New Local Government Network calls for public and royal land for allotments

The New Local Government Network (NLGN) think-tank has urged the Government to expand the number of public allotments by building on brownfield sites and encouraging landowners to donate unused holdings to their local community.

With 100,000 people currently on a waiting list for an allotment, the NLGN is calling for the Government and local councils to make better use of the estimated 3,500ha of unused brownfield land to create new community allotments. Residents in some London boroughs have to wait up to 40 years for a plot, the NLGN has said.

NLGN has also called on the Government to offer tax incentives for landowners to allow allotments to be built on unused sections of their property.

The network has also called on the royal family, which owns more than 270,000ha of land — some of which is already used for farming — to allow its land to be turned into allotments for the benefit of local citizens.

The think-tank also suggests that, should a voluntary system not work, the Government should consider a Large Private Estates Commission which could have the power to temporarily transfer unused plots of private land to the local community for agricultural use. 

The NLGN report also calls for local councils to encourage "edible landscaping", including the creation of more roof gardens and allowing residents to sell their produce at local markets and co-operatives. The report calls for the expansion of schemes such as the Landshare website, which allows landowners to offer land for people to grow their own food.

Director of the NLGN, Chris Leslie, said: "It is well documented that allotments can help to keep people fit, encourage healthy eating, reduce carbon footprints and save money on food bills, so it's a tragedy that over 100,000 people are waiting to be provided with a plot of land. Our reforms would see much more unused and non-functional brownfield land developed into a much more picturesque landscape of working allotments.

"Furthermore, with 1% of landowners owning 70% of land in the UK, we would like to see the Government encourage them to share a small portion of it with people in their local communities, particularly those who do not have access to their own garden. The royal family should also be encouraged to share some of their vast 677,000 acres to allow more people to enjoy gardening and farming. I am sure that as a vocal advocate for farming and the countryside, Prince Charles and the Duchy of Cornwall will be supportive of the idea.

"Allotments are an iconic part of the British psyche and conjure up images of ‘Dig for Victory' signs during World War Two. However they are still as relevant today and can be an excellent way of bringing together local communities and producing fantastic food. With everyone from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to Sarah Brown supporting home-grown food, we urge the Government to make it easier for councils to give more people the opportunity to enjoy an allotment."

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