Allotment holders are claiming a ‘first round victory’ in their legal challenge after forcing Eric Pickles to review his decision to allow the council permission to build on the Farm Terrace plots.

Solicitors representing the allotment holders had prepared to challenge the secretary of state for communities and local government in the High Court arguing he did not satisfy his own criteria that the allotments were "surplus to requirement" before sanctioning their destruction.

On Friday afternoon legal representatives of the Department for Communities and Local Government acknowledged the decision contained "an arguable error of law that the secretary of state gave insufficient reasons for departing from one of his policy criteria".

The decision by the secretery of state will now be quashed and it will return to his office for re-determination.

Allotment holder Sara Jane Trebar said: "This means our court case doesn’t go ahead, Eric Pickles has backed down and said he made a mistake in granting permission.

"Our hope now is that Eric Pickles will have to stick to the guidelines and if he doesn’t we will be back on him again."

"For now, it’s round one to the plotholders."

Watford’s elected mayor Dorothy Thornhill said the announcement did not change the council’s position on the inclusion of Farm Terrace land.

She said: "He [Eric Pickles] just has to make the decision again and address a point of law, as long as he does that he will come to the decision he comes to.

"I am quite pragmatic about it... if he re-makes the decision and it’s a no it is a big issue, we haven’t been pretending about the impact of the allotments.

"We will carry on, it would make the scheme less viable and we would have to look at how to make it more viable.

"It would reduce the scope for the hospital, it will reduce the flexibility of housing and ultimately the scheme wouldn’t be a really, really top scheme."

Initial plans for the redeveloped Health Campus did not include Farm Terrace but last year allotment holders were told the land would need to be used to make the development viable.