Allotments: guidance for local authorities
Guidance on certain sections of Part 9 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015: Allotments.
3. Section 112 – Duty to provide allotments
3.1 Section 112(1) imposes a duty on local authorities to take reasonable steps to do the following: (1) provide sufficient allotments to keep the waiting list referred to in section 111 at no more than half of the authority’s current number of allotments; and (2) ensure that a person entered on the waiting list does not remain on it for a continuous period of more than 5 years.
3.2 Although section 112(1) has come into force, part (2) of the above duty has not come into legal effect as at the date of publication of this guidance. As agreed during the passage of the Act, that particular aspect of the duty will take legal effect later than the rest of Part 9 (see regulation 15 of The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (Commencement No. 10, Saving, Transitional and Transitory Provisions) Order 2017). Regulation 15 provides that part (2) of the duty comes into effect 8 years after the local authority has made its first regulations under section 115(1) of the Act.
3.3 For local authorities which did not own or lease any allotments when section 112 came into force (1 April 2018), the duty under section 112(1) is triggered when there are 15 people or more on the waiting list maintained under section 111(1). For local authorities which already owned or leased allotments on 1 April 2018, the duty arises (subject to the qualification set out in paragraph 3.2 above regarding part (2) of the duty) when only one person is on the waiting list.
3.4 Subsection (4) requires that local authorities, when taking reasonable steps to meet the duty in subsection (1), have regard to the desirability of making available allotments that are reasonably close to where people on the relevant authority’s waiting list reside.
3.5 Section 112(4) does not provide a definition of “reasonably close” but, as a guide, allotments within a 3 mile radius, or within a 20 minute journey on public transport from where people on the waiting list reside should be considered reasonably close. Local authorities may however opt to apply different travel-time or distance criteria, where appropriate, based upon local geography, particularly in remote and rural areas (where there is, for example, limited public transport provision in that area).
3.6 The reasonable steps that the local authorities should take to meet their obligations under section 112 include, but are not limited to:
(1). Analysing demand:
3.7 Officers responsible for allotments should consult with a wide range of internal and external stakeholders when carrying out their analysis of demand for the local authority area. Such stakeholders should include, as appropriate, the following: planners, community development and health improvers, senior elected members, senior managers from relevant public services, members of the business community and the third sector, allotment associations, local grow-your-own groups and community gardens. Local authorities should also consider using on-line consultation and other methods to obtain the views of local residents. Further guidance relating to stakeholder engagement is included at paragraphs 9.1 to 9.4 and 11.19 of the section 119 food-growing strategy guidance.
3.8 Local authorities can use information gathered from the consultation process to analyse demand for food-growing space, to identify local residents’ needs in terms of the growing space that they need and want, and to identify where that demand is located.
(2). Disseminating information:
3.9 Every local authority should develop adequate procedures for wide dissemination of information about allotment provision. This should include a clear, easily accessible webpage on the local authority website listing all sites within the local authority area. It should include local authority managed and devolved sites and privately managed sites, and give contact details for these sites, where relevant.
3.10 Local authorities should, where possible, include information on the website relating to the length of waiting lists or the time since the most recent allotment allocation on the site. Such information should be updated as appropriate, at least on an annual basis.
3.11 Where an allotment site has its own website or social media page, local authorities should include links to these sites from the local authority website. The local authority should also, as good practice, include links to any allotment strategy that the authority may have, and to their food-growing strategy and annual allotments report from the local authority website.
3.12 Where practicable local authorities should give consideration to using an online application process to receive and manage applications for allotments. Authorities should also make available an offline/paper application process to those who require this.
3.13 If applicable, local authorities may wish to consider liaising with the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society and relevant local growers’ forums to determine the feasibility of sending out communications such as newsletters and information for aspiring plot-holders on their behalf (see also paragraph 2.17 above).
3.14 Local authorities should consider how to make such information available in an offline version too, for those without online access.
(3). Developing partnership working:
3.15 Local authorities should work in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders, including independent allotment associations, those on the waiting lists, community participation bodies such as community councils, housing associations, and community growers. These stakeholders should be engaged in the decision-making process around allotments policy and in the design and delivery of new allotment sites. The local authority may, if it is considered to be beneficial, work with the allotment associations to facilitate independent groups wishing to develop self-funded allotment sites.
3.16 Local authorities may wish, through their various local authority officers (such as regeneration, community development, land and environment services), to consider the provision of relevant training for members of such stakeholder groups in technical aspects (e.g. in the design and procurement of allotment sites), managerial and other relevant matters.
3.17 Community planning partnerships could be used to bring together the collective talents and resources of local public services and communities, the third sector and other organisations.
(4). Identifying all land in the area that is suitable for growing:
3.18 As part of the food-growing strategy, the Planning Department of the local authority may wish to use an appropriate dataset, such as the Greenspace map based on the OS MasterMap (OSMM), to improve planning, analysis and decision making.
3.19 Appropriate datasets could help local authorities to show all the land available for cultivation together with ownership, distinguishing between local authority owned or leased land and that in private ownership.
3.20 When identifying land which may be suitable for food-growing, officers should consult at the earliest opportunity with their contaminated land or environmental health colleagues to ensure that land identified is indeed suitable for food-growing purposes, or identify remedial action to make the land safe for such purposes. Further guidance relating to contaminated land is included in the section 119 food-growing strategy guidance.
3.21 Where there is an unmet demand for allotments, local authorities may wish to approach private landowners to discuss options for making additional land available for allotments provision. The authority should consider including in the Allotment Report (section 121) additional information relating to such approaches, the result of the approach, and any arrangement offered etc.
(5). Ensuring there is sufficient suitable land to satisfy future demand:
3.22 Local authorities should, where practicable, (e.g. based on the scale of the development) incorporate growing spaces in planning briefs for regeneration and new developments, preserving sufficient good quality land to satisfy current and future demand. Further guidance relating to planning considerations is included at paragraphs 11.1 to 11.31 of the section 119 food-growing strategy guidance.
3.23 Reasonable steps should not include reducing waiting lists by either restricting the size of allotments available, or taking steps to remove tenants from their allotment via unreasonable landlord inspections regarding the condition of allotments.
3.24 Local authorities are, however, required in section 115(3)(c), (d) and (h) to make regulations pertaining to the cultivation, maintenance and inspection of allotments. A reasonable and balanced approach should be taken when authorities are evaluating plot condition or plot deterioration during their inspections.
(6). Understanding individual needs of those on the waiting list:
3.25 Based on individual needs, the authority should offer the most appropriate allotment relevant to the specified area requested. For example, if the specified area requested is 100 square metres, an allotment of 100m2 ± 5% should be offered. If a 100m2 ± 5% allotment is unavailable, the authority should offer the closest available size to the size of allotment requested which is within a 3 mile radius of the individual’s residence (or within a 20 minute journey on public transport). Local authorities may opt to apply more appropriate time or distance criteria based upon local geography, particularly in remote and rural areas where there is, for example, limited public transport provision in that area.
3.26 If the closest available size of allotment to that which was requested is offered and rejected, the person should remain on the list until an allotment of, for example, 100m2 is available or a different sized allotment is offered and accepted. To ensure those on the list have the best chance of obtaining the size of allotment requested, local authorities may wish to signpost individuals to private sites in its area, and remove the individual from the waiting list if they subsequently accept such an alternative arrangement and formally withdraw their request for an allotment from the local authority. Further guidance relating to waiting list management and signposting people to alternative options is included at paragraphs 14.1 to 14.3 of the section 119 food-growing strategy guidance.
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