A LARGE patch of land being cleared in Henley is for a new set of modern allotments and "absolutely not" for an illegal gipsy site, the owners told the Herald.
Nervous residents have watched while a 12.5-acre site at Buckley Green has been cleared by diggers, and the town has been agog with rumours that the fields are being prepared for a group of travellers.
This week the Herald tracked down the company, Allotment Plots Ltd, based in Hockley, Birmingham.
They say Henley has been chosen as the company’s “flagship site” for a new series of private allotments with a modern twist, due to go on sale on 1st September.
Warwickshire County Council’s gipsy officer confirmed yesterday an investigation had found no evidence linking the development to travellers.
However, residents are still suspicious the company is a front, and many have wider concerns over the plan to build on greenbelt land that is in the flood plain.
As well as 145 plots, the company want to install a club house and toilet block.
Depending on customer demand, in the future there could be a bowling green, picnic area, open barbecue, and children’s play area. On top of this, each person could have their own day cabin on their plot. Andy Harris, marketing manager at the company, said: “We are trying to bring the community back together.”
Although all of this is outlined on the company’s flashy website, residents remain sceptical.
Stacey Morgan, who lives near the site, in Birmingham Road, said: “I’m torn as it does seem an elaborate front, but then again it doesn’t take much to put up a basic website and it works well for hoodwinking the planners.”
He has written to Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi and the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, stressing his fears.
Others are worried that Allotment Plots Ltd is a front for a developer hoping to eventually build houses on the land, and some simply do not want anything built on the fields regularly used by dog-walkers.
Jim Sawle said: “Henley residents will fight any planning application by the landowner for inappropriate development of greenbelt land.”
The managing director of Allotment Plots, Patrick Johnson, is committed to his business idea.
Arguing allotment owners save on average £1,500 a year, he said: “Although local authorities are legally obliged to provide a sufficient number of allotment plots for all residents who request one, the national waiting list for a plot is currently over 100,000 and growing each year.”
The company are not worried about flooding, and said the site had flooded once in the past 100 years, in 2007.
Plot sizes at Buckley Green will range from 70 sq m up to 250 sq m and will be offered for sale or for rent. The company say plots will be released from 1st September.
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