‘Growing Space: a history of the allotment movement’ by Lesley Acton


Five Leaves Publications 2015
ISBN: 978-1-910170-13-7 (or via your local library!)

Allotments are a good place to help feed a family, relax and socialise. A haven of tranquility, or so it seems.

Lesley Acton shows that behind today’s plots there is rich political history. Rural riots led to early allotment provision, and later development of local government led to a rapid expansion of plots. Allotments were seen as a counter to ‘communistic agitators’ but more recently cash strapped councils have tried to sell them, leading to major battles.

This history is well covered, but unlike most other allotment histories, Lesley Acton makes effective use of allotment society records from County Durham to London to show who had allotments, the problems facing allotmenteers, and their responses to site threats.

She identifies areas where little is known – for example, what were the vegetable varieties grown on allotments in the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign? Lesley finds Local Authorities can compulsorily ‘hire’ land for allotments and use Section 106 agreements with developers to create allotments. But how many do?

Threats to allotments get good coverage and so do schemes to encourage allotment gardening. Though allotments have seen a remarkable national revival, some sites are still under threat and we could still see interest decline. Motivations for having an allotment remain complex. Lesley attributes much of the 1970s revival to the TV sitcom The Good Life but droughts in 1974 and 1975 pushed up food prices and at least in East London many started plots to help budget.

Overall this is a very good book to be recommended among gardening works.

‘The Digger of York’

Courtesy of Allotment & Leisure Gardener: Issue 3 2015

Engaging with your Local Plan


Allotments should figure in long-term planning by local authorities in their Local Plans. The allotment community knows all about the length of waiting lists and demand for plots. It is also well aware of the legislation behind the provision and disposing of allotments.

However, the wish to recognise the value of allotments, provide more and keep what they have, seems to be slipping right off the long-term planning agenda.

The preparation of the next Local Plan for Carlisle City Council is now nearing its completion. This has taken about four years and five public consultations. There have been responses made to earlier drafts where it fails to deal adequately with allotments. These have been disregarded.

In the current Local Plan, there is a separate policy on allotments. In the new draft Plan, this has now disappeared and allotments are lumped together with nature reserves, football pitches and green open space as something desirable but not needing specific acknowledgement, despite the legislation to provide and protect.

This is probably being echoed all around the country in other draft plans. The general failure to recognise allotments can be further exacerbated when there are policies dealing with specific areas of land, which include allotment sites, and which are designated for future use other than allotments, eg. housing.

Fortunately this is not the case in Carlisle. However, plot holders in Christchurch might tell a different story as I am sure those on the Farm Terrace site in Watford could also do.

It is essential that all of us keep a very close eye on what is happening with allotments in our own local authority’s Local Plans. These will be found on the local authority’s website under Planning Policy. Remember that the DCLG guidance on disposal of statutory allotment land places emphasis on how allotments are represented in the Local Plan. It might be too late to do anything about it when your site is threatened with closure, if you have not raised the issue in the Local Plan consultation process.

If local authorities do not show a willingness to value allotments properly and recognise their legal requirements, our precious allotments may well be picked off piecemeal. We need to make sure that they are properly valued by contesting every Local Plan if it is felt that allotments are inadequately valued and protected.

The Carlisle Plan is still not complete; the Examination in Public is still to take place. It is not yet known if the allotments will figure in the issues the planning inspector wants to raise, but if this is the case, then there will be strong support at the hearing from at least one local plot holder.

Elizabeth Allnutt, Northern NAS mentor


Courtesy of the Allotment & Leisure Gardener: Issue 3 2015

PS: What is happening with your Local Plan?

Walking Together Sponsored Walk 2015

This took place at the end of September, starting from Growing Together Thundersley to Growing Together Shoeburyness. SEEOG members Ron, Ane and Steve started from Thundersley whilst Carole opted for the shorter walk from Growing Together Westcliff!

These are some of Vic’s photos of the later part of the walk. A full set of photos will be on Trust Links’ new website in due course at trustlinks.org