Allotment society wants more permanent sites as ministers launch temporary plots

The Government has introduced new ways for gardeners to find allotment plots - but the National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners (NSALG) has questioned why it is not using existing legislation to cut growing allotment waiting lists.

Hilary Benn at King's Cross allotment. Image: HW
Hilary Benn at King's Cross allotment. Image: HW

Gardeners will be able to grow fruit and vegetables in skips on building sites thanks to new Government "meanwhile leases", which allow communities to use private land from developers until builders are ready to move in when the economic downturn ends.

NSALG acting secretary Donna McDaid said: "Why reinvent the wheel? The Government should enforce the 1908 allotment act to provide more sites. The sites provide no security of tenure. There is a lot of jumping on the bandwaggon now allotments are fashionable. The focus is on community gardening and not having your own plot."

On a visit to King's Cross in London ministers John Denham and Hilary Benn saw how charity Global Generation is using a temporary lease to create portable skip allotments on a development site.

Environment minister Hilary Benn said: "We need to find some more land. You might think the last place you'd look is a development site like this. But it's proof that with the right spirit and attitude it can be done."

Communities secretary John Denham added: "Last year's growth in interest in grow-your-own was partly because people were worried about the cost of food. Long allotment waiting lists become self regulating, if word gets around people won't put themselves forward."

Global Generation gardener Paul Richens said the seven skip gardens at the King's Cross development cost £1,700 each to make good for growing. Future schemes are designed to be open to all.

The Government also launched new guidance available to councils on reducing allotment plot sizes and managing waiting lists. The Government has given Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens £30,000 to set up a new national community land bank, which will act as a broker between landholders and community groups that want to grow food.

The Government is supporting proposals put forward by Brighton and Hove, Waltham Forest, Birmingham and Sheffield councils under the Sustainable Communities Act allowing gardeners to sell surplus produce to shops. They will also make it easier for councils to allow people to grow on abandoned land.

- See Analysis p16.


Transition Towns West Kirkby representative Margaret Campbell has contacted all 323 principal English councils with Freedom of Information requests about the length of allotment waiting lists.

She is collating a report for NSALG for next month but initial finds suggest a 10 per cent plus increase on last year's waiting list of 49 people per 100 plots. This was up from four per 100 in 1996. In 2008, this meant 76,000 waiting for 156,000 plots surveyed from 236 authorities. There are around 300,000 plots in the UK, including town and parish council plots.

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