City allotments under threat, say the Green Party.
ALLOTMENT owners are digging deep - after being hit with some of the country's most expensive rental charges.
The Green Party said hundreds of plots were lying empty in Birmingham with gardeners put off by annual fees of up to PS90.
It said the average rent for a standard plot in Liverpool and Leeds was just PS40, while in Southampton it was PS53.
Green Party spokesman Steve Parker urged Birmingham City Council to review the charges and reconsider plans to make plot holders legally liable for allotment sites.
"It saddens me to hear so many people saying these rent increases may force them to give up their allotments," he said.
"I want the council to reduce rates to levels in keeping with other major cities, and reconsider plans for passing over draconian legal responsibilities to allotment associations."
The council revealed last year that allotment holders faced rent rises of 20 per cent over three years.
The authority, which must make crippling cuts, wants to end the service's PS121,000-a-year subsidy and make it self-financing.
The age at which plot holders qualify for a 50 per cent rate rebate is also to rise from 60 to 65 from October.
John Whitehouse, chairman of the School Lane Allotments Association in Shard End, said: "The rent increases are a concern but the contract being offered is the major problem for us.
"The council seems to be trying to convert voluntary efforts into legally-binding contractual obligations for association committees, which we find abhorrent."
But Coun James McKay, in charge of the city's allotments, said the authority had no choice but to pass more of the burden for their maintenance to plot holders.
He said: "At present the service receives a 37 per cent subsidy from the council - which is simply not sustainable given the PS825 million shortfall in funding the city faces as a whole by 2017.
"Given this bleak financial landscape, the council has been consulting on a series of gradual rent increases and a new operating model for allotments, which would decommission management of the service to allotment holders to save money on staffing costs."
'"It saddens me to hear so many people saying these rent increases may force them to give up their allotments. STEVE PARKER
Allotment owners are having to fork out for some of the most expensive rentals in the country