Applications for council-run allotments in England have soared during the coronavirus pandemic – despite 18-month waiting lists – as consumers seek to embrace “the good life” and grow their own their fruit and vegetables during lockdown.
Figures released on Monday by the National Allotment Society (NAS) reveal that 40% of English councils that responded to a survey reported a “significant uplift” in applications to join waiting lists during April, with a 300% increase in one case – Hyndburn in Lancashire.
The NAS also reported a 45% increase in the number of requests for information through its own website.
The NAS said: “With one in eight of the UK population having no access to a garden – one in five in London – and a rise in awareness of the fragility of our food systems, perhaps now is the time for central government to reassess the potential of allotments to support public health and make a significant contribution to food security.”
It added that during the second world war “Dig for Victory” campaign, 18% of the UK’s fruit and vegetables were grown in gardens and allotments, falling to just 3% in 2017-18.
There are an estimated 330,000 allotment plots in England – the vast majority of which are the responsibility of local councils – while the National Trust has also provided many sites.
The average waiting time for a plot is six to eight months, according to separate data from the Association of Public Sector Excellence, and with only 12% of authorities able to guarantee a plot within six months. Half of councils said the average waiting time was 18 months, with waiting lists of up to 400 people in some areas.
The founder of the Black Farmer food brand, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, on Monday called on the government and major landowners such as the Church of England to get involved.
He said: “The government, Ministry of Defence and Church of England all own vast swathes of land,” he said, “and could be doing a lot more to welcome people from diverse urban cultures into allotments and ultimately into the countryside.”