Demand for answers over Watford Health Campus allotment threat

Angry... Gerry Barker with, from left, Mary Reid, Malcolm Meerabux, Wendy Ballie, Virgine Jones and Peter Ballie.

Angry... Gerry Barker with, from left, Mary Reid, Malcolm Meerabux, Wendy Ballie, Virgine Jones and Peter Ballie.

First published in News Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

Allotment owners, who have been told their plots may be built on as part of the Watford Health Campus, have demanded to know exactly why the previously protected area is now under threat.

Members of West Watford and Oxhey Garden Society have said they will lose years of labour if their Terrace Farm plots are concreted over as part of the £1bn project.

Tenants on the site, behind the Vicarage Road stadium, have been informed in the past few weeks that it could now be included in the Health Campus as developers bid for the contract.

The scheme aims to redevelop the land around Watford General with a new hospital, housing and leisure facilities The original Health Campus masterplan, drawn up in 2007, showed the development built around the Terrace Farm allotments, which have been in use since 1896.

Mary Reid, a former chairman of the society, said the allotment holders needed more solid evidence about why Farm Terrace land had now become crucial to the Health Campus.

She said: "We were led to believe in 2007, when we finally got to the stage of outline planning, that there would be a masterplan keeping the allotments.

"This was a bolt out of the blue, which is why the allotment tenants are so upset. We know officially we will be consulted, but we can read between the lines.

"We are one of the elements of the Health Campus and we have not been given the full information about whatever it is that has changed which means the allotment land needs to be considered.

"We need proper plans and a proper explanation."

At a council meeting on Monday, Watford’s elected mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, said the situation had changed due to the worsening economic climate and the extra land may be needed to make the project viable for developers.

On Monday, Watford Borough Council’s Liberal Democrat ruling cabinet voted to look at using all, half or none of the Farm Terrace land as part of the Health Campus.

After the meeting, the mayor’s office released more detailed reasons why the land may now need to be used in the development. These included the land being used for hospital buildings, being given to developers to recoup the mounting costs of the project, use for a new school or to give the campus a more spacious layout.

However Gerry Barker, chairman of West Watford and Oxhey Garden Society, said if the allotments were lost, tenants would lose years of hard work.

He said: "If you move the allotments and give someone an alternative site, it will take three years to get a response. Some people have very well established plants and trees. It is irreversible in that respect."

The allotment holders have been asked to form an official group to consult with developers and the council over the Health Campus.

Watford’s opposition Labour group said any consultation with allotment holders should take their views seriously and not be a "talking shop".

Nigel Bell, leader of the Labour group, also disputed the idea that the Health Campus could not be viable without using the allotments.

He added: "It should not be implied that any questioning of why the allotments should be given to the developer is in any way a lack of support for the health campus."

Comments (16)

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3:58pm Wed 20 Jun 12

Reg Edit says...

This stinks of greed and incompetence.
This stinks of greed and incompetence. Reg Edit
  • Score: 0

4:15pm Wed 20 Jun 12

theturpster says...

Sort it out with a hoe down.
Sort it out with a hoe down. theturpster
  • Score: 0

4:20pm Wed 20 Jun 12

clarkie750 says...

A quote from Nigel Bell about financial matters is always a laugh.
A quote from Nigel Bell about financial matters is always a laugh. clarkie750
  • Score: 0

8:44pm Wed 20 Jun 12

clam26 says...

This adds insult to all us allotment holders, who have worked hard to keep our plots looking fantastic. How can the council even consider this when they have told us that they will not take any more land from us
This adds insult to all us allotment holders, who have worked hard to keep our plots looking fantastic. How can the council even consider this when they have told us that they will not take any more land from us clam26
  • Score: 0

9:58am Thu 21 Jun 12

TRT says...

That's a very poor quality photo. It took me a while to spot Malcolm, and you can barely make out Mary.
That's a very poor quality photo. It took me a while to spot Malcolm, and you can barely make out Mary. TRT
  • Score: 0

11:32am Thu 21 Jun 12

Andrew1963 says...

To make the redevelopment plan economically viable - The Liberal Democrats have had to include both a road they oppossed and the loss of allotments they always said they would protect. If the scheme is not economically viable - Don't do it. This change brings Vicarage Road stadium into play as it now becomes very valuable as a development site. If the council has decided in principle that the loss of public amenity allotment land is acceptable for commercial development - than they could not object to the loss of a privately owned football ground for the same reason.
To make the redevelopment plan economically viable - The Liberal Democrats have had to include both a road they oppossed and the loss of allotments they always said they would protect. If the scheme is not economically viable - Don't do it. This change brings Vicarage Road stadium into play as it now becomes very valuable as a development site. If the council has decided in principle that the loss of public amenity allotment land is acceptable for commercial development - than they could not object to the loss of a privately owned football ground for the same reason. Andrew1963
  • Score: 0

11:55am Thu 21 Jun 12

Mike Watford says...

