Fruit tree plot campaigner earns an appeal

AN ALLOTMENT holder who lists heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali as a friend hopes to have landed his first blow to the council’s bid to throw him off his plot.

Believed to be the first case of its kind in the country, Michael Rock, 61, of Alpine Road, has been granted leave to appeal against a ruling to comply with Hastings Borough Council’s allotment rules.

In April, a district judge ruled at Hastings County Court that Mr Rock was not making sufficient use of his plot at Bembrook Allotments off Croft Road by just growing fruit trees.

District Judge Geoffrey Smith gave Mr Rock two months to cultivate 75 per cent of his allotment or face losing it.

But last Friday Mr Rock, who once wrote a music album for Ali, secured permission to appeal the decision in a case heard at Hastings County Court by Judge Robin Bedford. He is now preparing his appeal case which will be heard on August 14.

Mr Rock’s long and protracted legal battle started in February 2011 when he was first given a repossession notice.

In August 2012 he lost his bid to secure an injunction to stop council officers coming on to the plot.

In April he was given an ultimatum by the county court to comply or face further action against him.

Mr Rock’s case has hit the national headlines and he says he will take his fight all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if needed.

The case has taken on a David versus Goliath persona with Mr Rock representing himself in court and the council using a barrister.

Mr Rock, who is originally from Canada, has lived in Hastings for the last 10 years,

He took on his plot in 2007 but decided to grow fruit trees instead of the usual vegetable and flowers.

His argument stems from the belief that he was not in breach of the original contract he signed when he took on the allotment. He claims the contract did not state that he could not grow just fruit trees.

The council has argued that growing only fruit trees was not an appropriate use of an allotment.

He said: “This is great news for me and the first chance to show the courts that I have done nothing wrong. I hope to win the case and for the council to be more understanding of the way people live their lives.

“In the contract it does not specify that you can only grow fruit trees with other things around them. I feel like I’m a spider in the room and the council wants to crush me because it doesn’t like the look of me. I hope common sense will prevail.”