An allotment garden (often known as an allotment) is a piece of land that is leased from an individual or the local authority for non-commercial gardening or for growing fruit and vegetables. Certain animals (including bees, rabbits or chickens) can also be kept on allotments.
Typically, allotments are formed when a large area of land is divided into smaller land parcels which are then leased to individuals or families with rent paid on an annual basis. Traditionally, an allotment is measured in rods (perches or poles) and is 10 poles which is the equivalent of approximately 250 m2.
Allotments have existed for several hundred years but the system used today dates back to the 19th century when areas of land were given to the poor for the cultivation of food. In 1908, the Small Holdings and Allotments Act placed a duty on local authorities to provide allotments if six or more people request them. Section 23 of the act states 'If the council of any borough, urban district, or parish are of opinion that there is a demand for allotments...in the borough, urban district, or parish...the council shall provide a sufficient number of allotments...'
The Allotments Act 1922 strengthened the rights of allotment holders with further changes in the subsequent Allotments Act 1925 which created statutory allotments. Other subsequent legislation has also been enacted with the latest being the Localism Act 2011.
 Legal protection
Where land has been purchased by a local authority for use as an allotment and has not been designated for another purpose it is known as statutory allotment land (ref Department for Communities and Local Government, 2014).
“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” (Section 8).
The Secretary of State must be satisfied that 'adequate provision will be made for allotment holders displaced by the action of the local authority, or that such provision is unnecessary or not reasonably practicable' (Section 8).
If a council decides to dispose of allotment land, and following consultation with the National Allotment Society, an application is required to the Secretary of State for consent. The application form is available by emailing communities.gsi.gov.uk [email protected]communities.gsi.gov.uk or downloaded. The Secretary of State will aim to provide a decision within 13 weeks.
In March 2010 DCLG published 'A Place to Grow' to help local authorities minimise the length of time an individual has to wait before getting an allotment plot. It also contains guidance on the management of existing plots, for example reducing plot sizes and taking action in cases where plots are not being cultivated.
The Community Right to Reclaim Land, introduced in 2011, helps communities find space for food growing by making information about land owned by public bodies more easily available and helping ensure that under-used or unused land owned by public bodies and some other organisations is brought back into beneficial use.
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