Historic Wellesbourne allotments threatened by houses

Concerned residents at Wellesbourne Allotments.
Concerned residents at Wellesbourne Allotments.

An historic allotment plot that is one of the oldest in Britain could be turned into housing, causing anger among some villagers.

In June, St Peter’s Church in Wellesbourne was notified that the Diocese of Coventry and Warwickshire was considering selling the allotment land in Kineton Road and relocating the allotments to two new sites in the village.

A spokesperson from the Wellesbourne Allotment Association said: “Our allotments are one of the oldest in Britain dating back 180 years.

“The central part of our village of Wellesbourne has played a major role in securing better conditions for destitute agricultural labourers.

“This is the Joseph Arch story whereby more than 2,000 labourers met in the village and this led to the formation of the National Agricultural Labourers Union following which there were improved wages and living conditions for labourers.

“We have hosted BBC’s Gardeners’ Question Time in 2015 and have featured on Monty Don’s Big Dreams Small Spaces programme in early 2017 and are proud of our history and positive contribution to our community.

“The allotments provide more than food for our tenants. They form a valuable social focal point for all areas of our community, including the elderly, families and the less privileged, as well as providing the many proven physical and mental benefits of outdoor exercise.

“In the last decade, the village has already been extensively developed and has taken more than the required quota of homes in the area.

“We are concerned that this development is wholly opportunistic by the Diocese with only financial opportunities in mind and no concern for the welfare of village residents and the tenants of our much valued allotments.”

In a statement issued from St Peter’s Church it said: “In June St Peter’s Church was notified that the Coventry Diocese was considering selling the allotment land on Kineton Road, Wellesbourne and relocating the allotments to two new sites in the village.

“The allotments have been in use on this site for over 175 years and are some of the oldest in the country.

“The sale of this land for new houses would enable the diocese to continue to support the work of churches and clergy across the Coventry Diocese.

“St Peter’s Church was given an opportunity to make representations on of any ‘pastoral considerations’ related to this proposal.

“There is a climate in favour of new housing.

“First, the Government is actively encouraging new housing – as is demonstrated by the recent house building across the district and also in Wellesbourne.

“Second, Wellesbourne’s emerging Neighbourhood Plan allows for the concept of housing on the allotments and third, the Diocese, is offering two replacement sites – one beyond the current allotments and another on land next to St Peter’s churchyard.

“St Peter’s Parochial Church Council met last week and very carefully deliberated on the proposals.

“On the one hand the whole church needs to be sympathetic to the need to house people and to be seen to be working together especially for those people in our own area.

“The plans include a significant proportion of affordable homes. However, high in the council’s thinking was the loss of a site of historical importance that is part of the heritage of Wellesbourne. Several generations of Wellesbourne families have made this land fertile and productive for their families.

“The PCC resolved not to object to development of the allotment land, in principle, as long as the needs of the current allotment holders are fully met.

“Those needs are noted in the Neighbourhood Plan to include, such facilities as water supply to all plots, toilets, car parking, perimeter security fencing – and even improved soil quality. The plots should also be accessible for people with disabilities, especially those with mobility problems and children.”

David Close, Chair of the PCC said ‘St Peter’s Church is very conscious of the conflicting demands between the need for more houses and the impact upon the allotment holders of moving to new land’.

“We hope and pray a solution can be found to satisfy both groups and Wellesbourne people in general.”