Friday, 21 January 2011

Fighting for allotments

Some readers may be aware that I am a councillor in Gateshead. One of the issues I have been campaigning on is more allotments and garden space in the borough. So you can imagine what I thought of the Council's plans this week to get rid of 98 allotments.

The Council Cabinet discussed the proposals on Tuesday, 18th January. I am not a member of the Cabinet but I am still entitled to speak at meetings. So I turned up at the meeting and pressed the case for keeping the allotments.

I accept that the allotments under threat have problems: many are used for the wrong purposes. Many are in a poor state of repair or have been unused for some time.

The solution is not to get rid of them, but to manage them better. Many people want allotments but Gateshead does not had a central waiting list. Instead, you have to apply to go on the list for a particular site. People waiting at one site therefore will not necessarily know about vacant plots elsewhere.

I am disappointed that the approach of the Council is to get rid of allotments rather than address their management. This is a move in completely the wrong direction.

Our local newspaper have covered the story as well. You can read it at: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/north-east-news/evening-chronicle-news/2011/01/20/anger-at-decision-to-axe-gateshead-allotments-72703-28022231/

Amateur Gardening has also been in touch to cover the story.

3 comments:

Mal said...

I don't have an allotment, but I have checked the Gateshead Council website before and there is not enough information on the allotments page.

The current system seems fine, but it would be more accessible if they regularly updated the list of allotments with stats - to make the process more transparent.

Next to each locations, they should list: the number of empty plots, average wait time, length of waiting list etc. At the moment, it's like betting on a horse without knowing the odds.

The details don't need to be 100% accurate, just monthly or quarterly averages. Essentially, just give the applicant a basic idea of what they are applying for.

alipent said...

i am a tenant on one of the sites they wish to close , the council have stopped letting allotments on our site 18 months ago and this was part of there plan to run allotments down ,, they would not let us lock the gate so fly tipping became a problem
we will fight to save these allotments
people need to contact the council to explain why they do such things
save hurrocks allotments

Simon Baddeley said...

The classic way to get around some quite robust legal protection for allotments is to prove there's insufficient demand. Thus any agency seeking to close existing allotments or reject requests for new ones has to demonstrate no demand. It is easy enough to do unless local people mobilise. Imagine this. You can prove there's no demand for a cinema by taking out all its seats. We call this 'constructive non-maintenance' or 'malign neglect'. To show there's no demand for new allotments you just avoid doing surveys asking residents if they'd like a secure allotment site for reasonable chargest with good soil and a community hut with toilets near them. We greatly strengthened our campaign for the Victoria Jubilee Allotments in Handsworth, Birmingham, by doing just such a survey ourselves - leafletting homes with about 8000 questionnaires with a return address asking the questions above. It then becomes the council's job to try to refute the almost certain evidence you have obtained that people want allotments. Just resist that 'malign neglect' trick! Good luck. S