Council helps encourage Reading residents to grow their own
- The Council currently manages plots covering 41.5 ha of land.
- Significant progress has been made in clearing and levelling overgrown and abandoned plots.
- Groups are being encouraged to take the initiative in self-management at allotment sites.
READING BOROUGH COUNCIL continues its work to support green-fingered residents’ use of allotments across the borough.
The Council continues to provide and promote allotments for their significant social, health and environmental benefits. The Council currently manages 20 allotment sites, consisting of 1,338 workable plots, and covering 41.5 ha of land.
Over the last 18 months, despite the pressure on resources caused by the pandemic, the Council’s parks team has:
- Made significant progress in clearing and levelling overgrown and abandoned plots across 10 sites, with nearly 20 plots created/recovered at Victoria Road Allotments and 10 plots recovered at Ardler Road.
- Provided active support and advice at eight key locations, to provide the opportunity of self-management groups of these sites.
- Appointed a dedicated Allotment Project Officer for an initial 6 months to further develop and update the Council’s ongoing Allotments Plan.
The Council is striving to find ways of increasing community involvement and to ensure its allotments are sustainable into the future. This includes encouraging groups to take the initiative in self-management at allotment sites.
The new dedicated Allotments Officer will focus on dealing with individual and group concerns and enquiries, leading further consultation with tenants with a view to introducing a new self-management system for interested sites during the summer in 2022 and further review of how the Council can ensure allotments are affordable for all.
A report going before Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committee on 10 November, outlines the work the Council has done to date to manage its allotments and looks to bring an updated Allotments Action Plan back to the committee for approval in March 2022.
Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “This report today is evidence of how highly we regard our allotments and how much, in spite of the ongoing financial and resource challenges we face as a Council, we are striving to protect our allotments and make them as sustainable as possible in the future.
“As well as providing residents with healthy, free home-grown food and a local, sustainable food source, allotments are invaluable in supporting physical and mental wellbeing. This is especially important in our response to tackling the climate emergency but also in addressing the lingering effects of our post-Covid recovery in protecting our physical and mental health.
“This report shows the significant inroads we have made in clearing and recovering abandoned plots, so that more residents can benefit from a plot, as well as working closely with individuals and groups at allotment sites, many of whom are passionate about their plots and keen to work alongside us to manage these valuable spaces.
“I’m heartened to already hear of many allotment groups already taking on the letting of new plots and management of waiting lists; two sites have reached 100% lettings for the first time in many years. There are new allotment committees and fledgling allotment societies developing; sites planning communal composting systems supported by their own compositing champions; and working groups getting hands-on with site maintenance and wildlife projects.
“With the great news of our appointment of a dedicated allotment officer, I’m confident we can look to deliver even better in the future for our allotment users and ensure our local allotments programme is one that will continue to improve our offering for the town.”
A consultation with allotment holders in 2020 revealed that whilst the majority felt that the Council carries out a reasonable job of managing allotments, main concerns were the number of vacant or untended plots, the encroachment of boundaries leading to lost plots and delays in re-letting plots that were falling vacant or were untended.
Cllr Rowland added: “I’d like to thank all the plot holders who took part in our allotment consultation in 2020. Over 450 people gave us their views. I would like to assure each person that took the time to respond that their feedback has been, and continues to be invaluable in informing much of the work we will be taking forward during 2022 and beyond.”
The Council would like to hear from tenants with an interest in and appetite for joint or self-management or who want to develop their own maintenance, management, or biodiversity action plans for their sites. Please contact the project officer on Allotments.Reading@reading.gov.uk
For more information on allotments visit:
The full report to Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committee on 10 November can be viewed here: https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s19902/Allotments%20Self%20Management%20update%20report.pdf