Allotment tenants issues

This page is designed to provide answers to the most common allotment questions from new and existing tenants - please follow the links below.

You can also watch videos about taking on an allotment, produced by Harvest and the Brighton & Hove Allotment Federation.

A copy of the Allotments rulebook v.3 (PDF 280KB) is available for download.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Click on the following sections or scroll down page for FAQ answers.

Allotment path

I am new to my allotment plot, what should I be doing initially?

How should I go about planning and laying out my allotment plot?

The most important rule for new tenants is the 75 per cent cultivation rule. You will be expected to cultivate 75 per cent of the area of your plot – either for vegetables, fruit or flowers. The cultivated area can include all your bed areas as well as any poly tunnels or composting areas.

You then have 25 per cent for your shed and leisure area, which include any fruit trees. A narrow path of one metre width is allowed to run the full length of the plot. If your path is more than a metre wide, it will be counted as part of the non-cultivated area.

Your plot should be clearly marked with your plot number, as stated on your invoice. This must be clearly visible from the main pathway.

What is the three month probationary period and how does it work?

In your first year you will not be expected to cultivate to 75 per cent. However, new tenants need to be aware that during the first three months of their tenancy is a probationary period. If you don't do a significant amount of work on your plot and achieve 50 per cent cultivation within this time, your tenancy may be terminated and the plot re-let.

My plot is littered with rubbish, what can I do about clearing this waste?

If you've been allocated a plot and there are waste materials that need clearing, you have one month to contact the council. You will need to gather the waste material at the end of your plot. Please bag your waste and leave it ready for removal at the edge of the haulage way. Waste should not block access by vehicles or pedestrians and should not cause a nuisance.

The council will only take away inorganic waste such as metal, plastic and glass. Organic material should be either composted or safely burned in accordance with allotment rules.

There seem to be several different types of plot on offer now, which is best for me?

  • For information, visit our plot types web pages.

Where can I park on the allotment site without causing a nuisance?

Most allotment sites have internal tracks (called haulage ways) which can be used for limited vehicle access. Many haulage ways include small parking spaces dotted throughout the site which allow vehicles to pass, and these areas may be used for parking.

Tenants are welcome to use haulage ways for access but not parking. Cars that park and block haulage ways may receive a nuisance notice.

Tenants should also take care to avoid using haulage ways during wet weather as tracks are not metalled and can be slippery and difficult to drive on.

I have been given a plot and there are waste materials on the land, some of which are too large to remove – what can I do to ensure that I am not held responsible for this rubbish in future?

The council will strim and clear allotment plots before re-letting. However, if you move on to a plot that has material that cannot be removed – such as large sheds, bath tubs and the like -  then  new tenants should take pictures of the waste materials. To prove that they are not responsible for waste materials.

You will need this proof in order to avoid the council reclaiming costs of dealing with waste if your plot is surrendered to the council.

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Cultivation problems

I already have an allotment plot, but due to medical/personal issues I am having problems cultivating my plot - what should I do?

Let your site representative know first, and contact the council so we can place a note in your records. You can also request that the council consider you for a more suitable plot. This might involve splitting your existing plot to make it a more manageable size. Alternatively, we can relocate you to a smaller learner, easy access, or mobility plot that better suites your needs.

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Allotment cultivation

Trees and hedges

Why did I get a tree notice instructing me to reduce the size of my trees or hedging?

There is a stated two metre rule that all trees, shrubs and hedging that exceed two metres in height require pruning back to an acceptable size. The aim of the inspection process is to identify trees or hedging that exceeds the rule and cause shading, either to the tenant’s plot or neighbouring plots.

Well-managed fruit trees that are well-pruned and not causing a shading issue will not usually receive a tree notice.

How should I react to my tree notice if the trees were on site before I took on the plot?

The tenant will ideally cut back growth to ensure that trees and hedging are of an acceptable height. Cut-back material can be burned during winter months (refer to bonfire rules) or can be taken off-site. Material may also be chipped and used on the plot as mulch.

If you cannot undertake this work due to ill health or mobility issues then you need to talk to your site representative. In certain circumstances the council will offer assistance in clearing excessive growth for tenants who are unable to do so themselves.

I want to keep my trees as my allotment plot is very exposed. How can I ensure I will not get a tree notice?

If you can keep trees cut back to a manageable size of around two metres in height then you should not receive a notice.

Are there any trees which are not allowed on allotment land?

