8 Jan 2010

Allotment project moving ahead slowly

Plans for allotments in Whiteshill and Ruscombe are moving ahead slowly - the draft lease is now being considered and I'm hopeful we can move forward - we've had lots of emails trying to get this sorted - and it looks like we wont actually be getting on the land for some months but it is still looking v possible.

Photo: View of Cashes Green allotments

The lease is between the Parish and a private landowner as no public land suitable can be identified and authorities don't have the resources to purshase land. That, in my view, needs to change but this arrangement locally is nothing like the new private allotment company that is now operating in Kent and about serious commericialisation.

In Kent the New Allotment Company Ltd opened its first site of 300 allotments on the outskirts of Tonbridge this week. It expects to open more sites in the Midlands and South East in a bid to make 10,000 plots of land available by Summer 2010. The plots of approximately 1000 square foot will cost £150 a year to rent and tenants will be offered a 3-year contract with the option to leave after the first year.

Donna McDaid, spokesperson for the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, is quoted in The Ecologist saying: "It goes against what we're all about. They are setting out to make a profit. They may be getting people off waiting lists but we want to encourage local authorities to promote their allotment facilities. This allows them to sit back and let companies like this one do their job for them, but at a cost."

Meanwhile, Rudi Schogger, Managing Director of The New Allotment Company defended the commercialisation of allotments suggesting that "the model of heavily subsidised allotments must change."

More from The Ecologist: In a report published last year, the think tank, The New Local Government Network (TLGN), called on councils to make use of brownfield sites and encourage landowners to donate unused holdings to their local community. It said it welcomed the moves to make more land available for allotments but said there would be question marks about inclusivity if local councils used the private provision as an excuse to cut back on their own obligations to provide allotments. Nick Hope, NLGN researcher and author of the report, 'Can you Dig it? Meeting Community Demand for Allotments', said if there was a demand then councils should step in and set up not-for-profit schemes using the same approach as private enterprise. He also said future housing projects should include the provision of 'edible' land that could be used to grow food. The Department for Local Government and Communities said Local authorities had a statutory duty to provide allotments where they perceive a demand for them, but it is up to each local authority to decide how much they spend on allotment provision in their area.

Certainly for me there is a serious question about inclusivity if we see charges like those being proposed in Kent. Locally I would love to see more folk requesting allotments of their Parish and Town Councils - the more demand, the more likely we are to see proper moves to develop new sites. I don't think there is even a list in Randwick yet - time to get them to start one!! Indeed this project in Whiteshill and Ruscombe could be the first new allotments site for a long while.

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