Council chiefs defend asking Hartlepool allotment group to leave plot

Council bosses have defended their decision to ask an allotment group to vacate its plot after a row broke out over the decision.

Sunday, 3rd November 2019, 6:00 am
Gardening group chairman John Hays with son John Junior

It came after a question was put to councillors at the Hartlepool Borough Council meeting on Thursday October 31 in regards to enforcement action taken by the council at Burn Valley Allotments compared to Stranton Allotments.

The questions was put forward by John Hays, chairman of the Burn Valley Allotment and Security Group, who added after the meeting they would not be giving up.

The group, which has over 50 members, grow all kinds of fruit and vegetables from a shared plot on the site off Blakelock Road, Hartlepool.

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Burn Valley Allotment and Security Group members. Foreground: chair John Hays.

But the Hartlepool Mail previously reported they are fearful for their future after Hartlepool Borough Council served the registered tenant with a notice to quit over accusations of subletting to the group.

Council leader Coun Shane Moore told the meeting the correct procedure had been followed and was confident any appeal would support this.

However Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher hit out at the decision, adding to his knowledge the plot had been signed over to the group.

He said: “This council has acted absolutely shamefully and it goes against almost everything we believe in, in tackling family poverty.

“The procedure that has been followed is flawed.”

Gill Alexander, council chief executive, said any evidence Coun Akers-Belcher has should be handed to council officers.

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher said he also hoped the eviction notice could be halted.

He said: “To come in and remove somebody, and I’m not just referring to this case, when there are potential community benefits, we know this supplies food and support to the community, I just think it’s insensitive and we are doing things a little bit early.”

Coun Shane Moore, council leader said they have been dealing with this particular issue since May and added they have a procedure in place to follow in these circumstances.

He also said a formal appeals process has been carried out and upheld, and a further corporate complaints procedure can be gone through if requested.

Coun Moore said: “It’s taken up a disproportionate amount of time, there has been an awful lot of work gone into this by officers and members across parties and the town.

“I appreciate people might not like the answer that was given but the answer that was given and the actions taken were done correctly.

“The reality of the situation is that specific set of allotment plots there are 117 people currently on the waiting list and for somebody to be evicted on that plot and for that plot to be given to someone else who isn’t on the list would be completely unfair.

“It’s very easy for anybody to come across after the fact and claim they have used the plot as a community garden, I could do it, you could do it, any allotment holder could do it and try and pull on heartstrings.

“I appreciate where people are coming from, I appreciate people might be passionate about this but we have rules in place for a reason, it’s very easy to go around lobbying people constantly to try and either badger or bully.”

Coun Moore added he was not referring to actions of any individual plot holder or person with his comments.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Hays said they will not be giving up over the issue.

He said: “We won’t be giving up, especially when we’ve got so much support from other parties.

“We’re going to keep on battling, if the allotment wasn’t looked after and it was a dump then fair enough, but its not, and all the produce is given away to the community.”

He added the northern branch of the National Allotment Society is working to mediate on behalf of the tenant and the council over the dispute.