Billesley Lane Allotments is owned by Moseley Golf Club who, at the end of a 50 year lease, wanted to evict the “allotmenters” and create a practice area. A long-fought battle ensued, involving a failed attempt by the Council to compulsorily purchase the land and a ‘compromise’ deal which saw the allotment holders keeping about a third of the land until 2018 and the rest of the land swiftly bulldozed by the Club.
Following this disappointment, the Golf Club put in a planning application last spring, which we countered with one of our own – to extend the allotments onto the Golf Club. This appeared in the local press on April 1st to much general amusement.
Anyway, the allotment holders, Birmingham Friends of the Earth and a sizeable public petition made our responses to the planning application, and awaited the Council’s decision. It was a long time coming, but we were delighted in September to see planning permission refused. It seems that the Council recognised that their Unitary Development Plan (UDP) carries a strong enough commitment to preserving allotments to merit refusal of planning permission. Significantly, one clause in particular stated that “planning permission will not be granted for the redevelopment of allotments simply because allotments have fallen out of use and become derelict.” This clause was actually put forward for inclusion in the UDP by Andy Pryke of Birmingham Friends of the Earth and saved our bacon (or marrow, perhaps).
This is an excellent small battle won in a long war and we are not counting our chickens just yet. The Club could still appeal, though the Council will have been mindful of this when making their decision, and the UDP was clear. But the land now lies vacant, a no man’s land inhabited only by escaped golf balls and a resident pheasant. We hope that negotiations will result in the land’s return to allotment use, and a permanent commitment to maintaining this.
We recently attended a wonderful Bonfire Night at the allotments. Homemade toffee, mulled wine and sixty-odd people stripped to their t-shirts around a blazing beacon of a fire. Around us, the last of the autumn’s crops lay amid newly dug plots under the heavy fog. We stayed and chatted and watched as the beacon reduced to a glowing pile of embers.
Billesley Lane Allotments and their community are well worth the fight… till the next chapter.