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«CONTENTS 1. INTRODUCTION 2. LEGISLATION 3. NATIONAL CONTEXT 4. WIRRAL ALLOTMENTS 5. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES 6. ACTION PLAN 7. MONITORING AND REVIEW 8. ...»

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Aim 6 : To highlight the role that allotments play in developing a more sustainable environment, encouraging biodiversity and conservation The integration of allotment gardening into local sustainable community development strategies can enhance the benefits of allotments. By growing their own food, allotment gardeners already make a contribution to local food production and the reduction of ‘food miles’, and this benefit can be enhanced through the distribution of surplus crops within local communities. The adoption of organic methods provides the further benefit of production that is sustainable from an ecological standpoint. The growing of fresh vegetables, flowers and fruit is a sustainable activity and as a consequence this strategy provides a contribution to achieving the goals contained within Wirral Council’s emerging Sustainable Community Strategy.

Allotments make a positive contribution to the local environment and form an important part of the network of green spaces across Wirral. Allotment plots and their margins, hedges and unmanaged areas provide valuable habitat for many species of animals, birds and invertebrates. To some degree they also safeguard other flora and fauna, especially given that their access is restricted. The Sustainable Development Office estimates that allotments have an average of up to 30% higher species diversity than a private domestic garden. There is undoubtedly a greater potential for the better management of the natural features of allotments, creating improved habitats and a richer source of local biodiversity. Even in their choice of crops, allotment gardeners make a contribution to biodiversity. In some instances tenants can help keep alive strains of fruit and vegetable varieties, which are no longer available through commercial channels.

The Council will seek opportunities to improve and sustain the biodiversity of allotment sites and at the same time support and assist allotment societies with funding bids for biodiversity projects, such as the recent initiatives at Harris Allotments to create community gardens and nature areas.

Organic gardening practice, which avoids the use of pesticides, artificial fertilisers, and peat is also helpful in maximising biodiversity value and preserving indirect negative environmental effects. An increasing number of allotment tenants in Wirral are now beginning to grow their food organically and this move needs to be encouraged. The Council will endeavour to provide additional technical advice and assistance to tenants and forge closer links with both local and national organic associations to foster more organic practices. Further information can be found in Natural England’s leaflet “Wildlife on Allotments” ref. NE20. Available to download from www. naturalengland.org.uk Not all food grown on allotments is organic but it is fresh and it is local. In these days of ‘food miles’ – the average item of food consumed in the EU has travelled over 4,000 kilometres from origin to kitchen table. In the USA it is a staggering 20,000 kilometres. Food that has travelled from just down the road can therefore make a significant contribution to local sustainability.

The opportunity to share with others the fruits (and vegetables) of one’s labour is an intrinsic part of the culture of allotments. Surplus produce is often given away to neighbours, friends and relatives in a sociable and generous spirit of reciprocity.

Most allotment tenants are committed to recycling materials, self-sufficiency and environmental competence by the very nature of what they do. Allotments are the heart of living a sustainable lifestyle and support the environment in many ways. The Council will encourage recycling methods and composting initiatives where possible and provide additional guidance on sustainable practices.

For materials that cannot be recycled the Council provides waste skips when necessary. Due to increasing costs to the Council, for disposal of waste, this service will need to be closely monitored and regularly reviewed.

Water usage is also regularly monitored, with 26 sites (64%) having water meters.

Actions:

6.1 Review the problems caused by non-recyclable material generated on sites and the provision of skips.

Aim 7 : To develop a health agenda for allotments, focusing on the benefits, in terms of improving health in the Borough The value of allotment gardening in terms of public health was identified in the Select Committee report entitled “The Future of Allotments” (ref HC560 –I).

This report highlighted the therapeutic value of allotments to people with physical and mental health problems. The report strongly recommends that allotments are explicitly included in national public health strategies and are integrated into local delivery. The Health Education Council recommends gardening as a good form of exercise, especially for older age groups who are less likely to participate in active sports or use leisure centres. The mental health benefits of allotment gardening should also not be underestimated.

