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Tessa Jowell - Joan of Arc of the Allotments?

This article has been modified on receipt of further information.

London's failed Olympic Legacy creates strange bedfellows. It seems London2012's scandalous allotments' legacy, which has been totally ignored up to now by politicians and journalists, has scandalised former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, who has weighed in accusing the London Legacy Development Corporation and the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority of breaking the promise made to the Manor Gardens Allotment Society.

In a letter dated 25th March 2014 sent to Dennis Hone, CEO of the LLDC, and copied to Shaun Dawson, CEO of the LVRPA, Martin Esom, CEO of Waltham Forest Council, and Phillip Lewis, Chair of the LLDC Planning Committee, she points out that the Manor Gardens Society 'co-operated' with London2012 following 'assurances' that 're-provision would be made within the Olympic Park'. This had resulted in a decision to create two sites at 'Eton Manor and the southern areas of the park'. However, the decision by the LLDC on 25th February 2014 to agree an application by Waltham Forest, supported by the LVRPA, to create 'community landscaping' in place of the allotments at Eton Manor means:

'the MSG members have had the commitment to them broken. It was the responsibility of the planning committee to ensure that the promise made is met.'

Tessa also points out that the 'temporary' allotments created at Marsh Lane Fields to accommodate the MGS will become a 'regular LBWF amenity when the current generation of MGS members pass away'. She goes on to claim that as the former Secretary of State and Olympics Minister:

'I feel a great personal obligation to the commitment I gave and will do everything I can to ensure that, even at this late stage, it is met.'

When this letter was first revealed I was under the impression it had been sent in as a public document and as an objection. However, It turns out the letter was not sent as an objection, it was simply a private letter to these 'important' individuals. She also copied it to the Manor Gardens Allotments Society. What exactly she hoped to achieve with this is unclear. A letter which was neither sent in as an objection nor as a public statement was unlikely to make any impact on the planning process. It also appears it was merely a coincidence that it was sent on the same day as the second hearing of the planning application. She had not registered any comment or objection for the first hearing on 25th February 2014.

The LLDC Planning Committee had to revisit the application on 25th March following its failure on 25th February to consider an objection by a Manor Gardens allotment holder and Games Monitor contributor. While the members of the LLDC planning committee again all followed their instructions to vote to approve the application, the Decision Notice has still not been issued as it seems the LVRPA and Waltham Forest Council have failed to obtain the necessary approvals for the so-called "Section 106" agreement.

This convoluted legal undertaking purports to shift the responsibility to provide allotments for the MGS on the Olympic Park at Eton Manor from the LLDC to Waltham Forest. This is an abuse of the purpose of Section 106 agreements and fails to comply with the statutory tests that determine the lawfulness of such agreements.

The intention is that a fixed number of named MGS members will be guaranteed tenancies at the 'temporary' Marsh Lane site while other plots will go only to Waltham Forest or Olympic Park residents. This bears no relation to the current arrangement or that at the original Manor Gardens site prior to the Olympics, where the site was entirely managed by the Society and people could apply for plots from any borough.

During the demolition phase of London2012 Tessa Jowell showed little or no concern for those evicted to make way for the Olympics. I met her once at a public meeting and she said I should write to her about Clays Lane. She managed one standard response expressing sympathy and then failed to show any further interest. If, as she said in her letter, she really does feel 'a great personal obligation to the commitment I gave' to the Manor Gardens Society and that she will do everything she can to ensure that 'even at this late stage, it is met' then something more than a private letter is needed. Tessa has ambitions to be the Mayor of London. Presumably when she launches her campaign she is going to make public statements on issues about which she feels 'a great personal obligation'. She still has the opportunity to make a public stand in support of the allotments rather than sending personal notes to important people.

Sic transit Tessa?

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