Allotments which have provided joy to generations of gardeners could be lost under bulldozers as part of the post-Commonwealth Games masterplan for Perry Barr.
Campaigners are gearing up for a fight after learning the much loved 121-plot site, which forms a green oasis in Perry Barr, is being considered for development in the aftermath of the Games.
They had previously been assured the allotments were not in danger.
Today angry plot holders at Walsall Road Allotments said it would be “a travesty” if the site was lost. It has featured regularly on TV programmes and gardening shows as a world class example of a thriving community allotment.
Kate Millington, a special needs teacher, runs The Open Doors Project charity from her plot. She brings small groups of youngsters, many with special educational needs or from deprived parts of the city, to enjoy the outdoors in a safe and welcoming place.
“They learn about nature, take part in sensory activities, learn about planting and growing, and have experiences they are missing out on.
“Many don’t have gardens, or do not have the opportunity to be outdoors as much as other children.”
The group of young people, numbering up to 40, has been welcomed with open arms by the allotments community. “The other gardeners have been amazing. Some of the children we work with have behavioural issues, or can be a bit loud – but they have been absolutely wonderful. This is part of what makes it such a special place.”
She said: “We are absolutely appalled that the city council now intends to threaten these allotments. It sounds as if they want to put profit over people.
“It would be devastating to so many people who benefit from this wonderful place.”
The site is owned by Birmingham City Council and managed by a committee of volunteers. It has 121 plots which are managed by dozens of people from all walks of life – ranging in age from 24 to 85, of all cultures and religions.
A petition, launched by the allotments committee, has already topped 3,000 signatures, calling on Birmingham City Council to protect the allotments from the Games and from any post-Games developments.
Committee secretary Betty Farruggia said: “Walsall Road Allotments are a thriving, multi-cultural community of 100 gardeners in north Birmingham.
“We are considered by many to be one of the best allotment sites in the country and have appeared on many television programmes, including eight times on the BBC One Show and twice last year on BBC’s Gardeners World.
“We are under threat of closure because the 2022 Commonwealth Games are taking place in the same park where our allotments are situated. The Council are looking at a wider master plan for the site, and this includes the land occupied by the allotments. There is plenty of other land in the park which could be used instead of taking our allotments away.”
The petition also says the site cares for seven feral cats who would be homeless if the allotments were bulldozed.
Coun Jon Hunt, who represents Perry Barr, said alarm bells first rang when the Labour-led city council’s leader Coun Ian Ward told a residents’ meeting last month that the allotments might be earmarked for “a queueing system” during the Games, which could put them temporarily out of use.
“To now suggest the site could be at risk long term is a gross betrayal.
“Actions like this do nothing to enhance the reputation of the Games. The people of Perry Barr were prepared to put up with a lot but the council is rapidly losing support. The plans for the Perry Barr flyover, and now this, are shaking confidence and support.
“This wonderful allotments has been dug over for 100 years and is a real community asset.”
He added there had been previous discussions about putting a hotel on the allotment site that had come to nothing.
What the council says
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “A masterplan for the entire site is being developed and until that report is complete no decisions on any aspect of the site’s use will be taken.
“The masterplanning work carried out so far to explore the legacy for the rebuilt Alexander Stadium has identified a clear desire from Perry Barr community groups and residents for better community and leisure facilities.
“To deliver on these long-term wishes of the wider community, there will be a need to generate income to sustainably fund the facilities that people say that they want in their area.
“Initially it was not thought the allotments would be within the scope of this long-term plan, but more recently it has become clear through this masterplanning work that an alternative use for the land currently occupied by the Walsall Road Allotments could generate some of this vital income.
“We are already in discussions with representatives from the allotments. Users of any current facilities that may be impacted, or those in the vicinity, will have a key role to play in the consultation and decision-making process.”