Why are there 184 empty allotment plots in Brighton and Hove despite more than 2,000 people on the waiting list

Councillors are being asked to look into gardeners’ concerns that allotment plots are lying empty despite a long waiting list.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 12:13 am
Updated Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 12:16 am
The council said that, as of Wednesday 16 June, there were 184 unlet plots, compared with 196 vacant plots in January last year.

Members of the Brighton and Hove Allotment Federation shared their concerns online about the number of apparently empty plots on 37 sites, while the waiting list runs to more than 2,000 people.

Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth, whose partner is an allotment holder, is calling for a report on what Brighton and Hove City Council spends on the service, particularly the £17 charge for joining the waiting list.

He has put down a motion for debate on the subject at a meeting of the full council on Thursday (July 15).

He also wants to unearth the number and size of unlettable plots and to ask why joint meetings are no longer taking place between council staff and the Allotment Federation.

Councillor Nemeth asked about the number of unlet plots and waiting list numbers at the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee meeting last month.

The council said that, as of Wednesday 16 June, there were 184 unlet plots, compared with 196 vacant plots in January last year.

The waiting list went up from 1,338 on in February last year to 2,385 last month. And last year the council let 135 pots while in the first six months of this year 89 were let.

Volunteers used to handle lettings but, since the coronavirus pandemic started, volunteering has been suspended at City Parks, the council’s parks, gardens and allotments service.

Mark Carroll, who chairs the Brighton and Hove Allotment Federation, said that there were usually 250 vacant plots a year which were let by site reps.

In the past six months, the site reps have not received information about lettings, with the council citing data protection rules – and, now, council officials are managing the waiting list.

Mr Carroll said: “People are up in arms about the numbers of vacant, unlet and overgrown plots across the city, especially considering the waiting list – 2,500 people chomping at the bit to get on those plots, many of them having paid £17 for the privilege of joining the waiting list.”

As plots become overgrown, it makes them harder to let and council workers eventually have to strim the vegetation.

Allotment holder Dominic Furlong has contacted the council with his own concerns about the number of uncultivated plots in Moulsecoomb. He is also concerned that site reps are not able to contact tenants.

Mr Furlong said that he wanted the council to sort out the date protection obstacles 'so that site reps are able to contact allotment tenants and co-workers directly, especially since this adds yet another bottleneck to a system which has very low administrative capacity relative to demand'.

He said: “More broadly, the database systems which cover allotment tenancies, co-worker agreement details, plot vacancies, plot size and/or boundaries, waiting lists, annual tenancy payments, etc, often seem inaccurate.”

He was told that there were '12.5 vacant plots' on the Moulsecoomb estate.

The council meeting is due to start at 4.30pm on Thursday (July 15) and is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.