Villagers near York who were forced to leave their 95-year-old allotment site are finally set to get replacement plots – as demand for allotments soars across the city.
Rufforth had an allotment site to the west of the village from 1923 until 2018, when the landowners declined to extend the lease.
Growers in the area have been hoping for replacements for the past three years, and the Allotment Association, Rufforth and Knapton Parish Council and past and present councillors had asked City of York Council to seek a replacement site.
The council has now made available a grazing field near its old Harewood Whin site to the east of Rufforth, between Tinker Lane and Wetherby Road, and has submitted a planning application for 30 new plots.
The city council has put £80,000 from its climate change budget towards the new allotments, and is leasing the site to Rufforth and Knapton Parish Council for 99 years.
A council report earlier this year said: “The provision of a new allotment will offer considerable health and wellbeing benefits.”
The move will restore provision in Rufforth, but demand for allotments elsewhere in York continues to outstrip supply. Waiting lists have rocketed since the start of the pandemic, and there have been calls for more land to be made available.
York Allotments Charitable Incorporated Organisation (YACIO), which runs 16 sites around the city, but not Rufforth, told YorkMix earlier this year that new applications rose rapidly in summer 2020.
YACIO has around 1,400 plots, and by this spring more than 1,000 people were on waiting lists. Many people have applied to more than one site, to increase their chances of securing a plot.
YACIO has been keen for more land can be found for new allotment sites and it wrote to existing plot-holders earlier this year to ensure plots are being well-used, noting that some had become poorly cultivated.
Colin Smith, one of the YACIO trustees, told YorkMix earlier this year: “The waiting list has grown enormously since lockdown began.
“All of us who have allotments appreciate them and we are so lucky, and other people have realised how nice it must be. The waiting list shot up in the summer.”
Secretaries at individual sites have been looking to split more plots into half-plots, which helps meet demand and ensures that new starters have a more manageable space. He said YACIO was also keen to deal with overgrown or uncultivated plots, so they can be brought back into use.
The rise reflects trends across the country. The National Allotment Society revealed in August that 40% of English councils it heard from had seen a significant increase in applications, and the society itself reported a 45% rise in requests for information.
YACIO took over the running of 16 allotment sites from City of York Council four years ago. Various parish councils and independent groups also run other sites in the city.
Cllr Andrew Waller, whose role on the council executive includes strategic planning, said: “I am happy to talk with YACIO about how provision of allotments could be worked into planning documents once the Local Plan is adopted.”