Council stopped from bulldozing Huddersfield allotments – thanks to their own records from 85 years ago

Council plan to bulldoze allotments stopped – thanks to their own records from 85 years ago

Kirklees wanted to make way for a school but campaigners fought the plan – and have won a High Court battle

https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/council-plan-bulldoze-allotments-stopped-16252125

Tenants of Cemetery Road Allotments, in Huddersfield, with supporters from the National Allotment Society, at the High Court in Leeds for a judicial review into Kirklees Councils plan to take their plots as part of plans for a new primary school.

A battling allotment holder has scored a High Court triumph in his fight to stop Kirklees Council taking over his prized plots for construction of a new primary school.

Jonathan Adamson, who cultivates four plots at the Cemetery Road allotments in Birkby , was served with notice to quit by the metropolitan borough council in September last year.

He was told his plots were needed to provide playing fields and car parking space for the primary school, on which work is due to start imminently.

Mr Adamson supports the new school, but wants the plans reconfigured so as to spare his allotments, London’s High Court heard.

Although he and other allotment holders have been offered alternative plots, they are “not satisfied” with them, said top judge, Mr Justice Kerr.

Mr Adamson argued in person that he could not be deprived of his plots without permission from Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire.

Debby Fulgoni and Isaac Romain , plot holders on the Cemetery Road Allotments, which are under threat from building proposals
Debby Fulgoni and Isaac Romain , plot holders on the Cemetery Road Allotments 

The council fought his judicial review challenge tooth and nail – but now Mr Adamson has been handed a stunning victory by the judge.

The council’s September 2018 decision to “appropriate” the allotments for education purposes was overturned.

And Mr Adamson, together with 13 other allotment holders who supported him, had their notices to quit quashed.

An aerial view of Birkby from 1949 showing allotment space. The pink areas have since been lost to housing. The yellow area indicates the size of the current allotment site at Cemetery Road.

The judge’s ruling involved an in-depth survey of the history of allotments in Huddersfield going back to 1920, long before the council came into existence.

It was in that year that an Act of Parliament authorised the council’s predecessor, the Huddersfield Corporation, to purchase the Ramsden Estate – of which the allotments now form part – for £1.36 million, payable over 80 years.

The council denied that the Corporation had ever formally appropriated the land for use as allotments and that the Secretary of State’s consent was therefore not required.

But, after analysing Corporation minutes going back decades, Mr Justice Kerr found that it had done just that when the land was “zoned for allotments” at a meeting in 1935.

The allotments had been described as “permanent” at the time and the Corporation had directed that local maps be amended to show them.

Cemetery Road Allotments, Birkby.
Cemetery Road Allotments, Birkby. (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)

The allotment holders therefore had “security of tenure” and, under the Allotments Act 1925, they could not be stripped of their plots without the Secretary of State’s say so.

The judge rejected council arguments that Mr Adamson had delayed too long in bringing his case to court.

And Kirklees’s plea that Mr Brokenshire was “highly likely” to approve the appropriation of the allotments for the new school also fell on fallow ground.

The judge paid tribute to the “skill and courtesy” with which Mr Adamson presented his case and ordered the council to pay his legal costs – which came to £12,199.

Kirklees Council said it was “disappointed” with the decision.

They added: “A new primary school is needed in this area to meet the demands for places.

“As a council we’re committed to ensuring all children in Kirklees have access to the same high standard of education. This school is an important part of this.

“This decision will delay us in providing the new school local children deserve.

“We will be presenting additional information to the judge and hope this decision will be reviewed. We will also be seeking permission from the Secretary of State to proceed with the development following this decision.

“Allotments are part of our local communities and it’s important that we have enough spaces for those that want them.

“The amount of unused space on this site means that it is possible to have both a fantastic new school and a vibrant allotment site.

“Affected allotment plot holders were offered new plots in the same allotment where work has been done to bring them up to a very high standard with new paths, edging, and access to water, so tenants can get straight into the art of growing.”

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