U-turn on allotment rent

NAILSEA Town Council has scrapped plans to increase allotment rents by almost 400 per cent after admitting it made a mistake.

Scores of angry allotment holders turned up to a Nailsea Town Council meeting on Wednesday to urge the council to reconsider the sharp increase which was made by the Leisure Facilities Committee on February 9.

Speaking at the meeting, councillor Liz Frappell said: “I think it was a wrong decision that was made in haste without thinking of the consequences.

“50p per square metre doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you consider some of the larger plots I think it’s too high.”

The committee agreed to increase allotment rents from 13p per square metre to 50p. Nailsea Town Council currently runs two allotment sites - one in Engine Lane, which has 58 plots, and a second in Whitesfield Road, with 137 plots.

Almost all of the plots in Engine Lane are 75 sqm, which would lead to the price going up from �9.75 per year to �37.50. The largest plot in Whitesfield Road is 292.5 sqm which would drive the price up from �38.03 to �146.25. These prices are reduced by 50 per cent for people over 65.

Allotment holder, Jon Yabsley told the meeting it is great Nailsea Town Council supports a wide range of groups, but he added: “It’s wrong one group should be singled out and penalised with a draconian rental increase when other groups continue to receive financial support. Our allotments are our recreation and leisure.

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“There are people who will have to give up their allotments because the financial burden is too much to bear.”

Ian Stone, secretary for Nailsea Allotments Association, stressed the rent should increase in line with inflation and asked why the council needed to raise the rent when neither site has any debts or loans.

He said: “We need to sit down and discuss all the issues and produce an allotment strategy so we all know where we are going, what we are to expect in rent rises, how we are going to do it and what it would do for those on the waiting list.”

Nailsea Town Council agreed the best way forward was to set up a working party consisting of four councillors, two members of the allotment association and two allotment holders to discuss issues including rent increases, extra security and improvements to the sites as well as the purchase of more land for allotments to the east of Nailsea.

Councillor Anne Kemp said: “I propose that for the next 12 months we don’t raise the rent but let’s give grace and let’s get it done properly.”