A HUNDRED demonstrators bearing boxes of home-grown fruit, vegetables and flowers chanted “give peas a chance” outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London yesterday, as a legal challenge described as “a litmus test for the protection of the country’s allotments” was launched.
A group of allotment holders are challenging a ruling by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles allowing Watford Borough Council to build houses on area that has been cultivated by local people since Victorian times.
High Court judge Mr Justice Ouseley was asked to rule Mr Pickles on whether had made a legally flawed decision by granting permission for the development, arguing that allotments are protected by law.
Jason Coppel QC, representing those who tend the Farm Terrace plots, told the judge the case was important not just for the Watford gardeners but the dwindling number of allotments around the country. Last year the High Court quashed an earlier decision to grant consent for the development, part of the £250 million Watford health campus, but in December Mr Pickles gave the go-ahead for a second time.
Permission was granted on the basis of local council evidence that, without appropriation of the allotments, the campus scheme would not be economically viable, but, he said, that had “fallen away” and there was now compelling evidence to show the project would go ahead with, or without, the allotments.
Government lawyers are arguing Mr Pickles was not misled and reached “an entirely rational judgment” that remained lawful and fair despite developments that post-dated his decision.