Monday, 5 July 2010


North London campaigners win battle to save allotments

Exactly a year after they were told their allotments would be sold as building land, a group of north London campaigners have clinched a deal which ensures the site will stay green forever.

The Save Fortis Green Allotments campaign gathered thousands of signatures for a petition, won backing from celebrities such as Kate Humble and Monty Don, and mobilised all-party political support in the effort to save the field in Muswell Hill where locals have grown their veg for nearly a century.

Now, after raising £30,000 from local supporters, they have finalised the purchase of the land and are set to carry on digging.

“This is a great day,” says Don Fisher, chair of the Fortis Green Community Allotments Trust, which now owns the site. “A year ago it looked almost certain that the bulldozers would be moving in on this beautiful little green space. Now, thanks to our fantastic local community, that threat has gone and Fortis Green people will be able to go on growing runner beans and raspberries here forever..”

The field, which is next to a reservoir and has been used for allotments for decades, was owned by Thames Water, which decided last year to auction it off to developers with an expected sale price in six figures. But the strong local campaign, backed by Haringey Council and reported in both local and national press, persuaded the company to take it off the market and discuss a private sale to the Trust instead.

Newly created by the allotmenteers and their supporters, the Trust is committed to securing the site as allotments in perpetuity.

Negotiations continued over several months before the price of £30,000 was agreed, and meanwhile fundraisers went to work, organising a barn dance, a comedy night and promises action, while Capital Growth and Haringey also made grants.

“After 12 months of campaigning and fundraising it’s a huge relief to have completed the purchase,” says Don Fisher. “It’s been a massive team effort and we are enormously grateful to all those who’ve donated money, time and ideas. It’s wonderful to know that the site is safe not just in the short term but forever.”

As well as running the allotments the Trust has other plans. “We’re already working with local schools and plan more community involvement because we want to help people learn about growing their own food,” says Don.

“Also, the allotments are a significant habitat for many species, from birds to bats to beetles, and we intend to be good custodians and are working with the council on their Allotments Bio-Diversity Plan.”

But Don has a warning too. “No one should think that this spells the end of new development in this area. We already know that someone is trying to get planning permission for houses on some land overlooking the allotments, so there’s more campaigning to be done.”

The project is part of the Capital Growth scheme, which aims to help create 2,012 new growing spaces by 2012. It is supported by London Food Link and is funded by the Big Lottery’s Local Food programme and the Greater London Authority

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