Dangerous legal precedent for protection of allotments as Watford allotment campaigners lose high court battle to save site

Mark Brown mark at tlio.org.uk
Thu Nov 3 23:16:33 GMT 2016

Watford allotment campaigners lose high court battle to save site 
Gardeners at Farm Terrace site had hoped a victory would help protect allotments across country

Read: "This ruling puts all UK allotments under threat"
Ref: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2016/nov/02/this-ruling-puts-all-uk-allotments-under-threat

Watford allotment campaigners lose high court battle to save site 
Gardeners at Farm Terrace site had hoped a victory would help protect allotments across country

by Haroon Siddique and Alexandra Topping
The Guardian, 2.11.2016
Ref: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/nov/02/watford-allotment-campaigners-lose-high-court-battle-to-save-site

A group of amateur gardeners have lost a high court battle to prevent their allotments being built over, which they hoped would help protect green spaces across the country from development.

Gardeners at Farm Terrace allotments in Watford believed that a favourable ruling would save not only their own allotments but other similar sites under threat.

However, after Mrs Justice Lang ruled on Wednesday that Watford borough council and the secretary of state for communities and local government – who backed the local authority’s plans – were entitled to concrete over them, the gardeners warned that her judgment was a “developer’s charter”.

The claimants who had fought off two previous attempts by the council to develop the site, said in a statement: “We feel that at every stage where we have won the rules have been changed to make it increasingly difficult for us. This judgment is, in our view, a developer’s charter for development on any allotment site and in particular threatens urban allotments that have become targets for redevelopment, which makes us extremely worried about the ramifications of this case for all allotments.”

Despite being “bitterly disappointed”, they said that, after consultation with their legal team, they had decided not to appeal against the judgment, which will pave the way for the building of housing, a car park for the town’s football club and a possible future hospital development.

Watford’s elected mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, who had previously described the allotments as “a really hideous, derelict site”, welcomed the decision, tweeting: “Great news for our hospital and our town.”

A year ago, the high court overturned a decision by the then communities secretary Eric Pickles, which would have allowed the 128 allotments to be dug up. But Watford council then launched a a third bid to develop the site, giving the remaining 24 allotment holders three months notice on 4 July, with financial compensation of £1,000 if they were giving up their tenancy, or £750 if they were moving to another site.

Under the 1925 Allotments Act, councils can build on allotment sites only if stringent rules are followed, but the government updated guidance in 2014 granting the secretary of state power to allow development of allotments in “exceptional circumstances”.

At the hearing on 21 October, the gardeners had argued that those two words indicated a “strong presumption against the grant of consent” but that interpretation was rejected by Lang. The council had argued that the allotments needed to be removed in order to address the town’s “acute” housing crisis and the communities secretary highlighted the benefits of the regeneration scheme.

In a written judgment, Lang ruled that “the interference with the ... rights of the allotment holders was justified and proportionate because of the wider public benefits to be gained”.

The gardeners said after the judgment that “there is no clear benchmark for what is actually exceptional. We feel the term can and will be applied to close other allotment sites throughout the country and we are being made aware almost every week that a new allotment site is under threat of closure for development.”

In a freedom of information request, Save All Allotments found that between 2007 and 2014, 194 of 198 applications to close allotments were granted by the secretary of state.

The number of allotment holders at Farm Terrace had dwindled in recent years after some people took the compensation and the 2012 closure of the waiting list. 


More information about the Diggers350 mailing list