by LES STEED
Les Steed looks into how London’s scarce allotments are under threat from developers.
London’s 33 boroughs have 103 allotment sites, each its own micro-community. However, in spite of extremely high demand, these rare green spaces are threatened by overzealous developers.
Diane Appleyard, from The National Allotment Society, is positive about the environmental good that allotments do for London.
“Allotments form some of the best habitat mosaics and wildlife corridors in London,” she said. “They link up with parks, public bridleways, churchyards, and rivers, giving the city a leafy aesthetic.”
“Allotments form some of the best habitat mosaics in London.”
Barnet plot holder Cathy Schling, 65, said: “On our site we have a number of beekeepers, a variety of wild birds, and some hedgehogs and foxes.
“We also have two streams on site, and people have ponds on their plots so there are frogs, toads and slow worms. Many of our plot holders garden organically. We also have orchard plots with lots of fruit trees.”
An average plot in High Barnet will cost you around £85 per year. Fees vary borough to borough, but renting one to grow your own food has a longer waiting list than any fancy restaurant in London.
Plot owner Alan Williams, 45, explained the allure: “It is about having space to grow our own produce. It gives us some traceability and you can’t get much fresher than the stuff you grow yourself.”
For many gardeners in the city, the allotments offer more than fresh food.
Sandra Gente, of Framfield Allotments in Hanwell, said: “The spirit of the allotment is to just share. Normally it’s quite quiet. It’s a nice place to come and relax and take your mind off things after you’ve had a hard week.”
But with land in London at an unprecedented premium, many councils have been under pressure to build on these precious green spaces scattered throughout the city.
Some sites, such as the Manor Gardens Allotments in Hackney, have already been moved – in their case, to make way for the Olympic Park. Ironically, the site on which the allotments flourished is now a concrete pathway.
“Allotments are often seen as an easy option. There are protections in law, but often developers and to some extent local councils, will try and work around these,” said Williams.
As a result, many council waiting lists are closed for up to the next 10 years.
“It’s all about having space to grow our own produce.”
“At present, there are more than 200 people on the waiting list. We only have about 60 allotment plots in Islington, there is always a very high demand, and we only normally have one or two plots to give out each year,” said Joe Aggar of Islington’s Environment and Regeneration department.
There are no plans to expand the sites, a situation that is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.