Waste management company weighs in on allotment debate

BigGreen.co.uk has called for a national debate about allotment land after its survey found the average wait time to get an allotment in the UK is now six years.

Image: MorgueFile
Image: MorgueFile

The company, which bills itself as being environmentally conscious, spoke to councils across the UK to find out how long their waiting lists were.

Authorities who released figures led Big Green to find that:

  • People spend an average of six years on the waiting list for an allotment
  • A significant number of councils had waiting lists as high as 250 people, with waits of around nine years
  • While in 2009 there were instances of 45-year waiting lists, there was no trace of any such figures now
  • The longest wait one (unnamed) council had was for 12 years
Company spokesperson Mark Hall said: "Just at a time [when] more and more people are looking to grow their own produce, they're finding that the door has been slammed in their face. So many people have small gardens or no garden at all, meaning an allotment is the only real chance they have."

Hall said the typical 10-pole plot (about 250 sqm) was a lot of work for the average family, and recommended those plots be split in two or more to increase the number of spaces.

Big Green said it also spoke to people on council waiting lists, with responses including:

- "Three years we've been waiting. But you look over the fence and they've got empty plots. What's that about?"

- "We were told we were right at the top of the list, and then they sold the whole field off to a developer. Disgraceful. We're still at the top of the list, but the other site's miles away."

- "We desperately want to grow our own veg but we live in flats, but there's some selfish bloke who has six plots – one's got a pigeon loft and an old car! He can give one up for us, surely?"

"It's an old boys' club isn't it? We don't fit in, so we don't get a plot."

Hall said there needs to be a national debate about preserving allotment land.

"It's important green space, but all too easy for councils to earmark for development. Once that land's gone, it's gone. And that money only fills a budget hole for a single year."

He added: "There's nothing worse than going down your local allotment site to find whole plots of land that have clearly not been cultivated for some time. The council direct debit is collected every year, so they seemingly don't care if it's left fallow.

"We also know of plots which are nothing but pigeons, goats and chickens, and some who cultivate flowers and 'organic' crops sell at a profit. That's not what allotment ownership should be about."

Councils should also be stricter about multiple-occupiers who have a number of plots as well as commercial operations, denying other local people the chance to cultivate some land, Hall said.

"It's clear that many local authorities need to urgently reform their allotment provision. It's easy for users to abuse the system, when keen people are left kicking their heels, waiting for their turn."

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