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

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