CRUSADING gardeners who took on the might of Leeds City Council over planned allotment rent hikes have won their battle for justice in the High Court.
Dozens of the city’s allotment holders packed into a courtroom in Leeds to hear they had been victorious in their long-running David and Goliath-style legal fight with council chiefs.
A High Court judge overturned the council’s plans to increase rent on the city’s allotments from £37 to £58 per year - due to come into effect this autumn - after ruling that the decision was unlawful.
The allotment holders cheered outside court after the judgement yesterday and spoke of their delight at the win.
Judy Turley, secretary of the Leeds and District Allotment Gardeners Federation, said: “We’re just elated. We’re sorry we had to do it. We wanted to enter into meaningful conversation with the council but just never had the opportunity.”
Paul Lattimer, acting chair of the LDAGF, said: “I’m very pleased. It’s the result we’d hoped for. Now we want to re-engage with the authority because we need to find a way forward.”
The Leeds and District Allotment Gardeners Federation (LDAGF) launched the judicial review last year after the council’s executive board approved plans to increase rent and reduce the proportion of income allotment associations could keep to maintain their sites in the city.
Alex Peebles, solicitor at Irwin Mitchell who acted for the LDAGF, said: “The organisation is a passionate gardening community whose members both grow their own produce and reach into the wider local communities, yet many were concerned the changes may put off people having an allotment and also price many current plot holders out of a hobby they love. This is another case which demonstrates why it is vital local authorities always meet all of their responsibilities when it comes to making changes to public services.”
Among the campaigners was Coun Stewart Golton (Lib Dem, Rothwell), who is vice-president of the allotment association and also sits on the council’s executive board. He said the council should have worked closer with the LDAGF on ways to provide a service with its limited budgets. He said: “They acted the opposite. They closed the door on working with the allotment association, who’ve been partners to the council for decades and instead imposed the unfair rent increase.” Speaking after the hearing, a Leeds City Council spokeswoman said the authority had tried to keep charges “low and affordable” and was disappointed to have lost a section of the case on a narrow point of law. She said: “We will now be considering an appeal, while assessing the judge’s comments and bringing a report back to our September executive board.”