Battling allotment holders must abandon their plots and make way for a major regeneration scheme in Watford, a High Court judge ruled today.

Save Farm Terrace campaigners were told this morning that they lost their battle in the High Court.

They will have to be off the allotment site in Occupation Road, Watford by Friday.

High Court judge Beverly Lang ruled in favour of the Secretary of State for Communities Sajid Javid, who has granted Watford Borough Council permission to use the site as part of the Health Campus Scheme.

The scheme aims to redevelop the land around Watford General with a new hospital, housing and leisure facilities.

But there are no guarantees the scheme will go ahead and a car park could be built on the land instead. 

READ MORE: Campaigners in limbo following High Court hearing

Sara Jane Trebar, who spearheaded the campaign, said: “It’s come as a bit of a shock. The decision was loaded from the start and we always knew the odds were stacked against us.

“Lots of people told us we wouldn’t win, but you always hope you might be the one that does it.

“But I have to say, we couldn’t be prouder. Everyone has been so supportive and so fantastic and we have been so brave.

“That’s it now. We won’t appeal and we don’t plan to protest at the site on Friday. It’s like grief I guess, so now we all have to grieve in our own ways. We put up such a great fight.”

The Farm Terrace allotments date back to 1882 and those who tend their crops there, many of them elderly, have for years fought plans to develop them tooth and nail.

In the court hearing on October 21, the Secretary of State had to prove that were exceptional circumstances allowing the council to build on the land.

READ MORE: 'This is a very emotional day': High Court hearing to decide future of allotments

Barrister Jason Coppel, on behalf of the campaigners, said a number of minor circumstances could not constitute exceptional circumstances, and that building for profit was not a strong enough reason.

Mrs Trebar said the judge's ruling will impact allotments across the country, who still have no clear definition of what exceptional circumstances are.

She said: “The judge ruled that exceptional circumstances don’t need to be a major thing. It’s a devastating decision for allotments up and down the country, especially urban ones. We are no closer to knowing what exceptional circumstances are, so lots of allotments across the country are now at risk.

"It’s gutting and we are really worried. We fear many allotments will now be bulldozed to make way for car parks."

Mrs Trebar is hoping that her and the other allotment holders will be offered plots on sites close to their homes, and ideally they will be grouped together.

This was the third time the case had been heard in the High Court. Judges had twice overturned the Secretary of State's consent in 2012 and 2014.

READ MORE: 'We really believe it will end this time': Turf war returns to High Court

The Farm Terrace allotments have 128 plots but the number of plot-holders has dwindled over the past few years as a result of the council's decision to close the waiting list in 2012. There are 24 tenants using the land and many of them have had their plots for several decades.