New Hemsby allotment holders ready to get digging

THE first allotment holders in Hemsby hailed the dawning of a new era of self-sufficiency and the chance of improving community cohesion in the village.

The eight plot holders became tenants of sites on part of farmer Richard Hirst’s Maize Maze in Yarmouth Road last week, following a long-running saga.

For Newport woman Kat Lovatt, in her 50s, the allotments provided an opportunity to unite the village and enable people to make new friends, as well as bringing different generations together.

She recalled the halcyon days before the arrival of larger supermarket chains when people were self-sufficient and lived off food they produced themeselves.

She said: “It is a very positive thing that creates community cohesion and energises people to do things together.

“It struck me there is an opportunity to really increase community cohesion through just being on the land. It is a step back in time to look forward in time.”

Mrs Lovatt briefly owned an allotment when she was 25 and living in Dereham, but said she was not as committed to it then as she was now. In the week since she moved on to her allotment, she has already made friends with dog walkers who have chatted to her while passing by.

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“It is an opportunity to learn how to grow organic vegetables locally, save money, save the planet and save health,” she added.

Kim Smart, 45, of Ryelands, Hemsby, and Lisa Kerrison, 39, of Sweetacres, Hemsby, said their children were particularly keen to learn how to grow fruit and vegetables.

Kim’s daughter Louise Lawley, nine, and Lisa’s children Debbie and Mark, eight and 12 respectively, have already been regular visitors.

Mrs Smart said: “It is natural to be out in the open doing something. Our kids want to know what we have grown and exactly where it has come from.”

The three new tenants were among a group, including landowner Mr Hirst and allotment holders Stephen Lanceman, 60, and Peggy Sutton, who braved heavy, but welcoming, rain for gardeners on Monday to begin preparing their plots.

The eight allotment holders, who have 10-year leases, are already on site, although their first annual rental payment of �60 is not due until September.

Last month, the Mercury reported how the allotment scheme was nearly nipped in the bud after the village’s parish council withdrew from a lease agreement with Mr Hirst to provide the new plots.

The council’s chairman, Bob Reynolds, said allotment holders decided they did not want to pursue Mr Hirst’s 30-plot site close to the Jet service station because they did not want to pay the annual �100 rent the council was charging.

Another concern was over a clause inserted into the contract allowing Mr Hirst to remove tenants from the site by giving 12 months’ notice.

However, Mr Hirst said the clause was a legal requirement under the Allotments Act 1912 and he would only use it in extreme circumstances, such as for non-payment of rent.

Up to 10 plot holders had already paid the council �100 deposits for the allotments, but the eight who have obtained the plots reached a separate agreement with the landowner.

He said he still had a number of plots available and urged anyone interested to contact him.

“I am really delighted we have been able to satisfy some of the needs of the parishioners,” Mr Hirst said.

l Anyone interested in renting a plot can call Mr Hirst on 01493 732307.