85. At present, the National Society of Allotment
and Leisure Gardeners is informally made aware of applications
to sell 'statutory' sites received by the Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions.
In line with ensuring better information about the proposed
sale of sites, we recommend that it be made a formal obligation
upon the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
to inform the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners
of all applications to sell 'statutory' sites.
86. With regard to the review process, we are concerned
that plot vacancy rates and waiting lists cannot be relied upon
to reflect the local demand for allotments. These statistics more
often reflect the level of local promotion of allotments and the
overall attractiveness of an individual site in terms of management,
maintenance, facilities and overall atmosphere.
Also, once speculation has begun about the future of a site, it
may start to experience blight in the form of reduced demand for
vacant plots and some existing plot-holders leaving. In such cases,
plot vacancies offer a still less valid measure of demand for
87. There is concern that the analysis currently
carried out by the Government before sanctioning the sale of a
'statutory' site may be cursory and does not adequately guard
against abuse by local authorities who wish to sell an allotment
site. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State acknowledged
before offering us an encouraging commitment:
"We are going to ensure in future, as part of
the section 8 procedures, that local authorities have actually
actively promoted their allotments; so that we can get round the
idea that local authorities may deliberately be allowing land
to get derelict so they can dispose of it."
This change is welcome although the nature of its
implementation will be critical. We recommend that the Secretary
of State should ensure that a local authority has met certain
basic requirements of an active allotments policy before approving
the sale of a 'statutory' site. Specifically, a local authority
should have in place a designated allotments officer; should seek
to provide water and appropriate fencing at all allotment sites;
and should have a basic programme for encouraging demand for allotments
including simple advertising of vacant plots in the local media
and an information board at each site, displaying whether plots
are available along with details of whom to contact.
Role of the
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
88. Although there is a need for efficiency in dealing
with applications for the sale of sites, we were alarmed that
the process has been entirely confined to the regional Government
Offices and no cases have been called in for examination by the
Minister since the new Government took office. The Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State, Angela Eagle, told us that:
"The potential is if there is a big row and
there are lots of objections, that it could be called in and brought
to a Minister's attention. But in the 47 cases that we have had
since May, there have been no objections."
89. However, Angela Eagle subsequently wrote to us,
acknowledging that there had been objections to some of the applications.
Section 8 of the Allotments Act 1925 specifically places responsibility
for consent to the sale of 'statutory' sites at Ministerial level.
In the light of this, we consider it unacceptable that the Department
of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has not referred
matters of such importance to the Minister. We recommend that
all applications which attract objections should be called in
for examination by the Minister responsible.
106 See para 42 Back
See para 43 Back
See Ev p24 (40 years) (HC560-i); Ev p6 (HC560-II) (92 years) and
The New Marfleet Allotment and Garden Association (70 years) [Ev
not printed] Back
New Marfleet Allotment and Garden Association [Ev not printed] Back
Ev p2 (HC560-II) Back
Ev p8 (HC560-II) Back
Blackpool Borough Council [Ev not printed] Back
Details in Ev pp76-78 (HC560-iii) Back
See para 36 Back
Ev p41, section 4 (HC560-ii), Q141 and Q42 Back
See para 44 Back
Records held by the Department of the Environment, Transport and
the Regions cover the period from 1995 until the present day.
None of the applications made during this period were refused.
Ev p6-8 (HC560-i); Ev pp1, 7, 31 and 35-36 (HC560-II) Back
Ev p7 (HC560-i) Back
R v Secretary of State for the Environment, ex parte Gosforth
Allotment and Gardens Association Ltd  74 P & CR 93 Back
Ev p38 (HC560-II) Back
See, for example, Q203 and Q184 Back
See, for example, Ev pp13 and 38 (HC560-II); Q182 and Q184 Back
Ev pp8 and 23 (HC560-II); Q182 Back
Ev p3 (HC560-II) Back
Ev p66 (HC560-iii) Back
Ev p76 (HC560-iii) and subsequent letters [Ev not published] Back