OPINION: Tarporley’s disappearing heritage

On the 5th April, all allotment plot holders were desperately disappointed to receive a legal “Notice to Quit” from the landowner. Decades of gardening and communal activities will be ended as a result of the ambitions of developer Mike Mattocks of Enlighten Developments (Tarporley) Ltd (EDT). While Mr Mattocks has stated that he is “working hard [to] relocate the allotments to an alternative site”, there has been no progress since EDT became the legal owner of the old Royal British Legion site in September 2015. One totally unsuitable site for new allotments was proposed last year and since then, no alternative proposals have been floated by EDT. This possibly reflects the difficulty in finding a green field site in Tarporley that hasn’t already been earmarked for housing development.

Since the 1990s, the demand for allotments has been steadily growing as fashionable interests in green issues, food miles and organic production have flourished. It’s now estimated that nationally there are approximately 330,000 allotment plots with a need for a further 90,000 to satisfy those on waiting lists (NSALG website). While the disappearance of Tarporley’s 39 plots will be but a drop in the ocean nationally, their loss will be keenly felt locally. The high demand for plots in Tarporley is still present as the current waiting list testifies; and over 1,400 signatories to the petitions against developments show overwhelming support. In addition, Tarporley’s emerging Neighbourhood Plan designates the allotments and bowls land as Protected Green Spaces. Despite all, plot holders will be turfed off their cherished plots by April 2017.

The loss of Tarporley’s allotments represents a significant blow to the whole village, not just to the plot holders. The allotments are a place of green tranquillity where all are welcome to stroll and chat to plot holders. Thanks to wildlife-friendly practices, the allotments are a haven for birds and insects such as bees and butterflies. Tarporley Allotment Holders have been at the heart of village activities for decades raising funds for local charities such as Tarporley’s War Memorial Hospital. All this will cease from April 2017 in the name of “progress”. Should EDT be successful in its bid to develop this part of the village, much of it will disappear under bricks, mortar and tarmac. What is now special and valuable, will become mundane and commonplace. Tarporley’s unique heritage is, regrettably, disappearing fast.

So, let’s all turn out to vote “yes” in the referendum on the Neighbourhood Plan on 5th May.  Then we can make sure that even though we will be evicted from our plots they will never be built upon. This could even persuade the developer to let the village use them again for their historic purpose.