Review of allotment charges in Cheltenham
Published on 5th January 2011
Cheltenham Borough Council is putting forward new charges for allotments which will see plot rents increase.
The move is necessary at a time when the council is facing extreme budget pressures.
With the income from plot rents covering less than a quarter of the annual running costs, the council is having to take action to cut costs and increase charges to reduce the amount that the service is subsidised through council tax.
Councillor Roger Whyborn, cabinet member for sustainability said: "Of course it's important that people are encouraged to 'grow their own' and allotments offer the perfect space for families to get together and lead a healthier lifestyle. That said it is no longer appropriate to maintain very low rent payments for allotments given the cost of running the service. Plot rents will rise significantly but most plots will still cost less than £1 per week and will still be affordable for everyone who wants one."
According to a recent review of allotment charges, 130 people paid less than £15 for their plot rent in 2010, with the average plot rent being about £25 per year. Meanwhile, people sampled on the allotment waiting list revealed that they were expecting to pay between £5 and £10 per month for their plot.
The new charges will see the cost of a small, medium and large plot rise to £30, £50 and £70 per year respectively. Those over 60 will receive a 20% discount. 750 existing plot holders will be receiving letters informing them of the changes, which will come into effect in one year's time. The new charges will apply with immediate effect to anyone renting a plot from now on.
Councillor Whyborn continued: "We believe that this represents fair value for a wonderful leisure activity but we do recognise that price increases are always unpopular."
With plot-holders at various sites coming forward to offer assistance to the volunteer on-site wardens, it is envisaged that the current full time allotment officer post will become part-time in the near future, enabling significant savings.
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Although the increases are probably more than those envisaged, 48% of existing plot holders when surveyed last year agreed to the principle of paying more towards their allotment rent.
Research shows that many authorities have increased their allotment charges to similar levels in 2010. An equivalent large allotment in Aberdeen now costs £70 (up from £50), in Kingston £69, in South Tyneside £71.90, in Thurock £82.45, Newbury £69.40. Brent have increased the cost of a large plot from £66 to £150 per annum.
There are also many examples of allotments costing a lot less, particularly village or parish allotments where sites are typically managed by volunteers and where there are few or no additional facilities.
Allotments in Cheltenham have received a lot of investment over the last few years; funding installation of toilets, improvements to site security, improved water supplies, new sheds, notice-boards, community facilities and more.
More recently, the council agreed to set aside over £500,000 for the provision of new allotments from proceeds of sale of derelict land in the Midwinter area.
In addition to allotment rent, plot holders pay an administration fee of £15 when they first take on an allotment, an additional charge of £10 per annum to rent a council shed and a returnable deposit for their site gate key.