Emily Pumfrey

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There’s a lot to know about Allotments…

Agriculture and rural business / 21 June 2021

Lockdown saw a boom in gardening and planting, and for many, an allotment is the perfect way to experience your own corner of nature. Allotments have roots stretching back into a quintessentially British history, spanning the boundaries of rural land and public law, with some complex and surprising outcomes! Below is a very brief Q&A for the budding allotmenteer:

Q: What is an Allotment?

A:  An allotment is a small parcel of land, rented to an individual, for the growing of food crops. The Allotment Act 1922 goes on to say that in an “Allotment Garden” the crops must be consumed by the allotment holder or their family. Other definitions of “Allotment” do refer to farms and business use, because, historically, allotments were designed with the relief of poverty in mind; as well as playing an important role in food security and sustainability during the war years. Today, allotments are most likely to be recreational and therefore “Allotment Gardens”.

Q: Who owns my local allotment and how do I apply?

A: The Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 requires councils to provide allotments where there is a need. This can be requested collectively by six or more residents (although different rules apply in London).

Approximately 75% of allotments in England were specifically acquired by a local authority for this use.  Others are in private hands, owned by the Church, or run by allotment societies. www.gov.uk/apply-allotment provides links to your local authority guidance for finding and applying for an allotment tenancy.

In Cambridge, eight allotment sites are managed by the City Council, and 14 by allotment societies. Waiting lists vary from 12 months to up to three years!

Q: What rights will I have?

A: An Allotment Garden cannot be used for trade or business and does not therefore have the same type of legal protections as a farming tenancy. If the land is used for trade of business, then it is possible for rights to stay to accrue over time. The first place to look is your allotment tenancy, which will set out any express rights that the landlord has to terminate the tenancy. Otherwise, it will usually be a 12-month tenancy that is renewed each year. Any notice to quit must be served a year in advance, expiring on either 6 April or 29 September, in line with the growing year. However, the tenancy can usually be terminated early if the occupier is in breach of the tenancy terms.

Q: What am I allowed to do?

A: The terms of your tenancy agreement, plus any further regulations, are key. There may be any number of site-specific rules regarding maintenance of roadways, sheds, the application of water, and the keeping of animals. Curiously, the Allotment Act 1950 does allow the keeping of hens and rabbits for the tenant’s own use, but this is subject to the terms of each tenancy. Other animals are subject to landlord’s consent, particularly as crowing cockerels and certain pests associated with chicken coops can be very unpopular!


Q: Will they ever build on the allotments?

A: Local authorities face a lot of red tape and legal barriers if they wish to change the use of allotment land, including taking reasonable steps to replace the land or to reinvest sale proceeds in an appropriate way.

It has also been possible to list an allotment site as an “Asset of Community Value”. This places certain restrictions on disposing of the land, giving local community groups the option to buy the land for themselves if a sale was planned.

If you have questions regarding owning or managing allotments, please contact our agriculture and rural estates team.


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This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email: mailinglists@greenwoodsgrm.co.uk

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