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Stay away from your allotment during coronavirus crisis, growers told

PUBLISHED: 07:24 02 April 2020 | UPDATED: 07:24 02 April 2020

eadt news west - russell cook - photograph Tudor Morgan-Owen 03/07/11

Open day at Cotton Lane Allotments in Bury St Edmunds.

A plot holder with his fresh veg for sunday dinner

eadt news west - russell cook - photograph Tudor Morgan-Owen 03/07/11 Open day at Cotton Lane Allotments in Bury St Edmunds. A plot holder with his fresh veg for sunday dinner

Allotment holders in Bury St Edmunds have complained after confusion about national guidelines on coronavirus saw them told to stay away from their plots.

Peter Thompson, the Mayor of Bury St Edmunds. Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDPeter Thompson, the Mayor of Bury St Edmunds. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

They said the advice issued by Bury Town Council, which runs allotments in the town, contradicted what the government was saying.

In a letter emailed to holders Julie Sturgeon, the town council’s allotment and administrative assistant, said: “We know that the growing season is beginning and you would want to be on your allotment under normal circumstances.

“However you will also be aware of government instruction which say ‘stay at home, go outside only to buy food, for essential health or work reasons’.

“Therefore we are requesting people stay away from the allotments, especially since we do not have the resources to accept liability if you go to the site.

“Until further notice we will not be providing the facilitation for the allotments, so please respect others and do not go there.”

The advice has sparked confusion amongst allotment holders on social media.

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One said: “I don’t see what the issue is. Walk to the allotment, fresh air/exercise/grow healthy food? Why is it different in London where most of the C19 cases are? Inconsistent at best.”

Another said: “Allotments grow food, therefore you should be allowed to go. As for the council saying they cannot be held responsible, who’s asking them to be! It’s exercise, there’s no crowds and good food you have grown yourself.”

There are four municipal allotments in the town and Peter Thompson, mayor of Bury St Edmunds, said the advice had been issued because there was only a small council team to manage the allotments, of which members were self-isolating and working from home.

“Because of the lockdown and people having to work from home we cannot run the sites as effectively as we would do normally,” he said.

Mr Thompson said because the council is still liable for the sites the advice had been issued “in good faith” before elected members had had a chance to discuss the issue, which they were due to do imminently.

“The national guidelines are ambiguous and the sheer pace of the coornavirus situation means normal procedures are difficult to apply,” he said.

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