AN ALLOTMENT holder has lost his bid to secure an injunction to stop the council coming onto his plot following a bizarre row over growing fruit trees.
Michael Rock, 60, had decided to take Hastings Borough Council to court to try and stop the authority interfering with his allotment.
But at Hastings County Court, Mr Rock’s bid backfired when District Judge Geoffrey Smith ruled he could not grant such an injunction for his plot at Bembrook Allotments off Croft Road.
During the four hour hearing last Friday, Mr Rock argued that he had signed a contract in October 2007 which contained no detail on the definition of cultivation and what could not be grown on the allotment.
Earlier this year, the council rewrote its rule book after receiving a number of complaints about Mr Rock’s plot which has 11 pear, plum, apple, cherry and apricot trees.
But Mr Rock refused to sign the new tenancy agreement and decided to have his day in court.
Judge Smith heard the council’s argument that 75 per cent of the plot should be cultivated within two years of its uptake.
The council argued that Mr Rock’s 11 trees were not occupying sufficient space on his 250 square metre plot.
Jack Anderson, barrister for the council, said: “I suggest there is ample space at that plot for the cultivation of flowers and vegetables.”
Mr Rock, who was born and raised in Canada, replied: “No. I can’t plant things where the trees are meant to grow.”
Mr Anderson said: “I suggest there is room for other species.”
Mr Rock replied: “I’ve looked around and this does not exist anywhere else in the world.”
The court heard evidence from Peter Meed, waste and street scene services manager for the council.
Addressing Mr Meed, Judge Smith said: “You acknowledge the contract does not state you have to grow underneath, plants within the fruit trees.”
Mr Meed replied: “Yes - that is correct sir.”
Judge Smith asked: “What is cultivation?”
Mr Meed replied: “There is no definition of cultivation I could find. But I think the council’s view is that it is the tilling or preparation of the ground to grow crops.”
Judge Smith later heard an impassioned plea from Mr Rock about his plot.
Mr Rock said: “I have not breached the contract.
“This council ruling is to remove people who abandon their plots.
“I love the trees and I feel I am being penalised. I was never given any leaflets detailing what I could grow. I was given permission to grow fruit trees as dwarf stock.”
After 30 minutes of deliberation, Judge Smith ruled that he could not grant an injunction or approve a declaration that Mr Rock was within his rights.
He said: “It is inappropriate to grant an injunction to restrain the local authority or make a declaration.
“It is sad this case has come to court. I would encourage both parties to find some middle ground.”
Mr Rock was ordered to pay £650 court costs plus VAT.
Speaking outside court, defiant Mr Rock said: “They will have to evict me if they want me out.
“I am going to fight this every step of the way starting with an appeal.”