Fears grow for the good life

After raising the issue of council provision of allotments in the House of Commons, Houghton MP Bridget Phillipson toured the Ski View site in Silksworth with local councilor Peter Gibson.
After raising the issue of council provision of allotments in the House of Commons, Houghton MP Bridget Phillipson toured the Ski View site in Silksworth with local councilor Peter Gibson.
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A FIGHT for the “good life” by green fingered Wearsiders has reached the House of Commons.

Ministers have been accused of planning to scrap rules which force councils to provide allotments to residents.

Demand for plots already outstrips supply in Sunderland and suggestions the rules on allotment provision could change had sparked outcry among small-holders and Labour MPs.

Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson took the Government to task at a session in the House of Commons.

In a question to Food and Agriculture Minister James Paice, she said: “Four thousand people in my area currently have an allotment or are on a waiting list for one.

“Can he reassure me that he will not support any measure that would scrap legal protection for allotments, and that he will bring all possible pressure to bear on his colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government?”

Mr Paice dismissed claims the Government intended to do away with allotments as “entirely false”.

He said: “This Government strongly supports the need for more growing spaces to be made available for people to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

“Assertions that we would scrap the duty placed on local authorities to provide plots for growing food to persons resident in the area are entirely false.

“Defra officials and I are working with the Department for Communities and Local Government to develop further initiatives to release land that could be used for allotment sites.”

Speaking after the debate, however, Ms Phillipson said Government plans hadn’t changed and fears remained for the future of allotments.

Interest in running allotments and growing your own fruit and veg has spiked in recent years, with TV chefs and celebrity gardeners encouraging people from all walks of life to give it a go.

It is a lifestyle once typified by the TV comedy the Good Life, which saw characters Tom and Barbara Good give up their suburban professional lifestyle to go self sufficient.

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BRIDGET Phillipson visited allotment holders at the Ski View site in Silksworth to discuss the importance of their plots.

David Welch, a retired school teacher, said: “If there is a demand for allotments, councils should be providing more – not less.

“I think allotments have become fashionable, there has been a lot of coverage about them on television.

“For me one of the big things about allotments is teaching young people skills and where their food comes from. It’s not just ‘I get my vegetables from the supermarket’.”

He added: “It’s also great having produce at the end of it all which you can share with people.”

Silksworth councillor Peter Gibson said he would be against plans to sell-off allotment land if the Government allowed councils to do so.

He said: “I think the council is duty-bound to provide allotments. It’s important for people who don’t have a garden to be able to grow their own vegetables and things.

“There are also a lot of other uses for allotments, and we have a duty to make land free for those people who don’t have gardens.

“I certainly would not want the council to sell-off allotments. I would want us to carry on doing what we’re doing now and make sure that land is available.”