No space to grow

A new Freedom of Information request carried out by Greenpeace has found that waiting lists for allotments has doubled in the last decade.

View over an allotment with small greenhouse
credit:Petra Hoyer Millar

Obtained by independent artists and supported by Greenpeace through freedom of information requests, the data shows that there are now at least 174,183 applications sitting on local authority allotment waiting lists across Great Britain, with England figures almost double since 2011. Waiting times average at 3 years, with the longest average waiting time 15 years.

Bristol leads the top ten local authorities by allotment applications on waiting list with 7,630. Followed by Sunderland City Council (7,293), Portsmouth City Council (6,299), Southampton City Council (6,164), Edinburgh (5,658), Manchester City Council (5,516), Newham (4,673), Barnsley Borough Council (4,253), Richmond upon Thames (3,534) and Lewisham (3,459).

A 30-metre-long living artwork made of seed paper, called the Waiting List, spells out the message “We the 174,183 demand allotments” was displayed at Westminster on the 11th of October by artists and allotmenteers. The campaigners are urging the government to enable people to exercise their rights to allotments to be part of the solution to the cost of living crisis and climate change.

Campaigner and lead artist, JC Niala an allotments historian with a doctorate in urban gardening from St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, said:

“With the acceleration of climate change and the persistence of structural inequality within the UK and globally, food has become both an emblem and an embodiment of the troubles around us. Allotments quite literally provide a lifeline for some. They bring good local food back to people and take away the bad taste of the global industrial food system. They improve people’s mental health and wellbeing by creating a sense of purpose and increasing opportunities to connect with others as well as spend time in nature. Everyone has the legal right to request an allotment and councils are legally obliged to provide a sufficient number of allotments”.