Labour council threatens to turf green-fingered pensioners off allotments that have been used in Welsh village for 100 years - so they can expand nearby primary school

1 month ago
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Angry allotment holders are digging in over a Labour council threat to turf them out - and now face a legal challenge to evict them from their vegetable patches.

The green-fingered growers are refusing to lose the plot in the pitched battle because they say promises of a replacement allotment site are yet to blossom.

The Labour-run council wants to seize allotments used for more than 100 years in the village of Kenfig Hill, near Bridgend, South Wales, to extend a neighbouring primary school.

Members of the allotment said they're happy to move to a new allotment and want the school to go ahead - but claim they've received minimal communication from the council.

The council has since extended the deadline to March 11 - and says it will take court action if they don't leave.

Allotment holders in Kenfig Hill village. From left to right: Nigel Harris, Brian Smith, Enid Smith, Terry Smith, David Gore and Paul Clanfield. The green-fingered growers are refusing to lose the plot because they say promises of a replacement allotment site are yet to blossom

The allotments in Kenfig Hill with the neighboring primary school behind them.  The Labour run Bridgend Council want to use the land to extend the primary school 

Bridgend Council's plans for the redevelopment of the site. The council has given the plot holders until March 11 to leave or it will take court action

David Gore, 66, has been at the allotment for the last 33 years and has about 200 pigeons on the grounds

Paul Clanfield, 51, and his wife Karen Davies, 49, have had their plot for 20 years and the allotment has become a hobby for the pair.

He said the space is used by pensioners to help subsidies their food bills and used by veterans as 'a safe space.'

He added: 'My wife also uses it for her mental health. It's a place you can come and forget about your worries and get on with what you're doing and talk to the community that's up here.'

Karen is the keen gardener, while Paul does most of the digging and heavy lifting, but they've enjoyed taking their hand to growing the classics and exotic produce such as chickpeas, aubergines and sweet potatoes - which can be expensive in the supermarkets.

He said: 'Sometimes we can go a whole summer or autumn without having to pay for a tomato - which can be quite expensive at certain times in the year.'

But most of their crops will now have to be dug up with the new deadline set at 'such short notice.'

He said they've had poor communication from the council about the next steps in them moving to the new allotment - which the group are worried they might not ever get.

He added: 'They're the ones [the council] who want us to move, but they're doing nothing to assist this. They serve the local community - the people on these plots are the local community, that they are now not serving by not communicating with us.'

'Our standpoint is that we've paid for the year until September 2024 in good faith, and if there's a need necessary and they've ensured there's a provision of plots for us, then we'll move so that the school can be continued with,' he added.

'As far as we're concerned, we were given an invoice post that letter [issued by the council in September 2023] which as far as we're concerned it legally means we're licensed to work on this plot until September 2024.'

The growers share the rent of £35 a year for the 26 plots on the allotment.

David Gore, 66, has been at the allotment for the last 33 years and has about 200 pigeons on the grounds.

He's been a pigeon fancier for the last 50 years and is concerned what he will do with his birds as the new shed promised by the council isn't ready for them to move into.

He said: 'I've been at the allotment for 33 years and we were given the eviction notice to be out of here by March 11 - well, what am I going to do with the pigeons?

'I race here and I gave them a list when I start breading and at the moment they have youngsters there and racing starts in April, right until October.'

David said the birds can't be moved until the new loft is installed as he has nowhere else to house them.

Bryan Smith, 72, helps David look after his birds and has been coming to the allotment for over 20 years 'to escape and for peace and quiet.'

The retired hairdresser used to have a big plot here, but now has two greenhouses where he grows tomatoes.

Paul Clanfield (pictured) has had a plot with his wife, Karen Davies, for 20 years. He said the space is used by pensioners to help subsidies their food bills and used by veterans as 'a safe space'

Nigel Harris (pictured) enjoys using the allotments to wind down after a days work but the uncertainty of the move has caused frustration and anxiety

Terry and Enid Smith (pictured). Enid is the allotment group chairwoman and according to her husband they spend up to 10 hours a day tending to their greenhouse  

Allotment group chairwoman Enid Smith, 72, and her husband Terry Smith, 70, have been at the allotment for the last 12 years.

The retired steel worker said that they have to dismantle their five green houses - take the glass out - and sheds, and store it for a year or longer.

