Growing challenge of 15-year wait for garden allotment explored

Some sites in Scotland have seen a 300% increase in interest since the start of the pandemic.

Scottish Parliament to launch explore growing challenge of getting and allotment as wait times surge iStock

The growing challenge of getting an allotment is to be explored in a new Scottish Parliament inquiry. 

Following the pandemic and numerous lockdowns demand for allotments surged across the UK, and more than 100,000 people are currently waiting for a plot.

In Scotland, some applicants being told they may now need to wait more than 15 years for an allotment to become free for them.

Some sites have seen a 300% increase in the number of people registering their interest in allotments since the start of the pandemic.

Plots only become available if a tenant dies or relinquishes their membership of an association.

The Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee is to explore whether local authority provision of allotments is adequate as well as looking at how provision and demand varies across the country.

The inquiry will form part of the committee’s post legislative scrutiny of the Community Empowerment Act 2015 which aimed to encourage and promote community participation and engagement in local decision-making. 

Part nine of the act requires local authorities to maintain waiting lists and take reasonable steps to provide allotments if waiting lists exceed certain trigger points.

The committee is asking people in communities throughout Scotland to come forward and discuss their experiences of getting an allotment and what more could be done to ensure that there is adequate provision.

Committee convener Ariane Burgess MSP said: “The Community Empowerment Act sowed the seeds for the provision of allotments throughout Scotland. But we already know that in some areas, this has failed to take root and flourish.

“The benefits of allotments have been well documented, not just in terms of health and well-being but also around intergenerational engagement, waste reduction and biodiversity. And the pandemic and the cost of living crisis have put these benefits in sharp relief.

“We will be looking at the availability of land and how it is allocated by local authorities, but we also want to hear about what else could be done to make sure that allotments and their users can thrive.”

Other areas which will be explored by the committee include the impact of the pandemic on the demand and supply of allotment sites as the impact allotment provision has on local community food growing.

Richard Crawford, vice president and secretary of the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society said: “Waiting lists across Scotland are significant. The Covid situation just made things worse with people realising what benefits allotments can have for improved mental and physical health.

“Now, we are expecting another surge in interest as food costs soar. Many people now realise that growing your own food is the way forward, not only for health but to help cut family food costs, and also increasingly, the carbon offset benefits are beginning to be understood.

“SAGS is working closely with the Scottish Government to ensure the Community Empowerment Act (9) is adopted more consistently across Scotland – it is very hit and miss so far.”

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