English politicians, particularly in local politics, have a strong record in blithely ignoring international initiatives towards promoting environmental and landscape issues. And Central Government are happy to ratify many conventions and incorporate the text into national strategies, only to brush it all aside when a political ‘think tank’ suggests otherwise. The Public Forest Estate sell-off during the International Year of the Forests 2011 was a classic example.
2015 is the International Year of the Soil. Do not expect to read much about the concentrated efforts of research and awareness happening across the globe in regards this still relatively unknown, but known to be absolutely vital natural element we are dependent on. Very little has changed since Leonardo Da Vinci claimed “We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.” in the 16th Century. And as Britain builds her way out of the economic downturn of recent years it is understandable that many politicians will avoid any focus on the importance of soil.
Healthy soils in the urban and peri-urban landscape are of optimum importance. Allotments, (usually bequeathed to a community through philanthropic channels), tick all the boxes in being the best of the best to the extent that in many places researchers studying solutions to aid all of humanity in achieving sustainability are concentrating on these islands of soil and how they have been managed.
Whilst a national argument in regards development rages between green field and brown field, and a burgeoning realisation of the threats posed by the Infrastructure Act (It is quite unbelievable how so many missed the implications of this bill when the details were published on the day of the Queen’s speech – indeed many NGO PR teams actually stated on social media at the time that all was good!!) allotments are excluded. Allotments should be sacrosanct, surely? But it seems that they are first places to be considered by many councils and even the Church of England seeking to profit from the construction boom.
Those fighting for their allotments have exposed the many loopholes and ambiguity of existing legislation in regards allotments. It is clear that there needs to be clearly defined legislation in place and the Save Farm Terrace campaigners headed up by Sara Jane Trebar are about to launch a campaign for this legislation.
Farm Terrace, for the 3rd time following 2 successful legal challenges against a decision ttodevelop on their allotments, have to fight yet again as the Liberal Democrat Mayor of Watford (Nick Clegg, leader of the Libdems once stated “We have a duty to look after our natural habitat for future generations and our manifesto will show that only the Liberal Democrats can be trusted to deliver a greener and sustainable society.”) champions a new submission to develop on their plots. It is the most bizarre of situations; highly tenuous PR, a severe lack of consultation, internet trolling by councillors, a war of words which make it fairly obvious that the Mayor simply doesn’t like allotments and an absolute ignorance of all modern and historic research in regards the importance of allotments and the community they serve. The belligerence of the Mayor in her determination to concrete over these plots is baffling considering the costs incurred to local taxpayers – some of whom will be donating towards the Farm Terrace cause also.
When done and dusted the whole affair will at least make a great case study for all. In the meantime good luck to Farm Terrace and others in their campaign to finally get proper legislative protection for all allotments in England and Wales, before there are none left.