Pensioner’s fury after Sunderland City Council more than doubles allotment rent rate

Pensioner Lesley Barber is angry over an increase in allotment rents.
Pensioner Lesley Barber is angry over an increase in allotment rents.

A pensioner has reacted with fury after he was told the cost of renting two allotments, one of which he has kept for almost 40 years, will more than double this year.

Lesley Barber, 76, first rented an allotment from Sunderland City Council 38 years ago when he moved into his house in Gladstone Terrace, Penshaw.

Pensioner Lesley Barber is angry over an increase in allotment rents.

Pensioner Lesley Barber is angry over an increase in allotment rents.

Mr Barber, a dad-of-four and granddad-of-seven, says the yearly rate for his allotments were set at £21.20 last year.

But he has now received a letter from the council saying he will have to pay £49 for the year 2019/2020 for each of the two allotments he has at the back of his home.

Council chiefs say that all plot holders have faced increases and that allotments in Sunderland still offer “very good value” with many people paying less than £1 each week.

“When I got the letter saying it had gone up more than 100% I almost couldn’t believe it,” said Mr Barber, a retired engineer who was previously in the Royal Navy.

Pensioner Lesley Barber is angry over an increase in allotment rents.

Pensioner Lesley Barber is angry over an increase in allotment rents.

“They are living in cloud cuckoo land at the Civic Centre if they think this is acceptable.

“If it had gone up by 30% a year I could understand, but it’s a total shock that it will now be £49.”

Sunderland City Council budget papers for March revealed that a “modest rise in fees for plots” was to be applied for the forthcoming financial year.

The proposal is expected to save about £35,000 in 2019/2020.

Mr Barber added that he is concerned that the hike in fees will discourage others from keeping allotments, meaning older people become more isolated as they will stay indoors more.

“I’ve loved having allotments and I keep them nice and tidy as I always have,” he said.

“My kids and grandchildren have all grown up playing in them.

“It keeps me active at my age.

“I think it will put a lot of people off renting allotments when they know that the price is going up so much, I really do.”

A Sunderland City Council spokesman said: “As part of its annual review of charges, the council looked at rental fees for allotments in councils across the North East region.

“The council recently contacted holders and advised that fees are charged in line with allotment tiers, such as their location and popularity, and the size of a plot.

“All plot holders have faced increases, including those with larger or multiple plots.

“Sunderland allotments when compared with neighbouring local authorities continue to offer very good value with many holders annually paying less than £1 per week.”