Morpeth Town Council has reaffirmed its commitment to the continuation of Tommy’s Field Allotment Association and confirmed the security of tenure of allotment holders.
Following the recent handing-in of petitions by members of the association, the local authority has issued a statement.
The council is the freeholder and the land is registered as allotment land under the Allotment Act.
The only way that the land can cease to be allotment land is by order of the Secretary of State.
The town council has sought such permission for the small area of land forming part of Tommy’s Field to facilitate a potential roundabout.
The remainder of the land is secured and the rights of individual allotment holders are protected.
The statement includes the following: ‘When investigating the legal issue of the roundabout, the town council ascertained that a document signed in 2012 between the Town Council and Tommy’s Field Allotment Association purporting to be a lease was legally invalid.
‘It was legally invalid in that it was a lease purportedly granted to an unincorporated association (that can’t legally hold a lease) and it was void for want of registration with HM Land Registry as all leases for more than seven years need to be registered.
‘This was discussed with the allotment association in August and it was made clear that the town council needed to regularise the legal position and this would involve serving a formal Notice to Quit on the association to ensure that there was no confusion with the 2012 document and that a new legal lease could then be granted.
‘It was made clear that the Notice to Quit is effective on the Tommy’s Field Allotment Association, as the managing body for the whole allotments, and not on individual plot holders.
‘Once the notice period expires, the legal relationship will be between the plot holders as protected tenants and the town council as landowners.
‘However, the town council welcomes the work of the association and notes it has now formed a limited company capable of taking on a lease.
‘The council’s preferred position is to enter into a new lease with Tommy’s Field Allotment Association Ltd based on nationally recognised standard terms.’
Finance and general purposes committee chairman, Coun David Bawn, said: “It is regrettable that what seems to be a misunderstanding may have caused unwarranted concern to individual allotment holders and led to a petition.
“It has always been the position that whatever the final position regarding the management of the allotments, either by a new legal lease to the allotment association or by direct management of the site by the council, the legal rights of the current plot holders will not be affected.”
Morpeth Mayor Nic Best added: “The town council is currently in negotiations with the Tommy’s Field Allotment Association on the terms of a potential new lease and is hopeful that terms can be agreed to the satisfaction of all parties.”