'Life is hell here' say Kingsbury allotment plot holders facing eviction

Juliano Kovacs, Ghouri Basharath and Jamshad Khan

Juliano Kovacs, Ghouri Basharath and Jamshad Khan at West Hendon Allotments - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

Plot holders have accused allotment committee chiefs of "intimidating and threatening" correspondence and eviction orders. 

"Life is hell" at the West Hendon Allotment Society (WHAS), in Cool Oak Lane, according to plot holders who claim rules are constantly changed. 

The allotment freehold, with 133 plots, is owned by Barnet Council and run by the society's committee, headed by chairman Justin Bissell and secretary Liz Hill.

The West Hendon Allotment Society where a number of plot holders are very unhappy

The West Hendon Allotment Society where a number of plot holders are very unhappy - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

Jamshad Khan and Juliano Kovacs, who both live in Kingsbury, were shocked to receive letters threatening court action, and say they are being "forced out".

Mr Khan has engaged Sterling Winshaw Solicitors to fight claims he has breached the rules, saying he is being "victimised".

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In correspondence seen by this paper, WHAS accuses Mr Khan of several breaches including leaving the main gates opened and unlocked, using a hose as a standalone sprinkler "while entertaining guests" on his plot, and constructing a fence around his plot – and requests "compensation".

Sterling Winshaw rebuts all the claims, adding: "Our client is incredibly disturbed and anxious at the constant harassment he is facing.

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"His quiet enjoyment has been disrupted and he is worried that whatever he does is open to harsh scrutiny and even bullying."

This paper approached the society but neither Mr Bissell nor Ms Hill have provided any comment. 

Plot holders launched a petition last year citing "no confidence in the current committee" which garnered 56 signatures but they said it "wasn't recognised" at the society's AGM meeting.

Unhappy West Hendon Allotment Society plot holders Vittorio Brivati and Jamshad Khan

Unhappy West Hendon Allotment Society plot holders Vittorio Brivati and Jamshad Khan - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

Mr Khan, 57, said he spent more than £2,000 cultivating his plot, which he said was "a jungle" when he took it over in 2018, and built a hut.

He said that in 2019 he was told he could have an extra plot, only to be then told that the rules had changed.

"Unfair what's going on," he said.

"Those who are in charge have been harassing and causing distress to a number of plot holders attempting to force us out."

He said that he had been told not to speak to other plot holders.

"I said: 'I'm not a prisoner.'

"I have appealed to Barnet Council and they do nothing," he said.

Mr Khan's nephew Ghouri Basharath, 36, used to help his uncle but stopped coming after "constantly being told to do this or that".

"I have given my name for an allotment two years ago and no one gets back to me," he added.

Famida Aktar said she was on the waiting list for 10 years and then her name "disappeared" .

Former engineer Mr Kovacs said he likes to come to the allotment to talk to friends and share the food he grows.

He said he has been coming to the allotments for 45 years, adding: "I'm 84 and I'm terminally ill and I can't do a lot now."

Things changed in the last three years, he said. 

"At first it started nicely then I started getting letters," he said. "If you don't do this or that we will terminate your plot. 

"These people make our lives hell. They tell us to close our plots or threaten us that if we don't leave our keys they will take us to court."

He said other people had decided to leave the allotments, adding: "I won't leave, I'll stay here until I die." 

He has received about 25 letters, the latest in April. threatening court action and that he will have to pay the society the "court fee of £355 plus the cost of our lawyers".

"I'm 84-years-old, I'm not afraid of these toe rags, just leave me alone," he added.

"I don't care who runs this place as long as it's run properly."

In November, both Mr Khan and Mr Kovacs arrived to find their plots repossessed and cordoned off by rope and a notice saying anyone entering would be treated as "trespassers" and "prosecuted as such.

Both have continued to tend their plots.

Trespassers will be prosecuted

Mr Khan and Mr Kovacs had rope and possession notices secured to their plot at West Hendon Allotment - Credit: Jamshad Khan

Vittorio Brivati, 75, a former Islington Council rubbish collector, said: "All the people come to me and complain, too many people come to me and complain."

Mr Brivati's family has owned plots since the 1940s.

"My cousin is sick – he is another Brivati – he's sick in hospital after major heart surgery and he's received harassment to leave the plot.  

"We launched a petition and they don't recognise the signatures. They say 'you done this, you done that' and they ignore it."

A Barnet Council spokesperson said: “We do not have control of the management or day-to-day running of the allotments.”

The West Hendon Allotment Society has not responded to request for comment.

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