GROWING our own food on allotments has been one of the more popular ways of keeping active during the pandemic and Cardiff Council is keen to ensure as many of us as possible can get back to the land.

There are currently 28 allotment sites across the city, made up of more than 3,400 plots tended by around 2,400 holders but during the pandemic the waiting list of people eager to grow their own fruit and vegetables has grown from 793 in 2020 to 1,292.

Now, the Council has agreed an overhaul of its allotment services to take into account this increase in demand and continue a programme of improvements that were held back because of lockdown restrictions.

The Cardiff Allotment Strategy, which went before the Cabinet today, outlines a series of measures planned for the next five years. These include:

Reducing waiting lists; Improving cultivation standards; Increasing biodiversity; Working with charities and other bodies to improve access to allotments for disadvantaged groups, and Identifying new allotment sites.

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Cllr Peter Bradbury, the Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, said allotments were a great way to bring communities together and give everyone, regardless of their age or abilities, a healthy and fulfilling pastime.

“Many of the allotments across Cardiff are run by their members, supported by the Council’s Allotment Officer, and are thriving but it’s clear from a consultation exercise carried out among holders last autumn that there is much we can do improve facilities and help make allotments more accessible.”

The report acknowledges that many allotments need improvements to their infrastructure, including access roads and water supplies and some have flooding issues. At the moment, the allotment service is funded almost entirely by the revenue from rentals – around £160,000 a year – but this is insufficient to deal with the scale of the plan.

Last year, a one-off Welsh Government grant of £59,395 boosted the allotment budget but almost all of it was spent on replacing fencing at sites in Pontcanna and Ely while the remainder went on new water butts across the city.

“A review of the way allotments are funded is needed,” said Cllr Bradbury. “We need to improve water supplies and make them less reliable on mains water, reduce waste and encourage more use of rainwater to irrigate the plots.

“We also want to improve access for disadvantaged groups, tackle overgrown plots, eliminate the use of peat and chemical pesticides, improve cultivation standards, reduce the waiting lists and increase biodiversity.”

The Council is also keen that its pricing policy reflects allotment holders’ ability to pay. At the moment, the annual cost of a ‘perch’ – a 25m² plot – is between £13.38 and £12.36 a year, with the over-60s and those on benefits paying half.

 

By Gwynoro Jones

Former MP for Carmarthenshire, Gwynoro Jones joined the team covering politics in Wales. He has a wealth of experience in politics and has been a regular commentator on radio, TV and in newspapers in Wales. Email: gwynorojones@walesnewsonline.com

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