Community allotment must be returned to derelict state, orders council

Photo Neil Cross
Alan Christie on the allotment he has transformed from waste land at the rear of The Stag's Head, Goosnargh, where he grows food for old folk
Photo Neil Cross Alan Christie on the allotment he has transformed from waste land at the rear of The Stag's Head, Goosnargh, where he grows food for old folk
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VILLAGERS are demanding council officers climb down over their demands to dismantle a community garden and allotment plot.

Over two years, Alan Christie – known as Geordie – has transformed wasteland behind the Stags Head in Whittingham Lane, Goosnargh.

Photo Neil Cross
Alan Christie on the allotment he has transformed from waste land at the rear of The Stag's Head, Goosnargh, where he grows food for old folk

Photo Neil Cross Alan Christie on the allotment he has transformed from waste land at the rear of The Stag's Head, Goosnargh, where he grows food for old folk

With the owner’s permission, he cleared overgrown vegetation, planted fruit and vegetable plots, built fencing, a shed and pigeon loft, and replanted vegetation from the Whittingham Hospital site.

Locals said it has turned an “eyesore into an asset” that is regularly attended by children. But, acting on a 15-month-old enquiry from Whittingham Parish Council over structures on the land, Preston Council investigated and said the work constitutes an unauthorised change of use.

Despite being buoyed by a visit from an enforcement officer giving advice on how to proceed and Whittingham Parish Council announcing their concerns have been “addressed”, city council bosses said it is “highly unlikely” an application to change the use of land would be allowed.

They have requested that “all objects and chattels are removed” and the pond is filled in.

Photo Neil Cross
Alan Christie with supporters at the allotment he has transformed from waste land at the rear of The Stag's Head, Goosnargh, where he grows food for old folk

Photo Neil Cross Alan Christie with supporters at the allotment he has transformed from waste land at the rear of The Stag's Head, Goosnargh, where he grows food for old folk

Mr Christie, 62, a retired shipbuilder, said: “I’ve lived in this village for 25 years and I like to give something back.

“It’s a shame it’s come to this, it’s ridiculous because this was just a mess that nobody was interested in and now it’s beautiful in the summer.

“We have the kids coming down, I give the fruit and veg to the local pensioners, and I want to set up a young pigeon fancier’s initiative.”

Hundreds have now signed a petition to save the plot, including Stuart Gregory, son of the landowner.

He said: “It’s awful what they’re doing. My mum came over from America in November and she was chuffed with how it looks.

“There’s no money involved in it, it’s a worthless plot of land. But God bless him, he’s doing something with this site to benefit the whole community.”

Former Preston Mayor Bill Tyson, who sat on the planning committee, said: “Twice during my time on the council, we had to have it cleared because people kept dumping rubbish.

“And it’s been turned down for houses because of problems over the entrance, so what do you do with it?”

A Preston Council spokesman said: “Following a complaint we have identified a breach of planning control.

“Our enforcement officer has met with the person involved on-site and offered advice about how to remedy the breach.

“However, the main issue is that the works do indeed require planning permission in their current form and are unlikely to meet current planning policies.

“We will continue discussions but we have to proceed on the basis that this is a breach of planning control with the prospect of potential enforcement action.”