Allotments and the lack thereof

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

allotment Allotment spaces are at a premium again but should, theoretically, no be. Councils are obliged, in way of statutory requirement, that is to say “by law”, to make available allotment plots for everyone who wants to have one. But that, unfortunately, is but the theory.

The practice, unfortunately, looks different and in some areas, especially now that food is getting pricey and also in that people want to grow their own to know where it comes from and as to food miles. Applicants for allotment plots far outstrip the supply and the local authorities simply add people to waiting lists, and that is it. They should, however, legally, actively create more spaces and in most instances those spaces could be found.

Poole Council in Dorset currently have 900 people on the waiting list for new allotments and they only have 423 plots in total. I hope they get something sorted out soon as growing your own veg can save a lot of money for some people and it's much better for you and for the environment too.

The picture does not look any different in other parts of the UK; in fact in some places there are thousands of applicants for a few hundred plots. The fact that rents are fairly low for allotment plots; somewhere in the region of £5-£10 per annum, does not give councils much incentive to open up spaces.

However, this is where, in my opinion, they go about it the wrong way. If they could encourage applicants for plots to form their own associations councils could then make uncleared land available and get the people to clear the plots out for themselves rather than, as seems to be the practice, the council making such areas ready.

People who are really interested in having plots, against some concessions, will, I am convinced, be more than happy to clear the new allotment fields themselves and then establish a proper allotment club or something there.

I have see this work in other countries, such as in Germany, where allotments are so much bigger and different than in Britain and the Schrebergaertner, aka Kleingaertner, the allotment gardeners, also take themselves so much more serious than do the allotment gardeners in Britain and in Germany the Kleingaertner are a power to be reckoned with in local politics too.

The movement of the small gardens (Kleingaerten) in Germany and other countries, such as the Netherlands and Denmark, is very much a real movement and many people take part in this, but in Germany, for instance, from what I know, there are long waiting lists as there it is not a statutory requirement for the local governments to provide plots and, in fact, the gardening societies lease the land from local government or other landowners or even own the land themselves as an association.

The truth is that, with the amount of people on the waiting lists for allotment plots and people's interest in growing their own food and food security, Britain needs to make more provisions of allotment areas and they must be created now. We need more allotments.

© 2011