PROPOSALS by the diocese of Coventry to sell one of the country’s oldest allotment sites for housing would “split the community in two”, the allotment-holders have said.
The diocese is considering converting the seven-acre site in the village of Wellesbourne, near Stratford upon Avon, into a 50-home estate. The plot is glebe land, and proceeds from the development would contribute to diocesan funds.
The 97 allotment-holders, however, say that their site is at the “centre of the nation’s allotment gardening movement”. It was founded in 1841, has hosted Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, and, earlier this year, was featured on the BBC2 series presented by Monty Don, Big Dreams, Small Spaces.
The chairman of Wellesbourne Allotments Association, Ian Hope, said: “We are proud of our history and positive contribution to our community: we have held open days in previous years, raising considerable funds for charity.
”It came as a great shock to learn from a church representative that Coventry diocese is seeking to move us off. The allotments provide more than food for our tenants: they form a valuable social focal point for all areas of our community.
”It would be like splitting a community in two. It’s taken 20 years to get where we are today. We have a waiting list for people who want to join us.”
The treasurer of the association, Ken Manning, (pictured above) said: “Wellesbourne could be regarded as the centre of the national allotment movement. The overall feeling is one of anger. The plans will devastate our community, and it will completely tear us apart. Most of our plot-holders will be too old to want to start again. There are other allotments that belong to Coventry diocese; so why us? For them it is just about financial gain. It is like David versus Goliath, and we all know how that one ended up.”
The Diocesan Secretary of Coventry, Ruth Marlow, said that the allotments were one of three sites identified for housing in the village’s neighbourhood plan. “The diocesan board of finance [DBF] decided that it would enter discussions with a developer, or other third parties, that may lead to an application for planning.
“As part of the normal planning consultation process, the local community would have the opportunity to express their views before any planning permission is granted. . . Any application for planning would be dependent on suitable alternative land for allotments being provided, to which end the DBF’s agents have already made contact with the Wellesbourne Allotments Association, and would intend to work closely with the association if the matter progresses.”