London's allotment lottery: How does your borough compare?

Authored by TomArmenante
Posted: Wednesday, October 4, 2023 - 12:37

New research has revealed huge differences in allotment availability and costs in London Borough Council areas. With the number of plots (per 100,000 residents) varying by up to 1,209 and the average costs ranging between just £18 and £372!

The benefits of allotment gardening should be accessible for all to enjoy. From improved mental and physical health, to regular socialising and a greater sense of community. These are in addition to the potential financial benefits which can be reaped should tenants decide to produce food for themselves to reduce household expenses. Something many Brits could benefits from as the cost of living crisis continues.

With search demand around “allotments” increasing by 12% in the past year, conducted research to take a closer look at the availability and costs involved. The DIY brand used FOI requests to compare data from 24 London Boroughs, revealing the best and worst locations for allotments in the capital city.

How much does an allotment cost in London?

The report shows that the average cost of a plot can vary hugely across the boroughs. Ealing is the cheapest in terms of average plot cost, priced at just £18 for the year. Lambeth, Hackney, Islington and Hillingdon’s residents can also expect to pay £38 or lower for an average plot. These figures are impressive, given the average plot cost in Brent is around ten times this, sitting at £372.

Locations such as Richmond may have a high number of plots per person but, the costs are also higher. The average plot cost is £109, according to FOI data provided by the council. That’s around six times the average cost in Ealing. 

Least expensive average plot cost in London

  1. LB Ealing = £18
  2. LB Lambeth = £31
  3. LB Hackney = £31
  4. LB Islington = £33
  5. LB Hillingdon = £38

Most expensive average plot cost in London

  1. LB Brent = £372
  2. LB Camden = £209
  3. LB Merton = £147
  4. LB Hounslow = £120
  5. LB Richmond upon Thames = £109

The lowest plot cost available in London can be found in Harrow, priced at £6.40. This provides a more accessible entry to allotment ownership than other boroughs where the starting price can be as high as £73. Discounts offered by allotments can significantly help those on modest incomes. It’s great to see that 88% of London’s allotments offer some form of discount, which is much higher than what is reported in the rest of England. Outside of London only 56% of allotments offer discounts to tenants. 

Additionally, the average plot cost in London is only £6 higher than the rest of England, meaning tenants pay just 50 pence more per month than those living outside of the capital. London residents pay on average £90, whilst elsewhere the average is £84. This is quite surprising given the high land costs and demand in the capital city. 

Tom Armenante, director at GTSE said,

“Our research has found that there are huge differences in London’s allotment availability and costs. There are multiple factors at play here with each council managing their borough’s allotments differently. Some are council run, whilst others are completely independent. Some plots are larger in size and others have higher costs due to water access and the amount of work required to maintain. 

Despite this though, it’s clear that demand is high and that location really does play a role in how much residents might end up paying and how long they might be waiting to start their allotment journey. For those wanting to get started, only 42% of London Borough Councils have plots with immediate availability and over a third of waitlists are currently closed (38%). It really is a postcode lottery.”

London Councils with the most plots per 100,000 people (Council run and Independents combined)

The four Borough Councils which have the highest number of plots per 100,000 people are all based in South London. Richmond upon Thames topped the list, with the total number of plots per 100,000 people reaching 1,231. Whilst Sutton Borough Council came just behind at 1,032 plots per 100,000 people. In addition, Bromley, another south east borough placed just behind Sutton, with 1,026 plots per 100,000 residents. 

  1. LB Richmond Upon Thames
    1. Population = 200,622
    2. Total number of combined plots = 2,470
    3. Total number of combined plots per 100,000 people = 1,231
  2. LB Sutton
    1. Population = 209,071
    2. Total number of combined plots = 2,556
    3. Total number of combined plots per 100,000 people = 1,223
  3. LB Bromley
    1. Population = 338,250
    2. Total number of combined plots = 3,472
    3. Total number of combined plots per 100,000 people = 1,026
  4. LB Bexley
    1. Population = 251,9331
    2. Total number of combined plots = 2,145
    3. Total number of combined plots per 100,000 people = 851
  5. LB Enfield
    1. Population = 336,886
    2. Total number of combined plots = 2,645
    3. Total number of combined plots per 100,000 people = 785

Whilst there are many benefits to having an allotment, the maintenance requires commitment and hard work. Tom suggests starting with a small plot to grow your skills, or even making a small space in the garden (should you have one) to test whether it is the right decision for you. Find out more about England’s allotment lottery with GTSE.