June 2012 Comment
At last week’s Site Reps meeting, (20.6.2012) the Site Reps voted overwhelmingly to support a motion previously agreed by the Brighton and Hove Federation Committee;
“To stop the automatic chopping of full size 10rod plots in two when they become available for rent, and to offer a choice to applicants of either a 5rod half plot or a 10rod full plot depending on what is available and what is required”
This has been put to the council and we await their response.
A few years ago, the council changed its policy on letting plots. Since the change new applicants have only been allowed to rent a ‘half plot’ of 5 Rods. Whenever a full plot comes up for rent, the Site Reps have been told by the council to chop it in two and rent it to two people. This policy was introduced as a way of getting the waiting list down, (currently at 2000+) instead of doing what should be done… improving turnover and opening up new allotments.
While the Federation understands and agrees that some people only want a half plot, it has been seen as unfair that busy gardeners who want a full plot have been denied one. Feelings on this issue have gradually grown as more and more plots have been chopped in two, plot holders and Site Reps have listed the reasons why they think this policy is wrong and damaging for the allotments service.
Taking it to its ultimate conclusion, if we continue to chop in half every plot that becomes available, every site will eventually only have half plots.. but double the number of tenants. Once the process of chopping all the plots in half is complete, it will be impossible to turn back and the allotments as we know them will have changed forever.
10 rods is the ancient standard size of an allotment, worked out literally hundreds of years ago as the minimum sufficient size for a functional, productive allotment. Halving this and doubling the amount of plots will double everything on the site. There would be double the sheds, double the paths, double the pressure on amenities like water, the haulage ways and parking. Some plots are now so thin people are gardening on top of each other, this will only lead to more disputes over borders etc, and more problems for the allotments officer to deal with. There would be double the work for Site Reps and double the administration for the council and all for the same revenue. A good gardener will find a half plot very small, too small for effective crop rotation, too small to leave any fallow for wildlife. Many sites (Roedale Valley) for example have poor soil depth at the top of the plot but deep soil at the bottom. Some halves will be worse quality than others. Some sites just don’t lend themselves to plot chopping but this blanket cross city rule is the same for everyone.
While we agree some people only want a half plot, and that they should be allowed to have one. We feel that the ‘standard’ plot should remain as it has for hundreds of years at 10 rods. Sites should have a mix of full and half plots available. The percentage should probably be decided by local Site Reps and Associations, and should also be variable.