A guide for farmers and landowners who are considering a diversification project; turning some land into private allotments. You can rent out your land in small allotment sized plots to your local community. Because of the current shortage of allotments, particularly around cities and larger towns, you can get a higher per acre rent than renting whole fields. However you must be prepared for higher maintenance costs and, of course, more people to be on your farm.
Pros and Cons for the landowner
- Higher income from rent
- Connection to local community, for those farmers that like people this is a real positive
- Potential market for selling manure, plants, produce (if you are already a horticultural producer growing your own crops)
- Disruption to the farm, with more people and the potential risk of neglected allotments causing weed problems
- Access issues - will people need to drive to the site? Do you have parking spaces?
- Neighbours may oppose the land use change if the allotments will negatively effect their land/property
Things you should know
Business plan - Compile a business plan for your proposed allotment project to give you a clear idea of the income and expenditure involved.
- Investigate whether there is a demand for allotments in your area – are you situated close to a local community? Are there waiting lists for local council allotments? Are there any other private allotment schemes in the area?
- Calculate the number of allotments you can provide. Roughly, one acre of land can accommodate 12- 14 standard allotments (allowing room for borders and paths)*
- Do some market research on the rate at which other providers are asking for private allotments. For instance at the time of writing, in the north west of England, a standard private allotment costs £5 a week, or £25 a month, or £300 a year
- Estimate the costs involved for the kind of facilities you would like to provide (see section below) but remember that these facilities don’t all need to be provided at once – they can be installed gradually
- Contact your local authority to see whether you will need planning permission for your allotments; for access to the site, the erection of sheds/greenhouses etc. If this is required, you will need to submit plans of your proposals and pay a fee of approximately £300
- If planning permission is required, it is worth speaking to all the relevant council officers about your proposal (highways, environmental health and ecology) to see if they have any concerns about access, noise/disturbance and wildlife issues
- It is also worth gauging the opinions of local residents that are in close proximity to the land
- Are there any other restrictions on the usage of your land?
- What kind of amenities will you provide for allotment holders? For example, will there be a mains water supply or will people set up rain water harvesting equipment from sheds and greenhouses? What about electricity and toilets?
- What access will there be to the allotments? If you are very close to a town/village, you may consider a ‘no car’ policy where people are encouraged to walk or cycle to the site, but it's still important to have some form of vehicular access and hard standing area for a pick up/drop off point. If people will need to drive to your site, you will have to provide parking
- The site may require some preparation prior to people moving on. What is the land used for currently and will it need flaying or ploughing? The individual sites will need to be marked out and the paths defined
Contracts - are an important way of establishing some ground rules. There are standard contracts available on the internet on various allotment websites and these can be amended to meet your needs. Also look at the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners website.
Things to consider are:
- Can allotment holders keep poultry or other animals?
- Notice periods
- Payment terms (weekly, monthly, cheque, cash, direct debit?)
- Hours of access
- Will the horticulture be organic?
Marketing - When you’ve decided to go ahead with your scheme you will need to attract allotment holders.
- Advertise through local media and newsletters
- Put up posters in the community
- Contact local gardening clubs and allotment societies etc.
- When all of the plots are rented, it is worth keeping a waiting list for future allotment holders
- Consider a launch to open your site and invite a local celebrity (MP, mayor, horticultural expert etc.) and the local press for more publicity
- Routine maintenance of hedges, fences and paths, and any unlet plots
- Checking amenities like water and electricity
*1 acre = 4840 square yards (4426 square metres)
1 standard 10-pole allotment = 55 yards x 5.5 yards (50m x 5m)
4840 / (55 x 5.5) = 16 allotments per acres