Camden’s finance boss slams ‘Save Kentish Town City Farm’ petition as ‘misleading’

Kentish Town City Farm. Picture: Polly Hancock

Kentish Town City Farm. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A row has broken out between Camden Council and a Kentish Town resident after he created a petition signed by thousands of people to save Kentish Town City Farm from closure.

Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell - Credit: Archant

Camden cabinet member for finance, Cllr Theo Blackwell, has lashed out at the petition’s creator, Tom Langton-Lockton, saying that it is “misleading” and “just untrue” to claim that the farm could close.

The council has gained the support of Tony Blair’s former spin doctor and Gospel Oak resident, Alastair Campbell, who re-tweeted Cllr Blackwell’s Twitter call to donate to the farm directly, rather than sign the petition.

The petition, which has more than 7,100 signatures, states that the 40-year-old farm in Cressfield Close, off Grafton Road, has lost £40,000 in funding and is now “under threat”.

But Cllr Blackwell is adamant that the farm, which was the first of its kind, is safe from closure.

He said: “What we really want to do is nip the scaremongering in the bud. The petition is misleading as it says that the cuts mean it is going to close, which is just untrue.”

He also explained that while the farm has lost £40,000 as part of council cuts made in 2011, it still receives around £87,000 every year - the equivalent of the cost of running a neighbourhood library.

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Cllr Blackwell said: “Tom Langton-Lockton is arguing that the farm should be entirely state-funded, which is a position not even held by the farm.”

Mr Langton-Lockton, who is also known as the British Art Shaman and as Tom Ecologist, was surprised at the council’s reaction to his petition.

He said: “If losing £40,000 doesn’t pose any risk of closure, then I question the council’s grasp of maths.

“The farm is for the people of Kentish Town and the council is supposed to represent the people of Kentish Town, isn’t it? Where is the morality?”

The council has said Kentish Town City Farm looks set to win additional funding from a regeneration project.

It is also exploring potential support from the newly created £300,000 Open Spaces for Young People fund.

The farm has asked for more money on top of its £87,000 annual grant to help develop a business plan. Executive director, Mick Magennis, said: “We are excited about the support the petition has garnered but it has created some confusion.

“Whilst the online campaign to ‘save the farm’ is well intentioned, we feel that the farm’s future interest is best served by positive action to generate income, including individual giving.”

The website on which the petition is hosted, 38 Degrees, has reportedly apologised to Camden Council for publishing the petition without checking its contents.