Pensioner to lose garden after 60 years

GARDEN WOES: Fred Cuthbert.
GARDEN WOES: Fred Cuthbert.

For 63 years, Fred Cuthbert has grown vegetables on land at the rear of his house in Stoke by Clare.

But all that is soon to end after a housing association said it wanted to the land back – it order to build a new housing development.

Mr Cuthbert, 90, has been cultivating the land since he moved into the house in Church Park with his late wife in 1951. When he moved in, the land and house was council owned, but he has since bought the property.

But earlier this month, Mr Cuthbert received a letter from Havebury Housing Partnership telling him it wants to use the majority of the garden for a new housing development. He will be left with just a fraction of it.

Mr Cuthbert, who intends to stay in the house, said: “I know they said when I took it over ‘you can have it until we want it’ but, after 63 years, I never thought they were going to build on it or take it back.

“I rang them up and said I have just bought £120 of seeds and potatoes.

“They said it could be the autumn (when they start using it) so I have gone ahead and set my seeds. I hope that I can harvest them.”

Philip Sullivan, Havebury Housing’s director of operations, said: “As part of Havebury’s ongoing commitment to meeting the significant local housing need, we are keen to make best use of the land which is already in our ownership.

“This helps reduce our operational costs and gives better value for our tenants.”

Mr Sullivan said a number of sites had been identified and it was cheaper for the association to use land it already owns rather than seek to buy alternative area for development.

“Several areas of land have been identified as potential development sites, including the area of land in Stoke by Clare adjacent to Mr Cuthbert’s garden,” he said.

“Development land in rural areas can be scarce and sometimes expensive, and not always something that Havebury can compete for on the open market.

“Havebury has kept Mr Cuthbert aware of the proposals regarding this land and we will continue to do so throughout the process.”