Damage and wanton vandalism has caused massive distress to the gardeners and plot-holders at Pampisford Road Allotments in South Croydon, with the break-ins, with veg plots wrecked and greenhouses smashed, being blamed on a group of travellers camped on Purley Way Playing Fields.
The allotments are owned by Croydon Council, and rented out to green-fingered residents who take great pride in what they are able to produce each year.
But many of those hopes for this spring and summer growing seasons have already been dashed by what one plot-holder described as “absolutely terrible” damage.
In an email from the council to the allotments committee, sent last week and seen by Inside Croydon, it was acknowledged that the travellers had been responsible for the damage.
The best that could be offered by the council was, “We regret any inconvenience this may be causing”, and the precautionary advice “please do not…interact with the travellers and remove any valuables from your plot”.
There had previously had a court injunction forbidding encampments on Purley Way Playing Fields, but this was allowed to lapse by the cash-strapped council.
The police were informed, and the travellers were moved on by Saturday afternoon.
The council’s Public Safety team led the intervention to get the playing fields cleared.
“We are also attempting to coordinate some action with the committee, but this may only be to prevent further damage,” the council official wrote to plot-holders.
According to one plot holder, “The latest lot of travellers moved on to the Purley Way playing fields sometime around Tuesday and set up camp as they usually do along the fence line with the allotments.
“They cut a hole through the fence again and the children ran riot around the site smashing greenhouses, cutting down fruit trees and breaking into and looting sheds. They also turned on taps and left them running, flooding the track.
“The police were called by plot-holders on site that day and again on Wednesday after a couple of children were seen running around the site with a plastic baseball bat and a spade.
“The damage done is absolutely terrible.
“Our plot-holders put in a lot of time and effort improving their plots, building greenhouses, polytunnels, and cold frames and planting fruit trees and carefully tending their plots. For them to come down and see that all their hard work put in over many years has been destroyed in this way is truly heartbreaking.
“People come to the allotments for the peace and quiet, it is a bit of sanctuary from daily life for many people and they have the right to feel safe there.
“The fact that no action is taken to prosecute the perpetrators for the damage down is shameful.
“To make matters worse, many of the same plots were attacked the last time we had ‘visitors’, with poly-tunnels being slashed and one plot being used as a toilet area.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last straw for some people as we are repeatably targeted year after year pretty much every time there is an encampment. The only respite we had was when the council took out a borough-wide injunction which lasted for a couple of years I think, but they seem to have stopped that now. Probably haven’t got the money to pay for it.”
The plot-holder’s last, faint hope, is that the council does something to prevent access to the allotments from the playing fields, such as improved fencing, or by planting thick hedges.
“Until something is done, we will continue to suffer,” they said.
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The destruction this year was the worst yet, the plotholders involved are devastated. The site shouldn’t need more security, it’s Croydon Council’s responsibility to stop the incursions in the first place, the subsequent waste disposal costs alone should be an incentive.
The blanket injunction against persons unknown occupying land and/or depositing waste is no longer in force because it was challenged and on 10 November 2020 the High Court ordered it to be discharged, so the councils have to apply for a specific order each time. There appear to be more ongoing Supreme Court challenges.