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Olympic Games 2012: Allotments

Volume 692: debated on Monday 4 June 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they will make the Olympic site an exemplar site of sustainable development; and whether any features of the current design recognise the features already on site that could be exemplars of sustainable city living.

My Lords, the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games represent a tremendous opportunity for London and the nation, regenerating one of the most deprived areas of the country. The planning and development of the Olympic Park aims not only to deliver the best Olympic Games and Paralympic Games ever but to ensure that they are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable, leaving a lasting legacy for the Lower Lea Valley and the UK as a whole.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer, but why has his department been unable to answer my simple Written Question of 26 April asking what the statutory duties were of the London Development Agency and the local authority to the allotment holders on the Olympic site? Is he aware how historic the Manor Garden allotments are? They were given before the First World War by a friend of Churchill’s to the very people to whom the Minister refers—the people who dwell in the East End—so they could grow their own food. Could those same allotments not be a showcase for Olympic visitors? After all, what is more British than an allotment full of runner beans, apple trees and dahlias? Does he really think that the best solution is to allow them to be bulldozed?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to chide me for the delay in providing an Answer to her Question. I assure the House that the Answer is imminent and I think would have been delivered last week had there not been a parliamentary recess. I accept her chiding on that. On the general point, the movement of these allotment holders is to be regretted, but it is forced on us by the nature of the planning of facilities in the Olympic Park. However, we have set out to provide temporary locations for the allotments elsewhere in the mean time, and we will restore the right of all allotment holders to have an allotment in the Olympic Park when it is completed.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the horticulture, timber and forestry industries have had meaningful discussions with the Olympic authorities in London to ensure that there are a lot of exciting green aspects to the 2012 Olympics, including an Olympic forest and a green area which will leave a green legacy for the east of London? I declare an interest as chair of the Forestry Commission.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that contribution, which comes with his great knowledge on these issues. We have stated all along that a sustainable environmental legacy is a crucial part of the Olympic legacy. He has identified the amount of work that needs to be done and the amount of consultation that is necessary with interested bodies to achieve the objectives to which we all subscribe.

My Lords, does the Minister recall that, on 1 May, I asked a Question about whether there was to be any form of roof structure to protect the public from the rain in the stadium? At that point he said that there was to be a meeting in three weeks’ time, when all matters would be reviewed. Can he now inform me whether there is to be some form of roof structure to prevent the British public being totally soaked?

My Lords, it is not the British public—we hope that it will be a worldwide audience for the Olympic Games, and they all need protection. I cannot give the noble Lord details now, but he is right that the issue of a stadium roof is of considerable importance. I can assure him that it was never intended that there should be no protection at all from the weather in the stadium. As I recall from last time, he was not too sure that the people who deserved to be protected were necessarily the ones who were likely to get the cover.

My Lords, the period will last until the Olympic Park is free of its commitment to the Games in 2012, so it will be more than four years before the allotments come back. I think that there are just over 70 allotment holders.

My Lords, can the Minister assure us that when the allotment holders are obliged to move, it will not be in, say, June, half way through the vegetable growing season, but at a more suitable time?

My Lords, my experience of all allotment holders, and certainly of the group involved in this issue, is that they can well look after their own interests. One of my inhibitions about replying now is that there is currently a court case in which the allotment holders are taking the department to court. The House can be reassured that their interests are being looked after.

My Lords, to offer the Minister some small assistance, is he aware that Prince Albert intervened in the case of the vegetable gardens on what is now Kennington Oval and prevented them being turned into houses? It does not seem to have done Kennington Oval much harm.