The recently published green paper on public health “Our Healthier Nation” also highlighted the links between lifestyle and health. For example a lack of physical exercise is recognised as a major contributor to coronary heart disease. The national cost of poor health styles has been estimated at over £4 billion per annum.





The Council will seek to provide vulnerable people with the opportunity to use allotments as a means of developing a healthy lifestyle and will work in partnership with partner organisations to investigate the Green Gym and similar initiatives, which offer people the opportunity to ‘work out’ and exercise in the fresh air through gardening activities. There could also be a referral scheme through doctors’ surgeries to advise suitable patients to take up an allotment to gain the associated benefits they provide. Links will need to be established with the Wirral Primary Care Trust to develop this programme.

Actions:

7.1 Investigate the Green Gym and any similar initiatives with partners

7.2 Establish links with the Wirral Primary Care Trust Aim 8 : To review the existing provision of allotments in Wirral and if necessary to identify areas of potential future allotment provision Safeguarding allotment land “ The best safeguard for an existing allotment site is for the plots to be fully tenanted and well looked after, with the site delivering the full range of benefits to be derived from allotment gardening to the local community. This makes it much easier for planners to argue for the retention of the allotments.

The active promotion of allotments and the conversion of latent demand into new tenancies, two of the key components of the allotment strategy, are therefore also an essential underpinning to the safeguarding of allotment land within the planning system” from “Growing in the Community – a good practice guide for the management of allotments” by Professor David Crouch, Dr Joe Sempik and Dr Richard Wiltshire.

Local Authorities have a statutory responsibility to provide allotments as determined by section 3 of the Smallholding & Allotments Act 1908. The Council will fully recognise its responsibilities under the Act.

National planning policy set out in “Planning Policy Guidance: Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation” (PPG17, July 2002) now makes specific reference to allotments, including details on the protection and disposal of sites. Allotment sites are also subject to an additional measure of protection as previously undeveloped land, which has the lowest priority for new development.

The Unitary Development Plan for Wirral already allocates allotment sites within the urban area for protection from development as part of its wider approach to the provision of urban greenspace and the sites are identified for protection on the Proposals Map. Allotment sites within the Green Belt are not specifically identified but are subject to protection from development under the national Green Belt controls. This approach will be carried forward into the emerging Local Development Framework.

The Council will be undertaking a full audit of open space and recreation provision, including allotments, during 2007, as part of the preparation of a Core Strategy for the Borough, in parallel with the preparation of the Cultural Services Forward Plan. This will ensure that the Council’s emerging land-use planning strategy will be fully integrated with the Council’s wider corporate objectives.

The review of allotment provision will need to include an assessment of both current needs and latent demand, which will need to be balanced against the Council’s ability to achieve a manageable level of provision where quality can be maintained within available resources.

It may be necessary to examine alternative uses for sites or part of sites that are unlikely to ever be let. Unusable plots may be redesignated as communal plots, wildlife areas, car parks or, as a last resort, may even need to be considered for disposal for development. Special justification will, however, be needed before planning permission can be granted.

Actions:

8.1 Review current allotment provision and identify any future need

8.2 Review the use of unusable areas on allotment sites

–  –  –

7. MONITORING AND REVIEW This Strategy is a live document that will form the basis of Wirral Council’s priorities for allotments over the coming years. It will be subject to annual monitoring and review, adjusting to suit the changing circumstances and needs that develop over time. The target dates for the actions identified in the Strategy will enable people to see what progress has been made and what objectives have been achieved.

In recent years a great deal of improvements have been made to allotments in Wirral. However, there is still a considerable potential for their development that will be realised through this strategy.

The key to success is progressing this strategy through partnership and sharing a vision for the future development of allotments in Wirral.

–  –  –

Budget £64,400 minus Income £24,400 = Net expenditure of £40,000 2007/2008 - Allotment Rental Charges Full Plot £28.00 Half Plot £14.00

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