You are viewing content from Radio Exe Devon. Would you like to make this your preferred location?
Listen Live

Exeter allotment holders protest bears fruit

Wednesday, 21 February 2024 10:31

By Guy Henderson - Local Democracy Reporter @GuyAHenderson

Exeter allotment holders protest at the Guildhall (Picture courtesy: Guy Henderson)

Council comes up with concessions after outcry

Campaigners fighting proposals to raise allotment fees for Exeter gardeners harvested concessions from the city council.

They greeted councillors arriving for a meeting at the Guildhall with placards calling on them to think again after the city’s budget indicated they would have to pay 77 per cent more - a rise they claim is too steep and would drive people away.

The allotment-holders also questioned how the city had carried out  consultations, particularly as budget papers for the full council meeting already earmarked £20,450 in ‘savings’ from increasing the fees while consultations were theoretically still going on.

“It is really clear that this decision is a fait accompli,” said deputy lord mayor Cllr Tess Read (Green, St Davids). “Holding and tending allotments is something that we need to encourage and have more of, not less.”

But council leader Cllr Phil Bialyk (Labour, Exwick) said the consultation would now be extended until the middle of March, and the increase in charges could be staggered,

He said: “Allotments are a great asset to our city and much loved by our residents.

“Our consultations have generated many alternative suggestions. We are listening to what people say, and it is clear that the consultation will continue.

“If there does need to be an increase in charges, it will be phased in over a two-year period.

“This demonstrates that we have listened.”

The council aims to make the allotments ‘cost-neutral’ as it tries to balance its books, but users say they can help the city cut costs by taking over tasks such as strimming and administraton, rather than paying sky-high fees.

John Butler, who chairs the St Thomas Allotments Association, had asked the council to justify the ‘excessive’ increase in fees.

He said the council should look at how it calculated the increase in fees, and added: “This is not just monetary. It is about wellbeing. People will suffer because of this.”

More from Local News