Monday, February 3, 2014
Allotments in two west Suffolk towns are being halved and quartered in a bid to meet the growing demand for plots.
Under the 1908 Allotments and Small Holdings Act, councils have a duty to provide land for would-be gardeners. But the recommended size for an allotment as set out in the act – of around 10 rod or 240sqm – was to enable a man to grow enough produce to feed a family of four for a year.
Allotment groups say that nowadays, most people only want a small plot as a hobby.
Sudbury Town Council currently has more than 60 people on a waiting list for suitable growing space, while 50 in Bury St Edmunds are keen to secure a plot.
In Sudbury the council manages two allotment sites – one off Newton Road and a smaller site in Ballingdon Street – rented to Sudbury residents for a small annual fee of £44.
Sudbury allotment society chairman John Hughes said: “We have been deciding the size of plots and subdividing them because having an allotment is more of a leisure activity rather than people trying to feed their families these days.
“We have found that 60sqm, a quarter of the standard plot size, is manageable for most people to keep clean and grow a few veg and soft fruit on.”
Keen gardener and county councillor John Sayers, who is hoping to use some of his locality budget to purchase a secure container for the Newton Road allotments following a shed break-in, said the kind of produce people grow on their allotments has also changed over the years.
He recalled: “My father used to grow flowers on his and take a bunch home for my mother as a thank you for what he anticipated would be a lovely Sunday lunch.”
Deputy town clerk Jacqui Howells said raised beds, which the council offers to people on the waiting list as a means of “trying out” gardening, had been a great success.
Meanwhile in Bury, the town council leases a total of 320 plots to tenants, split across five allotment sites. The average size is 152sqm but they range from just 3sqm. Town clerk Julia Dyball said: “Popularity surged around 2008 following the acquisition of more land and it did appear to be a response to gardening programmes on TV at the time, which now seem to have been replaced with cooking programmes.
“It does appear that a small offering of 2.5sqm plots would be appropriate for those who are no longer able to manage their larger plots but want to continue, those who are starter gardeners or want to garden as a leisure activity but have little time.
“The council will be considering making such provision, the result of which will also further reduce the waiting list.”
The town council has tried to find additional land in Bury to use for allotments, but without success.
Both the town and borough councils are keen to see allotment provision incorporated within the proposed new developments at Moreton Hall and north east of Bury.