Allotment rents show 21% rise

University study of allotment use aims to make data more freely available to maximise benefits.

Demand for allotments is peaking as gardeners embrace grow your own - image: HW
Demand for allotments is peaking as gardeners embrace grow your own - image: HW

The average cost of allotments has gone up by 21 per cent over three years, research from the University of Leicester has found.

Rents vary between 1p a square metre (Bolsover and Chesterfield) to Runnymede's 55p/sq m, according to Dr Farida Vis, who used freedom of information feedback from 216 councils in England. An average allotment plot is about 250sq m and costs 15p/sq m.

The research obtained data about rents, water charges, discounts and changes to tenancy agreements.

Vis said her motivation for the research was to find a more efficient way to collect and manage allotment data after spending 11 years as an allotment secretary.

She said rents for 2012 were not yet available. She is researching how much councils spend on allotments compared with how much money they collect.

She admitted price rises, alternatives such as the 65,000 Landshare members and home grow your own gardeners meant allotment waiting lists were peaking. National Society for Allotments & Leisure Gardeners (NSALG)/Transition Town West Kirby figures from May 2011 showed 86,787 were on waiting lists compared with 94,124 in 2010.

Vis said: "It's a combination of factors including people growing their own at home. The media has highlighted how much you can grow in a small space. People think: Okay, I have space to grow at home rather than at an allotment'.

"Landshare's 65,000 users and the National Trust's 1,000 plots mean that some people on waiting lists may have moved there. Also, rent rises may have had an impact. For all the people who say they could pay double, there are all the retired people who cannot. We see this as the first step in opening up allotment data. We hope to work with councils and make recommendations about how this data could be published more easily. Accurate and open data has the potential to give far-reaching benefits."

Council statistics

Between 2008 and 2011, 27 councils did not increase rents, 91 kept their rent rises under 20 per cent and 60 put them up by more than 20 per cent. CannockChase, Chesterfield, Hertsmere, Knowsley and the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Islington, Brent all raised rents by 100 per cent or more.

Society's view of allotment rent increases

Donna McDaid, secretary, National Society for allotments & leisure gardeners

"The price rises are not a surprise. The younger generation think a rent of £18 could be per month, but the older ones say it is per year. A reasonable price to pay is £50 a year. Self-management is on the rise by committees taking over from councils, and that can help manage rent increases. Councils are increasingly looking towards self-management. Another way out for them is to increase rents."

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