Planning Application: Allotments under Threat
Locals gather to protect historic green space
Behind the Grade 2 listed Almshouses on East Churchfield Road is a rare oasis of calm where neighbours and others from outside Acton gather to grow their own vegetables. Residents and Allotment holders are gathering support after they learned recently about a planning application which could threaten their much-loved and well-used green space.
The Goldsmiths Allotments have been in use since 1918 on land which was bequeathed by John Perryn "to the poor of Acton" in 1675.
The Almshouses along with the allotments were sold to Golden Property (Holdings) Ltd (GPH Ltd) approximately 7 years ago. An application was made recently for necessary improvents to the Almshouses which, sadly, have been allowed to fall into disrepair. After the Council granted permission, with several conditions which aim to retain the beauty and character of these unique dwellings, GPH Ltd put in a separate application to the Council to remove the imposed condition protecting the allotments, at the same time as submitting an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate to remove the condition.
This has dismayed locals and allotment holders who care passionately about their green oasis. They do not see any reason why Ealing Council's restriction - which prevents any change of use for the site - should be overturned.
When GPH bought the almshouses from the Goldsmiths Charity, protections were in place on the allotment land which forms part of an historic Conservation area.
On a damp Monday morning, we went to see for ourselves the hidden oasis behind the almshouses. This community open space was a sea of green with fresh fruit and vegetables growing abundantly in every direction. We met the Plot Rep Doreen Maile, 80. Doreen told us: "I have had this allotment for 25 years. At first I worked with my husband, but I carried on on my own after he died 19 years ago."
Angelo Ghiggini told us he was 83, though he looks not a day over 68. He said: "The allotment does wonders for keeping me alive. There is a great social atmosphere and it's wonderful to connect to nature and teach children about growing things." Angelo, who lives in Ravenscourt Park, is accompanied by his 3-year-old grandson.
Tony Thompson, 70, tells me: "This allotment is the only garden I have ever had. I come here from Shepherd's Bush and have had my allotment for 10 years."
Everyone agreed that their allotments enable them to eat organically, which they otherwise would not be able to do. They enjoy the benefits of working alongside like-minded gardeners from different cultures and enthused about the physical and mental benefits of growing vegetables in the open air.
With allotments under attack in other parts of Acton - and waiting lists growing daily, those campaigning to keep this space for the gardeners of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds are keen to get support from other locals.
Michael Wale, author, who runs Acton Gardening Association told me there are currently 70 people on the waiting list for allotments in Acton. "We have now restricted the list so that only people living in W3 are entitled to an allotment as otherwise there would be many more and we were getting so many applicants from W12. With Councils and Governments encouraging sustainability and growing your own food, we need more allotments, not less."
The Council's Case Officer for the Planning Application has advised us that although the statutory consultation period of 21 days has expired, the Council will consider all letters received right up until the date that any decision is made, taking local people's views into account.
June 3, 2008