Certain very aggressive fast growing trees are not suitable for planting on allotment land. Eucalyptus, Leylandii and certain willow species, all of which are fast growing and aggressive rooting will generate an immediate tree notice. The tenant will then need to remove the tree completely and kill the tree at the stump, even if they are not in breach of the two metre rule.

Which hedges are my responsibility and what should I do if I have an overgrown hedge that I am responsible for?

All hedges and trees within an allotment plot that do not border onto a main haulage way are the responsibility of the tenant. If you leave border hedging and trees to grow excessively tall or wide, you risks being put on notice.

I want to grow fruit trees but I am worried about receiving a tree order, how can I grow fruit without breaking site rules?

Fruit trees may be grown but we would suggest using a dwarf root stock, to ensure fruit trees remain manageable, and do not grow to exceed two metres and cause shading problems.

Some taller fruit trees such as Bramley’s apple and taller plum trees will not be suitable for growing on allotments. Dwarf fruit trees such as apple and pear trees may also be grown in restricted forms such as espaliers or cordons.

I have a large proportion of my allotment plot planted with dwarf fruit trees which I use as an orchard, how can I make this area become recognised as a cultivated area?

Ideally the council will expect fruit trees to be grown within the 25 per cent non-cultivated area. Usually fruit trees will be considered as being under cultivation if the soil beneath the trees is being used for growing ground level crops or flowers as opposed to lawn. The fruit trees must also be compact and well pruned.

This rule is to stop tenants from taking on allotment plots and using large areas of the allotment space for orchard and lawn - with all the associated problems – including the excessive height and spread of trees and issues such as shading and clearance of excessive growth.

Due to ill health or mobility issues I cannot physically remove the trees or hedging myself, what should I do?

In certain circumstance the council may be able to provide extra help removing trees and overgrown hedging for you, but only usually if you have clear mitigating circumstances. You need to approach your site representative to ask them to contact the council about arranging waste to be cleared.

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Rubbish and polluting materials

I have received a rubbish notice, I do not drive and I cannot remove the rubbish, what should I do?

You should consider asking a fellow tenant, family member or a friend to help you remove waste materials. Alternatively you can employ a licensed waste removal company to take waste materials away. If you need extra time to remove waste materials, the council will consider entering into an extended notice period and re-inspection.

I have received a rubbish notice but most of the rubbish was on site before I took the plot on, am I still responsible for this rubbish?

Ideally we will require some proof that the waste materials pre-date your tenancy. Dated digital images will cover this issue.Some waste can clearly be identified as being old and newly dumped waste materials will be dealt with firmly with an on-the-spot notice. In cases where the tenant has dumped large quantities of waste on an allotment, the tenancy will be terminated immediately and the council will reclaim costs for removal of waste.

How long do I have to remove this rubbish and where should I take it?

You have the period stated on the notice to clear waste unless otherwise agreed with the council. Waste materials should be taken to a licensed waste disposal site. The council’s waste disposal site will take certain materials.

Due to ill health or mobility issues I cannot physically remove the rubbish myself, what should I do?

In certain circumstances, the council may be able to provide extra help moving rubbish for you if you have clear mitigating circumstances. Talk to your site representative to ask them to contact the council about arranging waste to be cleared.

What specific materials would the council consider ‘polluting’ and what can I use as alternatives?

  • Asbestos – Asbestos is toxic if broken up. If asbestos is brought onto an allotment will result in instant termination. If you find asbestos on your allotment plot then you should leave it in position and cover it with plastic. Inform your site representative or the council and the council will arrange for this waste to be removed.
  • Carpet – Carpet can cause toxins to leach into the soil as well as leave damaging materials in the soil as they break down.  Tenants bringing carpet onto an allotment will be put on notice and if the materials are not completely removed, tenancy will be terminated. Woven weed mat can be purchased and is suitable for mulching soil.
  • Tyres – Tyres are forbidden as they can leach toxins into the soil. The odd historical tyre on an allotment plot will be tolerated, however new tyres brought on site will receive a rubbish notice. Where large quantities of tyres have been brought onto a plot, the tenant will be ordered to remove them. If this is not undertaken then the council will terminate the tenancy of the tenant and removal costs will be charged.
  • Glass bottles – The use of glass bottles for construction will result in a notice and potential termination if the glass is not removed from the allotment plot before re-inspection.
  • Scrap metal - Any scrap metal deposited on the allotment site is considered polluting and will result in notification and termination if not removed. Bath tubs are a notable example of unwanted scrap material that is commonly dumped on allotment sites. Old bath tubs that pre-date the 2010 rule review and are not causing a health and safety problem will be tolerated.

What other materials might be considered as polluting materials?

