Following on from my last post about how difficult it is to get an allotment I thought I would write about the organisations and individuals that are trying to do something to provide land to those who want it. Whilst local councils and central government might not see the need for a new approach to allotment there are fortunately others who do.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, TV cook, author and promoter of all things foodie saw that something needed to be done to match the growing demand for land on which to grow. In 2009 he launched ‘Landshare‘ a website which puts people who want to grow their own produce but don’t have the land in touch with people who might have some spare land, or a garden that is too big for them. So far the venture has proved incredibly successful with over 66,000 members. Older people with large gardens that are too big for them to manage any more now have people growing fruit and veg and sharing with them the produce. There are some people who are just too busy to garden who have released part of their garden or some who have fields that are doing nothing and have given these up to allotments.
The National Trust has also joined the fight for more land. In 2009 it announced it wanted to create 1000 new allotments by 2012. They reached this target this summer. Some allotments are in walled gardens, others on vacant land near the Trust’s properties. In Woolacombe, Devon a field owned by the Trust was turned into 50 plots including one for the local Woolacombe Primary School. At Springhill in Northern Ireland a run down walled garden was brought back to life and now there are 27 allotments. Monk Coniston allotments must surely be a candidate for best location and view. Perched above Coniston Water in the Lake District the walled garden was disused until the National Trust received a Lottery grant and there are now 10 plots for the local community to grow fruit and vegetables.
The Trust joined forces with Landshare and available plots at Trust sites can be found on the Landshare website and just because they have reached their target of 1000 allotments they don’t plan to stop there with another 200 planned in the future.
It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that someone saw an opportunity to take advantage of the huge demand for allotments and set up a privately rented allotment company. The New Allotment Company opened its first site in 2010 in Kent. The charge is £150 for a year or you can pay in monthly instalments. This includes water, storage and manure. It sounds expensive and may well price some people out of the opportunity to grow their own. The other downside is that you sign up for 3 years with the opportunity to leave after the first year but after putting in all the hard work of establishing your plot it would be difficult if after the 3 years the rent rose and became prohibitively expensive. However, the plots are pre-prepared so no dreadful weeds to remove and the site provides secure storage, toilets and an all weather shelter and I know from my own experience that those would be welcome additions to my own allotment site.
It is good to know that people have taken on the task of dealing with the lack of land for growing but this should not be an excuse for local authorities to neglect their responsibilities. Politicians like to suggest they are in touch with the voter and listen to what they want but they seem to have some wax in their ears on this one. It would be nice to see a local councillor somewhere in the country to take up the issue of allotments and the lack of them.