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An allotment that is home to a long-running charity project for disabled adults is under threat from construction work.
Plot holders at Redbridge Lane West allotments in Wanstead discovered last month that energy company Cadent plans to use the land for up to two years while upgrading security at its neighbouring gasworks.
This would entail stripping the site to make way for equipment and a car park, which a petition argues would “ruin the hard work plot holders have put in” and damage the land.
The petition calls on Redbridge Council, which owns the site, to refuse to let Cadent take over the plots and has been signed more than 2,600 times in a week.
Deborah Williams, co-coordinator of a project for adults with learning disabilities based at the site for the past decade, said members “will be devastated” if the take-over goes ahead.
She said: “People with learning disabilities are very marginalised in our society and this allotment has given them a really good space to feel part of an inclusive community.
“They can face a lot of discrimination but this is a safe, green breathing space, which is really important for their mental and physical wellbeing.
“They learn skills (such as cultivation and healthy eating) that they can take elsewhere and they can be themselves without fear of being victimised or ridiculed.”
The programme – Sprout There! – is run by social inclusion project Uniting Friends, which has more than 100 members from across north east London and Essex.
It has also run day events for children with special needs from local schools, such as Beal High School in Ilford.
Deborah said plot holders were invited to a webinar with Cadent around the end of March and told they would be given an alternative site, although “hard and fast” details were not confirmed.
She added: “At the moment we, as an allotment community, are very much against the whole proposals. This is where we want to be.”
While Cadent did not respond to a request for comment, a spokesperson for Redbridge Council said it had “only recently been made aware” of its intention for the land.
They said: “At this time we have not given our consent to any of these works – or the use of our land to facilitate them.
“The need to consult relevant parties and engage relevant stakeholders for any proposed works is clear in our mind.
“A meeting with Cadent has been proposed for later this month to discuss the matter as we are aware the proposals have given rise to a number of concerns from the allotment holders.”