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.”
Ealing Dean Allotments have 141 plots and, although we all look after our own plots, the Committee is responsible for the overall maintenance of the site, including the paths, fence and hedge surrounding the site.
To keep on top of this work, we have Volunteer mornings on the first Saturday of each month (except January!) where plot holders, people on the waiting list and interested locals come together to sort out whatever it is that needs doing.
So far this year, among other things, we’ve removed rubbish from the hedgerow (so many cans, bottles and on one occasion a carpet and a sink!), trimmed the hedgerow so that people can walk down Northfields Avenue without being attacked by the greenery, cleared the new community plot, installed our first composting toilet and mowed, tended and reseeded the Long Walk so that it’s accessible.
This month we concentrated on the hedge, which is mentioned in the original tenancy agreement of 1832 and is a designated SINC or Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. Therefore, the Committee feels it has a huge responsibility to protect it, care for it and manage it to ensure it stays healthy for another hundred years. It not only shelters the site but continues to give a home to a vast number of birds, mammals and insects.
The weather wasn’t exactly on our side last but we don’t cancel for rain, our motto is ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes’
Earlier in the year we successfully applied for some free native hedgerow plants from the Woodland Trust. These will include hawthorn, hazel, blackthorn, dogwood, crab apple, dog rose and elder. (you can find out more on the Woodland Trust site.) The plants will not be delivered until November, but we needed to start the groundwork and ensure we are ready for their arrival.
The volunteer days are a great opportunity to get to know your fellow plot holders and, if you’re on the waiting list, your future neighbours - also to really see how much work goes into keeping the site functional. For anyone else, it’s a great chance to have a nose around the allotments (other than on the Annual Open Day) and to get some exercise - we like to keep the volunteers busy but we do provide really good treats (homemade flapjacks etc).
If you’d like to come along to a Volunteer Day, the next one is on 5 November, at 10am - please contact us at email@example.com if you are interested or have any questions.