10. Expenditure on promotion and use of allotments (Q9)
10.1 Section 124 of the Community Empowerment Act 2015 (the Act) provides local authorities with powers to incur expenditure on the promotion of allotments, and the training of allotment holders (current and prospective) in the use of allotments. It also requires local authorities to have special regard for communities which experience socio-economic disadvantage in exercising this power. The guidance statement included in the consultation paper elaborated on the duties set out in the Act by highlighting the possibility of (i) linking with other agencies in promoting food growing to wider communities; and (ii) offering training to those on allotment waiting lists.
10.2 The consultation paper included the following question on section 124:
124. Promotion and use of allotments: expenditure
This section provides a specific power for local authorities to incur expenditure for the purpose of promoting allotments in its area and providing training to allotment tenants and potential tenants about the use of allotments. In exercising this power, local authorities should consider how best to promote allotments in their area. This can include linking with organisations such as health boards and housing associations to encourage non-growers to visit allotment sites in their areas in recognition of the wider benefits growing food has in our communities.
Special consideration should be given to how best to engage with communities in areas of multiple socio-economic disadvantage.
Local authorities should use waiting lists to understand the demand for allotments in their areas and may choose to offer funded training to those on the list who are going to be offered a lease. This will ensure that newly awarded plot-holders have the skills to begin growing their own food.
Question 9: To what extent do you agree with this statement? [strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree]
10.3 Altogether, 225 respondents answered the tick-box part of Question 9. This represented all but one of the respondents to the consultation. Table 10.1 shows that 80% of all respondents either agreed or agreed strongly with the statement included in the consultation. The broad pattern of responses was similar for both individuals and organisations, although individuals were slightly more likely than organisations to disagree (disagree or disagree strongly) with the statement.
Table 10.1: Question 9 – 124. Promotion and use of allotments: expenditure
|LAs / other public bodies||Third sector organisations||All organisations||Individuals||All respondents|
|Neither agree nor disagree||2||29%||1||6%||3||12%||22||11%||25||11%|
Note: Figures may not total 100% due to rounding.
10.4 A total of 97 respondents – 14 organisations and 83 individuals – commented at Question 9. The sections below present views under the following headings: general views on the guidance statement; views on training; and views on promotional activities.
General views on the guidance statement
10.5 As indicated by Table 10.1, respondents, for the most part, were positive about the possibility of funding for the provision of training, the promotion of allotments and engagement with disadvantaged communities. In some cases, respondents simply used their comments to endorse the statement saying, for example, 'this is an excellent idea', or describing such activities as 'essential' or 'important'.
10.6 There were, however, other respondents who expressed qualified support, and suggested that any activity of this type: (i) should be secondary to the main local authority duty to provide allotments, or (ii) was laudable but had resource implications – there was a specific suggestion that local authorities could collaborate in funding regional allotment officers, thus sharing the expense involved in such activities.
10.7 Another group of respondents were concerned that training and promotional activities did not represent a good use of money, particularly given the pressures on public finances, the shortage of allotments, and the currently limited support given to allotment sites. Such views were particularly prevalent amongst those who indicated disagreement with the guidance statement at the tick-box part of Question 9. One respondent described such activities as 'a waste of money'; another said that funding training and promotional activities was 'absurd'. Amongst this group there were, though, some calls for funding to be used to support allotment associations, or to improve existing allotment sites.
10.8 Comments on more specific aspects of the guidance statement are presented below. Respondents commented on both training and promotional activities, although the former attracted more comment.
Views on training
10.9 Most commonly, respondents were positive about the provision of training for new or prospective allotment holders in particular. Respondents thought it was important that everyone involved understood how allotments functioned and understood the 'culture' of the allotment community. They also noted that taking on an allotment could be a daunting prospect and that training would help people taking on new tenancies to make a success of their allotment, and help reduce the incidence of under-cultivated plots.
10.10 In a few instances, respondents suggested that attending training should be compulsory for new allotment holders, or might be used as a criterion in allocating allotments to those on the waiting list.
