Allotment tenants celebrate court win

(9213405)

(9213405)

First published in News Ilkley Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

Allotment holders are celebrating after a High Court victory to stop council plans to increase their rents.

Leeds City Council proposals would also have made changes to the amount of money available to manage sites - and campaigners say they could have priced plot holders out of the hobby they love.

Leeds and District Allotment Gardeners Federation members spoke of their delight after the landmark ruling in the High Court in Leeds this week which has quashed the proposed new rents from 2014 onwards.

The LDAGF issued an application in the High Court at the end of last year to launch a judicial review into council plans to put up rents while reducing the amount of money associations could keep to maintain sites.

Alex Peebles from the law firm Irwin Mitchell's said: "We are delighted to have helped the LDAGF gain justice and have their voices heard regarding the planned changes to allotment tenancy in Leeds – proposals that the courts have now ruled are unlawful.

"The organisation is a passionate gardening community whose members both grow their own produce and reach into the wider local communities, yet many of its members were concerned the changes may put off people having an allotment and also price many current plot holders out of a hobby they love."

According to the ruling, the planned changes were unlawful because they did not take into account any land valuation exercise or decide what a tenant might reasonably expect to pay for an allotment site.

Rawdon councillor Phil Gomersall, who is publicity officer for the LDGF, said: "I am elated - it is really good news. I don't know whether to jump up and down or whether to just relax. This has been on-going for 18 months."

Coun Gomersall, who is also the national allotment society mentor for Yorkshire, said: "A lot of people are looking at this case for a precedent."

He said the most important issue was the proposed change to the funding of allotments. At the moment allotment associations can keep two thirds of the rents for the management and maintenance of the site - but council proposals would have cut that down to a mere 24 per cent of the total.

Judy Turley, secretary for the LDAGF, said: "For 30 years, Leeds has been an exemplary model for management of allotments through a high proportion of self-managed sites and is recognised nationally as such.

"The case was not brought lightly by the Federation, but unfortunately efforts to engage Leeds City Council in meaningful discussions were not successful and we felt there was no option but to resort to the Judicial Review process."

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: "We have tried to keep charges as low and affordable as possible and we’re pleased that the judge has upheld our position on the majority of grounds. We are disappointed to have lost part of this case on a narrow point of law.

"We will now be considering an appeal, while assessing the judge’s comments and bringing a report back to our September executive board."

She said the council had won on three of the four grounds of challenge to its decision, and that the authority's general approach had been upheld.

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