The end of the good life: Government paves way for sale of country's 300,000 allotments
mobbsey at gn.apc.org
Sun May 1 07:26:29 BST 2011
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
For further info/action see:
Exclusive: The end of the good life
Government paves way for sale of country's 300,000 allotments as plot-holders
revolt over plan to scrap historic right to council land
Jane Merrick and Mark Jewsbury, Independent on Sunday, 1st May 2011
The century-old right of people to demand an allotment from their council may
be abolished by the Government under plans to scale back red tape, it emerged
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, is examining plans to free local
authorities from a 103-year-old obligation to provide plots of public land for
cultivation by gardeners. The proposals could see local authorities, many of
them strapped for cash under government-imposed cuts, selling off allotment
land for social housing or even for profit to major companies.
The move has triggered a wave of protest from allotment society members and
gardeners, who have lobbied Mr Pickles to rethink the plans.
The Independent on Sunday, backed by the nation's leading gardeners and chefs,
today launches a campaign, Dig for Victory, to force ministers to safeguard
the public right to allotments. For more than a century, the allotment has
been stitched into the fabric of British life, celebrated in the Second World
War Dig for Victory campaign, the self-sufficiency movement represented by the
1970s comedy The Good Life, and the current enthusiasm for growing your own.
Because of the zeal to cut local government bureaucracy, section 23 of the
1908 Smallholdings and Allotments Act, which orders that councils must provide
sufficient number of plots to local residents where there is demand, is on a
target list of "burdensome" regulations. The move comes just weeks after
Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, proposed a sell-off of the
nation's forests, which led to a humiliating U-turn after an outcry from green
Demand for allotments across the country is so huge since the grow-your-own
movement mushroomed in the past decade that many councils have been forced to
close waiting lists. Some gardeners are waiting up to 10 years for a plot –
highlighting the national enthusiasm for growing fruit and vegetables.
The proposals are all the more surprising given claims by ministers that the
Government is one of the greenest ever. David Cameron has spoken of his love
of growing veg at his Oxfordshire home. He has also urged us to embrace his
vision for the Big Society – a sense of community already familiar to
The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners and the grow-your-own
community organisation Landshare, set up by the River Cottage chef Hugh
Fearnley-Whittingstall, are spearheading opposition to the plans. Fearnley-
Whittingstall said yesterday: "You can't overestimate the importance of
allotments to urban communities. They're absolutely vital for social
development, health and well-being. It's about more than just putting two veg
on the family table; they're about community spirit. At a time when the
country has plenty of other things to complain about, the Government goes
after allotments at its peril."
Pippa Greenwood, a gardening expert and panellist on Radio 4's Gardeners'
Question Time, said: "A climate of cutting back in the number of allotments
doesn't bear thinking about. In many allotment sites there are people of all
sizes and shapes, nationalities, ages, all in one area learning to get on
together and enjoy one another's company. It is quite unbelievable that
anybody can be so far removed from reality even to contemplate something that
might reduce their number."
Ian White, 50, a computer programmer who has grown vegetables at One Tree Hill
allotments in Honor Oak, south London for 12 years, said his plot was now part
of everyday life for his family, including daughters Roberta, four, and Nico,
two: "Just yesterday our family had a major seed planting day. It is very
useful at other times of the year when there is not much outdoor activity,
like on a winter's day, to get them to wrap up well and go to the allotment
for half an hour. It gets them out in the fresh air."
The 1908 legislation applies to England and Wales. In Scotland there is no
such obligation, although the demand for land is not as great. The law does
not apply in London because competition for space is so high.
Inviting responses from the public, the Department for Communities and Local
Government says: "To date we have identified 1,294 statutory duties that
central government currently places on local authorities, the majority of
which arise from primary legislation – and we are aware that at this stage it
is not a complete list.
"We are inviting you to comment on the duties and to challenge government on
those which you feel are burdensome or no longer needed."
The TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh said: "In an age of technology when more and
more we're disconnected from the earth, it's so important to have a space to
grow your own food, to know its history, know it's healthy; in that sense
growing your own is the sharp end of environmentalism. It would be very sad if
the Government did anything to take away people's ability to do that. I hope
it doesn't happen."
Additional reporting by Charlie Cooper and Indigo Axford
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "The
Government is reviewing old and unnecessary duties imposed on councils in
order to free them up from Whitehall red tape and as part of this we have
published the list of duties, including on allotments. However, we will not
remove statutory protections for allotments or vital frontline services."
"It is quiet unbelievable that anybody can be so far removed from reality to
even contemplate something that might reduce their number."
Pippa Greenwood, Radio 4 gardening expert
"I've been on the allotment waiting list in Wandsworth for three or four
years. So any legislation making it harder to find that space is definitely a
Tom Aikens, Chef and restaurateur
"It would be very sad if the Government did anything to take away people's
ability to grown your own food."
Alan Titchmarsh, Television gardener
"Getting rid of allotments makes no sense in this economic climate. It doesn't
seem very well thought through. To me, it's as bad as losing a library."
Antony Worrall Thompson, Chef and restaurateur
"At a time when the country has other things to complain about, the Government
goes after allotments at its peril."
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage chef
"They are not an expensive cost to councils, as all councils normally have to
provide is the land. It is very cost effective for councils."
Dave Morris, National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners
"I'm hoping we can use our legislative process to counteract any possible
changes. If I am re-elected on Thursday, I will be looking into putting
something in place to protect allotment-holders in my area."
Leanne Wood, Member of the Welsh Assembly for South Wales Central (Plaid
"They are the last common right to land we possess. For that to be snatched
away would be the final rupturing of any sense of obligation to compensate
those whose land has been removed."
George Monbiot, environmental campaigner
Derek Bolton, 68, retired environmentalist with a plot on Richmond Street
Allotments, Stoke-on-Trent, for 25 years
My wife and I have three allotments between us. We have been doing it for 25
years. Ten years ago, we couldn't give away the plots, but now most allotments
have waiting lists, some up to 14 months. If we lost our plot we would be
devastated. It's my and my wife's life. All the investment, not just the money
but the time – that is important to us.
It is about the community around the allotment site. From families to retired
people, we all work together. The average age of plot-holders as dropped more
than 20 years and is now 45. Thirty-seven per cent of our plots are managed by
females; that is the biggest change and it brings back life into the
We are currently planning an open day on our site because we can trace the
history of gardening on our site back 150 years. People can come and meet us.
There are going to be some tasting sessions with jams and chutneys. We have
also produced two allotment recipe books using produce from our site.
Tom Graves, 24, a student teacher with plot at Greenhouse Allotments in Leeds,
an eco-village complex
I cannot see the sense in getting rid of allotments. On a local level it gives
people an opportunity to meet and get to know one another. At the same time we
are doing something that is good for the environment. People do not have to
worry about going to the supermarket because they can grow their own food.
Everyone who uses the allotments at Greenhouse Leeds is in their twenties. It
isn't just a dying hobby; it is something that younger people will be
interested in too. I can't think of any reason why their existence in this
country should come under threat.
Alan Day, 68, retired accountant. Has worked a plot since 1974 with the
Chesterton Allotment Society, Histon Road, Cambridge
When I first went to the allotments we had somewhere in the region of 40 acres,
which was over 500 plots. But from the late 1970s there was a threat of
housing being built in some of the allotments; many people just moved off the
allotments. We had long negotiations with the council over usage of the land,
and by the early 1990s we lost 23 acres. Now we are left with 14 acres, about
200 plots. These plots are occupied and we now have a waiting list. If the
council tried to take our land away again we would be horrified. We would not
sit back and accept it. We would put up a fight.
"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')
Paul's book, "Energy Beyond Oil", is out now!
For details see http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/ebo/
Read my 'essay' weblog, "Ecolonomics", at:
Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864
email - mobbsey at gn.apc.org
website - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/index.shtml
public key - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/mobbsey-2011.asc
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v2.0.16 (GNU/Linux)
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
More information about the Diggers350