Our allotment site has never been a popular choice. There is no mains water, access is via a main road with no pavements, and the soil is not great.
As such, the site has never had a long waiting list. But finding people for plots was never been a challenge either. Passers by would see an untended plot and ask if they could take it on. This system worked and was how I found my plot. Talking to the other plot holders it has been that way for over 20 years.
But the number of available plots has drastically increased this year. It seems to be the “old boys” of the site. They have all upped and left! 50% of the allotment site is now untended plots.
Our lack of advertising for plot vacancies now worries me and I struggle to see how we can find people to work them. The image below highlights what I mean. These 5 plots were all beautifully tended this time last year. I think one even won our town’s best allotment award 2 years ago.
I’m not sure of the reasons for the mass exit but I can hazard a guess:
The first is the feud between plot holders at this part of the site. One would annually cover his plot with round up to kill off the weeds. His neighbours hated this as it happened in all weather (inc. wind) and before the season had finished.
There was also the note, just before the renewals last year, that informed of a rent increase. Last year it went up by 50% with further 50% increase planned for this year’s renewal. A 100% increase was a bitter pill for many of the old timers.
Now I can understand why the owners of the site, a local charity, increase the rents. They had stayed at £10 for many years (yes that is £10 per year for a full size plot). It was time for an increase and increasing it to £20 did not seem extravagant. I suspect the principle of a 100% increase was too much for the old timers though. Especially with the strained political environment on their part of the site.
The farmer is taking over
The charity that own the site also own the farm land that surrounds the site. The farmer that rents this land is keen to take on more as the charity charge low rent to him too. So he has now taken over what was 4 plots for grazing pasture (see below). As a result the site has lost 4 plots. They were good plots too. Ones where the tenants looked after and built up the soil.
So my concern is not, as with a lot of other plots, that developers are planning take over the site. My concern is something worse in my opinion. It is that whist demand is low the site will gradually disappear.
Need to do something
It’s clear that something needs doing. We need to get some kind of advertising to bring in new plot holders. This is going to be a challenge as the landowner is a charity run by volunteers. None of which are plot holders and their focus is on the other work of the charity.
Do we need an associate to manage these things?
The plot holders on site have always resisted building an association. I guess because it would involve extra work on their part and possibly extra cost. And I agreed with them 2 years ago: why have an association when plots are in use and the charity manage the admin?
I suspect this might be the circumstances that mean we have to get together to protect the site from the rapid decay that is happening.
Looks like I need to have a chat to my fellow plot holders and see what the appetite is. I feel a revolution coming on 😉