Fringe Box



Letter: Why Does GBC Refuse To Discuss Allotments Problem At Weyside Village?

Published on: 5 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 5 Mar, 2021

Entrance to Bellfields Allotments.

From: Philippa Wright

Chair, Guildford Allotment Co-operative Society Limited.

In response to:  Opinion: Allotment holders rights must be balanced with the need for affordable houses.

As Cllr John Rigg says, for Dragon readers to get the wrong impression about the proposed allotment relocation for the Weyside Urban Village development would be equally wrong.

Guildford Borough Council, through their Parks and Leisure department, have been very supportive of the Guildford Allotment Society who manage, on their behalf, 15 sites with a total of 657 plots.

The Allotment Society has been grateful for the financial support (£15,000 this year for all sites) which helps the team of volunteers (including all committee members and wardens) maintain the sites.

Philippa Wright, chair of Guildford Allotment Cooperative Society.

If GBC, statutorily obliged to run allotments, were to do what the volunteers do, that would probably necessitate employing three council workers three days a week.

As a guesstimate, salaries plus employer on-cost, plus office space, stationery, phone bill and computers, the overall cost to GBC would be between £80,000 to £100,000 per annum. Therefore, they are getting a very good deal.

The allotment tenants are very aware of the need for housing and are not against the Weyside Village development, but the allotment site itself would accommodate approximately only 60 of the 1,500 houses planned.

To retain the site as allotments does not stop the building of houses. The demand for housing is always reflected in the demand for allotments, which also have a waiting-list of nearly 300 Guildford residents.

Much of the planned housing is in apartments and those in apartments tend to seek allotments for their garden space, now much sought after. No additional allotments are being provided for the new WUV homeowners.

As Cllr Rigg says, this scheme has been in the pipeline for 18 years. He also says there were discussions with the Allotment Society from 2004 onwards. In those discussions, we were under the impression that only a part of the site would be needed for housing.

To be told suddenly in 2019 that the entire site was to go came as a considerable shock. There was no consultation whatsoever, a case of “This is going to happen”. The site is statutory and disposing of it is the Secretary of State’s decision. Last August, he decreed the site was not to be disposed of.

Cllr Rigg says: “The new allotments will be delivered in their entirety, meaning the only work for the tenants is the actual move.” He obviously has no idea of the amount of work that goes into soil preparation or the loss of produce.

When fruit bushes etc are moved, to re-establish them takes time. New topsoil does not have the growing power of the well-cultivated soil developed by the tenants at Bellfields.

During the past year, the Allotment Society has made several offers to discuss matters with councillors and/or the planning team but these have never been accepted.

We are keen to find an amicable solution to resolve the situation but GBC appear to be uninterested in discussing the situation with us. Continuing the present approach is only a waste of public money and we very much regret that.

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