Gardeners unearth a land-grabbing plot’

FURIOUS allotment holders in Highgate are in a pitched battle with a mansion owner they claim has pinched land for his garden. Angie Birtill, 51, has been renting a Fitzroy Park allotment from Camden Council for 15 years. But she claims Robin

Marc Mullen

FURIOUS allotment holders in Highgate are in a pitched battle with a mansion owner they claim has pinched land for his garden.

Angie Birtill, 51, has been renting a Fitzroy Park allotment from Camden Council for 15 years.

But she claims Robin Owens, who owns the house next door, has nicked part of her patch as his own.

After buying the house for £1.85million two years ago he has built a 30metre wall, two metres inside a hedge which allotment holders say marks their land.

Ms Birtill also says she has lost plants and shrubs and had a sculpture damaged.

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Ms Birtill, who lives in Swiss Cottage and was a Camden councillor in the 80s, said: "My allotment means a lot to me, but it won't be mine forever. The issue is it is public land and it needs protecting.

"He has done it because it gives his garden stunning views of the Heath and must have added tens of thousands of pounds to the value of his property.

"If I had done the same thing to his garden, then I would probably have ended up in prison."

The Ham&High contacted Mr Owens but he would only say he is currently discussing the matter with Camden Council.

One longterm allotment holder, who also lives in Fitzroy Park, but wished to remain anonymous, says the hedge boundary has been there for more than 25 years.

And other allotment holders have rallied behind Ms Birtill.

Mick Rand, 46, who is the treasurer of the Fitzroy Park Allotments Association (FPAA), said: "This wall has appeared without notice and Mr Owens has opened a whole can of worms.

"The feelings are running very high among the people on the allotments.

"The demand for allotments is huge and there is such a shortage of space in the borough of Camden, that I don't think we should lose one inch of public land."

Hilary Dunford, FPAA secretary, said: "That particular plot is so very valuable as it is part of Hampstead Heath. Mr Owens could have been stopped in his tracks, but it is probably because Camden Council is such a large organisation that it does not act as quickly as it needs to."

There is currently a 10-year waiting list for allotments in Camden.

FPAA plans to hold a meeting next month to discuss its next move if the wall has not been removed.

A council spokeswoman said: "Mr and Mrs Owens have built a wall beyond what the council, the allotment holder and the previous owners of the property consider to be the boundary between their private garden and Fitzroy Park allotments.

"We have asked the owners several times to provide us with a copy of the survey they commissioned, which they claim proves the boundary of their land ends at the new wall.

"They have refused to show us this evidence and the council's legal department is investigating."

marc.mullen@hamhigh.co.uk

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