THE Bassetsbury Lane Allotments saga took yet another twist last night after a decision to close the site was officially called in.
Wycombe District Council’s Improvement and Review Commission voted to proceed with the call in of Cabinet’s decision to axe the allotments.
The commission has urged Cabinet - which meets on Monday night - to refer the decision about the future of the site back to the High Wycombe Town Committee, instead of outright closure now.
The town committee had asked WDC as landowner to fund, in part or in full, a £20,000 Detailed Quantitative Risk Assessment on the allotments.
This ‘final’ test would give a clear picture of the levels of contamination on the site, enabling the council chiefs to make a definitive decision.
Cllr Ray Farmer led the call-in, saying Cabinet jumped the gun by closing the site without referring it back to the town committee first, and still believes at least some of the plots could be saved from closure.
He told the I&R meeting last night: “No-one is walking around with three ears and three eyes so it [contamination] cannot be that bad.
“Cabinet made a rash decision to close the allotments. At worst they should have said they weren’t prepared to pay for the test and referred it back to the town committee, as the site is under the committee’s jurisdiction.”
WDC Leader Cllr Alex Collingwood said a DQRA would be a “waste of money” as the council’s insurance company has said it would only cover the authority if the whole site is remediated – at a cost of about £690,000.
He added that he was “sorry people are upset” but he would prefer to invest the council’s money into looking at new sites, such as Castlefield.
But Cllr Roger Colomb said: “The town committee is responsible for about 50 percent of the residents in this district and is a well run organisation that has been able to hold or reduce its precept.
“So it has the money there to pay for this survey and I think it is up to the local ward representatives whether they want to spend that money [on the DQRA] and then make a democratic decision.
“It’s a local issue and should be determined by local representatives.”