THOUSANDS of people in the North East are waiting for allotments, new figures have revealed.
But with no new plots being brought into use budding gardeners seeking to emulate TV series The Good Life face waits of up to five years in some areas.
Across the region’s seven councils, 6,696 people are on lists hoping to get a plot, and demand has risen sharply over the last few years.
The figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show in North Tyneside there are more people waiting for an allotment than there are plots.
Across the 46 council-run sites there are 1,205 plots, but there are 1,922 on waiting lists.
The council says it is aware of the problem and is working hard, through its allotment strategy, to find innovative solutions.
In Newcastle there are 766 people waiting for allotment plots. The council manages 62 sites in the city which have a total of 2,316 plots. Many are let as half plots. One site, St Anthony’s in Walker, is closed to new applications.
In recent years hundreds of plots at Fenham Allotments, Grandstand Road and Castle Leazes have been axed as the Freemen of the City ordered the land to be returned for grazing, though the city council has no powers to stop this.
Peter Whewell, chairman of Moorside Allotments in Fenham, presented a petition to Newcastle City Council in November asking officers to find more land to be used as allotments and community gardens. He is now working with the council on its allotment strategy.
About 25% of allotment holders in Newcastle are over 65, but there is an ever-growing new breed of younger gardeners and families getting involved in growing their own.
David Slater, executive director of environment and regeneration at Newcastle City Council said, “The city council actively supports allotment associations and wants to make further allotment places available to residents. We are currently looking at a number of specific sites so residents can see the many benefits of growing their own produce.”
In Gateshead there are 388 people on waiting lists for the 395 council-controlled allotments in the borough.
Gateshead Council’s head of waste services and grounds maintenance Colin Huntington said: “The rise in popularity of self sufficiency and growing food after much high profile media coverage has seen a massive increase of interest in allotments in Gateshead. Just a few years ago we had spare allotment sites, now we have a waiting list.
“Gateshead Council is in the process of carrying out a full review of allotment provision and as part of that process we’re looking at whether we can create new allotments to help meet demand.”
Allotment groups say maintaining a plot is good for health, good for the environment as it allows people to grow their food locally and good for forging communities as people make friends on their allotments.
Having more green spaces in cities also provides a haven for wildlife to thrive.