My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her enthusiasm and persistence in this area. It is for local authorities to provide allotments. Through the community rights, government has helped communities to protect allotments; for example, more than 20% of the first 50 neighbourhood plans promote allotments. I commend the work of organisations such as the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens and the National Allotment Society, which promote allotments.
Is my noble friend aware that a lot of young people with families are looking for allotments, which are not available to them? Is she further aware that one local planning authority has prevaricated for more than 19 years about providing a suitable area for potential allotment holders?
It is progress. It may also help my noble friend to know that neighbourhood plans, which require local communities to work with local councils, will now inform planning committees when they make decisions, particularly with regard to allotments.
Is my noble friend aware that surely there is an opportunity to communicate what is happening on allotments through the council tax notice that goes out each year? Will she look into the possibility of asking local authorities to highlight exactly what they are doing on allotments and where young people in particular can find out more information about them?
My Lords, there is indeed an opportunity for local authorities to promote what they do, but that is a matter for those local authorities. Certainly, I know that my local authority promotes things like that, because they are so good for the health and well-being of communities.
My Lords, given the rise in obesity and the need to encourage people to take more exercise and eat a healthy diet, does my noble friend agree that encouraging local planning authorities to allow fewer houses per hectare with proper gardens might reduce the need for allotments?
In the light of what she has just said, does the noble Baroness agree that neighbourhood plans for local authorities are difficult to establish, particularly where there is activity from extremely aggressive developers who are very keen on acquiring greenfield sites and are prepared to spend a lot of money—money that local authorities cannot match—on overturning decisions and going to appeal? Is that helping with the development of greenfield sites for more congenial purposes, such as allotments?
My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that the process needs to be speeded up. We have done well in local authorities producing neighbourhood plans, but speeding them up will be considered by CLG, because the noble Baroness is right: such blockages need to be addressed.
As the noble Baroness will know, local authorities have obligations in the area of disability, such as compliance with the DDA. Any council land should, as far as possible, be DDA compliant. Gardening is an excellent activity for local disabled people to get involved in.
I draw my noble friend’s attention to the Near Neighbours project. There are three very good examples in Luton, Dewsbury and Hackney, where local faith groups come together not just to grow things together but to enjoy time together. It stands to reason that being out and about with members of your local community is very good for promoting general well-being.
My Lords, returning to the noble Baroness’s original Answer, in view of the fantastic good news about the reduction in waiting lists for allotments, was it not a major error not to have included that as at least one piece of good news in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement?