Data reveal lack of allotment protection

Freedom of Information request shows minister has turned down just two out of 83 requests to sell or change use of sites.

Just two out of 83 council requests to sell or change the use of allotment sites have been rejected by Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) secretary Eric Pickles since 2010.

A Freedom of Information request found that Pickles allowed 59 of the requests to go ahead, with allotment sites being sold for housing in many cases. Pickles is also examining local authority plans to free them from having to provide plots under the 1911 Allotment Act.

Some 22 cases are still ongoing. The change of use of allotment sites can only be approved by Pickles. Allotment site owners, such as local authorities, must prove that no one is using or wants to use a site as an allotment or that it is not "reasonably practical" to keep it.

Best-known ongoing cases where plot-holders lost sites to development are Manor Gardening Society on the London Olympic site (HW, 7 March) and Farm Terrace in Watford, where a judicial review is planned.

National Allotments Society (NAS) mentor co-ordinator Di Appleyard said: "Allotment disposal is more complicated than numbers. At Farm Terrace in Watford and Marsh Lane in London, permission was granted to build on allotments and resite them elsewhere, but they have no concept of the culture, social history and community that disappears when they do that.

"There's such demand on green space in cities and that's threatened by relaxation in planning laws, and allotments are part of that. We worked with the DCLG on making clearer guidance on allotment disposal (see safeguards-and-alternatives).

"The DCLG has to communicate proposals to the NAS and we write a report case by case, but quite a few have gone through without us wanting them to. There's a judicial review on Farm Terrace and if Eric Pickles can ignore allotment legislation and say that's for the greater good, where are we?"

She recommended that allotment societies "protect themselves" by registering as "community assets" under the Localism Bill.

Communities minister Stephen Williams said: "Allotments are valuable community spaces and we have just issued new guidance to strengthen their protection. Strict Government rules also restrict their disposal, including requiring that any allotment land lost must be matched with new allotments on a like-for-like basis elsewhere in the area."

The DCLG gave Watford Borough Council permission to dispose of the land, for a health campus to be built, under the Allotments Act 1925. It said it was satisfied the council will create new allotments to replace those lost to enable the building of the hospital facilities.

Key support Dame backs plot-holders

Former Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell has urged the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) to rehome allotment holders who were previously promised a return to the Olympic park.

She has sent a letter to LLDC chief executive Dennis Hone slamming the corporation for its treatment of allotment group Manor Garden Society.

The group's allotments were moved from the Olympic park site in 2007 to make way for development and moved to Marsh Lane in Leyton, despite assurances that a site would be provided inside the Olympic park before December 2014.

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