Travel and Things To Do
Allotment Wait Times in the UK: The Growing Demand for Outdoor Space
You may have noticed in recent months that it has become more challenging to find a reliable supply of your favourite fruit and veg at the shops. In order to secure a steady fix of produce, many Brits are budding interest in planting their own.
While British people are growing enthusiastic about planting their own patches, outdoor spaces aren’t readily available to all. One in eight British households doesn’t have a garden (ONS, 2020) which means that not everyone has the opportunity to enjoy their own homegrown produce. Those without adequate outdoor space may consider renting an allotment from their local council - but plots are scarce. Local councils are struggling to cope with the demand as over 100,000 people are on a waiting list.
Allotments have been available to the British public since the Small Holdings and Allotments Act of 1907 in which small pieces of land were ‘allotted’ to members of the public through the council. In the last decade, they’ve continued to grow in popularity and demand.
We’ve analysed data from 121,759 plots to research the blooming British demand for allotments, average wait times and the most in-demand regions. Here’s everything you need to know about getting your very own allotment.
How long you'll be waiting
There are an estimated 330,000 allotment plots in the UK today. Many of these are managed by independent allotment associations, though many councils still operate and manage their own sites.
Brits are waiting an average of 37 months (that’s more than 3 years!) for a plot to become available. Our research revealed that 111,566 Brits are on a council waiting list for the 121,759 allotments surveyed.
Before joining the waitlist, you may want to consider the annual fees. The average annual cost of a 5 pole/125 square metre plot in the UK is £45 per year in rent and fees paid to the council - plus whatever you’d need to spend on the upkeep of your plot.
Why are allotment wait times so long though? While allotments are usually given on an annual lease, there’s no limit on how long can continue to renew your lease. This means that once people have secured their lot and are able to continue to pay their rent and follow the rules - the allotment can, and often will, stay with them for life.
Regions with the longest wait
As you may expect, London takes the top spot for the region with the longest wait times. The busy capital is famed for its quantity of flats and limited access to private green space, so securing a plot is competitive. Of the council-managed allotments surveyed in London, there are 16,855 plots with 9,176 people on a waitlist. The average London wait time is 69 months - almost 6 years!
However, it’s London’s residents of Islington who face the longest wait times for an allotment in the UK. Islington’s average wait time is around 12 years.
Meanwhile, in South Wales, the residents of Torfaen County Borough Council have the shortest wait time of those surveyed with just one month.
Gardening is on the rise
With continuing supply issues at the supermarkets, people are looking to grow their own seasonal fruit and veg at home. In the last year, Google searches for ‘how to grow your own vegetables’ have grown by 16%.
With 44% of Brits planning to grow their own fruit and vegetables in their garden or allotment this year - enthusiasm for gardening is on the rise!
One in three Brits intends to utilise their kitchen garden to lead a more sustainable life by growing their own produce. And what will they be planting? Strawberries, tomatoes and potatoes are the top three fruits and vegetables that Brits plan on growing this year.
Top gardening tips
Embarking on your first allotment or garden patch can feel daunting and it can be difficult to know where to start. Huw Richards, kitchen-garden and permaculture expert advises “Grow what you like eating! You want to be filled with the anticipation of being able to eat some of your favourite foods - grown yourself!”.
Your first harvest
Start small and turn your focus to your first harvest, preferably something you can enjoy quickly. You could start off with something like pea shoots which are ready for eating in just 2-3 weeks. If you’re still on the allotment waiting list, you can still get started on these by growing them from your windowsill. Once you have a couple of harvests under your belt, you’ll feel more confident to start planting bigger produce.
Our other top tip? Compost, compost, compost - you can never have too much! This is the secret to any thriving garden. You’ll likely be creating it every day in your kitchen so it’s just as well to put it to good use.
Plant your pollinators
Edible plants like nasturtium, calendula, and borage will all encourage pollinators for a lively and thriving garden.
Plan your space
Where possible, grow your produce in raised beds with sides. This means you won’t have to deal with any pesky grass creeping into the space. Raised beds will also reduce the need to bend down which will be better for your back in the long term. Just remember to build them with your arm's length in mind so that you can reach all of your crops!