Plans to build on London's oldest allotments
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.”
Northfields Allotments is under threat of development from its landlord Pathways, who intend to build on part of the allotment site. On Saturday 12th November 2016, Pathways held a public consultation to gather feedback on its plans. Pathways have not changed their plans to develop the site and the plot holders wait to hear from their landlords about their plans.
The revised plans would see five percent of the historic site built on, down from the ten percent cited in the original proposal. This reduction has been achieved by shrinking the volume of social housing units on the site from 18 to 15 and removing all parking provision from the plans. In addition to the 15 social housing units, Pathways intends to construct four townhouses on the allotment site to sell on the open market.
Local opposition to Pathways’ proposal remains very strong. Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton, has publicly opposed the plans. Labour councillors from Walpole ward, the electoral ward that includes the allotment site, and Conservative councillors from neighbouring Northfield ward, where many plotholders live, are also unanimous in their opposition.
The level of opposition is testament to the allotments’ positive impact on the local community. Around 2,000 members of the public enjoyed the allotments at last month's Hallowe’en pumpkin trail. The site is also recognised as providing a safe habitat for a vast range of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians and insects. The hedgerow that rings the site carries protected status.
The allotments have been designated a Community Open Space and a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), by Ealing Council, a designation that would normally give the site protection under the Council’s own planning guidelines.
Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton, said: "The revised plans from Pathways are moving in the right direction but do not go far enough. The new proposal would see five percent of the allotment site being built on, however for many people in Ealing the thought of losing green space, be it for housing or any other purpose, is deeply regrettable.
“I still believe that Pathways can achieve its objectives without needing to build on London’s oldest allotments and am urging the charity to consider other options."
Christina Fox, chairman of the Ealing Dean Allotment Society, said: “The development on the allotment is being advanced in order to temporarily house 15 residents, however the solution is a permanent one. We know that many of Pathways’ trustees have years of experience in housing and urge them to find alternative solutions which do not involve sacrificing this historic site.
“Ealing is famed for its natural heritage and any reduction in the borough’s green spaces would be met with genuine regret by the local community. Having conducted our own consultations with plotholders, local residents’ groups and other affected parties, it is clear that the majority of local residents strongly oppose the development of any part of Northfields Allotments.”