David and Goliath allotments fight is going to the High Court
Campaigners fighting to stop their allotments being bulldozed for new school playing fields in Huddersfield have been granted a judicial review.
It is the latest twist in the David and Goliath battle between plotholders in Birkby and Kirklees Council.
The one-day case will be heard in the High Court in London between March 11 and April 17.
Tenants with plots at Cemetery Road Allotments in Birkby say the ruling is a landmark moment that could have national implications.
The application was filed by Jonathan Adamson, a plotholder and a member of Friends of Cemetery Road Allotments.
Senior Labour councillor Graham Turner said the matter was now a legal process and he could not comment further.
He did advise that the judicial review would not affect the construction of the new £9.7m school, which is expected to open in time for the September term.
Tenants have been offered new, alternative plots.
Campaigner Debby Fulgoni commented: “This is a brilliant result for us and could be a landmark case for allotment holders up and down the UK.”
The decision by the Honourable Mrs Justice Andrews comes just days after senior councillor Graham Turner said the council was not anticipating facing a judicial review.
Her letter warns the council not to develop the disputed land until the review is complete and adds: “The claimant appears to me to have a real prospect of persuading the court [that the allotments carry statutory status].”
Kirklees Council is building a 420-place primary school at Clare Hill in Edgerton. It intends turning tenants’ allotments at neighbouring Cemetery Road into playing fields.
The council says the land at Cemetery Road is designated as temporary allotments.
Campaigners reject that. They say the land would have been appropriated during the Second World War for allotment use and that that provision would have been made permanent in the 1950s.
That argument forms the basis of the tenants’ fight.
The campaigners have been backed by the National Allotment Society, which has been listed as an interested party along with Housing Secretary James Brokenshire.
Mrs Fulgoni added: “This is happening up and down the country.
“Councils are picking off allotments because they think they are easy targets. Then they can put the land in their land banks.
“Now our case is going through the proper process that it should have gone through from the start.
“The council knew that the court had ruled in our favour and that the judicial review was going ahead before Clr Turner made his comments last week. It should have been mentioned.
“The question that I am asking myself is why was he unaware?
“We are happy for the school to go ahead. We want the school. Our argument is that there is plenty of room for the playing fields elsewhere.
“We have previously repeatedly offered alternative suggestions but the council doesn’t want to know.
“If they succeed in taking the top section of our allotments they will eventually come for the rest.”