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19 Feb 2008 : Column 153

Royal Assent

Mr. Speaker: I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Act:

European Communities (Finance) Act 2008.


Banking (Special Provisions)

Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported by the Prime Minister, Secretary David Miliband, Secretary Jack Straw, Mr. Secretary Hutton, Yvette Cooper, Jane Kennedy, Angela Eagle and Kitty Ussher, presented a Bill to make provision to enable the Treasury in certain circumstances to make an order relating to the transfer of securities issued by, or of property, rights or liabilities belonging to, an authorised deposit-taker; to make further provision in relation to building societies; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed. [Bill 73].

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Allotments (Planning)

3.33 pm

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): I beg to move,

I am glad of the opportunity to introduce a Bill on allotments that has support across the House, the proposed sponsors all being members of the all-party horticultural group, a number of whom, such as the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) and me, being fortunate enough to be allotment holders.

Allotments have long been enshrined in law. The General Inclosure Act 1845 enabled allotments to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for the “landless poor”. This year we celebrate the centenary of the Act of Parliament that placed a duty on local authorities to make provision for allotments for the use of local people—the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908, which is still in force. It places a duty on local authorities to provide sufficient allotments according to demand and also makes provision for local authorities compulsorily to purchase land to provide allotments. The 1908 Act states that if local authorities

In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of people wanting to work their own allotments. Last year, for example, the London Assembly published a survey entitled “A Lot to Lose: London’s disappearing allotments”. It found that in London alone, more than 4,300 people—3,000 more than 10 years ago—were on allotment waiting lists.

A similar picture can be found in every part of England, given that more and more people want the opportunity to work an allotment. The profile of those launching allotments is changing. Women and young families are increasingly active on the issue, and members of ethnic minorities are often keen to grow their own vegetables. As the chair of Friends of Windmill Allotments in Lambeth recently observed, allotments are

Those who have allotments, and those who would like to, have a love of gardening and a desire to grow better produce than can be bought. They may want to grow their own vegetables or flowers. A century after the passing of the 1908 Act, we should all champion allotments on grounds of health, the environment, community relations and ethnic diversity.

There is, however, a difficulty. I seek to introduce the Bill because as demand for allotments increases, the number of available plots is decreasing. The London Assembly survey found that 54 football pitches’ worth of allotments had recently been lost in London. Again, the picture is pretty much the same throughout the country. Sites are being chipped away a bit at a time,
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and that is leading to spiralling waiting lists. All too often, waiting lists are counted in years or even decades. The London borough of Camden, for example, has a 10-year allotment waiting list, and three years or more is not unusual across the country. Many councils are having to halve the size of traditional allotment plots to ensure that more families can move off waiting lists, but the reality is that councils need to find extra land for allotments so that more people can benefit.

It is true that existing allotments have some statutory and regulatory protection. In February 2002, the Government issued a circular to chief executives of all local authorities in England. It stated:

However, notwithstanding attempts to protect them, all too many allotments are disappearing and even fewer new ones are being created. Geoff Stokes, secretary of the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, has observed:

Under section 3 of the Allotments Act 1925, there used to be a requirement for every local authority preparing a town planning scheme in pursuance of the Town Planning Act 1925 to consider what provision ought to be included for the reservation of land for allotments. The section also required every council whose district was in the area of a town planning scheme to take into consideration at least once a year whether any lands—and if so, which—were needed for allotments and should be acquired in accordance with the Allotments Acts. At one stage, once a year, every local authority in England had to consider whether it was making a sufficient allocation and enough space for allotments. Alas, when the 1925 Act was repealed, that provision to consider the need for new allotments was also lost.

The Bill seeks to redress the balance. Even when councils are keen to establish new allotments, it is not always easy for them to find and acquire the land. For example, Bicester town council in my constituency has a three-year waiting list for allotments. Debbie Pickford, the leader of the council, is keen to increase the number of available allotments, but with the extraordinary pressure on any available land in the
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town the council is unlikely to be able to acquire land for allotments at a price that it can afford. In recent years, there has been consistent pressure on all local authorities to dispose of any surplus land, so few local authorities nowadays have surplus land of their own to convert into allotments.

The Bill proposes that under the Planning and Compensation Act 1991, which amended the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, when local authorities are considering planning applications for large developments and what it might be appropriate for developers to provide under section 106 agreements, they are obliged to consider, akin to the 1925 legislation, whether there is a need for the developers to make provision for allotments either on that site or on land elsewhere. In another place on 27 November 2006, Baroness Andrews, a planning Minister, confirmed, in response to Baroness Scott of Needham Market, that section 106 agreements have enabled developers to make provision for allotments. However, the sponsors of the Bill are concerned that such consideration is not being made on a regular or consistent basis across England. We need to see opportunities for new allotment sites.

I am fortunate to have an allotment near Banbury railway station. If one visits allotments at the weekend one will almost certainly find them full of younger people and families. Allotments are in big demand for growing fruit, flowers and vegetables, or just as a great way to chill out. In this, the centenary year of the Smallholdings and Allotments Act 1908, it would be very good if this House and the Government found the way and the will to enable new allotments to be created to meet spiralling demand and to expand allotment availability as we go into the 21st century. I commend this modest measure to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Tony Baldry, Ben Chapman, Robert Key, Mr. Brian H. Donohoe, Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody, Mr. David Wilshire, Mr. David Marshall and Jeremy Corbyn.

Allotments (Planning)

Tony Baldry accordingly presented a Bill to encourage local authorities to make provision for allotments; to require them to consider imposing duties on developers to provide land for statutory allotments when determining planning applications; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 14 March, and to be printed [Bill 68].

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Business of the House (Banking (Special Provisions) Bill)

3.43 pm

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Yvette Cooper): I beg to move,

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