4. Maintenance of waiting lists (Q2)
4.1 This chapter covers proposed guidance on the duty of local authorities to produce and manage a waiting list for requests to lease an allotment owned or leased by the authority as outlined in Section 111 of Part 9 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (the Act). The section allows waiting lists to be established and maintained in any way the local authority thinks fit; it also places a duty on local authorities to remove all persons and information held about them from the list if their requests are agreed ( i.e. they are offered a lease on an allotment) or if they withdraw their request before an offer is made.
4.2 The guidance statement included in the consultation specifically outlined how joint applications (covered in subsection 7 of section 112 of the Act) should be handled, and set out information that should be included on waiting lists, with views sought as follows:
111. Duty to maintain list.
This section places a duty on local authorities to produce and manage a waiting list in relation to the requests it receives to lease an allotment that the authority owns or leases. Where a request is submitted jointly, this should be regarded as a single request for the purpose of the waiting list and the first named person on the request should be considered the lead person (and will count as one person for the purposes of the duty in section 112). The form of the list is to be determined by the local authority but it should include the following:
- Name of lead person
- Address of lead person
- Special requirements
- Size of allotment requested, if specified
- Information about distance from nearby allotment sites
- Date added to the list
Question 2. To what extent do you agree with this statement? [strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree]
4.3 All but two respondents answered the tick-box part of Question 2. Table 4.1 below shows that the great majority respondents (92%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement provided in the consultation paper, while 5% disagreed or disagreed strongly, and 5% neither agreed nor disagreed. Individuals were, though, more likely than organisations to agree or strongly agree with the statement (92% and 80% respectively).
Table 4.1: Question 2 – Section 111. Duty to maintain waiting list
|LAs / other public bodies||Third sector organisations||All organisations||Individuals||All respondents|
|Neither agree nor disagree||0||0%||1||6%||1||4%||9||5%||10||5%|
Note: Figures may not total 100% due to rounding.
4.4 A total of 81 respondents – 16 organisations and 65 individuals – provided comments at Question 2. Points made are addressed under the following themes: duty to maintain a waiting list; handling of joint applications; and information that should be held on waiting lists. It should be noted that respondents who agreed with the statement often shared similar concerns with the very small number of those who disagreed.
Local authority duty to maintain a waiting list
4.5 Most respondents agreed with the statement that local authorities should produce and manage a waiting list for those requesting an allotment. The main reason respondents thought that local authorities should maintain waiting lists was so that they had good quality data on the demand for allotments which would inform policy and practice on the allocation of existing allotments and the identification of suitable land for, and provision of, new plots.
Role of allotment associations
4.6 It was pointed out, however, that the statement made no reference to the relationship between local authorities and individuals or allotment associations that manage allotment sites on a devolved basis, many of which have long-established waiting lists and procedures for the allocation of allotments. Respondents thought that:
- Allotment associations should work with local authorities in managing waiting lists by providing information to local authorities on their own waiting lists, including waiting times and availability, some suggesting this should be done through an annual return that would allow collation of information at local authority level.
- Allotment associations should be provided with information from local authority waiting lists about specific requests for plots on their sites.
- Independent allotment sites should also link into central local authority waiting lists to enable the local authority to assess demand and increase choice for people looking for a plot.
4.7 It was argued that, by working with allotment associations and independent sites in this way, local authorities would be able to build up an overview of the supply of allotments and match it with demand throughout the area by providing new allotment sites where they were required or requested.
Views on local authority or allotment association maintenance of lists
4.8 There was some uncertainty about whether the guidance was in fact suggesting that allotment associations with delegated management responsibility should maintain their own lists and provide a return to the local authority on an annual basis, or whether the local authority should assume responsibility for producing and managing centralised allotment waiting lists. In addition, comments from a range of respondents, including third sector allotment or gardening associations, indicated mixed views on this issue with the following points being made:
- Waiting lists should be the sole responsibility of the local authority as information about demand and supply is currently dispersed across societies and associations, making it difficult to get an overview of the numbers seeking allotments or of issues relating to the development of allotments as part of the social landscape.
