Budding ‘grow your own’ enthusiasts are waiting up to 10 years to enjoy the Good Life – demand for allotments outstrips supply

By Rory Poulter

11th May 2022 | Local News

Hopes of enjoying the Good Life are being hampered by a desperate shortage of allotments and – in some cases - waiting lists of over 10 years for a plot.
Hopes of enjoying the Good Life are being hampered by a desperate shortage of allotments and – in some cases - waiting lists of over 10 years for a plot.

Hopes of enjoying the Good Life are being hampered by a desperate shortage of allotments and – in some cases - waiting lists of over 10 years for a plot.

At the same time there are more than 7,000 applications on waiting lists across the borough, according to official data.

Many residents in the borough are keen to grow their own vegetables and salads or even some flowers to bring colour to their homes.

Interest in this approach to living a greener, more sustainable lifestyle increased during the pandemic, while the cost of living crunch has fuelled an interest in home grown food.

On Sunday, the Barnes Horticultural and Allotment Society (BHAS), which runs five allotment sites in East Sheen, will be holding an open day to celebrate what they offer.

And while many people would be keen to follow in their muddy footsteps, the demand massively outstrips demand across the borough with the result that getting a little plot of land to 'grow your own' is virtually impossible.

Allotment owners in the borough would support efforts to create new sites. However, such is the scarcity of land and the demand for the building of new homes, that this seems unlikely.

Such is demand that the Council has even closed the waiting lists for several sites where the wait is over five years.

These sites include - Brook Road, Cavendish House, Heath Gardens, Hertford Avenue, Mill Road, Marsh Farm, Old Palace Lane, Palewell Park, Palewell Pavilion, The Priory, Short Lots, St Anns, South Close, The Triangle, Townmead Road, and Westfield.

According to Council data, the longest wait for a plot is at the Short Lots site, in Kew, where the person at the top of the list first applied in September 2011.

Those where the person at the top of the list first applied in 2013 include Brook Road, Heath Gardens, Marsh Farm, Old Palace Lane, Townmead, as well as Westfields/St Annes.

The 1970s sitcom, The Good Life, was set in south west London and featured a couple – Tom and Barbara – who opted out of the rat race to become self-sufficient by turning their garden into a small holding. While many may be keen to follow suit now, the lack of land is a real hurdle.

A spokesperson for the BHAS and the East Sheen allotments said: "Allotments are a great way of keeping physically and mentally fit and socialising with members of your local community. We would fully support the Council finding new sites for allotments."

The BHAS Open Day takes place on Sunday, May 15, at Hertford Avenue from 2pm to 5pm.

It is an opportunity to meet new plot holders, see what other members are growing and socialise with the allotment community. It also enables the wider East Sheen community to visit the allotments and get inspiration.

The family event will be offering advice and selling afternoon tea and cake too.

The National Allotment Society argues it is vital that more space is made in the capital for new plots to boost mental health and help the cost-of-living crisis.

Spokesman, Terry Dickinson, said: "I commonly hear 10 years on the waiting list in London...it's completely out of control. We need more allotments.

"You don't have to be a genius to drive around London and see land not being used. Long before the pandemic, waiting lists were going up. During the pandemic, they increased greatly - in some places by 500 per cent... the demand is there.

"Allotments get you outside. They are exercise, food, family - and it is so good for your mental health."

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