Fringe Box



We ‘Stand to Lose This Year’s Crop’ Says Allotment Tenants as New Plots Not Ready

Published on: 15 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 19 Feb, 2023

By Hugh Coakley

Tenants who are being evicted from Bellfields allotments to make way for the 1,500-home Weyside Urban Village development claim their new plots will not be ready in time for this year’s crop.

However, Guildford Borough Council states the Bellfields site has “to be vacated by April 6” and the new sites at North Moors near Slyfield and Woodside Road in Westborough will be ready within two weeks.

The current entrance to North Moors has been waterlogged for most of the winter, says Philippa Wright, who chairs the Guildford Allotments Co-operative Society Limited.

Guildford’s MP Angela Richardson has said: “Delays, broken promises, being treated like second-class residents; it has to stop and I will be contacting the council again to ask that these issues be sorted out immediately.” (see Guildford MP Will Continue to Mediate Between Bellfields Allotment Tenants and Council)

Philippa Wright, who chairs the Guildford Allotments Co-operative Society Limited, said the new sites had been promised to be ready for occupation by October 2021, then October 2022 and then by Christmas 2022.

She added: “The consequence will be the loss of the main part of the summer crop resulting in tenants having to purchase food they would otherwise have grown more cheaply.”

Waterlogged plot at Woodside Road, “one of many” says Philippa Wright.

She said her society was not able to take on the lease of the new sites as the plots had not been prepared to the specification agreed. She cited problems of soil preparation, waterlogged plots, toilet provision and an impractical water supply system which meant the society would not be managing the sites on the council’s behalf as there was “far too much risk being passed to Guildford Allotments Co-operative Society Limited”.

She said it was “with great sadness that matters have come to this pass” saying it was “solely of the council’s making”.

She said a meeting with council officers, councillors and the tenants (January 29) had been of “doubtful value but at least GBC [the council] realised the tenants were not making it up”. She acknowledged communications with the council had improved. She said Chris Wheeler, the council’a executive head of environment, was “doing his best”.

Cllr James Steel.

A statement from the the council’s lead councillor for environment, James Steel (Lib Dem, Westborough), said the council had arranged the meeting to “listen to questions and concerns” and to “develop a closer relationship with allotment holders”. He said: “I’m really pleased that more than 40 people took the time to attend the session.”

He said the new allotments at Woodside Road were ready for occupation and North Moors would be ready “in the next two weeks”. They were waiting for the Guildford Allotments Co-operative Society Limited to decide “who needs to move” from Bellfields.

Cllr Steel said: “In a letter we have responded to the questions that were raised [at the meeting]. We have also set out the compensation package for those who will be moving.”

The letter to allotment holders from the council’s Chris Wheeler accepted there had been problems and said his “aim is to make your move as straightforward as possible”. He outlined a compensation package of £500 for each plot, two years rent free and help with moving to the new site.

He said they were still removing large stones from the soil and would be reviewing the drainage situation for the waterlogging as well as addressing site security and reviewing the water taps.

Angela Richardson MP.

Angela Richardson MP said: “It is so disappointing to have Guildford Borough Council issuing a statement that tells such a different story to the allotment holders at Bellfields.

“I have been taking up the allotment holders’ case over the past few years and have grown increasingly dismayed by the way they have been treated. They have been ignored, not communicated with, let down by promises being broken and made generally to feel as though they were a nuisance.

“But these are their allotments; land they have managed for many years and that the council is now able to take advantage of having been managed well for that time. They deserve so much better – and they deserve better from their local councillors too, who’ve been missing in action until very recently when it became obvious they couldn’t ignore the situation any more.”

The take-over of the allotments at Bellfields for the 1,500 unit housing development, the Weyside Urban Village, was approved by the Secretary of State in November 2022 (see Allotment Holders ‘Intensely Disappointed’ as Most of Bellfields Allotments to go for Homes).

The Dragon has passed the full Guildford Allotments Co-operative Society Limited press release to Guildford Borough Council and asked for a response.

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Responses to We ‘Stand to Lose This Year’s Crop’ Says Allotment Tenants as New Plots Not Ready

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    February 15, 2023 at 12:44 pm

    As one of the few to formally object to the Secretary of State in respect of the move of the allotments on many grounds, this whole fiasco was as predictable as the sun rising tomorrow.

    Someone needs to ask how much is this project going to cost us residents.

  2. Paul Spooner Reply

    February 16, 2023 at 5:18 pm

    This has been a disgrace for several years and even at this late stage, the allotments are, in anyone’s view, not fit for purpose.

    Whilst the council is now offering cash incentives to try and reach agreement along with an extended free rental period, all Guildford Allotment Society has asked for is the new site to be of the agreed specification.

    I echo Angela Richardson’s [Guildford’s MP] dismay at the way the council have failed on this project. Another area of responsibility of a Lib Dem Executive Member.

    Good leadership? Yes, by Guildford Allotment Society / National allotment Society but by GBC… hopeless.

    Paul Spooner is the leader of the Conservative group at Guildford Borough Council.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      February 19, 2023 at 5:36 am

      Cllr Spooner is well qualified to comment on hopeless leadership.

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