Cambridge City Council Review of Allotments 1998
A public meeting was held on 28th April 1998 at Ross Street Community Centre to discuss the outcome of this review and the future of allotments in Cambridge.
City Council officers present were Mr John Roebuck, Parks and Recreation Manager, and Ms Elizabeth Rolph from the Planning Department.
The elected representative of the City Council present was Councillor Bradnack.
Cambridge City Council's report Review of Allotments 1998 found that 26% of the plots at Burnside were uncultivated. Recent proposals for part of the site to be developed for housing met fierce opposition from local residents and allotment gardeners alike during public consultation.
The City Council have dropped the plan to build at Burnside for the time being but have made it clear that they will reconsider in a couple of years, if the allotment vacancy rate is not reduced. The City Council have a plan to appoint a part-time allotment support officer for the city, whose role would include the promotion of allotments. Councillor Bradnack said that the allotment support officer would work at arm's length from the City Council, and with allotment societies. A precise job description is not yet available, nor has the question of how to finance the post been answered. In return, allotment societies would be required to accept "management agreements" devised by the City Council. Precise details of the proposed management agreements are also not yet available.
Allotment gardeners at both this Ross Street meeting and at the Central Council for Cambridge Allotment Societies meeting on the previous day voiced serious reservations about the City Council's spending plans for money from the sale of part of another allotment site in the city, Nuffield Road. It seems that allotment land will be sold at far less than it's true market value, and if this is so, there would not be much finance available for investment in other allotments around the city. Councillor Bradnack did not specify how much finance would be available from the sale of Nuffield Road allotment land, although he mentioned a ballpark figure of £160,000. Obviously, and quite rightly, a large part of this would be needed to consolidate the remaining plots at Nuffield Road, leaving insufficient funds to make up for years of under-investment in allotment sites across the city. It is widely felt that monies from the sale of allotment land over many years have not been re-invested to improve our sites as it should have been. There is intense suspicion amongst allotment gardeners that they are about to be short-changed again.
It is clear that any rumour of the possibility of impending disturbance at an allotment site will interfere with the recruitment of new plot holders. One plot holder suggested to the meeting that the strong feeling of discontent with the City Council was related to a lack of trust. This was due to the never-ending threat of housing development and to past experience and was the cause of the difficulty in reaching any agreement with the Council. To resolve this issue, it was suggested that there should be long rolling leases of sites to replace the current system, so that at any one time there would be a guaranteed minimum period of several years before any development could occur. Councillor Bradnack agreed that this was a good point. This could be incorporated into the proposed management agreement, and might make the proposals more acceptable to allotment societies.
As a consequence of recent meetings, several local Burnside residents have contacted the allotment society and are expected to take up plots at Burnside shortly. City Council officers agreed at the Ross Street meeting to organise the clearance of up to ten overgrown plots on an allotment site if requested to do so, an offer which Burnside Allotments intend to take up. Update September 1998 : 8 plots were ploughed by the City Council during the summer. These have already been let until October 1999 with an influx of new allotment gardeners following our publicity campaign and are being energetically prepared for the forthcoming season.Latest update 03/01/01