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Guildford MP Digs Into Allotment Issues in Weyside Village Plan

Published on: 27 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 29 Mar, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

Guildford MP Angela Richardson has visited Bellfields allotments, met tenants and checked the proposed replacement site at North Moors “to gain an on-the-ground perspective of the issues and concerns” of those facing losing their plots to make way for the 1,500-home Weyside Urban Village.

MP Angela Richardson with Philippa Wright, chair of the Guildford Allotments Cooperative Society, at the at new North Moors allotment site.

The allotment tenants are objecting to GBC plans to move them, saying the council have not consulted them (see Council calls for engagement but allotment holders still oppose Weyside proposals).

Philippa Wright, chair of the Guildford Allotment Cooperative Society, called the March 19 meeting with Mrs Richardson “very positive”. She said: “We hope she will be able to assist us in finding a way forward.

“The uncertainty is damaging to the tenants’ well-being and the lack of communication with the council is enhancing this.”

Allotment holders at the Bellfields site have begun to prepare their plots for the growing season ahead despite the uncertainty.

Alastair Watson, chairman of the Save Bellfields Campaign, said: “Angela’s interest was appreciated and welcomed by the tenants, some of whom she met.”

A GBC application to move the allotments to North Moors and the extended site at the Aldershot Road allotments was rejected by the Secretary of State in August 2020. The council now say they “recognise the need to retain some allotment plots”.

GBC will submit a new application for part of the Bellfields site after the number of allotments needed at Bellfields and other borough sites is known. They sent a survey in January 2021 to the allotment holders “to better understand their requirements”.

Work is already progressing on North Moors allotments and the Aldershot Road site.

Work has started on the new plots at the Aldershot Road allotment site and the new North Moors site.

A statement from Mrs Richardson to The Dragon reads: “I have regularly engaged with Guildford allotment holders over the past year.

“Initially, to help clarify guidance in the first lockdown as to whether allotments could stay open and then to represent their concerns to Guildford Borough Council over the potential move.

“It’s been difficult to have face-to-face meetings over the past year, but at the earliest opportunity, I asked the chair of Guildford Allotments Society if I could visit to gain an on-the-ground perspective of the issues and concerns.

“It was a very positive meeting which has seen a proactive response from Guildford Borough Council.”

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Responses to Guildford MP Digs Into Allotment Issues in Weyside Village Plan

  1. Paul Town Reply

    March 28, 2021 at 9:00 am

    No, no, no! People need green space and their allotments. Why are they stopping gardening and vegetable growing that people love?

    Don’t build on green sites. There are plenty of brownfield sites in the area. Stop high rents. Knock them down and build affordable homes.

  2. Ramsey Nagaty Reply

    March 31, 2021 at 11:36 pm

    Paul Town says do not build on green sites, build on brownfield.

    This is GGG policy.

    Weyside is brownfield and is a development site GBC hope to supply a good proportion of affordable and reasonably priced properties for rent and purchase.

    GBC have created alternative first-class allotments with excellent soil & facilities. Some area of the old allotments will be retained but the more space allocated for allotments at Weyside the more the number of affordable homes will be reduced.

    Clearly, those who have tended their allotments are very attached to them and are reluctant not only to move to a new site but even to move a few metres within the same site. I can appreciate why and it is a conundrum to which GBC must find a compromise solution so that this brownfield development can proceed to provide more of the right type of urgently needed homes.

    Please respond to the latest GBC consultation let’s find a way forward.

    Ramsey Nagaty is the GGG leader and borough councillor for Shalford.

  3. Sarah Bass Reply

    April 12, 2021 at 10:59 am

    Thank you so much to Angela Richardson MP for taking the time in a very busy parliamentary schedule (especially at this difficult time for so many) to actually visit the allotment sites and take an interest in our allotment community and most importantly the Chairman of GAS.

    This shows more interest and support to the people of the community involved than any shown by those at GBC, WUV [Wey Urban Village] and most importantly our councillors over the past two or more years. This issue is at the heart of many peoples mental, physical and psychological well-being (not just for now but for future generations and the whole community). It should be taken more seriously and treated with more value and respect than it is.

    Our respectful thanks to Ms Ricardson for actually get her boots on the ground and finding out for herself what is happening in the real world.

