Row over plans to dig up London's oldest allotments in Ealing to build 'desperately-needed' social housing

A row has broken out over plans to dig up London’s oldest allotments to build "desperately needed" homes for vulnerable pensioners.

Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding the preservation of Northfield Allotments in Ealing, which date back to 1832.

Housing charity Pathways, which provides cut-price accommodation for elderly people across London, plans to develop 5 per cent of the site.

They want to build 15 new units on the land, but have promised no more future development.

However, campaigners believe “any proposed development of the site” should be rejected.

The petition, signed by over 3,000 people, states: “We recognise that housing is important, but so are green open spaces. It shouldn’t need to be a choice and there are alternative options that would allow Pathways to house its residents while leaving this historic site untouched by development.

“Ealing is already extremely built up. Once green space has been built on, it is lost to the community forever.”

Many local residents have backed the petition, describing the allotments as a "valuable community asset" and a "haven for people and for nature".

In April, the allotments were declared an ‘asset of community value’ by Ealing Council under the Localism Act 2011.

Ealing Central’s Labour MP Rupa Huq, who holds a slender majority over her Tory rival ahead of the election, has also backed the campaign.

She told the Standard: "For many people in Ealing the thought of losing green space, be it for housing or any other purpose, is deeply regrettable.

"I still believe that Pathways can achieve its objectives without needing to build on London’s oldest allotments and am urging the charity to consider other options."

Christina Fox, chairman of the Ealing Dean Allotment Society, added: "We recognise that there is a housing shortage in the capital, however this should not override the wider needs of local communities and the environment.

"Although a few people will benefit from the new houses, many more will suffer as a result of the irreversible loss of scarce green space.

"As such, we strongly urge Ealing Council's planning department to look beyond house-building targets and consider the wider impact of approving any application to build on this historical site."

However, Clive Wilson, Chief Executive of Pathways, argued the development was necessary due to a “desperate need for new affordable housing” and a waiting list of over 12,000 local people.

He said: “We’ve been part of the West Ealing community for over 200 years and the work that we do is changing the lives of older people, many of whom are threatened with homelessness.

"This development will allow us to do more, doubling the number of affordable homes we can offer.

“Pathways has consulted widely on our proposals and we continue to shape our plans guided by feedback from the community.

He added: "This development offers the chance to transform the lives of some of the borough’s poorest residents.”

One resident, Robin Simpson, told the Ealing Gazette his life had been "transformed" by Pathways' Ealing accommodation and that more was "sorely needed".

He said: "I think it's a brilliant scheme, which would help existing residents and others who desperately need a place to live."

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