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Better allotment provision

NLPG Exemplar Award Highly Commended – Most Innovative Use 2009: Canterbury City Council.

Allotments and community gardens are valuable green spaces and community assets that can help improve people’s quality of life by promoting healthy food, exercise and community interaction. In recent years, there has been a big revival in allotments. Allotments are uniquely protected through the legislative and planning framework, and the Government is committed to working with local authorities to ensure quality and availability of allotments both now and for future generations.

In 2009, Canterbury City Council, realising the importance of allotments to the district’s residents, and their place within the local planning framework, set its Outdoor Leisure Team to work on a new ‘Allotment Strategy’. The initial work entailed innovative use of its Local Land and Property Gazetteer (LLPG) in the form of a mapping exercise to determine current allotment provision. The outcome of this exercise would determine whether there was sufficient access to allotments and whether the council was doing enough to satisfy both current and future demand.

The exercise used the national standard of 15 plots per 1,000 households, drawn up by the National Society for Allotments and Leisure Gardeners. In addition, existing allotment holders were polled in order to understand how far people were prepared to travel to their allotments. Over 50% of those approached responded to the poll. Responses suggested that allotment holders would travel for an average distance of 1.6 miles.

Using the LLPG, addresses within a 1.6 mile radius of each allotment were plotted on a map. It was then possible to measure the density against the national standard of 15 plots in every 1,000 households. The data also helped to ascertain where there were gaps in provision and where there were opportunities to provide future sites.

In the coastal town of Whitstable, for example, there were three sites with a total of 161 plots. The centres of these sites were within 1.6 miles of each other, so there was complete overlap. With 14,694 households in Whitstable, it was possible to calculate necessary provision and then calculate any over-supply or, in this case, deficiency, which amounted to 59 plots. This is roughly equivalent to one full size allotment.

Outcomes

The information produced through the use of the LLPG in this exercise started the process of identifying or procuring three sites for new allotments:

Wincheap: the council owns the land but it needs to raise the funds to deliver on the proposal. This is likely to proceed once the council has received compensation monies for closing another site lost through highways improvements.

Whitstable: a former allotment site is being brought back into use. A community gardening group is targeting new users accordingly.

Herne and Broomfield: parish council are receiving help from Canterbury City Council with the setting up of a new site which they are in the process of procuring.

Key benefits

  • Enabled Canterbury City Council to draw up its Allotment Strategy in line with its own community plan, sustainable development and neighbourhood initiatives.
  • Achieved huge savings in officer time through intelligent use of an existing resource.
  • Identified areas where allotment provision was deficient.
  • Provided the evidence base for external funding applications.
  • Significant outcomes in terms of new allotment provision.
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