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Last updated on: 09-Apr-2021

3. Bee keeping

Allotment tenants have had a long tradition of beekeeping and the recent decline in honey bee numbers is of national and international concern. Gravesham Borough Council is keen to support beekeeping and recognises that honey bees play a critical role in the biodiversity of allotment sites and the wider environment.

Any allotment tenant wishing to keep honey bees must obtain the Council’s permission and is subject to the conditions detailed below. It should be noted that not every plot on every site will be in a suitable location for beekeeping and able to provide adequate screening and distance from fellow allotment tenant.

Procedure for applying to keep bees

  1. Potential beekeepers must consult the local beekeeping association and prepare a site plan for their plot or designated apiary.
  2. Beekeepers are to notify the Council of the intent to keep bees and consult with fellow allotment tenants - see Consultation period in the conditions below.
  3. Potential beekeepers are required to attend a basic beekeeping course.
  4. Complete the application form and return to the Council with the out of hour’s arrangements and letter of support from the association.

Useful information


Siting of Hives

  • Hives will only be allowed on individual plots that are sited a suitable distance from any public road or path, or jointly used road or path within the allotment site and have been inspected and approved by an experienced beekeeper. Where hives are not allowed on the plot the Council will consider allocating a designated apiary area.
  • The site should be inspected and approved by an experienced beekeeper.
  • In line with British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) guidance, hives are NOT permitted if an allotment site is adjacent to a school or livestock holdings.
  • In line with BBKA guidance, the hive(s) on individual plots should be so sited that only the beekeeper can approach it or them. Bees operate on instinct, individual and shared. Hives should only be approached by a trained beekeeper.
  • The plot where the hives are to be situated must have simple screening, such as is used for windbreaks of fine mesh netting, dust screening, willow, hazel or maintained hedges of a minimum 2.0 metres height to encourage the bees to fly high over neighbouring plots.
  • The number of hives on the site in total will be monitored and restricted to prevent over population of any one site.
  • The Council should be informed if the beekeeper increases the number of hives either in advance or as soon as is practical. The total may not exceed three per plot.
  • If the number of hives increases due to ‘splitting’ in order to control swarming, this should be a temporary arrangement if it exceeds the permitted maximum, with the number of hives reduced to the permitted maximum at the latest by the end of summer.
  • When opening up a hive for a health inspection or collection of honey, a notice advising there are open hives must be clearly visible for all allotment users.

The first stage prior to approval is essential to identify a suitable location which should ideally be with an open aspect and with the entrance facing South East and shelter from North Easterly wind.


Allotment tenants applying to keep honey bees should notify neighbouring tenants of their request to keep honey bees on their plot both verbally and by a prominently displayed notice on their plot. Such notices should be displayed for a minimum period of 28 days between April and September and 56 days between November and March, indicating that a request to keep bees has been submitted to Gravesham Borough Council. Failure to do either of these will result in the Council automatically declining your application.

On receipt of the application and following the consultation period, the Cemeteries & Allotments Manager will decide whether the allotment tenant will be granted permission to keep bees. The Council’s decision is final.


The beekeeper owes a duty of care to:

  • The public in the vicinity of the hives
  • Other allotment gardeners working nearby
  • Intruders (even though it is clear that their intention was to disturb the colony)

The beekeeper must display a sign on their designated apiary area, stating honey bees are located there.

The Council should ensure that members of the public registering for or joining an allotment with hives are notified at the earliest opportunity.

Stand-By Arrangements

The beekeeper must provide the Council with details (name, address, telephone number including a mobile telephone number) of adequate stand-by arrangements to deal with emergencies such as swarming during any absence or unavailability of the beekeeper. These details should be clearly displayed on the plot boundary.

On no account should any person other than an experienced beekeeper try to take a swarm, whether the swarmed bees are placid or not.


Hives will be inspected annually by an experienced beekeeper as part of the plot inspections.


Gravesham Borough Council will investigate any complaints and in particular those with health and nuisance elements and in consequence may subsequently withdraw the permission via issue of a notice for the immediate removal of the hives.


The beekeeper is required to hold a current insurance policy which provides specifically for beekeeping risks and includes Public Liability Insurance cover for a minimum of five million pounds (£5,000,000). Proof of adequate insurance cover at renewal will be required each year.

We require potential beekeepers to become members of the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) which may include such insurance cover.

The beekeeper must annually provide the Council with copies of the renewed insurance certificate or if a member of the BBKA, proof of their current membership and evidence that this includes the required level of insurance cover.


The beekeeper must have completed the Basic Beekeeping Course and gained the Basic Certificate. A copy of this must be provided with your application.

Sale of Honey

The beekeeper will not display notices that honey is available for sale on the allotment site or plot.

Withdrawal of Consent

Gravesham Borough Council may withdraw the permission at any time by giving notice to remove hives immediately if:

  • The permit holder contravenes any of the above conditions.
  • The permit holder contravenes any conditions within the Allotment Tenancy Agreement.
  • Substantiated information is received that requires a review of the arrangements.
  • A new allotment tenant takes a nearby plot then provides medical evidence that they are allergic to honey bee stings. However, we would expect any new tenant to be made aware of the hives before they accept the tenancy of a plot and if necessary, an alternative plot offered on an alternative site that does not have beekeeping.
  • Any costs resulting from withdrawal of consent shall be borne by the tenant.
  • If an allotment tenant no longer keeps their tenancy of an allotment plot, then he or she will no longer be permitted to keep bees anywhere on the allotment site and will be required to remove the hives before the tenancy of the plot terminates.


The beekeeper is required to register all hives with the National Bee Unit’s (NBU) ‘Beebase’ part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Guidance is available from their website:

If a beekeeper suspects their honey bees to have a Notifiable Brood Diseases such as European Foulbrood (EFB) or American Foulbrood (AFB) they should report the issue immediately to the National Bee Unit (NBU) to arrange for an inspector to assess the honey bees by contacting

National Bee Unit
Sand Hutton
YO41 1LZ, UK
0300 3030094

If diseased bees are to be disposed, advice should be taken from the NBU on appropriate disposal methods or their local beekeeping association. NBU inspectors will supervise the destruction of bees and hives in the case of American Foulbrood (AFB) and if need be for European Foulbrood (EFB), and as needed in the case of imported pests.

Sting Advice

If stung immediately scrape across the sting with a fingernail, squeezing or trying to pick it out will make it much worse. The quicker you are the less serious will be the sting. Apply antihistamine immediately.

Anaphylactic shock

Symptoms to be aware of are:

  • Skin pale, cool and clammy
  • Breathing shallow – gasping for air
  • Dizziness
  • Pulse weak and rapid
  • Itching or swelling in areas other than the site of the sting
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Unconsciousness or cardiac arrest


  • Remove from danger of further bee stings
  • Call 999 – The address is Bellman Road Allotments, Gravesend, Kent, DA12 1RF
  • Lay down
  • Insulate but don’t heat
  • Plenty of reassurance – do not leave or move the patient
  • Nothing to drink or smoke (reduces oxygen and stimulates heart rate)
  • If patient becomes unresponsive, check airway and place in recovery position
  • Monitor breathing until paramedics arrive

These reactions may be reversed by administering epinephrine (adrenaline) via an EpiPen. Please be aware that an EpiPen contains epinephrine and should be self-administered. If you are not a doctor or a trained paramedic you should make this clear before administering an EpiPen to another person at their request, otherwise you risk being prosecuted for assault.

Local Beekeepers Association

For further advice and support from our local beekeepers association, please see the Gravesend Beekeepers Association website.

Apply for permission to keep honey bees


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