Virtual Beating of the Bounds: 🥀Stop 8

We’re continuing our virtual version of Beating the Bounds on Leyton Marshes, compiled for those that couldn’t take part in person on Rogation Sunday.

Map of Beating of the Bounds route 2021

From Stop 7, we’ve followed the route around the outskirts of the former Pitch & Putt course – the Waterworks Meadow, crossed the Orient Way footbridge and walked down Orient Way to Stop 8. Here’s the clue:

Allotments once at Manor Gardens stood,
But then in twenty-twelve Olympics came.
They shoved them here, so now this neighbourhood
Has less green space: disgraceful, evil, shame!

The language here is strong – but if you learn about the history here, you may feel the same way:

🥀  Manor Garden Allotments

Manor Garden Allotments were established in 1924 by Major Arthur Villiers, philanthropist and director of Barings Bank, to provide small parcels of land for local people in that deprived area to grow vegetables. In keeping with conditions of Villiers’ bequeathal that the allotments be maintained in perpetuity, the 80 individual plots were tended for over a century by a tight-knit community. Many members belonged to long-standing East End families, with some individuals present since the 1920s.

Allotment plot 4 by Martin Slavin

The allotment gardens occupied 4.5 acres between the River Lea and the Channelsea River in Hackney Wick until they were demolished to make way for the Olympic site in the autumn of 2007.

Manor Garden Allotments being demolished, 2007

The London Development Agency (LDA) were committed, both by planning condition and commitments made during the Compulsory Purchase Order process, to provide an alternative site to relocate the plot-holders to before development work commenced and the plots demolished.

The LDA claimed Marsh Lane Fields was the only possible location, but organising the construction was chaotic and delayed. Waltham Forest Council then refused planning permission, leaving no time to revise the plans and reapply and if successful, construct the replacement allotments prior to the scheduled start of the Olympic construction work. They then sought to renege on their obligations and and evict the plot-holders with no guarantee of when or if the replacement site would be available. 

The Manor Garden Allotments had to apply to the High Court for Judicial Review with the help of the Environmental Law Foundation. Only in the face of this did the LDA agree to arrange for the remaining plot-holders  to continue to have access by special minibus to their allotments, now marooned within the secured Olympic construction site, until the Marsh Lane site was completed. 

Len & Mary Loft survey their allotment, destroyed for a footpath through the Olympic site

After having much of their equipment trashed by LDA contractors or stolen, the allotments were finally relocated here to Marsh Lane Fields, now renamed Leyton Jubilee Park, after an appeal against the original refusal of planning permission was successful.  The site was waterlogged and badly prepared.

Waterlogged new site at Marsh Lane Fields

The planning permission was granted by Waltham Forest Council on the strict condition that this was to be a temporary relocation and the allotments were to return to the Olympic Park. Not all the allotments mind you. The LDA refused to treat the allotments as a society, which it was, only agreeing to the return of those individual allotment holders who had moved from the original site.

Demonstration against the closure of Manor Garden Allotments

This first plan was then revised so that the allotments would be divided between two sites, one next to the Eton Manor Sports Complex, land also originally bought by Villiers and other philanthropists for the Eton Manor Sports Club, the other on the south of the Olympic Park at Pudding Mill, south of the mainline from Liverpool Street next to the City Mill River.

Pudding Mill Lane allotments

However, Waltham Forest and the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) then objected to this plan to return the allotments to Eton Manor even though the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) should have been bound by a planning decision to do this. Waltham Forest and the LVRPA concocted an agreement to overturn that decision with the connivance of the LLDC. Waltham Forest Council granted permission for a permanent site at Jubilee Park while the LLDC changed the use of the site at Eton Manor to make it into a general amenity and recreation space, which has remained unused ever since.

Closed forever: Manor Garden Allotments, gifted in perpetuity to people of the East End

The LVRPA had only received the allotments land as part of a gift from the Villiers Trust on condition they hosted the allotments. The allotments were effectively evicted twice and the LVRPA took control of land it had no right to without the presence of allotments.

LLDC document outlining the objections to the re-location of the allotments

The New Lammas Lands Defence Committee had campaigned fiercely to retain the open space at Marsh Lane and only accepted the allotments on the basis that they would be temporary but, as many predicted, once established the allotments were never removed after the Olympics. 

Marsh Lane Fields by kland

Not only was open space lost but promised environmental measures to screen the allotments have never been carried out. Jubilee Park will also now suffer far worse visual impacts from towers being built on the site of the former Gas Works and in the vicinity.

Lea Bridge Gas Works and other industry in the 1952

You can read more about the very sorry tale of the destruction of the Manor Garden Allotments on Games Monitor

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