Victory for local community group as Council backs allotments on scrap land

Posted on November 8, 2010 by

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Southampton City Council has promised that it will turn over a piece of idle land, that they originally intended to sell off for housing to allotments.  This follows a long campaign by local community group NBSP who had asked for either a community garden or allotments.

Rafael and Vincenzo at the site

The 3/4 acre piece of land lies unused opposite Portswood Primary school on Somerset Road in Portswood, having formerly been a diagnostic centre for the local education department.  After lying unused for many years the Council decided to sell it off for housing a couple of years ago, much to local residents dismay.  Local resident Rafael Persaud, along with the newly set up NBSP (Northcote, Brickfield, Somerset and Portswood Road) community group succesfully stopped the application after organising a popular petition.

However, despite accepting the proposal was inappropriate, the Council had spent the money it expected from the sale of the land before putting it on the market, and so was £1.3 million out of pocket following the withdrawal of the application.  This has made alternative proposals for the land difficult to make, as the Council seemingly didn’t want to lose the capital it could potentially make in future from the land that they lost.

NBSPCG organised a campaign for the site to be turned into a Community Garden supported by Alan Whitehead MP and many local groups and charities, which was to include a forest garden, wildflower meadow, play area and sensory garden designed by David McKay along the principles of Permaculture, with the alternative of allotments also suggested.  But an issue with heavy metal contamination on the land halted progress on the project as a new soil survey was demanded by residents, and extensive delays of 9 months by the council in publishing the results and determing how to best remediate the land.

Finally it seems that progress is being made though, as the Council hav decided that the site can be used for allotments.  Vincenzo Capozzoli, councillor for Portswood, released a statement saying:

I am delighted at the decision by the city council to protect the unused land at the corner of Brickfield Road from development.

A decision was taken back in 2006 by the council Administration at the time to sell the land for housing and when this came to light last year there was strong opposition, led by the local community group (NBSP). In particular I would like to thank Raf Persaud for his tireless campaigning on behalf of the community.

I have been lobbying hard for the past 12 months to keep the site green and to protect the land for the local community. Following the public meeting of local residents last year my colleague Cllr Jeremy Moulton has been working hard behind the scenes to reach an agreement with the University that will see the site converted to allotments. Using the site for allotments was a suggestion put forward at the residents meeting last year and I am pleased that the council has listened to local people and found a way to achieve this.

However, questions have been raised by some local residents over what the exact plans for the wider area are in the light of this.  As well as some expressing bemusement over the councillors’ self-praise following such a lengthy struggle with the Council, there were suggestions that the remark in the statement regarding the University might relate to the nearby Broadlands Road allotment site, on which tenants had been approached by the University to buy out the land for expansion.  Some are worried that the Council may allegedly be considering shifting Broadlands Road plotholders to the new Brickfield Road site in order to free up the Broadlands Road site for the University, leaving NBSP residents with few or no plots for themselves.  A meeting is being organised between NBSP and the Councillors in the near future to iron out the details of the plan and make sure it is a good as possible deal for residents.

This development also comes soon after NBSPCG have launched a campaign to save their recently established picnic area and garden in the nearby recreation ground, which despite having approved by the Council a few months ago is already threatened with an expansion of adjacent tennis courts based on an old and limited survey – see this previous article for details.

The Blowhole would like to congratulate the NBSP community group on managing to keep the Brickfield Road site as an open space, and encourage the Council to make sure that this new Allotment site will consist of new plots for the local residents rather than shifting other plotholders in.  We’d also like to see part of the site remain a community garden as originally suggested by the residents, as that was the original main proposal and Community Gardens allow anyone in the area access to a vibrant open space and garden even if they’re not a plotholder.

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Posted in: Comment, News, Southampton