Dismay over bid for increased allotment charges

HUNDREDS of Bristol allotment holders are backing a campaign against huge rises in fees.

The city council has launched a consultation on plans to put up rents and introduce additional charges.

It says it needs to increase rents, for the first time since 2018, just to maintain service levels but wants to do more to support plotholders and to open more sites to meet demand – there are now almost 8,000 people on the waiting list.

A petition started by allotment holder Holly Wyatt was just six signatures short of the 3,500 needed to force a council debate on the issue as the Voice went to print. 

Allotment holder Holly Wyatt, who started the petition,  said the proposed changes would make allotments a “luxury for middle-class households” only.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Access to space for growing food is something that should be accessible to everyone – it shouldn’t become a profit-making enterprise for councils who actually do very little to maintain and manage these sites.

“There is no justification for adding charges onto items that the council should already be handling as part of their management responsibility and are already paid for.

“There is also a proposal to charge sites for holding events, which would have a hugely detrimental impact . There is absolutely no cost to the council in us holding such events and therefore no justification in charging sites other than purely for greed.”

She said the proposed new rule to ban glass in greenhouses would “destroy perfectly good structures” and be expensive.

The petition can be found at  http://tinyurl.com/4bse88r4

In its consultation Bristol City Council said: “Allotment rents in Bristol have not been reviewed since 2018, and to simply maintain services at existing levels we need to increase rents to cover rising costs, look after an increased number of tenants and cover the demands on the service.

“However, we aspire to go further than just maintaining the current service, as we want to improve the offer to our current tenants and work towards increasing the number of plots available for those on the waiting list.”

The council said it could do this by employing an extra allotments officer and restoring abandoned plots.

It said: “We understand that the rent increase at this time may be difficult for some on a low income, so we propose expanding the current low-income discount we offer to include tenants in receipt of Universal Credit or Pension Credit.”

It said rents would be “aligned” with other similar sized authorities.

Proposed new charges include:

• Rents up from £30 to £64 for a strip up to 74sq m, £70 to £141 between 150sq m and 224sq m and from £85 to £158 for a allotment 225sq m to 349sq m. Even more for those with water access

• £15 for a shed, pond, greenhouse or cold frame, £25 for keeping chickens, bees and rabbits, £32 for a new or replacement key and £50 for late payments.

• Setting up a tenancy– £25 for individuals, £150 for a collective growing group and £400 for a community interest company.

• Expanded discount scheme for people on benefits

• A new £35 administration charge.