Campaigners fight to save allotments

Space Required: Wellfields Allotment Society members Dave Goodridge, Geoff Cobb, Sue and Andrew Stevenson, David Jenkinson and Richard Bunting will stand firm against MP Eric Pickles suggestion of reforming the Allotment Act to absolve local councils from the responsibility of providing growing space for residents.
Space Required: Wellfields Allotment Society members Dave Goodridge, Geoff Cobb, Sue and Andrew Stevenson, David Jenkinson and Richard Bunting will stand firm against MP Eric Pickles suggestion of reforming the Allotment Act to absolve local councils from the responsibility of providing growing space for residents.

Good life campaigners are protesting against Government plans that threaten the future of allotments – and the Mercury will be backing them all the way.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is pressing ahead with a review of council services which could end the legal protection for growing space.

The news has sparked a revolt from plot-holders who say the century-old right of people to demand an allotment from their council is essential and as part of the Mercury’s Allotments For All campaign, launched last year, we will be lobbying Derbyshire Dales MP Patrick McLoughlin for a rethink of the proposals.

To add your support to the campaign sign the petition in the Mercury and we will forward all returned signatures to Mr McLoughlin. You can also pledge your support by commenting below leaving your name and address.

Richard Bunting, of Matlock-based eco group Little Green Space, said: “This would be a terrible move and it is absolutely critical in this day and age that allotment space is protected and expanded.

“There has been a change in terms of peoples’ attitudes towards growing their own food and there has been a huge interest in it.

“Given the money, health and environmental benefits it brings this seems to be going against the way things are moving.

“In fact it would be good if the allotment act was given more teeth not eroded. As we have seen locally, people can write to their local council but that does not necessarily lead to quick action and many people are still on waiting lists.”

Allotments are currently protected under section 23 of the 1908 Smallholdings and Allotments Act, which states councils are obliged to provide an allotment if six or more rate-payers demand one.

However the Government is looking at stripping away a legal requirement for the sites. The act is one of 1,294 statutory duties under review by Eric Pickles’ Communities department.

Gardeners fear the proposals could see local authority’s selling off allotment land for social housing or even for profit to major companies.

Dave Goodridge, of Matlock, has had an allotment at the Well Field site for the past four years.

He said: “The worry is it will encourage unscrupulous councils to think about using allotment space for other purposes.

“There are also potential threats to existing allotments.

“It is perverse that they have waited until there is a massive demand for more land and then think about taking away what little space there is. They are going in completely the wrong direction.”

The Mercury’s Facebook friends have also pledged support for our campaign.

Christopher Spencer said: “We simply need more allotments and community food schemes – brilliant that you’re supporting this.”

Anne-Marie Truman added: “Good for you, more growing space now and bee hive spaces would be good too.”