That’s a lot of allotment

Allotments at Wilton in Hawick.
Allotments at Wilton in Hawick.

Changes to the way allotments are ruled have been discussed by councillors.

The changes fall under part nine of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and are aimed simplifying and updating legislation on allotments.

Allotments at Wilton in Hawick.

Allotments at Wilton in Hawick.

The Act will see allotment sizes standardised to 250 square metres however, applicants will be required to state if they are willing to accept a smaller allocation in order to speed along the application process.

Members of Scottish Borders Council’s Teviot and Liddesdale area forum were presented with proposals at a meeting on Tuesday, December 13.

Scottish Borders Council communities and partnership manager, Shona Smith, said: “The changes now set out a standard size of allotments to 250 square metres. This is quite a big allotment and at the moment we’ve got 82 allotments that are owned by the council so we will first have to look at the demand for it.”

Ms Smith told the meeting that Scottish Borders Council is trying to encourage people to take up allotments however, there is little interest.

The council currently has allotment sites at Guthrie Drive and Wilton Park Road as well as another three in Peebles and one in Innerleithen.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall expressed concerns over the proposed size of plots commenting that it could be too big for some people.

He also said: “Some of the issues I have with the allotments is that some of the people that have got them just sit on them and do nothing.

“Most people take a lot of pride in their allotments and, where they are well looked after and maintained, then those people that are doing so deserve much credit.

“However, the issue that I do take with allotments is that some people rent them just because it doesn’t cost a lot and they tend to never use them.”

The cost of renting an allotment is currently £40 a year and the current waiting list is up to three years.

Ms Smith responded: “We will get a sense over the first year on what the demand is, where people really want one and also the accessibility issue.

“The Borders is not a flat area so it might be an issue that people can’t access them due to the path or the track. We have to make it accessible.

“We will also be looking at how to set a fair and appropriate rent. If it is a bigger size of land a suggestion would be to increase the cost however there are a number of challenges in this.”

The Act requires fair rents to be set and will allow tenants to sell surplus produce grown on an allotment provided it is done so without the view of making a profit.

A Scottish Borders spokeswoman said: “So far we have had no guidance or regulations on the matter from the Scottish Government”.

Legislation to implement Part 9 of the Community Empowerment Act will be laid out in Parliament before the summer recess.

The Act is aimed at encouraging community empowerment and participation by creating new rights for community bodies as well as putting new obligations on public authorities.