ALLOTMENT holders in Redbridge won a victory to keep their threatened plots on Thursday evening as the decision to sell-off land returned to cabinet for reconsideration.

A packed public gallery heard the motion passed by a unanimous vote of the full council after leader Cllr Allan Weinberg chose not oppose the move. It was thought the Conservative majority would insist on voting the sales through.

Five allotment sites in New North Road, Vicarage Lane South, Chigwell Road, Fullwell Ave and Goodmayes Lane had been identified for sale. But strong opposition has grown from residents who say the decision went ahead without proper consultation.

Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Hugh Cleaver, was met with applause when he deemed the proposed sale an absolute travesty' and called for a complete re-think regarding selling capital assets in the borough.

He added: "The allotment strategy is really a sale of allotment strategy. We are not selling those that are least used or least productive. What we are proposing to do is sell some of the most used, most fertile and most valuable sites in the borough."

According to the 2007 Allotment Strategy Redbridge has 18.8 plots per 1,000 residents which is above the National Society for Allotments recommendation of 15 per 1,000. However, tenants are angry that it is some of the most populated sites are earmarked for sale.

Cabinet member for Leisure, Culture and the Olympics Cllr Ronnie Barden said that the sale of assets was necessary for the council to make up for a serious budget shortfall.

He added: "We are faced with a capital programme and although some people want other things but the only thing what we are all agreed in is that we need £150m. The Liberals say that the government is going to give it to us but that's not going to happen.

"This strategy says that we have an over-provision of allotments. I'm sure that selling allotments is such an unpopular thing to do that we would not have considered it unless it was the right thing to do."

Liberal Democrat Cllr Richard Hoskins was cynical about the reprieve. He said: "It is just a temporary measure as the decision is going back to the same cabinet who wanted to sell the allotments in the first place.

"The problem now is that we cannot requisition it back to the full council again on the same point, so we will have to find a new issue to focus on when they try the same thing again further down the line."