Concerns 'huge hike' in allotment fees will price people out in Exeter

Allotment holders say people are using the plots to help them cope with cost of living increases. Credit: LDRS/Becky Wells

There are concerns proposed hikes to allotment fees in Exeter could price people out.

Allotment holders say planned increases to the cost, in some cases a 77 per cent rise, are too high.

Exeter City Council says no decisions have yet been made, but they are trying to find ways to balance the budget without penalising the gardeners.

The council, like others all over the country, is trying to balance its books for the coming year in the face of rising costs and decreasing funding from central government.

Exeter has more than 1,500 allotments, and holders say people will be driven away if the charges go up.

The proposed increase is £3 per rod, an old Imperial measure which is just over five metres. Depending on allotments, that could mean increases of between 40 and 77 per cent.

There are 1,500 allotments in Exeter. Credit: LDRS/Becky Wells

A standard allotment with a water supply currently costs £8.35 per rod with concessions for pensioners. The new proposals mean a standard allotment would cost £11.80 per rod, with senior citizens facing the biggest price hike.

The allotment holders say the benefits of having a piece of land are not only in wellbeing but also in being able to grow food to combat the cost of living crisis.

Becky Wells, secretary of the St Thomas Allotments Association, said: “Some people are going to be unable to afford their plots. For people on fixed benefits or state pensions this is a huge hike in fees.

“We are a very diverse community. It’s no longer just old blokes in sheds. There are a lot of families, and a lot of people for whom English is not their first language.”

She said allotment holders had offered to take on tasks such as strimming and admin to save the city council thousands of pounds as a way of getting the service towards ‘cost-neutral’ without increasing fees.

And, she said, an official complaint had been lodged over the way the council carried out its consultation.

Allotments at St Thomas in Exeter. Credit: LDRS/Becky Wells

The council has said the government’s cuts mean it needs to reduce budgets by £6.6 million over the next two years, meaning subsidised services like the allotments must become ‘cost-neutral’. To end current subsidies, the allotments have to generate an additional £25,000 in income or savings.

A spokesperson for the city council said: “Allotments are a great asset to our city and are highly valued by our residents.

“Like all other councils, we have had to reduce our budgets in the current financial climate.

“Over the last few weeks, we have been consulting directly with allotment holders on ways to enable the allotment service to be self-funding.

“This has generated many alternative suggestions to balance the budget, and we will now be working these through in detail.

“No decisions have yet been made, and we would like to thank all of the many allotment holders who have responded.”

Exeter’s budgets will be considered by members of the full council at a meeting in the Guildhall next week. Documents show a proposed saving of £20,450 created by the revised allotment fees.

Credit: Local Democracy Reporter Service - Guy Henderson.