10.11 Other respondents were, however, more cautious about the value of training and the provision of local authority funding for this activity, and made the following points:
- New plot holders could generally learn from the existing allotment community and from 'trial and error'; and formal training was therefore of limited value or simply not necessary. This was seen as one of the strengths of the allotment community and of allotment growing, and there was concern that this might be undermined by the provision of formal training which might actually deter new allotment holders. This was a key point made by those who indicated disagreement with the guidance statement. It was also pointed out by several respondents that there was a wide range of (online) resources available to assist new growers.
- Training for committees and associations on non-growing issues related to site management might be beneficial.
- The anticipated roles and responsibilities of different bodies was not clear. It was not clear, for example, who would develop good practice and provide the required training and resources, and whether this should be done at local, regional or national level. The availability of relevant expertise in local authorities was queried by some respondents, while one local authority respondent highlighted the risk of duplication of effort between different organisations, and suggested that their role might be best restricted to signposting and sharing of information to avoid duplication with activities of other established organisations. Other respondents also suggested that the role of local authorities might be limited to funding or otherwise supporting other bodies to provide training.
10.12 Some welcomed the idea of training being provided for new allotment holders in particular but were keen that it remained optional, stressing that not everyone wanted or needed formal training.
10.13 Across respondents, there was widespread support for the following:
- The establishment of a national (online) forum for sharing of information and good practice for allotment holders, allotment associations, local authority staff with responsibility for allotments, covering both local authority and independent allotments
- The development of mentoring or buddy systems within existing allotment communities where low turnover of plots might make formal training less feasible
- Training for local authority staff with responsibility for allotments, who may not have personal experience of allotment cultivation, and for groups taking on allotments for the benefit of clients ( e.g. those with mental health problems).
10.14 Some also commented on the practicalities of providing training, with the following suggestions put forward (in each case by a small number of respondents only):
- Training should be scheduled to allow working people to attend
- Local authorities might provide a handbook or basic written guidance for new allotment holders, with some suggesting that this was all that was required in the way of initial training
- Providing training on a central basis would be most appropriate and most cost-effective; an alternative view was that training would be better provided via local allotment associations who were familiar with local conditions, and that local allotment groups might be able to provide mutual support in such activities
- Training might focus on new sites given the low turnover of plots at established sites
- Training might focus on prospective allotment holders or on encouraging people to start growing food prior to getting an allotment
- Funding for training should be incorporated into plans for establishing new allotment sites
- Funding might be used to develop sites specifically for training purposes
- Allotment associations may be given modest funding (a 'stipend') in return for providing training for new or prospective allotment holders
- There might be a role for external organisations such as SRUC (Scotland's Rural College) in providing training.
Views on promotion of allotments
10.15 Those indicating agreement with the statement in the consultation paper were often supportive of work to promote allotments and food growing more generally to the public and to disadvantaged communities in general. They highlighted the benefits for health and wellbeing, and community integration and cohesion. There was support for working with health organisations, with schools and with existing community groups.
10.16 Additionally, some highlighted the fact that positive work of this type was already underway in some areas, undertaken by local authorities or individual allotment associations ( e.g. via open days).
10.17 Some were generally supportive of promoting allotments and working with disadvantaged group but also noted that (i) promotion of allotments was likely to increase demand, and allotments were already oversubscribed – thus, there needed to be a balance struck between raising expectations and the ability to respond to those expectations; (ii) promotion work had resource implications which needed to be recognised; and (iii) promoting allotment holding to disadvantaged communities was a positive idea, but would require significant thought if it were to be successful in genuinely engaging and involving people.
10.18 Those who disagreed with the statement highlighted the shortage of sites as an argument against work of this type; there was also a view amongst respondents in this group that focusing on specific communities might undermine the concept of allotments being for all groups. One local authority respondent also pointed out that local authorities already consider 'how best to engage with communities in areas of socio-economic disadvantage' through their wider work with Community Planning Partnerships.