Council waiting lists for allotment plots are as long as ever, and increasing all the time. Most people (myself included, until recently) are under the impression that you may have to wait 5 or more years for a plot to become available.
For council-managed sites, that may well be true – I joined the waiting list for one particular site back in 2014, and am now 164th in the queue – the site itself only has 12 plots! Number 1 in the queue has been on the list for almost 20 years.
Of course, with the passage of time, the waiting lists probably aren’t especially accurate – some people will get themselves added to the list on a whim, then lose interest, others may move away or be offered plots elsewhere in the meantime.
It’s still worthwhile getting yourself added to the council waiting lists – and the larger the site, the more likely you’ll be offered a plot within a reasonable time scale.
The problem with Council-managed sites however is that they are not typically ‘managed’ as well as they could be – and that’s not necessarily the fault of the person responsible. I’m told the head of allotments in my area (one of the countries largest cities) is only able to visit sites in his own time – and at his own expense(!). Allotments aren’t a cash-cow for councils – more an obligation, and so the job of managing them is often delegated, rather than a full-time responsibility.
In turn, that means that neglected, or even abandoned, plots can go unnoticed for some time – leaving the next plot holder with a insurmountable task to clear, which sadly many simply never manage – and so the cycle repeats.
However, there are a second set of council ‘owned’ sites – a set that are ‘self managed’.
Until earlier this year, I was completely unaware that these sites maintained their own waiting list – and certainly in our case, don’t have access to the wider council waiting list. What this means is that unless you’ve approached a site specifically and asked to be added to their list, you’ll never be aware a plot is available, and they’ll never be aware you want one!
My own council, although they do give out contact details for each self-managed site, don’t make it clear that they maintain their own lists. You can use this to your advantage, as the waiting lists will be shorter – if indeed there is one at all – self-managed sites seem to have vacant plots quite often, based on my own enquiries.
The advantage of self-managed sites is that they are more ‘hands on’ – you still get the usual benefits a council-run site provides such as site protection, security and maintenance, but the actually running and administration is typically done by plot holders. These are people you’ll find on the site at least once a week, if not more – they have plots of their own and manage the site for everyone’s benefit (and with compensation to themselves, it should be added).
This means that neglected or abandoned plots can quickly be picked up on – and offered to someone else if necessary. It’s in the interest of a self-managed site to ensure the plots are used and not neglected, because neglected plots directly affect the very people managing the site.
As well as looking for details of self-managed sites on your local council website, it’s worth visiting them in person too – introduce yourself and ask about the waiting list, you may be surprised at what you hear.
Founder and Editor, ForkMojo. Organic Allotmenteer, Husband, Father & Programmer.