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Shadows on the allotment shed wall

Once upon a time almost everyone could rent a patch at their local allotment garden – a haven of tranquillity where you could grow healthy food and enjoying working alongside your neighbours. In 1943 there were 1.4 million allotments in the UK but by 1993 there were just 300,000. In London today just 30,000 people have an allotment, and in some districts waiting lists are decades long.

The Allotment Act is 100 years old. After being decimated by opportunistic developers and greedy councils, these little Edens are suddenly a hot topic, with a debate in Parliament this summer and a slew of active websites campaigning for them.  In spite of all that few councils are likely to respond to the Act's obligation to provide an allotment garden at the request of "six registered parliamentary electors or ratepayers".

Locally at least, allotments are thriving. Today (and for the first time in her parliamentary career) Theresa May MP opened some sheds. Not your average tumbledown shack where something nasty lurks in the shadows, but listed, oak-beamed and tile-hung allotment sheds, carefully restored by a bunch of energetic volunteers in memory of a lecturer and enthusiastic allotment-holder called David Penny.

Nor were followers of Ms May's footwear disappointed, since she sported not green wellies but fetching knee-high black leather boots.


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