What will be cost of allotment appeal to gardeners?
An allotment holder who won a case against his local council for increasing the cost of allotment rents by 60% has had his case dismissed on appeal. What could this mean for the future of the Great British allotment?
Georgie Willcock, of the National Allotment Society, predicts councils across the country will now feel freer to impose rent hikes and the traditional allotment gardener could be "priced out".
"There are councils that have been waiting for the outcome of this court case," she said.
End Quote Alex Mullins Allotment holder
We might as well go to Harrods and buy our carrots there”
"Only time will tell what they will do over the next 12 to 18 months - but there is a very strong possibility that they will now start putting up their rents."Case dismissed
Alex Mullins, of Eastleigh and District Allotments Association, challenged Eastleigh Borough Council in Hampshire over its 60% price increase, from £25 to £40 a year.
A Southampton county court judge backed Mr Mullins at an earlier hearing, but the case was dismissed after the council appealed.
A judge at Winchester County Court ruled that the small claims procedure taken by Mr Mullins was inappropriate for the dispute, and set aside the original ruling.
"I think a lot of councils will now think there won't be anyone to challenge them and they will take comfort in that and whack on huge increases," said Mr Mullins.
Mr Mullins said he believed most allotment holders would not be able to afford the court fees to challenge rent hikes.
He said rent increases would mean people would no longer view their hobby as "worthwhile" when taking into consideration the cost of seeds and tools and the work involved to manage a plot.
"We might as well go to Harrods and buy our carrots there," he said.Rents doubled
Eastleigh Borough Council said it was "delighted" that the case had been dismissed.
A spokesman denied there would be any more allotment rent increases in the borough over the next two years, except in line with inflation.
He said the council did not want to discuss allotment rents further.
During the court case the council argued it had priced its allotments in accordance with what other local authorities were charging.
It said when it set the price increase it wanted to reduce the cost to the local authority.
There are currently 100,000 people on the allotment waiting list in England and Wales, said Ms Willcock, of the allotment society.Gym membership
Ms Willcock said local authorities should take into account the popularity of allotments and provide an "open consultation process" with allotment holders.
Some councils across the country had increased allotment rents by 100% she said.
Last year Barnet Council attempted to triple rents in the borough but was met by strong opposition.
Ms Willcock said: "Traditionally allotments are the preserve of people with not much disposable income.
"If rents are put up quite quickly it takes out a section of society, such as the elderly and the retired.
"We've had a fair few calls from our members concerned about the fact that their rents seem to be going up fairly substantially over the past couple of years.
"It might sound cheap to say that it is only £30 a year - but if you think about it, it is only the land that is provided.
"It's not like paying for a gym membership - which includes services like heating the building and the showers and providing the equipment and an entire service - you would expect to have to pay more for that."