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£60k investment to cut allotment wait

By Somerset Standard  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

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Frome gardeners will be given an early Christmas present this month after the town council bought a five-acre field for new allotments.

More than 140 people are on a waiting list for plots – the longest in the district – and it is continuing to grow.

Frome Development Community Interest Company (FDCIC), funded by a private donor and the town council, have pooled resources to buy the field on the edge of town that will give people the chance to grow their own food.

FDCIC has given £40,000 with another £20,000 coming from the council's agreed annual budget.

The field, on Birchill Lane, will be transferred to a charity administered by the council so that it can be held for the people of Frome for ever.

Day-to-day management will become the responsibility of the Allotment Association, with the council's support, in the same way as other sites around the town.

The plot will be named the Muriel Jones Field in recognition of the trust from which the private donation has been made.

FDCIC chairwoman Dr Mary Phillips said: "We were set up last year with the generous donation of a private donor in order to offer catalytic funding to community groups and organisations.

"We have a particular focus on local food production, especially where this is linked to health and self sufficiency.

"Until now we have struggled with how best to do this, but helping crack the town's ten-year allotment waiting list fits our aims perfectly."

Council leader Mel Usher said the town could not have bought the land alone.

Mr Usher said: "FDCIC came to Frome at the same time as the new council and have played a crucial role in helping us support and build the strength of voluntary organisations.

"This is something we could not have done alone both in terms of funding and because the FDCIC can move quickly.

"By working together we have purchased this terrific and rather beautiful new resource for Frome.

"The council has been searching for years to find an appropriate space for more allotments.

"It is also great news for those who simply want to enjoy the countryside on the edge of town – it will be a perfect place for a picnic and for other community use."

Neil Cameron, chairman of the Allotment Association said that many of the people on the waiting list can be facilitated.

Mr Cameron said: "There are 140 people on our waiting list. We estimate that, eventually, many can be fitted on to this field comfortably along with others who may wish to swap from their existing sites.

"It is a slightly sloping south-facing field, running down to the river, with good soil and drainage – in fact it's ideal."

Earlier this year the town council agreed to lease land from Portway Methodist Church for allotments.

Attempts to introduce allotments at Weylands proved contentious with families living near the suggested plots raising concerns about an increase in traffic in an already congested area and poor access.

The town council abandoned the idea after Mendip District Council refused to agree its change of use.

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