A lot to lose

allotments©Stephen Lines

In the 17th of a series of articles by plot holders at Redbridge Lane West allotments, Sally Parker explains her frustration with Cadent’s lack of communication as the gas company delays work on the site

In March 2021, the energy infrastructure company Cadent announced to plot holders that they needed to take over the Redbridge Lane West allotment site for a couple of years or so while they carried out upgrade work to their adjacent gas station. Part of Cadent’s proposals included creating a car park for their contractors, as well as putting heavy equipment on site, thus ruining our plots and the biodiverse habitat.

Following pressure from plot holders and Redbridge Council, together with a well-supported petition, Cadent found an alternative site for their compound, but they still said they needed to use allotment land while they built a new electrified security fence. It was only later that it became clear that the loss of some allotment land along the current Cadent boundary, including many large trees, would be permanent.

The works were scheduled to start in spring 2023, but we have recently discovered that it may now be this winter before that happens. We also learnt that a contractor has not yet been appointed. Cadent has not had the courtesy to communicate this to plot holders and has not provided the promised updates. One of the consequences of the delay is that those tenants who vacated their plots last summer at Cadent’s request could in fact have enjoyed a whole year of gardening; instead, their vacated plots are now completely overgrown, unsightly and, of course, not productive. Cadent have made no apology or explanation or indeed offered compensation.

Meanwhile, the work by Cadent to establish new plots for five of the plot holders who have lost their land permanently has been excruciatingly protracted, taking over 10 months longer than the original target date of summer 2022. Cadent had promised to provide “experts to help with soil, planting, landscaping, making an inventory and matching the conditions of plots as closely as possible”. This statement is still on their website. It is far from our experience. The management and provision of resources for establishing the new plots has been woefully inadequate and some of the specifications agreed by Cadent with individual plot holders at Cadent’s request have not been fulfilled. Cadent’s communication with plot holders throughout the process has been poor.

It has been and still is a miserable experience and we have at least two more years of disruption to endure while Cadent takes over about a quarter of our site and then returns not quite all of it in a supposedly improved condition.

I read very recently that Cadent made a profit of £344m in 2022, so I don’t expect that a little allotment site or the people who use it are really of much consequence to them. It certainly feels like that.

For more information on Cadent’s plans, visit wnstd.com/cadentplan