New will force Edinburgh to provide allotments

Willie Aitken. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Willie Aitken. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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GREEN-FINGERED residents are set to benefit from new rules which could see city chiefs forced to provide more allotments.

The radical “Good Life” shake-up would see local authorities legally obliged to provide a minimum number of allotments per head of population, with a maximum three- year wait for one of the patches brought in.

It would also mean councils would have to ensure people get access to their allotments within that time – even if that means acquiring extra land for growers.

The move – by the Scottish Government – comes at a time Edinburgh’s huge waiting list for grow-your-own-veg plots has never been bigger, with the backlog sitting at more than 2700.

Willie Aitken, treasurer-secretary at Carricknowe allotment, said: “Edinburgh has a huge waiting list.

“A lot of people are elderly or retired so it doesn’t do them any good to keep them waiting for five years – it’s about time something was done. City- wide, people are fighting for allotments but, to be fair, the council has tried to introduce a new site every year.”

Around 300 people join Edinburgh’s allotment waiting list annually. Work is under way to open a further 20 plots at a cost of £52,000 at Baronscourt near Craigentinny.

A site at Kirkliston opened earlier this year, while two sites at Hawkhill/Nesbit Court and Albert Street are to be transferred to the council estate in 2014 – adding 29 plots.

Consultation on new allotment sites is also progressing at Saughtonhall and Salvesen Terrace.

Peter Wright, chair of the Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Gardens Associations (FEDAGA), said that, despite the openings, the council should not rest on its laurels.

Of the Government plan, he said: “It seems to be a very good proposal.

“The council are doing their best to provide allotments in Edinburgh, but there’s no room for complacency – there’s more than 2700 people on the waiting list in Edinburgh.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, city environment convener, said the local authorityis working hard to reduce waiting lists. She added: “While this proposal is in the very early stages, we will watch its development with interest.”

Seventies sitcom The Good Life – starring Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal – has been hailed as ahead-of-its-time for the way it promoted an organic allotment lifestyle.

dawn.morrison@edinburghnews.com