Having been delighted that the government have U-turned on plans to remove requirements to have allotments I was disappointed to learn that a government study just released has found that town halls have sold or redeveloped over 50,000 allotments in 15 years. This is despite huge waiting lists and demand for ‘grow your own’ food. However, Planning Minister Greg Clark has pledged to boost allotments by giving communities powers to identify new sites and protect existing plots under the Localism Bill. Read more from the Daily Mail here. We await to see how this turns into action.
Meanwhile Transition West Kirby have just finished their annual survey of allotment waiting lists across the country. The report demonstrates that demand for allotments remains high, and there seems to have been little increase in supply - the number of plots in new allotment sites brought into use by local authorities in the last year represents only about 1% of the number of people on local authority waiting lists.
The report shows 31 councils have created 35 new allotment sites, totalling some 939 plots on 15 hectares (37 acres in proper money) of land. However, the average plot size was 160 square metres, just over 6 rods, which is 40% smaller than the traditional 10 rod plot. This trend to smaller plots is obviously growing, many councils commented that they are splitting plots in half as they become vacant to help meet demand. In Whiteshill and Ruscombe the plots are much much smaller on the new site. It is true that many new plotholders are overwhelmed by a full sized plot so smaller plots make a lot of sense. However the full size plot was traditionally sized so a family could be fed from it. Yes times have changed - but also gardens have shrunk....I personally would like to see all sizes on offer but clearly there is a challenge re land availability. What is very concerning in the report is that 109 of the authorities surveyed don’t keep any record of the waiting list. Some don't have any allotments while others are managed by other bodies. Go here for details of the report.