Allotment gardening is a healthy and fun pastime, allowing plot holders the freedom to grow wholesome food, attractive flowers and to enjoy the camaraderie among their fellow plot holders with a minimum of constraints. However, to safeguard the enjoyment of all plot holders and their safety, and that of the wider public, the viability of the allotment plots, and protect the environment and local wildlife, there are of necessity a number of regulations and minimum standards to be met. These are usually set down in the Conditions of Tenancy contained in each plot holder’s Tenancy Agreement. Many of these are plain common sense, without being unduly onerous or restrictive, and are designed so that all plot holders can work harmoniously alongside each other for maximum enjoyment by everyone.
All allotment plots on Poynton Council’s Coppice Road site are subject to random inspection and appraisal, with or without prior notice, by council officers, to ensure that they conform to the conditions specified in the tenancy agreement. From time to time, members have asked what it is that the council officers are looking for, when carrying out their inspections. In an attempt to provide some answers, the following notes have been prepared by the Association for guidance to plot holders. They are advisory only, and the Association has no powers of enforcement.
During their inspections council officers will be looking at the following points, where relevant to the site. All are important, though more ‘weight’ may be attached to some than others. The choice and quality of crops, or plot layout, is not appraised, except where it might affect compliance with conditions of tenancy. A photographic record of each plot is usually made at the time of inspection.
That the plot is used solely for the purpose of an allotment garden, and not for commercial gain, or part of a business. To be used predominantly for the cultivation of fruit and vegetables, and though some ornamental flowering plants are permitted, they should not constitute a dominant part of the plot area. That there is no unauthorised sharing or sub-letting of the allotment area with other person(s).
That plot numbers are plainly visible from the front of the plot. That free access to all parts of the plot is possible for the purposes of inspection.
Adequate utilisation of plot area - the plot to have the major proportion of its area under cultivation with no large gaps, or areas, left uncultivated or un-cropped. Uncultivated parts of the plot include permanent pathways (I.e. those that are established for more than one growing season), storage areas, compost bins, water butts, areas occupied by structures and access areas around them, including those round permanent raised beds. Total uncultivated areas (including land lying fallow) should not exceed approximately 15%-20% of the total plot area, during the normal growing season. (The Council’s Conditions of Tenancy stipulate not exceeding 25%)
Evidence of regular maintenance - no mature weed growth (flowering or setting seed). Attention paid especially to persistent perennial & biennial weed removal - e.g. - thistle, including sow-thistle, couch grass, nettle, dock, willowherb, bindweed, horsetail, brambles, ragwort, dandelion, buttercup etc. This includes pathways on plots, adjacent fences or hedgerows, and any adjacent roadways for which the plot holder is responsible.
Plot tidiness, safety and hygiene - no large quantities of ‘junk’, plastics or litter scattered about - that items on the plot are for use on the plot and the plot not used as a storage area for items unconnected with the cultivation of the plot. No hazardous items or materials on the plot, e.g. asbestos, broken glass, etc. Nothing added to the soil which is likely to impair its long-term fertility. The addition of hardcore, stone, mortared brickwork, or concrete foundations or hard standing to any part of the plot area is prohibited. Bases for structures should be ‘dry-laid’ and capable of complete removal when the structure dismantled.
Attention to the control of pests and diseases, either through cultivation methods, organic treatments, or the use of approved pesticides in accordance with manufacturers directions. That no notifiable pests or disease or weed is present and unreported. That no prohibited plant species is cultivated. Dead and diseased crops gathered up and removed off-site or composted, not left to rot in situ and re-inoculate the ground.
That structures on plots are authorised, properly positioned, structurally sound and maintained in a safe, tidy and presentable condition. That they conform to the council requirement for design and maximum dimensions and do not have unauthorised extensions or alterations. That there is access for maintenance to all parts from within the plot boundary, without the need to enter on an adjacent plot. That there are no more than three (3) structures (max) upon the plot. Structures are any permanent or semi-permanent construction(s) intended to remain in the same position for more than one growing season (for example, sheds, greenhouses, fruit cages, plant support structures, archways or pergolas, or housing for chickens or rabbits) Temporary plant supports and compost bins do not count as structures. Polythene tunnels are prohibited.
Fences around individual plots are not permitted, but where there are ‘legacy’ plot boundary fences, that they are of approved materials, meet their intended purpose, that they are maintained properly and are visually acceptable, do not harbour weed growth at their base, and do not present a hazard through rusting and/or sharp projections. Barbed wire is prohibited. The planting of hedgerows around plot boundaries is prohibited except where they form part of the site boundary. ‘Legacy’ fences are to be removed completely by the outgoing tenant.
That the council’s site boundary fences adjacent to plots are not damaged or interfered with, nor have heavy objects or compost heaps leaning against them, likely to distort, rot or corrode them. That where there are boundary hedges adjoining plots, that they are trimmed regularly (minimum annually). That grassed access pathways are clearly delineated and regularly trimmed or mown.
That driveways are kept clear for access, free from weed growth, and rubbish, and that crops or structures on plots do not overhang. That deliveries of bulk materials to a plot (e.g. manure) are cleared upon arrival and not allowed to prevent free access along driveways for any significant period of time.
Crops, including fruit, are planted so that they do not encroach, overhang, or cast significant shade upon, adjacent plots; that their roots remain within the plot boundary; that they can be maintained, pruned and harvested wholly from within the plot and without the need to enter an adjacent plot. Fruit trees are only permitted where they are grown upon a dwarfing rootstock, are pruned regularly and are maintained so that they are capable of removal upon cessation of tenancy. No other types of tree to be planted upon the plot.
The keeping of poultry or rabbits is not permitted on the Coppice Road site nor any other kind of livestock.
That all crops, fruit trees, bushes, structures etc. are capable of removal upon cessation of tenancy and that the plot is capable of being cleared of all materials by the outgoing tenant in readiness for the new tenant.
Where breaches to the conditions of tenancy are found, the tenant will receive due warning, ranging from informal advice to a formal written notice. There will be usually a time limit given during which period the tenant will be expected to bring the plot into compliance. Failure to bring the plot into compliance, or failure to present evidence of a significant effort to meet the deadline, could result in termination of tenancy. Persistent repeated breaches in compliance may also result in termination of tenancy.
The Coppice Road Allotments Association has no role in any decision by the council to issue compliance notices. Any correspondence between the council and tenant is confidential and the Association does not receive copies. The Association may be informed only after a final decision has been reached. The Tenancy Agreement which incorporates the Conditions of Tenancy is a legally binding contract between the named plot holder, as tenant, and the council, as landlord, and is enforceable under English law. Where a tenant is plainly in breach of the conditions of tenancy the Association has no powers to intercede on their behalf. However, if any tenant is temporarily unable to work their plot through injury, ill health or other extenuating circumstances, such that they are unlikely to meet the conditions of tenancy for a period of time, they should inform the council and the association as soon as practicable, so that it may be taken into consideration at the time of the plot inspection.