New allotment strategy recognises growing popularity of city plots

The City of Edinburgh Council is set to improve access to and management of allotments in the Capital in recognition of their social, environmental and health benefits.

Members of the Transport and Environment Committee approved the Council’s third allotment strategy - Cultivating Communities: A Growing Success 2017 – 2027 yesterday (Tuesday, 21 March).

Since the first strategy was implemented in 2002 allotments have surged in popularity – there are now 1488 plots across the city, compared 1065 plots in 1998, with the current provision comparable to that of the 1960s.

Amongst the strategy’s objectives is the intention to ensure adequate provision to allotments by investigating potential new sites, encouraging people to develop and manage plots on Council-owned land and the creation of allotments as part of the planning process for new developments.

Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “The popularity of allotments has soared over the last couple of decades, as people recognise the many benefits allotment gardening can offer in terms of healthy eating, relaxation and social interaction.

“In response to this our third allotment strategy aims to improve and increase accessibility to allotments. As well as investigating new sites ourselves we are keen to see communities take on and cultivate allotments on Council land, which we would fully support to help alleviate demand.”

Over the last 15 years Council has increased the number of plots by more than 400, improving the quality of existing sites, giving more people access to allotments and promoting food growing initiatives citywide.

More recently, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 placed a requirement on local authorities to provide and protect existing allotments. The latest strategy aims to support this through four objectives – to ensure adequate provision, develop robust management, improve customer experience and adopt revised regulations.

Stuart McKenzie, President of the Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Gardens Associations (FEDAGA), who are represented on the Allotment Strategy Steering Group, said: “FEDAGA welcomes the adoption of this strategy to empower Edinburgh communities to fund, build and manage their own allotment spaces whilst also ensuring every inch of our precious allotment stock is used effectively. We look forward to working alongside the Council Allotment service to achieve these strategic objectives.” 

A series of actions linked to each objective have been drawn up following consultation with stakeholders and allotment-users. As well as investigating a list of potential new sites for allotments, the strategy aims to ensure plots are accessible to all and to promote biodiversity on new sites. A key focus of the new strategy is to engage the community to take ownership of their own sites, in collaboration with the Council.

Guidance for plot inspections to enhance quality and a proactive approach to the allotment waiting list will help achieve the robust management of allotments, while a website and the use of social media are proposed to improve the customer experience. Plotholder training, in partnership with the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society, The Orchard Project and Scottish Rural University College, will also be on offer to new plotholders.

Find out more about Cultivating Communities: A Growing Success 2017 – 2027 on the Council website.

Allotment facts

  • There are currently 1488 Council-managed plots in Edinburgh, with a waiting list of 2510 people
  • The turnover for allotments is currently 8% a year
  • The second allotment strategy - Cultivating Communities - A Growing Challenge – saw allotment provision rise by 19%
  • There are currently a total of 44 allotment sites across Edinburgh with a variety of plot sizes
  • A Council allotment officer is responsible for most of the allotment sites 
  • 60% of allotment plot-holders live within two miles of their plot. The demand for an allotment plot is greatest in the traditional tenement flat areas of the city
  • Half plots are becoming increasingly popular amongst residents

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