ALLOTMENT holders in Sheffield have been reassured their plots are safe - despite a government review of councils’ obligation to provide land for food production.
Sheffield Council bosses have denied there are any plans to sell off the city’s allotments, and insisted they remain fully committed to promoting the benefits of growing your own fruit and veg.
The announcement came after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles included the councils’ responsibility to provide allotments on a list of ‘red tape’ he is trying to reduce.
Paul Billington, the council’s director of culture and environment, said: “Any suggestion the council has plans to sell off these well used and valued sites is unfounded.
“We are aware the Coalition Government is carrying out a review of all statutory duties placed on local authorities, including allotments, and will be watching developments closely.
“However, we are aware of the many benefits that allotments can deliver.
“We are committed to ensuring Sheffield residents continue to have opportunities to grow their own food.
“There is a significant demand for allotments across the city and we will continue to work towards reducing the waiting times for allotment plots.”
Mr Pickles has instructed civil servants to investigate measures to free local authorities from “Whitehall red tape”.
A list of “old and unnecessary duties” they are examining includes the 103-year-old obligation to provide allotments, which dates back to the 1908 Smallholdings and Allotments Act, although his department insisted protection for allotments will remain.
Allotment holders in Sheffield welcomed the council’s announcement, but remained cautious about the impact of the review.
Rob Hawkins, who sits on the Sheffield Allotments Federation executive, said: “Without rules that protect allotment holders, we won’t be able to hold council officers to account.
“If they take away the obligation to provide land and look for new sites, groups in Sheffield will have less right to put the pressure on.”
Mr Hawkins, who also chairs the Hangingwater Allotment Association, said the council is to triple allotment rent over the next four years.
He added: “Allotments were created to allow the poorest in society to grow their own food.”
Diane Cocker, who runs the LEAF community allotment project in Norwood, said: “Allotments attract people from all walks of life. There are obvious health benefits and it’s much more fun than going down to the gym.”