Increase in allotment rents

Graph up Well, looks like our Allotment Association got a good result in battle with the Town Council over a proposed increase in allotment rents of up to 100%. The Amenities Committee’s decision was as follows…

  • Rents should increase by 10% from October 2011, so standard plots will cost £27.50 per year, small plots £13.75

  • Some of the income from rents should be reinvested to improve facilities

  • To avoid years of no increase followed by sharp rises, rents should increase annually by the rate of inflation

  • The current charging structure should remain (i.e. based on standard or small plots, rather than large, medium and small or based on ground area)

  • The Committee will look into the feasibility of providing concessions for pensioners or the unemployed

So that means by 2011 there’ll have been an average increase for the last three years of 3.3% (bearing in mind there was no increase in 2009 and 2010)… not a bad result. The pleasing thing was a desire by the Councillors on the Amenities Committee to invest some of the allotment income in improving facilities. Specific mention was made of toilets, this being one of the top requests by our members when we did a recent survey, click here to view the survey results. Of course the challenge now is to get members of the committee to carry this through.

It’s taken quite a bit of work to get a good result. In case any other Allotment Association is faced with the same challenge, here’s the way the issue developed and how our Association tackled the problem. Hope it’s a help!


Although rents had not increased since 2008, in the years immediately prior there had been a 100% increase from £12.50 to £25.00 for a standard plot size of 250 sq metres. So there had certainly been an average of 20% increase over the previous ten years.

Current rents in 2010 are £25.00 for a standard sized plot and £12.50 for a small plot. However, plot sizes vary greatly. To see a scale plan of the plots at Hill Rise Allotments click here.

The facilities provided by the Town Council are basic. There are no communal facilities such as toilets or a hut, no secure fencing. Access paths are closed in winter because they are not metalled and water tanks can be more than 50 metres away.

First signs Mon 11-Oct-2010

The first indication that anything was afoot came in an on site liaison meeting with the Town Council in early October when the Town Clerk floated the idea of a change in charging structure to allow for the variety of plot sizes. Nothing at all about an actual rent increase.

The next we know about it was an item on the Amenities Committee’s agenda for 27-Oct-2010 about allotment rents. When we asked for a copy of the report behind the agenda item we received a document not only recommending changing the charging structure to large, medium and small, but also an increase in rents of either 100%, 40% or 20% depending on how you were affected by the charging structure change. You can read the Town Clerk's report by clicking here.

Delayed result Wed 27-Oct-2010

In Town Council committee meetings there’s fifteen minutes allowed for public participation when anyone can speak for a few minutes on an item to be considered by the committee. Richard, our Association Chairman, took the opportunity to put the Association’s views on the Town Clerk’s recommendations. The Amenities Committee then discussed the Town Clerk's report. Although the public can attend to listen to the discussion they cannot comment unless asked by a committee member to do so. Quite frustrating when a comment is innocently made which is incorrect or misleading!

The minutes of the meeting, which you can read by clicking here, don’t give any indication of the intensity of the debate. Voices were raised, points of order called and members displayed a fair degree of passion in their views. You can see from the minutes the decision was deferred to the next meeting for further information on allotment costs.


In advance of the next meeting we did a fair amount of groundwork as follows…

Average allotment rent
We knew one of the things we would be under attack on was that our allotment rents were lower than the national average… but just how low?

Firstly we checked with the NSALG regional representative. She confirmed the more typical rent was £35 per year for a standard size plot of 10 rods or 250 square metres; for this you would be expecting the basic facilities of a water supply and secure fencing. We do have water tanks, although some plot holders have to walk more than 50 metres to access, but no secure fencing.

A few enquiries with allotments in surrounding villages and towns showed the following:

  • Huntingdon charge from £30 to £12.50, but all sites have 2 metre high metal fencing to secure

  • Cambridge charge from £30 to £10 and again all sites are secure

  • Alconbury are a newish self managed site where plot holders pay about £1 a week, £52 a year

Legal position
A trawl around the internet highlighted the following…

  • A Mr Harwood successfully challenged Reigate & Banstead Borough Council 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 the 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.

UPDATE: On 17-Feb-2012 Southampton County Court ruled against Eastleigh Borough Council when they tried to increase allotment rents by 60%. In essence the judge ruled...

  • Councils could not increase rents just to lower costs
  • Any increases should commesurate with those applied to leisure and other services
  • Councils should accept that allotments are a subsidised activity and therefore loss making

Grateful thanks to Alex Mullins, Chairman, Eastleigh & District Allotments, who successfully brought this case against the Borough Council for the princely sum of £50.

Press reports are available at BBC News, Southampton Daily Echo and Eastleigh News.

Final outcome Wed 24-Nov-2010

We received the Town Clerk's report for tabling at the next Amenities Committee several days beforehand, to read this click here. No definite recommendation this time, only to consider alternative charging methods and an increase in rents.

There’s some difference of opinion about the quality and quantity of work done by the Town Council’s grounds maintenance team on the allotments. The figures in the Town Clerk's report indicate 3 man days per week are spent on the allotments in summer, about 1 man day per week in winter, none of this involving any capital projects work. Our Association don’t recognise the three days a week in summer, and contend that often the grounds maintenance team have to come back and fix things they should have got right in the first place… why should we pay for shoddy work? Their work is primarily grass cutting and strimming about once a month and occasional site inspections.

However, any criticism of the grounds maintenance team has lead some Amenities Committee members to passionately jump to their defence, so we stayed well clear of that in our response to the Town Clerk's report. Following an HRAA Committee meeting on the Monday we agreed to major on accepting a reasonable increase in line with inflation, but retaining the current charging structure. We steered clear of making a legal challenge to avoid creating unnecessary conflict… we could always follow up later by putting the legal position if the decision didn’t go our way. Our response was emailed to each of the committee members, to read our response click here.

Since our Chairman Richard was away in Newcastle overnight I delivered a short summary of the Association’s views in the public participation section before the Amenities Committee meeting. To read that summary click here

You can get a flavour of the subsequent discussion by the Amenities Committee from the notes I took by clicking here. By the way, the comment by Mayor Councillor Hodge ‘If we applied the same increase as HRAA did for their membership fee we’d be almost at £30’ was one of those frustrating moments when I wished I could have responded. At our AGM we agreed to increase HRAA membership fees from £6 to £7 for a plot holder and from £4 to £5 for a cultivator or associate, the reasons being…

  • To put the Association’s finances on a sound footing. After one year of formal standing we had made a surplus of income over expenditure, primarily due to the St Ives Flower and Produce Show. And although the intention will always be to at least cover the Show’s costs from its own expenditure, we’re always at risk of spending quite a bit of money on the Show and then having a poor attendance or having to cancel because something happens at the venue.

  • We’d very much relied on our Chairman’s contacts to get speakers at low cost (e.g. a small gift) for events. If we wanted a continued high quality of speakers we recognised we’d have to allow for greater costs… at least to pay expenses, as well as covering a potential increase in the cost of hiring venues.

  • Finally, members get a 10% discount from local retailers on production of their membership card, with the average value of that discount being about £20 over a year… on that basis membership is a no-brainer!

The formal minutes of the meeting have yet to be published, but will be found on the Town Council’s Amenities Committee page, to access click here. You can also read the preceding post about this topic with more information at Increased Allotment Rents.

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