Mid Wales

Ceredigion council abandons allotment rent rise

Lampeter Allotment site
Image caption The weekly charge for an allotment plot will now remain at 67p per week

A local authority's plan to double charges for using plots on its allotments has been abandoned for at least a year.

Ceredigion council has decided to back down because it did not explain to its tenants why it wanted the price hike.

From April, gardeners using council plots would have had to pay an extra £35 a year for the £70 rent.

The weekly charge for an allotment plot will now remain at 67p per week.

The council had claimed the rent increase would have resulted in allotment charges being subsidised at the same rate as leisure centres.

But a report by Keith Morgan, assistant director of highways, property and works, said: "The legal view is that to justify the increased charges it may assist to show that during the consultation exercise it was made clear to all interested parties that allotments were subsidised more than any other leisure facilities and that this was the reasoning behind the higher level of increase."

There is an average waiting time of four and a half years for an allotment plot at the local authority's four sites at Aberystwyth, Lampeter and Blaenplwyf.

In 2009-10 the council made a loss of £5,193 on its 58 plots at the four sites.

Allan Rees, chairman of the National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardens, which has 5,000 members in Wales, said: "Ceredigion council is one of many local authorities in Wales that want to increase allotment rents.

"Allotments have become popular again over the last few years which has led to local authorities raising rents.

"It looks to me like they haven't realised that they have to give 12 months notice to change tenancy agreements.

"You just can't put people's rent up on a whim."

Consultation

At that time there were 52 people waiting for allotment space at Penparcau, of which 37 were also on the list for the Cae Ffynon site at Aberystwyth.

There were also five people on the waiting list at Blaenplwyf and three in Lampeter.

Sarah Morgan, who has rented a plot at the council's allotment site in Lampeter for the last two years, said: "I am delighted that charges haven't gone up because allotments are often used by people who can't afford a garden.

"You can't compare using an allotment with using leisure centre facilities because the council has virtually no management costs in running the allotments."

A council spokesman said the decision to abandon the plan to double rent charges on allotments was to allow for sufficient time for further consultation.

The spokesman said a further report would go to the council cabinet with recommended allotment charges for 2012-13.