The Save Farm Terrace Allotments campaign fronted by Sara Trebar on social media has led to a considerable amount of attention – not by general media, not yet, as they wait for a ‘Yes’ from Eric Pickles in approving the destruction of the Allotments.
The arguments against the disposal of these allotments come from a wide range of people and cover a myriad of issues – this could all be added together and placed under a single heading: ‘We do not want to lose this landscape’
The reason for the disposal of the allotments is what separates this campaign from many others, (although I am sure that there are many other landscapes under a very similar threat), and is why this small campaign in a place I have never been is so important to all involved in the progression of sustainable development, which is of course all of us. It is the language involved and it is this language which could prove to disrupt sustainable development goals and all land management & planning for many many years to come.
The language used to promote the proposed development in Watford is pure spin. The development is to consist of affordable housing, but what is affordable to one person may not be to another, a term I have never liked for its ambiguity. The Mayor of Watford, who is passionate about realising this development stated that ‘good design’ will be used for the new open spaces, again a highly ambigious use of words. But such wording is now so regularly used that it can be forgiven it is merely useless and as such nonsense.
The worrying language is when the destruction of the allotments is included into the ‘Health Campus’ jargon, impressive spin and it has largely worked – a majority of Watfordians are clearly in favour of the health campus overall and as such the allotments are a sad but necessary loss. What is a health campus? The words to me conjure up an image of a University campus, with residential blocks for health workers and the occasional laboratory or training building. This is far from the reality. This is development for housing and businesses and there is nothing wrong essentially with that and I hope they refrain from using medical terms for the housing development – who would want to live in Gynecology Grove or Pediatrics Place? ‘Health Campus’ are words used to disguise a planning gain, it should be considered no more than that. It is neither and cannot be considered as a development based on the principles of Ebenezer Howard because the destruction of the allotments, which are little more than an added ‘gift’ to the developers to ensure the planning gains are forthcoming, to enable the ‘project’ actually negate any and all aspects of this development embracing social needs beyond the nearby hospital itself (please remember any condemnation of the proposals I make are with regards to the allotment land only). And forget ‘environmental’ – there is nothing at all on offer. Sustainable Development has to include environmental and social, this development is purely economic and as such the NPPF has to be ignored in the decision making with regards the development.
I use the word landscape deliberately, for the allotments are a landscape, which adds value to all surrounding landscapes. The gifting of the allotments to ensure the development proceeds may well be cheap for the council, but ultimately very costly, for allotments are now well known as the zenith in achieving sustainable, socially inclusive, urban or peri-urban landscapes.
And as a landscape in its own right, Farm Terrace is subject to, as with all landscapes in England, the European Landscape Convention, the text of which has been wholly ignored so far by the policy makers involved, (as I write this, on the Watford Health Campus website, the link to ‘public engagement’ leads to a 404 Not Found page).
The Mayor of Watford is clearly no ‘policy maker’, she has made herself the chief lobbyist for the development. But as Mayor is she not also in charge of the policy makers who need to be ensuring adherence to consultation guidelines, the Aarhus convention, the ELC etc., – is this not a conflict of interest? Is taxpayers money being used for lobbying & PR purposes on the side of the developers? If this is not illegal it should be.
Mayor Dorothy is acting as chief prosecutor as well as head of a jury to see a landscape executed. Let us hope the judge, Eric Pickles, sees the injustice of this.
Otherwise a very worrying precedent is set, one where any attempt at a landscape approach, (essential to prevent further disenfranchisement of people from the landscapes they live in as well as the death of other species in that same landscape), is thwarted by the elected mayor system England has chosen to accept.