FEARS have been raised over city council proposals to sharply increase allotment charges in Portsmouth.
The local authority is trying to reduce costs and get the best ‘value for money’ from the city’s 1,714 allotments by changing the way it pays for them
Last year the council spent around £112,000 on keeping its allotments running, including the cost of some improvements, but only recovered £54,500 from fees.
Now it either wants to increase how much people pay for each rod – an area of land equal to 25.3sq m – or transfer their running over to the city’s associations.
Currently each rod costs £6.96, which works out at around £40 per year for an average-sized plot.
The council wants to first increase this to £8.69 in 2014, followed by a rise to £10.85 the following year. This would increase the average plot charge to roughly £60 a year.
But during a consultation with the associations most of them told the council they did not support the proposal to increase charges by more than inflation.
Tory councillor Alistair Thompson said he has received repeated complaints about allotments from residents in his Hilsea ward and thought putting up the charges was a mistake.
He said: ‘At a time when so many people are struggling to make ends meet, when incomes are being squeezed, when living standards are being squeezed, it is exactly the wrong time to be putting up prices.’
A city allotment holder, who did not wish to be named, said if the council carried on putting up prices it would drive people away.
‘The state of some of these allotments is a disgrace,’ he said. ‘So how they can ask us to pay more I really don’t know.’
But chairman of the Eastney and Milton Allotment Holders Association, and Lib Dem councillor, Les Stevens said there is a 500-person waiting list and the allotments are too cheap.
‘At the end of the day it is a leisure activity,’ he said. ‘The days when you could feed a family of four from your allotment are long gone.
‘Most of the people I have spoken to realise that they can’t expect other council taxpayers to subsidise what they do. Eventually these allotments will have to start paying for themselves.’