Late yesterday afternoon I received the devastating news that Leeds City Council had been outbid in its attempt to buy the Victoria Road allotments. All that I know at the moment is that despite the council putting in a very competitive bid somebody else offered more and that the higher offer has been accepted.
Ever since I discovered the allotments were up for a sale I’ve been lobbying council officers, the leader of the council and the executive councillor in charge of leisure to ensure the council bought the allotments to protect the allotment holders.
The site has been leased by the council from the estate of Lord Mowbray since 1908 and has been used as a community allotment ever since. We still don’t know who the new owner is going to be and what it or they plan to do with the site. My priority will be to work with the local community, allotment holders and local Labour Party campaigners to ensure that the land can continue to be used as an allotments for ever.
It won’t be easy for the new owner to develop the land or change its use as that will require them to get planning permission which won’t be easy to obtain. In Leeds we have something called the ‘Unitary Development Plan’ which is basically the framework and rules that have to be followed in making planning decisions. The plan says that land that is currently used for allotments can only be changed if their is an alternative site available locally or that there is already sufficient green space. This means any initial planning application for say development of housing is likely to be be turned down/refused.
However, the danger is that the owner can appeal this decision and then the decision will be taken nationally. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat government is currently ripping up the planning law that protects our environment and the likely result could be to make it easier for developers to build new houses on previously protected land.
But the important thing is we’re not giving up. I’ve already got the support of Councillor Adam Ogilvie, the executive board member for Leisure, who said: “It is very unfortunate that the Victoria Allotments have been sold to another bidder, despite the very competitive bid which was submitted by the Council. However we are determined to do all we can to convince the new landowner that the area should remain as allotments.”
- Update on Victoria allotments, Rothwell (karenbruce.co.uk)