easier to lose more allotment land in the future as the pressure for housing so close to a Crossrail station increases.

When we lose green space we never get it back.


  • Please write to your local councillors to let them know what you think of the proposal.
  • Write to the Ealing Gazette and Ealing and Northfield forums.
  • Sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date with what is going on.
  • We need specialist help, especially once the plans are submitted to Ealing Council. This will cost money. So, please help by donating whatever you can to our fighting fund.

Please help us protect the allotments for another 184 years.

Many thanks for all your help and support.

The Ealing Dean Allotment Society.

I’m going to leave the final word to Fran, one of our plotholders (who will lose her plot if the development goes ahead)…

“My allotment means a lot to me - we live in a third floor social housing flat with no access to a garden of our own. In 18 months my daughter and I have transformed the plot from weeds and brambles to our own little patch of heaven and my daughter has learned so much she never would have been able to before, from where our food comes from to the lifecycle of the frog - and she now wants to be a gardener when she grows up.”

Wednesday 1st July 2015

To all plotholders                                                


Dear plot holder,

Very soon you will start to see notices beside every standpipe at Northfields allotments reminding you that you must not attach a hosepipe.

We have been advised that the use of a hosepipe connected to the water supply breaches the government’s Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations Act 1999.

These regulations are concerned with protecting the public drinking water supply. A particular concern is “backflow” - when pollutants can be drawn into the supply if there were a sudden loss of pressure (say from a burst water main or a fire). Allotments are regarded as a particularly high risk because of the likely presence of animal manures and associated pathogens.

If you remember signing your tenancy agreement you’ll know that attaching a hosepipe has always been against the rules. However, previous Pathways’ managers have allowed some plot holders some latitude if they were too old or too ill to carry water from the dip tanks to their plot. This can no longer be allowed as we have now discovered it is against the law.

Our local water supplier, Thames Water, will prosecute anyone in breach of the rules. If found guilty, a magistrate can impose fines of up to £1,000 for each example of a breach. The Landlord too, could be fined.

So, it is important that we keep a separation between the water supply and any outlets, in the form of an air gap. Dip tanks generally comply with the regulations, but a hosepipe connected to a tap does not.

We felt it was our duty (on behalf of the landlord) to let you know that if you use a hosepipe you may be prosecuted by Thames Water and fined.

We realise that imposing a complete and total ban on the use of hosepipes will be difficult for some plotholders. But we cannot give you permission to break the law.

If you are found using a hosepipe we will have to terminate your tenancy as you will be in breach of the tenancy agreement.

We are sending this letter to every plot-holder either by email or by post (for those not on email). We will also put up signs by every standpipe.


 Kind regards


Chair, Ealing Dean Allotment Society


For those interested, the actual legislation can be read from the UK Gov website at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/1148/contents/made.