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Cut allotment waiting lists in Islington, say green-fingered couple

A Freedom of Information request reveals a 14-year-wait for an allotment

14 September, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Jack and Lucy Rickard who are moving out of Islington next month

 

AN ELDERLY couple who found solace in their “magnificent oasis” of an allotment for almost two decades have called on the Town Hall to open up more land after it was revealed that residents on a waiting list can expect to wait an average of 14 years for plots.

Jack, 81, and Lucy Rickard 83, who live in Blackstock Road, said it was “sad” that residents have to wait that long for a plot. The couple grow a selection of herbs, chard and root vegetables on their plot in Quill Street, which Jack helped set up after another allotment on the site was closed by land owners British Rail.

They are planning to leave the capital for Cornwall to be nearer their son next month.

“It’s been wonderful the last 20 years,” said Jack. “It’s a lovely refuge. We love living in a big city and don’t mind the noise and the smoke but this is an escape and a magnificent oasis. It’s very social too and people from all over the world own plots and we love talking to each other.”

Visitor Humo at the Quill Street allotments

The couple are artists who met at Reading art school more than 60 years ago where Lucy was an undergraduate fine art student and Jack was a self-confessed “scruffy” night-schooler.

The shocking wait time for an allotment in Islington was revealed through a Freedom of Information request to the Town Hall, which also said that the borough only has 94 plots in five allotments with 146 people on a waiting list. The waiting list has been closed for some time with no plans to open it in the near future. Mr Rickard said a 10-year limit on holding plots had been put in place by the council around a decade ago to give more people the chance to own land which he said is an “unpopular” policy among current plot holders. “Plots are usually handed down to relatives in other boroughs,” he said.

Further Freedom of Information requests for neighbouring boroughs paint an equally bleak picture for green-fingered residents. Camden has 429 people on a waiting list for just 215 plots in its four allotments. But residents in Enfield have a better chance of scoring a plot with an average wait of just three months.

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn is a great fan of his East Finchley allotment and often shares pictures of his crop on social media. It is not known if he was unable to get an allotment in his own borough because of the huge demand.

An Islington Council spokesman said: “As a small inner-city borough, Islington does not have a lot of green space, but we know the value and the difference it can make to everyone’s quality of life.

Our allotments are heavily oversubscribed but there are other ways for green-fingered people to get involved and improve our borough, from volunteering at our ecology centre to communal gardening opportunities in parks, community gardens and estates.”

 

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