ANGRY allotment holders are fighting plans to double the rent of their plots.

Cirencester Town Council announced its intention to significantly increase the annual rent charges for its allotments across town in a surprise letter to plot holders last month.

The rise, it said, was needed to 'maintain a balance between income and expenditure' as the allotments had been operating at a deficit.

But many shocked members of the City Bank Allotment Association have objected - saying the rise for a full plot from £25 to £60 - more than doubling the fee - was 'unacceptable'.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: City Bank allotments City Bank allotments (Image: Camilla Foster)

Meanwhile, half plot tenants will be invoiced for £30, double the previous bill, when the changes come in during September.

The keen gardeners say the rise isn't being accompanied by better facilities, security or maintenance work - factors the National Allotment Society says all providers should take into consideration when reviewing rent prices.

City Bank Allotment Association secretary David Ryan-Ainslie is concerned that many members will no longer be able to afford their plots.

Four allotment sites - Purley Road, Kingshill, City Bank and Chesterton - are managed by the town council.

Mr Ryan-Ainslie said the plots provide an important community space for householders who don't have large gardens and allows them to meet like-minded people - something which was particular valuable during the pandemic.

A passionate horticulturalist, Mr Ryan-Ainslie has had an allotment in City Bank for decades and has noticed that more young families are now signing up.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Gardeners busy planting at City Bank allotments Gardeners busy planting at City Bank allotments (Image: David Ryan-Ainslie)

He added that growing vegetables is an important way for many families to cope with the cost-of-living crisis and is worried that the rent rise will affect those in need.

In addition, the area has also become increasingly prone to flooding in recent years which has made cultivation difficult and has shortened the growing season.

Mr Ryan-Ainslie said: "The City Bank Allotment Association has objected to the rent increase on the grounds that the council do not provide a mains water supply at the site and there is no vehicle access so all materials must be carried onto the site by hand.

"It also does not provide any security in terms of fencing, lockable gates or CCTV, therefore we have experienced a number of break-ins over last few years.

"We are also expected to maintain the space ourselves so it raises the question, what are we even paying for?

"The rent has always been reasonable so we haven't complained but doubling it is unacceptable.

"The council didn't even consult us about this and has not provided a suitable justification for it.

"We want to know what our money is going towards.

"Our members aren't just retired people, they are also families and young people who might find this increase unaffordable.

"One member has already terminated their tenancy and I am worried more will follow."

Mr Ryan-Ainslie says the association has been told that the rise is due to increasing operational costs.

Town council CEO Andrew Tubb said: "I can confirm that we have received a letter on behalf of the City Bank Allotment holders and have agreed to meet with them to discuss their concerns.

"It would therefore not be appropriate for us to comment any further until we have had the opportunity to meet with them.

"Correspondence received by the allotment holders will be formally considered at the next meeting of the land and property committee which is scheduled to take place on Tuesday. July 9.

"Excluding VAT our full size plots now cost £1.15 per week, our half size plots 58 pence per week and a quarter plot is 29 pence per week.

"In addition we support various community allotment spaces and therefore make provision across a range of affordability and needs."