Allotment holders in Kirklees are digging in for a fight over massive increases in plot rents.
Huddersfield Allotments and Gardens Federation took a deputation to Wednesday night’s full meeting of Kirklees Council to warn of the potential health and wellbeing impacts.
Some tenants will see rents rise by as much as 600% as the council wants to increase rents to £93 a year from January 2024.
The council is also ending discounts for younger pensioners. Previously women aged 60 and over and men aged 65 received a 50% discount. From January the discount will be 25% for everyone aged 70 and over.
One tenant, aged 66, has told how his rent will rise from £13.41 a year to £93. Another in Newsome will see her rent rise from £27.88 to £93.
John Beaumont, treasurer of Huddersfield Allotments and Gardens Federation, spoke at the council meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall describing the rent rise as “unreasonable and disproportionate.”
He added: “We believe this rise will drive people off their plots and deter new plot-holders at a time when the nation is being encouraged to eat more healthily and keep fit and active to help relieve pressure on the NHS.
“All these benefits can come from working on an allotment but they have to be affordable to everyone.”
Kirklees Council hasn’t increased allotment rents in 10 years. There was a proposed rise in 2014 that also provoked anger and the council backed down.
Mr Beaumont asked a series of questions including: “Will Kirklees Council demonstrate transparency on how any monies raised from allotment rent increases will be returned to the upkeep and improvement to plots as in Section 10 of the Allotments Act 1950 which states: ‘All funds generated by rents should be used for the management and improvement of the allotments and not used for any other purpose.’
“Can Kirklees Council explain why proposed incremental rent increases in 2014 at a rate of £10 per year plus inflation for the following three years was not followed through?
“We are asking that Kirklees Council, in view of these objections, will they review their pricing model?”
In response, Clr Yusra Hussain, Cabinet member for culture and greener Kirklees, said the council had subsidised allotments at a cost of £116,000 in the current financial year and could no longer afford to do so.
The council is currently reviewing all its charges and fees with a view to increasing them by at least the rate of inflation as it must cut £47 million from its budget before February.
Clr Hussain said: “Kirklees manages 1,900 allotments across 100 sites and as a result of the council’s ongoing financial challenges we needed to review all fees and charges.
“The benchmarking of allotment rents identified a revised rate of £93 per annum and that equates to less than £1.80 per week. It’s comparable with surrounding authorities and therefore represents what a tenant could be reasonably expected to pay for an allotment.
“We also identified that the current income from the rents was falling short of covering costs. In 2022-23 the income generated from rents fell short of managing and maintaining our allotments by £116,589.
“The additional income generated by the increases will be used to fund management costs, water and essential repairs, all of which has been subsidised by KMC in previous years.
“I am aware we have a backlog of 2,000 people waiting for allotments and therefore demand is significantly outstripping capacity.
“I do appreciate that increased costs may have an impact on those wanting allotments but we will monitor this over the next 12 months.
“In 2014 the council did communicate a proposed increase in rents however my investigations found that the council at the time agreed to continue to subsidise allotments and did not progress with increases.”