An allotment plot is a piece of land, usually 250 square metres in size, which can be rented for growing fruit and vegetables for you and your family.
Local District Authorities are the statutory providers of allotments however groups are increasingly self-organising to start new allotments on privately owned sites.
There are over 1000 people on waiting lists for an allotment in Somerset (as of May 2012), and so organising to start a new site in areas of need is a hugely useful thing a small group of people can achieve.
Allotments are a resource for:
• Providing a sustainable food supply
• Promoting healthy activity for all age groups
• Educational purposes
• Fostering community support and cohesiveness
• Providing access to nature & wildlife
• Open space for local communities
How to find your nearest allotment site
• Contact your parish council, who should be aware of statutory and private allotments locally
• Check out Foodmapper - www.foodmapper.org.uk - where all of Somerset’s allotments have been mapped
Creating a new allotment site
In starting a new allotment project, you may wish to read our notes on organising in your community as well as the sections about finding and securing land.
Please note that provided that land intended for allotments was previously agricultural land, planning permission is not required for allotments. Learn more about planning here.
The standard allotment plot in England and Wales is the ’10 pole plot’, which measure equates to 300 square yards, or 250 square metres, or one sixteenth of an acre. The plot is usually, but not invariably be rectilinear in shape. This size of plot, properly husbanded, should feed a family of our for a year.
Recommended sizes from the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners are:
• Standard plot size - 250 square metres
• Paths - 1.4m to enable disabled access
• Haulage ways - 3m wide
• Allotment buildings - The size of the following, should generally be permitted without local authority approval
⁃ Plotholders shed, 12 sq metres
⁃ Greenhouse, 15 sq metres
⁃ Polytunnel, 30 sq metres
The average rent for a 10 pole plot in England & Wales is £25-£35 per year. (You may like to see the Community Land Advisory Services’ Rent Survey here). Raising funds for your site for infrastructure needs may be necessary. See our notes on funding and finances here.
You will need to set up some form of contract and tenancy agreement. The legislation will still apply even if the land is privately owned especially If tenants have been served ‘notice to quit’ - this must be 12 months. (Click here to see read more about tenancy agreements and see some examples)
Inspiring examples in Somerset
During the Somerset Land and Food Project, a number of sites got started in Somerset. You can read their stories below.
Diggers Field, LangportDigger's Field are an Allotment Society near Langport in South Somerset who started in April 2010 to provide affordable access to land where local people can grow their own food. Their local town council didn't have allotments and nearby site in Huish Episcopi had a long waiting list. Now all 26 allotments are let and cultivated. More.
Lyewater Allotments, Crewkerne
Jason Balfour, the main interviewee in the film below, wanted to find land to grow food on. Following a tip off from a friend, he found a potential site. He then played a key role in pulling together a wider group of people and successfully negotiated a free 5 year lease to start Lyewater Allotments. More.
Lytes Cary Community Allotments, South Somerset
Implementing the National Trust’s “Go Local” campaign aimed at reconnecting people with the land, Simon Larkin saw an opportunity to put this into practice by opening new allotments at one of the properties he manages, Lytes Cary. Having seen posters locally calling for space to grow food he immediately saw an opportunity to engage and offer something back to the local community. Simon says he now knows many more people locally now and that the project has generated lots of interest from the wider local community, many of whom had never visited the Estate before. In short he says: “It can take time to get it right – new sites need careful planning, as a landowner you need to get involved at the beginning and be clear what you want but it’s been lots of fun, created lots of new social connections between people and we’ve harvested lots of great produce!”
Cultivation on the 40 plots at National Trust Lytes Cary began in March 2010. The plots produced an amazing range of fruit and vegetables during the first growing season, and have developed well this year. The plots have reconnected local people with the land and a growing community of food growers has evolved. Regular growers and novices share experiences, expertise, ideas and information. Monthly swap shops, seasonal workshops, competitions and social events are on offer and a regular newsletter keeps everyone up to date with what is happening whilst also providing topical growing tips and seasonal recipes. The 2 plots dedicated for community use welcome active involvement from pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, volunteer working parties and other disadvantaged groups; everyone benefits from using the outdoor space and growing fresh, local produce. The site is also open to all National Trust visitors to Lytes Cary as part of their visitor experience. All the plots are currently taken and there is a small waiting list of hopeful allotmenteers.
Further sources of support & information
National Society for Allotment & Leisure Gardeners
South West Counties Allotment Association
Allotments Regeneration Initiative
Community Land Advisory Service
Reports & Guides
Growing in the community: a good practice guide for the management of allotments by Professor David Crouch, Dr Joe Sempik and Dr Richard Wiltshire.
Allotments: a plot holders guide, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions
How to Start or Reorganise an SWCAA (South West Counties Allotment Association) Branch
SWCAA (South West Counties Allotment Association) Considerations for drafting an Allotment Policy
SWCAA (South West Counties Allotment Association) Campaigning for a new allotment site
NSALG Model Tenancy Agreement Template