Beds, Herts & Bucks

Second Watford allotment challenge 'risks health campus plan'

Farm Terrace allotments Image copyright Google
Image caption The Farm Terrace allotments have been used by residents in west Watford since 1896

If a legal fight by a group opposed to building a new health campus on 118-year-old allotments continues it will put the whole plan at risk, a council has said.

The Save Farm Terrace Allotment group has asked for a judicial review into a decision to allow land behind Watford Football Club to be developed.

Campaigners say the historic allotments could be part of the plan.

Mayor Dorothy Thornhill said that would lead to an "inferior scheme".

Developers behind the Watford Health Campus project on a 30-hectare site say it is designed to regenerate land between the club and the hospital.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust plans to move key clinics and some surgery there from other parts of the county.

The overall scheme would include shops, a school, new homes and affordable housing, Watford Borough Council said.

Allotment holders won an appeal against the council's first plan last August, when Communities Secretary Eric Pickles reversed his original decision to grant permission to close the allotments.

But this was overturned in December, when a revised scheme was accepted by Mr Pickles.

'Stay green'

Sara Jane Trebar from the campaign group said it was challenging this decision on the grounds the secretary of state was "misled" about the allotment land being "critical to the viability of the project".

It believes the allotments could be included "without risking the development".

"The allotments have supported communities throughout centuries and it is very important it stays the green land that it is," she said.

Elected Liberal Democrat mayor Ms Thornhill said the decision to include the allotments in the development area had been taken with "regret and sadness" but the area contributed to the health campus project's "viability".

"[Experts told us] if you want the quality scheme you want, if you want the best shot for the hospital to stay in Watford in the future then we have to include the allotments," she said.

"[If not] it actually means there is a financial risk to the scheme and we would then lose the ability to give the hospital the flexibility it needs to plan its future," she said.

"You would have a completely inferior scheme."

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