8. Preparation and review of food-growing strategy (Q6 and Q7)
8.1 This chapter covers possible guidance on local authority duties relating to the preparation and review of a local food-growing strategy as set out in section 119 and 120 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (the Act).
8.2 The consultation paper included two questions on this topic: Question 6 addressed the duty to prepare a food-growing strategy, while Question 7 addressed the duty to keep the strategy under review. Each of the questions is addressed in turn below, while a final section of the chapter presents a brief summary of other common points made in response to these two questions.
8.3 It should be noted that across both Question 6 and 7 similar comments were made by respondents, regardless of whether they indicated agreement or disagreement with the statement offered, and the analysis presented in this chapter does not discuss these groups of respondents separately. In both cases, though, the concerns of respondents who disagreed with the statements on preparing and reviewing food-growing strategies tended to focus on the issue of the relative treatment of Grow-Your-Own and allotment provision within the legislation and guidance (see paragraph 8.17).
Duty to prepare a food-growing strategy (Q6)
8.4 A food-growing strategy is described in section 119 of the Act as a document which (a) identifies land that the local authority considers may be used as allotment sites; (b) identifies other areas of land that could be used by a community for the cultivation of vegetables, fruit, herbs or flowers; (c) describes any steps the authority intends to take to increase provision of allotments or other land for cultivation (as required under section 112(1)); and (d) contains such other information as may be prescribed.
8.5 The statement included in the consultation paper relating to proposed guidance on the preparation of a food-growing strategy focused on encouraging consultation as part of the process of developing such a strategy. Views were sought as follows:
119. Duty to prepare food-growing strategy
When developing their food-growing strategies, it would be good practice for local authorities to consult, wherever possible, with Grow-Your-Own communities within their areas to understand how best to offer Grow-Your-Own opportunities and to assist with managing waiting lists.
Question 6: To what extent do you agree with this statement? [strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree]
8.6 All 226 respondents answered the tick-box part of Question 6. Table 8.1 below shows that the majority of respondents, 71%, agreed or agreed strongly with the statement provided in the consultation paper, while 11% disagreed or disagreed strongly. Seventeen per cent (17%) neither agreed nor disagreed. The balance of views was similar for both organisations and individuals – 68% and 72% respectively agreeing or agreeing strongly.
Table 8.1: Question 6 – 119. Duty to prepare food-growing strategy
|LAs / other public bodies||Third sector organisations||All organisations||Individuals||All respondents|
|Neither agree nor disagree||2||29%||2||11%||4||16%||35||17%||39||17%|
Note: Figures may not total 100% due to rounding.
8.7 A total of 88 respondents – 16 organisations and 72 individuals – provided comments at Question 6. The following sections look separately at comments on the guidance statement provided in the consultation paper; and wider comments on the legislative duties related to preparing a food-growing strategy.
Comments on the guidance statement
8.8 Comments on the guidance statement provided in the consultation paper largely addressed two separate issues: the role of consultation in developing a food-growing strategy, including the involvement of Grow-Your-Own communities in such consultation; and the provision of Grow-Your-Own opportunities to assist with managing allotment waiting lists. The remainder of this section focuses on comments on the role of consultation. The issue of the provision of Grow-Your-Own opportunities to assist with managing allotment waiting lists was also a key point of discussion in relation to the guidance on reviewing food-growing strategies (section 120) covered by Question 7 –comments made at both Questions 6 and 7 on this issue are, thus, presented together at paragraph 8.29 to 8.31 below.
8.9 Respondents were mainly positive about the role of consultation in developing local food-growing strategies. Some respondents simply endorsed the principle while others provided additional comments which explained and expanded on their views.
8.10 For the most part, respondents were keen to see consultation with a wide range of individuals and groups with an interest in, and knowledge about, local food growing ( e.g. allotment holders (current and prospective), allotment associations, Grow-Your-Own groups of various types, national third sector bodies), with some also advocating wider public and community involvement in consultations.
8.11 Respondents making more specific points in support of consultation also noted the following:
- That consultation should be obligatory rather than promoted as 'good practice'
- That consultation should be high quality and use robust methods.
- That any local authorities that have already produced strategies should be required to demonstrate adequate consultation
- That consultation should be proactive and should not require a participation request to be pursued.
8.12 Some respondents also argued for ongoing collaboration and engagement between local authorities and relevant stakeholders to support allotment or other local food-growing activities, with specific suggestions of the establishment of working groups and networks to allow consultation, the sharing of information and the promotion and development of good practice.
8.13 There were also calls for additional guidance to be provided to assist local authorities in meeting the requirement set out in section 119 of the Act (for example, on identifying stakeholders, and on good practice regarding carrying out consultation activities).
8.14 There were, however, some notes of caution regarding consultation, with respondents highlighting that not everyone wished to participate in engagement activities, and that there were resource implications associated with such activities.
