Planning Reforms Could Hit Allotments, National Trust And Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Warn

PRESS ASSOCIATION -- The Government's planning reforms could put the "grow your own" boom at risk by putting the squeeze on suitable land for allotments, the National Trust has warned.

In its latest salvo against proposed changes to the planning system, the trust said Government promises to give people a say in how land in their community is used would be undermined by the "default yes" to development under the new rules.

And many of the 87,000 people on allotment waiting lists around the country could lose out on getting a vegetable patch to a planning system which favoured building, it said.

Their concerns were backed by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who said new growing spaces are desperately needed in urban areas amid huge demand from communities.

He said: "There is still huge demand from communities, with more and more people wishing to experience a taste of the good life. It's essential that land is still allocated in cities, towns and villages for this purpose. We know people are desperate to grow their own food, so we must do everything we can to ensure they have the space to do so.

The call came as the National Trust celebrated success in its scheme to create a thousand new growing spaces on its land, ahead of schedule.

Dame Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, said: "We strongly welcome attempts to engage local communities in the planning process - but to undermine these efforts with a planning framework that favours development for short-term financial profit is fundamentally misguided."

Ministers have found themselves in a war of words with conservation and countryside groups including the National Trust, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the RSPB over the proposed reform of the planning rules, which are currently out for public consultation.

Communities minister Andrew Stunell told BBC News: "It's absolutely untrue that there is any threat to allotments as a result of the planning reforms that we're putting forward. It's completely the opposite, in fact.

"Local communities will have the ability in the future to dictate what the local plan for them should be, and to set aside those allotments, and of course existing allotments are protected under legislation at the moment."