Archive for April, 2009

An allotment site that MUST be saved

Thursday, April 30th, 2009
Oatlands Site
View across Oatlands
Burnt Hut Oatlands
A burnt out hut at Oatlands

Oatlands Leisure Gardens in Elmfoot Street, the Gorbals, Glasgow, have been a successful site, greatly enjoyed by local residents since the late 1980s. They are an active part of the local community.  In addition to plots for individual families they have plots worked by local schools, and by community groups:the Simon Community, Oatlands Residents Association, the Transition Group and the Carr-Gorm Group. They have received funding from the EU and Land and Environmental Services to set up two school plots with disabled access, raised beds and a polytunnel.

However, more recently Glasgow City Council Department of Regeneration Services has given Gladedale Property Developers a 99 year lease on the surrounding land for regeneration. As part of the agreement, the allotments are to be moved to a smaller site and  the number of plots reduced from 20 to 14. This could result in the eviction of several individual plot holders, the community groups and schools.  Just now, time on a  waiting list for a plot in Glasgow can range from 2 to 8 years.  It seems tragic that in a period when we are concerned about lack of opportunities for exercise, about food miles, about reducing carbon footprint and also about an economic recession, a group of allotments – which can help with all these issues – should be under threat.

By Spring 2008, most of the  houses and tenements surrounding the existing site had been demolished by the developers and the allotments were quite exposed. At the same time time the plot holders suffered a number of serious blows.  Bad weather over the winter damaged sheds and greenhouses and just as they struggled to repair this, a spate of vandalism started. Huts were being regularly burned, and in June the metal  tool store and the clubhouse were razed to the ground. It seemed that this time the vandalism had not been carried out just by kids. Boltcutters had been used to cut the fencing and large industrial gardening equipment such as a rotovator and a chainsaw were  stolen.  By July, there was not a pane of glass left in any of the greenhouses, five sheds had been razed to the ground, the storage area and clubhouse burnt out, everyone had lost their tools and the polytunnel was ripped apart.  Meanwhile owing to a slow down in regeneration caused by the downturn in the housing market the move to the new site was postponed till an unknown future.

With the help of the Glasgow Allotment Forum plot holder representatives held meetings with council officials and councillors. As a result of these meetings it was agreed that CCTV monitored by Glasgow Council would be provided for the existing Oatlands site and a new fence surrounding the site would be erected by Gladedale/Land Services. The vandalism was temporarily diminished.  However recently the CCTV, has been removed without the plotholders being consulted, and there have been more fires, more vandalism and threats to plotholders.

Not unnaturally, the plotholders are upset and disheartened.  However they are fighting to retain their plots.  They feel that with the down turn in the housing market and the increase in demand for allotments, they should not accept a smaller, new site but instead should get a new site in addition to the original site to meet the local demand and reduce waiting lists.

Updates on the gardens will be posted on their website:
http://www.oatlandsleisuregardens6.blogspot.com