Support for Northfields Allotments at the Walpole Ward Forum
Last night (Monday 27th March 2017) we took the campaign to save London’s oldest allotments to the bi-annual forum of the councillors of Walpole Ward in Ealing, the electoral ward where Northfields Allotments is located.
In a packed meeting that was greatly swelled by a large number of plotholders from the allotments, Ealing Dean Allotment Society chairwoman Christina Fox gave an impassioned speech as to why we so strongly opposed any further development on the site.
Pathways, the site’s landlord which intends to build on part of the allotments, was invited by Walpole Ward councillors Binda Rai, Gareth Shaw and Paul Conlon to attend the meeting and present their side of the story but unfortunately did not respond to the invitation.
Christina began by providing a potted history of Northfields Allotments to highlight what an important part of our local heritage the site has been since its 1832 endowment to the people of Ealing by the Bishop of London. She also cited one of the Bishop’s reasons for handing over the land, namely to keep local men out of the pub!
An important point that was made concerned the fact that Northfields Allotments used to occupy a much larger site, encompassing both sides of Northfields Avenue. However, in the 1970s/1980s a compulsory purchase order saw the western part of the site, representing about 60% of the total area of the allotments, surrendered for development.
Christina illustrated this point by handing around aerial photographs of the site in 1945 compared to today, in which it was striking just how much land was lost to the west of Northfields Avenue. While Pathways talks about only building on 5% of the current site, the reality is that we have already lost a great deal of the original site.
After the brief history lesson, Christina outlined Pathways’ plans for the proposed development. These include fifteen social housing flats and four townhouses for private sale. As far as we know, the revised plans will be submitted in a formal application to Ealing’s planning department in May or June this year.
She also explained what we have been doing to oppose the development proposal, including applying for London’s oldest allotment to be named as an asset of community value, an application to which we are awaiting a response.
Christina also mentioned the great support for the campaign against the development from the councillors in Walpole ward and also those in neighbouring Northfield ward where many plotholders live.
Before the meeting was opened for questions and observations on the topic, Christina pointed out that the social housing element of Pathways’ planned development is not something that plotholders disagree with, but rather that we believe the development is in the wrong place. To complete their development, Pathways need to temporarily rehouse 15 people in the flats proposed for the allotment site, but building here is a very permanent solution.
There was definitely an overriding sense in the room that the majority of local residents would be disappointed to see any part of the allotments built upon. Nevertheless, comments from the floor represented both sides of the argument.
A current Pathways resident, who has previously suffered from homelessness, admitted that he loved the allotments since they remind him of his rural upbringing, but the fact that the charity has helped him in the past means he would find it difficult to oppose their plans.
Another member of the audience, a local resident of 40 years, provided a contrary view, stating that it would be a tragedy to see more green space lost in Ealing, particularly due to previous overdevelopment within the borough, and that as a community we are in danger of destroying our natural heritage.
Christina wrapped up by offering a huge thank you to everybody who has contributed to the campaign to date and especially to those plotholders, local residents and other supporters who have signed our petition, which now has in excess of 2,450 signatures.
If you still haven't signed and wish to, please do so here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-london-s-oldest-allotments