8.15 Further, alongside this support for consultation to inform a sound strategy for local food growing, others argued that consideration of allotment provision and allotment waiting lists was not a legitimate area of interest for the wider Grow-Your-Own community. Respondents in this group thought that issues related to allotments and Grow-Your-Own were distinct in nature and should be kept separate in consultation activities (and in any resulting strategies), and that this should be reflected in the guidance.
8.16 The range of views on the involvement of the wider 'Grow-Your-Own community' in consultation activities was largely in line with views on the role of Grow-Your-Own initiatives in the food strategy (see paragraph 8.17 below).
Duties related to preparing a food-growing strategy
8.17 In many cases, the comments made by respondents were relevant to the duties introduced by the Act rather than the guidance statement contained in the consultation paper. In this context, the main issue of concern was the appropriate scope of local food-growing strategies, with two broad views offered:
- Some respondents thought that there should be a broad collaborative approach adopted in developing local food strategies, which should take account of a full range of local food-growing activities; some also advocated an approach which incorporated commercial growing and food production, public sector procurement, community empowerment, public education, health and wellbeing and environmental policies. Respondents in this group were positive about the inclusion of all types of provision in food-growing strategies, and welcomed the options this offered to meet demand for Grow-Your-Own spaces.
- Other respondents, however, favoured a narrower approach with a specific focus on allotments. Such respondents often argued that allotments and other Grow-Your-Own opportunities should be kept separate in a food-growing strategy (or should be covered by separate strategies), and that demand for different types of growing spaces should be evidenced separately. It was particularly felt that allotment waiting lists should be regarded as indicating demand for allotments, and should not be interpreted as representing demand for other types of growing space, and that demand for alternative Grow-Your-Own options should be properly researched and evaluated. Some respondents did, nevertheless, agree that both initiatives were valuable and should be seen as complementary, and thought that communication and collaboration between the sectors was helpful.
8.18 There was, though, a general concern that the provision of other Grow-Your-Own options may be used as an 'excuse' for local authorities to provide fewer allotments, and there were calls for clarity on the policy intentions.
8.19 Other comments on the duty to produce a food-growing strategy (put forward by a few respondents only) included the following:
- The key to an effective food-growing strategy was the identification and preservation of land suitable for growing for current and future use and, as such, the development of strategies had to be taken forward as part of a local authority's overall planning activity.
- An overall strategy is required but should not necessarily mean local authority management of waiting lists.
- It would be useful to have a working group from a range of organisations to share information about available local options.
- There were resource implications in undertaking consultation activities, and in taking any subsequent work forward.
- Any strategy should not impact on existing allotment sites.
8.20 Additionally, one local authority respondent suggested that a definitive deadline for the production of the strategy would be helpful.
Duty to review a food-growing strategy (Q7)
8.21 Section 120 in the Act set out the requirement for local food-growing strategies to be reviewed every five years, and, if changes were required, for a revised strategy to be produced and published electronically. The guidance statement included in the consultation paper covering this requirement included (i) proposed criteria – relating to the numbers on the allotment waiting list and the length of time people spent on the waiting list – for assessing the need for a revised strategy; and (ii) reference to the expectation that changes to the strategy would include consideration of increasing 'Grow-Your-Own opportunities'.
8.22 The consultation question was presented as follows:
120. Duty to review food-growing strategy
As part of the review of the food-growing strategy, the local authority should compare the total number of people on their allotment waiting list with the total number of allotments in their area. They should also look at the length of time a person has been on the waiting list. If the number of people waiting for an allotment site is more than half the total number of allotments, or the person on the list has waited longer than 5 years to be offered an allotment, the local authority should make changes to their food-growing strategy and look at increasing Grow-Your-Own opportunities within their area.
Question 7: To what extent do you agree with this statement? [strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree]
8.23 A total of 223 respondents answered the tick-box part of Question 7. Table 8.2 below shows a response pattern very similar to that at Question 6: almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) agreed or agreed strongly with the statement provided in the consultation paper, 16% disagreed or disagreed strongly and 11% neither agreed nor disagreed. Again, the overall pattern of responses for organisations and individuals was similar, with 68% and 73% of organisations and individuals respectively agreeing or agreeing strongly.
Table 8.2: Question 7 – 120. Duty to review food-growing strategy
|LAs / other public bodies||Third sector organisations||All organisations||Individuals||All respondents|
|Neither agree nor disagree||0||0%||3||17%||3||12%||22||11%||25||11%|
Note: Figures may not total 100% due to rounding.
8.24 A total of 98 respondents – 16 organisations and 82 individuals – commented at Question 7. Two sections below look, in turn, at comments on the guidance statement provided, including the criteria for reviewing food-growing strategies and the requirement to look at increasing Grow-Your-Own opportunities; and the legislative duty to review food-growing strategies.
Comments on the guidance statement
8.25 As noted above, comments on the guidance statement focused on the following two issues: the criteria for assessing the need for a revised food-growing strategy; and the requirement to 'look at increasing Grow-Your-Own opportunities'. Each of these issues is looked at in turn below.
