Grow your own: allotments and community food grown in Wales

24 September 2014

Article by Katy Orford, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

On 14 July 2014 the then Minister for Natural Resources, Culture and Sport, John Griffiths, launched a Green Paper consultation setting out proposals to make more land available for allotments and to improve opportunities for community growing in Wales.

Allotment

Image from Flickr by net_efekt. Licensed under the Creative Commons

Background

In 2010 the Third Assembly’s Sustainability Committee held an inquiry into allotment provision in Wales. The inquiry explored ways in which the Welsh Government could support and provide opportunities for the increasing interest in allotments and community gardening, and also examined ways these activities could provide wider societal benefits.

The Committee published its conclusions in July 2010. The Committee stated that it had received a lot of positive evidence about groups coming together to create community spaces. However the Committee also noted that it had received evidence from individuals who had been ‘struggling to find space to grow their own produce and from people who had been battling to get Local Authorities to fulfil their obligations’.

The Committee’s recommendations included that:

  • the Welsh Government carries out a mapping exercise to gather a clear picture of allotment provision;
  • the Welsh Government carries out a review of the existing legislation and seeks necessary legislative competence to bring forward new legislation for allotments;
  • the Minister examines the potential to increase the supply of allotments using publically owned land; and
  • guidance is issued to Local Authorities outlining the options for allotment provision.

The Welsh Government stated that many of these recommendations were addressed in the Community Grown Food Action Plan which was launched in July 2010 by the then Minister for Rural Affairs, Elin Jones. The Action Plan’s strategies included that the Wales Rural Observatory (WRO) would undertake a research project on all levels of community growing. Also, the WRO would work with relevant organisations and local authorities to improve mechanisms for provision and management of allotments.

In July 2013 the Welsh Government announced a review of access and outdoor recreation legislation and guidance. The review included examining the existing legislative framework for allotments. Following the review, the Welsh Government stated that the legislation needed to be looked at to see if it needed to be modernised and improved, especially in terms of a better way of recording land availability. The Welsh Government also called for an improved definition of land for community growing suggesting it should be more flexible than the ‘traditional’ allotment. This led to the 2014 Green Paper on improving the availability of allotments and community gardens.

New Proposals

The Welsh Government says its new proposals complement the Community Grown Food Action Plan. The Green Paper outlines the Welsh Government’s plans to identify and supply land for allotment use to ‘boost skills, mental and physical health and to regenerate local communities’. The consultation seeks views on proposals to improve the availability of land for allotments, to protect land for allotments and improve opportunities for community growing with an aim to help achieve the Welsh Government’s commitment to increase the availability of land for allotments.

The proposals include:

  • issuing guidance to local authorities on promoting and supporting community grown food;
  • making Welsh Government owned land available for community grown food and encouraging and supporting public and private landowners to do the same;
  • supporting farmers to address barriers in providing land for allotments or community grown food; and
  • establishing a right for local authorities, community councils, and constituted community groups to register and use unused public land, or land where no owner can be established, for the purpose of community grown food.

Launching the Green Paper, the former Minister, John Griffiths, said:

People growing food for themselves and their families is a special pastime for many in Wales and can be enjoyed by individuals and groups of all ages, abilities and financial means. It has recently become more popular than ever and many local authorities are struggling to meet demand for allotments… More productive use of land in our community through allotments and growing spaces can also provide social benefits, bringing communities together and assisting in their regeneration.

The consultation closes on 6 October 2014.