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<i>IoS</i> campaign buries plan to close allotments

Outcry forces PM to promise new rights to land

Mary Dejevsky
Sunday 08 May 2011 00:00 BST

A resounding success was achieved by The Independent on Sunday's Dig for Victory campaign yesterday, when ministers promised that people would have new rights to land for allotments.

The move followed widespread concern, highlighted by this paper and raised at Prime Minister's Questions last week, that the Government is planning to remove the 103-year-old protection for allotments, raising the possibility that councils would sell off plots by the thousands.

The IoS received dozens of letters from plot holders – including a veteran of the Second World War Dig for Victory movement – calling on ministers to rethink the review of "unnecessary burdens" on local councils. The list includes the obligation to provide allotments where there is demand.

Our Dig for Victory campaign forced David Cameron to pledge in the House of Commons that allotments would be protected. Referring to the campaign, Mr Cameron said: "It is a great movement, and it has my full support."

The latest public figures to join the campaign include Trudie Styler, the film producer, and actor Richard Briers, who starred in the grow-your-own TV comedy The Good Life.

Styler has created a range of "ready-to-cook meals", called Lake House Table, to counteract the rise of fast food and has opened vegetable plots in the grounds of her Jacobean mansion to two schools. "It's important we have access to soil. I understand the need for housing, but we can't give up on nature – or on ourselves."

After we revealed the plans, the Government said it would protect allotments, but admitted that section 23 of the 1908 Allotments Act, which gives people a right to demand plots, was on a list of red tape to be reviewed – fuelling campaigners' concerns.

But ministers yesterday announced new powers for communities to open more allotments. The response suggests that they fear another backlash like the one sparked by the plan to sell off the nation's forests.

Greg Clark, the planning minister, said the Localism Bill would give planning decisions to residents to ask for more land for allotments. People will be able to set out the exact locations of sites. Once a neighbourhood plan had been independently assessed and passed by a local referendum, a council will be obliged to adopt the plan.

Mr Clark said: "More people want to grow their own vegetables but sites are becoming unnecessarily difficult to come by. We need to stop this decline."

Donna McDaid, of the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, said: "It is great news that people can help ensure allotments remain available for years to come."

Additional reporting by Indigo Axford and Kunal Dutta

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