Chemicals, chemical drums, large numbers of plastic containers, painted timber and large quantities of plastic sheeting will all be considered potentially polluting. The council considers pollution in the broader context – a pollutant does not need to be immediately toxic and can include waste materials or visually polluting materials.

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Allotment compost heap

Composting on allotments

Am I allowed to compost organic waste on my allotment plot?

We encourage allotment holders to compost on site any waste materials created on their allotment plot. However, please create proper contained heaps where possible as large sprawling heaps provide an excellent habitat for vermin, and could lead to a notice.

Am I allowed to arrange for compost to be brought on site for use on my allotment plot?

Yes you can arrange for a delivery of compost to your plot as long as your plot is on a sound drivable haulage way. If you only have wheelbarrow access, you may have compost dropped near your plot, but it must be moved swiftly and should not block any other tenants’ access.

You should always source your compost from a reputable supplier and ideally ensure compost is well rotted. Ensure that the delivery vehicle is of a suitable size to access your plot without damaging other plots or the track surface.

You should also avoid ordering drops during wet weather to reduce damage to haulage ways and the risk of vehicles becoming stuck. The tenant is liable for any costs of recovery or repair.

Do the council deliver compost or bark chip to allotment sites?

The council does not deliver compost to any site. However, your site representative may arrange for bark chip to be delivered where it can be used quickly and will not block access.

Am I allowed to compost kitchen waste?

Ideally we would want tenants to compost kitchen scraps at home within a proper compost bin and then bring rotted down compost on to their allotment plot to build soil fertility. This is because kitchen scraps provide vermin with an excellent food source on allotments and can result in a risk to the health and safety of tenants.

I received a rubbish notice because I was composting kitchen waste – why?

Where a vermin problem has been traced to specific allotment tenant bringing un-composted kitchen waste onto his or her plot, then that tenant may receive a rubbish notice on health and safety grounds.

I have a large quantity of garden waste that I need to dispose of – can I bring this onto my allotment plot?

Any tenant found bringing large quantities of garden waste onto an allotment from outside of the allotment will risk receiving a rubbish notice and possible termination.

Can I bring bark chip or straw onto my allotment?

The council will make an exception for smaller quantities of bark chip or straw being brought on to your allotment if they are used for paths or mulching of crops.

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Allotment shed

Sheds and structures

What is the maximum size of shed?

The largest shed allowed on an allotment plot can cover an area or two metres by three metres and will be no taller than 2.2 metres. There should be no more than one shed per plot.

Can I build a concrete base for my shed?

Allotment rules state that all foundations should be free of set concrete pads or brick work. Sheds should be placed on a sand and slab footing.

I have received a dangerous shed notice, what should I do?

Common reasons for a dangerous shed notice are that a shed is leaning dangerously or collapsing. Loose or rotten materials can also cause concern as can any broken panes of glass or loose or jagged metal work. You will need to either remove the shed completely or make the shed safe. If you take down a shed then wood materials can be burnt subject to bonfire rules.

There have been break-ins to sheds on my allotment site, how can I ensure my shed is safe?

A well built shed with a stout lock will be the best deterrent to low level breaks-ins. However, a persistent criminal will break into the most secure shed if they feel there are valuables inside. You should avoid leaving lots of tools and other valuables in your shed, especially if they are visible. You should bring tools or any machinery with you when you visit, some tenants will hide tools under tarps and lay them flat on the ground out of view. Always avoid keeping chemicals or fuel in your shed as this will encourage arson.

I need to dispose of an old wooden shed – what should I do?

The easiest way of disposing of an unpainted wooden shed is to break it down safely and burn unpainted wood waste on site. You will need to adhere to bonfire rules. Roofing felt, glass, painted wood, metals and plastic will need bagging up and taking off-site - ideally to your local dump.

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Allotment plot numbering

Plot numbering

Why do I need to have a number on my plot?

Having an unnumbered plot means that council officers and site representatives may not be able to identify your plot. This makes the navigation and management of allotment sites difficult.

An absence of plot numbers can also result in the wrong plots being cleared of materials or incorrectly strimmed. Unnumbered plots are also difficult to inspect and can result in the council putting the wrong tenants on notice.

What will happen if I continue to leave my plot unnumbered?

Any tenant who has not clearly marked their plot with the number on their allotment invoice is in breach of allotment rules and can be put on notice.

I don’t have a number on my plot, what should I do?

You should identify your plot as soon as possible. You can paint your plot number in large numerals on your plot using the number stated on your invoice or tenancy agreement form.

