Hartlepool allotment holder 'heartbroken' at eviction after 40 years following council investigation

An allotment holder has accused a council of bullying after he was evicted from his plot after 40 years.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 4:45 am
John Hays outside the plot he tended for 40 years at Burn Valley allotments he has been evicted from by Hartlepool Borough Council. Picture by FRANK REID

John Hays says he is “heartbroken” after he was booted off the plot on Burn Valley allotments following a number of run-ins with Hartlepool Borough Council in recent years.

The council said following an investigation he was found to have committed four breaches of the tenancy rules and regulations.

He has been barred from being a tenant or partner on any plot for five years.

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Burn Valley ward councillor Ged Hall says the ban is very harsh. Picture by FRANK REID

John, 56, denies the allegations and intends to file a complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman in a bid to overturn the decision.

He says the claims are based on hearsay and called on the council to produce CCTV evidence.

But the council says it had “sufficient and compelling evidence” of the breaches and that the authority needed to consider the well being of other tenants.

John said: “It’s heartbreaking, I went there every day. If I had done something wrong I would have held my hands up but I’ve done nothing wrong.

"It’s just bullying from Hartlepool Borough Council. I’m on anti-depressants now through it.”

The council say he was involved in sub-letting of another plot on the site.

John says as chair of the Burn Valley and Allotment Security Group he merely assisted in the collection of rent for the plot in question from another person who maintained it.

It also says John put in a new entrance to a neighbouring plot which he denies.

John was also said to have harassed the tenants of two plots by locking them out and occupying the plots without express permission.

He says he did not harass anyone and said the tenant of one of the plots was using the wrong key.

Finally, the council said he hindered an allotment officer from inspecting two plots by unlawfully putting padlocks on them.

John said he merely tried to speak to the officer by calling after them from a distance.

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesperson said: “We have taken this action to evict Mr Hays to protect the interests of other allotment tenants on the site.

“It follows a lengthy and detailed investigation, as a result of which we have provided Mr Hays’ solicitor with substantial and compelling evidence in support of our decision.

“We therefore refute the claims made by Mr Hays and do not feel that his comments are credible.”

John is being supported by independent Burn Valley councillor Ged Hall.

Cllr Hall said: “I know there are two sides but the harsh outcome is to evict him from his plot. I think it’s disgraceful.

"Five years is absolutely unbelievable. I would contend it was very, very harsh and will be a precedent for the future.

"A lot of people need allotments for their mental health and physical health as well.”

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