I can’t recommend allotmenteering enough – it’s a cheap, rewarding pastime, it’s good for your physical and mental wellbeing, and it offers you the chance to be part of a friendly, helpful community. Unfortunately, most parts of the country have huge waiting lists for local authority allotments and it can take years to be offered a plot.
Local authority allotments
Having said this, the sooner you get on your local authority’s waiting list, the better. You can find out who is in charge of your local allotments here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-allotment. Simply enter your postcode and you’ll be directed to the relevant page on your local authority’s website.
Tips for reaching the top of the waiting list
I’ve been told by a couple of plot holders that they believe constantly getting in touch with the relevant department at the council and chasing up their application helped them reach the top of the waiting list sooner. I’m not sure this works, and I think they might have just got lucky, but it’s worth a try if you don’t mind being persistent.
My tactic was to find out the length of the waiting lists for each of the allotments in my area. My local council has around 40 allotments, ranging in size from just a few plots to over 200. It should be easy enough to get hold of a list of your local authority’s allotments, along with how many plots are at each site. I immediately discounted any that weren’t within a short drive, and also any that only had a few plots.
I then managed to find – with a bit of Googling – the length of the waiting lists for each site I was interested in. This was eye-opening – some sites had fewer than 20 plots yet over 100 people on the waiting list so I disregarded these. My council lets people add their names to waiting lists for up to three separate sites, so I chose three that were within relatively easy reach of my house, that had a high number of plots (50+) and that didn’t have excessive waiting lists. The site my plot is on has around 80 plots and had a waiting list of (from memory) around 20 when I checked.
After around six months, I was offered a plot. My partner, on the other hand, had been on three waiting lists for three years and hadn’t heard anything.
If you can’t find waiting lists for your local allotments online, get in touch with the council and see if they can tell you which site has the shortest waiting list.
Why you shouldn’t be too disheartened by long waiting lists
While I admit I wouldn’t have been enthusiastic about adding my name to a list of 100+ people, it’s worth bearing in mind the following:
- Not all people will still want an allotment when they’re finally offered one. People move away, their health or family situation changes, or they lose interest.
- Many people will be on multiple lists. I was on the lists of three separate sites, so as soon as I got my plot, I was removed from the other two sites’ waiting lists. Bear in mind that a lot of people will be on more than one list.
- Couples or family members will be on different lists. This is what we did – we both signed up to different waiting lists separately. We have our plot now, so my partner has left the waiting lists he was on.
- People often turn down plots when they’re offered. My council allows you to turn down two plots, but then you must either take the third one offered, or return to the bottom of the list. I suspect my plot would have put off a lot of people as it needs so much work. It also needs a bit of financial outlay initially – shed, greenhouse, etc.
- A lot of plots are released when renewal notices are sent out. This means there is usually a flood of plots available all in one go, so you will hopefully shoot a few places up the waiting list.
Privately owned allotments
As well as council allotments, you might also find private allotments in your area. All sorts of individuals, businesses and organisations offer allotments, so conduct a bit of research to see what’s available. I know of a local garden centre, for example, that offers allotments for rent. You may pay a bit more than you would on a council allotment, but if you’re eager to get started, this is one option you should explore.
In addition, the National Trust rents out allotment plots at several locations around the country.
Finally, the National Allotment Society suggests taking matters into your own hands and taking a look round your area to see if you can find any dis-used land that might be suitable for a plot. You have nothing to lose by tracking down the owner and asking to use a chunk of their land as an allotment!
If you have any other tips or suggestions, please add them to the comments section and I’ll update this post accordingly!