CAMPAIGNERS are calling on Swindon Council to re-open a former allotment site earmarked for housing to help cut huge waiting lists for plots.

Pickards Small Field Allotments, off Pinehurst Road, was cleared of tenants some years ago because the council claimed it was not full and there was no demand for plots on the site.

Kevin McCloud, the presenter of Channel 4 programme Grand Designs, led the plans to build 200 homes on the site and an adjacent green space, known as Kembrey Grass.

However, the project did not reach the planning application stage because the campaigners said they got a covenant reinstated on Kembrey Grass, which said it should remain for “open space, public walks and pleasure ground at all times.”

Swindon Council insisted it still intended to develop the allotments, but campaign group the Friends Of Kembrey Grass wants the council to bring it back into use for its original purpose.

Josie Lewis, 59, who is heading the campaign, said: “The key thing is these allotments should be rented out.

“They’re valuable as allotments and leisure gardens.

“They would make a substantial reduction in the waiting lists for allotments and the council must by law meet the demand for allotments.

“The council has said to me that they cannot meet the demand because they are having problems finding suitable allotment land —but this land is existing land that’s been previously used for allotments.

“The water is laid on, the plots are still visible, the site could easily be reinstated to its former allotment glory. They have always been allotments back to the 1800s.”

The original £19m plans, announced in 2007, were led by Mr McCloud’s development company Hab Housing, which stands for Happiness, Architecture and Beauty.

The residents’ bid to get Kembrey Grass registered as a town green was rejected by Swindon Council in 2010, but they said that the Land Registry confirmed in December 2010 that their application to have the covenant reinstated had been successful.

Don Reeve, the treasurer of the Swindon Allotments and Leisure Gardens Association, is backing the bid for the allotments to be re-opened.

He said: “With the enormous waiting lists for allotments and the fact that more houses are being built in Swindon, more people need allotments.

“And here’s a lot of land that was allotments for a long time, it’s been cultivated – okay it’s fallow at the moment – but it could easily be brought back into use as allotments.”

A Swindon Council spokesman said: “The allotments at Pickard’s Small Field and nearby Kembrey Grass were closed after a review in 2003.

“Out of a total of 126 plots, only 16 were taken. It made no sense to keep them open when demand was so low.

“The 16 tenants were transferred to nearby Pickard’s Field, where there were a further 80 vacant plots at the time.

“It’s true that allotment demand has gone up significantly since 2003, and we have re-opened some previously closed allotments at Crowdys Hill to try and meet this demand.

“However, we still intend to regenerate the Pickard’s Small Field site and some of the surrounding land to create an improved parkland area which will also allow some sustainable housing to be provided as part of the scheme.

“Negotiations with a potential developer are continuing.

“In view of that we have no intention of re-opening the allotments because we might only end up closing them again in the not-too-distant future.”