Authority eyes allotment windfall

EVICTING allotment holders from their plots after more than 30 years could net a local authority in the region of £550,000, it has emerged.Mid Suffolk District Council, which owns the land in Harleston, near Stowmarket, has been considering whether to build six three and four bedroom homes on the plot, making the site very valuable in cash terms to the authority.

EVICTING allotment holders from their plots after more than 30 years could net a local authority in the region of £550,000, it has emerged.

Mid Suffolk District Council, which owns the land in Harleston, near Stowmarket, has been considering whether to build six three and four bedroom homes on the plot, making the site very valuable in cash terms to the authority.

Now the Executive Committee, meeting on Monday at the council's Needham Market chambers, has been advised by corporate director Nicholas Gowrley that the land was valued during May this year at well in excess of half a million pounds.

The authority has never charged rent or formalised the land as allotments, but the site has been in use for 20 years with seven plots there.

Mr Gowrley said the land has as far back as 2003 been identified as suitable for housing and surplus to requirements, but said there may be legal costs removing allotment holders from their plots.

He is recommending that councillors vote to press ahead selling the land at Goddard's Place in Harleston and remove the gardeners from the site, and the money could be used to provide affordable housing projects for residents elsewhere in mid Suffolk.

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But Andrew Stringer, a district councillor who insisted on a report from officers to Executive on the matter, said: “Allotments should be an essential part of every rural community, be they official or unofficial.

“With food prices increasing we need to be expanding our allotment provision, not shrinking it, they are a focus for communities, especially in areas like Harleston.

“They benefit people economically, but also socially. We have some in Cotton, and Bacton, and people love meeting up there. This is shocking and ridiculous, we need common sense here.”