FOR Alan Watterson, one pleasing aspect of living in the Manchester area was the abundance of allotments available to the public. On his return to this area, where he had been brought up, he was keen to see how many allotments were available for use here. The answer…none.
In February 2005 he convened the first meeting of the Dunoon and District Allotment Association at the Youth Centre in Kirk Street. Ten likewise interested people attended – a number which would rapidly grow to over 35. As a group they quickly identified a three-acre site to the rear of the Sandbank Business park, part of a larger area of approximately 100 acres of land.
Under the terms of the Allotments [Scotland] Act, a local authority is required, following representation by a minimum of six persons, to provide suitable land for this purpose. An application was put to a meeting of the Bute and Cowal Area Committee on November 1, 2005, when a decision was made to refer the matter to the Area Corporate Services Manager to ascertain if there is a suitable piece of land and the cost of the potential purchase.
By March this year it had been determined that the land in question had been owned by Argyll and the Islands Enterprise [AIE] since the departure of the US Navy, and while significant development had been undertaken in the first phase of the business park, no significant interest had been seen in developing the land in question. However in a reply to Mr Watterson’s group, AIE stated that the area under consideration must be retained until there is potential for further industrial or commercial development and that it is essential AIE has a stock of serviced land available for development as and when market forces demand. The Association has investigated the possibility of acquiring and developing other sites within the area, but these have so far been deemed unsuitable either because of poor soil or drainage, or lack of suitable site access.
A frustrated Mr Watterson told the Observer:We are not asking for a lot here, just three acres out of a hundred. and there doesn’t seem to be much interest from anyone to develop the site. We are all very disappointed about the intransigence we seem to be meeting from all quarters in this. He continued: We have had support from other groups in the area who see the value of allotments, not just for us, but for school groups doing projects, and from others who see the therapeutic value this kind of experience can bring. He concluded, We aim to go on fighting our case because we have the law on our side and it’s really up to the council to do something about this.
The Observer contacted AIE regarding these concerns. A spokesman responded: While AIE endorses and supports a range of local community development initiatives, statutory responsibility for the provisionn of land for allotments lies with the local authority. On November 11 George B.McKenzie, the manager in question, recommended that, due to the implications the request might have across the whole of the council’s area, the matter should be referred to the Strategic Policy Committee for consideration. Mr McKenzie has since retired.

The Scottish Executive requires AIE to promote the social and economic growth of the area. Consevquently it is not possible to release ground, held by the company, which is currently designated as industrial/commercial land, for the purpose of community allotments. He concluded: AIE has offered to meet with Dunoon and District Allotment Association and Argyll and Bute Council in an effort to identify a way ahead for this project, as its goals are clearly aimed at community benefit.
Mr Watterson responded: To date no-one has offered to meet us on this. Argyll and Bute Council must own up to their responsibility in this matter. The local councillor has supported us in writing but in so doing cannot now take an active role in council matters affecting this situation. We are available at any time for any of these bodies to approach us.

Comments are closed.