The number on my invoice is different from the number on my plot – what should I do?  

Change the number on your plot so that it is the same as the number on your invoice.

Where should I put my plot number?

You can paint your plot number in large numerals somewhere on your plot that is clearly visible from the path or haulage way.

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Allotment brazier

Fires and how best to dispose of waste

What can I burn on site without breaking site rules?

The kind of materials that cannot be burnt under any circumstances are polluting materials such as plastics, tyres, painted wood, chipboard, MDF or carpet, all of which can lead to instant termination and prosecution.

I have some prunings I need to burn, what should I do?

Prunings can only be burnt if they are from plants on site and should be burnt in a contained metal brazier, or on an open fire during the winter period as specified in your allotment rules. Bringing prunings on to the allotment site from elsewhere for burning is forbidden and can result in termination.

I need to burn a wooden shed that is falling down, when and how can I do this?

You need to dismantle the shed and stack it neatly to one side until you can safely burn the wood – this must be within the designated winter bonfire period as specified in your rulebook. If your shed includes any painted timber then this needs taking off-site for disposal as it can be potentially polluting to the soil and will release toxic fumes if burnt. All roofing felt, glass, painted wood and metals will need bagging up and taking off-site - possibly to your local dump.

How can I burn wood waste and prunings and ensure that I am not breaching allotment rules?

You will need to burn either within a metal brazier for all year burning, or restrict open bonfires to the winter months, between 1 November and 1 April each year. Bonfires need to be managed at all times, kept to a reasonable size and never left unattended. You should only burn during clear dry weather when there is little if any wind, also avoid burning very wet material as this causes excessive smoke.

What happens if I have a bonfire that is in breach of allotment rules?

Tenants who have had a bonfire in breach of rules will be sent a bonfire nuisance notice. This notice will result in a note being placed on your record and should you commit the same offence on a second occasion then your tenancy will be terminated.

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Water supply on allotments and the use of hoses

I know I am allowed a hose but what at what point am I in breach of allotment rules?

You may run a temporary hose from your main tap to your plot for use on your allotment. Your hose can fill a water butt which can be used for filling watering cans. A hose may be used for hand watering, but we ask tenants to avoid hogging water supply during weekends and to respect the fact that the water supply is shared.

Any form of permanent piping leading to plots from a tap or mains pipe will be in breach of rules, as will any form of flood or sprinkler irrigation – both of which will lead to an instant notice.

Our tap is very difficult to access as the tenant who has the adjoining plot is using it most of the day and is not keen on sharing the tap. What should we do?

You need to inform your site representative and ask the rep to talk to the tenant.  You should have as equal access to the tap as any other tenant in your area of the allotment site.

We have a leaking tap / pipe.  Who should we inform?

You need to contact the council or site representative so that we can send out a plumber to make repairs. You will need to note the number of the nearest plot to the leak so that our maintenance team can find the leak.

We have poor water pressure during the summer months – is there anything that can be done about this?

There is a city-wide problem with poor water pressure during the summer months. This is partially due to increased demand from other allotment holders.

Weekend water pressure will always be an issue on a hot sunny day. So why not try and water in the evening or on a weekday so that you avoid times of maximum use. You might also invest in a water butt which can catch shed roof water and be filled by hose, and then dipped into when required. If you water in the evening your crops will make the most use of the water, you might also consider improving soil fertility as well as using surface mulches to reduce water loss from the soil.

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Keys and allotment security

I have lost the key to the lock on the allotment gate, or require a key for my co-worker, what should I do?

Contact your site representative and ask if you can purchase a new key.

The lock on the allotment gate is broken or damaged, what should I do?

Contact your site representative or the council directly and give details of the issue with the lock so that we can ensure the lock is fixed or replaced.

My shed has been broken into, who should I inform?

Tell the police of the break-in first, then let your site representative know so they can investigate the criminal’s point of entry on to the allotment site. If you cannot contact your site representative, contact the council directly.

I’m worried my shed might be broken into, what should I do about this?

You will need to ensure your shed is securely locked. Ideally you should avoid leaving lots of tools in your shed. Valuables such as machinery should not be left in your shed at all and you should consider bringing tools or any machinery with you when you visit your allotment, and then take them home afterwards. Some tenants will hide tools under tarps out of view. You should also avoid keeping any chemicals or fuel in your shed as this will encourage arson.

I have seen people breaking into the allotment, what should I do?

If you can see plots being entered illegally, call the police immediately. Sometimes this might be people cutting through the allotment as a short-cut, if so then investigate points of entry and tell your site representative who will then arrange for breaks in fencing to be repaired. If you cannot contact your site representative, contact the council directly.

