ALLOTMENT holders have been left up in arms after receiving an eviction notice forcing them out of their cherished plots. 

The King's Somborne site has been the subject of much controversy after its owner the Diocese of Winchester sold the land to developer Shorewood Homes so it could build 18 homes. 

Plot holders have been offered a new site but they say this is unsuitable and that they want to stay on the Furzedown Road site for as long as possible after spending many years carefully cultivating it.  

They are also particularly upset at the timing of the eviction notices, with solicitor's letters landing on their doormats on December 22. 

Residents say they knew that they would have to move, after Test Valley Borough Council granted permission in October 2022, but were shocked by the timing. They are now demanding a meeting with the church. 

King's Somborne Allotment Association chairman Andrew Causer said: “Villagers in King’s Somborne were disgusted to receive a letter from the Winchester Diocese’s solicitors – Blake Morgan – on Friday, December 22.

“The letter gave us notice to quit the cherished allotments and was made by special delivery around lunchtime. It was noted immediately that the Diocesan office closed for Christmas at 12pm and reopened on January 2, making it impossible for allotment holders to pick up the phone and register their thoughts on the notice and its insensitive timing." 

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Hampshire Chronicle: King's Somborne Allotment

Mr Causer said the land has been the subject of much controversy as it was originally gifted to the village church to benefit the community more than 100 years ago. He also said the new plots were far from ideal. 

He added: “The planned movement of the allotments to an agricultural field called Red Hill, the extreme gradient of which has enabled many villagers to toboggan down it over the years, seems impractical and doomed to fail to most allotment holders. They were promised a new area would be 'equal or better' to the current allotment ground.

“The pleasure and mental health benefits of growing one’s own food inexpensively is known to everyone. During a cost of living crisis, the King’s Somborne Allotment Association is appalled by this failure of Christian leadership by the Diocese. They will be requesting an urgent meeting with the Diocese in January.”

The letter gives the 36 allotment holders one year's notice - until December 31 -  to move to the new field.

Hampshire Chronicle: King's Somborne Allotment

Despite this, allotment holders like Glenda Sims are fuming. 

The 87-year-old said: “It's absolutely disgusting because the fact we live in the middle of nowhere means we have to use fuel to get to places to buy food.

"It's utterly ridiculous when we can grow it here. The whole thing has been difficult for years. The timing of the notice is a particularly annoying aspect. I'm sure many marriages have lasted because of the allotments because you can let off steam here. It's really important.”

Romsey MP Caroline Nokes has shown her support for the allotment holders and slammed the insensitivity of the notice. 

She said: “The timing of the Diocese in sending these notices over Christmas was just appalling, and I know upset the recipients enormously. They have been left in the dark as to the detail and it seems there are still outstanding planning matters to resolve with regard to the replacement site.

Hampshire Chronicle: King's Somborne Allotment

“It is worth noting that the Archbishop of Canterbury has recently been opining about sustainability and food prices, yet here we have the Church of England evicting allotment holders from fertile and productive land they had successfully cultivated for generations. In return, the land being offered up to replace them is far less suitable with poorer soil quality. 

“I am astonished the church is choosing to take this path.”

However, a spokesman from the Diocese of Winchester said that this site has been discussed for more than six years. 

They said: “The discussions to relocate the allotments in King’s Somborne and develop the existing site have been underway since 2018. Shorewood Homes obtained planning permission in October 2022 for the new residential development and allotments. This has been a sensitive and complex process as we’ve tried to weigh up the competing needs of charity legislation, ecclesiastical law, and the desires of local community groups. 

“At the end of last year, discussions were held with the King's Somborne Allotment Association about the next phase of the project and the proposal to serve the required 12 months’ notice on the current allotment holders. We are very aware that the allotment holders have been keen for us to provide a clear timescale for the next stages as soon as possible to help them plan and prepare for the relocation to their new adjacent allotment site and facilities.”