Allotments

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 5th November 2008.

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Photo of John Leech John Leech Shadow Minister (Transport) 4:30 pm, 5th November 2008

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Cook. I am delighted to have the opportunity to debate the provision of allotments by local authorities and delighted by the amount of interest that the debate has generated, which is reflected not necessarily by the number of people who have turned up but by the number of e-mails and telephone calls that I have had from people around the country and other hon. Members who have taken an interest. Ben Chapman has a particular interest in the issue, but cannot be with us this afternoon.

The issue is particularly important in my constituency and has become far more important in the past few years. I thank the eight Greater Manchester local authorities that took the time to provide me with information for this debate showing the lack of available allotment plots in Greater Manchester. To give a few examples, Bolton has 1,000 allotment plots and a waiting list of 200, with average waiting times of 18 months. Bury has 516 plots and a waiting list of 378. Oldham has 431 plots and a waiting list of 220. Rochdale has 450 plots and a waiting list of 175. Salford has 356 plots and a waiting list of 291. Stockport has 1,203 plots and 394 people on the waiting list. Trafford has 1,500 plots and 600 on the waiting list, and some people there have to wait up to six years. Finally, Wigan has 317 plots and 800 on the waiting list, often with a wait of three to four years.

Unfortunately, I could not get any information from Tameside borough or my own council, Manchester city council, but the figures, despite being incomplete, show that more than 3,000 people are on waiting lists for allotment plots in Greater Manchester. Although I could not get figures for Manchester, I did get some for my own constituency from the Association of Manchester Allotment Societies showing that my constituency has 450 allotment plots and 280 people on the waiting list. That is in just one of five constituencies in Manchester, which shows the scale of the problem across the city.

The situation has been worsening over the past 10 years, and waiting lists have lengthened with no sign of demand being met. Ten years ago, the situation in Manchester was somewhat more mixed. For example, there were plenty of empty plots at Southern allotments in my constituency, and there was even talk of the site not being an allotment site in future, but today it is full. Other sites were full 10 years ago and are now more so.

Attitudes to allotments have changed. Long gone is the image of the allotment holder as a retired man. Allotments have surged in popularity among young people, particularly women. There is no obvious single reason for that increase in popularity, but significantly more people in south Manchester live in flats and apartments with little or no outdoor amenity space, which has led more people to look to allotments as a means of accessing outdoor space.