Man plots to beat council rule change over his allotment

Michael Rock at Bembrook Allotments, Hastings
Michael Rock at Bembrook Allotments, Hastings

ONE man’s mission to grow fruit on his allotment has upset the applecart after the council decided to change its rule book.

Michael Rock, 60, of Alpine Road, decided to let grass grow over his plot in Bembrook Allotments off Croft Road after getting bored with growing vegetables.

But a year on the council has decided to rewrite the rule book after receiving a number of complaints about Mr Rock’s plot which has 11 pear, plum, apple, cherry and apricot trees.

Mr Rock, an author, says he will not sign up to any new rules and intends to take the council to a County Court hearing in March. He says he will take his fight to the European Court of Human Rights if needed.

Mr Rock took an injunction out against the council last year to prevent him being evicted from the plot before going to a court hearing.

During the last few weeks the council has been carrying out a consultation exercise with its 600 plot holders over the new rules.

The 20 page rulebook which would be drafted in on April 1 next year includes a number of specific allotment regulations.

These include obtaining written consent from the council to plant any fruit trees regarded as permanent planting unless dwarf root stock which is a maximum of seven feet high. But soil beneath the fruit tree must be planted with productive crops or other plants.

The council claims the rules are designed to give plot holders sound advice on what is good practice. It invited everyone to have their say by the end of January before publishing the new rules.

Anyone who refuses to sign up to the new agreement will forfeit their allotment.

Mr Rock said: “I just got bored of growing vegetables as I was producing too much.

“I just couldn’t use it all and I couldn’t even give it away.

“The previous agreement allowed for fruit trees to be grown providing they were on dwarf stock which mine are.

“I have spent hundreds of pounds on my trees and will not be giving it up lightly.

“I am disputing the right for the council to change my agreement.

“The law states our agreement should be dealt with like any landlord and tenant. It does not give the council the right to change something they did not have right to in the first place.

“These trees have been growing for three years and when they are ready I will make jam and give it to pensioners .”

Council spokesman Kevin Boorman said: “The major changeis the introduction of rules which help us ensure tenants do cultivate their plots.

“Although the vast majority are extremely keen gardeners, a very small minority neglect their allotment, or don’t use it properly,

“The rules in the current tenancy agreement are poorly worded and difficult to enforce.

“Mr Rock’s case highlighted our need to tighten up our procedures. “The rules are not designed to stop people using their allotments but give guidance on levels of cultivation and good practice in having an allotment.”