Council ignores pleas to save urban garden

The garden after clearance – image supplied by Lambeth council

Lambeth council today (3 February) carried out the “first phase” of clearing a garden in the centre of Brixton created more than a decade ago to grow fruit and and vegetables.

A council officer said that, in 2021, John Spicer, who cultivated part of the land behind a block of council-run flats on Brixton Road, had told him he was “not managing to maintain” the garden and requested assistance with it.

Neighbourhood housing manager Dan Prentice said in an email to councillors and the Blog that residents, including officers of the tenants and residents association, had complained about the garden.

He said “the condition of the garden was unsafe”, and residents had expressed concerns about the safety of their children when using it.

“From our responsibility as landlord and freeholder of the garden, we needed to carry out a clearance of the area.”

The council is now asking residents who want to maintain an area of the garden to contact it to arrange this and agree a framework for doing so.

Duncan Law, chair of Transition Town Brixton, had called on the council not to destroy an example of urban food growing which would be “an essential part of the transition to a net zero Lambeth by 2030”.

He had called on the council to “put a stay of execution on the destruction of this amazing garden” and explore ways to support “this essential future resource for Lambeth’s transition”.

A bid in 2014 by some of the residents of Brixton Terrace at 341-361 Brixton Road – between the police station and Max Roach Park – to dismantle and grass over the garden was overturned after the intervention of former Streatham MP Keith Hill and Lambeth green champion Ivor Picardo.

John Spicer said some work on the garden had been needed to deal with overgrowth caused by another resident “who took it upon himself to butcher the garden” while he was away.

“When I came back and saw what he’d done I was in shock and still am,” Spicer said.

He said he had been given only a few days to rehome the many plants that had been growing for more than 11 years.

Some residents have accused Spicer of bullying and intimidating behaviour over the garden.