Setting up allotments, a planning guide for landowners.

For a country that promotes itself as the Emerald Isle, Ireland has been found badly wanting where the provision of allotments are concerned. This is very apparent when we consider what small quantities of plots our city and county councils throughout the land provide.

It’s not as if there is no demand. In fact waiting lists for many public allotment schemes have been frozen due to an overwhelming demand. Even though we have a “green party” in government that champions the preservation of green space particularly in urban areas, these green spaces have been sadly lacking in the form of allotments.

Got some land you can rent?
If you’re reading this and you have a plot of agricultural land close to a village, town, or city where you think there is a hunger for allotments, then you just may have found yourself a new venture. I say agricultural land, as planning permission is not normally required for allotments where the land was previously used for the keeping of livestock, fruit growing, vegetable growing etc. Of course this rule can vary from planning authority to planning authority, but from speaking to allotment owners with farms this rule is borne out time after time.

Agricultural land or no agricultural land, it’s no harm to pay a visit to your local planning authority so that they can set you straight on this land-use issue. They will be also able to advise on what size and type of structures will require planning permission and which would be exempt from planning within your allotments site. For example certain polytunnels can be classed as temporary structures, meaning they may be exempt, whereas even small garden sheds if they are used as canteens or meeting areas may require planning permission.

There is also the sticky wicket concerning the use of the land for allotments, however temporary, where there is currently a form of planning permission granted for the land. Say for instance you had received permission to construct a dwelling on the site a few months earlier, but decided to host allotments on the land whilst you amassed some money to build your house. There is the possibility that this change of use could void your planning, so be careful with this.

How much land do you need?
Next up, what area of land will you require to provide allotments? Well, the standard plot in England is known as the “10 pole plot” which is approximately 250 sq metres, but here in Ireland we tend towards smaller plots of about 100 sq metres. If you have an acre to spare you should be able to provide around forty plots at 100 sq metres a piece, with plenty of room left for pathways and other access.

The 100 sq metres plot size, if properly cultivated, can provide everything a family of two needs in terms of vegetables for a year. As an allotment landowner you will always have the option of providing a plot over 200 sq metres for more seasoned gardeners, and possibly a 50 sq metre plot suitable for beginners. You see if new growers take on too much in the first year and it is a disaster, then they may not renew their plot next season.

Possible funding.

Local authority and government schemes make grants available to encourage community development, and allotments are one such development. There will be paperwork of course, as you will have to show how your scheme meets the objectives of the funding agency.One agencies to contact regarding grant aid is the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, who deal with the Leader and Rapid programmes

Part two… what else to provide, Insurance, how to publicise, and how to charge.

More debate about this topic on our forum, click The Irish gardeners forum.

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