Spotlight on allotments

ALLOTMENT holders are being urged to have their say on a range of issues as part of a major three-month consultation exercise.

Officers at Hartlepool Borough Council are keen to improve the standard of the town’s 1,012 plots which are spread over 16 sites.

But they want the views of allotment holders, residents and organisations such as the police, fire brigade and RSPCA to see what the best way forward is.

The main focus of the consultation will be to identify problems affecting allotment sites – and then to consider whether the current amount of rental income is enough to tackle those problems.

In 2010-11, the charge for an average-sized allotment was £36.10, or 70p per week.

Craig Thelwell, the council’s waste and environmental services manager, said: “The consultation exercise will seek to determine whether income generated through allotment rents is proportionate to the task of not only meeting the aspirations of allotment holders but also sustaining a service that complements the wider community.”

A condition survey of the town’s allotments carried out in 2009 highlighted the need for essential repairs to roads, fencing, water pipes and general grounds maintenance to prevent serious deterioration.

Civic chiefs say a number of other issues, including fly-tipping, illegal burning of waste, illegal commercial activity and the keeping of animals, also have a detrimental impact on allotment sites and the wider community.

Mr Thelwell added: “Collectively, the infrastructure works and the policing and management regime required to clampdown on illegal activity carry a significant cost and will put an overwhelming strain on existing resources.”

Independent councillor Hilary Thompson, the council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and tourism, welcomed the proposed consultation exercise.

Coun Thompson said: “Having attended the allotment holders’ forum, I am aware that there are some quite emotive issues.

“I am sure allotment holders will be glad of this opportunity to discuss the issues that affect their use and enjoyment of allotments.

“Following the consultation, we should be in a position to draw up a plan of action.”

The consultation will include meetings with allotment holders and associations, residents’ associations and on-line questionnaires.

Officers also intend to use allotment newsletters, the council’s Hartbeat magazine and the media.

Anyone wanting further information about the consultation exercise should call (01429) 523406 or email janette.davison@hartlepool.gov.uk