Thousands sign petition opposing gas company plan to take over allotments
- Credit: Stephen Lines
Plot holders at a Wanstead allotments have submitted a petition with 4,000 signatures to Redbridge Council opposing a gas company’s plan to take over part of the site.
Global gas giant Cadent wants to use the council-owned land at Redbridge Lane West for two years to complete maintenance and construction work on its gas works next door.
The Recorder reported in April that the proposal could see more than 40 plot holders have their land used by the company.
One petition signatory said: “Plots cannot be put on hold temporarily. This proposal would require the plot holders to start again and spend years recreating their space. It must be rejected.”
Others suggested that heavy equipment and pollution could destroy soil structure that takes many years to build up.
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Another signatory said: “This is a central part of our community, with both individuals and families benefiting, learning about nature and producing their own produce.
“To take this away from the individuals that have spent years maintaining their plots and disrupt local wildlife is to diminish their importance.
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“Now more than ever our green spaces and wellbeing needs to come first and foremost.”
Paul Merry, Labour councillor for Wanstead Park, also urged the council to reject the proposal and negotiate an alternative with Cadent.
Work would not start until Spring 2022 at the earliest and Cadent stressed that no decision had been made and that they are working with the council to examine other options.
The company said that maintenance to the gas works was essential to ensure that people in the area “continue to receive a safe and reliable gas supply into the future”.
A Cadent spokesperson said: “We felt it appropriate to speak with the allotment holders as soon as possible, to assess the practicalities of using some of the allotment area temporarily.
“We wanted to explain our works and explain the options so far, as well as gain any insight from them too.
“Only after this initial consultation were we able to gain a full picture and start to fully investigate options for the area we will need outside of our Redbridge site.
“As part of the initial meeting with allotment holders, we were also able to explain some potential options and explain what we could offer them if we needed to take any of the allotment area.
“This included how we would compensate and assist allotment holders should we need to temporarily move them.
“As a result of this meeting and at the request by the allotment holders, we have increased our consultation with the council and have already had a number of informative meetings with them.”
They said a compound, which would be at the allotments, would need to accommodate new equipment such as large gas pipes, a storage area, portable cabins and large vehicles like diggers and dumper trucks.
“The compound area is not a car park for workers, it is to keep equipment safe, as well as house the legally required welfare facilities.”
They added that early discussion had helped Cadent revise and reduce their working area and that, once plans for a compound are confirmed, they will tell allotment holders and the community.
The company had suggested it could help plot holders temporarily or permanently relocate to a site in Wanstead Park.
But Terry Dickinson, acting London representative for the National Allotment Society, told the Recorder in April that allotments in Redbridge are already oversubscribed and have years-long waiting lists.
Sally Parker, who has tended to a plot with her husband since retiring in 2008, said she is devastated that she might have to give up her land.
"It has been a great solace to us particularly in the past year when we have been so isolated and confined."
The largest single allotment is taken up by the charity Sprout There!, which provides a therapeutic horticulture programme for adults with learning disabilities.
A Redbridge Council spokesperson said: “We completely understand the value of allotments for our residents, particularly as we recover from the pandemic.
“We will continue to have a dialogue with allotment holders.
“Cadent has approached the council, discussions are still in the early stages and no decisions have yet been made.”