Support for Northfields Allotments at the Walpole Ward Forum
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.”
Last night (Monday 27th March 2017) we took the campaign to save London’s oldest allotments to the bi-annual forum of the councillors of Walpole Ward in Ealing, the electoral ward where Northfields Allotments is located.
In a packed meeting that was greatly swelled by a large number of plotholders from the allotments, Ealing Dean Allotment Society chairwoman Christina Fox gave an impassioned speech as to why we so strongly opposed any further development on the site.
Pathways, the site’s landlord which intends to build on part of the allotments, was invited by Walpole Ward councillors Binda Rai, Gareth Shaw and Paul Conlon to attend the meeting and present their side of the story but unfortunately did not respond to the invitation.
Christina began by providing a potted history of Northfields Allotments to highlight what an important part of our local heritage the site has been since its 1832 endowment to the people of Ealing by the Bishop of London. She also cited one of the Bishop’s reasons for handing over the land, namely to keep local men out of the pub!
An important point that was made concerned the fact that Northfields Allotments used to occupy a much larger site, encompassing both sides of Northfields Avenue. However, in the 1970s/1980s a compulsory purchase order saw the western part of the site, representing about 60% of the total area of the allotments, surrendered for development.
Christina illustrated this point by handing around aerial photographs of the site in 1945 compared to today, in which it was striking just how much land was lost to the west of Northfields Avenue. While Pathways talks about only building on 5% of the current site, the reality is that we have already lost a great deal of the original site.
After the brief history lesson, Christina outlined Pathways’ plans for the proposed development. These include fifteen social housing flats and four townhouses for private sale. As far as we know, the revised plans will be submitted in a formal application to Ealing’s planning department in May or June this year.
She also explained what we have been doing to oppose the development proposal, including applying for London’s oldest allotment to be named as an asset of community value, an application to which we are awaiting a response.
Christina also mentioned the great support for the campaign against the development from the councillors in Walpole ward and also those in neighbouring Northfield ward where many plotholders live.
Before the meeting was opened for questions and observations on the topic, Christina pointed out that the social housing element of Pathways’ planned development is not something that plotholders disagree with, but rather that we believe the development is in the wrong place. To complete their development, Pathways need to temporarily rehouse 15 people in the flats proposed for the allotment site, but building here is a very permanent solution.
There was definitely an overriding sense in the room that the majority of local residents would be disappointed to see any part of the allotments built upon. Nevertheless, comments from the floor represented both sides of the argument.
A current Pathways resident, who has previously suffered from homelessness, admitted that he loved the allotments since they remind him of his rural upbringing, but the fact that the charity has helped him in the past means he would find it difficult to oppose their plans.
Another member of the audience, a local resident of 40 years, provided a contrary view, stating that it would be a tragedy to see more green space lost in Ealing, particularly due to previous overdevelopment within the borough, and that as a community we are in danger of destroying our natural heritage.
Christina wrapped up by offering a huge thank you to everybody who has contributed to the campaign to date and especially to those plotholders, local residents and other supporters who have signed our petition, which now has in excess of 2,450 signatures.
If you still haven't signed and wish to, please do so here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-london-s-oldest-allotments