An allotment campaign group has vowed to continue fighting to save a patch of West Watford allotments, after the Government has granted permission to build on it as part of the Watford Health Campus.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, announced today that he has approved building on the Farm Terrace allotments as part of project, which includes a new hospital and 600 homes.
The hundred year old allotments were not included in the original plans, drawn up in 2007, but in December last year Watford Borough Council said the land was needed to make the site economically viable.
The Farm Terrace Community Association fought a bitter campaign against the use of the allotment site, which is owned by the council, as part of the project.
The case was presented to the secretary of state, who decided today that there were "overwhelming reasons" why the land was essential Watford Health Campus project.
Sara Jane Trebar, from the Farm Terrace Community Association, said: "We’re absolutely gutted this has been given the green light, this is an absolute land grab and the hospital won’t benefit.
"We now have to seek solicitors’ advice to undertake a judicial review of the decision."
The council’s submission to the secretary of state stated that the overall level of allotments will remain the same, and the Farm Terrace allotment holders would be offered an alternative patch within the borough.
It has also announced an £800,000 investment plan to improve and upgrade all its allotments in Watford. Dorothy Thornhill, Elected Mayor of Watford said: "A decision to allow the disposal of allotment land is important and controversial.
"That's why the Secretary of State is a vital arbiter, who weighs up all the reasons and evaluates the need to do it.
"I am pleased that the decision has gone in our favour. This means the new hospital facilities will be far more achievable, and our plans to regenerate a section of West Watford that currently lies derelict more viable.
"I know many of the Farm Terrace allotment holders will be disappointed, but we will be re-providing them all with replacement allotments and creating much more open green space for all to enjoy."
Samantha Jones, chief executive of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, added: "The positive decision provides extra scope for our plans. "We are grateful to the allotment holders for their support for the use of hospital facilities as we fully appreciate their position."