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Rent increase news

Many of you will have heard about the Council's plans to increase the rent on the allotments. Having canvassed the opinions of our members we have sent our response to the CNC to be taken into account when making a decision about the increases at their meeting in June.

Below are the collated responses, from the CNAA and a combined letter from other allotment associations. Please feel free to contact the representatives themselves using the contacts at the bottom of the page

LETTER TO CNC FROM COTTONMILL, NUNNERY, CAMP, SANDRIDGE ROAD AND FOLLY LANE ALLOTMENTS. To the Councillors who serve on St Albans Community Neighbourhood Council Councillor Alun Davies (Chairman), Councillor Edgar Hill (Vice-Chairman), Councillor Jessica Chivers, Councillor Salih Gaygusuz, Councillor Gerard McHale, Councillor Janet Smith, Councillor M Iqbal Zia. Dear Councillors We are committee members who represent the Site Associations of these allotments. After the recent CNC meeting where tables of possible Allotment Rent increases were outlined, we have surveyed all our local Associations’ members. We have received over 200 responses so far. The overwhelming view is that option 1, roughly 7% annual increase, is acceptable though harsh given that inflation is only around 2 or 3 %. Anything above this would be unjustified given that there are numerous Council policies which refer to the benefits of allotments in improving healthy lifestyles, green spaces use, the long range plan to utilise allotments more fully, the commitment to affordable rents and many more. We have no confidence in the figures that were presented to CNC and we challenge their validity, and indeed the totally new principle of Cost Recovery for leisure services – will you be charging admission to Verulamium Park next? Our responders are strong supporters of the 50% concessionary rates. We have to point out that our contributions to each site’s management already saves the Council substantial time and money. We as site representatives or plot officers would be very interested in discussing possible Council efficiency savings in allotment administration. We hope that the next CNC meeting will take these points on board when considering their decision. We expect to have representatives in the public gallery for the meeting to show our members’ feelings. Signed on behalf of our site associations: Janet Wyatt , Michelle Mackenzie and Terry Beckett for Cottonmill and Nunnery Allotments Association, Christine Hood and Chris Selkirk for Camp, Martyn Astley and Joy Bird for Sandridge Road Allotments Association, Richard Cloutman and Bob Grover for Folly Lane Allotments Group ============================================

Summary of points being made by CNAA in response to the recent proposals put forward by St Albans District Council (SADC) to increase rental charges for allotments. • SADC has made public support for the value of allotments in two public documents. ▪ St. Albans City & District Council Strategic Local Plan 2011 - 2031 . Page 99 - Green Infrastructure - 10.14 There are many benefits of Green Infrastructure, including social, environmental and economic ones and it is central to ensuring that communities are sustainable. Social benefits include physical and psychological health benefits, social inclusion, education and sense of place. Environmental benefits can include enhancing biodiversity, ecosystem services and adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. Economic benefits include encouraging investment and creating an attractive place to live, work and shop. 10.16 St Albans District has a number of existing high quality areas of Green Infrastructure. These include: Local green spaces, playing pitches and parks including Rothamsted Park, Verulamium Park and Clarence Park, allotments, orchards and roadside verges ▪ St. Albans City & District Allotment Strategy 2014 - 2019 Page 3 - 1. Introduction and Background "Allotments are a valued and important asset to the St Albans City & District, providing a wide range of benefits to both communities and the environment." “Allotments are also important green open spaces, providing a haven for wildlife in the heart of our towns. Along with Parks they are often referred to as the “Green Lungs” of urban areas.” • Both documents also state that it is SADC’s objective to maximize the number of people using allotments by actively promoting and encouraging people to rent plots. • The proposed rent increases could very well result in the 'pricing out' of many residents and this in turn will have a detrimental impact to local communities. If SADC cannot lease plots due to a high cost then allotment sites will become overgrown and unattractive. It is in no ones interest to allow this to happen. The Council needs the income and the community needs the allotments. • CNAA is entering into an arrangement with a local food bank to supply surplus produce for the benefit of the community demonstrating a direct link to the well-being of the community. • CNAA recognises that SADC has budget constraints and would support looking for efficiency savings that can contribute to a balanced approach. • CNAA members raised interesting points when asked for their views – That even the proposed 7% increase is 3 x higher than the current rate of inflation (2.3%) and that pensions only rise by 3% per year. That all land uses have costs, but you can’t expect every green space to pay for itself. For example, public parks do not charge an entrance fee so their costs can be recovered. That, through our council tax, residents are charged for facilities and services whether they use them or not. For example children’s playgrounds, outdoor gyms, splashparks and cycleways. Many residents may not use these facilities, but all residents pay for their provision and upkeep. • CNAA and representatives from other allotment sites across St Albans all agree that we have no confidence in any of the figures that were presented to CNC (City Neighbourhoods Committee) and we have challenged their validity. • The table that shows the cost of renting allotments in other areas has been investigated and the comparisons are not like-for-like. For example, in the case of the higher cost allotments, the investigation showed that the services received are far superior to those provided by SADC (the availability of toilets, waste removal and provision of events for example). Who should you contact? Councillor Janet Smith (Our local councillor for Sopwell Ward which encompasses our sites) 40 Fontmell Close St Albans AL3 5HU 01727 763907 cllr.j.smith@stalbans.gov.uk Councillor Alun Davies (Chairman of the City Neighbourhoods Committee) 41 Normandy Road St. Albans Hertfordshire AL3 5PR 07779 616006 cllr.a.davies@stalbans.gov.uk Councillor Salih Gaygusuz (Former Mayor of St. Albans and member of the CNC) 22 Southfield Way St Albans Herts AL4 9JJ 01727 858289 cllr.s.gaygusuz@stalbans.gov.uk Sopwell Residents Association (All residents of Sopwell are automatically members of the SRA and the SRA are members of the CNC) http://www.sopwell.org.uk/ Visit their website and fill out their ‘Contact Us’ form.

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