Saturday, September 02, 2006

'I am on your side'...but it may not be enough

"I'm on your side. This is a great turn-out. I know how much these allotments mean to you and Eastleigh as a whole. It is an absolute disgrace that the Liberal Democrat council is prepared to ride roughshod over your views. I'm here to help I wanted to show my support for the people who have put so much work, effort and care into these allotments over the years."
So said Michael Howard MP on a visit to Eastleigh in Febuary 2004.

Why is it that government is so remote from the people? A good example, local to me, can be found in the town of Eastleigh in Hampshire. In one of the biggest shows of protest ever seen locally, allotment holders in the town have been conducting a campaign to stop more than 500 homes being planted on their plots. In high-profile demonstrations, over 16,000 objections to development schemes from more than 5,000 people have been lodged against local plan policies affecting the sites yet still the Lib-Dems press on.
The local MP for the area, Chris Huhne, who happens to be Enviroment spokesman for his party does not want to get involved.
Last Thursday, Marian Hatt, 69, who has worked plots at the South Street allotment site in Eastleigh for more than 25 years, announced she is going take the issue to the High Court in a last ditch attempt to stop her plot being concreated over. Although she is being backed by the Eastleigh and Bishopstoke Allotments Association, her chances of success are at best slim. John Prescott had already rubber stamped the scheme.
Did the threat of court action lead to Eastleigh Borough Council reconsidering its decision? Of course not! As usual they responded with the news by issueing a statement that could at best be described as being one-sided. Noting that,"Fewer than 50 people now hold allotment tenancies on the site and many of these are not actively cultivated.” Keith House, the Council leader, did not feel the need to point out that the reason the allotments are in decline is that the council has banned anyone new from having an allotment on the site for the past three and a half years! Further, he doesn’t mention that the current waiting list for people now wanting an allotment now exceeds over 150 people in Eastleigh.
He goes on to say that there has been a long consultation period. There certainly has been with developers, builders and other Lib-Dem stakeholders. In contrast, the allotment holders throughout this sorry saga have been treated appallingly.
With the closure of the Manor Bakery site and Eastleigh Railway works releasing huge tracts of land for possible residential use, wouldn’t this be a good time for the Council to re-consider and save the allotments?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've not chosen a good example at all with the Eastleigh allotments. Its been an issue done to death by Tory and Labour candidates in Eastleigh Central ward (the ward in which Michael Howard is pictured) at local election time and each time the Lib Dems have won. This year with a better majority than ever. Why? Because they backed by local residents like myself.

12:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'they backed by local residents like myself'?

2:58 pm  
Blogger Matt Dean said...

First point, I don't like people who post abuse on others so lets have none of this 'idiot' stuff on here please. I have never liked the idea of using content moderation like some blogs but will do if required!
Anyway the issues; You are right anonymous, the Lib-Dems have done remarkably well in the town centre wards of Eastleigh, an area Labour used to consider its own. That said, I am very sorry that they will not reconsider over the allotments, it not only seems just totally the wrong decision but one that they could justifiably review as events have unexpectedly meant that huge other area of land have become avalible in and around Eastleigh town.

3:21 pm  
Blogger Dorothea said...

This seems to be a problem with our party-based system, where people get one vote which covers a huge range of diverse issues. There may be any number of reasons why people vote Lib Dem. They may like their overall policies, they may have one particular policy that Lib Dems have, but no other party does, they may have personal experience that the candidate has been very active and helped them or a friend or neighbour out, or sadly, they may even just think that candidate is the best looking!

I'd say the allotmenteers have done incredibly well to mobilise such a huge number of people to safeguard these allotments for future generations. It is a testament to how vital allotments are.

Furthermore, if this is a test case all allotment holders are threatened. We certainly don't need any more houses in the UK, there's enough under concrete as it is.

11:51 am  

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