THE seeds of allotment fever have been firmly sown in the minds of New Alresford residents.

After over a decade without a public place to grow one's own crops in the town, more than 30 green-fingered citizens now have a plot they can call their own.

Demand for the green spaces, opened at Spring Gardens, near the watercress beds, is blossoming so much that the town council has set up a waiting list.

The final touches were added this week when Southern Water, which owns a pumping station nearby, connected three standpipes to the site.

"It's great. I'm just thoroughly happy that 34 people have a plot. We didn't think we'd be able to get as many people on the site and now there's a waiting list," said John Cattle.

A former police officer, town resident and vice-chairman of the environment committee on the town council, Mr Cattle has nurtured the project from the start.

Convinced that there was a need for the facility in Alresford, where many houses had small gardens, he said he had been searching for a suitable site for at least two years.

Around 18 months ago, he spotted the former pasture land near the junction of New Farm Road and Spring Gardens, used by Southern Water, but owned by the Tichborne Estate, and so began the long process of acquiring and transforming the site into an agricultural haven.

After striking a rental deal with the owners of the estate, problems encountered included improving the topsoil, removing concrete and getting water to the site.

"I sounded it out and everyone said that was a good idea and I just wasn't prepared to let it go. I was convinced there was a need for this," added Mr Cattle.

One of the new tenants, Ann Lowman, 40, said: "It's fun and I love gardening. I don't have space in my garden to grow vegetables, so I just fancied the idea."

Mrs Lowman, who has two children, said she planned to grow potatoes, runner beans, garlic and carrots on her £30-a-year patch. "My son asked if that meant he had to eat more vegetables and, of course I said yes!"

Steve Stefanczuk, 51, from The Brook, Old Alresford, said he was looking forward to cultivating his own organic crops: "I see all the chemicals that farmers put on food and that's not healthy.

"Here, I can come and cut a lettuce that hasn't travelled round the world. It's a great sense of achievement."