Images from savefortisgreenallotments
It's a David and Goliath story ; an instructive lesson in community activism with a great ending.
Here's the story: Thames Water, the UK's largest water and wastewater services company owned a huge swathe of land on top of a reservoir in the North London area. It had been the site of allotment gardens for almost a century. Thames Water then decided that they wanted to sell the land to a private developer. The local community and the allotment holders flew into action.
Images from savefortisgreen calendar
Allotment gardening has been booming in the last decade. But as the price of land and the demand for plots increases, there is a growing problem. Local municipalities are under pressure to offer more land for aspiring gardeners. But at the same time, their surplus land is worth more and more money. So the owners want to develop that land for more profitable ventures.
Thames Water was no different except that they got a little too sneaky. They advertised the site for sale as 'allotment land' but local residents discovered that potential buyers were being shown a 'feasibility sketch' with 50 houses and flats on the site. Even though this was not permitted under the existing zoning, there was a strong inference that the highest bidder would be able to overturn the Council's planning restrictions.
The local councillors and the residents started a massive campaign, gathering more than 700 signatures on a petition and support from all of the main political parties at Council. The Council also wrote to the company to warn it against undermining the planning restrictions on the site.
Allotments under snow ( yes, this is Britain )
Sometimes community activism works. Thames Water has now announced that they are taking it off the market for the moment and entering into talks with the allotment holders.
This is a step in the right direction,' said Nick Vosper, secretary of the Fortis Green Reservoir Allotment Association. 'It doesn't mean the threat to the land is lifted, but it gives us a chance space to work out a future for this lovely green space that benefits the local community and lets people continue growing fruit and vegetables as they have done for decades.'
Allotments under sun
The whole site supposedly was worth £250,000 but now they are withdrawing from the sale and offering a portion to the allotment holders for £30,000.
A not-for-profit, limited company with charitable objectives, the Fortis Green Community Allotments Trust, has been formed as a vehicle to bid for the land and for fund-raising.
To raise funds they produced a calendar, showing the allotments throughout the seasons. It's all sold out.