Author Topic: Can self-management safeguard the future of allotments?  (Read 379 times)

Offline Big Gee

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Can self-management safeguard the future of allotments?
« on: January 07, 2017, 10:50:59 PM »


Can self-management safeguard the future of allotments?

Despite long waiting lists for allotments, many sites have closed in the last decade. Putting control in the hands of the plot holders helps secure a stronger, safer future for sites, argues James Robbins


 â€˜In 2013 we took a leap of faith and signed a 38-year lease to become self-managed.’ Plot holders celebrate in Finchley, north London.
Photograph: Felicity Nook

It is a challenging time for allotments. The interest in grow-your-own is stronger than ever and many sites have long waiting lists, yet some allotments are battling against closure.

A few weeks ago, gardeners at Farm Terrace allotments in Watford lost a case at the high court to defend their allotments from development. Plot holders at Northfields allotments in Ealing and Craven Vale in Brighton are still campaigning to save their sites. A freedom of information request revealed that from 2007 to 2014, 194 out of 198 applications to close allotments were granted by the secretary of state.

Even while allotments close, demand for plots remains high. A survey in carried out in 2013 by the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners suggested that for every 100 allotment plots, 52 people were on waiting lists. This suggests there is still a need for increasing the provision of allotments.



 Demand for allotment plots remains high, yet sites across the country are closing.
Photograph: Felicity Nook

 For some sites, self-management can be a way to safeguard their future. In 2011 my own allotment in Finchley, north London came under threat when the council proposed to raise rents by an extraordinary 200%. In response our allotment association sprang into action. We were able to organise support, and by appealing to MP’s and local councillors, the decision was reversed.

In 2013 we took a leap of faith and signed a 38-year lease to become self-managed. This gave us greater control over rent prices, the ability to deal with waiting lists more effectively, and ensured as many plots as possible were cultivated. This also meant we had a greater responsibility to raise funds for projects around the site. Through pooling our skills we built a dedicated team, and have started to see success; the site was judged the best in Barnet for the last two years.



Through building and nurturing a strong community on the site, we have ensured it is recognised as a valuable asset and contributes to the local area.’
Photograph: Felicity Nook

Our ever-popular spring plant sale provides a valuable source of income. It’s a great bonding experience for plot holders, bringing people together behind a common aim of raising plants, running stalls, and providing great plants for the local community.

A grant from the Big Lottery Fund enabled the construction of a composting toilet on site, reducing the cost and environmental impact of renting a portable toilet. We’ve been able to provide 16 raised beds for disabled gardeners; the largest accessible gardening facility in the area. Recently we successfully applied for a grant from Tesco and Groundwork’s Bags of Help funding scheme. By using our email list and social media, we motivated supporters to vote for us in local stores, increasing the level of our grant. This will fund the construction of new paths to give better access for wheelchair users to the communal facilities. We are also hoping to refurbish one of the buildings to become an outside classroom for local schools.

Through building and nurturing a strong community on the site, we have ensured it is recognised as a valuable asset and contributes to the local area. We have secured a stronger and safer future for our allotments, and we hope it serves as a model for how other allotments can weather the storm.


    James Robbins is an allotment plot holder and he works as a professional gardener in Hertfordshire.
 

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Re: Can self-management safeguard the future of allotments?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2017, 11:35:33 PM »
Think it,s fantastic when a group of growers can get together and self manage there allotment site they are very lucky .. Dont think it would work for all sites as there are growers out there that just want a plot and get on with growing and and would not be interested in the day to day running of a site  and when you have people like that it would never work ..  It would never have worked with your old site gee with some of the growers you had on there ..   Dave,s site is self managed he  has people on his site that dont want to lift a finger to help so dave and a few others manage to get the jobs done so that wont last long and eventually the council will be managing that site again ..     And i know for sure with some of the growers we have at our site it wouldent work ... So yes that group of growers are very fortunate that that all manage to get on and are all willing to keep there site running .. Good for them  clap:-) ..