  4. Fleur Robertson Reply

    April 13, 2021 at 6:35 pm

    Ramsey Nagaty of Guildford Greenbelt Group says there will be “affordable” homes as part of the Weyside development.

    He also considers an allotment to be a brownfield site.

    I think he needs to consider these terms.

    “Affordable”, to the average person living in Guildford, is not a house costing £325,000 – but this is the cheapest offered on the recent Keens Lane development (allowed by GBC on green belt land for an “exceptional reason” never revealed) which was also meant to offer 40% of the houses there as affordable.

    The vast majority were and are far more expensive. It is very likely that the same view of “affordable” will apply to this proposed Weyside development.

    The average wage in Guildford is £33,000 per annum. (Since this is the average, obviously there are many folk on less than that, and trying to raise families too.) That wage allows for a responsible lender to offer a mortgage of around £150,000 – half of what would be needed to buy the tiniest of such so-called affordable houses, even with the government’s “Help to Buy” scheme.

    So what does Mr Nagaty mean by “affordable”?

    A brownfield site is a site formerly built upon, not a cultivated field – the correct description of an allotment.

    If a cultivated field is deemed brownfield, then why all the GGG fuss about Surrey University’s plan to build houses on the Blackwell Farm land off the A31? That’s as much cultivated land as the allotments. (As it happens, I heartily support GGG’s resistance to the Blackwell Farm development, but not if they do this by throwing allotments “under the bus” elsewhere. If GGG go after allotments as brownfield sites, we’ll start to wonder if the “green” in their name means no more than naive or ignorant.)

    Mr Nagaty’s argument that those opposing the concreting over of the allotments are standing in the way of GBC’s provision of ‘affordable’ houses is only justified if he can provide evidence that truly affordable homes are going to be built as the 40% allocated to that aim: homes costing no more than £150,000. Can he?

    Guildford very badly needs social housing, houses of quality for rent, kept in common by the council to provide those on low wages a decent place to live, for this generation and future generations. If this land was going for that purpose, I could concede that the allotments should not take precedence (although I’d still make a case for provision for them within any development).

    But it isn’t.

    The next best use of it would be by a housing association to create a not-for-profit development, which would be designed to provide good houses for those on lower incomes, such as those needed by the nurses we’ve all been clapping for this year. (Mount Green Housing Association, in Leatherhead, for example, is one such organisation that did a fine job providing a small development of good, necessary homes in Normandy.)

    But once again, this isn’t that sort of development. This is a development solely for developer profit.

    Why do I allege this? Because Mr Nagaty reveals in his letter that if the allotment stays, then fewer affordable houses will be built. Now, why is it to be that way round?

    Why can’t fewer very expensive houses – the top end of this development’s residences – be built instead? They would provide the space for more smaller homes – and the allotments could stay. If they went instead of the affordable homes, who’d miss those?

    The few who would be able to buy them, perhaps, but they could also go elsewhere.

    Of course, it is the developer who wants to keep those. That’s where the money is. And naturally, the developer is out to make as much money as possible. Profit is what this is fundamentally about, not people.

    It’s the same old story. House hunters on above-average incomes will benefit because they will have all the choice. The rest will be left in the developer’s concrete dust, trying to manage in cramped housing they’re paying a fortune for, with zero help from either GBC, or, clearly, if GGG support this sort of brash disregard for grass roots’ needs (from allotment folk upwards), from the Guildford Greenbelt Group.

    So predictable – so disappointing.

  5. Ramsey Nagaty Reply

    April 14, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    Fleur Robertson should read what I have said more carefully and not shoot the messenger especially when GGG support much of what she clearly is concerned about.

    The project is finely balanced and is supported exactly because it is a site where GBC hope to provide as much social, housing association and truly affordable home, for sale and for rent.

    GGG have railed against the use of the word “affordable” and sought better than this on many developments. We recognise that many “affordable” homes are far from truly affordable and we tend to use “reasonably priced” but, sadly, “affordable homes” is a planning term.

    We are supportive of any reasonable arrangements to maintain as many allotments within the development as possible but are also supportive of the excellent new allotments GBC are providing on new sites. We hope an acceptable solution is found to the allotment holders satisfaction and that is why we encourage consultation and dialogue.

    Ramsay Nagaty is the leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group at GBC.

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