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How to Get an Allotment

How to Get an Allotment

If you’re keen to grow your own fruit and veg but don’t have anywhere suitable to do it, then applying for an allotment is the ideal solution. Here’s how to go about getting an allotment, along with a few alternative ideas if there’s a long waiting list in your area.

How to find an allotment

Waltons pergola arbour seat
An arbour seat doubles up as a support for climbing fruit and veg
Image: Pergola arbour seat from Waltons

If you dream of an allotment complete with a friendly community, a comfy bench, and a small wooden shed in which to make tea, your local council website is the place to begin your search. Councils – or in rural areas parish councils – have a statutory duty to provide allotments and will be able to point you in the right direction. 

That said, an increase in popularity means that there can be long waiting lists for allotments. In fact, according to recent research, some of the longest waits for a plot are to be found in London. In Camden, for example, it could take up to 17 years to get your spade muddy! Just because there’s a waiting list doesn’t mean it’s pointless taking your place in line. Sometimes, the people ahead of you have already found a plot and have just forgotten to take themselves off the list. A little bit of chasing up could see the list slimmed down to the point where it’s actually worth hanging on for a spot.

If there are no allotments within a reasonable distance of where you live, you can petition your local council to acquire or make land available for allotmenteers. All you need to do is to gather six signatories who live in the same area, who’re on the electoral roll, or are registered council tax payers. Send a formal letter to your local council. 

Local authorities have an obligation to provide allotment space under Section 23 of the 1908 Small Holdings and Allotment Act (this does not apply to the London Area). Try sending all your letters at once to make an impact at your local council, but be prepared to wait. Despite your council being duty-bound to create allotments if you can prove a need, there’s no specific timeframe in which they have to do so. 

What to do if the waiting list for an allotment is too long

Person working in a community garden
Join a community garden scheme like ‘Bloom Sheffield’ where you can make friends and learn new skills
Image: Bloom Sheffield’s Secret Garden 

If you’re likely to be in your dotage before an allotment plot becomes available, you’ll have to apply some lateral thinking to your need for land. Many boroughs have community garden schemes which you could join in with. Similarly, church and community groups may also own and operate their own growing schemes for local people.

Failing that, why not start up your own community garden? 

  • Construction companies behind new-build estates are often required to set land aside for community green space which may include provision for a community garden. 
  • Check out your local neighbourhood plan – plans for ‘green infrastructure’ which includes provision of allotments and community gardens should be detailed within this document. 
  • Keep an eye out for unused parcels of land, and using the Land Registry search facility to find out who owns it, approach the owner with your idea.
  • While your local council may be unable to make land available for allotments, other bodies like The Church of England and the National Trust may be able to provide land for this purpose.

Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. For more information on funding for your allotment or garden scheme, check out the National Allotment Society website for lots more helpful advice.

What to do once you’ve secured your allotment

6x8 Reverse Overlap Wooden Shed from Waltons
A shed with an apex roof will help you to collect rain to fill your water butts
Image: 6x8 Reverse Overlap Wooden Shed from Waltons

Check the rules. Councils often have strict rules determining what you can and can’t do on your allotment – it’s well worth reading these before you make any plans for your new patch. Most importantly, make sure your treasured shed meets any height and size stipulations so you’ll have somewhere warm and dry to sneak off to when you want to catch an episode of Test Match Special or have a cuppa from your Thermos.

Other than that, get ready for some hard work as you clear your patch and bring it back to life. Allotments can be left in a terrible mess but, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a treasure or two among the brambles and couch grass.

If you’re looking for somewhere to store tools at your new allotment, a windowless shed is a secure option that protects your belongings from prying eyes. Need more help? Read our article on How to pick the best shed for your allotment and pick up tips from experienced allotmenteers. 

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