There’s a new allotment survey of waiting lists in England released by Transition Town West Kirby and National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners. Undertaken by Margaret and Ian Campbell, who surveyed 323 English local authorities regarding their allotment waiting lists.
The survey showed a small drop in the waiting list from last year’s 59 people for every 100 plots to 57 people waiting for each 100 allotment plots. That’s within the margin for error.
New Allotment Sites
Some good news, 31 councils have created 35 new allotment sites , totalling some 939 plots on 15 hectares (37 acres in proper money) of land. However, the average plot size was 160 square metres, just over 6 rods, which is 40% smaller than the traditional 10 rod plot.
Smaller Allotment Plots
This trend to smaller plots is obviously growing, many councils commented that they are splitting plots in half as they become vacant to help meet demand. To me this is a bit of a mixed blessing. A lot of new plotholders are overwhelmed by a full sized plot and give up as they just can’t cope so smaller plots make a lot of sense. The full size plot was traditionally sized so a man could feed his family from it. Times have changed, the modern plotholder is as likely to be a woman as a man, if not more so, and families are smaller than they were historically.
On the other hand, modern gardens have shrunk and shrunk. The pre-war semi would have a back garden around 100 feet by 30 feet (280 square metres) but a modern house has barely a large patio area at the back with a parking area to the front.
So shrinking the size of allotment plots at the same time as average gardens have shrunk means the amount of land per person is drastically shrunk. Where will it end? The one rod plot? Not an easy one.
Statutory Duty to Provide Allotments
What is very concerning to me in the report is that 109 of the authorities surveyed don’t keep any record of the waiting list. Some have valid reasons for this, namely:
- They have no allotments
- All the allotments in their area are managed by other bodies such as parish councils or allotment societies.
However, been somewhat suspicious and cynical, I have to wonder if it’s a way for some councils to wriggle out of their statutory duty to provide plots where there is demand. No waiting list equals no demand. OK, even those who do keep records hardly comply with the spirit of the duty but it looks better not to be derelict in your duty.