Bike stands versus allotment - confusion in Belsize Park

CONFUSION still remains over plans for the forecourt of Belsize Park Tube station after the removal of the newly-installed bike stands, which had previously put paid to plans for a community allotment.

Members of Transition Belsize, a group dedicated to tackling climate change and encouraging sustainability at a community level, were told in September that they could use the forecourt to build an allotment.

They were planning to grow fruit, herbs, salad, tomatoes, beans and other vegetables in a bid to inspire commuters to plant vegetables in their own gardens.

But their plans were shattered a month later when they discovered rows of bike racks had been installed in the space.

Now it emerges that the bike stands, which were ordinary bike racks and not for London’s cycle hire scheme as originally thought, had not been granted permission so Transport for London (TfL) has ordered them to be removed – but given no hint as to what will eventually happen on the forecourt.

Alexis Rowell, from Transition Belsize, said: “Talk about a total waste of time and money. The whole thing is really bizarre. We still have no idea what they want to do with that space. In a sense it is good because at least something is happening.

“The front of Belsize Park Tube station should be used for something, because it is a great space.

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“The last time I remember it being used was four years ago when a man used to sell coffee there.

“Until we suggested food growing no-one was thinking about using it for anything. TfL’s internal processes just seem Kafkaesque and the right hand does not seem to know what the left is doing.

“And we still have no idea what they are going to use the space for. It is all a bit mad.

“We are still very interested in using the forecourt as a place to inspire people to grow their own food. But we will just have to wait and see what TfL’s latest development is.”

London Underground says it is reviewing the best and most practicle use for the forecourt.

A spokeswoman for TfL added: “We have had a request from a group called Transformation Belsize [sic] about the possibility of creating an allotment there; however, there are a number of difficulties associated with that including soil drainage as the area is directly above the spiral staircase to the platforms.

“Bike racks were prematurely installed by a contractor there before proper agreement to do this had been reached, although this remans an option which is being considered. The bike racks were removed at no cost to LU.

“Once all the options have been properly considered, a decision on the best use of the area will be confirmed.”