Allotments praised for positive pandemic impact

Walsall allotments have been hailed as an ‘oasis’ that has helped improve residents mental and physical well-being during Covid-19.

The entrance to Borneo Street allotments in Walsall. Photo: Google Maps
The entrance to Borneo Street allotments in Walsall. Photo: Google Maps

Members across all parties endorsed plans to spend £260,000 improving the security and boundary of sites across the borough and encouraging allotment associations to take up leases to manage plots themselves.

At the first full Walsall Council meeting of the year on January 18, authority leader Mike Bird said the pandemic had led to a surge in activity on allotments. Of the 1,352 plots across 34 sites, only 29 are available and there are currently 252 people on waiting lists of around five to 10 years at some sites.

Councillor Bird said: “From the beginning of this pandemic, we made a commitment to improve the allotment offer.

“It’s very much been a Cinderella for many, many years. What we are attempting to do is get the allotments to be under lease to the management committees that they have.

“In doing so, the first thing we have to do is to survey the security of the allotments in particular to the fences and boundaries. They suffer on many occasions the theft of equipment that they use on site.

“The allotments have proven to be an escape for many people during this pandemic.

“There are people who relish their time at the allotment because some of them haven’t got a garden of their own.

“More importantly, for people who are working from home, it gives them an outlet for them to go and release the tensions created.

“It’s not an easy task to work from home. People think its great but unfortunately, you’re always over the shop.

“There has been a big uptake in allotments and people wanting to grow their own and an opportunity to escape the drudge and monotony of working from home and sometimes, not taking the breaks people should.”

Councillor Oliver Butler, portfolio holder for clean and green added: “The benefits of this is it takes the burden and risk away from allotment associations to signing the leases.

“They are safe in the knowledge they are taking over the sites in the correct condition and they won’t be liable for the costs of security.

“By investing the money, we are supporting these assets that have proved so vital to physical and mental well-being of residents during the current Covid-19 pandemic.”

Walsall Labour group leader Aftab Nawaz said his party supported the investment in the service.

He said: “It is needed. There are many in disrepair and need that security.

“This current pandemic has shown these to be an oasis in our communities where people have been able to go and not only grow their own vegetables but to get that fresh air and get out of the house.

“The allotments across the borough have begun to engage with the community.

“We have a lot of school children who visit them and I think this is an excellent way of growing their interest in the allotments. It’s important they recognise carrots grow in the ground and don’t just come from Sainsbury’s.

And Ian Shires, leader of Walsall Liberal Democrats added: “I’m, pleased to see something good has come out of the pandemic as it has put allotments more under the spotlight.

“We’ve now got extra funding coming into the system and that has got to be good.

“I know the allotment holders in my ward will be pleased this funding is being made available for improving the boundary which has been causing issues for quite some time.”

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