Wot, no sheds?
Cambridge City Council has stated that sheds will not be allowed on the new allotment sites in the city’s southern fringe developments (the Growth Sites).
I asked the council on Thursday why sheds are banned from the new sites, given that they are commonly used on the city’s existing allotments. As any allotment user will know sheds are useful for storing tools, seeds, other items needed to grow food, and to provide shelter during inclement weather.
Councillor Blencowe answered that the ‘no-sheds’ rule was a planning decision made in consultation with the landowner and the developers, that the new allotments were in the Clay Farm country park (rather than within the housing development) and therefore were greenbelt, and that the landowner had insisted that they would not like to see sheds on these allotments. He said that this was put forward as part of the planning application and the decision went through on that basis. He added that there was a commitment to a communal facility including kitchen and toilets with storage as well.
The councillor did express an understanding that that this provision would not be sufficient for allotment holders and that he had seen a suggestion of storage chests for tools being added, either on plots or in communal garden areas. According to the councillor, sheds were ‘not banned’, but were ‘not permitted’, because of the initial land transfer agreement and that it was therefore not within the council’s gift to allow them. Planning decisions can be varied over time, so if a strong argument was made maybe this could change. There was not a covenant against sheds. He added that only ‘starter plots’ were to be offered and the hope was to encourage a communal approach.
I also asked when the new plots would be made available. Cllr. Blencowe said that the planning agreement was for handover no later than the one-thousandth occupation (of new homes) on Clay Farm. He repeated that it was an arrangement with the landowner with conditions, that the allotments were in an acceptable location, with hindsight perhaps practical considerations were not thought through. We as managers will now have to grapple with planning conditions as agreed, maybe the situation can be improved, but it may be that the landowner will not give way.
 The communal building is planned to be sited on the community garden, not the allotments. It will be 200 m from some allotment plots.
 Actually the Section 106 agreement requires handover of the allotments on the five-hundredth occupation, and the community garden (a smaller piece of land 50 m away) on the one-thousandth occupation. However this difference is now irrelevant because these planning thresholds have both long passed, and both facilities are long overdue, but we did not have time to explore this further in the meeting.
Here is the council’s Facebook Live stream of the meeting (the allotments bit starts about 1:01 hours in).