Plot holders 'not convinced' by reassurances over allotments takeover plan

Redbridge Lane West allotment picture

The council meeting was told plot holders feel Cadent had shown "little understanding" of their concern for the allotments - Credit: Stephen Lines

Plot holders at a Wanstead allotments concerned by proposed gas maintenance works are “not convinced” by council leaders’ reassurances. 

Redbridge Council last night (September 23) discussed a 4,211-signature petition from Redbridge Lane West allotment holders urging the council to reject plans by gas company Cadent to use their site for two years to complete works on the firm's nearby plant. 

The land is owned by the council and the site’s 40 plot holders are concerned that its use by the company would destroy years of gardening work. 

Petitioner Sally Parker explained to councillors how the allotment played a “central role” in promoting wellbeing and preserving the environment. 

“It's not an exaggeration to say that we have members whose lives revolve around their plots,” she added. 

She also noted that the future of Sprout There, a project which works with adults with learning difficulties, would be threatened by the proposals. 

Sally told the meeting that Cadent had shown “little understanding or concern for our plots” during the consultation and that, contrary to the council’s report, plot holders “remained concerned” that revised plans would not secure a satisfactory outcome. 

Cllr Kam Rai, deputy leader of the council, said that the petitioners “passion had not gone unnoticed” and agreed that the gas company’s initial plans were “a non-starter". 

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He explained that the council had become involved with the matter after residents raised concerns in June, and had convinced the company to reconsider its plans. 

The council said it has convinced Cadent to relocate parking off site and urged it to minimise the area and duration of impact on plots. 

However, Cllr Rai warned there are “realities we have to face”, explaining that the gas works were an important piece of infrastructure, supporting gas supply to much of east London 

He stressed the importance of engaging with Cadent, noting that the planned works form part of a national improvement plan resulting from a government review and that statutory powers exist to make sure the work would go ahead with or without council input. 

Cadent has yet to reveal its revised proposals but Cllr Rai said the plans would be “much reduced” and would “no longer see the whole site affected”. 

Cllr Howard Berlin, deputy leader of the Conservative group, called for all allotments in the borough to be given Fields in Trust status, which he said would secure their “long-term future”. 

Tory group leader Cllr Linda Huggett raised concerns that plot holders who were relocated from the site would never be able to return and that the land might be re-designated for development in future. 

Leader of the council, Cllr Jas Athwal, accused Cllr Huggett of misinformation and electioneering, insisting that “whatever work that’s there, it will turn back into allotments”. 

He added: “Although the land is owned by the council, we as a council cannot prevent Cadent from accessing that land to carry out that essential work. 

“What we have to do is engage, negotiate, get the best deal possible.” 

Speaking to the Recorder after the meeting, Sally said plot holders were “pleased” by the sympathetic comments by councillors but that they were “certainly not convinced” by the reassurances offered by Cllrs Rai and Athwal. 

A Cadent spokesman said that they plan to reinstate whatever plots they require to their original state.

Sally said that plot holders "don't trust Cadent" and described suggestions that the plots be returned to their original state as "wholly unrealistic".

She said: “All this is just supposition until we see what their plans actually are and why they need to do it.  I hope we don’t have to wait another 6 months. It’s a disgraceful way to treat people.” 

The Cadent spokesman added that, since speaking to allotment holders at the beginning of the year, they had carried out further survey work, which had taken a number of months.

They noted that the process "may have taken longer than anticipated" but said that they were organising meetings with ward councillors and allotment holders to explain their latest plans and get further feedback.