Councils are planning to expand provision of allotments in response to demand from residents, a survey by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) has found.
APSE, which represents councils providing front-line services, including parks and open spaces, conducts regular State of the Market Surveys among its members.
Officers from 131 local authorities took part in APSE’s latest poll on allotment provision. A total of 93% of these have council managed allotments and the majority of authorities that do not have allotments say residents have expressed demand.
A total of 64% authorities have plans to increase the number of allotments in their areas. In most cases this will be provided directly by the council, but both community groups supported by the council and developers will contribute to allotment provision. Other council services, such as education and social work, are also recognising the value of allotments and would provide them in 25% of cases.
The majority of councils now have allotment strategies and others are planning to develop them in the next year. This is a change since APSE’s 2008 survey on allotments, showing they are increasingly important to councils and communities.
APSE chief executive Paul O’Brien commented: ‘The public enthusiasm for allotments is growing as people want to grow their own fresh, healthy food rather than pay high prices for it and we are really pleased to see that local authorities are responding to that demand by giving allotments a higher profile and planning to increase the number of plots they offer.’
Local authorities across the UK tend to have to subsidise the provision of allotments, even though they charge users. Most councils relate the charge to the size of the allotment and the majority of annual costs vary between £21 and £50. Concessions are offered by two thirds of councils and the majority of these offer concessionary prices to pensioners, those on low incomes and disabled people. The discount is usually 40-50%.
Just over half of the survey respondents said they expect to increase the price of allotments in the next two years, reflecting financial constraints and the need to reduce dependency on subsidy by the local authority. Even where they are planning to increase the price, councils will still have to subsidise the service, and only 35% said increasing the price would make the service cost neutral for them.
‘The harsh budgetary climate means that prices may increase beyond the current level of around £5 a month on average, but local authorities are continuing to subsidise allotment provision, keeping prices as low as possible and most are offering concessionary discounts,’ says, Debbie Johns, APSE’s principal advisor responsible for parks and horticultural services.
APSE is a not-for-profit organisation working with over 300 local authorities providing front-line services across the UK including parks and horticultural services.
For further information contact Mo Baines at APSE on tel: 0161 772 1810 email: firstname.lastname@example.org