The High Court has given Farm Terrace allotment holders permission to proceed with a challenge to Eric Pickles’s decision to allow Watford Council to build on their allotment site.
The claim has been brought by three plot-holders who face eviction to make way for the Watford health campus.
The site cannot be built on without the secretary of state’s consent, and there are strict criteria that have to be met before the council can be given the go-ahead.
The campaigners disagree that building on the allotments is in the public interest, arguing that the development could go ahead without building on the allotments, and that retaining allotments is also in the public interest.
On April 14 a High Court judge decided that the grounds of challenge are arguable.
There will now be a full hearing of the judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice in London later this year.
Andrew Moore, one of the claimants, said today: "It is a shame that we have had to take the case this far. It’s not too late for the council and the secretary of state to change their minds and accommodate the allotments within the development, as the developers have acknowledged they could.
"I am glad that the judge has recognised that this case raises serious issues that merit a full hearing. This case is not only important to me and the other Farm Terrace Allotment holders. It will affect many other sites across the country that are also under threat from development, and we hope to set a precedent that will help to protect allotments for future generations as well as our own.
"I firmly believe that our children will thank us for standing up to the authorities."
Adam Hundt, of Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors, representing the claimants, said: "The secretary of state has criteria by which applications for consent to build on allotments are assessed, but he has effectively decided that those criteria can be ignored if profit margins are said to be at risk.
"One has to question what the point of having criteria that are designed to protect allotments from development is, if they can be ignored with so little justification."