ALLOTMENT holders have forced Kingston Council to hold a scrutiny panel meeting over its decision to introduce rent hikes of 12%.
Under council rules if 100 residents ask for a decision to be called up before the panel, the issue will be given time at one of the monthly meetings.
More than 100 people put their name to a petition, urging the council to change its mind.
The increase, which will come into force next January, follows a 3% increase in April, bringing the cost of a full plot to £69 or £34.50 for a half plot.
"It might not sound like a lot of money but most allotment holders are pensioners," said Norbiton ward councillor Steve Mama. "They're finding it hard enough to cope at the moment without this extra blow. It is a huge, unjustified increase.
"The council is supposed to be encouraging residents to eat healthily and take exercise, but they're making it harder for older people to do this. Rent hikes of this nature are unjustified and fall particularly hard on residents who use allotments as their main hobby and recreation."
They are demanding the council reverses it decision and pumps more of their rent into maintaining the sites, which they say are in desperate need to modernisation.
“The only allotment site we have in Norbiton ward is in Kingston Road and is in need of major repair work to its fencing, footpaths and water tanks," said Cllr Mama. "There is no justification for such a rent hike unless the Council provides a plan to improve our allotments”, he said.
A spokesman for Kingston Council said its allotment rents were still a lot cheaper than elsewhere. ‘’An objective of Kingston Council’s Allotment Strategy 2008-2018 was to conduct a rent review of allotments in the Royal Borough – action that hasn’t been carried out for over 25 years.
" Although there has been a proposed rent increase of 7p per week for pensioners who manage a 250sqm plot, the total rent of 66p per week is still considerably lower than that of neighbouring boroughs – some who charge up to 96p per week. ‘’
The issue will be discussed at the scrutiny panel meeting at the Guildhall on July 14.