Allotment sites vary in terms of their size, services and facilities provided. The average size of the allotment is ten rods or 300 square yards (250 m2) (Crouch and Ward, 1988; Perez-Vazquez, 2000). This plot size was originally set by law, to meet the needs of households and not for trade or other businesses (Blackburn, 1998). However, demands for increased housing and commercial capacity in urban areas has led to land scarcity for allotment provision (Perez-Vazquez, 2000). This has resulted in reduced allotment size (Radice, 1997) and some people in urban areas have had to try and utilise much smaller parcels of land (plots) in a less – controlled way than for allotments. Thus, spacedemanding crops such as potato are not cultivated in many urban plots (Perez-Vazquez, 2000). This is especially true for early potato production, planted in February and harvested in July, which would conflict with other early season vegetable and salad crops. The traditional concept of self-sufficiency is therefore much less relevant for modern urban plots. Indeed, demand for allotments has increased during the 1990s and more people have been accommodated by reductions in average plot size. For example, in the Borough of Haringey, London between 1971-1987 the number of allotment users increased by one-third and were accommodated by reduced plot sizes (Radice, 1997). At Imperial College at Wye, a participatory research project was carried out in three different locations in the southeast of England (Perez-Vazquez, 2000). At each site, varying numbers of allotment holders were interviewed (74 at greater London, 34 at Ashford and 19 at Wye, both in Kent) in order to analyse allotment management and use. Participatory methods were used, including:
1. semi-structured interviews with allotment holders and key informants
2. mapping allotments
3. time lines – a description of major events in the period of ownership of the allotment
4. seasonal calendars with main activities highlighted.
Results indicated that most urban allotment users rented their land and therefore had almost no control over plot size allocated to them, though individuals sometimes rented more than one plot or even a fraction of a plot. The intended purpose of the allotment (growing food versus hobby or leisure) was also found to influence size: whether more than one allotment, or a fraction of an allotment was utilised. The personal characteristics of the user were also found to affect chosen allotment size, such as time available, level of fitness and strength of commitment. It was concluded that allotment size and their provision should consider the local demand (waiting list) and also that about 11-21 per cent of people who live close to allotment sites are normally interested in participating (Perez-Vazquez, 2000).