Allotments law queried despite long waiting lists

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PLANS for a law forcing councils to provide more allotments have been given a cool reception despite the city’s huge waiting list for grow-your-own-veg plots.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on whether local authorities should be legally obliged to provide a minimum number of allotments per head of population and whether people wanting a plot should be given the right to expect one within a given timescale.

Last month, the waiting list for allotments in the Capital stood at 2746. The city’s shortage was made worse after sites at Carrick Knowe and Pansy Walk in the west of the city were acquired by the council to create space for a tram line and bus route.

Liz Grace, chair of the Edinburgh Midmar Allotments Association, was 
sceptical about whether new legal obligations were the answer.

She said: “In theory, these measures might help, but in practice we are still restricted by the amount of available land. I don’t think they would solve Edinburgh’s problem, which is partly a reflection of the fact a lot of people live in tenements without a garden.”

Peter Wright, chairman of the Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Gardens Associations, said the 1892 Allotments (Scotland) Act required that where six or more residents requested an allotment the local authority should provide.

“Unfortunately it doesn’t say anything about the timescale,” he added. “There are now twice as many people wanting an allotment across Scotland as there are allotments. But local authorities don’t recognise the legitimacy of various acts passed by parliament and until we sort that out we won’t get any further.”

Environment convener Lesley Hinds said the council was providing a new allotment every year, and two this year thanks to an extra cash injection.

“The difficulty is more people are wanting to do that and so the waiting list grows longer,” she said.

Over the past 18 months, three sites offering 66 plots have been opened, at India Place, Dumbryden and Inchkeith Court.

Work is under way to open a further 20 at a cost of £52,000 at Baronscourt near Craigentinny.

A site at Kirkliston is scheduled to open this spring, while two sites at Hawkhill/Nesbit Court and Albert Street are to be transferred to the council estate in 2014 – adding 29 plots.

Consultation on new allotment sites is also progressing at Saughtonhall and Salvesen Terrace.

Family’s seven-and-a-half-year wait

UNIVERSITY professor Ben Paechter and his family waited seven-and-a-half years for their allotment at Midmar Drive.

“When the children were really wee, we thought it would be a good thing to do. We knew there was a long waiting list, but it was never clear how long it would be.”

By the time they were allocated the plot, the children had grown. Molly is now 14, Sam, 12, and Joe, ten.

Prof Paechter, 52, says it might have been better to have the plot when the children were younger, but he is still pleased with it.

He says: “Our middle child, Sam, has Asperger’s syndrome. The allotment has been really great for him – he has a great love of nature and feels most at ease in natural environments.”