Study laments allotment supply failure

Research calls for investment as slow release of sites by local authorities leaves applicants facing long waits for plots.

The grow your own trend has left nearly 90,000 amateur gardeners waiting for an allotment and council waiting lists of up to 100 years, according to latest research.

A survey of 152,442 council plots in England carried out by Transition Town West Kirby and the National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners found 86,787 people waiting for an allotment. This is 57 people for every 100 plots - up from just four in 1996.

Despite the massive demand, only 939 plots in new allotment sites were brought into use by local authorities last year.

In London, there were 259 people waiting for 60 plots in Islington and the council closed its list after admitting gardeners faced a wait of around 100 years. In Camden 945 people are waiting for 195 plots and the council estimated the delay to be "well over 40 years".

Meanwhile, in Burnley, Lancashire, the list trebled from 116 eight years ago to 385, with residents facing a seven-year wait. The average time nationally is more than three years and many councils have closed their lists.

The report's co-author Ian Campbell said: "If local authorities carry on releasing new allotments at the rate they are, it could take 100 years to clear the waiting lists. High waiting lists have gone on for more than two years now and there hasn't been a large reaction to deal with them."

The report concluded: "Despite the large demand for allotments, there seems to have been little increase in supply. The plots brought into use by councils in the past year represent only about one per cent of the people on waiting lists. It could be argued that many are in breach of their statutory duty to provide sufficient allotments.

"At a time when any funding request is likely to be closely scrutinised, a strong case can still be made for investment in allotments.

"Not only would such investment support the rising interest in locally-grown food and healthy eating, but it would also offer a productive activity for the unemployed and be part of the new low-carbon economy through a reduction in food miles."

Site creation Community powers pledged

Councils have sold off or redeveloped more than 50,000 allotments over the past 15 years, according to a previously unpublished data.

The University of Derby/Government survey showed that the number of allotment sites in cities, towns and villages fell by nearly 800 between 1996 and 2006.

The figures were revealed by planning minister Greg Clark as he pledged to boost allotments by giving powers to communities to identify new sites and protect existing plots under the Localism Bill.

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