27 February 2015
Article by Katy Orford, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
On 27 January 2015 the Welsh Government announced that it will introduce new guidance to improve the availability of allotments and community gardens in Wales. The new guidance will aim to ‘help establish new sights, improve sight management, ease planning concerns and better manage waiting lists’.
The Green Paper
The announcement follows a 2014 Green Paper consultation on improving the availability of allotments and community gardens. The consultation was launched in July last year and built upon recommendations made by the Assembly’s former Sustainability Committee in 2010.
The Welsh Government published a summary of the 69 responses to the Green Paper in January 2015. The summary stated that all respondents agreed with the goal of improving the supply of sites for community grown food and allotments. However, there was no consensus from respondents on the role of legislation as a mechanism for improving provision. The summary of responses states that some felt that the existing definition of allotments in legislation is too narrow and should cover the wide variety of community gardening. However others, including the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens (FCFCG), raised concerns that redefining community gardens as allotments may discourage landowners from making land available for new sites due to current restrictions placed on statutory allotment sites. For example, statutory allotment sites cannot be sold or used for other purposes without the consent of Welsh Ministers (Section 8, Allotments Act 1925).
Outcome of the consultation
Due to the contrasting views, the Minister for Natural Resources Carl Sargent, announced that the Welsh Government will not be seeking to legislate in this Assembly term. Instead, the Welsh Government has committed to producing guidance to help local authorities plan for allotments and community gardens, in recognition of the competing pressure for land. The ‘next steps’ which conclude the Welsh Government’s summary of responses to the Green Paper state that:
It is not just a matter of finding more land for growing that is required. We need to better manage demand and supply of the sites already available in Wales. The provision of up to date guidance relating to both traditional allotments and community led gardening projects is important and we will look at providing this during the remainder of this Assembly Term. Guidance will be drafted in partnership with key stakeholders and will be consulted upon before being issued…The Welsh Government will look at how community growing can be further supported by the Rural Development Plan. Non legislative proposals will make a real contribution to delivering the objective of increasing the availability of land and growing opportunities. Further consideration will be needed before potential legislative changes can be developed.
…to provide the flexibility needed to respond to local conditions, whilst also having appropriate levels of consistency across local authorities. It will need to cover roles and responsibilities, how to establish new sites, the registration and management of sites, funding and support, structures and wider planning concerns, and the administration of waiting lists.
Emma Williams, Wales Manager for FCFCG, welcomed the statement saying:
We look forward to working with Welsh Government and other key stakeholders to ensure this guidance really delivers increased opportunities to grow food for the people of Wales. We are also delighted to see that community growing will be supported under the Welsh Government’s Rural Development Plan and hope that some of the challenges identified through the consultation such as access to funding, training and support are addressed by this.
For further information on the Green Paper see the Research Service’s blog post Grow your own: allotments and community food grown in Wales