AG allotmenteer Lesley Upton discovers that despite a surge in demand, actual allotment space is in steep decline

Despite the surge in numbers of people wanting to grow their own fruit and veg, and growing waiting lists for allotments, the space allotted to allotments nationally has dramatically reduced, according to a new report.

Allotment land has declined by 65% from its peak between the 1940s and 1960s to 2016, according to a study by the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield.

The most deprived urban areas have seen the biggest cuts in food-growing space, with eight times more allotment closures than the wealthiest areas.

Research shows that 47% of the land once used as allotments has now been built on and 25% is other forms of urban green space.

People of all ages want some extra space for growing fruit and veg but the amount of allotment land has dropped dramatically

Academics analysed historic maps showing Bristol, Glasgow, Leicester, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Southampton and Swansea from the early 1900s to 2016.

The study, published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, found that the lost land could have grown an average of 2,500 tonnes of food per year in each city.

Miriam Dobson, PhD researcher at the University of Sheffield and lead author of the study, says: ‘With waiting lists growing ever longer, this trend of declining allotment land is worrying – but our research has shown that one way councils could meet demand is by simply restoring former sites.

“Growing our own fruit and veg has huge benefits for people’s health and wellbeing, and can contribute to local food security and improve our environment.

“Our findings strengthen the case for preserving existing plots and boosting growing space, particularly in deprived areas, to share those benefits more fairly across our cities.”

Under Section 23 of the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908, councils have a duty to provide a sufficient number of allotments if they are of the opinion that there is demand for allotments in their borough, urban district or parish.

They are also required to let such allotments to residents of their boroughs, districts and parishes who wish to take on an allotment.

Lost allotment land could have grown an average of 2,500 tonnes of food per year in each city researched for the report

If six or more residents, who are either on the electoral register or who are liable to pay council tax, in any one borough, urban district or parish make written representations to the council as to the provision of allotments, the council is under a duty to take their representations into account when deciding whether there are a sufficient number of allotments available.

However, where a council is of the opinion that there is demand for allotments in their borough, urban district or parish, they are not obliged to make land available for allotments within a specific time limit.

Section 8 of the Allotments Act 1925 states that where a local authority has purchased or appropriated land for use as allotments, the local authority shall not sell, appropriate, use or dispose of the land for any purpose other than use for allotments without the consent of the Secretary of State.

  • BLOB What is your experience of allotment growing? Is one available to you or have you ben on a waiting list for months? Let us know at



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