Call for council to hand over land for allotments

Allotment file pic. Photo: Badics/Wikimedia.

All council-owned land in England’s largest county suitable for cultivation should be made available to community organisations at no cost as part of a drive to boost biodiversity and the health of residents, it has been claimed.

The motion set to be put to a full meeting of North Yorkshire Council on Wednesday follows the authority declaring it has long waiting lists for allotments from Scarborough to Skipton.

Such is the demand for allotments, the authority’s website states in some areas of the county “plots may not become available for five years”.

The authority’s five-year plan states its priorities include promoting biodiversity and nature-based solutions in climate change activity, support community groups in providing inclusive opportunities for people to become more active and maximise the potential of natural assets to improve physical and mental health.

The proposal, tabled by Knaresborough councillor Hannah Gostlow, underlines the council’s commitment to conserving biodiversity to mitigate climate change and that the cost-of-living crisis is creating real hunger reinforcing the need for healthy fresh food at an affordable price.

Coun Gostlow said as there was plenty of under-used publicly owned land which could be used for community food growing, the council should identify and produce a map of suitable sites suitable.

She believes all land should be considered and made available for cultivation by a licence to community organisations at no cost.

Ensure that allotment provision adheres to the 1969 Thorpe Report which recommends a minimum provision equivalent to 15 plots per 1,000 households. In the 2011 census, 256,594 households were recorded in North Yorkshire.

The Liberal Democrat said while there was high demand and a limited supply of allotments, there was potential to make council-owned land more attractive.

However, she said due to red tape it could take several years to gain consent to use council land, citing an example of two small strips at Conyngham Hall in Knaresborough which have since been planted out with donations from residents and RHS Harlow Carr.

Meanwhile, another piece of unused land at the community centre in the town’s Stockwell area has been cultivated to produce fruit and vegetables for a Cook and Eat scheme, where residents can learn about cooking on a budget and healthy eating options.

Coun Gostlow said: “People want to do their bit and increase their biodiversity locally, they know it has a huge part to play in fighting climate change. I’m pushing the council to do something the community is ready for.

“It’s not a quick win because it’s a lot of effort, but it’s a quick win in terms of permissions.”

Describing the proposal as “a worthy idea”, the council’s climate change champion, Councillor Paul Haslam, said while he understood the philosophy behind the motion, with limited resources the authority needed to focus on the most beneficial projects.

He said: “The start point would be to identify potential sites and then think how the proposal could be enacted.”

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