How local allotments help the community?

Things are changing in the world of allotments. Once they were a place for the older gardener in their retirement now they seem to be increasingly popular with younger couples and families. Still the local authorities threat of closure hang over many of them.

Always looking for more space to build, pressure to release brownfield sites and ever increasing threats to close allotments local authorities are trying new tactics to get their waiting lists under control. They are cutting the size of the plots by half, thus allowing twice as many gardeners to share the same space. According to research by the National Allotment Society (NAS) younger people applying for their own plots has increased.

As a result the demographics have changed. Owners are now much more diverse with a mix of ages genders and backgrounds. The NAS are very happy with this change as it highlights the importance of protecting plots for future generations.

National Allotment Week

With it being National Allotment week this week – 10th – 16th August 2015 the NSA is encouraging local groups to to let them know about the councils who have been working hard to protect their existing sites and develop new ones.  They’ve also launched a ‘Plot for all Ages campaign Most plots date back to the 20th century but there is still a debate over the oldest allotment between Long Newnton, Shipton Moyne (on the Gloucester/Wiltshire border) date circa 1795 and the Coombe allotments in  Gloucestershire site, who claim to date back to 1763.

An estimated 350,000 in Britain have allotments with nearly 800,00 on waiting lists. A freedom of information request by the Save All Allotments campaigners found that, between 2007 and 2014, 194 out of 198 applications to close allotments were granted by the secretary of state. The Department for Communities and Local Government has said that 2,000 new allotment places were created in the past few years but has no figures for how many have been lost.

Allotments couldn’t be more vital

Di Appleyard of the NAS said that, as people are ending up with smaller and smaller gardens, allotments have never been more vital. “They are wonderful for mental health, for creating community, but there is a problem in that it’s the right to grow that is protected by statute, so if a council wants a bit of land it really doesn’t have to take account of the community there.

“But a lot of councils are respecting their allotments and not trying to get rid of them despite the pressures,” she said. She added that the once traditional “allotment officer” post was mostly disappearing, leaving many allotments unmanaged, while other councils were raising rents.

“Allotments are of course vulnerable with the pressure on urban space increasing,” Appleyard said. “But there are ways to fight back and things people can do. People power is an impressive thing.”