Sunday, July 22 2018

Published on August 10 2017. Opinions
How safe are our allotments?

How safe are our allotments?

A shiver went down my spine on reading this week that Ealing Council is proposing to build on one of the oldest allotment sites in London. Having recently taken possession of an allotment on South Undercliff, and investing a considerable amount of time and money on it, the proposed development in Ealing has me wondering: how safe are our allotments?

Currently, Rye has two allotment sites, one on Love Lane and the other on South Undercliff, but historically the town had vast spaces under allotment cultivation. The Ordnance Survey map of Rye in 1927 shows that the Love Lane site was considerably larger and covered the whole of what is now the Rye College site. In addition, there was a large tract of allotments on the south side of Military Road which is now the North Salts housing development. The management of Love Lane and South Undercliff allotment sites was transferred from Rother District Council to the Rye Amenity Community Interest Company in 2013 – but on a 25 year lease. Twenty-five years does not seem very long especially if you have recently planted trees which will take some years to bear fruit.

The issue of development was far from my mind last weekend as I dug up my early potatoes and tackled a caterpillar infestation on my cauliflowers, but the debate raging in Ealing has made me concerned about our allotment’s future. The Ealing Council site was first designated as allotments in 1832 and, many years later, as a child, I regularly viewed the site and its 141 allotments from the top deck of the bus. It is the longest-surviving allotment space in London and a recent application may see it developed for housing. But, as The Guardian points out, it is not a clear case of villain, ie property developer, and victim, because the proposed development is to replace the allotment with much needed social housing.

This adds a twist to the perennial conundrum in the south-east of England, the need to build more affordable homes to ease the housing crisis while also protecting valuable green spaces. While it is good to see that the latest version of the Rye Neighbourhood Plan lists ‘general support for the retention of Rye’s allotments’ I can’t help wonder why the original lease is for only 25 years, with only 21 years remaining, and not the usual 99 years?

I get delivery of my shed in the coming weeks and some of its components can be guaranteed for twenty years. It would be somewhat ironic if the guarantee for a shed outlived the guarantee for the land that it stands on.



Kevin McCarthy

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