The Barnett Wood Lane allotments have been sold to developers. Nothing new in that, but it came as a bolt from the blue for the tenants, and had them scrambling to form an association to fight their corner. The allotments, properly called 'The Barnett Wood Lane Poor Allotments', are in the north of the district at Leatherhead but still part of the Mole Valley District Council, hence my interest. It is a big site of just over 9 acres with 103 plots and was indeed even bigger until a smaller section across the lane was sold for housing a few years back. It is unfortunately next to an even bigger area of open land owed by Oxford University and the two sites make 30 acres of prime building land, enough for 500 houses!
When the rumours first surfaced 6 months ago it came across pretty much as a 'done deal' with preferred bidders etc. And when the deal was voted through the Council chamber without a single objection that belief was sadly confirmed. After all £21 million comes in handy when your cash strapped and the Government has capped your ability to raise revenue. Luckily for the allotment holders the developers will have to stump up the cash to provide a new site, although where and what the land will be like is anybody's guess. At least now they are an association they can put pressure on the developers and the council to get decent facilities such as secure fencing, water AND electricity, and maybe a community building as well. They may also like to drop the POOR label, as although on the one hand you can date the allotments to 100 years plus it also implies they are given as charity by those on high. How about Allotment and Leisure Gardens instead.
Talking about 'those on high' it makes me wonder if they have ever given a thought as to where the food they eat comes from, perhaps they don't need to. It seems that the food we eat and where we live are well and truly divorced, for example Egyptian new potatoes grown in sand and watered by artisan wells are packed in imported Irish peat and exported to a supermarket near you, but not near enough however that you will not need to use a good drop of fossil fuel to get them!
The growth of our urban areas have for centuries squeezed food growing further away from the populations that needed the food to eat. Fulham was once famous for cabbage and turnips and was called 'the market garden of London', Chelsea had huge asparagus beds, Kensington had acres of nurseries (if your not sure where that is think of the Royal Albert Hall and the Natural History Museum). In fact it was said that the roads leading west out of London were lined with nurseries and gardens all the way to Heathrow, and you know what's there now!
Allotment holders are tenants with no security of tenure. Even those on the old Manor Gardens Allotments, given in perpetuity by the owner Rt. Hon. Major Villiers 100 years ago could not resist the power of the Olympic Park Authority when it was wanted for the games.
It's all progress of course, but with the need to house people there should surely be a need to provide land for tilling and relaxing, taking time out from the routine of life and appreciate that our food need not come from another continent but from our own hands. It is somehow ironic that the week Barnett Wood Lane Poor Allotments has learned its fate, Leatherhead has announced it is to open its first Food Bank.