£600,000 set aside for hundreds of new allotment plots in Cheltenham
Up to £600,000 has been set aside to spend on creating almost 300 new allotment plots in Cheltenham.
Borough councillors have agreed to earmark the considerable sum, raised by the sale of land at the Midwinter allotment site for new homes, to try and meet the current shortfall of sites in the town.
There are hundreds of people on waiting lists who want the opportunity to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
And the £600,000 is the estimated cost of providing 290 new plots to meet demand.
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There have been questions raised about why the authority is going to spend so much money on allotments as it feels the strain in other service areas.
The simple answer is the council has no other choice due to legal requirements.
Councillor John Rawson (LD, St Peters), cabinet member for finance, explained: "This is an important issue. I think we have to go back to when we were putting forward the Midwinter improvement scheme.
"We had to get permission to release the land we needed that had formally been allotments and to do that we told the secretary of state that we would provide for the loss in allotments should there be a demand for it and that is a legal requirement.
"We have said we will invest some of this money into allotment provision, but the validity of the £600,000 as a realistic estimate of what it would cost to provide the allotments that we need to provide – there is still work to be done.
"We need to look at the waiting lists and see if there is this demand."
The majority of the allotment sites run by the council do not have any vacancies.
The Borough Council is only responsible for allotments in the non-parished areas of Cheltenham.
Councillor Rob Garnham (C, Park), leader of the Conservative group, acknowledged the legal requirements, but added: "The £600,000 that is going to be spent on allotments, a lot of people will say 'why are we spending that amount of money on allotments when there are lots of other things that we could spend the money on?'
"Parts of the money could be used more wisely."