It is now a year since the Diocese of Coventry informed the Wellesbourne Allotment Association [WAA] that they were planning to take back half of their area on which to build housing. Dating from 1840, this is one of the oldest allotments in the country, existing on land given out of his glebe by the then incumbent parson, an attitude to charity seemingly at odds with that of the present diocesan glebe committee that finds its obligations under Charity Commission guidelines: “to support the mission of the Church & to make best use of their assets to support that mission” to far outweigh the obligation that its “mission should also be for the public benefit… [and that] any action which benefits the charity must not outweigh the detrimental or harmful effects its action causes to people, property & environment.”
In the face of stiff opposition from SOWA [Save Our Wellesbourne Allotments], the diocese has offered alternative and contiguous land but with unresolved security of tenure, whilst refusing an offer to purchase the whole of the existing site at a reasonable price for agricultural land. Whilst the diocese will add the benefit of fencing the reconstituted allotments, the new land will lack 170 years of care and cultivation, making it far inferior to the old. To date, no planning application for the houses has been advanced but WGT is monitoring the situation and will certainly ask TGT to intervene when this happens.
Allotments serve a vital role within the local community, “offering an improved quality of life, an enjoyable and profitable hobby, relaxation, and contact with nature. For children, gardens offer places to play and to learn about nature, while for the unemployed, they offer a feeling of doing something useful as well as low-cost food. For the elderly and disabled, gardens offer an opportunity to meet people, to share in activity with like-minded people, and to experience activities like planting and harvesting” [Office International du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux]. Any degradation of this vital resource should be challenged.
Constituents of Kenilworth and Southam wishing to voice concern may write to their MP, Jeremy Wright, who has recently been appointed Secretary of State for Culture.
We have been asked by a trustee of the Diocesan Glebe Committee to point out that they have a legal duty to maximise the church’s revenues and that this duty is separate from their support for the ‘mission’ of the church. We are happy to do so.