A lot to lose

allot-1©Stephen Lines

In the 10th of a series of articles by plot holders at Redbridge Lane West allotments – which are under threat from the adjacent gas works – Jason Edwards provides an update on the site’s future

Readers may know that back in March 2021, Cadent put forward plans to take over the allotments at Redbridge Lane West for two years while carrying out works on their adjacent gas site. The plans included building a large compound and car park, which would have meant closing the allotments to all of us, the destruction of many plots and of wildlife habitats.

The plot holders were dismayed at these proposals, many of us having put years of work into our allotments. We came together to organise a public campaign, not only in defence of our rights, but of the principle that as an important public resource and service, allotments should be valued and protected. We started a petition that raised over 4,000 signatures, and we lobbied the council, our MP and ministers to push back against Cadent’s plans. We achieved a degree of success when, at a council meeting last September, Cadent revealed they had dropped their plans to take over the whole site.

Just before Christmas, however, we learnt Cadent was still planning to take over almost a quarter of the site. This includes seven plots adjacent to the fence on their site – which they say has to be replaced under government regulations – and a further two plots nearby that will also be decommissioned for the duration of the work. Their current plans also propose four of the plots on the fence line being significantly diminished in size with a permanent transfer of allotment land to Cadent, something we had understood the council were committed to preventing.

We agonised over whether to continue our public campaign of opposition or to negotiate with Cadent. Disappointingly, it became clear that, although local councillors have been supportive, the council would not back us further in continuing to fight the plans and we felt we had to relent. The plot holders’ working group are now in discussions with Cadent to minimise the timescale and long-term impact of the works. We’re conducting the negotiations in good faith, and we sincerely hope Cadent stick with any promises they make. Particularly important for us is that we ensure the preservation of the wildlife environment and allow Sprout There! to continue their brilliant therapeutic work on site with adults with learning disabilities.

We are very saddened that a number of us are losing our allotments in this way. These allotments have been a haven for many of us in very difficult times and we are deeply attached to them. But we are proud of how we have worked together to push back against the worst of Cadent’s plans and we encourage others who find themselves in similar circumstances to organise and fight! We are vegetable growers, not revolutionaries, but our working group’s unofficial slogan has helped keep us going through dark times: No pasarán!

To view the petition to save the Redbridge Lane West allotments, visit wnstd.com/sta