Change Alley

information, opinion, conversation

‘Olympic’ Allotments Bulldozer Threat

with 10 comments

I received an email from 10 Downing Street yesterday. A leaked memo from a source in the Cabinet Office? Not this time. Along with 7485 others, I signed an e-petition calling for the Prime Minister to “Incorporate rather than demolish Manor Garden Allotments within the 2012 Olympic site.” The email was Downing Street graciously informing me that they had issued their response.

For those who haven’t been following this story, Manor Garden is a 4.5 acre site in Hackney, East London, which has the misfortune to be in the middle of the master plan for the 2012 Olympics site. The gardens were established in 1900 by Major Arthur Villiers, director of Barings Bank and philanthropist, to provide small parcels of land for local people to grow vegetables. In keeping with the conditions of Villiers’ bequeathal that the allotments be maintained in perpetuity, the 80 individual plots have been tended for over a century by a tight-knit community. Many members belong to long-standing East End families, with some individuals present since the 1920’s. In the words of the e-petition:

“100 year old Manor Garden Allotments lies in the middle of the Olympic Park site. These beautiful, productive vegetable gardens are due to be demolished to make way for a four-week footpath during the 2012 Games despite the land being given in perpetuity. A campaign is underway to protect the allotments and encourage a more imaginative Olympic development which includes this special place with its healthy, green lifestyles and vibrant community.”

The 2012 Olympics are supposed to be the ‘greenest’ and most sustainable ever. In normal circumstances, sites like Manor Garden would be held up as a shining example of a local community resource with all the right boxes ticked: fresh air and exercise, biodiversity, local organic produce, low energy inputs, no food miles, the list goes on. The Government, however, has its colours firmly nailed to the Olympic mast and has rejected the petition.

Allotment sites are a precious resource. Manor Gardens is the product of over 100 years of hard work and dedication. To say that plot holders will be provided with new land is completely missing the point. All the work that has gone into soil improvement will be lost, as will all the social, historical and emotional connections that make allotment sites very special places, to say nothing of the amazing biodiversity on the site. All in the name of some ghastly, bloated, pointless global jamboree.


Written by Pete Smith

April 26, 2007 at 7:40 am

10 Responses

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  1. Oh what a bloody surprise. The Olympics of 2 weeks destroying local peoples livelihoods forever. I thought I was the only one that shook my head in disbelief when London got the Games of community destruction. Obviously not. Let me know if any direct action kicks off.


    April 26, 2007 at 9:33 am

  2. This is just so bloody frustrating! (Sorry for swearing again 😳 )

    How can our government so blatantly contradict itself like this and get away with it? Why does the government insist that it is going to lead the world in climate change action then refuse to co-operate on such a tiny and simple request? How hard can it be to work around this? It just needs a bit of imagination. I’m sure it must be possible to build pedestrianised pathways around the allotments. And maybe walkway bridges where neccessary. Could all be made into a nice feature and in keeping with the surroundings.

    You’re right Pete, the government is missing an ideal opportunity here to send a global message about local sustainability initiatives etc..


    April 26, 2007 at 1:41 pm

  3. Maybe we should ask for ‘allotment preparation & maintenance’ to be turned into an Olympic sport.


    April 26, 2007 at 2:59 pm

  4. Is that meant to be a joke? Have you got the slightest idea how much time and effort it takes to “prepare” an allotment plot?


    Pete Smith

    April 26, 2007 at 3:07 pm

  5. Earthpal you’re at it again! Put a penny in the swear box 😀

    There’s a number of issues here. Having presented the Olympics site as a blighted urban wasteland, a desperate program is going on to round-up hordes of endangered species from their nooks and crannies before they get bulldozed.,,2057578,00.html
    The government/Olympic Committee/whoever promised the plotholders that a new site of equivalent quality and size would be provided. The latest planning application for the new site is for only 64 plots instead of 80. A 20% reduction in space at a time when demand for allotments is soaring.
    I suspect that the last thing the ‘authorities’ want in the middle of their sparkling 21st Century Olympic Park is 4.5 acres of third world agriculture. There wasn’t a hope in hell of them changing their minds.

    Pete Smith

    April 26, 2007 at 4:53 pm

  6. Pete, you know me, I’m always serious. 🙂


    April 26, 2007 at 7:57 pm

  7. 😎

    Pete Smith

    April 26, 2007 at 7:59 pm

  8. Pete, this from ;

    ‘I got a letter back from Clarence House thanking me for “bringing the plight (of Manor Garden Allotments) to Hrh’s attention”, written doubtless by a minion and more than likely consigned to the trash recycling bin shortly thereafter.

    However, I note with great satisfaction that the matter is now going to court in a legal action supported by Friends of the Earth and that the closure date has been postponed until July and hopefully it will be put off forever and ever and ever, amen.’

    If true, it looks like FOE are picking up the cost of a legal challenge.


    April 27, 2007 at 6:38 am

  9. Yes, the legal action was announced at the end of March. However, its aim is not to prevent the destruction of the Manor Garden site:

    “Since the LDA have, so far, failed to find anywhere to relocate Manor Gardening Society to during the Olympic development, the Society have started Legal Action, supported by Friends of the Earth.”

    The support offered by FoE is unlikely to include legal costs. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to discover more details of the legal action. If anyone has information on this, could you please post it here?

    Pete Smith

    April 27, 2007 at 7:57 am

  10. […] month, The Coffee House reported on the plight of Manor Garden Allotments (‘Olympic’ Allotments Bulldozer Threat). With their century-old site due to be erased by construction work for the 2012 London Olympics, […]

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