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Manor Gardens Remembered

March 10, 2011

Manor Gardens is a desperately sad story – 80 plot-holders have a compulsory purchase order served on their allotments by the Olympic Delivery Authority and are forcibly relocated to new sites. Many of the allotments are tended to by old men who are too old to start again. A spirited campaign is fought, driven by a savvy lobbyist allotment holder (the only woman on the allotment committee) but in 2007 the bulldozers move in. If you can get hold of it, the story is well told in the BBC 2 programme ‘The Last Stand at Stratford’.

The story jars with the promised Green Games. It also serves as a strong reminder that the Lower Lea Valley did exist before the Olympic Park and, contrary to the received wisdom that this was a wasteland, there was life here and there were people.

On Monday Jake and I went to visit one of the plot-holders who was evicted from Manor Gardens in 2007. We watched the BBC 2 documentary with her and she showed us pictures of her old allotment; a wonderful lush, cosy, sprawling blend of intended and wild growth, fold-out chairs and cups of tea, and the new site in Leyton – a barren stretch of ploughed-up earth under pylons. She wishes she still had her old allotment but doesn’t know whether she will go back to start all over again, again, at the new site the OPLC are supposed to lay on 2014.

The injustice of the Manor Gardens story is in the indignity. Development in cities will always cause conflicts of interest – I often think of the vast swathes of residential North London that had to be cleared to build the lines out of Euston, Kings Cross and St Pancras. But it’s how these conflicts are dealt with which are telling. For everything that the allotment holders have now they have had to fight – their compensation (raised from £300 to £800 per plot holder), the right to remain in the summer of 2007 while their relocation was delayed, the promise to return them to the new site… She told us one horror story about a functional plot nearly being bulldozed because it had the wrong colored tape around it.  There’s no question that this was development done to people, rather than development done with them.

I suppose the prevailing line of thought here is that ‘ if you want to make an omelette, you have to make some eggs’. But really, what a dreadful metaphor – you don’t don’t have to break anything if you want to bake a loaf of bread.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Eve permalink
    March 11, 2011 5:53 pm

    Very sad – I saw a lot of similar stories living in Liverpool in their run up to becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2008 – lots of exciting things happening for the city, but also many tragic tales of displacement and loss of history and heritage for the people living in the areas that were either developed or demolished.

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