Allotment sites plan approved

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A PLAN to breathe new life into Hartlepool’s allotment sites has been approved.

The scheme, which aims to reverse a decline in the condition of the 16 sites following years of under-investment, involves a phased increase in rents over a three-year period from April 2013.

The increase in rents follows a consultation exercise which ran for three months last year.

Many of the people who took part, 66 per cent, supported a rise in rental charges and a similar percentage, 61 per cent, called for their phased introduction.

Councillor Cath Hill, the council’s culture, leisure and tourism portfolio holder, approved the increase in charges at a recent meeting.

She said: “In the past, there has been insufficient money available to the council to properly maintain all of our allotments.

“However, we now have a realistic and achievable plan to address this situation and I am happy to endorse that.”

The rent charged for a standard plot will increase from the current £37.06 per year to £46.33 in 2013-14, £55.59 in 2015-16 and £64.86 in 2016-17. As a result, annual rental income will rise from the current £42,705 to £55,394, £66,071 and then £76,749.

The extra income will help Hartlepool Borough Council to cover the cost of borrowing additional money to fund a range of major improvement works.

There are currently 1,012 allotment plots across the town but many suffer from problems such as crime, anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping, arson, illegal commercial activity and animal-related nuisance.

• Despite the financial constraints facing the council, some improvements and initiatives have been introduced in recent years, including:

• Security measures, including new boundary fences and vehicle barriers

• Creation of an allotment forum to provide information and networking opportunities for tenants

• Replacement of mains water systems

• A bi-annual allotment newsletter that is helping to improve communication with tenants and promote good practice.

But Craig Thelwell, the council’s waste and environmental services manager, warned: “Despite these successes, further major works are required and if we leave it any longer there is going to be an even greater deterioration in the state of our allotment sites.”

“We have thought carefully about future rent levels and we think the proposed charges are fair given the pleasure that people get from having an allotment.”