Town allotment plans fail to take root

A BID to hand down allotment management to plot holders has failed to take root.

Morpeth Town Council took over responsibility for the Middle Greens plots following the re-organisation of local government in 2009, but following discussions with tenants, the authority was keen for the allotment association to handle the day-to-day management itself.

The proposal would enable the group to apply for grants to support projects in the same way as the Tommy’s Field association, which has been independent since the 1950s, can.

However, to bring in the changes, at least 60 per cent of the tenants would have to agree.

But while 66 per cent of those who responded to a recent ballot of the Middle Greens allotment holders were in favour of self-management, only 38 of the 72 tenants voted, meaning the switch cannot happen for at least another year.

Town councillor Nic Best said: “We held a ballot of the Middle Greens allotment holders, hoping they could self-manage and take on the lease in the same way as the Tommy’s Field association.

“We needed 60 percent of all allotment holders to agree, but only 38 out of 72 responded. Sixty-six per cent of those said yes, but it wasn’t 60 per cent of the total.

“Both we and the allotment association committee were very disappointed, but we weren’t able to make the transfer because we haven’t got the vote from the allotment holders.

“We agreed that we would carry out another ballot along with the rent invoices next year, but for this coming year they are going to be managed directly by the town council.”

The news was revealed at a meeting of the council’s Property and Asset Management Committee.

Members also heard that the council will change its billing arrangements for plots so that from April people will have to pay for them up front, rather than being nine months in arrears before payment is taken as in the present system.

“The allotment committee is happy to do that because it would mean people are committed to using their allotments, rather than walking away after nine months,” said Coun Best.

He also reported that there are six or seven vacant allotments in the area, but as there is a substantial waiting list there should not be a problem finding new tenants for them.