Thursday, September 20, 2012
When I raised my concerns about the loss of so many allotments, the Leader of the Council. Mick Henry, did agree that a review would be carried out to look at ways of increasing the number of allotments in Gateshead. So I awaited the results of this review (whilst helping Lib Dem Councillors in the neighbouring ward to mine successfully stop the Council closing down the Horrocks allotments where around 60 plots were threatened with the axe.) After waiting nearly two years however, there has been now sign of an outcome to this review.
Today at full council, the Cabinet report referred to proposals for the greening of Gateshead. It contained a small section about allotments, specifically the improvement of their management. There is also a proposal that at some point soon, an "allotment conference" will be held. I had two issues I raised for the Leader of the Council to answer at the meeting. Firstly, what will be the aim of the conference and who will be invited? Secondly, what has happened to the review of allotments he promised?
I don't doubt Mick's commitment to the allotment cause. The conversations I have had with him in private and the debates in public lead me to believe his commitment is genuine. I was a bit disappointed that his response to my questions today was that he could have answered if I had given notice of them, without which he was unable to answer. To be fair to him, he is in charge of a large organisation so all issues are competing for his attention, though being unable to answer something about the contents of his own Cabinet report was a bit surprising. Nevertheless, he has made the commitment to write to me and I look forward to the reply. As I said earlier, I think he is genuinely committed and I see my role in this issue as someone who is pushing for the expansion but quite willing to help the Council achieve the goal of more allotments and locally produced foods.
I had a rather interesting end to the meeting. I found myself surrounded by Labour councillors wanting to discuss allotments and local food growing with me.
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After seeing this post I just wanted to name and shame Hart Council where I live, which is in North Hampshire/Surrey Borders. They provide no allotments at all. I moved here in 2006 and asked for one and they said there are none as there is no land available. We are in the middle of MOD country, there is a lot of ex-mod land, there is also a lot of council owned land and Yately common. There are allotments in neighbouring Camberley and Basingstoke which are a lot more towny.
There are over 100 people in Hart that have requested allotments but there still aren't any, dispite the rule about providing them where a certain number of requests are made (i forget the number).
I adore allotments and think they are a beautiful thing to see on a car or train journey. Luckily I have a garden but I would love an allotment too. Sorry to go on!