It has to be said that the sheds were in need of re-painting. I had kept the sheds brown – you know to blend in and stay under the radar of the local vandals. You’d think that painting an urban allotment shed purple is an invitation for all kinds of disasters, but no, they have been purple for about 8 months and nothing bad has happened; fingers crossed it stays that way.
I had another purpose; I wanted to see how the Duke’s man would react to a purple shed. Last March, the allotment association was informed that the Duke of Northumberland intended to redevelop the allotment site and that we would be relocated to a new site within Syon Park. So far so lovely. The but is that there continues to be unspecified requirements about appearance – hence the sheds becoming purple. They would have to hate that you’d think and I’d know where the line was.
But no, the man’s response was “Oh I like the painted shed, we could have them all painted different colours – it would be like Notting Hill” I wasn’t expecting ironic sarcasm and I’m still no closer to understanding their interpretation of ‘acceptable appearance’.
Then as plot holders we are invited to a presentation of the plans for the new site. It looks lovely, doesn’t it? A garden designer’s dream, but guess what? It’s supposed to be a working allotment site where people recycle, reuse and repurpose and yes, it’s a bit messy about the edges. That’s the way we love it.
It seems the estate manager has other ideas for how an allotment site should operate. Apparently he was appalled to note that two rusty wheelbarrows had been left out – very untidy. Seems he has a horror of Crittal’s window frames and he spotted one, reincarnated as a cloche; I expect that will have him in therapy for weeks. He also thinks that we should use only green netting: I expect he will get around to specifying the size of holes too.
The detail of the pretty plan reveals that each plot will be allocated a low rise tool store and we get a half share of a 6×4 shed – so much for an allotmenteer’s shed being their castle (or in my case her wendy house!) No to greenhouses, polytunnels and any type of recycling. I’m starting to think that they don’t really want us at Syon Park after all.
It is worth noting that the local council has leased the land from the Northumberland estate for at least 100 years to be used as allotments, yet the estate gave just 6 month’s notice to reclaim the site and us less than three month’s notice to accept their new terms and conditions or be locked out of the site. It seems that the Duke feels he can cherry-pick which parts of the Allotment Acts apply to him.
Hounslow is the local authority and they are hopelessly weak but I don’t feel completely defeated just yet: the site has been given ‘Asset of Community Value’ (ACV) status, which means that we get six months to raise the money to buy the land should it come up for sale – that’s a really big tomato plant sale!
It has got the local community more engaged; they may not be that interested in the allotment site but they certainly don’t want it concreted over and 120 flats being built on it either. There were over 400 signatures on the petition to support the ACV application.
I’ve discovered that the site is designated local open space in the local authority’s Local Plan, which makes gaining planning permission for redevelopment much more challenging. I met with our local MP this week and she was encouraging, so chin up and shoulders back – the war has only just begun!
Oh and there will be a piece about the site, Park Road Allotments in the Sunday Times this week.