A group of community gardeners in Llangollen have voiced their concern over a deal they claim will see Denbighshire Council gifting a plot of a community vegetable garden to a private developer in return for unspecified improvements to a council-owned property.
In November Denbighshire County Council decided to gift part of the Llangollen Community Garden 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. The founders of the Llangollen Community Garden say they received just four days’ notice ahead of the decision, which is due to be ratified in early January.
“There was no consultation,” said Warren Davies, a gardener. “And we have put so much work into this project, an investment of thousands of hours of volunteer work.”
Although the community garden group say they have requested to buy the land themselves, the the group say Council have stated to them they are not prepared to commission an independent valuation of the site.
“It is hard not to feel disillusioned,” said Warren. “The Council is an elected public body and we feel passionately that it needs to be accountable to that community. We have worked hard to create a community resource which is open to all, at no cost to the Council, but it seems the Council is willing to destroy that in favour of private profit and short-term gain. We do not believe they have met their responsibilities under the Well-being of Future Generations Act.”
One gardener said, “As a person who struggles with mental health issues and anxiety, I have found the Llangollen community garden an invaluable therapeutic space. Sometimes I can feel very low and isolated, the community garden allows me to enjoy achieving simple physical tasks in a relaxed and friendly environment and I always leave feeling more positive with a greater sense of well-being.”
Labour, Conservative, and Plaid politicians have all given their support to the garden group. North Wales Assembly Member Llyr Gruffydd said “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.”
“There are plenty of other parcels of land in the area that are more appropriate sites for development and there’s no reason for a committee of unelected people to decide the future of such an important community resource. Finally, I’m concerned at the added pressure that would be placed on the nearby roads if a housing development went ahead there. I sincerely hope that this decision is referred to the cabinet and that they, in turn, turn it down.”
Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones appealed to Denbighshire County Council to work with the group in resolving the matter, saying “I urge Denbighshire Council to liaise to take into consideration the community wellbeing of both current and future generations. Community wellbeing needs to be protected wherever possible,” with Ken Skates AM adding “I completely support Susan’s call for Denbighshire County Council to work closely with the community garden group towards the overall wellbeing of the community with a view to bringing this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.”
Mark Isherwood AM said “I am advised that the Llangollen Community Garden Group only found out about the meeting of Denbighshire’s Asset Management Group which considered this four days in advance, and that they were not allowed to attend this meeting. All Councils should acknowledge that meaningful dialogue between public services, communities and individuals – and consideration together of all options – is crucial before decisions are made affecting community assets and local services, not only because Welsh law requires this, but also because it produces better outcomes for all”.
Llangollen news website Llanblogger has managed to obtain comment from Denbighshire County Council that states: “The developer has offered an alternative location for the community garden, but this offer has been rejected.
“The council has continued to engage with the Community Garden and are trying to be open and transparent with them. To this end the Community Garden have been provided with all the reports associated with the proposal.
“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.”