The criteria for assessing the need for a revised food-growing strategy
8.26 Those respondents commenting on the criteria for assessing the need for a revised strategy offered several different points, all of which indicated concerns or reservations about the criteria and how they would be applied.
8.27 Some respondents thought the proposed criteria were too simplistic to be used to determine the need for a strategy review. They made the following points:
- The criteria need to be applied on a more localised basis in large local authority areas in order to properly understand demand and supply.
- Waiting lists should not be the only, or indeed the main, factor in determining the need for a revised food-growing strategy; other qualitative factors relating to wider issues such as health and wellbeing should also been seen as relevant.
- Waiting list data are not accurate measures of demand. People deterred from joining waiting lists because of known short supply, and people with plots of less than 250 square metres both represent 'hidden demand', while people 'inheriting' plots informally without ever being on the waiting list also distort the overall picture of supply and demand.
- The proposed criteria should be seen as statistics that would inform a food-growing strategy review, rather than factors to determine the need for such a review.
8.28 In a few cases, respondents expressed concern that the proposed criteria might have unintended consequences. These respondents (i) queried whether waiting lists might be 'closed' to avoid the need to revise food-growing strategies, and (ii) expressed concern that the proposed parameters might lead to allotments not being offered until the set limits had been reached ( e.g. until someone had been on the waiting list for five years).
The requirement to 'look at increasing Grow-Your-Own opportunities'
8.29 There was widespread concern about the reference to 'increasing Grow-Your-Own opportunities' as a response to dealing with demand for allotments. Respondents argued repeatedly that options such as shared community gardens did not represent an appropriate substitute for an individual allotment allocated on a long-term basis. It was further argued that the two types of provision (allotments and non-allotment growing spaces) met different needs and that demand for each should be assessed and evidenced separately.
8.30 Additionally, respondents argued that local authorities needed to increase supply of allotments (or, indeed, should be obliged to do so) if demand outstripped supply, with some specific suggestions put forward as to how the imbalance in supply and demand might be improved: for example, by converting unused land; by building allotment provision into long-term planning; by seeking 'developer contributions' via planning obligations; by evicting poor allotment tenants; by promoting the option of shared plots (see also Chapter 3).
8.31 Less frequently, respondents, including local authorities, expressed support for the principle of a mix of Grow-Your-Own options being made available because of the difficulties in increasing allotment supply, especially in urban areas. One suggestion was that shared spaces could be offered to people who already had their own garden (and who, it was suggested, should be lower priority in the allocation of allotments). It was, however, noted that it was important that people on waiting lists understood fully what they were being offered, and were able to make an informed decision about taking up different types of provision.
Other comments on the guidance statement
8.32 Other comments on the guidance statement focused on the provision of allotments, with the following points made by individual respondents: it might not be possible to increase allotment supply without additional resources being made available, and this should be recognised in the text of any guidance; the reference to making changes to the food-growing strategy was ambiguous when what was needed was increased availability.
Comments on the duty to review the food-growing strategy
8.33 Respondents often made comments relevant to the underlying legislative duty to review food-growing strategies, rather than about the guidance statement. In such cases respondents largely welcomed the duty, seeing it as 'essential' or 'important to spirit of the Act'; proactive or representing strategic thinking; or important for improving Scotland's health and wellbeing.
8.34 Those making more specific comments about the implementation of the duty called for the introduction of monitoring and for performance indicators to allow cross-authority comparisons. Some also queried the funding implications of such review activity, while one local authority respondent queried whether there would be sanctions for not fulfilling the requirements of the Act.
8.35 Some commented on the duty to carry out a review every five years and offered a general view that this was not frequent enough – one respondent suggested the need for annual reviews, and one local authority respondent suggested that the timing of any review might be at the discretion of local authorities, with an upper limit of five years.
8.36 It was also noted (by one respondent) that the outcome of a review might, in some circumstances, be a reduction of provision in some areas, if, for example, there was a shift in local populations.
Other comments made in response to Questions 6 and 7
8.37 Across Questions 6 and 7, respondents made a range of other comments relevant to the development and review of local food-growing strategies, with some reiterating points made in relation to other questions about the provision and management of allotments.
8.38 More generally, though, respondents were positive about the role of food-growing strategies as a mechanism for increasing growing opportunities, and for promoting and developing local food-growing activities. They were also keen to see strategic leadership and joined up thinking on this issue, and argued for further cooperation and collaboration, as well as funding, across organisations and sectors to support the aims of local food-growing.
8.39 Some respondents, however, reiterated concerns that allotment provision might be undermined by a perceived emphasis on alternative Grow-Your-Own provision and activities, or did not think a food-growing strategy was relevant to the needs of the allotment community.
8.40 Finally, there were calls for clarity as to what was meant by 'Grow-Your-Own' / the 'Grow-Your-Own community', and the distinction between allotments and 'Grow-Your-Own'.