Edinburgh needs to find around £2 million to build enough extra allotment pitches to meet Scottish Government requirements, it has emerged.
There are currently 2,697 people on the waiting list for an allotment in Edinburgh – with Holyrood legislation stating the queue should be no longer than half the 1,552 allotments available in the city. Some have been on the waiting list for ten or even 12 years.
A report to the city council’s Culture and Communities Committee, said: “An estimated £2m would be required to construct sufficient plots to meet the council’s duty to keep the allotment waiting list at no more than half the authority’s current number of allotments, and to ensure that a person entered on the list does not remain on it for a continuous period of more than five years. However, this sum is highly dependent on the size of plots and scale and number of allotment sites.
“Creating new allotments on existing council green space may reduce annual grounds maintenance costs. To meet these duties the council needs to create some additional 1,300 allotment plots, almost double its current provision of 1,552 plots.”
Stuart MacKenzie, chairman of Edinburgh Federation of Allotment Holders, called on the council to use “joined-up thinking so that people can get what they really want”.
He added: “Do the 2,697 people on the waiting list actually want an allotment? I doubt it.
“I recommend the city starts with an analysis of the entire waiting list to find out what people want. How about starting with a pilot project. Please do that analysis to get a better picture.”
Council officers said they had identified around 40 different locations across the city where allotments could be built – but high costs were a factor.
Councillor Hal Osler said: “We are constrained by the size and land of Edinburgh. We can have space but it’s the support around it that proves to be vital. Plots have been put in but there has not been the support structure around it.
“It’s good that we are identifying land. We can identify space but the community could say, we don’t want to use that space.”
Cllr Susan Rae asked officers whether gardens that aren’t maintained could be reclaimed for use as allotments.
She said: “In Leith and the Leith Walk area, a lot of former council house properties have massive gardens. Some gardens are overgrown with weeds. Has anybody looked at claiming these back for local allotments?”
Officers said all options were being looked at, but there were several barriers such as competing with sites for housing projects and a perception by some residents who would prefer not to live next to allotments.
Cllr Amy McNeese-Mechan, Vice-Convenor of the Culture and Communities Committee, said: “We recognise the benefits to health and wellbeing brought by allotments and community gardening, and have endeavoured to increase provision under allotment strategies over recent years.
“We do, however, appreciate the significant waiting list for allotments and are focusing on a number of actions to reduce the number.”