No rise for allotments despite cuts

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GARDENERS in Wigan will not have to dig deep to afford an allotment with the news that fees are NOT going up this year.

As thousands of people across the UK are hit with higher fees for their little patch of the Good Life, Wigan town hall officials say green-fingered Wiganers fees will stay as they are.

One council, Barnet in North London, is putting up rents from £110 to £340 a year – 30 times the rate of inflation.

As it stands in Wigan allotment holders pay £37 a year, with a 50 per cent reduction for those over the age of 60.

Atherton allotment holder Bob Splaine is happy fees are staying as they are.

He said: “It is great as it is more than just a hobby for most allotment holders.

“It can be very relaxing, especially if you are under a lot of pressure from work, and if the fees went up by some of the numbers we are hearing, then it could force many people who rely on their allotments off the land.

“It must be said that Wigan Council has looked after us here and they should be commended for it.”

All councils have a legal duty to provide allotments for people living within their area.

But while rents are not fixed in law, under the 1950 Allotment Act a council can only charge ‘at such rent as a tenant may reasonably be expected to pay for the land’.

Many councils sold off allotment sites to developers in the 1970s and 1980s and by 1997 the national number of plots was down to just 265,000 - compared to one million in the 1950s.

But in recent years there has been an upsurge in interest with many councils, including Wigan, reporting long waiting lists for plots.

The town has 225 plots run by the council as well as those in other privately owned allotments.

A spokesman for Wigan Council said: “We try to do our very best for our allotment holders and part of this is a commitment to trying to keep prices as low as possible.

“There are no plans at the moment to change this and prices have already been issued for this year.”

However, with long waiting lists for allotments, Mr Splaine believes a different system of allocating them needs to be considered.

He said: “When it comes round to the yearly allocation some holders haven’t worked their plots and they are in a terrible state.

“Then when you go to allocate it to somebody on the waiting list, it is unmanageable. This often means the council has to tend to it before somebody can use it. Something should be done about people looking after their plots as there are plenty who would love the chance to have one.”