WORK to create around 100 new allotment plots will soon get under way due to huge demand.

Preparation work for plots at Victoria Park, in Laindon, is due to begin within the next few weeks as part of a £220,000 revamp of the park, which will also include a sports area.

The new allotments come as the waiting list for plots at Basildon Council’s two existing sites has doubled in 17 months, from 110 in August 2009 to 218.

Allotment holders put this renewed popularity down to a desire for fresh air and exercise, an increasing awareness of healthy eating and social aspects.

Kevin Blake, Basildon councillor responsible for leisure and arts, said: “Allotments are more popular than ever, and mean people get good, healthy food and exercise from digging.”

Laindon councillor Jilly Hyde said the move will make the park safer and clear up overgrown areas.

“It’s great news for the people of Laindon, and there are lots of people who would like the opportunity to grow their own vegetables.”

Basildon Council runs two allotments, totalling 117 plots, in Market Road, Wickford, and St James Road, Vange.

Plots cost £29.60 a year to rent, or £14.80 for pensioners.

The authority owns four further sites, managed by elected committees of allotment-holders, in Holden Gardens, Pendle Drive, Crays Hill and Bowers Gifford.

Richard Sanders, 64, of Little Spenders, started renting his Pendle Drive allotment 20 years ago.

He said: “We’ve got 28 plots at Pendle Drive, and I don’t think the waiting list has been under 20 for the past two years.

“We turn over one or two plots a year, so if we’ve got 20 people waiting it’s going to be ten years for some of them.

“People are encouraged by television programmes to grow their own, but demand is outstripping what’s out there.”

Funding for the Victoria Park allotments and sports area came from £160,000 from developers as a condition of successful planning applications, and £60,000 made through council savings.

There is also a £3million longer-term plan for the park, including a cafe, changing rooms, toilets, football pitches, a running track and a skatepark.