The background Earlier this year St Albans District Council revealed its intention to revitalize certain sections of the River Ver and the Verulamium lakes in conjunction with the Environment Agency, Affinity Water and Hertfordshire County Council’s Countryside Management Service. The project would include re-routing the course of the river through the Cottonmill allotment site and widening paths through parts of Nunnery 1. Letters received by the affected plot holders indicated that they would be offered alternative plots on other sites and they were invited to a drop-in session in March to learn more. As this meeting was not open to all CNAA plot holders, in April an open meeting was held to gather views from allotment holders, who were overwhelmingly in support of pressing for more information. Since then the CNAA has contacted: St Albans District Council and the Environment Agency to ask for greater clarification, the National Allotment Society for advice and support, the Ver Valley Society, individual councillors, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, Affinity Water for information on water abstraction plans, and the Herts Advertiser where our letter was printed in full. As a result, a face-to-face meeting with St Albans District Council and Environment Agency representatives followed when they restated the case they made at the drop-in session in March. What is now clear however is that proposals are in a much earlier stage of development than we previously realised.
Where we go from here As yet CNAA is still not satisfied with the information being provided by St Albans District Council or the Environment Agency in support of their proposals. Their assertion that a reduction in water abstraction will cause more frequent groundwater flooding making the allotments unsustainable does not satisfy the committee as being correct. No cost-benefit analysis has so far been published by them.
The CNAA will continue to press for clear answers. We are in touch with other bodies on this matter, including the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, the Watercress Wildlife Association, and universities. If it becomes necessary, we will engage with the relevant government departments. More immediately we are challenging St Albans District Council’s decision to close allotment waiting lists, which we feel is premature and unhelpful.