Overgrown Hawick allotments frustrate would-be growers

Allotments in Hawick are lying vacant and neglected '“ despite local demand for plots.

Monday, 20th August 2018, 12:16 am
Updated Monday, 20th August 2018, 12:29 am
The Wilton Park Road allotments in Hawick.

Scottish Borders Councillors have pledged to look into the issue after it was raised at Hawick Community Council’s meeting on Monday.

Duncan Taylor told members that around half of the 19 plots at the council-owned Wilton Park Road site appeared to be empty, but that those enquiring about availability were told there was a waiting list.

“A number of people have come down and asked me how you get an allotment,” Mr Taylor said. “I say to phone the council, but when they do they are told there is a waiting list.

“Some have been vacant the whole time I have been there, which is four years now. The longer they are left the harder it is to bring them back into use.”

Mr Taylor said that during his tenure, the council had never checked the site.

“There should be a yearly inspection, but I have never had any word from the council since I have been there,” he said.

“We pay £40 a year and it’s not being maintained.

“There are parts that are completely overgrown, and the paths have nettles coming through them.

“I think we’re missing a trick here. Allotments are good for public health, good for community spirit, and good for the environment.

“We should be trying to encourage more, but we don’t even maintain the ones we have got.”

Graham Marshall of environmental group Greener Hawick, said that some vacant plots at Wilton Park Road were considered “uncultivable”.

“We have been looking in to all allotments in the town,” he said. “There’s six sites with 100 allotments on them, in various forms of ownership.

“There are three vacant allotments in Wilton Park Road that are described by the council as uncultivable - people would want them but the council said they can’t have them.

“People want to grow things - I have personally been involved in finding allotments for four people this summer, one of whom has been on the waiting list for five years.”

Watson McAteer, who represents Hawick on Scottish Borders Council, said the authority needed to revise its allotment policy before the Community Empowerment Act comes into force later this year.

“I think, as part of the act, the council will be required to find more space,” he said.

“We have still not been able to listen to a strategy for allotments - they have not sat us down and discussed what they are going to do. We will all pick it up and find out what’s going on.”

Scottish Borders Council said that the authority did undertake regular inspections to ensure allotment plots were in good order, and contacted tenants when it felt plots were uncultivated.

A council spokesperson said; “There can be many reasons why an allotment may appear uncultivated, for example if the allotment holder has suffered illness or has had family or work commitments which has meant they have been unable to manage the allotment as previously, but wish to retain the lease. In such instances we engage with the tenant to allow them time to return the plot to a cultivated state or provide support by other means depending on the circumstances the tenant finds themselves in.

“In addition, some allotment holders choose not to use weedkiller or choose to grow wildflowers, meaning their allotment can look different to the traditional perception of allotments.”

The spokesperson added that a small number of plots in Hawick were currently being reviewed to “determine their appropriateness for their continued use as an allotment due to the topography and soil type”.