Allotments: duty to prepare a food growing strategy - guidance for local authorities

Statutory guidance for local authorities to assist them in their duty to prepare a food growing strategy, as set out in part 9, section 119 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.

Section 1 – Context

6. The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015

6.1 The Scottish Government is committed to communities being supported to do things for themselves ( i.e. community empowerment), and to people having their voices heard in the planning and delivery of services ( i.e. community engagement and participation).

6.2 The Act received Royal Assent on 24 July 2015 and came into force on 1 April 2018. Part 9 of the Act, which updates and modifies allotments legislation, was developed through discussions with stakeholders in the wider public, private, third and community sectors and also through consultations.

6.3 The Act repeals allotments legislation dating from 1892, simplifies provisions and acknowledges and endorses the rising interest in community growing – both on allotments and through other grow-your-own (GYO) models, recognising the multiple benefits it can offer. Part 9 of the Act outlines the rights of individuals in our communities, and the corresponding duties and responsibilities of local authorities, in relation to allotments.

Local authority responsibilities under Part 9 of the Act

6.4 Part 9 of the Act lays a number of statutory duties on local authorities, including:

  • a requirement to have regard to any guidance issued by Scottish Ministers about the carrying out of functions set out in Part 9 (including this food-growing strategy guidance and any other statutory guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers to local authorities regarding sections of Part 9[2];
  • a duty to maintain an allotments waiting list;
  • when certain trigger points of demand are reached, a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure: (1) that the number of people on their waiting list for an allotment does not exceed half the total number of allotments owned and leased by the authority; and (2) that a person on the list does not wait more than five years for an allotment[3];
  • a requirement to make allotment site regulations;
  • a duty to develop a food-growing strategy. This includes the identification of land for allotments and other community growing and describing how the authority will meet demand for such land;
  • a duty to produce an allotments report for its area each year. This includes such matters as the location and size of each allotment site and the number of allotments on each site.

Specific new statutory requirements on local authorities with regard to a food-growing strategy

6.5 Section 119 of the Act places a duty on every local authority to prepare a food-growing strategy which must be published by 1st April 2020, that is within two years of section 119 coming into force.

6.6 Section 119 requires local authorities to include the following in their food-growing strategies:

  • land identified in the area that could be used for allotment sites;
  • other land identified in the local authority area which could be used by a community to grow vegetables, fruit, herbs or flowers;
  • a description of how the authority intends to increase the provision of allotments or other land for community growing, should the authority be required to take reasonable steps under section 112(1); and
  • when detailing how the authority intends to increase the provision of allotment sites and community growing areas of land in its area as it is required to take reasonable steps under section 112(1), a description of whether and how this will apply to communities which experience socio-economic disadvantage.

6.7 Each local authority must publish the food-growing strategy it prepares on a website or by other electronic means.

6.8 Section 120 of the Act requires every local authority to review its food-growing strategy. This review must be carried out within 5 years of the date of the publication of the initial food-growing strategy, and every five years thereafter. When the local authority decides to change its strategy following a review, the local authority is required to publish an amended strategy electronically.

6.9 For the purposes of the Act, an allotment is land owned or leased by a local authority for use by people to grow vegetables, fruit, herbs or flowers on a non-profit basis.[4]

6.10 Part 9 of the Act offers added protection for allotments owned or leased (or intended for lease) by a local authority. These sites cannot be sold, their use changed or, in the case of leased sites, lease renounced without the consent of Scottish Ministers. These protections do not apply in relation to other privately leased or owned allotment sites.

6.11 In addition to the functions conferred by Part 9 of the Act, section 70 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 ("the 1973 Act") confers powers on a local authority to acquire land (by agreement) for the purposes of the benefit, improvement or development of its area[5]. Section 73 of the 1973 Act enables a local authority to appropriate land for another use[6].

Strategic Environmental Assessment

6.12 As per the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005, local authorities are required to undertake and consult on a Strategic Environmental Assessment when a qualifying plan, programme or strategy is likely to have significant environmental effects[7].

7. Goals of the food-growing strategy in the context of the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework

7.1 The Scottish Government's Vision for National Wellbeing, contained in the National Performance Framework,[8] sets out 11 National Outcomes together with a suite of National Indicators and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

7.2 The framework seeks to build a more successful and inclusive Scotland and sets out the way in which progress can be measured. It describes a vision for national wellbeing in Scotland across a range of economic, social and environmental factors.

7.3 The goals of each local authority's food-growing strategy (highlighted in bold below) will work towards aiding the achievement of some of the Scottish Government's National Outcomes, and National Indicators and UN Sustainable Development Goals, as set out in the National Performance Framework, such as:

  • We are healthy and active;
  • We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment;
  • We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe.

7.4 Over the next 5 years we encourage local authorities, through their food-growing strategies, to achieve the following key goals which will meet a number of National Outcomes and National Indicators and UN Sustainable Development Goals:

1. Local authorities will underpin the National Outcome "We are healthy and active" by:

  • Taking steps to make food-growing opportunities available to all residents of Scotland to improve their health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities;
  • Helping to alleviate food poverty and raising awareness about the benefits of food-growing to mental and physical well-being through public engagement and encouraging uptake of food-growing opportunities.

This underpins a number of the "We are healthy and active" National Indicators, including mental wellbeing, healthy weight, and physical activity.

2. Local authorities will underpin the National Outcome "We value, enjoy and protect our environment" by:

  • Providing opportunities for local production of food through all forms of community growing/grow-your-own which will reduce carbon mileage of food;
  • Encouraging biodiversity, contributing to a Low Carbon Scotland, encouraging climate change mitigation through changed behaviours, improving soil condition and carbon retention in the soil through appropriate food-growing site design, practice and management, signposting to training and learning opportunities, and encouraging behavioural change, which will all contribute to protecting our environment.

Authorities should be careful to avoid negative impacts, for example by the excessive removal of existing pollinator species or hedgerows, loss of ponds or wetland areas, creation of hard-standing parking areas etc., or creating a heightened risk for contaminated land by introducing activities (such as permitting food-growing on the land) on areas already affected by contamination. Local authorities should take appropriate site-specific steps to limit such negative impacts.

This underpins a number of the "We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment" National Indicators, including visits to the outdoors, waste generated, biodiversity, climate action, and life on land.

3. Local authorities will underpin the National Outcome "We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe" by:

  • Making all of Scotland's local authority allotment and other food-growing sites well managed, accessible by public transport and active travel, and community empowered with quality facilities, as far as is practicable;
  • Making the supply of allotment and other food-growing sites transparent to all and compliant with the provisions of the Act;
  • Encouraging all forms of community-led enterprise and/or social enterprise through making available and encouraging uptake of food-growing opportunities.

This underpins a number of the "We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe" National Indicators, including perceptions of local area, loneliness, access to green space, and social capital.

8. Impacts and benefits of community growing

8.1 Community growing in all its forms can provide wide-ranging, and long-lasting, benefits to communities and to individuals. The goals for local authority food-growing strategies set out above will help authorities achieve a number of cross-cutting impacts and benefits in the five key areas of health, environment, economy, society and education. Details of the impacts and benefits of community growing are set out in Annex A.


Email: Pamela Blyth

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