But Terry says they have nowhere to store it and have not heard anything about this from the council since November.

The pensioners came to the allotment to have something to do after retirement and keep them busy and part off the community.

They spend up to 10 hours a day tending to their greenhouses, 'nearly living up here,' said Terry. 'We don't want to go on holiday - we just want to come here.'

He added: 'I can't sleep at night now, thinking about it - I'll have nothing to do.'

Enid previously said: 'We haven't been told anything about the dates they want us to leave.

'We were told that a new allotment site would be created for us to go on to before any of the construction of the school started, and we were shown the plans, but nothing has been done yet.

'It's going to take them a while to build a track up to the site and then build the new allotments. A barrier has been put up at the bottom of the lane but even that has been left open so at the moment we just don't know.'

The group is confused as to why they must move in March when they believe nothing can be done to the land until planning is approved.

Officials say they told plot-holders they must be gone from the site by the end of September last year but the growers dispute this and said they've paid to be there until September 2024.

A spokesperson for Bridgend Council said: 'The council is carrying out the action after users of the current allotments, which are located on council-owned land behind Pwllygath Street in Kenfig Hill, did not comply with a previous legal notice asking them to vacate the site by September 29, 2023.

'As this date has now passed, the council is issuing a further legal notice ahead of potential court action informing the plot holders that the site must be vacated by March 11, 2024.'

Care worker Nigel Harris, 56, said the plot he had held for over three years offered him a place to unwind after work, but the uncertainty of the move has caused frustration and anxiety.

He's put a lot of time and money into his allotment, which has helped massively in light of the cost-of-living crisis and shared his crops with his friends and family.

He said: 'This is a benefit to us - our food bills have halved.'

'If we're lucky, we might only lose a season or we might lose three years by the time they've finished the school - or it's a possibility that we might not have (the new allotments promised) at all.

'But it's the not knowing - we can understand that they can't put a time limit on the buildings, but why are the grounds empty when there's nothing going on?'

Nigel isn't against the school development and understands why it's being done, but the allotment and community they've built means a lot to him.

Pictured from left to right: David Gore, Terry Smith, Enid Smith, Paul Clanfield, Nigel Harris and Brian Smith. Officials say they told plot-holders they must be gone from the site by the end of September last year but the growers dispute this and said they've paid to be there until September 2024

The primary school with the allotments in the background. A spokesperson for Bridgend Council said: 'The council is carrying out the action after users of the current allotments, which are located on council-owned land behind Pwllygath Street in Kenfig Hill, did not comply with a previous legal notice asking them to vacate the site by September 29, 2023

'I see all sorts in life, and coming up here, I leave all that behind and have something to focus on,' he said.

'We've always been gardeners in the family - my dad was a gardeners - and when I'm working in the soil and planting seeds in - my father has passed away now - [but] I can always hear my father in my ear telling me what to do.

'So I feel really close to my father when I'm planting stuff - to lose that would be a tragedy to me - it would be awful.'

Having moved from one village in the valleys to Kenfig Hill, he added: 'Starting an allotment, I feel closer to the community and part of the community.'

Deputy leader of Bridgend Council, Jane Gebbie, said the threat of a legal notice was a last resort.

She said: 'This is all about providing the people of Kenfig Hill with new facilities, not taking away existing ones.

'We know that the current allotments have been in place for a long time and appreciate that the transition period will cause some unavoidable short-term inconvenience, but you only have to look at the illustration for the new allotment site to know that this is going to be a high quality, permanent community facility which will be fully equipped to meet the plot holders' needs.

'At the same time, moving the allotment site a relatively short distance will ensure that we can provide the community of Kenfig Hill with a fantastic modern primary school and nursery, and that local children will be able to benefit from the very best start in life that we can provide.

'We have previously asked the allotment holders to work alongside us on the delivery of these plans. Since 2021, we have held numerous meetings, have answered all questions put before us, and have discussed the proposals in close detail.

'We have demonstrated how the new allotment site will continue to be locally based, have outlined what sort of new facilities they can expect, and have shared details on the ecology and traffic reports, the time line for the required works, the site layout, the lease arrangements and much more.

'The fact that we are now having to reluctantly issue a further legal notice is hugely disappointing as such action has always been viewed as a last resort.

'We cannot allow these plans to be delayed any longer, not when they represent such significant benefit for the whole community.'

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