LONDON'S oldest allotments face development threats as Pathways propose to build over the historic site.

Northfields Allotments plotholders have been informed by Pathways in recent weeks of their intentions to build over up to 10% of the nearly 200-year-old site, with further plans to construct a mix of social and private housing.

An opposing petition set up by Walpole ward councillors has garnered the support of Ealing Central and Acton Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq – with signatures now nearing the 1,000 mark.

Francesca Bussey, Northfields resident and allotment owner, said: “We live in a social housing flat with no access to a garden of our own.

“In 18 months my daughter and I have transformed the plot from weeds and brambles to our own little patch of heaven.

“My daughter has learned so much she never would have been able to before, from seeing where the food on our table comes from to the lifecycle of the frog – and she now wants to be a gardener when she grows up.”

More than 400 members of the public enjoyed the allotments at the recent open day in July and the site also provides a safe habitat for a vast range of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians and insects.

Christina Fox, chairman of the Ealing Dean Allotment Society, said: “We are all aware of the need for greater provision of social housing, but any development has to be balanced against the loss of green space as well as the impact on the wider community and local wildlife.

"The proposals from Pathways are currently under consultation, however any reduction in green space in West Ealing would be met with genuine regret by the local community.

“Our plotholders include families, pensioners and those with disabilities, spanning a wide range of ages and nationalities. In many ways our community is a microcosm of London itself.”

The allotments have been designated a Community Open Space and a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), by Ealing Council, which would normally give it protection under the Council’s own planning guidelines.

Ms Fox concluded: “We are currently conducting our own consultation with plotholders, local residents’ groups and other affected parties, but it is already clear that local feeling is strongly against the proposed development.”

The proposals are in the very early stage of development and Pathways is at the beginning of a lengthy period of consultation with Dean Court residents, allotment users and the wider community.

No final decisions have been made and Pathways intends to develop the proposals to a more detailed stage through a series of workshop events with the input of residents and allotment users.

Pathways chief executive, Clive Wilson, said: “Our proposals will allow us to provide better quality supported housing for vulnerable older people, making a significant and vital contribution of modern, more accessible, energy efficient homes. 

“Ealing is in desperate need for these kinds of properties, that allow older residents to retain their independence for as long as possible. 

“Throughout the development process we want to keep Dean Court residents together as a community and reduce the disruption to their lives. 

“Building a small number of homes at Mattock Lane means we can do that. 

“The vast majority, 90%, of the Northfields Avenue Allotments will be completely unaffected by the development, and we’ve made a number of commitments to the plot holders who will be affected. 

“We’re in the very early stages of this scheme, no decisions have yet been made and Pathways is committed to working closely with the local community. 

“We will take on board everyone’s views, using their feedback to shape the development of the plans.

“I’m very proud of Pathways’ long history of providing decent, affordable housing to Ealing’s vulnerable older people.”