Wakefield’s allotment holders facing rent increase of up to 40 per cent

Andy Austerfield and Suzanne Mitchell from the Incredile Edible group
Andy Austerfield and Suzanne Mitchell from the Incredile Edible group

Allotment-holders could have to pay up to 40 per cent more for their plots after a new policy was approved by Wakefield Council.

As of April 2015, it will cost 22.5p per sqm per year for all council-owned plot including those at Dale Street, in Ossett, and Green Lane, in Horbury.

Some allotment-holders are paying as little as 12p at the moment.

But the new policy, which was approved by a cabinet committee on Tuesday, means a half-price concessionary rate would be available to pensioners and disabled people.

The council said it will also invest £65,000 into improving allotments and reducing waiting lists.

Andy Austerfield, of community growing company Incredible Edible, said most members did not mind about the price rise as they felt the plots were already good value.

But he said improvements were needed which wouldn’t necessarily cost any money.

He said: “People are more disgruntled about the lack of service, for example when things don’t get repaired.

“Some plots also stay empty for months because they won’t get given out, despite the fact there’s a waiting list.”

Mr Austerfield said it would be better to have a higher number of smaller plots.

He said: “People don’t necessarily want large plots, and sometimes we see plots going to people who can’t really manage them because of their size and need to let them go.”

Mr Austerfield said a feasibility study would be carried out at the council’s 59 sites in the spring.

And he said he hoped the company could work with the council to improve the service.

At Tuesday’s meeting, cabinet member for the environment and communities Coun Maureen Cummings said the council owned more than 1,000 plots, and demand for them was increasing.

She said: “This £65,000 will be used to bring some of these plots back into use and minor improvement works.

“Growing your own food is a very healthy way to feed your family and works out a bit cheaper too.”

A report to the meeting said: “The implementation of the allotments policy will improve the quality of the allotment environment and reduce waiting times for plots. All allotment sites managed by the council will be audited annually and standard enforcement procedures will be introduced.

“The revised pricing structure, in tandem with recently revised standing water charges, should enable the council to recover the cost of providing the allotments service. The pricing structure will be simplified and provide greater transparency and equity.”