Future of Hemsby allotments in jeopardy

THE future of planned allotments in Hemsby is in jeopardy after the village parish council pulled out of providing the new plots.

A row has erupted after farmer Richard Hirst, who would have leased the land for the allotments, said he had been “let down” by the council, which only told him by letter last Thursday it wanted to pull out of the lease agreement.

Council chairman Bob Reynolds said the decision had been taken by allotment holders at a meeting with councillors on Tuesday last week because they did not want to pay the annual �100 rent for a plot.

Up to 10 allotment holders had already paid �100 deposits for a plot on Mr Hirst’s one-and-a-half acre site in Yarmouth Road, though their money will be refunded.

Yarmouth Borough Council gave planning permission for the allotments at a meeting last month.

However, Mr Hirst said he had already spent �2,000 preparing the land, close to the Jet filling station for the allotment holders’ arrival.

The letter explained the council had decided to pull out because of concerns over a clause inserted into the 10 year lease that Mr Hirst could remove plot holders after giving them 12 months notice.

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Other fears were over extra costs for the provision of car parking on site, and a hedge around the perimeter to shield the plots from passing motorists’ view.

But Mr Hirst said legally he had had to include the 12 months notice clause under the Allotments Act 1912, and he would only use it in extreme circumstances, such as if a plot holder was failing to pay rent.

He said if the cost of providing the hedging and parking was a “sticking point” he would have been prepared to find a way around it.

He claimed the council had not called him to discuss the concerns prior to agreeing the lease – and he was only planning to charge the plot holders �60-�65 annual rent, and not the �100 proposed by the council.

He told the Mercury: “I don’t think it is worth trying to engage with the council. I have got absolutely no trust or faith in them ever again because they have let me down quite badly, and they have let their parishioners down quite badly.

“They have been completely uncommunicative.”

However, Mr Reynolds said there were many extra costs for the council, including the legal costs of securing planning permission, which would have to be covered by council tax payers if not borne by the plot holders.

He added the scheme had to be self-financing and the �100 annual charge had included these extra costs.

“It was the terms of the lease. After a year, he could take the allotment holders off the land, but they were not very happy with that and they decided not to go ahead; but we said if they wanted to contact Mr Hirst themselves they could,” he said.

However, Shawn Lovatt, 49, who had applied for an allotment, felt the meeting with the parish council at Hemsby football pavilion last Tuesday was “biased” because the allotment holders had only got one side of the story and could not speak with Mr Hirst, who was not present at the meeting.