Allotments like ‘work camps’

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THE council has been accused of turning allotments into “work camps” because of the way they enforce their rules.

Figures released this week showed that since December 2007, Hastings Borough Council (HBC) has issued 515 warnings telling tenants they are not tending to their plots properly - an average of about one every other working day.

HBC says it has a duty to enforce the rules but Michael Rock, who is embroiled in a legal battle with HBC to stop him being evicted from his plot, says the figures are very revealing.

He said: “I was absolutely staggered - what on earth can be happening that is so bad it warrants that many warnings? It’s not a leisure activity anymore, it’s turning into a work camp. If a plot has been abandoned then it should be dealt with but in my personal experience these warnings are not justified.”

But Cllr Trevor Webb, HBC lead member for leisure, defended the authority’s stance. He said: “We have a lot of people on the waiting list for our allotments, and so want to make sure that existing allotment holders do make the most of their plots.

“When we receive concerns from allotment holders about conditions of other plots, we investigate and if necessary issue ‘notices to improve’ to those who appear to be under-cultivating, reminding them of the rules.

“Usually this results in them making improvements.”

Hastings has 608 allotments and at its peak the waiting list for plots hit the 300 mark. Local allotment expert Dr Judy Clark also defended the council’s position and said cultivation levels had improved. She said: “With a large waiting list HBC has a responsibility to prospective tenants. If HBC does not act when tenants are judged not to be cultivating their allotments in accordance with their tenancy agreement, then those on the waiting list will have to wait even longer than they do now.”

She also pointed out that multiple warnings are often sent to the same allotment tenant, which could help explain the figures.