Families dig in for battle to turn London Docks wasteland into allotments

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 May 2012

Angry campaigners locked out of land unused for 45 years they want for allotments

Angry campaigners locked out of land unused for 45 years they want for allotments

Tim Sullivan

Families turned up with shovels and trowels at wasteland in the old London Docks hoping to turn it into allotments after 45 years of disuse—but found the site locked up on Sunday.

They had formed the Wapping Allotments Association with 66 members so far—but don’t actually have any plots to work.

A deputation was sent to the Town Hall way back in January with a 1,000-name petition asking for the land in Vaughan Way that hasn’t been used since the docks closed in 1967.

The families think there’s enough to turn into 60 small allotments.

But their petition has been rejected by Tower Hamlets council which has told them the land might be used for a car park for a swimming pool.

Yet there is no pool in Wapping, the campaigners point out, while there is also a half-empty car-park at the John Orwell sports centre next door.

“There’s no cash for a swimming pool,” campaigner Annabella Coldrick-Ford told the Advertiser.

“This spare land hasn’t been used since the docks closed—it’s bad management to leave it go to waste.”

The council’s Asset Management office wrote to the allotments association saying the land next to the Orwell sports centre “isn’t surplus to operational requirements.” The Communities directorate undertakes day-to-day site management and has decided to retain it “for operational purposes for the foreseeable future.”

The allotments association challenged the “day-to-day management” by pointing out that as the land had been out of action since 1968, it has remained a wasteland for well over 9,000 days.

Allotments in Wapping, it said, would “improve the area, bring people together to learn how to grow food, let young mix with old, rich with poor and black with white.”

The council doesn’t have the funds to build a swimming pool after spending £1 million on refurbishing St George’s Baths in Shadwell just 10 minutes away, say the campaigners.

The allotment hopefuls believe they have come up with “the best alternative” and are demanding the authority reconsiders their plans and meets them “to find a way forward.”

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