Allotment holders fear land will be sold

ALLOTMENT holders fear they will lose their long-standing plots as a council considers whether to sell off the land for housing.

John Howard

ALLOTMENT holders fear they will lose their long-standing plots as a council considers whether to sell off the land for housing.

Residents at Harleston, near Stowmarket, say they have virtually nothing left in their community and the loss of the allotments will see the last facility vanish.

Mid Suffolk District Council, which owns the land, has less than a week to formally decide whether it intends to grant outline planning permission for six three and four-bedroom homes, making the site very valuable.

But residents said they believed the decision had already been taken, with the land already being advertised to developers, and allotments holders will be forced off the site that has been in use for two decades.

Geoff Fairclough, clerk to the parish meeting, said: “Mid Suffolk District Council have never charged rent and never formalised this land as allotments.

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“But this site has been in use for 20 years with seven plots there. Allotments are our only facility in Harleston and we are about to lose that too. They will be irreplaceable and allotment holders are up in arms about this.

“The land is full of vegetables at the moment and I believe the authority is taking legal action to get them off. I am extremely disappointed.

“Harleston has not got any facilities - no school, no surgery, no post office, no shop, not even streetlights.”

Mr Fairclough said he will be lodging a complaint with the council and may take the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman over the way it was handled.

And a meeting will now be held on September 15 from 7.30pm at nearby Onehouse Village Hall to debate the issue.

Steve Mayhew, who has had an allotment on the site for about 14 years, said: “We have an extended family with our daughter and her son living with us and my parents locally, it (the allotment) is a Godsend, especially with the current cost of food.

“This is a loss to the village, we are a very small community and a lot of houses do not have gardens.”

Tim Passmore, leader of the Conservative/Independent run authority, said he had not been aware of the issue and would welcome hearing from villagers.

He said: “We have to take account of what the local community wants. There does need to be a balance and there is a need for affordable housing, but I do not like to see allotments disappearing after so many years.”

A spokesman for the district council planning department said a decision had not yet been made, but would have to be formally issued by August 21.

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