Having defeated a proposed allotment rent increase by Bolton Council in 2010, I thought I’d pass on some tips in case you find yourself in a similar position to me.
The proposed rent increase was around 50% which I thought was very unfair. The Council kept banging on about the cost of running the allotment service, but to be frank, I would be quite happy with a simple plot to grow vegetables. I don’t need water, fencing, weed killing, paths, inspections etc. Just leave me to get on with it. If I break the terms of my agreement then throw me off. It’s fair.
First, let me state that your plot needs to be provided directly by the Council for this attack to work. If your site is self-managed, or provided by a body other than a Borough Council, then you’ll need to get a solicitor involved and maybe start a group action.
If your plot is provided directly by the Council and you have a legal agreement with them then you can go the same way I did.
I did attend meetings, start petitions etc. But after about six weeks of this, I met a plot holder from another site who took me to one side and told me he had defeated Bolton Council ten years earlier when they tried to increase rents on allotments. I knew about the Harwood v Reigate & Banstead case in which the judgement was “Unlawful Discrimination”. Mr Harwood had had his rent increased and challenged it up to the High Court. The Judge declared allotments to be “Recreational Services” provided by the Council and also declared that, as other Recreational Services provided by the Council (Bowling, Football, Swimming etc.) were not being subject to the same high percentage rise, the allotment holders were suffering unlawful discrimination.
I was advised to make an OFFICIAL complaint to the Council – A complaint forwarded through the channels set up by the Council to receive complaints – then after 8 weeks, I could get the Local Government Ombudsman involved if my complaint wasn’t dealt with satisfactorily. I followed this advice stating that the increase was greater than that being proposed for other recreational services offered by the Council. After lodging the complaint (I made sure I received a receipt), I was invited to meetings with various Council officials, but I politely declined. My complaint was rejected by the Council after about four weeks and so I passed the matter onto the Local Government Ombudsman via their website. A week later, the Council backed down and imposed a 3% increase across all recreational services including allotments.
Was it easy? Yes.
Was I scared of repercussions? Yes.
Was I subjected to any repercussions? No. In fact, I was reported to the Council for malcultivation a few years later, and issued with a formal notice. My response was to request the Head of Environmental Services to show me, in person, exactly what I had to do to comply with my tenancy agreement. When I met with him on my plot, I had dug it over so the notice was rescinded but I informed him that the Committee were not reporting their “friends” for malcultivation and I invited him to inspect all the plots. He did this and then issued several notices to Committee members and their associates. People tend to leave me alone now, which is how I like it.
Here is a link to an article in The Bolton News from 2010…
Also, a link to a 25 page PDF transcript of the Harwood v Reigate & Banstead high court case…
The easiest way to clear an allotment site is a massive increase in rents. The Council can then point to under-use of the site and request that the site be given over to building works. You have a legal right to an allotment in recompense for the Inclosure Acts which stole common land and transferred it to private hands. If you have been informed of a rent increase which is a larger percentage increase than that levied on other recreational services offered by your Council, please fight against it. Please do everything you can to preserve the legal right to an allotment for future generations.
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