- Individual allotment associations should manage their own lists as they are better placed to allocate and run allotments for the benefit of the local community.
- If local authorities had sole responsibility for waiting lists, they might take control of the management of sites which might lead to increased bureaucracy.
4.9 The few individuals who disagreed with the statement mainly felt that allotment associations should maintain lists and that lists should be kept at a local or site level rather than for the local authority as a whole. Amongst the organisations disagreeing with the statement, third sector allotment or gardening associations thought that local allotment associations should maintain their own lists and allocation procedures and should provide an annual return of information on their lists to the local authority.
Handling joint applications
4.10 There were very few comments about treating a joint application as a single request with the first named applicant considered to be the lead person.
4.11 Amongst those who did comment, some thought this was a helpful provision, while others voiced concerns about (i) a lack of flexibility if the circumstances of the lead person changed; and (ii) a lack of clarity about whether the application for the waiting list would transfer to the other joint applicant if circumstances required. With regard to the latter point, there were mixed views as to whether another joint applicant should be able to take over an allotment if the lead person withdrew, with one respondent suggesting that allotments should be leased to a household provided the named persons lived at the same address, and another saying that if the named person withdrew, the second named person should reapply separately for an allotment.
4.12 One respondent noted that the issue of joint applications was mentioned in section 112 of Part 9 of the Act rather than section 111, and so it would make more sense to cover it in guidance relating to section 112.
Information held on local authority waiting lists
4.13 Although section 111 indicates that local authorities can establish and maintain their waiting lists as they think fit, the statement suggests that all local authority waiting lists should include the name of the lead person, their address, any special requirements, the size of allotment requested if this is specified in the request, information about distance from nearby allotment sites, and the date on which the applicant was added to the list.
4.14 Relatively few respondents commented on this aspect of the guidance but most who did agreed that local authorities should include this information in their waiting lists, with some suggesting that email and telephone number should be included along with postal address details to make it easier for the local authority to contact the applicant.
4.15 While some, including two local authorities, questioned the need to include information on distances to nearby allotment sites, others thought this was important if local authorities were to be able to identify need or demand for more sites at a local level. A few respondents noted that applicants should be able to request a plot in a specific area, regardless of whether or not there were existing sites there, so that local authorities could identify where there was a demand for allotments and develop new provision accordingly.
Management of application and waiting list processes
4.16 Respondents also put forward a range of comments that addressed the general issue of management and administration of the application and waiting list process, as follows:
- Information for applicants about sites: Some respondents suggested that local authorities should provide information about the location and facilities on allotment sites, including terrain, whether secure cycle parking was available, rental costs, size of plots available and waiting times, so that applicants could make an informed choice about any allotment request or offer.
- Indication of site preferences: One respondent suggested that allotment application forms should include a tick-box question to indicate preferred sites, which should include a 'none of the above' option for applicants seeking an allotment in an area where there was no current provision. One local authority offered applicants a choice of three preferred allotment sites but noted that there were issues with long waiting times at popular sites. However, it was also argued that the preferences of existing allotment holders should be addressed before those of applicants on the waiting list.
- Review and publication of waiting list information: Some suggested that waiting lists should be regularly reviewed and that those on the list should be given an annual update on their position and the expected waiting time. The review would also provide an opportunity to find out if those on the list were still interested. It was also suggested that local authorities should publish basic information about waiting lists including the number of people on the list, the maximum waiting time and the location of applicants as indicators of performance and demand. One local authority planning to publish waiting list information did, however, query how changes in demand for allotments as reflected in waiting list numbers should be handled on an ongoing basis ( i.e. between the required annual allotment review and the five-yearly food-growing strategy reviews – see Chapter 8) and suggested that guidance might be provided on this.
- Avoiding double-counting: Where local allotment associations manage waiting lists and provide information to the local authority, it was suggested that they should also ask if the applicant is on the waiting list for other sites to reduce potential double-counting on the local authority list.
- Improved systems: Some stressed that the process of managing waiting lists should be clear, well-advertised, accessible and transparent for all involved. There was also a specific call for online application systems to be introduced.