Want To Grow Your Own? New Shaftesbury Allotments Available From May

More Shaftesbury residents could be able to grow their own fruit and vegetables from this spring. Tomorrow night, town councillors will be asked to approve a plan to create allotments on a 1.6 acre plot of land on the main Salisbury Road, opposite the Persimmon estate.

ThisIsAlfred spoke with Town Clerk Claire Commons.

Allotment space is in demand in Shaftesbury. “We’ve had a waiting list for at least the last eleven years, since I’ve been working here,” explained Claire. “The most popular site, at Mampitts, has had up to seven years waiting time on it.”

But that pressure could be soon by eased when land allocations are made available for local gardeners. North Dorset District Council has transferred a plot of land opposite Allen Road to Shaftesbury Town Council. “It’s along the A30, across from where the sign for Dorset is, although that’s not the exact county boundary,” said Claire.

On Tuesday night, councillors will be asked to approve plans to develop the site. They were unable to do that at last week’s Town Council meeting. Too few councillors attended, so the meeting was deemed inquorate and the members present were not allowed to make legally binding decisions.

Claire says the allotments will be affordable. “The average rent is £20 per year,” she said. And the Council expects to fit 22 plots into the space. “We’re hoping to put in some disability-compliant raised bed-type plots as well. Once we finished mapping those precisely, we will know in more detail.”

Eventually there will be a parking area on the allotments side of the A30, which could make access safer than having to cross the road with gardening tools and equipment. “There will be a small car park area near the traffic lights that serves the travellers’ site. There is also an extra piece of land that will create a footpath parallel with the A30,” said Claire.

This project could cost up to £103,000. Around 75% of this cash will come from Section 106 money. That’s the contribution made by estate developers towards infrastructure projects. The Town Council is spending around £25,000 of it’s own money on the scheme.

The Council understands that access arrangements won’t be ideal at first and Claire says that they recognise that in the proposed tenant charges. “People who can get there by foot can get on there from April or May. We will provide safe foot passage to their site,” explained Claire. “What I’m proposing to put to Council is that they allow tenants to have free use of their plots for the remainder of the calendar year and then in about August, once we’ve got through the planning process for the provision of a car park, we will then have that facility for tenants that come in their cars. Then the final stage is more for our maintenance people. We have an access gate on the east side of the site, which is currently a soft grass access and we want to make it more durable for vehicles to get across for maintenance, just to allow them to circumnavigate the area without sinking into the grass in the winter.”

Claire expects that the adjacent travellers’ site will remain. “There hasn’t been any further political decision made by the County on this. Obviously they’re focused on unitary at the moment. My expectation, based on hunches mainly, is that they will apply to renew that licence for a further number of years.”

The Town Council hasn’t advertised the availability of these new allotments yet, but Claire says she now welcomes an approach from anyone who is interested. “What we’re proposing is that the tenants that have expressed an interest in the A30 site are offered them first, then those that are on the waiting list for any of the other plots will be offered them second. Any that come on to the list after that will use up the plots until they will fully rented and then they go on the waiting list,” said Claire.

You can apply for a tool store on your plot, if you want one. “If you want a shed, you make the application to the Council and we’ll approve it, subject to certain conditions,” said Claire.

There are rules governing how your allotment can be used, as Claire explained. “You can have chickens on your plot, but you can’t have cockerels. You can have rabbits as well – it goes back to the old allotment act from 100 years or so ago. You can’t grow permanent trees. Don’t plant an apple orchard or anything like that.”

The leases will be offered on a ‘rolling’ basis. “They have the lease for a year and then every January we renew them,” said Claire. “They can give them up within that time and we also have controls in place, so that if they’re not working the plot properly, we can serve notice on them to take it back.”

If you’re interested in one of these allotments, you can email Claire at enquiries@shaftesbury-tc.gov.uk.