The key thing must still be to keep the hospital in Watford.
The economic situation has changed since 5 years ago, so the viability of schemes change.
If the council allotment land is used as part of the Health Campus, although not ideal for many of the allotment users, I understand that alternative allotments would be provided elsewhere.

Andrew: Watford FC are part of the Health Campus partners, and clearly they want to stay in Vicarage Road.
The key thing must still be to keep the hospital in Watford. The economic situation has changed since 5 years ago, so the viability of schemes change. If the council allotment land is used as part of the Health Campus, although not ideal for many of the allotment users, I understand that alternative allotments would be provided elsewhere. Andrew: Watford FC are part of the Health Campus partners, and clearly they want to stay in Vicarage Road. Mike Watford
  • Score: 0

12:22pm Thu 21 Jun 12

MaryWatford says...

Whats the guy in the suit doing in the photo? Nigel Bell, why use a few words when you can use loads that still make no commitment or sense !
Whats the guy in the suit doing in the photo? Nigel Bell, why use a few words when you can use loads that still make no commitment or sense ! MaryWatford
  • Score: 0

1:01pm Thu 21 Jun 12

TRT says...

I'll admit, that the kind of employment the health campus would bring, along with the timing, it would suit me down to the ground. But as usual there are 'flaws' in the planning - the railway station not being in the campus, the nearby cycle superhighway not being linked to the site, the heavy congestion in the area made worse at times by the proximity of the football ground, the loss of amenity land at The Irish Club...
The allotments should be integrated into the plans, and to heck with the profit margins, because economic situations can improve as well as worsen.
I'll admit, that the kind of employment the health campus would bring, along with the timing, it would suit me down to the ground. But as usual there are 'flaws' in the planning - the railway station not being in the campus, the nearby cycle superhighway not being linked to the site, the heavy congestion in the area made worse at times by the proximity of the football ground, the loss of amenity land at The Irish Club... The allotments should be integrated into the plans, and to heck with the profit margins, because economic situations can improve as well as worsen. TRT
  • Score: 0

1:22pm Thu 21 Jun 12

Andrew1963 says...

Mike Watford wrote:
The key thing must still be to keep the hospital in Watford. The economic situation has changed since 5 years ago, so the viability of schemes change. If the council allotment land is used as part of the Health Campus, although not ideal for many of the allotment users, I understand that alternative allotments would be provided elsewhere. Andrew: Watford FC are part of the Health Campus partners, and clearly they want to stay in Vicarage Road.
Watford FC is a privately owned business with huge debts - if it came to the point where it had to sell is assets, this decision makes its land far more valuable. The Health Campus name is a misnomer, as the site will not be redeveloped for health use. The plans include shops, 100s of flats and offices - none of these activities are related to health. There is an assumption that the hospital will be rebuilt, but no implementation date. As you say the economic situation may change again and the hospital is closed for redevelopment if it makes economic sense to redevelop the larger and cheaper sites available - including Hemel. The Health Service has changed in the last 5 months following the vote in parliament and there is no guarantee that a major acute hospital will be provided in SW Herts let alone Watford. What this decision does do is enlarge the development envelope, square off the site. If allotments of similar number are to be provided on the health campus - where will they be - why does their relocation make the development more viable?. More importantly allowing active allotment sites to be commercially developed in Watford opens the door for all sites to be available 'in principle' for commercial development.
[quote][p][bold]Mike Watford[/bold] wrote: The key thing must still be to keep the hospital in Watford. The economic situation has changed since 5 years ago, so the viability of schemes change. If the council allotment land is used as part of the Health Campus, although not ideal for many of the allotment users, I understand that alternative allotments would be provided elsewhere. Andrew: Watford FC are part of the Health Campus partners, and clearly they want to stay in Vicarage Road.[/p][/quote]Watford FC is a privately owned business with huge debts - if it came to the point where it had to sell is assets, this decision makes its land far more valuable. The Health Campus name is a misnomer, as the site will not be redeveloped for health use. The plans include shops, 100s of flats and offices - none of these activities are related to health. There is an assumption that the hospital will be rebuilt, but no implementation date. As you say the economic situation may change again and the hospital is closed for redevelopment if it makes economic sense to redevelop the larger and cheaper sites available - including Hemel. The Health Service has changed in the last 5 months following the vote in parliament and there is no guarantee that a major acute hospital will be provided in SW Herts let alone Watford. What this decision does do is enlarge the development envelope, square off the site. If allotments of similar number are to be provided on the health campus - where will they be - why does their relocation make the development more viable?. More importantly allowing active allotment sites to be commercially developed in Watford opens the door for all sites to be available 'in principle' for commercial development. Andrew1963
  • Score: 0

2:05pm Thu 21 Jun 12

TRT says...

