Sunday, February 15, 2009


Long waits for plot allotment
growing take off

by Ben Glaze

PEOPLE in Wales hoping to grow their own vegetables could have to wait until 2018 to secure an allotment, an investigation reveals today.

Nearly 3,000 green-fingered residents want a patch at 366 council-run sites across the nation as cash-strapped shoppers seek to provide their own food during the recession.

All plots operated by Welsh local authorities, totalling more than 7,000, are taken, with 86 residents in Monmouthshire facing between a three and nine-year wait to start growing their own turnips, carrots and potatoes.

Today’s figures were uncovered by Plaid Cymru Sustainability spokeswoman Leanne Wood, who tends an allotment in the Rhondda Valleys.

The South Wales Central AM said last night: “I’ve spoken to allotment holders and people on waiting lists for allotments all over Wales.

“Councils are supposed to provide enough allotment land, yet these figures show that there is growing demand which most councils are failing to satisfy.

“Local food growing has so many benefits: People get good exercise, good quality cheap food and it enables us to stay in close contact with nature, which has benefits in terms of mental health.

“The climate crisis adds further impetus to expand local food growing projects. Plaid has campaigned for more growing land for our communities for some time, and these figures show the need to continue that campaign.”

The flourishing popularity of farmers’ markets and organic produce across Wales has sparked interest in allotment owning and renting.

They cost about £25 a year to rent. But despite rising demand, just four of Wales’ 22 local authorities plan to increase allotment provision in their counties.

Ms Wood said: “Local food growing has a proud history in Wales, but at the moment it is disorganised and lacks a clear focus.

“I am calling for the Welsh Assembly Government to put together and fund a national strategy for local food. A good start would be a dedicated member of staff in each authority who could co-ordinate local food growing and organise community gardening projects.

“We could then promote allotment gardening and teach young people how to produce food and work with the land.”

Plaid-run Caerphilly council plans more allotments at Ystrad Mynach, and Cardiff, which has the biggest waiting list with more than 800 allotment enthusiasts queuing for two years for plots, included greater provision in its development plan, while Bridgend, Conwy, Newport and Pembrokeshire were considering allocating extra space.

The Vale of Glamorgan, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Torfaen, Powys, Flintshire and Neath Port Talbot councils ruled out creating more provision.

In Swansea, where 400 residents wanting one of the council’s 335 plots can wait for up to seven years, the council failed to disclose any plans it has to provide more.

Radio 2’s resident allotment expert Terry Walton, who has a regular slot on Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio2 lunchtime phone-in and tends a patch in Rhondda, said: “We need people with placards to picket council offices demanding more allotments.

“Demand has completely outstripped what has been available for many years and most local authorities are sitting on their hands and doing nothing.

“Where there are these enormous waiting lists, people should pressurising councils into providing more.”

Mr Walton, who has had an allotment for 52 years, has noticed the changing demographics of allotment-tending over the past five decades.

“It’s more of a family affair now, it’s no longer the flat cap brigade aged over 65,” he said.

“A lot of younger people have got fed up with supermarket prices and want to grow organic produce, going back to the countryside idea.”

[Long waits for plots as allotment growing takes off
WalesOnline, United Kingdom]