The London Assembly is pondering what's going on with London's allotments. The Environment Committee is apparently going to look into whether allotments are disappearing to make way for things such as the Olympic Village in Stratford. With luck, they might even suggest what to do about it, because it'll be a little disappointing if the outcome of their investigation was 'Yup, they're disappearing,' and they left it at that.
The timing is fortuitous (ok, that might be a bit naive) because this week happens to be National Allotments Week. The idea of this is to promote awareness of allotments so that they remain in use and are less susceptible to 'disappearing'. As the National Allotment Gardens Trust website says, "The best protection for allotment sites is to have every allotment plot across the United Kingdom occupied by keen gardeners."
Awareness doesn't seem to be a problem for Londoners, though. That BBC report we referred to in the first paragraph reckons that "The waiting list for an allotment in Camden is 10 years long. In Haringey the list is so long its been closed." Additionally, Croydon council is so useless at returning phone calls, responding to e-mails and even sending out forms, it's virtually impossible to get hold of an allotment in the borough simply through their sheer incompetence. Not that we've got a personal axe to grind.
So, why are allotments important? Well, we refer you to a story we posted not that long ago. Yesterday we asked how boring must it be in Upper Norwood for people to get so excited about the opening of a brand new supermarket. This morning, the Catholic guilt trip is kicking in and now we're feeling a little bit sorry about being so nasty. (Only a little bit sorry, mind you. Snide remarks and sarcasm 'r' us, after all.) So let's look at this from another angle: how screwed up is our relationship with food that 500 people queue for the grand opening of a supermarket, instead of wishing for a decent local butcher or greengrocer, people who have a real connection with the food they're selling?
It's something we could write about at length but this is not the time or website to do it. We're also conscious of the fact that it's easy for us on the relatively affluent Borough-market dwelling middle-class Londonist staff to look down our noses at people who buy food on the basis of needing to count the pennies rather than caring about the quality. All we will say for now is that it's an uphill battle as it is trying to re-educate the urban population about food and what constitutes good quality food (you only have to refer to Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay's respective campaigns to realise that) without making it even harder by reducing the number of allotments available to Londoners. Let's make sure that doesn't happen by supporting campaigns like National Allotments Week.
National Allotments Week is August 14th-20th and your friendly local allotment should be even more welcoming than usual this week. Contact your local council for details of your local allotment (although be prepared to be very frustrated if you're dealing with Croydon) and get in touch with them.