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Letter: Check the Reality of the Weyside Allotments, Not the Fiction

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021
Updated on: 13 Jan, 2021

The allotments at Bellfields

From: George Potter

Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

In response to: Destroying Century-old, Food-rich Allotments is Council Vandalism

I have a lot of sympathy with the allotment holders. It’s certainly unreasonable to expect those without cars or with mobility problems to relocate to a new allotment site further away.

But a pinch of reality is needed here rather than fiction.

Thanks to the challenge and the Secretary of State’s decision, not all allotments will vanish, and only those necessary for providing access to Weyside will be removed.

The proposed site for new allotments is not “dirty, unwanted ground”. My understanding is that significant amounts of money and effort are going to be spent to ensure the new allotments have very good facilities (including rainwater harvesting, dedicated composting and beekeeping areas, etc), adequate parking and properly prepared ground.

I have my own concerns about the Weyside planning application, and I don’t think GBC has covered itself in glory in dealing with the allotment holders, but it would be helpful if debate about this focused on reality, not fiction.

There is going to be no overall reduction in the number of allotments, and those allotment holders forced to relocate (for the sake of providing 1,500 new homes, as well as a new GP and a bigger primary school) are going to be given new allotments with good-quality facilities, not just turfed off onto a scrap of filthy wasteland.

I can imagine how horrible it must be to have put years of work and effort into cultivating a piece of land only to be faced with the prospect of relocating, but I will also point out that this is what happens to hundreds of families in Guildford every year in the rental sector.

It doesn’t matter how much a house feels like a home, or how many years of effort you’ve put into cultivating a nice garden, you can still be forced out with only a month or two’s notice because the landlord is deciding to increase the rent or wants the house back.

And, as a young person with a well-paid day job who would still struggle to get on the housing ladder in Guildford given how high property prices are, it would be nice if at least some of the sympathy shown to the plight of allotment holders could be extended to the plight of those who are trapped in the rental sector by exorbitant house prices.

I’ll also point out that communities have the right in law to identify unused publicly owned wasteland and to ask the council to make it available as allotments, so for those concerned by the shortage of supply, there is in fact an option available.

But I must say that, as a councillor, I have yet to notice the Guildford Allotment Society, or any other group, beating a path to the council’s door, demanding to exercise those rights and asking to take over wasteland to create allotments.

So my suggestion for anyone wanting an increase in allotment provision is to do something about it.

If people are prepared to identify land that could be used for allotments then I’m certain councillors, and council staff, would be more than happy to do all we could to try to bring it into use for that purpose.

The single best way to provide an allotment for oneself is to ensure the provision of allotments for everyone.

Without referring to anyone in particular, I do think it would be nice if we saw more people willing to spend a little less energy in jealously guarding what they already have, and a little more energy on fighting to obtain it for others as well.

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test 6 Responses to Letter: Check the Reality of the Weyside Allotments, Not the Fiction

  1. Jan Messinger Reply

    January 13, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    In relation to Cllr Potter’s comments about affordable housing for the young well paid. Sadly if this development goes ahead, these won’t be affordable either.

    Just look at the prices of other recent developments locally.

    • George Potter Reply

      January 13, 2021 at 7:46 pm

      The local plan requires, at a minimum, that 40% of Weyside will be affordable housing. In practice, since it’s a council-led development, the affordable housing percentage may well be higher, and a very large proportion of the “affordable” housing will in fact be social and council housing.

      George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    January 13, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    Far better not destroy what already exists. And any wasteland found, used as housing. Like the sites in the town centre often mentioned.

  3. Leslie Holmes Reply

    January 14, 2021 at 10:53 am

    I would like to see the proposed plan for allotments on weyside allotments and GBC planing show allotments which will be kept and those that will be lost allotment holder at site

  4. Dave Middleton Reply

    January 17, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    Perhaps instead of just writing about it, and indeed making what might be considered to be insulting comments, accusing plot holders of being selfish by, “jealously guarding what they already have,” Cllr Potter, with his privileged access to council files and records, might like to reveal the whereabouts of all these acres of “publicly owned wasteland” that are not liable to flooding, contaminated by previous industrial or municipal use, scheduled for development, common land, or otherwise unsuitable for use as allotments around the town?

    As for his comment that “only those [plots] necessary for providing access to Weyside will be removed” this appears, from the published plan of the development as shown of The Guildford Dragon NEWS, to be incorrect. There is an access road, but this runs along the east side of the allotment site and well over 50% of the existing site seems to be scheduled for housing.

    As for his comparison with private rental sector tenants being “forced out” of homes by landlords, he is not comparing like for like. Bearing in mind that the head landlord for the allotment site is GBC, so the plot holders are in effect council tenants, just how many council tenants have been “forced out” of their homes recently? I’ll warrant it’s not very many.

    Finally, Cllr Potter trots out the line that if the allotments are not built on, this will put some 1,500 new homes and associated service facilities at risk. What utter nonsense. If the retention of a couple of acres of allotments at the edge of a development area, is truly putting an entire development in jeopardy, then there’s been some seriously poor planning by all involved.

    And no, I do not have, nor am I likely to seek an allotment.

  5. Jim Allen Reply

    January 17, 2021 at 9:34 pm

    I strongly suggest that all who are concerned should read all documents associate with the Weyside Urban Village and comment for or against the planning application on the GBC website.

    They should consider the destruction of our heritage and allotments, object to the 50% lack of parking, (sorry, no visitors allowed,) the no right turn to go to Woking, the inability to turn around and go back the way you came, and the asbestos.

    Just arguing on a political level when the whole project fails on a technical and practical level is pointless. And of course, to 500m sun shadow in January at 10am in the morning will affect new and old alike.

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