RESIDENTS in Didcot are digging in to save allotment sites from the threat of being sold for housing.

Green-fingered Eileen Bracken, 69, has formed a campaign group and hopes it will quickly grow.

Ms Bracken, who has a plot at New Road, set up the Didcot Allotments Action Group after the town council agreed to conduct a survey of allotment holders as part of a review of sites across the town.

Ms Bracken, who lives on the Ladygrove estate, said: "Our ultimate aim is to prevent the sale of allotment sites in Didcot.

"I have had one for 15 years and grow potatoes, peas, beans and tomatoes.

"I originally took on a plot because I was overweight and had blood pressure problems.

"I lost three stone within a year and my blood pressure is normal."

The former secretary at Harwell Oxford said the group was concerned the town council wanted to sell allotments for development.

She added it was "farcical" that the bid document that helped to win Didcot its new Garden Town status pledged that allotments would be integrated into every housing zone, when a review was under way which could lead to the sale of sites.

Didcot was one of a number of towns to win Garden Town status in December, with the aim of creating 15,000 new homes, 20,000 new jobs and £1bn of infrastructure improvements by 2031.

Ms Bracken added: "It's nice to be able to share the produce I grow with my neighbours.

"I am not opposed to the review but I would like to know what the ultimate aim is.

"The action group will soon be setting up a website and we hope to join the National Allotment Society because it could help us to fight the sale.

"Allotments are highlighted in the bid document as an important part of the plan and that appears to be a complete contrast with what is being proposed by the town council."

In November, town council leader Charles Robertson said he was personally considering the sale of one or more of the town’s five allotment sites, adding: "It’s no secret these sites could be worth millions."

He said he was in favour of the allotment provision increasing, not decreasing, and added that any sale of an allotment site would have to be passed by the government.

After the town council agreed to conduct the survey Mr Robertson added: "All allotment holders will be sent paper copies of the survey and it will also be made available on the town council website and social media.

"One of the questions people will be asked is how far they would be prepared to travel in order to use an allotment site.

"I think it is sensible for the council to review its major assets."

Labour town council Margaret Davies said: "I would like to see more allotment space in Didcot. I don't want allotment sites built on – there are waiting lists.

"What is happening does not fit well with what is outlined in the district council's Garden Town plans."