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Allotment Waiting Lists Report

There’s a new allotment survey of waiting lists in England released by Transition Town West Kirby and National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners. Undertaken by Margaret and Ian Campbell, who surveyed 323 English local authorities regarding their allotment waiting lists.

The survey showed a small drop in the waiting list from last year’s 59 people for every 100 plots to 57 people waiting for each 100 allotment plots. That’s within the margin for error.

New Allotment Sites

Some good news, 31 councils have created 35 new allotment sites , totalling some 939 plots on 15 hectares (37 acres in proper money) of land. However, the average plot size was 160 square metres, just over 6 rods, which is 40% smaller than the traditional 10 rod plot.

Smaller Allotment Plots

This trend to smaller plots is obviously growing, many councils commented that they are splitting plots in half as they become vacant to help meet demand. To me this is a bit of a mixed blessing. A lot of new plotholders are overwhelmed by a full sized plot and give up as they just can’t cope so smaller plots make a lot of sense. The full size plot was traditionally sized so a man could feed his family from it. Times have changed, the modern plotholder is as likely to be a woman as a man, if not more so, and families are smaller than they were historically.

On the other hand, modern gardens have shrunk and shrunk. The pre-war semi would have a back garden around 100 feet by 30 feet (280 square metres) but a modern house has barely a large patio area at the back with a parking area to the front.

So shrinking the size of allotment plots at the same time as average gardens have shrunk means the amount of land per person is drastically shrunk. Where will it end? The one rod plot? Not an easy one.

Statutory Duty to Provide Allotments

What is very concerning to me in the report is that 109 of the authorities surveyed don’t keep any record of the waiting list. Some have valid reasons for this, namely:

  • They have no allotments
  • All the allotments in their area are managed by other bodies such as parish councils or allotment societies.

However, been somewhat suspicious and cynical, I have to wonder if it’s a way for some councils to wriggle out of their statutory duty to provide plots where there is demand. No waiting list equals no demand. OK, even those who do keep records hardly comply with the spirit of the duty but it looks better not to be derelict in your duty.

You can see the full report here (pdf) and a spreadsheet of the data so you can look up your local authority here (Excel) Many thanks to Margaret and Ian Campbell for all their hard work.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
6 comments on “Allotment Waiting Lists Report
  1. Ken Parr says:

    Waiting list. Rochester Kent, 1 site listed on.
    on List June 2009. was 130th at time. 28 April 11, now 47th. 40 plots just been released for 1 site.

  2. Jeremy Edwards says:

    On our site we have a waiting list of about 10 and Birmingham City Council are instructing societies to split all vacant plots into half plots. We took on our half plot in September 2010 and don’t have enough space for what we want to grow so we’ve gone onto the list for a second half plot.

    Having half plots for newcomers seems a good idea so you don’t get disheartened. We had a choice of 3 plots and chose ours (the most overgrown of the 3) because it was the best sited. It has been hard work clearing it and we aren’t fully productive yet (lots of stuff in the greenhouse at home waiting for the end of the month) but are keen to take on more space.

  3. Steve says:

    In response to your comment on Allotment sizes, personally I am quite happy with the plots being reduced in size to some extent.

    I took on my plot 3 years ago, it is about 140 sqm, this year is the first year I have managed to have the whole plot under control and usable for the coming season, I think anything bigger would have put me off.

    A number of people on my site are finding plots my size a struggle to keep on top of alongside all the other pressures of modern day life, I don’t think they would cope with a full size plot.

    I, and I think many people use allotments differently to how they were used 50 years ago. I do not even attempt to grow all the produce to feed my family, I grow what I enjoy growing and eating, and more so what is expensive in the shops.

    I can go to my local Farm Shop and buy a freshly cut cabbage for 50p, it doesn’t seem worth growing them, however when it comes to fruit, salad and veg like Mange Tout, thats a different story as they are so expensive in the shops so I tend to concentrate on them.

    My allotment is also more about relaxing away from the pressures of day to day life, rather than feeding the family, so a half plot to me is just about the perfect size, any larger I think it might become a chore and I would be tempted to give it up.

  4. Sue Plowright says:

    Hi John,
    Not strictly accurate for Cheshire East. We have no new sites, but one site has about 40 new small plots on an extension and plans to extend another site are ongoing.. So new sites is perhaps the wrong question. Talking for south Cheshire
    section of Cheshire East, there may be more the same.

  5. Paul says:

    John,

    Some interesting comments here. I rent a private plot, which I took on last spring. They were all let as half plots (at £75 a year!) but I felt I had no option as the waiting lists for council plots was so long. In a fit of misplaced optimism I jumped in when the plot next to mine came vacant last summer. I now find that I can’t really manage what amounts to a full sized plot. It wasn’t helped by the fact that the guy who briefly had the second plot only did one thing, which was to rotovate all the perennial weeds in. The weed growth this year is truly awful and I don’t think I’ll realistically ever get on top of it. I’m now facing up to the reality of giving notice on the second plot. I have done some work on it, including building some beds and making a substantial double compost bin. I’ll have to donate these to the next brave soul! Lesson learned, a full plot, especially one that is choked with weeds is really beyond most people who work full time and have family and other calls on their time. In contrast the first plot is in pretty good shape and was very productive last year and provided a lot of satisfaction and relaxation. I endorse the other comments which say that half plots are a good option for newcomers unless you are very confident and have lots of spare time.

  6. steve in Salford says:

    Yes I have to admit it has been a struggle for me with a plot which is some 33′ x 90′ (ish), which seems like the old standard size plot.

    Thankfully I do not have a job, is that a bonus, not really lack of finances had put me behind.

    I will have had my plot 2 years this coming November, at which stage the remaining planting i.e. fruit trees and bushes will be put in and the plot will be under full cultivation.

    Finishing my degree (graduated July 2010) had its impacts as well.

    Not being able to get my hands on raw organics to improve the soil last year meant I could not grow as much as I wanted. Result similar to a cat chasing its tail.

    This year, sick to the sight of barrow loads of manure but it is still coming to the manure bay so I still keep barrowing it.

    Off to the plot again shortly, still behind on where I want to be, not cleared the area for the polytunnel, looks like that will be autumn at this rate. The nice council workers dropped off several lorry loads of chipped bark in that area and it is a mare to move, using it for my paths between my growing areas there are 14 x 4′ x 33′ strips.

    With a large rectangular area at each end one end contains a sycamore tree (which needs pollarding again), this has the sheds as well and space under the tree for a wild flower area and a small pond for frogs/toads etc.

    The other end has the water butt (too big to move its one of those chemical carbuoy things, used for water ballast on ships apparantly) and two large compost bins and the polytunnel eventually.
    Both ends will have an area for seating and entertaining, so I can have my Osymandian moment.

    I live in a high rise so lack a garden….but yes it is hard work but extremely satisfying and you find yourself not quite always sticking to what you planned to do that day and doing something else……I try to rein myself in and stick to what I planned to do and will not go home until I complete it.

    I see our council has some 25 sites, 659 spaces and 340 on the waiting list…….our site is thinking of going self managed as well. A couple have gone that route already…….

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