The Waiting Game
By Jenny Mollison in East Lothian Courier
My initial euphoria felt when the Community Empowerment Act (2015) was passed is wearing thin. The Act included a section updating and replacing all previous allotment legislation. All Local Authorities are now required to maintain a centralised waiting list and must take reasonable steps to ensure that the number of people on it at any one time is not more than 50% of their stock of allotment plots and that no-one waits more than 5 years to get a plot.
Six years have elapsed since the council were required to find allotment spaces for those languishing on ever-lengthening waiting lists and I have no hope that the situation will change unless the Council treat this with urgency. Of course it's good that East Lothian Council are working with housebuilders to ensure that allotments are included in new developments but that is not enough. What's needed is an immediate review of existing open spaces to see which of these would be suitable for allotment sites now.
Those of us with plots have valued them even more than usual in the last eighteen months not least for their contribution to our well-being. Far from being a niche activity carried on by individuals behind locked gates, evidence suggests that up to 35 people benefit from each individual plot as produce is shared and friends and family help in cultivation. Surpluses are given to lunch clubs and care homes. Increasingly allotments are being recognised as important places not only as a source of fresh local fruit and vegetables, but for their contribution to healthy and active lifestyles, providing opportunities to involve the wider community, and to protect and enjoy wildlife. A modern allotment site can include some community plots and starter plots for those new to growing food as well as providing a resource for school visits.