Allotments fight set to continue

THE fight to win back control of Rye’s allotments looks set to continue into 2013.

And if the Town Council and Rye Allotments Association are successful it could save local tax payers thousands of pounds.

Allotments Association secretary Royston Godwin said: “Whether they know it or not, everyone in Rye contributes to the maintenance of the allotments through Rother’s £8,000 per year Rye Special Expense, an additional Council Tax charge paid to Rother by Rye tax payers. In addition, the income from the rents on the plots currently amounts to about £2,000 a year, and that goes to Rother too.

“The Rye Allotments Association stands ready to self-manage the allotments at no cost to the people of Rye, using the rental income. The Rye Special Expense for allotments would be abolished.

In 2008 lawyers acting for Rye Town Council established that the allotments are statutory. Under a specific provision of the Local Government Act 1972, district councils are prohibited from owning statutory allotments. The sites are owned by Rye Town Council which asked Rother District Council to relinquish management of them.

This Rother refused to do, instead offering Rye Town Council a “99-year lease” on two of the three sites at Love Lane and South Undercliff.

Mr Godwin said: “Acceptance would have made the present generation of Rye councillors complicit in an unlawful act. Commendably, they stood firm. The allotments belong to Rye and must be returned to Rye. Only political pressure and the costs involved prevented the matter from going to court in 2009-2010, and we are not giving in now.”

He added: “Rother is “outsourcing” many of its secondary functions to third parties. A proud announcement has been made about how Rother will save a lot of money through a deal with Hastings Borough Council and the AmicusHorizon housing association on the maintenance of open spaces, which will save £5 million.

“Rye Allotments Association is keeping a vigilant eye on Rother’s outsourcing. We will certainly not stand by and let a third party step in, bump up the allotment rents, and try to run them at a commercial profit.”

Rye is one of only a handful of town and parish councils in the country who do not have control of allotments.

Critics of Rother’s insistence to hang on to ownership of the two key sites in the town fear the district council could try to sell them off as housing development land.