Allotments grow in the green era

ENTHUSIASM for keeping allotments in East Anglia has soared as more people seek to reduce bills and control the production of at least some of the food they eat.

David Green

ENTHUSIASM for keeping allotments in East Anglia has soared as more people seek to reduce bills and control the production of at least some of the food they eat.

Many of the newcomers, as well as existing allotment holders, grow fruit and vegetables in an organic way, rejecting the use of pesticides as a result of scares over chemical residues in conventional food production.

The mood among would-be allotment holders reflects the mood among

shoppers over organic produce.

The popular image of allotments is a place where elderly men while away their last years, spending much of their time watching the world go by from the doorway of a ramshackle hut in which all the gardening tools are stored.

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However, the truth is that allotment holders are of all ages and both sexes and the range of fruit, vegetables and flowers being grown has never been greater.

Councils all over the country have been urged to address a “chronic shortage” of allotments as demand for plots of land reaches a level unprecedented since the war years and the 1950s.

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 400 councils in England and Wales, estimates that 200,000 allotments have been lost since the 1970s as people enjoyed relatively low cost and plentiful food.

But with food prices now increasing, especially for organic produce, much of which is imported, demand for

allotments has increased substantially and new areas are being created.

The LGA is encouraging councils to use their powers under the Planning and Compensation Act, which allow them to require developers to provide green spaces within new housing estates.

Instead of a pocket park or children's play area, some councils are requiring allotments to be provided - for the occupants of the new homes, which often have tiny gardens.

Councils are also being urged to use their power to require new allotments sites to be provided where existing sites are subject of building projects.

Even so, in some parts of the

country applicants currently face a ten year wait for a plot to be allocated. In the UK as a whole an estimated 100,000 people are currently waiting for

allotments.

Ipswich has 16 allotment sites but all those in the east of the town are fully tenanted and there are waiting lists. Some plots are available on allotments in the west of the town.

Among the new allotments created in Suffolk to try to meet demand are sites at Walsham-le-Willows and Mildenhall.

At Harleston, on the Suffolk-Norfolk border, gardeners have been

organising their plots on the town's new allotments.

All 30 plots have been snapped up since the local council started allocating them at the beginning of March.

Karen Kenny, who represents East Anglia with the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, is

travelling all over the region trying to

persuade councils to

create more allotments.

“East Anglia is one of fastest growing regions in the UK for allotments. People want organic food and they want to know what they are eating,” she said.

Karen, who has run her own organic allotment for 15 years, is the region's official mentor for allotment regeneration and believes the plots of land also provide the opportunity for exercise and improving mental health. “In some parts of the country doctors are recommending people become allotment holders for health reasons,” she said.

What does your allotment mean to you? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk