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How to get an allotment

06 August 2008 ( 27 March 2017 )

With long waiting lists it can be difficult to get an allotment. Here, passionate allotmenteer Terry Walton explains what steps you can take to get suitable land from the council.

Senior man digging an allotment
Dig for victory using Terry Walton's guide to getting your hands on the elusive allotment

Allotments are trendy again! Not since the early 1950s has there been such a demand for allotments as there is now. Waiting times for an allotment in some areas is in excess of five years, so contact your local authority to be added to their waiting list. 

Organisations such as the Church of England and National Trust can also sometimes provide allotments, as do private landlords, so find your local allotment society to find out what else is available in your area.

Visit our Home and Garden section for gardening guides, home improvement tips and much more.

The Small Holdings and Allotment Act

If no allotment plots can be found without a long waiting list it could be worth contacting the council for more allotment sites to be created. The Small Holdings and Allotment Act of 1908 says, and I paraphrase, that if there is a demand for allotments in the borough, district or parish the council shall provide a sufficient number of allotments to persons resident in the borough and desiring the same. This is only applicable outside London. In determining demand an authority must take into consideration a representation in writing by any six registered parliamentary electors.

The act goes on to say that the local authority has the power to compulsorily purchase land for allotments.

Click here to visit the Office of Public Sector Information online.

Find out your local council.

So there you have it, in the law of the land, pardon the pun, if you want an allotment then six or more of you banding together can get one.

Find out how to choose the right allotment

Securing the land

That's where the fight begins. These six people will require the tenacity of the good old British bulldog as the bureaucratic wheels grind into action and they are swallowed up by enough red tape to grace any ticker tape New York jamboree.

They may, at first, ignore your request, hoping you go away quietly and this was just a flash-in-the-pan decision. Hang on in there. Keep pushing. They may show you land that is unsuitable for cultivation. Make your reasons for its unsuitability in writing to your council.

They may then offer land that is overgrown with bracken or in some cases full of moss. This ground would be unsuitable for growing crops, but keep trying. Don’t expect pristine cultivated soil at first, you will be expected to put in some effort to clear the area offered and a little graft at first.

Remember one thing as your resolve starts to waiver, 'Dig for Victory'. This was the slogan of the second world war when - supply lines for food being severely hampered by the German U Boats - the Government urged all its subjects to grow their own food. Was not land found in abundance then to meet this need? Local parks, green belts became readily available and food production soared, helping the war effort to succeed.

The British spirit showed through then and that same determination is required now.

There is sufficient land available in this isle of ours but the developers want the best of it. Once lost to concrete and tarmac, this fertile soil is lost forever. There is room on this island of ours for the needs of the growing population to go hand-in-hand with the simple needs of the allotment holder.

By now I hope this faithful six have not lost heart and have succumbed to the overwhelming weight of bureaucracy. You are in the final furlong; the winning post is in sight.

Think of those many years of enjoyment ahead of you as you till and grow your own vegetables on your little piece of Heaven. You have done your bit for the greener society we all want to live in. No more thousands of air miles on those vegetables that graces your dinner plate. 

Your food has been grown in a safe environment of your own backyard or nearly so. Does it matter if the allotments is a mile or two from your house, you may be able to walk it, it might be a bike ride, but at the worst it is only a short car journey. Much more friendly to the planet than flying beans from Morocco or strawberries from Egypt.

When you are offered land that you think is suitable, grab it with both hands, you have made progress.

There, you have made it. The little man has triumphed over adversity, fought the good fight and an allotment is formed in your area. Many people will benefit from this action and before long you will be the inspiration to communities up and down the country.

Before too long, waiting lists for allotments will have disappeared thanks to your triumphs and everybody who feels the need to get out in the fresh open air, enjoy gentle exercise and the social interaction of like-minded people will be grateful to you for your stand.

To all you aspiring allotmenteers reading this, take heart. If you want something badly enough, go out and get it. The law is on your side it is only small-minded people who underestimate your determination who will stand in your way.

If it is worth having, it is worth fighting for. My humblest good luck in your quest.

Find out how to start a vegetable garden from scratch

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.