Those who have lived in Linton for some years will know that we once had allotments. Around 50 were rented from the District Council (SCDC), but in 1994 planning permission was granted for housing on the site – we gained Granta Leys but lost the allotments.
Since then, the Parish Council has made many attempts to find suitable land for allotments. Every landowner that we know has been contacted several times; the colleges, farmers, estates, all have been regularly asked if they would lease or sell land to us – all to no avail. We were close once when a suitable parcel of land on the village edge became available, but were outbid. You cannot say we have not tried – we really have! Land is one commodity they are just not making any more – especially in this area.
The Parish Plan of 2004 identified the need for allotments as a high priority. The SCDC Outdoor Play-space Survey of 2005 confirmed the need for more recreational space. For the number of inhabitants, we actually have little land available for public use; many of the green areas around the village are privately owned, held by residents associations or other groups. We have the Recreation Ground, but no more sports areas – those at the Village College belong to them, not the village. We also have Camping Close, still owned by the County Council, but now protected from enclosure and development by registration as our village green. There are also small areas behind Granta Leys and at Paynes Meadow and Parsonage Way. That is about it – not much space for nearly 5,000 people.
In 2007 six residents requested the Parish Council to provide allotments. Under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act, if there is sufficient demand for allotments, we are obliged to provide them. Consequently, the Parish Council was legally bound to assess the need for allotments, and this was advertised. Approximately 40 residents responded and we once more hunted for sites, again contacting all local landowners. One landowner responded but this had ‘strings attached’ including extensive housing and other development. We took advice from SCDC, but this resulted in a delay of 18 months and in the end proved fruitless.
By chance, in June 2009, we discovered that the owners of a strip of land on Back Road also owned the field leading up to Rivey Hill, and were willing to negotiate with us. It is this land that we hope to acquire for allotments and a public open space. However, once land has been offered we are duty bound to follow it through. An officer from the planning department at SCDC made a site visit and gave a favourable report on its suitability.
The proposed site is to the rear of the houses in Back Road. Access for pedestrians and initial deliveries will be via the Icknield Way bridle path, as close as possible to the southern edge of the field; we will also need some disabled parking. It is anticipated that the lower area will be for allotment use, administered by the Linton Allotment Association. The higher section will be used as a public open space for general recreational use, walking, picnics, etc. and be very similar in appearance to Gog Magog Down. We also hope to create a community orchard, and possibly a tree belt bordering the houses, to give added privacy. We are aware of the potential effect on neighbours, so we will do everything possible to minimise these, and make the scheme acceptable to all.
The Biodiversity Officer at SCDC supports this change of use, as ‘the creation of the open space could provide exciting opportunities for habitat creation in the form of chalk grassland (on south facing slopes) backed by woodland to compliment nearby Rivey Wood.’. We hope that the local wildlife will appreciate the area as much as the allotment holders and other residents of Linton.
However, we still have legal obstacles to overcome, finances to be found, and other practical problems to solve. In all of this, the owner has been very public-spirited and has given us our first realistic chance to provide allotments. A planning application has been submitted and we await the outcome.