Fifty years ago there were over 40 allotments sites in Edinburgh. Ten years ago the decline in allotment gardening reduced the number of sites to almost half of that, but the number of actual plots had declined much more so.
In 2006, the City of Edinburgh Council opened Bridgend, with 62 plots. This heralded a turnaround in provision, reflecting the increasing demand for food that is produced locally. This is an organic site and has gained welcome recognition for the manner that it shows the way forward. It also contained an innovative Health Project, run in partnership with the NHS, which used allotment gardening as a therapeutic tool to aid recovery from illness or injury. The Bridgend Growing Communities project continues and develops this work. Bridgend is also home to the Caley's Demonstration Allotment.
The Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Gardens Associations responded to the surge in demand for allotment sites by encouraging the Council to continue developing land it owned for allotment gardening. The method used, a carrot and stick, was controversial as it involved the staged increase of allotment rents over the period 2008 to 2014. It was recognised that the sum paid for a full plot was not realistic in a period when developers' hunger for land to build upon was at it's greatest. It was estimated that the value of one plot was in the region of £20,000. The Council had to be encouraged to do the right thing. The provision was inadequate and what we had was under threat so we had to act.
Edinburgh Council have responded well by instituting a programme of developing new allotment land. This bore fruit in 2011 with the opening of Dumbryden allotments, with 37 plots. Meanwhile, other small-scale sites were initiated by Neighbourhood Partnerships (Inchview Court and India Place) and by the residents and workers in Council housing (Greendykes, Craigmillar Court, Nisbet Court, Piershill and Dickson Street).
The Council intends to open allotment sites of around 40 plots each at Baronscourt and Saughtonhall and is hoping to develop land at Silverknowes owned by the Salvesen Trust. Many more potential sites are being considered for development.
The policy is bearing fruit. The carrot - more money - obviously helps, but the stick can only come into operation if FEDAGA remains a vital representative body and is prepared to hold the Council to account. The waiting list is now so long that it is not reasonable for someone recently added to expect a plot any time soon. It would be of great assistance for applicants and potential applicants to keep the pressure up and lobby councillors to ask for more sites to be opened.
With the demand for allotment land lessening as the recession bites it is less likely that allotments face closure. However, we should always be on our guard. To this end FEDAGA has secured a modicum of protection by ensuring that Local Plans recognise allotments as green space and that any proposal to change their use must go to the Environment Minister for approval.
If you hear even the faintest suggestion that your site is being assessed for sale, please contact us as soon as possible.
Below, organised alphabetically, is a list of Council run allotments and another of independent sites.
If you are a plotholder on a site that is not listed here, and you are keen to become affiliated to FEDAGA, please contact us.