Gas firm consulting over plan to temporarily take over Wanstead allotments

Sally Parker's plot at the Redbridge Lane West allotments

Sally Parker, who has been tending her plot at the Redbridge Lane West allotment since she retired in 2008, said it's been the only place she has gone to throughout lockdown outside of her home. - Credit: Sally Parker

Part of a Wanstead allotment site could temporarily be taken over by a gas giant while it carries out work nearby.

More than 40 plot holders in the Redbridge Lane West allotment, which is owned by Redbridge Council, could have their land used for two years by Cadent, which needs to do essential maintenance and construction work at their site next door.

Cadent has held informal consultations with plot holders as it is in the early stages of the project, which is due to begin in spring 2022.

It is looking into the feasibility of either paying plot holders for the use of the land for the duration of the project or helping relocate them to a different plot.

Sally Parker, 70, who has been tending to her allotment with her husband since she retired in 2008, said she is devastated that she might have to give up her land.

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She told the Recorder: "It has been a great solace to us particularly in the past year when we have been so isolated and confined. Since the pandemic started it's been the only place we've gone to."

Redbridge Lane West allotments

The gas company Cadent owns a site next door to the Redbridge Lane West allotment. - Credit: Stephen Lines

A Cadent spokesperson said they are looking at all options in the area and wanted to speak to allotment holders early in the process.

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“The work won’t start until the spring of 2022 at the earliest, however, we felt is appropriate to speak with the allotment holders as soon as possible, to assess the feasibility of using some of the allotment area temporarily.  

"We wanted to explain our works and explain the options so far.  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 compound to complete the works."

Queen Elizabeth II talks to gardening enthusiasts Donald Doody (left) and John Harrison on their all

Queen Elizabeth II spoke to Donald Doody (left) and John Harrison on their allotment, in Redbridge Lane West, when she visited in May 2002. - Credit: PA

One option on the table is to have plot holders temporarily or permanently relocate to a site in Wanstead Park.

Terry Dickinson, the acting London representative for the National Allotment Society, said that is not feasible as the council has already closed all waiting lists citing over-subscription.

He said "All self-managed allotments in Redbridge have waiting lists which will take years to work through.

"At a time when growing, gardening, working the soil, social contact are extolled as antidotes to the pandemic, it seems incredible that Cadent would assume it would be acceptable to deny plot holders their lifeline."

Redbridge Lane West allotment picture

There are fears permanent damage might be done by lorries parking on the plots. - Credit: Stephen Lines

Redbridge Council said it has only recently been made aware of the plans and has not given consent or the use of its land to facilitate them.

A spokesperson said: "The need to consult relevant parties and engage relevant stakeholders for any proposed works is clear in our mind.

"A meeting with Cadent has been proposed for later this month to discuss the matter as we are aware the proposals have given rise to a number of concerns from the allotment holders.”  

Cadent has said it would compensate plot holders if it needs to temporarily displace them and they would remove the top soil and cover it to allow their trucks to come and go while works are ongoing.

Sally, who practices a "no dig" method of gardening which avoids disrupting the soil, said their plot would be permanently damaged if Cadent takes over.

The Cadent spokesperson stressed no firm decisions have been made and they are continuing to consult with allotment holders and the council to look at all options.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh paid a visit to the allotments in May 2002 when they toured the country for her Golden Jubilee.

Some of the plot holders are families who have been working on their plot across two or three generations and have launched a petition to save it.

The largest single plot, Sprout There!, is operated by the Uniting Friends charity which runs a facility for vulnerable people with learning disabilities. 

The charity helps its members learn how to grow and harvest their own healthy food.

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