Friday, 30 March 2007

Older people and Cultivating for health

All of those who enjoy gardening are convinced of its health benefits and anecdotal evidence is easily found to back up claims of improved physical and mental wellbeing. “ it (gardening) is a life expanding experience for all. In a garden we can find a cure for boredom, and chronic fatigue, a remedy for unhappiness, and an escape from feelings of tension, anxiety, alienation and futility. If prevention is better than cure, why is the application of horticultural therapy restricted to the sick, when it could be employed for the health promotion of every man, woman and child.” (Donald Norfolk 2000 The Therapeutic Garden Bantam Press p.8)

A project has been completed which has attempted to show this link between well being and gardening, particularly community gardening. It is called The Cultivating for Health Project. The premise of the project was that communal gardening on allotment sites created inclusionary spaces in which older people could benefit from gardening activity in a mutually supportive environment that helped to combat social isolation and contribute to the development of their social networks. The project was completed in 2002, and explored the concept of a therapeutic landscape which enhanced quality of life and emotional well being.

In summary it found that

For older people the natural landscape was seen to contribute positively in both active and passive ways on their mental well being. The experience of built landscape in which the participants were resident reflected findings of other geographical studies pointing to heightened fear of crime amongst older people (Pain, R 1994 Old age and ageism in urban research: The case of fear of crime. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 21 1 pp. 117-128). The domestic garden was a site of relaxation and security.

Allotments as sites for communal gardening were seen to contribute to the social inclusion of older people and offering a means of combating social isolation.

A deeper meaning to communal gardening activity that operated at an emotional level was also experienced. A sense of achievement, satisfaction and aesthetic pleasure from engagement with nature was expressed. Less able members of the group benefited from a nurturing and mutually supportive environment.

In conclusion “Allotments are widespread across the UK and where available are relatively inexpensive. Sensitively developed they have the potential to make a significant contribution to the health aging agenda through communal gardening. Milligan, C; Gatrell, A and Bingley, A ‘Cultivating Health’: therapeutic landscapes and older people in northern England. Social Science and Medicine 58 9 pp.1781-1793)

Evidence again of the potential of allotments and another reason to increase their provision rather than earmark them for development!

Monday, 19 March 2007

Shortage of allotments hitting the headlines

A Radio 4 news report on PM this week has highlighted the rising level of demand for allotments (March 15 2007)

At Spar Hill Allotments near Crystal Palace, a large site with just over 300 plots Jack Dudley Swale gave his insight into the growing popularity of allotment gardening.

“20 years ago you rarely got women applying for plots. Now I would say probably about 6 out of every 10 people on the waiting list are ladies”

This has led to an unprecedented growth in the demand for allotments in recent years, a demand, which cannot be satisfied. At Spar Hill applicants have to live within 1km of the allotment site in order to be placed on the waiting list. Across London about 4500 people are waiting for allotments. In Camden, Hilary Burden the allotments officer, confirmed that she had 580 people on a waiting list for 194 plots. Those at the top of the list had been waiting since 1998, and it was typical to have 3 new requests a day.

Not only in London but in every major city waiting lists are increasing. In Edinburgh the list has increased by 1/3 in the last year. In Bradford people can expect to wait over 5 years before they can get an allotment.

With this huge demand comes a shrinking supply. Since the last survey 10 years ago allotment plots have been lost at a rate of 9400 per year. A survey in London completed by London Assembly Member Peter Hume-Cross recently concluded that 1500 plots had been lost to developers since 1997. This is despite these plots being designated as statutory, being in demand, and supposedly offered the maximum legal protection. In 2004 5 sites in London were referred to the secretary of state for disposal and all were lost to development.

One wish was expressed by all those interviewed, for greater legal protection for allotment sites. Statutory protection is not as good as many think. Although Preston City Council confirmed that the Penwortham allotments have statutory status they also confirmed that they do appear to be highlighted for development under Riverworks

Friday, 16 March 2007

Allotment Diary February 2007

The Internet is full of sites dedicated to allotments and to gardening communally, testament to its growing popularity. For information on gardening why not try some of the links in the side bar – Gardening Advice, these include the Royal Horticultural Society and the BBC Gardening pages.

