Home   News   Article

Lead contamination kills off climate group’s plans for Bishop’s Stortford community orchard





Plans for a community orchard for Bishop’s Stortford at Jenkins Lane have withered.

Soil tests have revealed the land off Hallingbury Road earmarked for the project is contaminated with lead.

Confirmation of the elevated levels was a huge disappointment to Bishop’s Stortford Community Orchards Group, part of the town’s climate group, which hoped to plant around 100 fruit trees on the land.

St Michaels Mead Beaver colony helping plant trees at Northern Parkland, St Michaels Mead
St Michaels Mead Beaver colony helping plant trees at Northern Parkland, St Michaels Mead

The plot is owned by Bishop’s Stortford Town Council and originally the authority had reserved the land next to allotments for additional cemetery space.

However, once an alternative plan for burials was agreed upon, members were happy to back the planting project with a grant.

Orchards group spokeswoman Jill Goldsmith said: “The town council offered to test the site before the group undertook any work to clear the site for the orchard, and this decision was vindicated by the results.

The Jenkins Lane site in 2021
The Jenkins Lane site in 2021

“The science is uncertain about whether the contamination would affect the fruits, but the orchards group and the town council both agreed that the proposal for an orchard on the site should not proceed.

“The town council will now seek advice on how best to manage its land off Jenkins Lane and one option could be to plant woodland.

“The town council will also work with the orchards group to see if alternative sites can be found to plant fruit trees in and around the town.

“The town council’s grant commitment for the orchard project could still be made available if an alternative orchard site is found.”

Planting of a new community orchard at Northern Parkland, St Michaels Mead
Planting of a new community orchard at Northern Parkland, St Michaels Mead

The town council first backed the orchard plan last June, agreeing to lease the land to the group for a peppercorn rent until 2050.

The volunteers wanted to create a community asset, similar to Rivers in Sawbridgeworth, providing a leisure facility that benefits the mental health of volunteers and visitors while enhancing the biodiversity of the land, which is currently scrubland.

The aim is also to produce fruit for the community to enjoy, with apples for juicing, cooking and eating, pears, plums, crab apples, cherries, quince and medlar.

Ann Forbes and daughter Charlie planting a plum tree at Northern Parkland, St Michael’s Mead
Ann Forbes and daughter Charlie planting a plum tree at Northern Parkland, St Michael’s Mead

In November, the orchard group was one of 10 town organisations to win a share of £313,000 in funding, securing a £16,000 grant.

The climate group team has already created a small orchard comprising local heritage varieties at Bishop’s Stortford’s Northern Parkland, between the St Michael's Mead and Bishop's Gate estates.



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More