Edinburgh-based MSP Miles Briggs calls for public-sector organisations to hand over spare land for allotments

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Public-sector organisations across the Capital should be asked to look at what spare land they have which could be handed over for allotments, an MSP has said.

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Edinburgh currently has 4,259 people on waiting lists for allotments and some will face waits of up to eight years to get one.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “During lockdown a lot of people have wanted to find a bit of growing space and the fact the Capital is such a difficult place to find anything does need to be addressed.

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Demand for allotments has grown since the start of the pandemic.   Picture: Greg Macvean.Demand for allotments has grown since the start of the pandemic.   Picture: Greg Macvean.
Demand for allotments has grown since the start of the pandemic. Picture: Greg Macvean.

“I think there is an opportunity for the government to look at all the government agencies we have based in the city and what potential land they could contribute to this. There are lots of public sector organisations which could potentially have some of this space.

"I know the Boys Brigade has given over some land they have off Ferry Road to allotments and Piton Community Health Project is doing great work to create community gardens and community orchard space.

"So there is stuff going on but I think we need to do more to create opportunities for people.”

Mr Briggs raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament last week, asking the Scottish Government to take forward a national allotment viability study support his call for all public bodies to develop land for allotments and community growing spaces.

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He said: “Growing your own produce as huge benefits, including mental health and financial, as well as having healthy seasonal vegetables to cook with.

“Reducing the carbon foot print of the food that we all consume is in line with national goals of becoming carbon neutral.

“The demand for allotments spaces and community growing spaces is obviously there and a national allotment viability study could go a long way to increasing capacity for people to grow their own produce.”

Environment minister Mairi McAllan told him the Scottish government had allocated over £1.4 million to increase land available for community growing.

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Stuart McKenzie, president of the Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Gardens Associations (FEDAGA) said in 2017 they had worked with the city council to put together a ten-year strategy for allotments in the city, which identified many potential sites.

But he said “Edinburgh don't have budgets to create new sites. Instead new sites tend to be created as part of new housing developments where residents of the homes there are given priority. This doesn't help the ever-longer waiting list.”

A council spokesperson said there were currently 1,969 allotment plots across 47 sites in Edinburgh, 1,630 of them managed directly by the council.

“Since lockdown, there has been increased demand for allotments and growing spaces in the city, and we have been actively working to increase the number of allotment plots in Edinburgh."

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She said the council aimed to ensure adequate provision of allotments and other growing spaces by investigating potential new sites, encouraging people to directly establish and manage new allotments on council-owned land, and the creation of new allotments as part of new developments.

“We have already carried out a series of feasibility studies for allotment plots in Edinburgh. The most recent study, in partnership with the Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust, identified six further sites with the potential to add an extra 200 plots to the council’s allotment provision.”

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