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Allotment sale defended by Winchester diocese

11 January 2024

Hampshire Chronicle/Solent 

Allotment-holders at King’s Somborne, Hampshire. The 2.3-acre site has been allotments for almost a century

Allotment-holders at King’s Somborne, Hampshire. The 2.3-acre site has been allotments for almost a century

THE diocese of Winchester is defending its decision to sell land used for allotments (News, 18 January 2019) by arguing that financial pressures make persistence with such a low-profit scheme unjustifiable.

Last Friday, the Hampshire Chronicle reported that allotment-holders in King’s Somborne were angry that the diocese had given them a year’s notice to quit.

Discussions about the development of the site began in 2018. Planning permission for 18 new houses, to be built by Shorewood Homes, was granted in October 2022.

The chairman of the local allotment association, Andrew Causer, told the Hampshire Chronicle that villagers were “disgusted” to receive the letter just before Christmas, “making it impossible for allotment holders to pick up the phone and register their thoughts on the notice and its insensitive timing”.

Mr Causer also criticised plans to establish new allotments on other land: the terrain was more suitable to sledging than horticulture, he said.

A diocesan spokesperson, however, said that “as a charity, we were obliged to explore the development potential of sites to ensure we were managing all our assets to best support our charitable objectives. The land is held in our glebe fund, and is therefore legally restricted to be used to support the costs of clergy across our 255 parishes.

“We, of course, understand the sadness of the allotment holders at the loss of the current site. But, when reviewing the situation, our trustees could not justify continuing to subsidise allotments for 40 people whilst having to reduce the number of clergy across our whole diocese.”

On the subject of the alternative site, the spokesperson said: “We have striven to provide a suitable alternative site in the adjacent field, with improved facilities, parking, and water. We continue to work closely and productively with the local allotment association as the plans progress.”

Glenda Sims, one of the allotment-holders, told the Hampshire Chronicle: “It’s absolutely disgusting, because the fact we live in the middle of nowhere means we have to use fuel to get to places to buy food.”

The Conservative MP for Romsey, Caroline Nokes, said that the “timing of the diocese in sending these notices over Christmas was just appalling, and I know upset the recipients enormously. . . I am astonished the Church is choosing to take this path.”

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