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Author Topic: 'It's all greed': church's plan to sell allotment plots angers villagers  (Read 108 times)

Big Gee

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'It's all greed': church's plan to sell allotment plots angers villagers

Josh Halliday North of England correspondent
Tuesday 11 July 2017 00.36 BST


Warwickshire’s Victorian-era plots may be sold off by Church of England, its landowner, in bid to tackle shortfall in affordable housing



hey are some of the oldest allotments in Britain, dating back nearly 180 years to when a young Queen Victoria was on the throne. But the future of the historic site in Wellesbourne, Warwickshire is in doubt because of plans by the owner, the Church of England, to sell the plot to a developer for housing.

The move by the diocese of Coventry has horrified villagers, whose families have tended the seven-acre plot for generations, and provoked anger in the vegetable patches of Wellesbourne.

“It is very bitter because the church is meant to be promoting community and living together – working alongside each other, feeding yourself and general harmony,” said Anne-Marie Ortu, 47, the secretary of the Wellesbourne Allotments Association. “What they’re proposing will split our community.”

The allotments, tended by 97 gardeners, were established in 1841 and are described by enthusiasts as one of the most historically important plots in Britain. The National Agricultural Labourers Union was formed in the village in 1872, becoming one of the first recognised farming unions.

The allotments have hosted BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time and boast their own shop, selling gardening gloves, canes and fertiliser. Members claim the plot produces enough vegetables and fruit to feed more than a 10th of Wellesbourne’s 7,000-strong population.

But the development of hundreds of houses nearby – as well as plans for 50 houses for the allotment site – has added to villagers’ concerns that Wellesbourne is being unfairly affected by the national housing crisis.






“Straight away I thought, I hope we don’t have to move,” said George Blaylock, 86, taking a rest from uprooting broad beans on the plot he has tended for 40 years. “What about the effect on my wife? What am I going to do? It’s the only thing I’m capable of.”

Blaylock’s daughter, Georgina Halford, 59, said her father had fallen ill last year and the allotment was a lifeline for him. “This is his haven,” she said. “It gives him a purpose in life. I don’t think we could start again [at another site].”

The Church of England has come under pressure to offload some of its 105,000 acres to help to solve the chronic shortage of affordable housing. Its property holdings were valued at just under £2bn at the end of 2015, almost a third of the £6.7bn it owned in assets. Last year, the church sold £17m worth of its “strategic land portfolio”, but it has been urged by housing charities to do more.

The diocese has said it will provide alternative allotment sites but many gardeners have said they are too old to start again, and that those who have spent small fortunes on their plots would lose out. Pat McDonaugh, 73, shares an allotment with her siblings that they inherited from their father.

“Many people here are elderly and if we were moved on I don’t think they would have the time or the energy to start another plot all over again,” she said.

An estimated 130 villagers attended a recent parish council meeting to express concern at the plans. The majority of the anger was directed at the diocese, which has been accused of entering into secret talks to build 50 homes on the land without consulting the allotment association.

Terry Welch, 72, who has had a plot for seven years, said he was “absolutely disgusted” that they faced being turfed out by the church. “Especially the church,” he said. “Do they want the money?”

Nesli Knight, 45, began working her 15-metre (50ft) plot six months ago with her nine-year-old son, who attends the local C of E primary school. “At school, my son is being told how important harvesting is, looking after plants and the environment – and then they do this? For me, it’s all greed,” she said. “I think we would cry our eyes out if it got taken away.”






The village, near Stratford-upon-Avon, has seen hundreds of homes built in recent years as part of a district-wide plan to build 565 new houses every year until 2031. The building boom has troubled villagers, who say the local school is nearly oversubscribed and that the GP’s surgery is at “breaking point”.

“It’s more of a town now than a village,” complained Keith Russell, 67, who has run A&K Russell butchers in the village for 40 years. The allotments give many older people “a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” Russell said, as well as providing a wholesome alternative to iPads and video games for young budding gardeners.

A spokesman for the diocese of Coventry said: “Any application for planning would be dependent on suitable alternative land for allotments being provided, to which end the diocesan board of finance’s agents have already made contact with the Wellesbourne Allotments Association.”

A spokeswoman for Stratford-on-Avon district council said it had not yet received a planning application for the site. She said the land had not been identified as a priority for house-building, meaning any application was “less likely” to be approved.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 10:09:19 AM by Big Gee »
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aftermidnight

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How very sad, I hope it doesn't happen. Like you I live on an island and if for any reason you are cut off from the rest of the world you need to be able to grow enough food to feed yourselves. If you need more housing build up not out.
Most likely not in our lifetime but there will come a time when every inch of growing space will be needed to feed ourselves. Over the years most of our produce has been imported and less and less is grown locally, I was very pleased to see the last English cucumber we bought was grown here on the island, not only that it was the best tasting cuc since the ones we grew ourselves last year.

Annette
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Big Gee

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Ah! Annette! Thank goodness someone's alive out there. My shed has turned into a desert, no one seems to post anymore.

What you've said is SO true Annette. It's coming - and fast. I wouldn't bet on it not happening in your life time. There's going to ba an almighty panic when the imports disappear.
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