Closed-door development deal threatens community garden in Llangollen

Reporter:

Suzanne Kendrick

A COMMUNITY vegetable garden is to be gifted to a private developer in return for unspecified improvements to a council-owned property.

Despite objections from community members, politicians and a headteacher, it is alleged that Denbighshire County Council’s Asset Management Group is to “gift” Llangollen Community Garden – a 0.5-acre plot – to a private developer on the basis that the developer will carry out works to neighbouring Plas Newydd, a historic house run by the council as a museum. It is understood the ‘land swap’ is taking place so the developer can look to build between four and five detached houses.

The community plot was established in 2012. The founders of the Llangollen Community Garden said they received just four days’ notice ahead of the decision, which is due to be given formal consent on January 11, 2018. A petition to “save” the community garden has now been launched on the group’s Facebook page and website.

Warren Davies, a gardener, said: “There was no consultation. We have put so much work into this project, an investment of thousands of hours of volunteer work. It is hard not to feel disillusioned. The Council is an elected public body and we feel passionately that it needs to be accountable to that community.”

Kay Polley, part of the group, added: “I’ve felt welcome here and I know it’s provided a huge benefit to my physical and mental health.”

Llangollen Community Garden said they put in a request to buy the land but stated the Council are “not prepared to commission an independent valuation of the site.”

It is understood the  council has attached an estimated value of between £40,000 and £80,000 to the land in dealings with the developer.

A spokesperson for Denbighshire County Council said that the developer has offered the group an alternative location for the community garden, but the offer has been rejected.

He added: “The council has continued to engage with the Community Garden and are trying to be open and transparent with them.”

“The council has also committed to providing a revised report for the next meeting of the Asset Management Group in January, when this group will review the decision made at the November meeting, reflecting on the additional information and supporting documentation provided by the Community Garden. The group will then decide whether to progress with the proposed exchange or follow a different course of action”.

The community garden is attended by local volunteers every Saturday morning throughout the year. It has attracted more than 75 gardeners since it began, and welcomed 120 children from the area. It also holds open events, the most recent being an Apple Pressing Day

North Wales Assembly Member Llyr Gruffydd has lent his support to the community group. 

“The community garden in Llangollen was a piece of wasteland before the community garden got their hands dirty and turned it into a fantastic community resource, which educates children and adults alike,” he said.

Bethan Jones, headteacher of Welsh-medium primary school Ysgol Y Gwernant in Llangollen, said, “We cannot stress enough the invaluable opportunities our pupils experience when visiting the garden, working with the community within walking distance.”

Email:

suzanne.kendrick@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Free Press

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