Historic Newcastle allotments 'wiped clean of life'

Image source, Nigel Todd/Alice Massey
Image caption,
Campaigners say the site was given a clean bill of health for food growing in 2004

A pledge to restore allotments dating back to the 1890s in a "deprived" area has been broken, campaigners claim.

The 100-plot Nuns Moor site, in Fenham, was razed in 2015 amid toxic soil claims and vandal attacks.

The Freemen of Newcastle said the plots would be restored, but campaigners said they had been "wiped clean of life".

The Freemen, which has grazing rights on the land, has not commented, but Newcastle Council said it could do what it "deemed fit" with the land.

The council owns the 13-acre site between Barrack Road and Brighton Grove.

Image source, Kaleel Zibe
Image caption,
The Freeman of Newcastle own the grazing rights to the land

Local resident David Rochester said the contamination fears were "nonsense" and the site was given a clean bill of health by the Food Standards Agency for food growing in 2004.

He said it was a "deprived" area robbed of decades of growing food and a community place for exercise.

In 2016, spokesman for the Freemen David Wilson said the site would be cleared to create "a better-maintained site with more appropriately sized allotments".

Image source, Greening Wingrove
Image caption,
Community group Greening Wingrove said many of the plots were well kept before they were razed in 2015

However, there are now no plans to restore the land and it is currently being covered with 20,000 cubic metres of soil from a building site in Scotswood, which the council hopes will improve drainage on the land which prone to flooding.

Mr Rochester said: "It really upsets me that more than 100 plots are lost to future generations. Clearing the site involved heavy equipment which wiped it clean of life including nesting birds and bees.

"A tradition established in the 13th Century to allow Freemen to graze cows has now become so irrelevant in the 21st century that there needs to be a rethink."

Image source, David Rochester
Image caption,
The site is being covered in 20,000 cubic metres of soil which the council hopes it will improve drainage

Wingrove ward Labour councillor Nigel Todd said the Freemen had done a "U-turn" on its promise and urged them to reconsider returning some of the land.

Newcastle City Council said: "The council owns the Town Moor, however the Freemen have the herbage and grazing rights and have the right to use this land in the way that they deem fit."

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