Allotments grow in popularity
Published on 4th January 2013
As the popularity of ‘grow your own’ continues to soar, Cheltenham’s allotments have come under the spotlight.
A working group has come together to launch a review of allotments in Cheltenham and their findings will be discussed this month.
The increasing demand from residents wishing to adopt a healthier, cheaper and more active lifestyle means that the council is receiving more requests for allotments than ever before. The group of councillors has reviewed current allotment provision and management. They have also carried out site visits and taken on board the views of a variety of partners.
The group will put forward ten recommendations which will be discussed by the Overview and Scrutiny (O&S) committee when they meet on 10 January. Subject to the feedback received from O&S, the recommendations will then go to full council in February and cabinet in March.
The review includes issues such as: identifying allotment space within new developments; enforcement of uncultivated allotment plots to relieve the pressure on waiting lists; continued liaison with parish councils; and improved communication with allotment plot holders.
Councillor Anne Regan is chair of the group, she said: “This review has raised the importance of promoting a new outlook on this healthy lifestyle. We hope these recommendations will lead to a more effective and enhanced service within the borough council.”
Councillor Roger Whyborn, cabinet member for sustainability, commented: “The scrutiny task group have clearly looked at the subject in depth and I would broadly welcome their approach, which the full council will study in detail.
“We regard food cultivation as very important and are looking at ways to extend it, including ways to meet the demand for allotments. I welcome the recommendation that the cabinet member maintains dialogue with parish councils, and we have already started to arrange meetings with parishes.”
The full report is available at www.cheltenham.gov.uk
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Notes for the editor:
Growth in demand for allotments in Cheltenham has mirrored the national picture. In 2005, there were 85 applications for allotments in Cheltenham. Since 2008, there have been in excess of 200 applications each year. In order to meet some of this demand, the Council has brought significant areas of uncultivated land back into cultivation and has undertaken plot splits to cater for the demand for smaller allotments. As a consequence, the number of allotment tenancies has risen from 555 in 2007 to 814 as of December 2012.
The allotments review scrutiny task group will put forward the following recommendations:
Recommendation 1: the strength of local opposition to a proposal for a new allotment site should be a key consideration should such a situation arise again.
Recommendation 2: Request cabinet to pursue the development into allotments of a small part of the farmland owned by the borough council at Priors Farm to the north of the borough, not affecting any rights of way
Recommendation 3: That the cabinet member sustainability maintains dialogue with parish councils in terms of their responsibilities for addressing allotment waiting lists
Recommendation 4: A review of enforcement of uncultivated allotment plots should be undertaken to alleviate the pressure on the waiting list, and that the current tenancy agreement should be revised to enable this and the points raised above to be enforced.
Recommendation 5: That the allotments officer is more visible on sites
Recommendation 6: That additional support for allotments should be considered in the green space development team
Recommendation 7: To review current lines of communication with allotment stakeholders and the council’s allotments service
Recommendation 8: To review the information about what commitment is required by taking on an allotment on the council’s website and include links to the allotments association website and investigate opportunities to introduce online notice and discussion boards
Recommendation 9: That consideration be given to an allotment provision and enhancement policy in the emerging Cheltenham Local Plan
Recommendation 10: To request cabinet to investigate opportunities to work in partnership with organisations such as Cheltenham Borough Homes, GAVCA and CCP to facilitate a scheme to distribute surplus produce to those in most need in the town.