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Allotment Holders ‘Intensely Disappointed’ As Most Bellfields Allotments to Go For Homes

Published on: 16 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 16 Nov, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

After a long-running battle between the council and allotment holders in Bellfields, the Secretary of State has finally confirmed GBC can take over part of Bellfield allotments for the construction of the 1,500-home Weyside Urban Village project.

The council says 113 new allotments for the soon-to-be-evicted Bellfield allotment holders are “ready for occupation”.

Photo of the new North Moors allotment site on November 11 (sent in by A Watson). Allotment tenants say the site is “nowhere near ready for occupation”.

Representatives of allotment holders have unhappily accepted the decision but dispute the allotments are ready. They say the new plots were “nowhere near ready for occupation” and have not been prepared to the specification agreed between GBC and the Guildford allotment members.

See Tenants To Object To GBC’s Imminent Application For 77 Per Cent Of Bellfields Allotments

Philippa Wright, chair of the Guildford Allotments Co-operative Society Ltd (GACSL) said she was “intensely disappointed” with the SoS decision saying their “legitimate concerns have not been fairly addressed” by the council.

“However it is time to move on” she said.

MP Angela Richardson with Philippa Wright at the new North Moors allotment site in March 2021.

She fired a warning shot to the council saying: “Undertakings made by GBC in the successful submission must be kept. There is no redress mechanism from the government if GBC fails to deliver. Fortunately, we have support from our MP, Angela Richardson, who we believe will do what she can to ensure fair treatment. We are grateful for this.

“The replacement sites at North Moors and Woodside (Aldershot Road extension) are nowhere near ready for occupation. These sites are not prepared to the agreed specification between GACSL and GBC. We doubt that either site can meet minimal standards for cultivation without extensive remedial work.  The Bellfields tenants are very unhappy regarding the current state of the alternative provision and the time frame for moving.

“The immediate concerns right now are the timing for any relocation and deciding which tenants can be accommodated at Bellfields.  GASCL will continue to do the very best that we can for our members.”

Weyside Urban Village planning application (October 2021).

There are reports that the new allotments at the Aldershot Road site have issues with drainage, size of the plots, topsoil depth and security. New sheds on the site blew down in recent inclement weather but have since been reinstalled.

Alastair Watson, spokesperson for the Save Bellfields Allotments campaign, said: “The decision by the Secretary of State is flawed but it is within his discretion. That discretion has been exercised in favour of using statutory allotment land for building 1,500 homes. But that won’t happen in the short term until the sewage works are relocated.”

Bellfields allotments, the Thames Water sewage works and ‘Aggie’ club will all be moved for the 1,500-home Weyside Urban Village.

The sewage works are planned to be commissioned in 2026. The first phase of the housing development project will deliver 81 new homes including 40 per cent classed as affordable.

Watson added: “And here’s the best bit. To consign 80 allotment holders to a ploughed field, GBC has paid their lawyers over £100,000 of your money.”

A GBC spokesperson said the SoS decision “provides clarity to the area of land to be released for housing” and allows them to “relocate allotment plots from Bellfields Road”.

She said: “The Weyside Urban Village regeneration project will provide much-needed housing, as well as new community and business facilities”.

She said the council had created 113 new allotment plots at North Moors and added extra plots at the Aldershot Road allotment. The new plots “across the two sites are now ready for occupation”.

The North Moors allotment site will include a meeting room, office, kitchen, and toilet facilities”.

Cllr John Rigg

Lead councillor for regeneration, John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity) said: “We are working very hard to deliver affordable housing for our local community. This is despite the considerable economic and logistical challenges that we face.

“We welcome the decision by the Secretary of State and are pleased to resolve this matter. We can now progress with the project.

“The first phase of housing will consist of 81 new homes including 40% Affordable Homes. Many of these will be available to people on our Housing Register.”

The Dragon has contacted Guildford’s MP, Angela Richardson for a comment.

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