St Albans allotment waiting lists reopened amid plot holder backlash

A Cottonmill allotment. Picture: Danny Loo

A Cottonmill allotment. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Council officers have performed a U-turn over the decision to suspend waiting lists for allotments.

Four allotment site waiting lists, including in Cottonmill, were suspended by St Albans district council (SADC) - this means no more hopeful plot holders can join.

SADC said it was because Affinity Water were planning to abstract less water from the land, creating a flood risk, but the Cottonmill and Nunnery Allotment Association (CNAA) believe it is linked to the Revitalising the RiVer scheme.

SADC is currently working on the revitalising project in order to clean up water in Verulamium Lake by rerouting the River Ver back on its natural path.

However, its original passage lays directly over the Cottonmill allotment site and some 120 plot holders will be forced to move.

CNAA Chairman Keith Reynolds said: “It seems with the waiting list closure, and attempts to cajole tenants to move to other sites, that there was a campaign to degenerate the Cottonmill site, making it an easy target for closure.”

SADC said since Affinity’s initiative has now been pushed back to 2025 rather than 2020, the waiting list was reopened.

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The CNAA released the following statement: “Why is it acceptable to risk losing forever the rich and unique biodiversity promoted by the Cottonmill allotments, which is a function of both years of cultivation and current land use? This will be lost to this part of St Albans if the site is closed and cannot be easily recreated on a new site, if at all.”

Revitalise the RiVer was proposed by SADC in partnership with the Environment Agency (EA), Affinity Water, and Herts county council’s countryside management services. It is hoped narrowing river banks will speed water flow downstream, which supplies Verulamium Lake.

Portfolio holder for the environment at SADC, Cllr Frances Leonard, said: “[Reducing the water abstraction] would have meant the Cottonmill site would be more prone to flooding, putting many of its plots under threat.

“In view of this, we wanted to give tenants the option of relocating to one of the other nearby sites, so we suspended the waiting lists to plan for that.”

She added that SADC work closely with allotment holders: “We understand that the prospect of relocating to a different plot or site can be upsetting, especially for those allotment holders who have had their plot many years.”