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Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has approved 59 applications by councils to sell allotment sites to make way for development, it has emerged.

Mr Pickles refused two applications, 10 are pending and 12 of the 83 submitted between 2010 and 2013 have been withdrawn, figures released under freedom of information laws show.

Local authorities are required by law to receive the secretary of state s approval to sell allotment land.

Guidelines from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) say councils must provide allotment holders who are displaced with alternative arrangements, which should ideally be within three-quarters of a mile of the existing site.

DCLG said the data shows there were 152,442 plots in 2011 and 152,432 in 2013.

Hilary Benn, the shadow communities secretary, told the Daily Telegraph: These are the green lungs of our communities and growing your own salad and vegetables is a good way of getting exercise, keeping costs down and helping family budgets. That s why they need to be protected.

Allan Rees, chairman of the National Allotment Society, told the newspaper: The Government keeps complaining that there is going to be a food shortage in 20 or 30 years, and then they take all the land that people are growing on for development.

Communities minister Baroness Stowell of Beeston said: Allotments are valuable community spaces that provide people with the opportunity to enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle, and we have put strong legal and policy safeguards in place to make sure that any unavoidable disposal is properly handled, such as providing replacement allotments.

We have recently published guidelines that strengthen protection for allotments as well as introducing a range of measures to help communities who want land to grow fruit and vegetables.

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