May 16, 2022
Grow, grow, grow
There’s a lot that’s happening in the growing world and not just because it’s that time of year. GetGrowing Scotland is the new online hub for anyone who’s interested in growing food and other plants and generally just taking care of whatever nature there is around you. And away from the real world of planting and growing, important news on the policy front. Scottish Parliament is taking evidence on the impact of 2015 Community Empowerment Act on allotment provision. Glasgow Allotments Forum have drafted a response that any growers might find useful when thinking about their own submission.
The Parliament Allotment Inquiry
Here are drafts of Glasgow Allotments Forum answers to some of the key questions just to give you an idea of the kinds of issues we are raising. The four questions are numbers 7,8,11, and 12.
Question 7. What are the benefits to individuals and communities of having adequate allotment provision?
Allotment plots have a unique value in that a plot is a garden for the individual who rents it. It is a space where they and their family can come, which they design, create and nurture. As a garden – like all other gardens – a plot is a space to grow food, and flowers, to undertake physical exercise, to make contact with the natural world and to relax from the stresses of daily life.
For the wider community allotments contribute to:
Resilient and sustainable lifestyles. There is an important change taking place in people’s attitude toward growing your own food which has become an aspiration of many more people, fuelled by a desire to bring about real change in the way they live.
Local food culture. Allotments and other forms of communal gardening provide a basis for making a local food culture meaningful to people. Engaging in growing provides a practical basis for valuing fresh vegetables and fruits, for learning how they can be cooked, stored and eaten, for spreading knowledge about cultivation and about the natural environment.
Education: Whilst access to growing is of importance in schools and further education this is not an adequate response to the problems we face. We need to find ways of engaging and educating the adult population about the value of local food. Communal growing on allotments and community gardens is an important way of supporting the cultural and behavioural changes that are required to mitigate climate change.
Health:There is a wealth of evidence showing that gardening and growing your own produce is beneficial to both our physical and our mental health. Close contact with the natural environment, with soil and local habitats for biodiversity help to support a healthy microbiome and a tranquil mindset.
Social value Growing food and flowers provides a communal activity that enables different ethnic groups and classes to mix in pursuing a common goal. This function is vital in our increasingly diverse population. For many New Scots allotments provide an instantly recognisable reminder of home because they bring the practice of strong local food growing cultures with them whereas for many urban white Scots food growing is no longer part of their culture.
Question 8. Is local authority provision of allotments adequate in your local area?
0f the 23 wards in the City 10 have no local authority allotment provision. Glasgow’s Food Growing Strategy commits the council to providing new ‘growing spaces’ in every ward. What constitutes a growing space is not defined.
I hectare of land would provide roughly 40 standard plots. In Linn Ward the latest update of Glasgow’s Food Growing Strategy Action Plan (Feb 1st 2022) specifies that there will be 14 additional entry level plots bringing an additional 0.037 of a hectare into productive use, in Anderston/yorkhill it states there are to be 47 raised beds on a new site covering 0.12 of a hectare. The amount of new land earmarked for food growing in this document over the period from 2021 up to the end of 2023 adds up to 1.6 of a hectare. With a waiting list for allotments exceeding 1331 (since this total does not take account of a good third of the GCC allotment sites or the waiting lists of 12 private sites) this represents a very limited response to demand.
It is also our contention that in many areas of the City the lack of the opportunity to engage with food growing or gardening of any kind means that many people have no experience on which to base their ideas about how available greenspace might be used. It may not occur to them to apply for an allotment and the Council website offers them no real advice or encouragement to do so just a list of site names and contact e-mail addresses.
Question 11. What has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the demand and supply of allotments?
It has had a dramatic effect on waiting lists. Waiting lists for many sites have nearly doubled over the period. In affluent areas of the City people were already waiting 7 – 12 years to get a plot prior to this increase in demand. There were 1331 people on the waiting lists of the 13 GCC allotment sites that had submitted their data to the local authority at the end of April 2022 (8 sites had yet to respond).
Covid led to greater attendance at many City sites during the lockdown as they were one of the few places where people were allowed to carry on with an outdoor activity where social distancing was built into the normal usage of the space. Many plotholders, who were not required to shield against the virus, greatly valued this element of freedom which made their experience at this time far more bearable than it would have been otherwise. It also strengthened the social cohesiveness of many allotment communities because of increased attendance.
This experience will have contributed to the considerable expansion in interest in this form of gardening that has now become apparent in the media etc – the Chelsea Flower show including vegetable gardens, articles in newspapers, greater research interest in the environmental and health benefits of allotmenteering.
Question 12. The 2015 Act assumes a standard allotment plot of 250 square metres (plus or minus 5%).
We have said in response to question 7 that the unique nature of allotments is that they provide a garden – a space which has room to sit, to store tools and to grow a variety of vegetables, fruits and flowers as designed by the plotholder. As a garden it is also somewhere where the family and friends can also come to help or share the space. It follows that a plot is not equivalent to a raised bed (or 2) in a community garden
A full plot allows for all the functions listed above including the capacity to meet a family’s needs for vegetables and fruit over the year.
Most allotments sites provide plots of varying sizes depending on demand. On most sites the majority of plots are large with half size and smaller starter plots being in the minority. Allotment associations can divide full plots to make half plots or create full plots by combining half plots. This flexibility allows for meeting the changing needs and demography of an area. For instance an increase in the number retired people/ informal and formal groups may raise the demand for full plots whereas at another time more people who have less time or have become less able may prefer smaller plots. The Community Empowerment Act specifies that people can choose the size of plot they need.