More than 100 furious allotment holders turned out to protest against hikes in rents. Plot holders have threatened to take Hyndburn council to court after they refused to back down on the fee increases – blaming 38 per cent government budget cuts.
Around 70 angry residents lined a packed council chamber at the town hall, with dozens more unable to get in.
However, a Tory motion to overturn the charges was defeated by 18 votes to 13, prompting cries of ‘see you in court’.
Coun Marlene Haworth said the plans were ‘absolutely disgraceful’ given the council’s predicted £500,000 underspend, and vowed the Conservatives would rescind the increases if they returned to power.
She added: "These are elderly, disabled and vulnerable people who are only guilty of wanting to grow a bit of veg and interact with other people."
Great Harwood councillor Lynn Wilson pleaded with the council not to ‘persecute’ allotment holders and added: "I’ve had many elderly people saying I’ll keep it for another 12 months and then I’ll let it go."
Coun Peter Britcliffe compared the increases to rises in funeral charges, and cuts to clinical waste collections and transport subsidies, claiming: "None of these decisions was taken democratically."
But Huncoat Independent Coun Dave Parkins disagreed, saying the allotments badly needed investment after years of under-investment. Labour council chiefs have unveiled a £300,000 investment programme over five years, and claim taxpayers currently pay £240 per plot per year.
Coun Ciaran Wells, cabinet member for education, leisure and arts, said he wanted to see more devolved allotment associations as they are currently 80 per cent subsidised by the authority and 20 per cent by the allotment fees.
Plot holder Craig D’john says his small plot at Laneside, Altham West is going up from £25 to £80 a year. He added: "We have got no water or drainage. One of the sites is flooded and covered with knotweed. No action has been taken for years."
Another allotment holder Gerry Newton MBE said: "It’s a vast rise. I’ll be paying more than £200, up from £25 plus water a year."
Since the meeting, Coun Well met with 24 allotment holders on Tuesday and questions were put to him. A further meeting is planned for the end of February