Huge rise in price of Harrogate's rented-gardens could be scrutinised

The rise in prices of leased plots has resulted in some residents stating they wouldn't pay the increase.
The rise in prices of leased plots has resulted in some residents stating they wouldn't pay the increase.

A decision to drastically increase the rent prices of council-owned gardening plots could be hauled before Harrogate's scrutiny body.

A decision to drastically increase the rent prices of council-owned gardening plots could be hauled before Harrogate's scrutiny body.

Local charity Horticap at the Tower Garden plot.

Local charity Horticap at the Tower Garden plot.

Resident Neil Hind will lobby for councillors sitting on the overview committee to inspect the council's small plots pricing at their next meeting.

Mr Hind is one of dozens of residents set to be impacted by a 2018 review, in which the authority looked at 22 small plots of garden land it lets to householders via a garden licence agreement.

The council has since written to residents to inform them of an increase in the annual rental fees - which are set to rise to a total of £7730 per annum, up from the current £1565 generated by the 22 properties.

The council says the increase has been done to reflect current market values after a decade of static pricing.

Neil and Lucy Hind.

Neil and Lucy Hind.

However, Mr Hind said the move was "disproportionate".

"It does seem that the effort and focus on this from the council is disproportionate when there are much more pressing concerns for them that would generate much higher levels of income," he said.

Mr Hind and wife Lucy said the move would impact the award-winning plot they lease at Harlow Hill Observation Tower, which encompasses gardens developed and maintained by local charity Horticap.

The couple fears the land will be returned to the council and could result in “massive environmental loss” for the area.

“The main concern here is the lack of transparency around the new costs. Despite several requests, the council have not shown any evidence that the new costs are based on any commercially supportable figures," Mrs Hind said.

Councillor Graham Swift, deputy council leader and cabinet member for economic development, said the review aimed to address "peppercorn rates", many of which had been implemented decades ago.

"Although some tenants saw large percentage increases, in most cases the actual monetary amount was small," Coun Swift said.

"Clearly, tenants leasing large plots of land were asked to pay more.

"In almost all cases, tenants have accepted the increases as the value that they derive from the use of the land is far greater than the monetary cost.

"No tenant is mandated to pay and if a tenant does not wish to pay the increase, that’s fine too."

The next overview and scrutiny meeting is scheduled to be held on September 2.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter