Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society

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Allotment Site Design Guide

There is great pressure for new sites, with Local Authorities, public sector bodies, housing associations, development trusts and private groups all seeking advice on how to design and implement a well-designed allotment site.

Some existing sites are well integrated into the local landscape with boundary hedges and trees, fruit trees, shrubs, coppices and shelter belts. However, many existing sites will benefit from advice on good designs for boundary and communal areas, planting schemes and appropriate construction materials.

1. Initial Land and Environmental Surveys

No one approach suits all, but the one common denominator is the soil. The quality of the basic growing medium will determine the success or otherwise of the growing project. A fertile, productive soil is the result of planned hard work by the plot holder, led by a thoughtful initial survey and considered design of the site.

A survey of the land must be done before any layout is decided. The survey should monitor drainage, spot heights and hollows, orientation/land shape, wind direction, slope direction, soil analysis, surrounding environment including overhead electricity/telephone cables, any underground utility services, and, if possible, current drainage provision, and current vegetation. The results of the survey and the evidence gathered will determine the overall site design, and play a major part in the success of the community that grows there.

2. General Layout of the Site

The general layout of a site is determined by the shape, size and aspect. Factors to consider when designing the general layout include:

External aspects such as fencing and hedging, access to the site and parking.

Internal aspects such as paths within the site, communal growing, community areas, communal composting and biodiversity.

3. Infrastructure

Effective, well designed and planned infrastructure is central to the success of any allotment site. It contributes to the functionality of the allotment site as a whole, as well as that of the individual plots. 

Allotment holders are strongly encouraged to consider an allotment’s infrastructure holistically, planning the elements together rather than in isolation. 

Structural elements to consider are: access areas, gates, boundaries, paths, water supply and electricity.

4. Plots

Whether raised beds or open plan, the growing area should be maximised and internal paths kept to a minimum, whilst allowing access.

Huts and greenhouses should be sited to minimise shadow onto the plots alongside, and placed to allow easy access from the surrounding path. Where huts are not allowed, tools will probably be stored in a central lock-up. Care should be taken to avoid introducing permanent structures that could inconvenience future plotholders. The size of the plot will determine whether a hut and/or greenhouse will take up too much growing space.

Raised beds should be as long as possible with paths minimised to enable maximum growing area. Generally, the smaller the plot the more the growing area should be maximised. For safe access the paths must be well maintained.

5. Community Areas

Well-managed communal areas can enhance sustainability and add to plotholders’ enjoyment of their site. They can provide opportunities to socialise with other plotholders creating an inclusive community. There can be areas for specific user groups, specific purposes and additional shared facilities. However, all of them require a robust management strategy for their successful upkeep.

Community areas include communal plots, children's areas, toilets, communal huts, communal polytunnels, tools storage and composting.


Download the Full Guide

The SAGS publication, Allotment Site Design Guide is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of designing an allotment site. Covering the five components named above in great detail, this guide is extremely useful for anyone planning an allotment site.

You can download the full guide here.