National Allotments Week
Protect our Plots
Whilst the allotment community holds its breath, awaiting the decision of the judge at the Judicial Review called by Farm Terrace Allotments to preserve their site in Watford, allotment sites across the UK will be opening their gates and celebrating the enduring nature of the allotment movement and the benefits allotments bring to people and the environment. The week is also an opportune time to highlight the need to strengthen the protection for our remaining allotment sites and the National Allotment Society is encouraging allotments holders to take collective action to protect allotment sites for future generations.
The 4 August 1914 saw Britain declare war on Germany and, although allotments had existed in the UK from the 18th century, the ensuing food shortages lead to the creation of the local authority allotments that we recognise today. Their numbers have waned considerably but 100 years later working an allotment plot remains a popular pastime. Contemporary allotments do more than provide food, the healthy lifestyle they encourage helps to combat several of the challenges facing 21 century populations – obesity, inactivity and mental health problems resulting from social isolation cost the UK economy billions of pound every year; £9 billion is spent dealing with adult depression alone and obesity costs the NHS £5 billion. Allotments and allotment services have the potential to support delivery of many local authority Public Health targets, not only around nutrition but around emotional resilience and exercise, especially for our ageing population.
This contribution that allotments make to the health and well-being of people and the quality of the environment is generally acknowledged and has been endorsed by many studies but there is much competition for land in our crowded urban environments and, although protected by legislation, allotments are vulnerable. The Society does have concerns that the recent relaxation of the Planning Regulations along with the pressure on local councils to build much needed new homes may result in more councils opting to sell allotment land rather than allocating previously used land for that purpose.
This could mean dismantling thriving, socially cohesive allotment communities that, as recent research has shown, are situated on land that is high in bio-diversity with healthy soil, producing a significant amount of locally grown food. Although legislation dictates that the plot-holders must be offered an alternative growing space it does not take in to account the historical value and sense of place of the site or the damage that is done to the existing social networks. The Society feels that this element needs to be recognised and existing allotment sites should be valued and protected from disruption.
The Society welcomes the ministerial statement on the 6 March 2014 from Nick Boles who announced an update to the local planning guidelines, where he stressed the importance of bringing brownfield land into use and made clear that authorities do not have to allocate development sites on the basis of providing the maximum possible return for landowners and developers; the society hopes that this will mean a reduction in the number of allotments sites earmarked for development.
The NAS aims to protect, promote and preserve allotments and we call on all those who value allotments to support us in this endeavour, we can all do our part-
- Allotment associations – protect your site, register as a community asset. Allotment Federations -keep allotments in the public eye, make sure they are mentioned in the Local Plan, and lobby your councillors and MPs.
- Councils preserve and value your allotment service – it has the potential to deliver some of your public health targets.
- Plot-holders -join the National Allotment Society and support your regional allotment network to promote the allotment movement.
Share a picture of your plot
The Guardian newspaper are covering National Allotment Week via their social media pages. They have set up a Guardian Witness assignment, where reader share their pictures, and Guardian Public Leaders where they cover both local and central government policy.
Exclusive to NAS members – NAW discount offer from River Cottage Cookery School, check out the members section of the website for details., check the details in the members section of the website.
Photo credit www.karenparkerphotography.co.uk/
Homepage ” Child’s windmill on allotment” image from www.karenparkerphotography.co.uk