As you may recall, Agents of Field have been staunch supporters of the ongoing Save Farm Terrace campaign since the very beginning.
In December 2012, Mayor of Watford, Dorothy Thornhill, announced her plans to dispose of our neighbouring allotment site, Farm Terrace, claiming the land was essential to the re-development of the town’s hospital. However, plot holder and campaigner, Sara Jane Trebar, challenged the decision, after discovering that their historic allotment site was actually earmarked for flats and a carpark, eventually taking Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, to court in summer 2014. Agents of Field attended the protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice at the time of the hearing, appalled at the behaviour of our Mayor and strongly opposing the council’s plans which had been steamrollered through without any discussion with the plot holders.
It was a landmark victory in October 2014, when the High Court quashed the council’s plans to redevelop the land, but Watford Borough Council put in a further submission in January 2015, and we are heartbroken to hear that it has been approved. Here is Sara Jane’s latest Facebook update on 26th May:
“It is with great sadness and a complete sense of injustice that we have to announce that the Secretary of State Greg Clark and the Department for Communities and local Government have agreed for a third time to deregulate the Farm Terrace Allotment site in Watford.
Despite backing down following the first attempt and despite losing a High Court Judicial Review the Government have agreed to allow Watford Borough Council to deregulate our beloved allotment site.
We are now consulting with our prestigious legal team to see whether it is possible to challenge this latest decision. When Watford Borough Council put in their third application in January 2015 they believed that it was simply a matter of updating the information that was referred to by the judge in the successful judicial decision in October 2014 and that the decision would be made quickly. This was 15 months ago and an update from the Council that ran to 44 pages and 43 appendices!
We believe that Mayor Dorothy Thornhill and Watford Borough Council have acted appallingly throughout this whole campaign and we have been shocked and deeply upset by their attitude towards plot holders and the media coverage of the story. Not once did our Mayor accept our invites to come and talk to us on Farm Terrace stating various reasons for not being able to attend.
We still find it bitterly disappointing that when given the opportunity (numerous times) to include Farm Terrace in their plans for a much needed regeneration of the area, Watford Borough Council refused point blank to discus possibilities of inclusion or compromise. Surely the inclusion of Allotments in highly densely populated areas like West Watford should be not just accepted but encouraged! Watford Borough Council plans to build 750 new ‘units’ on the site. Farm Terrace Allotments date back to 1896 and contains 128 plots.
It is worth noting that the Council closed the waiting list for Farm Terrace back in 2012 which meant that plots have been left vacant and overgrown. It has broken our hearts that these plots which could have been let out to families in the local area have been withheld from the community over the past 4 years, whilst the use of Food banks in Watford has shown a significant increase in usage.
We believe that the ‘sale’ of allotments, particularly in urban areas has become a national epidemic and we have campaigned for the laws surrounding the protection of Allotments to be strengthened.
We started our campaign to keep our beloved allotment site in 2012. Since then many other high profile allotments have been deregulated such as Stapleton Allotments in Bristol and Coombe Allotments in Gloucestershire. We also found out through our own Freedom Of Information request that between 2007 and 2013 out of 199 applications to deregulate allotments 128 were approved and only 4 were declined (67 were withdrawn, undecided or invalid).
We have had the support of the National Allotment Society who believe that the criteria to deregulate as set out in the 1925 allotment act has not been met.
This has been a very public and very emotional battle for all the plot holders. We have won 3 times including a monumental case in the High Court, however this latest decision in our opinion shows how unjust this system is and that each time the ’little person’ wins the goal posts will be changed.
Once again we feel very bitter about this third decision and extremely angry at the lack of government support; they say they support allotments, but this decision suggests that’s all just empty words. We hope we can use our experience to prevent others having to go through the same.
Sara Jane Trebar
Spokeswoman for The Save Farm Terrace Association”
We’re so disheartened by this latest news as we believe allotments are valuable community assets – you can read my full rant against the recent spate of allotment closures here.
It remains to be seen whether Sara Jane will challenge the council’s decision once more, but we applaud her for everything she has managed to achieve so far.