Please do not approach anyone who might have stolen from an allotment plot or shed, or put your self in any danger. Always call the police.

The non-emergency number for Sussex Police is 101.

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Allotment leisure area

Tenancy agreements and co-workers agreements

I viewed a plot and sent in a tenancy agreement over a month ago yet I still have not received any paperwork from the council. What should I do?

You should contact the council and give them your name and your plot number, and ask them to confirm that you are listed on our records as the tenant of that plot.

  • For information on co-worker agreements please see the co-workers WebPage.

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Swapping allotment sites, plots and waiting lists

We have moved to the opposite end of the city and wish to swap to a site that is easier for us to reach. Is this possible?

Yes it is possible to swap plots across the city, but moving allotment sites depends on a number of factors:

  1. The availability of a plot within your new area of the city.
  2. The new allotment site will need to be closer to the tenant’s new home address.
  3. The period of time a tenant has been on their existing plot must be the same length as that waited by the person in first position on the new site’s waiting list.
  4. The condition of the tenant’s existing plot, and the tenant’s notice history; a tenant on notice will not be allowed to move allotment site.
  5. The council will only offer the standard plot size of 125 square metres.

I am already an allotment tenant and want to move to a different plot on the same site. Is this possible?

We will not normally allow tenant's to transfer plots on the same site, unless there are clear mitigating or extraordinary circumstances. You should initially contact your site representative to see if they will agree to a plot transfer. You will then need to contact the allotment service by letter or email asking for a transfer, and setting out your reasons.

  • For information on waiting lists please see the relevant WebPages.

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Allotment invoices and concessionary rates

I have recently signed up for an allotment and I have received a welcome pack but no invoice, when will I receive an invoice?

Usually invoices are generated at the beginning of the month, so you might need to wait a few weeks before your invoice comes. The council aim to despatch a welcome pack to new tenants within a month of letting a plot. If you fail to receive a welcome pack within six weeks, contact the council and enquire about your tenancy.

I am over 60 and wish to claim my discount on allotment rent – what is the reduction in my rent and how do I go about doing this?

The plot rental for all tenants over 60 is subject to a 25% reduction. You will need to send in a photocopy of documentary proof of your status so that we can update our records and adjust your invoice for the next billing year. A photocopy of your free bus pass, driving licence or passport will suffice as documentary evidence accompanied by a covering letter listing your name, site and plot number.

When should I receive my invoice?

Invoices should be printed by the end of September so you should receive your invoice by mid-October at the latest.

Can I pay for my invoice online?

Yes, you can pay your bills online, just select 'Allotments' in the drop down menu. You will need your invoice reference number to pay online.

I have not received my invoice even though my neighbours have received theirs, what should I do?

You need to contact the council and give them your name; your plot number and your home address so that we can check our mailing details for you and send out a new invoice if necessary.

I did not receive my invoice last year and I have had my tenancy terminated by the allotment team for non-payment. Why?

It is the responsibility of the tenant to ensure that the council has their correct contact details and to ensure that their invoice is paid promptly. Allotment rules state that if rent is not paid within one month of billing then the tenant risks termination of plot tenancy. The council will begin making terminations for unpaid rent if rent remains unpaid six months after bills have been issued.

If you have not received your allotment bill by the end of the year (you should receive your bill in October) then you must chase this up, or you risk plot termination. Contact the council and ask for your invoice either by calling (01273) 292929 or You will need to give your name, your site and plot number and most recent postal address.

I am unemployed and I am informed that I can claim a reduced plot rental, how do I go about claiming this?

You will need to send in documentary proof to the council that shows you are receiving benefits. You will need to re-apply for your reduction annually if you are receiving any form of income support - before the invoice run in September - in order to receive your reduction. Any proof submitted after invoices have been issued will not be given a back-dated refund.

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Site representatives

What does the site representative do?

The site representative is a tenant who acts as a go-between for both the council and allotment tenants. They can pass information to the council on issues relating to the running of the allotment site, issues such as site security and ensuring a working water supply.

The site representative also shows potential new tenants around vacant allotment plots, signs-up new tenants and co-workers and gives out keys.

How do I contact my site representative?

You will often find the site representative on their allotment plot on site. You should also have a contact telephone number or email address for your site representative.

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You should raise any issues with your allotment site representative who will be your first point of contact. This is also the procedure to report non-cultivation of any plots.

If you are unable to contact your site representative, contact Cityparks allotments service on (01273) 292929 or email