Allotments and the law

The law relating to allotments is contained in the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908, the Allotments Act 1922, the Allotments Act 1925 and the Allotments Act 1950. General planning laws will also apply to allotments. This article looks at some of the main provisions of the legislation.

The duty of councils to provide allotments

Under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 councils are under a duty to provide a sufficient number of allotments if they are of the opinion that there is demand for allotments in their borough, urban district or parish. They are also required to let such allotments to residents of their boroughs, districts and parishes who wish to take on an allotment.

The Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 gives councils the power to purchase land including the power to purchase compulsory land for the purpose of providing allotments.

If 6 or more residents, who are either on the electoral register or who are liable to pay council tax, in any one borough, urban district or parish make written representations to the council as to the provision of allotments, the council is under a duty to take their representations into account when deciding whether there are a sufficient number of allotments available.

However, where a council is of the opinion that there is demand for allotments in their borough, urban district or parish, they are not under an obligation to make land available for allotments within a specific time limit.

In addition to their duties under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 local authorities are required to assess the need for and audit their provision of allotments in their area as part of Planning Policy Guidance 17. As part of Planning Policy Guidance 17 local authorities should not allow allotments to be built on unless an assessment has been undertaken and that such assessment clearly shows that the allotments are surplus to requirements.

The letting of allotments

Rules as to the letting of allotments

Under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 councils have the power to make such rules as appear to be necessary or proper for the purpose of regulating the letting of allotments, and for preventing any undue preference in the letting of allotments. A council can, for example, make rules as to eligibility of tenants and make rules as to how their allotments should be cultivated.

Hens and rabbits

Under the Allotments Act 1950 allotment holders have the right to keep hens and rabbits on their allotments for personal use and to erect and place such buildings or structures on the land as is reasonably necessary for the keeping of such animals. However, this right does not authorise the keeping of such animals in such a place or in such a manner which would be prejudicial to health or be a nuisance.

Damage to allotments

Under the Allotments Act 1950 a landlord is entitled to compensation if an allotment holder allows the allotment to deteriorate.

The subletting of allotments

Under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 an allotment cannot be sublet unless the council’s consent has been obtained.

Security of tenure

The Allotments Act 1922 gives allotment holders some security of tenure. Their tenancies cannot be terminated unless:

  • at least 6 months’ notice to quit has been given to the allotment holder expiring on or before 6 April or on or after 29 September in any year; or

  • there is a power of re-entry and at least 3 months’ written notice as been given to the allotment holder and the land is required for building, mining or any other industrial purpose or for roads or sewers necessary in connection with such purposes; or

  • there is a power of re-entry and the land is let by a corporation or company who owns or leases a railway, dock, canal, water, or other public undertaking and the land is required by the corporation or company for a purpose, other than an agricultural purpose, for which it was acquired. However, the tenant is still entitled to receive 3 months’ notice in writing of the intended re-entry except in a case of emergency; or

  • there is a power of re-entry and the land is owned by a local authority, the local authority acquired the land under the Housing Acts 1890 to 1921 and prior to the passing of the Allotments Act 1922 and the land is required by the local authority for a purpose, other than an agricultural purpose, for which it was acquired. However, the tenant is still entitled to receive 3 months’ notice in writing of the intended re-entry; or

  • where the allotment holder has not paid his rent or has breached a term or condition of his tenancy or has become bankrupt or has entered into a composition with his creditors or has gone into liquidation. However, under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 where possession is sought in respect of rent arrears the rent must be in arrears for at least 40 days. (Under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 councils also have the power to terminate tenancies where the allotment holder is more than 1 mile out of the borough, district or parish); or

  • where the land is held by or on behalf of the Secretary of State for Defence and the land is required for naval, military or air force purposes.

Compensation

In certain circumstances an allotment holder is entitled to compensation under the Allotments Act 1922, where his tenancy is terminated.

Sale of allotments

Under the Allotments Act 1925 a local authority cannot sell, use or otherwise dispose of land which it acquired for use as allotments without first obtaining the consent of the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Secretary of State can only give such consent if he is satisfied that adequate provision will be made for allotment holders displaced or that such provision is not necessary or reasonably practicable.