Plans for 'huge increase' in Biggleswade allotment rents put on hold

Updated allotment policy document to be consulted on further

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 16th June 2022, 11:26 am

Plans for a ‘huge increase’ in allotment rents and the refundable deposit fee in Biggleswade are on hold for further talks about the town council’s overall policy.

Small plot rents would be £36 and large plots £52 for September this year until August 2023 under the new policy. This compares to £19 and £31 under a previous policy document in 2016/17.

The town council was due to finalise the paperwork at a meeting of its public land and open spaces committee, but deferred the item for more consultation.

A man works his allotment. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Julia Duffin, from the Biggleswade Allotment Association, asked for a written plan before anything is finalised.

“The rise of the deposit from £50 to £150 is a huge increase,” she said. “When combined with the proposed rent increase, the initial outlay for a plot will be taken out of the hands of the very people who need them most.

“Withholding (the deposit) if the plot isn’t in good order is subjective. We need to be clear what your expectations of good order are.”

If vehicles are restricted when the ground is wet and soft, she wondered if that includes council tractors, saying: “They’re responsible for the ruts. I couldn’t walk to my plot. It’s a health and safety issue.”

Suggesting several other items could be made clearer, she added: “Consultation together could save you time and energy, and from some anger on our part.”

Independent Biggleswade South CBC councillor Hayley Whitaker suggested the town council should be “offering these allotments as a service, rather than trying to make a profit” from it.

“That sends out entirely the wrong message about the mindset we have here.”

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Town clerk Peter Tarrant explained the amount of work being planned for the allotments during the next year.

“As you enter the allotment area, there’s a rigid gate, which hasn’t opened for many years,” he said. “We’re considering making good that gate or replacing it, as one of the problems our allotment holders come back to us with is security.

“The main entry has got Ministry of Transport standard of aggregate over it. The road isn’t owned by us and we’ve never been committed to tarmacking it.

“We’re doing the other internal routes and have ordered another 30 tonnes of this material.

“There’s overgrown shrubbery which will be cut back near the entrance. Near the compost areas there are large mounds of earth and rubbish which people pile on. We’re committed to cleansing this.

“We’re going to make it as tidy as we possibly can, but the allotment association has asked we retain this as a barrier to discourage people entering the site who aren’t allotment holders.”

Monthly meetings with the association are being held to chart progress and hear any concerns, according to Mr Tarrant.

Deputy mayor Madeline Russell suggested reflecting on everything to do with the allotments, saying: “A completely new proposal should come to the council, so we can make a proper overall decision, whether it’s the fees or anything else.”

Councillors agreed to accept this.