HL Deb 14 December 1998 vol 595 cc1098-9

2.40 p.m.

Baroness Sharples asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will take steps to encourage local councils to promote the use of allotments.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, my department is currently working with the Local Government Association, council representatives and allotments interest groups in order to produce best practice guidance on allotments for local authorities. The Government recognise the importance of the promotion of allotments and in March placed an additional requirement on local authorities to demonstrate the active promotion of allotments before they can dispose of statutory allotment land.

Baroness Sharples

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that in many journals, local papers and newspapers great concern has been expressed about the number of allotment sites that have been sold off for development? Is he further aware, and does he agree with it, that Birmingham City Council has been active in promoting allotments, especially for use by ethnic groups and women? I am sure that many of the women could do with the exercise.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I accept much of what the noble Baroness said, even the last point. It is important that publicity be given to the facilities. However, at the moment the background is that the vacancies far outnumber the applications. That is one of the reasons why we asked local authorities to give greater consideration to publicity. I understand that a number are doing so.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is my noble friend prepared to consider the possibility of helping those local authorities who wish to encourage people to do the work they think they can? Can the Government help in providing them with tools for the job? Without them, men who are hired or wish to make a contribution will be unable to do so.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, in so far as this relates to the allocation of allotment plots, I believe it goes beyond the terms of ministerial responsibility here. However, in certain circumstances it may be a matter for local authorities.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, in his Answer, the Minister mentioned the disposal of statutory allotment sites. It used to be the law that where a disposal was in the offing, allotment holders were offered alternative sites or a new allotment. Is that still so?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, it is still the case where there is a significant number of plot holders in place. With many of the allotments which have been disposed of recently—certainly those which have come to the Secretary of State for approval—there are no extant plot holders.