Hartlepool allotment rent backlash prompts council to re-think

Allotment holders at the Throston Allotments who are angry about the plans for the Hartlepool Borough Council to increase the rents.
Allotment holders at the Throston Allotments who are angry about the plans for the Hartlepool Borough Council to increase the rents.

Council bosses have made a potential u-turn on a three-fold rise on rental charges at town allotment sites.

Hartlepool Borough Council officials say they will explore other ways of reducing allotment costs after a backlash from holders over proposed rent hikes.

Scores of allotment holders from sites across town attended two meetings held at the Civic Centre this week.

Holders strongly objected to the proposed increased charges from 15p per square metre to 42p, which were agreed by the Neighbourhood Services Committee in December.

It comes as the council says it is facing Government cuts of £9.8m in the next three years and a previous meeting was told the allotments service runs at a £100,000 deficit per annum.

At the meetings some allotment-holders highlighted cases where allotment holders in Leeds successfully took the city council to court when it tried to increase charges.

And others accused the council of mismanagement including the costs to pay firms to clear empty plots which become overgrown attracting flytippers and vandals.

Hartlepool Borough Council says it will look into alternative suggestions made by allotment holders to try to reduce a £100,000 deficit.

A spokesman from Throston allotments said: “We know things are getting dear, it’s a fact of life, but they are talking about nearly trebling rents and people are just getting priced out the market.

“Allotments are an amenity provided by the local authority and if they mismanage money to such an extent that it costs them, that’s really down to them, not allotment holders.

“A lot of people are saying ‘this is my last year’ because they are not prepared to pay.”

John Swift, of Throston allotments, who attended both meetings, added: “The meetings were a success as far as I’m concerned and we got the point across.

“It was said how councils in other parts of the country give concessions for disabled and pensioners. Hartlepool gives nothing.

“This is being forced on them. It’s not fair.”

Councillor Marjorie James, chair of the Neighbourhood Services Committee, said in a statement: “We had an excellent turnout from allotment holders at the two meetings which gave us the opportunity to explain the financial challenges facing the council and to listen to the various suggestions put forward by allotment holders to help find a satisfactory solution.

“The ongoing Government cuts – £9.8m over the next three years – will result in some extremely difficult choices and tough decisions and the scale of these challenges can’t be under-estimated.

“Following the meetings with allotment holders, we now need to do some more work to see if we can reduce the cost to Neighbourhood Services of running the allotment service and there are also options including spreading any increase over a three-year period.

“There will be further consultation with allotment representatives on any alternative proposals and we will seek their views before any final decisions are taken.”