Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Get more land (Big Society method)

In the UK, planning policy over the past decade or so has meant that houses are being built at high density with tiny so called 'gardens'. As discussed in The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom  this does not necessarily help to promote a more ecologically favourable outcome. For more on this read the book. Look at the arguments for lower densities. 

But there is one measure that local people can use to give themselves more space. If 6 residents in an area wish to have land to grow food they are empowered by the  Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908  to ask their Local Council to set allotments up and the Council must make efforts to acquire land. Many people, for £20 or less for a year's rent for a part-plot, would welcome the opportunity to have a bit of land to tend. Most District & City Councils will already have allotments but many small Parish Councils do not.  It is a simple procedure for the Parish Council, once having received a petition from at least 6 residents to budget up to, say £10,000, to set up allotments. If they need to raise their council tax amount next year there should be time to set that in motion because the most difficult factor is usually finding suitable land which may incur delay. 

Land can be rented, say on a three year extendable lease, or bought. Parish Councils can borrow money over a long period which makes a land purchase affordable even to a few hundred council tax payers in a small Parish Council's area.

Council allotments are a longstanding and proven example of what David Cameron says about his Coalition Government's  'Big Society' idea: a 'big advance for people power'.  Perhaps the legal model of popular local demand for allotments could be the way forward for all sorts of new local initiatives, although to have to act after the request of 6 residents to keep the local pub open might be pushing it a bit... 
posted by Charles Bazlinton

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