‘Petty’ allotment rules bid looks set to be dropped 

Bristol’s deputy mayor has dropped a huge hint that some of the “petty” new rules proposed for allotment holders will be ditched.

But Cllr Craig Cheney (Labour, Hillfields) said controversial planned increases to fees for plots were likely to still go ahead because they were needed to improve the service.

Public consultation closed on January 31  into the city council’s new allotment rents and tenancy policy, which includes a raft of additional charges and changes to what is allowed on the land.

Plotholders would be forced to remove fences, hedges, most trees and large play equipment, as well as replace glass in greenhouses with twin-walled plastic and drain water from deeper ponds.

New fees include £25 for keeping bees, chickens or rabbits and £15 for a shed, greenhouse, cold frame, fruit cage, pond and to register a co-worker, while the annual cost of having an allotment would double for many.

A petition opposing the plans topped 6,000 signatures, with tenants saying they will be forced off the land.

Bristol City Council, which manages 4,000 plots, with another 1,500 run on its behalf by five associations, has said it needs to increase rents, which were last reviewed in 2018, and that there are 8,000 people on the waiting list, so more space needs to be freed up.

The council is reviewing responses but suggested at a council budget scrutiny meeting on January 30 that although the rents would have to go up the other changes might be dropped..

Cllr Cheney said at the meeting: “Will we introduce many of the things in the consultation? I suspect not. “I’ll be kind, the document that was issued was perhaps not something that we would have approved of.”

Cllr John Goulandris (Conservative, Stoke Bishop) said: “A lot of allotment holders say they are going to cancel their allotments.”

Cllr Heather Mack (Green, Lockleaze) said site reps were resigning in protest.

She asked: “If we don’t have site reps or those onboard for our allotments strategy, how do we maintain allotments without then having to increase the number of staff, which will then cost more money?”

Cabinet member for transport Cllr Don Alexander (Labour, Avonmouth & Lawrence Weston), who is an allotments site rep, said: “The really important thing is that you have a clear set of rules and you have the officers to back you up on those rules.

“It’s not that we don’t occasionally bend the rules a little bit but we do need officers to back us up when somebody has really gone and done something that’s affecting the safety of other people or affecting the ability of other plotholders to grow stuff because at the end of the day allotments are about food production.

“We’ve been short of site reps for a long time before any changes were proposed in the rules, and one of the reasons is that they’re not backed up in trying to sort out the very human problems that occur on allotments.”

Cabinet member for public health and communities Cllr Ellie King (Labour, Hillfields) said: “Site reps are volunteer posts and we try to entice people in by giving them significant discounts or free plots in some cases, but it will continue to be a challenge.

“One of the important points to raise is that it is a very open and live consultation, so nothing is set in stone yet and we are still continuing to work on it and listen.”

She said the proposed new rules “did not come out of nowhere” but were in response to requests from site reps.

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service