Across Great Britain there exists no minimum legal standard for the provision of allotments, and no definitive national or local standards for accessibility to allotments, despite being an important resource for community food production.
The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners suggest a national standard of 1 allotment per 200 people or 0.125 hectares per 1000 residents (1.25 square metres per person) based on an average plot size of 250 square metres. The 1970 Thorpe inquiry into allotments suggested 15 allotments per 1000 households but was not legally binding. We were interested to see how these numbers compare across the country and the regional variations in how Britain is served.
Most regions, aside from Scotland appear to meet this recommendation, although there is some variation – for example the North East has a significantly higher provision (figure 1). The local authority picture suggests more local variation, with about 30% of districts not meeting this provision (see map below). These districts account for about 32% of the British population.
Accessibility appears to be a key issue. Again, there are no nationally defined standards, with local and district authorities, and town and parish councils defining their own distances and acceptable catchments. When we use a 600m straight-line radius for a simple look at the extent of populations who have ‘local access’ to these allotments, only around half the people in a region might be considered within an accessible distance of an allotment (figure 2). Could this be contributing to the average of 52 people waiting for every 100 plots surveyed in 2013?
The spread of allotments across the country, compared to resident population is also interesting. The highest level of existing allotments are in the South East, serving the largest regional population. However, variation occurs in supply and demand: London and Scotland appear to be significantly under-served, whilst the North East and East England are relatively over served within national patterns, (figure 3).
Estimates are calculated using 2011 census population-weighted centroids falling within 600m of any allotment area.
Spatial analysis allows both high-level and detailed analysis of these trends which can be central to planning and decision making at all scales. These numbers have been calculated using new open data from the Ordnance Survey: OS Open Greenspace, (contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right (2017)).
You can see where allotments are in detail on our food mapcase against other useful food data.