3. Offer to lease an allotment (Q1)
3.1 This chapter covers proposed guidance on local authority duties in respect of the offer of a lease on an allotment. Section 110 of Part 9 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (the Act) specifies the conditions under which an offer of a lease on an allotment can be agreed. The Act states that the offer is agreed if the local authority offers a standard allotment plot or a plot of a size specified by the applicant. If the local authority offers an allotment that is not of a standard size or of the size specified in the application to the waiting list, then the offer is not considered agreed unless the applicant accepts the offer. The same conditions apply to allotments on sites leased by the local authority to a tenant who subleases the allotments on the site.
3.2 The proposed guidance statement included in the consultation paper indicated that people on waiting lists are entitled to wait for an offer of a standard allotment plot, defined as 250 square metres plus or minus 5%, or a smaller sized plot if they specifically request this. It also indicated that when an offer of lease is made to someone on the waiting list, potential tenants should be made aware of whether the land is owned by or leased to the local authority as this can affect lease termination arrangements.
3.3 The question included in the consultation paper on section 110 was as follows:
110. Offer to lease allotment.
This section has the effect that a person on a waiting list is entitled to wait for a standard allotment of approximately 250 square metres or a smaller size (a "specified area") if it is requested. The standard allotment plot should be considered as 250 square metres plus or minus 5%. When a lease is offered for an allotment, the potential tenant should be made aware whether the land is leased rather than owned by the local authority, as different procedural requirements apply in relation to termination (see sections 128 and 129).
Question 1: To what extent do you agree with this statement? [strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree]
3.4 All 226 respondents answered Question 1. Table 3.1 below shows that 86% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement in the consultation paper, while 6% disagreed or disagreed strongly; the remaining 8% neither agreed nor disagreed. More individuals (88%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement than organisations (72%) and more organisations than individuals disagreed or disagreed strongly (20% compared to 4%).
Table 3.1: Question 1 – Section 110. Offer to lease allotment
|LAs / other public bodies||Third sector organisations||All organisations||Individuals||All respondents|
|Neither agree nor disagree||0||0%||2||11%||2||8%||15||7%||17||8%|
Note: Figures may not total 100% due to rounding.
3.5 A total of 97 respondents – all 15 organisations and 82 individuals – provided comments at Question 1. Views are presented below, with the issues of the offer of a standard allotment plot and the provision of information on land ownership considered in turn.
Offer of standard allotment plot
3.6 There was widespread agreement amongst those who commented at Question 1 that local authorities should recognise the legal right of those on waiting lists to a standard allotment plot defined as 250 square metres plus or minus 5%. Respondents noted that the standard allotment was recognised as the size of plot required for a family of four to be self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables and to allow crop rotation to maintain healthy soil and produce.
3.7 Respondents also recognised, however, that a standard plot could prove difficult to maintain for those new to growing, for couples or single people, or for older or less able people. While the standard plot size should be the norm, respondents who agreed rather than strongly agreed were often inclined to think that half, quarter or other part plots should be made available to people on the waiting list on request, with a right to trade up or down to larger or smaller plots subject to availability as individual circumstances changed. Some suggested that the offer of a part plot initially would give newcomers an idea of the work involved in maintaining an allotment so they could assess whether they were able to take on a standard plot. Others suggested that making half or quarter plots available on request would usefully reduce waiting lists and encourage wider participation in allotments.
3.8 However, a number of respondents stressed that those requesting standard plots should not be pressurised into accepting a smaller plot because of lack of availability of full size allotments. A few respondents also suggested that, where applicants had accepted a smaller plot because that was all that was available, they might:
- Remain (or go back) on the waiting list and be allocated a standard plot when one became available
- Be offered a standard plot ahead of people on the waiting list
- Be offered an additional small plot when one became available to ensure that the total area of their allotment plots met the standard size.
3.9 A few respondents said that applicants should not be able to specify their preferred size of plot, that people who refuse the offer of an allotment lease on grounds of size should go back to the bottom of the list, or that it was for local authorities to determine the size and location of allotments offered to those on the waiting list.
3.10 It was common for respondents who answered this question to discuss issues relating to local authority provision of standard sized allotment plots, with three main points noted:
- Some respondents were concerned that local authorities might attempt to meet demand and reduce waiting lists by subdividing existing standard plots to create a greater number of smaller allotments. Instead, they said that local authorities should increase supply by (i) identifying new sites which would provide standard allotment plots; and / or (ii) terminating the leases of tenants with under-cultivated or neglected allotments.
- Some were concerned that local authorities might attempt to reconfigure existing allotment sites to ensure that plots met this standard; a few, however, considered that the standard plot size was intended as a benchmark for future allotment development and should not affect long-established sites.
- Some noted that it was not always practicable for local authorities to provide standard sized plots and that people often preferred smaller plots anyway. This was the main point made by those respondents (including three local authority respondents) who indicated disagreement with the statement.
Information on ownership of land and implications for termination of leases
3.11 There were relatively few comments about the need to inform potential allotment holders about whether the local authority owns or leases the allotment land and any implications of this for termination of allotment leases. Amongst those who commented, a few agreed that it was important that those on local authority waiting lists who were offered allotments were made aware of ownership and lease implications. It was noted that early termination of a lease through a change in land ownership could result in a loss of investment, for example, in sheds or other equipment. If tenants were aware that the lease might terminate early, this might have an impact on their investment of time, money and equipment in an allotment site.
3.12 However, other respondents said that lease termination arrangements would be quite clear to those offered allotments on sites managed, and in some cases owned, by allotment associations.
3.13 In addition, some respondents said that they did not understand or were unaware that this was an issue, and one respondent queried the need for guidance on this issue as it is not addressed in Section 110 of the Act.