Plot holders have been warned the “clock is certainly ticking” on their 99-year-old allotments.
The YEP revealed last week that the new landowner at the 18-plot Reservoir allotments, in Wood Lane, Rothwell, had given a 12-month notice to Leeds City Council to throw plot holders off site.
At a packed public meeting on Tuesday, around 50 residents and gardeners were told that the elusive new owner had declined an invitation to attend and that his intentions remain a mystery.
Meanwhile the new owner of the larger Victoria allotments, in Victoria Road, Rothwell, attended but refused to rule out rent rises or development on the site.
Joanne Clough, the council’s parks and countryside manager, said: “He [the Reservoir owner] has not divulged the business he is in at all and he’s not said he wants to develop it.
“All we know is that we have been given a notice to quit.”
This notice handed in by the new Reservoir site owner – a Mr John Pollard – means plot holders will have to be off the land by February 2 next year.
Ms Clough said if negotiations to keep them as allotments fail, compulsory purchase of the site is still an option.
But the meeting, at Haigh Road Community Centre, in Rothwell, was warned that this could take over a year, meaning gardeners may still have to leave the land in 2013.
A resident, living by the Reservoir site, said: “I don’t want my property being devalued further by the inaction of the council or any new action by the purchaser.”
Plot holders would be compensated in line with the equipment and work done on their plots if they are forced to leave.
New Victoria owner Mike Barrett, from plant hire firm Addplant Ltd, said: “I looked around the site and thought it possibly would be developable. If I get a reasonable return on my investment, then why not maintain the status quo?”
When asked by Coun Stewart Golton (Lib Dem, Rothwell) whether he would look to increase rents, Mr Barrett said: “Yes, one follows the other basically.”
Andrew White, a Victoria plot holder, said: “It would be interesting to see just how far the council will go to maintain them as allotments.”
The next meeting is set for Monday, March 12, at the same venue, from 7pm.