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Lost the plot? Bitter red tape row breaks out at coastal allotments

PUBLISHED: 08:39 10 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:39 10 April 2019

John Chisnell at The Tar Works allotments, Great Yarmouth. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

John Chisnell at The Tar Works allotments, Great Yarmouth. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

It’s a tale of political intrigue and backbiting worthy of the corridors of Whitehall, the Forum of Ancient Rome or the Oval Office.

John Chisnell at The Tar Works allotments, Great Yarmouth. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodJohn Chisnell at The Tar Works allotments, Great Yarmouth. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

But this saga has been unfolding in a particularly British arena, where the currency is more likely to be muddy leeks than filthy lucre.

The setting is a Great Yarmouth allotment where the former site secretary has been barred from the local association due to red tape and told to get off his plot – only for his fellow plot holders to set up a “fighting fund” to get him reinstated.

John Chisnell, 67, said the conflict, which he believes is based on a “personal vendetta”, began last summer after he had been chosen as site secretary at the Tar Works Road allotments following the resignation of the previous secretary and site manager.

But the chairperson and 
general secretary of Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Allotments Association (GYGAA), which runs 14 allotments, told him he was not eligible for the post because when joining the allotment he had not been properly registered.

The Tar Works allotments, Great Yarmouth. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodThe Tar Works allotments, Great Yarmouth. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

The chairperson and general secretary – wife and husband Donna and Dale Miller – have declined to comment.

Mr Chisnell said that when he signed up in March 2017 the then site secretary had registered him and his partner together but Mrs Miller later argued this meant he was not a shareholder and therefore could not be secretary.

A meeting arranged for July 29 to appoint a new secretary was cancelled but in an act of defiance, the plot holders held the meeting and nominated Mr Chisnell.

The general secretary and the chairperson refused to acknowledge the vote, Mr Chisnell said, and in August he received a letter from Mr Miller summoning him to a special general meeting, where he faced seven charges related to “destabilising” the association.

The Tar Works allotments, Great Yarmouth. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodThe Tar Works allotments, Great Yarmouth. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

“I think what he should have meant was I was standing up for plot holders rights, something that hadn’t happened for a long while,” Mr Chisnell said, adding that the charges were “trumped up” and “unsubstantiated”.

A majority of plot holders voted to keep him on as a member, he said.

In September, he received a letter informing him he had 14 days to leave his plot, Mr Chisnell said.

“I think at this point, forgive the pun, they’d lost the plot,” he said.

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