David Boyle - Why selling off allotments is not localism
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Tue May 10 00:09:52 BST 2011
economics: Ecuadorian style
9 May 2011
Why selling off allotments is not localism
Boyle - nef fellow
Eric Pickles wants to abandon the rules that
force councils to provide allotments. Is this the
end of the Good Life, or just the end of Pickles' career?
The proposal by Communities Secretary Eric
Pickles to abolish the rules that force councils
to provide allotments looks like one of those
political misjudgments that could finish a promising political career.
He seems to have misjudged the role that
allotments are suddenly coming to play in our
national life. They are already staggeringly
over-subscribed, with waiting lists stretching for decades in the future.
Nor is this a short-term fad. Seed companies
report that, for the first time since the Second
World War, vegetable seeds are now outselling
flower seeds in the UK. It is all part of the
rising demand for real food, which as we new
economists know is also the key to local economic revival.
So the food blogs are already
has already launched a Dig for Victory campaign
against the Pickles proposal that councils could
sell off these vital resources. Other campaigns seem to be developing too.
In practice it would mean repealing section 23 of
the 1908 Smallholdings and Allotments Act, which
forces councils to provide enough plots to local
residents where there is demand. The 1908 act is
a piece of enlightened legislation from the
reforming Liberal government of Asquith and Lloyd
George so Pickles coalition partners are
likely to act to preserve their own heritage.
Of course the Act is rarely obeyed. The demand
hugely exceeds supply. But it does at least
provide some kind of protection of existing allotments.
Pickles will no doubt paint this impoverishing
idea as localism. But the truth is that
front-loading the spending cuts onto local
authorities so that they have to sell allotment
land to developers is precisely the opposite of
localism. It is deeply disempowering: the kind
of move that can gouge the soul out of the Big Society.
I live in the middle of one of the biggest
allotments in South London. It actually
pre-dates the crucial 1908 legislation.
What I see across the 300 or so busy plots is an
extraordinary and productive vision of the future
of London, amazingly multi-racial, co-operative
and health giving, and stretching out in its
impact well into the local economy providing
not just fruit and vegetables in all kinds of
exotic varieties, but chickens, eggs, honey and
even electricity (the wind machine there also powers the local school).
Losing that extraordinary resources would be
impoverishing in so many different ways. It is
extraordinary and depressing that a government
minister could even consider a move that could
lead to that, but I am far from sure that local people would allow it.
Nor am I the only one who thinks along these
lines. Guess who said this: We have an example
here of how utterly daft planning has become,
that local estate allotments could be considered
for housing at a time when everyone, from the
Prime Minister down, is tasked to look for more sustainability.
Yes, it was Pickles himself, during last years
general election campaign, criticising
Conservative controlled Test Valley council for
proposing their own allotment sell-off.
the section of the localism bill which was
drafted before the May 2010 election which gave
local authorities the right to create their own
banks appears to have been dropped now it is making its way through parliament.
The Conservative/Cameron Bullingdon Club plan
appears to be to dissolve government ... allowing
the rich and big business to take over and
everybody else to either do what they say or starve. [ed.]
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