Allotments under threat

Allotment campaigner Michael Moulding at the Edge Green Lane site in Golborne which Wigan council refuse to let to local gardeners.
Allotment campaigner Michael Moulding at the Edge Green Lane site in Golborne which Wigan council refuse to let to local gardeners.

HUNDREDS of green-fingered Wiganers could be turfed off their allotments as part of a council policy shake-up.

Those who currently occupy non-statutory sites across the borough could have them taken away or be relocated as Wigan Council reviews plans to use the land for development.

But concerned allotment users are worried about the long waiting list and lack of opportunities to develop fresh plots.

Ashton resident Michael Moulding applied for an allotment site and, after being advised of the three to five-year waiting list, was asked if he could identify any suitable plots as an alternative.

He said: “I was sent on a wild goose chase and even when I found a plot on Edge Green Lane in Golborne, I was then told it was on land that was already under review.

“The land is suitable for allotment gardening and we have such a long waiting list in the borough. How can you have such a long list when the council has deliberately not let out the plots for years?

“We have the joint lowest allocation within Greater Manchester, at 4.9 available per 1,000 households.

“And due to bad management, many of the existing allotments are now garden extensions, have garages, are left unused or fenced off.”

Wigan currently has 391 allotments in the statutory provision, managed by Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust and a further 225 in the non-statutory managed directly by the council.

Penny McGinty, head of leisure and culture at Wigan Council, said: “The non-statutory allotment sites, run by the council, are subject to review. Some of these sites are only temporary, no longer in use or based on neglected land.

“Some may be disposed of if they are not considered fit for purpose. We are looking at other ways the council can put such land to better use, for example, for social housing.

“Any developments would be subject to the normal planning rules and public consultation requirements. “We will seek to ensure some of the money from any land sale is reinvested in existing allotments or used to create additional sites.

In relation to the low allocation of allotments in the borough, Ms McGinty explained that plans are in place to improve availability.

She said: “We are aware we have the lowest number of plots to population in Greater Manchester, we are seeking to address this but given the financial constraints local government is facing, we are working with limited funds.

“WLCT is working to create a new site at Guest Fold, Atherton and has recently secured £20,000 of lottery funding to improve the existing allotments at Lilford, Plank Lane, Stubshaw Cross and Bryn Gates.”

Mr Moulding, who is a member of the National Allotments Society, is chairing a borough-wide meeting for allotment holders to discuss their options and has launched an e-petition calling on the government to implement a national allotments strategy.

The deputy leader of the Community Action Party, said: “The allotments service in Wigan is a shambles.

“I am organising the meeting with a view to forming an independent group that promotes the interests of the holders so that they can have a stronger voice than they do currently.”