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Norwich allotment holders face 65pc rent increase

PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 September 2012

Thorpe Hamlet city councillor Ben Price planting vegetables with Will Giles in the new allotment that he has established at the Exotic Garden. Photo: Steve Adams

Thorpe Hamlet city councillor Ben Price planting vegetables with Will Giles in the new allotment that he has established at the Exotic Garden. Photo: Steve Adams

Allotment holders are facing a 65pc increase in their rents as City Hall bosses seek to tackle cash cuts.

Norwich City Council has sent letters informing people rents will jump from £42.50 a year to £70 from 2013/14.

Assurances are being sought this price change will not trigger future increases or take advantage of the high-demand for the service. There are 1,665 plots, with a standard size of 250 square metres, at 18 sites, with 1,661 names on the waiting list, although this does include duplicate entries from some applicants.

The allotment rent hike from 17p per square metre to 28p is expected to increase annual income the service generates by £27,540 to £70,107.

A council spokeswoman said: “The rental increase is part of the city council’s agreed cost savings for parks and open spaces. The increase was agreed by cabinet following a city-wide consultation on a range of cost reducing/revenue increasing proposals.

“The increase in the cost of an allotment was prioritised by residents.”

Brighton, York and Bristol have been used by the authority as comparisons in an attempt to show what similar services offer at a higher cost.

The council said they chose cities “running comparable services” and to show the prices were not “out of line” with other authorities.

Brighton and Hove City Council lists its 2012/13 charges at 28p per square metre, with standard 125 square metre plots costing £35 per year, Bristol City Council’s plots vary in size and cost between £16 and £85, while York City Council’s also vary in size and cost from £10.20 concession prices to £90.50.

Norwich City Council says all of its plots will be subject to the increase, although 50pc discount will remain for people who are retired and those on benefits who hold a Go4Less card.

Ben Price, a gardener and Green Party city councillor, said he wanted assurances further price rises were not planned in the near future, although he was pleased discounts had been retained.

Mr Price, who is developing a garden share project to make more use of unused areas of land, said: “I would hope some of the money gets put towards creating more allotments and improving facilities at existing allotments rather than being a cash-saving exercise.

“I understand the cabinet has to make savings and it has gone to consultation. But it’s a short-term fix and unfortunately a lot of policies are designed in that way.

“The council was promoting healthy lifestyle two months ago with the healthy cities project and now it’s charging people more for the opportunity of achieving that healthy lifestyle.

“I think the council know they can put the price up and it will not affect demand.”

One Norwich allotment holder, who did not wish to be named, said: “At a time we are being urged to take more exercise and eat better, why are the rents going from 17p a meter to 28p?”

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