Until a few years ago allotments were not the highly desirable 'must-have' they now seem to be for many people.
The preserve of the urban retired, those who lived in high-rise flats or shed-lovers who wanted to escape 'er indoors', the cost was minimal and waiting lists were non-existent.
How the situation has changed! Not only have waiting lists rocketed but the annual fee has risen substantially in many areas.
In addition, there is anecdotal evidence of Councils trying to shorten their waiting lists by issuing final, legal Notices to Quit without sending the required Non-Cultivation orders first, probably hoping to ‘bully’ some plot holders into giving up their allotments.
As the waiting lists have grown so has the pressure to remove those not cultivating their plots to the required level.
There are stories of officious Council officers touring allotments with cameras, taking pictures of uncultivated plots and then allocating them to the wrong plot holders, before issuing Non-Cultivation orders.
Doubtless in some areas the 'chattering classes' are putting huge pressure on their local Council to give them a plot and, as a result, less leeway is being given to those whose plots are not up to scratch.
But a much bigger threat to allotments may be on the horizon than 'pushy' middle-class residents.
The Government has decided to undertake a 'Review of Statutory Duties' with the aim of reducing the burden on local authorities. This could be a good idea in theory – especially if it reduces the Council Tax for hard-pressed residents.
However, they are also considering removing the Statutory Duty to provide a sufficient number of allotments for people in the area who want one.
This would have the effect of putting all allotments under threat! Land could be used for other purposes such as housing - particularly in the over-crowded South East.
Doubtless just the thought has started the property developers salivating!
There was a consultation process but it closed on 25th April 2011 but you can still write to your MP – there’s a great site at www.writetothem.com. There is more information on the NSALG website (www.nsalg.org.uk).
As the costs of food soars, more and more people are growing their own food. So allotments are needed more than ever.
Maybe in the future they may be smaller but they are still vital!
Watch this space...!
Sabra Swinson, Garden PR