What's the current legal situation regarding a council's obligation to provide allotments if requested?
What's the current legal situation regarding a council's obligation to provide allotments if requested? TRT
  • Score: 0

2:31pm Thu 21 Jun 12

clarkie750 says...

Shame that until now nobody has mentioned that an alternative allotment site would be provided if necessary. Perhaps that fact is too inconvenient for some people.
Shame that until now nobody has mentioned that an alternative allotment site would be provided if necessary. Perhaps that fact is too inconvenient for some people. clarkie750
  • Score: 0

6:15pm Thu 21 Jun 12

JoeMoore1997 says...

Also, the original plans included and still include the now derelict allotment site at Willows Lane to the far side of the hospital. So the revised plans would in theory now mean taking 2 allotment sites out of the equation
Also, the original plans included and still include the now derelict allotment site at Willows Lane to the far side of the hospital. So the revised plans would in theory now mean taking 2 allotment sites out of the equation JoeMoore1997
  • Score: 0

11:46pm Thu 21 Jun 12

Andrew1963 says...

clarkie750 wrote:
Shame that until now nobody has mentioned that an alternative allotment site would be provided if necessary. Perhaps that fact is too inconvenient for some people.
Where will the council find the money to provide a new site? And where will the site be - and will it have the built up soil structure and fertility that results after 100 years of cultivation?Will it be a south facing slope and be walking distance from the terrace streets the current site serves? If it is such a good offer why are the current allotment tenants so upset and when was the last time an active allotment site sold off for commercial development? If these things were out in the open, there may be more informed thought rather than questions.
[quote][p][bold]clarkie750[/bold] wrote: Shame that until now nobody has mentioned that an alternative allotment site would be provided if necessary. Perhaps that fact is too inconvenient for some people.[/p][/quote]Where will the council find the money to provide a new site? And where will the site be - and will it have the built up soil structure and fertility that results after 100 years of cultivation?Will it be a south facing slope and be walking distance from the terrace streets the current site serves? If it is such a good offer why are the current allotment tenants so upset and when was the last time an active allotment site sold off for commercial development? If these things were out in the open, there may be more informed thought rather than questions. Andrew1963
  • Score: 0

3:36am Fri 22 Jun 12

Veritas says...

clarkie750 wrote:
Shame that until now nobody has mentioned that an alternative allotment site would be provided if necessary. Perhaps that fact is too inconvenient for some people.
Are you for real you muppet,
you patronising twit.

You can't have any knowledge of council activities as you are not a sad Fib Dem councillor!!

Why should people lose their Allotments, because dodgy Fib Dems want to sell it off for more
profit?

An alternative site provided if "necessary?" What counting on the people to be too distressed to want another allotment, in case Downhill Dotty wants to sell that off too, after all she has a history of selling of land for questionable developments.

Warning, the decision is already made, We know what Dottys consultations mean!!
[quote][p][bold]clarkie750[/bold] wrote: Shame that until now nobody has mentioned that an alternative allotment site would be provided if necessary. Perhaps that fact is too inconvenient for some people.[/p][/quote]Are you for real you muppet, you patronising twit. You can't have any knowledge of council activities as you are not a sad Fib Dem councillor!! Why should people lose their Allotments, because dodgy Fib Dems want to sell it off for more profit? An alternative site provided if "necessary?" What counting on the people to be too distressed to want another allotment, in case Downhill Dotty wants to sell that off too, after all she has a history of selling of land for questionable developments. Warning, the decision is already made, We know what Dottys consultations mean!! Veritas
  • Score: 0

9:06am Fri 22 Jun 12

sallywatford says...

The developers are demanding the allotments from the Lib Dems as a sweetener. Instead of telling them take a running jump, it is being entertained.
The developers are demanding the allotments from the Lib Dems as a sweetener. Instead of telling them take a running jump, it is being entertained. sallywatford
  • Score: 0

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