Allotment rent increase

Money 01Looks like our allotment association is lining up to do battle with the Town Council over its plans to increase most allotment rents by up to 40%. That comes after an average rise of 20% for each of the last five years.

The first mention of any change was during an on site meeting, when the Town Clerk made a tentative proposal to address the great variety of plot sizes (see allotment plan below, click to enlarge) by changing from that currently used of either standard or small plot sizes to large (i.e. normal sized), middle and small. No mention of any increase in fees.

So it was somewhat surprising to then see a proposal being made to the Amenities Committee to change the rent structure from the current one of £25 and £12.50 to £35 for a large plot, £25 for medium and £15 for small. This would bring increase allotment income for the Town Council by £1,100.

Fortunately Councillors felt unable to come to a decision since there were no figures provided in the proposal paper on how much it cost to run the allotments. These are to be provided at the next meeting on Wed 24-Nov, but there were figures in other parts of the papers for that night’s meeting as follows…

  • Income from rents £4,500
  • Expenditure of £7,940 , broken down as…
    • £7,390 staff costs (572 hours)
    • Maintenance/improvements £500
    • Clerk £50

Hopefully we’ll get a lot more information about the staff costs since there are doubts about value for money. The hours equate to about 2 man days a week working on the allotments from March to October. Excluding recent capital investments, the biggest effort seems to be cutting and strimming the pathways… something which takes place about once a month and certainly shouldn’t take more than 2 man days to do.

We hope there are legal challenges we can make, such as….

  • Reigate & Banstead Borough Council were successfully challenged by a Mr Harwood in the High Court Chancery Division when his allotment rent was increased by 300%. His argument was that the increase was not reasonable, and the judgement was that a Council could charge what it liked for allotment rental, but as allotments are a recreational amenity the rent increases must be in line with increases applied to other recreational amenities provided by the council. The Council cannot by law raise rents of allotment holders in isolation of other recreational amenities. This is discriminatory practice and is unlawful. The full transcript can be read here.

    Bolton Council backed down from imposing increases of up to 700% on allotment holders in the light of the above decision. You can read the decision of the Borough Solicitor of Bolton here.

  • The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 makes it automatically unfair for a landlord to impose an arbitrary increase in rent. Guidance by the OFT on unfair terms in tenancy agreements indicates that unless increases are linked to such external factors as the RPI or evaluated by an objective person independent of the landlord they may be deemed to be unfair. The guidance under section 3.102 can be read here.

There are competing arguments about whether allotment holders should pay anything. Users of play areas and parks don’t pay over and above their rates for the use, and visitors to the town don’t pay anything at all. Or is it more equitable for allotment holders to pay the cost of maintaining allotments since only they are allowed access? Whatever the outcome, the Town Council certainly shouldn’t make a profit out of allotment holders, and we certainly have a right to know exactly what we’re paying for.

So we eagerly await the more detailed proposal papers from the Town Council to be issued about a week before the next meeting!

You can read the follow up to this post at Increase In Allotment Rents.


Hill Rise allotment plan

Allotment plan

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