Water Shame For Chiswick Allotments

Supplies are scarce after Council complies with 'European legislation'

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It was the week between Christmas and New Year, the coldest time of year… The allotments were deserted…. In came the workmen from Hounslow Council, writes Karen Liebreich.

No-one was there to see them sawing off the water taps and soldering shut the pipes. They removed the old metal tanks and left only one plastic tub for every 100 allotments, fed by a fragile plastic stopcock.

For the last half century at least the allotments have had water. With one Scrooge-like action, cunningly timed over the “festive season” the taps were gone. Consultation? Not even the usual figleaf of a pretence. No-one had been told, not even John Laing, the contractors who ostensibly run the allotments on behalf of the council.

Now plot holders must trudge up to 200 yards to the slow-filling tanks (one tank between 100 plot-holders). Kurt Berger, aged 88, (pictured right) has had his plot for over 45 years. ‘I have to carry each heavy can back to my plot now – three trips for my beans, three trips for my spinach. That’s nearly half a kilometre!’

Hamish Pringle, Head of Leisure Service at Hounslow Council, says that ‘European legislation’ is to blame. However, he has been unable to cite any precise piece of legislation to support the Council’s move, even when faced with a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

So while the council trumpets its commitment to healthy living, growing your own food and staying active, it removes the ability of its citizens to do just that. Not only does this discriminate against the old, infirm or disabled, but even the able-bodied will struggle to keep their vegetables alive after the driest Spring in history.

When I look at Kurt, whose plot is one of the finest on the whole site, struggling to carry his heavy cans of water as though he were in a remote African village with no modern technology, I am truly ashamed of my council.

Dr Karen Liebreich

A spokesman for Hounslow Council said: "These changes were made by the council to comply with water regulations after an inspection by Thames Water, as the water system was not compliant according to their regulations. It is an issue that should be taken up with them."

He added: "John Laing Integrated Services, who manage the allotments, will be in consultation with residents and allotment holders to review the scheme shortly."

May 6, 2011