March 9 2014 Latest news:
Monday, December 16, 2013
Camden Council has been branded “aggressive” and “heavy handed” after it accused a community group of trespassing when it transformed a fly-tipping hotspot into a community garden.
Members of the group – who cleared the small plot off Belsize Road after it had become a dumping ground for “rotting, rat infested” rubbish for over a decade – have spent the past eight years creating a botanically diverse green space, complete with more than 40 different species of flowers and vegetation.
But last year the council accused the group of “trespassing” on council-owned land and demanded the lawn and flowerbeds be ripped up to be replaced by gravel.
It threatened the group with a bill of more than £4,600 if they did not return it to its stated use as a “service road”.
John Goodman, one of the half a dozen or so amateur gardeners who transformed the plot into a green space, said he “couldn’t understand” the council’s actions.
“This is a space that the community has turned from rubble and trash into a lovely looking garden,” he said.
“All across West Hampstead and Kilburn we see eyesores created by fly-tipping.
“It’s a common problem and the council should see this as the embodiment of their supposed eagerness to see more greenery in the borough.
“But instead the council seem intent on kicking us.”
The group – which is running the Save Our Priory Urban Green Space (PUGS) campaign – was initially given until December 3 to destroy the garden.
But with a petition to save the space amassing almost 1,000 signatures, the group says the council has, for the time being, “suspended” its deadline.
In a letter sent to the group, Camden Council justified its actions, saying: “The area is a service road that should serve the shops.
“[It] should not be made up into a garden and should be a gravel surface.
“Following [the garden’s] removal we shall ensure it is kept clear of dumped items.”