Wheat field land for allotments

[Beds & Herts Tuesday Telegraph: May 13th, 1919]

Allotment holders put down £1,600 in ready cash a few days ago as one of the important steps towards getting allotments where they will be permanently secure.

This is, however, only one of the very interesting steps which have been taken in connection with the offer made by Alderman Wilkinson a week or two ago to sell to allotment holders a field in the Beech Hill district which is very suitable for gardening purposes and on which, subject to certain conditions being agreed to, Alderman Wilkinson put what must be regarded as an exceptionally moderate price.

The offer was made just after it became known that, as the result of the prospective settlement of some new engineering works in the Dallow Road district, a considerable number of the people who, during war time, had converted a large area of ground into flourishing gardens but would shortly be liable to displacement.

There was then a big feeling that some steps should be taken to get land where those who cultivated it would have some reasonable prospect of security of tenure, and at an opportune time this offer was made by Alderman Wilkinson. While negotiations were in their early stages it was not considered desirable to disclose very many details about the scheme, but now that everything is practically complete we are in a position to publish the details of a very interesting scheme, and one of which we have not at present heard a parallel.

The land which is the subject of the scheme is at present a wheat field, at the top of Selbourne Road. The number of plots it will provide cannot be definitely stated, as an accurate survey has yet to be made, but the area is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 28 acres.

It is a condition of the purchase that it shall be used for allotments only for a period of 20 years, after which, in order the purchasers must have the fullest advantage of the scheme, the allotment stipulation will cease to operate, and the owners may use their plots for building purposes if they so desire.

The Allotment Federation were first concerned with the negotiations, and drew up a general scheme of disposal. Now it is entering in the hands of the particular persons who are to be the purchasers of this ground, and they have their own committee, of which Mr Sidney Farr is chairman, Mr Knight secretary and Mr J. W. Tomlinson (Borough Engineer) the treasurer.

Applications for plots were received from all over the town, but in making the allotment a certain number of plots have been held in reserve. The object of this is to prevent disappointing people by over-allotting.

As we have stated, the ground has yet to be surveyed, and the committee consider it unwise to to allot up to the full expected capacity, in case at a later date they found they have not sufficient plots available to meet their obligations.

Approximately, however, there will be 180 plots, which will in 20 poles, exclusive of land laid out as roadways. It is intended in view of the ultimate possibility of using it as a housing area to lay this little estate out on town planning lines. Some of the existing public roads will be continued through the area. Other roads will be planned for future development, and left for the present as grass roads through the allotments. Then the 20 pole plots will be laid out, and each plot will be purchased outright by the occupier. With the exception of a very few they will have road frontages.

As a result, we have the prospect in years to come of a little garden city of eight houses only to the acre, which is somewhat in advance of what even the Luton housing scheme contemplates.

An essential feature of the scheme is that the largest number of individual owners are to be got into the estate. Accordingly, no purchaser may become the owner of more than one 20-pole plot. This does not prohibit a man purchasing a plot for himself and another for a son or daughter, but it does not bar a man and his wife each buying a plot, and it is laid down that any purchaser who may wish later on to dispose of his plot may not sell to another who is already a plot owner.

The financial arrangements provide for the purchase money to be payable in three instalments if desired. One third is payable now, the second instalment in a year's time and the third in two years time.

We gather that, including the cost of the land which will be devoted to roadways, each purchaser will get a net 20-pole plot for somewhere around £25, including legal expenses, so it must be considered they are being dealt with fairly generously. That they think so is obvious from the enthusiasm with which the scheme has been taken up. Possession of the land will be given at Michaelmas.

Admirable, however, as this scheme is, it still leaves unprovided for those working men who have not the money to lay down for the purchase of land even on these favourable terms, and who will be wanting land next year. On their behalf the Town Council will probably be again urged to provide additional land for allotments.