Enclosure of the allotment land
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.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- 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.”
1832 is an important date in the history of the site. This is when Charles James Blomfield, the Bishop of London, ensured the enclosure of the land for use as allotments. The original paperwork is in the London Metropolitan Archive. It is a little difficult to read - hence the question marks below. But, we think this is the best transcription available:
"I Charles James Bishop of London as Lord of the Manor of Ealing, otherwise Zealing in the County of Middlesex, do hereby consent, in so far as by law I may or can, to the Enclosure of All that piece or Parcel of Waste or Common Land or Ground called Ealing Dean Common within the said Manor containing twenty Acres two Roods and sixteen perches or thereabouts according to the plan hereunder(?) arranged(?), in order that the same may be occupied solely in Allotments of not more than one Rood to each person, by poor Parishioners of the said Parish of Ealing to be appointed by a Committee of Management, of whom the Vicar for the time being, always to be on.
The Bishop tells us that each person should be allocated no more than one Rood - which is about a quarter of an acre or 10,890 sq ft, approximately 1,011 sq metres. Today we only rent out half-plots to newcomers - around 6m x 15m = 90 sq m.
The Bishop's letter also mentions that the plots should go to "poor Parishoners' which seem like a Christian and altruistic thing to do. However, he may have had other motives, according to Blomfield's biographer Malcolm Johnson. "The Bishop thought that the Church should provide rival attractions, such as mens clubs, and his Ealing allotments laid out in 1832 were an attempt to substitute his beloved gardening for drinking as a pastime."