Researchers dig out huge variations in allotment charges

Posted by fi17 at Nov 14, 2011 04:45 PM |
Study by University of Leicester highlights charges varying from 1p/sqm to 55p/sqm
Researchers dig out huge variations in allotment charges

Dr Farida Vis of the Department of Media and Communications.

Issued on 14 November 2011 by University of Leicester Press Office

Researchers from the University of Leicester have used the Freedom of Information Act to carry out a comprehensive national survey of allotment provision with the specific aim to make this data openly available. The research by the University’s Department of Media and Communication obtained data about rents, water charges, discounts, changes to tenancy agreements and other factors from 216 councils across England. 

The statistics, which have been published online, demonstrate the huge differences in allotment rents between different local authorities which range from one penny per square metre to 55p/sqm. An average allotment plot is about 250 square metres and costs 15p/sqm. 

Many councils have long waiting lists for allotments as their popularity has risen in recent years and this is another area where the Leicester research highlights huge variations. 

Leicester City Council has 3,154 allotment plots on 45 sites across the city and charges a rent of 8p/sqm. There are currently 197 people on the Council’s waiting list for which data is available. In the county, there are 34 allotment sites with 841 plots with a total of 764 people on the various Councils’ waiting lists for which data is available. Rents range from 10p to 16p/sqm. 

With only eleven plots, Blaby District Council has the smallest number of allotments of any local authority in England for which waiting list data is available. 

Dr Farida Vis, who carried out the research with postgraduate student Yana Manyukhina, said: 

“I've had an allotment myself for over 11 years and, when I got mine, I waited 2 months - now our waiting list is 15 years. 

“I was also our site secretary for nearly a decade dealing with the waiting list and had for a long time thought that there must be more efficient way to collect and manage allotment data. When I stepped down from the committee earlier in the year, it felt like time to move on, I still wanted to contribute something to allotment issues in a wider sense. 

“We see this as the first step in opening up allotment data and making it freely available. Where possible we hope to work with councils and make recommendations about how this data could be published more easily in the future. As allotments are such a highly valued resource we feel that accurate and open data has the potential to deliver far-reaching societal benefits. ” 

Commenting on the variation of fees across the country, Dr Vis said: “It is difficult to make a snap judgement on why there are these variations. This is something that further more detailed analysis will hopefully reveal and this is something we wish to concentrate on and do so in collaboration with organisations who have expressed an interest in working with us, like the National Society for Allotments and Leisure Gardeners.” 

The research was funded by the University and Dr Vis also received a travel bursary from the EU Commission to attend the Open Government Data Camp in Warsaw last month (http://ogdcamp.org/) to present this work. She and Yana will also be presenting this work at the annual Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association conference early next year. 

As part of current building work on campus, the University of Leicester recently donated unwanted flagstones and benches to local allotments societies. Student volunteers have also been involved in community projects at nearby allotment sites. 

University Environmental Manager Dr Emma Fieldhouse said: “The University will help allotment societies out wherever we can as many societies have little in terms of resources and provide a lot for the community in terms of local food provision, healthier lifestyles and education for children and students alike”. 

You can find out more about the allotment project at: http://flavors.me/allotmentdata By clicking on the blog link you will always find the latest information and people interested in getting updates could subscribe to the blog, or follow the project on twitter, @allotmentdata.

FACTFILE

Place with most expensive allotment - Runnymede BC: 55p per square metre (up from 34p in 2008)

Place with cheapest allotment - Bolsover DC: 1p per square metre (no change from 2008)

Place with the highest rent increase between 2008 and 2011 - Cannock Chase DC (207% increase), the cost of a plot went from £36.9 for a full plot in 2008 (14p per square metre) to £108.92 for a full plot in 2011 (43p per square metre), also making it one of the most expensive councils in England. Only North Hertfordshire DC (44p/sqm), South Lakeland DC (50p/sqm) and Runnymede BC (55p/sqm) are more expensive.

Place with most allotments – Birmingham has 115 sites and nearly 7,000 plots. Waiting list data is only available for 18 of these sites.

Place with fewest – We did not collect this information, but with only eleven plots, Blaby District Council has the smallest number of allotments of any local authority in England for which waiting list data is available.

Note of caution: waiting list data is only available for those sites for which councils made waiting list data available. This data was collected by Margaret Campbell from Transition Town West Kirby, we re-used it and standardized it for comparison.

Place with longest waiting list (per 100 people, based on available waiting list data): Wyre BC has 307 people waiting for 26 plots, that is the equivalent of 1181 people waiting for 100 plots, which make it the highest in England)

Place with shortest (per 100 people, based on available waiting list data): North East Lincolnshire C has 87 people waiting for 1852 plots, that is the equivalent of 5 people waiting for 100 plots, which makes it the shortest waiting time in England.

Councils that have closed their waiting lists altogether - Redditch BC, Wellingborough BC, North Hertfordshire DC, Enfield, Woking BC, Waltham Forest, Elmbridge BC, South Derbyshire DC, Slough BC, Lambeth, Telford and Wrekin BC, Barnet BC, Haringey, Preston CC, Melton BC, Brighton & Hove CC, Stockport BC, Greenwich, Swindon BC, South Tyneside BC, Eastleigh BC, Bury BC, Hounslow, Barnsley BC, Mid Sussex DC, Merton, Brent, Hinckley and Bosworth BC, Arun DC, Islington, Camden

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