Plot holders at one of four thriving allotment sites in Beeston fear an exodus of gardeners if council plans for rent increases go ahead.
Residents with plots in Old Lane, Beeston, fear that Leeds City Council’s budget proposal to increase rent on allotment sites without a water supply from £38 to just under £160 a year could drive away the next generation of gardeners.
Beeston is home to four allotment sites, with land in Clarkesfield, Shafton Lane and Lady Pit Lane, which was expanded in December, also used for plots.
Allotment holder and treasurer of the Old Lane site’s committee, Steve Johnston, 59, said: “We would have an exodus from these plots if it went up to £160 a year.
“There is less and less for people to do round here and I reckon this is one of the good things, so we have to fight for it.”
Plot holders at the Old Lane site have been handing out petitions to show their disapproval of rent rises and have so far collected hundreds of signatures.
The site, which dates back over a century, serves 75 plot holders, aged from 21 to 80, who grow everything from cabbages and herbs to beans and leeks.
Mr Johnston, who is retired, said: “The reason I got the allotment was the sports centre was shut and I needed the exercise, and in terms of getting rid of stress it’s fantastic.
“What I have found is a little community here of very supportive people. They come up and introduce themselves, I got more praise in a week on this allotment than in 25 years of being in a teaching job.”
The tight-knit group of gardeners have even plotted their own social events, with on-site celebrations at Bonfire Night and on the Queen’s Jubilee last year bringing people together.
Plot holder of 26 years, Reg Brook, 68, said: “If people weren’t here they would be sat at home getting fat and what would it cost the council to look after those people? It’s not just about growing vegetables.”
Beeston hosts four of the council’s 97 allotment sites.
Ian Wood, chair of Leeds and District Gardeners’ Federation (LDGF), said: “We are on the crest of a wave of interest in allotments so at a time like this it’s absolutely crazy to put rents up.”
He said the LDGF is considering bidding to take over management of allotment sites from the council in the hope of making the pastime more affordable, while stating that the council is “seriously reconsidering” rent increases due to the strength of feeling against it.
A council spokeswoman said: “As part of the council’s long-term planning to cope with big cuts to our budgets we have to review all our finances, including the £130,000 annual subsidy we give to allotment holders.
“Any potential increases are just proposals until a final decision is made on the budget in February.”