Allotments win recognition after 90 years

The initial protest back in 1998. Picture: Susan Burrell
The initial protest back in 1998. Picture: Susan Burrell
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THEY have been a feature of the area since the 1920s – a local institution treasured by generations of green-fingered families.

Now gardeners battling plans to build new homes on the site of allotments at Telferton, between Craigentinny and Portobello, have finally won the right to legally cultivate their plots.

Last week the allotment holders were granted a Certificate of Lawfulness by Edinburgh City Council, giving them a legitimate right under planning law to use the site they have occupied for more than 90 years.

The move comes as proposals by Bett Homes could see 32 flats and houses constructed on the green space despite the area currently being designated “open land” in the council’s city-wide planning blueprint.

The Craigentinny and Telferton Allotments are operated on private land owned by Avant Homes – the parent company to Bett Homes – and are not official council plots, but have been a part of the area for nine decades.

Bett Homes has previously said it would replace the current “unapproved” allotments with 38 new plots to be managed by the council, but campaigners argued this would see a 70 per cent reduction in plot space and could harm wildlife. The Certificate of Lawfulness will not prevent Bett Homes from applying to build on the land but it could be taken into account when future plans are put before officials.

Rachel Purnell, a representative of the allotments, insisted they were a “valued and important asset” that helped forge a strong sense of community – with some allotment-holders having worked their plots for more than 40 years and one couple even marrying there in 2000.

She said: “We have the hand-written minute books showing the land was originally obtained from Edinburgh Corporation for use as allotments by the local community. We also have records for this historical site showing the committee has been actively administering and maintaining it as allotments in accordance with good practice for over 90 years.”

The waiting list to get a council-run allotment in Edinburgh is currently estimated to be around ten years, with annual rents of £100 for a full plot.

Andrew Trigger, strategic land manager for Avant Homes said: “By obtaining this certificate, all the committee have established is that the current planning use for the site is for allotments, something we have never disputed.

“However, the committee still have no formal arrangement with us as the landowner to occupy the site so, fundamentally, the situation has not changed.

“We are concerned that, were there any accidents or damage on the site, we could still be held legally responsible as the landowner despite having no role in the current operation.”