Fitzrovians condemned Kaupthing the owners of the former Middlesex Hospital site after they announced on Monday 8 March that they would not be allowing temporary gardens to go ahead. Kaupthing cited legal reasons for not continuing with the project.
A statement from Kaupthing issued through their public relations team to Fitzrovia News said: “Following a detailed review and the renewed confidence in the property market Kaupthing Bank has decided to put the Middlesex Hospital site into a formal sales process. This means that we will now not be pursuing a planning application with Stanhope.
“The nature of the sale process is such that a new owner may take possession of the site later this year, which also means that the application for a temporary planning permission for gro-bags on part of the site cannot go ahead. We understand that this will be a disappointment for the local community given the time and effort put into the project.
“In light of this, we intend to pass on all the information relating to the allotments’ project to bidders, as they may be interested in it, although we cannot guarantee this and there will be no formal obligation on a new owner to do so.”
“Following our meeting last week with Cllr Hossack we did look into the possibility of having allotments on the site for a shorter period, over this summer. We have looked into this and unfortunately it is not possible to do this for legal reasons.
“Under the Allotments Act 1950 a landlord must give a tenant of an allotment garden 12 months notice to quit the land. This means that were Kaupthing to grant the tenancies for the allotments today, vacant possession could not be legally guaranteed until this time next year. This could jeopardise any sale and could limit a potential purchaser’s options regarding the land for some time and the advice we have had is that it is not possible to contract outside of this legislation. Kaupthing does however remain committed to including details of the allotments’ proposal in the sale information.” the statement said.
This was cold comfort for all those who spent time in meetings and setting up a website to co-ordinate the project.
Rebecca Hossack said she was very annoyed: “I am furious at Kaupthing. It is absolutely outrageous. For one year I have jumped through all the hoops they have asked me to, spent an enormous amount of time, energy and money, as have dozens of people in the community. Why shouldn’t we be allowed on this land? It is not harming anyone.
“As I told them they have either the option to sell a piece of land which has a few local residents gardening contentedly in a corner, or they can sell a block of land that is blighted by fury and anger from the community and that we will make sure any potential purchaser knows the extent of our fury.
“I believe Kaupthing have broken their word. They made an agreement with us which I have honoured and on the strength of that agreement I have raised sponsorship for the grow-bags. They have a duty to honour their arrangement and if it means their property won’t be worth as much it’s too bad, it’s not all about money, it’s about people,” said Ms Hossack.
Others echoed these sentiments. Eddie Duke-Low lives overlooking the hospital site. He took Kaupthing to task about their legal arguments: “I think it’s a lame excuse. They’ve raised people’s hopes only to dash them again. I can’t see why we can’t enjoy these gardens for a short period.”
As one of the oldest residents in Fitzrovia he made a personal appeal: “Please let’s go ahead with this project. We have a number of older people who were looking forward to getting involved, planting seeds and having the pleasure of seeing things grow.
“And what about the children at All Souls’ School? They must be very disappointed. All those families looking forward to it. It’s a disgrace,” said Mr Duke-Low.