Wednesday, 9 April 2008
I visited Haigside allotments in Treherbert again last week with other Plaid Cymru colleagues, where the allotment holders are under threat of eviction. I would like to pay tribute to the allotment society campaigners, especially John Evans and Graham Warren, for all their hard work in trying to defend their allotments from development. It was during the school holidays, so I had a good chance to see the adjoining riding school being used by local children. The hanging threat of eviction is a constant worry for all the pigeon fanciers, children who use the riding schools and the allotment holders. They and I have called for the council to intervene - to seek to lease or buy the land and to remove the land from the local developmet plan as a candidate site for housing development. Not only have they failed to do that, but they have also cancelled a council meeting where Plaid Cymru had forced the matter onto the agenda.
I have a short debate in the Assembly this week, about the future of allotments in Wales. More public land should be made available for allotments across the nation and the county borough, not less.
Local food growing can play an important role in the social, environmental, educational and cultural realms of our communities. It can be used for local food production and as a result can contribute to the regeneration of a local area. Lessons can be learned from successful projects such as the GreenThumb Community Gardens initiative in New York which involves hundreds of New Yorkers in food growing across the city. Local Authorities should look at ways of integrating local growing with compost programmes and grey water recycling schemes and work with and support community gardening groups and organisations.
Local growing can provide significant economic benefits and can also increase knowledge and understanding of issues relating to food and nutrition. Developing community gardens and allotments from vacated or unused public land could help create not only greener communities but also healthier communities by providing friendly spaces to gather, take part in physical activity and socialise. It can be magic for children to grow food from seed then learn to cook with the ingredients and in some circumstances local growing projects can also enhance both the local economy by boosting local procurement. Allotments have so many benefits, we should do all we can to protect these small, precious spaces.
I know it is a very worrying time for the Haigside campaigners, and I will continue to help them in any way I can.