This year is the centenary of the Allotments Act. It was passed in 1908 – the same year as School Meals were introduced by law, both brought in because of the dire health of the troops signed up for the Boer War a few years earlier.
One hundred years on, with food prices rising rapidly, allotments seem to be back in fashion. Audlem resident Christine Johnson has contacted Audlem Online to say: "In my Allotment magazine it says that according to the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908, there is 'a duty on local authorities to provide sufficient allotments according to demand.'"
Christine adds: "The Act also makes provision for local authorities to compulsorily purchase land in order to provide allotments. It would be interesting to see how much a field would cost and also see if there are any grants for this sort of thing."
"I do know that one of the more interesting suggestions for the village would be to set up a community orchard and perhaps run these two projects in tandem," says Christine. "I am willing to help in any way I can to bring these ideas forward."
Christine appears to be spot on as far as the law is concerned. The 1908 Act did introduce a statutory duty on local councils to provide land. While there have been minor modifications of the law since, the last Act on allotments in 1950 was introduced after, the previous year, the Allotments Advisory Board recommended a provision of 4 acres per 1,000 of population – that would mean approximately 8 acres in Audlem with its population approaching 2,000. Currently, there is no provision whatsoever, although Audlem Parish Council did look recently, without success, for suitable land that could be used for allotments.
There are reports of a dramatic increase in demand for allotments around the country as a result of rapidly rising food prices. TV programmes such as Gardeners' World are even covering allotments. Over twenty people have expressed an interest in Audlem, so much so that Christine suggests setting up, with others, an Allotments Society in the village that could campaign for the local authorities to provide what the Allotments Act requires them to do – provide land for local people to grow food.
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