In spite of rumours to the contrary, all Penwortham allotment sites have the full protection of the law with regards to their development. They are all statutory sites and this means that they cannot be used for any purpose other than as allotments unless it can be proven that they are surplus to requirements. This means a substantial proportion of the plots must be vacant.
Benedicta Peters from the urban green spaces team in the Department of Communities and Local Government confirmed
"Consent is not given unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that the local authority has done full investigation into whether the plot really is surplus; for example they've taken into account their waiting list and have advertised extensively"
The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners confirm this interpretation of the law and explain
In 1998, the Select Committee Enquiry into allotments resulted in the report The Future of Allotments in which the Select Committee expressed concern about the level of allotment site disposals and the implications this would have for the predicted increase in demand for allotments in the future.
Concern had been expressed by the Select Committee that the criteria for assessing disposals were too weak and too many disposals of allotment sites had been permitted. This did not sit comfortably with the Urban White Papers commitment to the protection of urban green spaces, including allotments.
In September 1999, the Government Offices were issued guidance by the Government on allotment policy and casework. This included a section on the procedure for dealing with applications to dispose to statutory allotment land under Section 8 of the 1925 Allotment Act.
Adequate provision will be made for displaced plot holders, or that such provision is not necessary or is impracticable;
The number of people on the waiting list has been effectively taken into account;
The authority has actively promoted and publicised the availability of allotment sites and has contacted The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners
In February 2002, the Planning Policy Guidance Note 17— Sport, Open Space and Recreation was strengthened and the criteria clarified by adding that
The allotment in question is not necessary and is surplus to requirements
The implications of disposal for other relevant policies, in particular development plan policies, have been taken into account.
It is clear from this that it is not sufficient to offer an alternative site to allotment holders and that as long as the allotments have 100% occupancy and a waiting list they cannot be disposed of under current legislation.
Rumour has it that Preston City Council wish to restrict the waiting lists for their two sites in Penwortham to Preston City residents only. This would reflect the increasing demand for plots, and if this goes ahead then there may be a case for more allotment sites in South Ribble to cope with current demand.