Volunteers claim they are being prevented from working at Brooks Farm in Leyton

Farm Family protest outside Brooks Farm on Forest YMCA's opening weekend

Farm Family protest outside Brooks Farm on Forest YMCA's opening weekend

First published in News
Last updated
East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter - Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest council has offered to mediate in a dispute between the new owners of a city farm and representatives of young volunteers who claim they are being excluded.

The authority managed Brooks Farm in Skeltons Lane Park, Leyton, for around 30 years until Forest YMCA won the contract to manage it under a 25- year lease in April this year. 

The children and adult volunteers, collectively known as the Farm Family, had worked under supervision at the farm for long hours at weekends and during summer holidays for three decades. 

Farm Family co-ordinator Maxine Fellows, 47, organised a petition earlier this year after being informed the group could not continue volunteering, but were instead invited to sign up for a range of educational activities. 

The petition, calling for them to continue their volunteer work, has gathered over 1,100 signatures.

Forest YMCA insisted the group were not being excluded and claimed the group were waging an unfair campaign against the charity.

A report published earlier this year set out the transfer agreement with Forest YMCA.

It stated it was "essential to retain the Farm’s membership of the City Farm Federation and YMCA will be required to sustain and build on this volunteer network." 

Now the council has stepped in to try and resolve the dispute.

Councillor Mark Rusling, cabinet member for children and young people, said: "We recognise that the Farm Family have played a valuable contribution in the running of Brook Farm and when transferring the site to the YMCA, included a clause in the Management Agreement stating that the YMCA are required to retain the use of the volunteers. 

"The agreement does not contain a clause requiring the YMCA to retain the Farm Family as a formal group however, so this is not enforceable.

"We want to help the Farm Family and YMCA reach an agreement, so are speaking to both parties and this week will meet the YMCA to try and identify a mutually-beneficial solution."

Brooks Farm re-opened to the public on August 7 following a £530,000 refurbishment, paid for by Forest YMCA. 

During its opening weekend, the Farm Family staged a protest inside Skeltons Park by the Farm's entrance. 

It is also understood the Forest YMCA Brooks Farm Facebook page has been removed in recent days.

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