Demand for allotments in Stoke-on-Trent has spiked since the start of the coronavirus outbreak – as residents look to beat the supermarket queues by growing their own.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has had an 120 per cent increase in requests for allotments in the last few weeks, and officers are now working to allocate available plots to applicants.
Tending to an allotment is classed as exercise under the government’s lockdown rules, meaning people are still permitted to do it as long as they stick to the guidelines on social distancing and personal hygiene.
The renewed interest in allotments may be the result of the shortages in basic goods seen in supermarkets in recent weeks, as well as the social distancing rules resulting in queues outside many shops.
Council leader Abi Brown says the increase in requests is welcome, as the authority has previously struggled to attract enough interest in some sites
She said: “Holding an allotment can help people become more self-sufficient for food, so that might explain why more people are interested now.
“While some sites around the city might be full, it has been difficult to get as many people as we’d like to sign up for an allotment, so this increase in demand is to be welcomed.
“We have received guidance from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that allotments can still be used, as along as people follow the rules.”
The council is recommending that people arriving at an allotment should wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water or hand sanitizer, and again when leaving. This can be done by bringing warm water in a flask.
Allotment users should also stay at least two metres away from anyone else, both while they are tending to their plot and on their journeys to and from the site.
Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms, or who shares a house with a patient, should self-isolate at home and stay away from their allotment.
There are dozens of allotments sites around the city, some self-managed and others run by the council, with an annual average rent of around £65.
Green-fingered Sue Akkurt, chairwoman of Fegg Hayes Residents’ Association, has been working with the city council to turn a plot of land off Oxford Road into a community growing space.
She hopes the current crisis will lead to more people learning to grow their own food.
Sue said: “One good thing that could come out of all this is that people might become less dependent on supermarkets. I was there the other day and they still have shortages, there are still empty shelves.
“If people started now they could have things like lettuce or radishes, or strawberries, ready by the summer. They could have potatoes ready within 12 weeks.
“I actually think they should allow garden centres to open so people can get seeds to grow their own.”
To make a request for an allotment visit the city council website.
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