More than 40 allotment plot holders in Wanstead have been left devastated by the news that gas company Cadent wants to take over their site for a minimum of two years. Plot holder Sally Parker reports
The first plot holders knew of the move came when they were called to an online meeting held on 25 March with Cadent to hear about their plans.
The company revealed how it requires the site in order to park vehicles and to carry out maintenance work on the adjacent gas works at the end of Redbridge Lane West. Cadent claims that using the allotment site is most convenient for it to create a base for the work – with lorries coming and going all day.
Plot holders are being offered the option to take a two-year ‘holiday’ from their allotments to allow Cadent to take over the whole site, relocating plots to the Council’s Wanstead Park site permanently or for the duration of the works, or to cancel their tenancy agreements.
There would likely be much disruption to residents living in local roads and to Wanstead High School, which lies almost opposite the allotments.
Amazingly, Cadent was unaware of the Council’s proposals for a new swimming pool, also to be opposite the allotment site, and they are proposing that their works commence when construction of the swimming pool are ongoing or just finished – a double whammy for the area.
Cadent has approached Redbridge Council about use of the site, which is Council owned. The Council has not yet made a formal decision.
The allotment site is a natural meadow, with huge biodiversity value. There are wild flowers, fruit and other trees, wildlife including newts and toads and a pond, as well as a host of well nurtured allotment plots. Irreparable damage will be caused to the soil structure.
The plot holders do not believe that the gas company understands how much effort goes into establishing and maintaining a plot. People have devoted their care, time and money over years into erecting infrastructure such as sheds, greenhouses, raised beds, walkways and frames to name just a few things. For many plot holders, including the elderly and those who live alone, their allotments have been even more invaluable during the pandemic, providing much needed outdoor exercise and contact with other plot holders.
The largest single allotment is taken up by the much-praised charity ‘Sprout There!’ project, run by the charity Uniting Friends. They work with adults with learning disabilities, providing a therapeutic horticulture programme. Cadent was not even aware that this project existed at the site.
Plot holders are united in hoping that Redbridge Council will reject the application, particularly given its own commitment to biodiversity, as expressed in the climate change emergency declared in June 2019.
We have written to Councillor Kam Rai as Deputy Leader of the Council & Labour Group and Cabinet Member for Finance, Leisure and Culture, (Leisure being the pertinent part as it covers allotments) seeking to enlist his help in opposing the proposals to take over our site and asking for support in protecting our allotment site in accordance with the Council’s environmental and biodiversity policies. We have also provided him with a list of questions which we would like the Council to put to Cadent.
This proposal really would contradict all that the Council is trying to do to promote biodiversity and counter climate change. It would cause disruption to the local area and devastation both physical and mental for the allotment holders who have devoted so much time and effort on their plots.
We understand that Cadent has not yet made a formal submission to the Council. We call on Redbridge Council to reject it when received. Cadent should seek to find a different site that will cause less biodiverse damage and disruption to the local community and all concerned.
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