City leaders plot bid to buy fields to turn into allotments

Demand for allotments outstrips demand in Edinburgh
Demand for allotments outstrips demand in Edinburgh
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An area almost three times the size of Princes Street Gardens would be transformed into allotments under plans being considered by city leaders.

Fields close to the city boundaries would serve as patches for growing fruit and vegetables for up to 2600 residents on the waiting list in Edinburgh.

Around 52 hectares would be required to give each owner a 10m by 20m plot, with the cost of buying agricultural land in the Lothians standing at approximately £6000-£7500 per hectare.

Demand for allotments within the city has increased rapidly in recent years as organic food has grown in 
popularity.

Purchasing the land – which at around 128 acres is the equivalent of around ten Tynecastle stadiums – would cost up to £390,000 from the city coffers but annual charges of up to £80 would help to pay for the investment within little more than two years.

Edinburgh City Council officials have published a report on the bid, with the findings going before decision-makers on the city’s environment committee next week.

Although officials have recommended using urban land as a first option, a formal decision will be taken by committee members.

Despite the proposed land being on the outskirts of the city, there was support from allotment owners for the purchase of agricultural land to meet demand.

Peter Wright, chairman of the Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Gardens Associations, said: “The council is being pulled in two ways.

“It’s under pressure to provide allotments because of the huge demand and the fact that it has a legal obligation to do so.

“But some of the allotments in the city could command vast amounts of money as development sites because they are central and they are 
surrounded by housing.

“There’s not an easy 
solution.

“We would support having allotments on the fringes of the city – people would just have to use public transport to get to their allotments or get in their bikes and ride to them and get fit.”

City leader Andrew Burns, a plot holder at the Saughton Mains allotment site, said: “I know as an allotment holder myself that the waiting list is very lengthy.

“My family was on the list for nearly four years. The actions in the report will help to reduce the waiting list.

“Anything the local authority can be using to make sure we have more available space for allotment usage is to be welcomed.”

Councillor Burns added that the use of agricultural land on the outskirts on the city should only be considered once all other avenues have been exhausted.

There were calls for the council to look more closely at turning gap sites within the city into allotments.

Willie Aitken, treasurer-secretary of the Carricknowe allotment, said: “The council set up allotments at Dumbryden and I would say about half of them have just been left there.

“The best way forward is to look at all the gap sites and make sure that they are used up.”

Growing concern

The Capital’s allotment shortage has been a mounting concern in recent years as more people sign up to a waiting list for plots.

And the situation was made worse after allotment sites at Carricknowe and Pansy Walk in the west of the city were acquired by the council to create space for a tram line and dedicated bus route.

Concerns were raised earlier this year that proposals to replace the allotment sites – with the creation of new plots on land in Carricknowe and Stenhouse – were likely to provide only a fraction of the plots removed.