Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society

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The Community Empowerment Act

A Brief Overview

As far back as 2001, the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee held an inquiry into allotments. The inquiry recognised the importance and popularity of allotments and established a working group to protect and promote allotment provision in Scotland. Ultimately, the inquiry recommended legislative consolidation and reform to meet 21st century needs and avoid site closures.

The legislative consolidation and reform did not come until The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 which is built on the foundations laid by the Christie Commission. Christie called for a radical change in the way public services were delivered, recognising that they “must be designed with and for people and communities – not delivered ‘top down’ for administrative conveniences”.

The Act has a very broad reach with 11 fundamental parts that cover a plethora of matters from allotments to non-domestic rates. Specifically relevant to allotments, Part 9, Section 119 of the Act requires each local authority to prepare a Food Growing Strategy for its area to identify land that may be used as allotment sites, identify other areas of land that could be used for community growing, and describe how the authority intends to increase provision, particularly in areas which experience socio-economic disadvantage. 

Other relevant parts of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act, Part 9:

  • Section 111: Duty to maintain list – an allotment waiting list must be established and maintained to list the names and additional information of persons requesting an allotment plot.
  • Section 112: Duty to provide allotments – reasonable steps must be taken to reduce the number of persons on the allotment waiting list so that (1) the number of persons ‘is no more than 50% of the total number of allotments owned and leased by the authority’ and (2) those persons ‘do not remain on the list for a continuous period of more than five years’. Furthermore, the reasonable steps must include how the local authority intends to make allotments available in locations that ‘are reasonably close to the residence’ of those requesting an allotment.
  • Section 115: Allotment site regulations – Allotment regulations must be made by each local authority for the allotment sites in its area and must be made by 1 April 2020. The Act specifies what factors should be included in the regulations. This duty also acts as a trigger point for point 2 under Section 112 whereby each local authority has eight years to meet this requirement.
  • Section 121: Annual allotments report – a review of allotment provision should be undertaken and published annually, taking into account issues relating to allotment location, size, number of plots and the proportion of Council-owned land leases.

Recent Review

In 2022, The Scottish Government Local Government Housing and Planning Committee carried out a review of the impact of Part 9 of The Community Empowerment Act on allotments and community growing. They held a number of evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament to hear from different panels of witnesses, one of which was attended by SAGS president, Richard Crawford.

Their inquiry concluded the following that, seven years on there is still demand for allotments and growing spaces which is not being met, and access to land remains a challenge.

It recommended that local authorities regularly review waiting lists to establish if other growing opportunities, such as community gardens, would meet people’s needs. In addition, local authorities should monitor the location of people on waiting lists and identifying opportunities to link people together so they can best use their rights under the Act. Where no sites are operated by a local authority, it could establish a means by which people can note their interest in being provided with a growing space, such as a register.

The Committee also recommended the creation of a national partnership forum to foster cross-sectoral collaboration, mutual support, and enable local authorities to share expertise and good practice, supporting the growth of allotment provision. This is something SAGS wholeheartedly supports.

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act, part 9, together with the findings of the new inquiry, gives weight to all groups in Scotland wishing to initiate the development of new allotment sites. In reality, many developing groups find the whole process lengthy and, at times, frustrating.  However, with determination, it can be achieved.

To get started, please find our summary of the key steps here.

Useful Links

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act, part 9

Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee review (October 2022)

To find the Food Growing Strategy in your area, please refer to your Local Authorities website.