Anger as Town Hall destroys rooftop allotment in Bloomsbury
Camden Council says vegetable patch had to be removed on health and safety grounds
20 April, 2017 — By Dan Carrier
How the allotment at Museum Chambers looked
A ROOFTOP allotment packed with vegetables has been destroyed by council officials, who claim attempts by tenants to grow their own grub are a health and safety risk.
Residents at Museum Chambers, in Bloomsbury, have spent more than two years turning their roof space into a small-scale farm providing a range of fresh ingredients.
Dr Eujean Franklyn, a psychologist who masterminded the project, says repeated efforts by tenants to see a Town Hall survey which says the garden is causing damage to the roof and is a health and safety hazard have fallen on deaf ears. Museum Chambers, in Bury Place, is made up of three blocks with flat roofs – and in January officers removed scores of plants and containers.
The tomato patch which was removed from the roof
Calling the council’s behaviour “despotic and discriminatory”, Dr Franklyn said: “I have experience in designing and building several roof gardens in the West End so my wife and I decided to finance a community roof allotment. We were encouraged to do so not merely by the overwhelming support of neighbours but also we were secure in the knowledge that residents at Museum Chambers had been growing vegetables and flowers on the other roofs for more than a decade. Social inclusion, food security, biodiversity, recycling, organic produce devoid of pesticides, environmental sustainability, composting, seed saving, tenant empowerment were all goals we wanted to achieve.”
Last year’s harvest included bumper crops of potatoes, peas, cabbages, runner beans, tomatoes and onions, as well as herbs and fruit – but the produce was not universally welcome.
Dr Franklyn added: “Unfortunately, the housing officer took umbrage at what we had done to enhance the quality of life for our multicultural community and gave notice on health and safety grounds for my wife and I to remove the allotments.” The garden was later destroyed.
A council spokesman said: “The garden was set up with good intentions but without our permission and posed significant safety concerns. “The rooftop is not designed for public use and the garden has damaged the roof’s structure, allowing water to leak into parts of the building below, including residents’ homes. We will always put the safety and wellbeing of our residents, children and the public first in these situations. “The garden also creates access issues in the event of a fire, while full rooftop access will also be required for us to make improvements to tenants’ homes next year.”