ALLOTMENT holders in Richmond have been told to use them or lose them as the council tries to free up more plots.
A probation period for new gardeners and a warning system for those not tending to their plots are among a series of new regulations set to come into force later this year.
The recommendations – the results of a group set up to look at the long term future of the borough's allotments - are expected to be agreed at a meeting of the environment and sustainability overview and scrutiny committee next Wednesday.
Committee chairman Cllr Jerry Elloy said: "There are hundreds of people who want to get closer to nature, and to be able to grown their own produce as we as a council need to think of new ways to help them. Ideas like these from the task group will certainly help.
"Allotments save people money through not having to shop for all their food, as well as helping them make friends and keep fit, so we want to make more productive use of the existing plots."
Other recommendations include dividing large, under-cultivated plots to make them more manageable and create new plots to help slash waiting lists, which can run for years.
There will also be stricter controls on those who only clear their plot for the annual inspection. A phased retirement system, with the opportunity for older gardeners to divide their plot or use a communal area is also on the cards.
But some allotment holders are concerned about how much control the council would have. One gardener, who has a plot in Kew, said: "I'm just worried that if we went on holiday or were taken ill, they could steam in and take our allotment away from us. We put so much work into it so it would be devastating. It's OK saying there would be warnings, but it all sounds a bit regimented to me."
More than 150 people attended a public meeting in February, following a visit by the councillors task group to all nine of Richmond's allotment sites.
The next meeting will take place at 7pm on June 24 at the Sheen Lane Centre, East Sheen.
Anyone who wishes to speak at the meeting should contact Gary Lelliott on 020 8891 7275 by 2pm the day before.