Upset as Wigan children told to leave award-winning allotment due to 'politics'
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Hindley Green Junior Volunteers, a group of children aged six to 16, have been working on a plot at Brunswick Recreation Ground since February 2022. They have been learning about growing fruit, vegetables and flowers, creating eye-catching displays and cooking tasty meals with their produce.
Their work even impressed judges in the RHS North West in Bloom competition, where they won awards in 2022 and 2023.
But the children have now been left without an allotment, after the recreation ground’s executive announced it would not renew the tenancy when it ends in March.
Shocked Christine Lawler, who runs the group, wanted to know why the decision had been made, but says she was told the executive did not need to explain and there was no right of appeal.
Group members went to the plot to begin removing items, but Mrs Lawler claims someone had already taken gravel used for paths and a donated tool store – despite the current lease running for several more months.
She again questioned why the junior volunteers had to leave and claims she was told it was because of “politics” and the involvement of Jordan Gaskell, who plans to stand as an independent candidate in the next local election.
Mrs Lawler said: “I couldn’t believe it. Jordan is one of my volunteers – he volunteers as a supervisor and has been doing it for almost the two years we have been running.”
Mr Gaskell, who previously stood in local elections as a UKIP candidate, volunteers every Thursday with Hindley Green Junior Volunteers, regularly does maintenance at the allotment and takes photographs for the group to share on social media.
Mrs Lawler says no-one at the site asked her to consider bringing Mr Gaskell’s involvement to an end and there was no attempt to find a solution.
"They are penalising the children just because they don’t want Jordan on the plot,” she said.
Mr Gaskell has offered to stop volunteering, but Mrs Lawler has refused this and he continues to help run other sessions with the youngsters, which include baking, making crafts to sell at Christmas fairs and learning about Commonwealth war graves.
He said it was “very upsetting” that the youngsters could no longer use the allotment because of his involvement.
He said: “I did offer my resignation for the sake of the children. What I do with my own time, they shouldn’t be trying to punish the children for, but the last thing I want is for the children to suffer. The junior volunteers do great work.”
Mr Gaskell is involved with a veterans’ allotment on the same site and raised money for a memorial garden. It is understood that group has not been asked to leave.
Mrs Lawler plans to meet council officials in coming weeks to see if another allotment can be found for the children. She is also writing to Brunswick’s executive and will include a petition from members of an over 60s’ friendship club where the youngsters volunteer.
We contacted the secretary and land manager of Brunswick Recreation Ground and he declined to comment.
Wigan Council has asked to point out that it is not the landowner, having received several complaints suggesting some people have jumped to the wrong conclusion.