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Farm Terrace allotments campaigners: 'we are still optimistic that this is not the end'
Campaigners hoping to save West Watford allotments from development in the health campus scheme have vowed to fight on.
The Farm Terrace Community Association will be consulting solicitors about mounting a further challenge to the government’s decision to allow the 118-year-old allotments to be used in the development.
Last month, the Department of Communities and Local Government gave Watford Borough Council permission to build on Farm Terrace for a second time.
The initial permission had been revoked after a legal challenge from allotment campaigners.
Following the latest setback, Sara Jane Trebar, from the Farm Terrace Community Association, said: "Clearly we were disappointed but we were prepared and with the money we have raised we had lawyers waiting. We have a meeting with them in January where we will decide how to move forward.
"From what we could tell from the decision it basically seems to be the same points as before so it will be interesting to see what the lawyers have to say.
"We have been here before and we are still very optimistic that this is not at all the end of the road for us."
Ms Trebar also said the association was planning to make sure Farm Terrace will be an issue in the forthcoming Watford mayoral race.
Liberal Democrat elected mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, will be seeking re-election to a fourth term in May.
Last year her administration voted to include the allotment land in the health campus scheme, which promises to redevelop land behind Vicarage Road with 600 homes and new hospital facilities.
Farm Terrace had initially been protected in the development, but council said it was needed to make the project economically viable.
The issue has become politically charged after the Labour challenger in the mayoral election, Jagtar Singh Dhindsa, pledged to save the allotments if elected.
Ms Trebar added: "We also have a mayoral election and Labour fully support us so we will be working with them. Of course the mayor and the council will be going along talking about a new hospital but the residents know this is all spin as there is no funding and there are no concrete plans."
This week Mayor Thornhill said any renewed legal challenge over the allotments would not stop progress over the health campus.
She said: "The Farm Terrace campaigners will do what they feel they have to do. That’s their choice of course. They have the support of Labour and the Greens but they are in opposition so it’s easy for them.
"We will make it clear to the majority of voters that Labour do not support the new hospital facilities, jobs and homes. We will be making sure that every single resident in Watford understands Labour would put allotments before the town and wider benefits."
Following the mayor’s comments, Councillor Dhindsa said he supported the hospital and felt it could be redeveloped while retaining the Farm Terrace allotments.
He added: "We have always been clear, we support the new hospital. When Claire Ward was MP she supported it and the Labour party has always supported a new hospital and jobs but we feel it can be achieved by keeping Farm Terrace. Both are possible, keeping the allotments does not jeopardise the hospital.
"It is just that the current administration is putting houses there, not a hospital, as they want to make more money out of it. That is what we object to."
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