One of the many pleasures of gardening has to be the connection with the rhythm of the seasons.

On Allotments4all an online chatroom for keen allotment growers one lady puts this very well

“What we have all tried to tell you, each in our own way, is how much of a need there is for inner peace, tranquillity, and an overwhelming desire to remove ourselves, be it only temporarily, from the everyday pressure that the 21st century life imposes.

Many on this site have young children, I have two in their early 20’s. What saddens me is they are growing up surrounded by the expectation of immediacy. They are growing up in a society where everything in their lives is available at ‘the touch of a button’”
Edit October 29 2005.

In February the first signs of spring begin to appear, and seed planting can begin, always with an eye to the possibility of a late frost. Garlic cloves can be planted if you didn’t get around to it last autumn, onion and shallot sets can also go in. Seeds can be planted under glass or on windowsills, herbs, tomatoes, sweetpeas, peas, lettuce, cucumber and sweetcorn. Keener, or maybe just more organised gardeners have their broad beans well on the way for planting out in March.

At the end of the month the first frogspawn appeared on the pond. A small amount has been carried home in a jam jar to be kept in a tank until the froglets can be returned to the allotment. I’m not sure why we are all so fascinated by tadpoles!

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Allotments and the Law

Allotment law is quite complicated, but the following short guide should give an overview of those elements concerned with the protection of allotment sites against disposal by local government.
Responsibility for policy and legislation on allotments used to rest with the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, but during 2002 this department was split and Allotments now fall within the remit of the Department for Communities and Local Government

1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act

Consolidates all previous legislation and laid down basis for subsequent legislation. Duty placed with Local Authorities to provide sufficient allotments according to demand.

1919 Land Settlement Facilities Act

Opened allotments to all, not just the "labouring population"

1922 Allotments Act

Provided allotment tenants with some security of tenure, also limited size and use of allotment plots.

1925 Allotments Act

Established STATUTORY ALLOTMENTS which a local authority could not sell or convert to other purposes without ministerial consent.

1950 Allotments Act.

Included various changes to allotment agreements including, compensation paid to tenants if tenancy terminated, extension of period of notice to quit to 12 months.

Other Legislation

Local Government Act 1972
Town and Country Planning Act 1990
Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980
Acquisition of Land Act 1981
All made some changes to allotment law.

But what happens if the local authority want to dispose of the land?
This depends on whether the allotments are designated statutory or temporary.
In Penwortham there are four main allotment sites;
On Liverpool road just before the River Ribble and Fishergate hill. These are owned and managed by Preston City Council
On Leyland road next to Penwortham Holme playing fields and the river. These are owned and run by Preston City Council
On Leyland road behind the Bridge Inn and the Methodist Church, These are owned and run by Penwortham Town Council
On Valley Road behind the Church allotments, these were formed to compensate allotment holders for the loss of plots from the main Liverpool Road site when the Penwortham by pass was built, and they are owned by South Ribble Borough Council
On contacting all the councils involved it is clear that all the allotments are statutory, and so have maximum protection under the law

Effectively this means
In order for the land to be disposed of there must be consent from the relevent member of parliament, at present this is the secretary of state for communities and local government. The Secretary of State will want to be satisfied of certain conditions
The allotment is not necessary or is surplus to requirements. (The issue of vacant and neglected plots)
The council will give displaced plot holders adequate alternative sites, unless this is not necessary or not practicable
The council has taken the number of people on the waiting list into account.
The council has actively promoted and publicised the availability of allotment sites and has consulted the NSALG (the national society for allotments and leisure gardeners)
The council is also expected to consult with plotholders before disposal.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Allotments for Life!

We are fortunate in preston to have several excellent allotment sites clustered mainly in Penwortham near to the river. Recently there have been ideas within Preston City Council, South Ribble Borough Council and the Preston Vision Board to utilise these sites for a large housing development on the south side of the river. This blog exists to promote our allotments and to ensure their continued success.