Row after charges for city allotments triple

A ROW has broken out over “scandalous” rent rises at the Capital’s allotments after an agreement was reached to triple charges.

The clash comes after the city council agreed with leaders from the Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotments (FEDAGA) to increase rent from £30 a year in 2005 to £100 in 2014. FEDAGA said the rise was aimed at putting pressure on the council to increase the number of allotments in the city.

But the increase has prompted Malachy Cotter, a plot holder at Lady Road allotment for 23 years, to accuse FEDAGA bosses of “empire building” and depriving members of a say.

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The criticisms were dismissed by FEDAGA and city council leaders however, who said the increases were planned and voted through as part of a drive to reduce allotment subsidies and boost the number of sites across Edinburgh.

Mr Cotter, who works as a legal administrator, insisted subsidies paid out by the council were already being covered by consecutive rent rises agreed since 2005.

He said: “This is just a little empire-building exercise that’s going on. The people who run FEDAGA like to see themselves as political movers.

“In agreeing these rises, the committee are not representing the interests of their fee-paying members.

“What they’ve done is like the road haulage association campaigning to have petrol prices put up for its members.

“They have come up with a scheme for expanding allotments and they think that if they put up rents, they will achieve this and reduce waiting lists – but they are not there to represent future allotment holders. By their constitution, they are there to represent the interests of their members.”

Mr Cotter also attacked a claim by FEDAGA bosses that rent increases had been agreed democratically and said plot-holders had been “robbed of their voice”.

He said: “They are clutching at the idea they are democratic but the small caucus of people who run FEDAGA are acting like a nanny that has thrown the baby out of the pram.

“There are over 1000 plot-holders in the city but I have attended FEDAGA agms and the attendance was less than 60. I would not say the way this has been agreed is democratic at all.”

Mr Cotter’s allegations were rejected by FEDAGA leaders.

Peter Wright, FEDAGA chair, said: “The increase was voted through and it was democratic – end of story.

“The whole idea of increasing rent was to put the council under pressure.

“By getting rid of the subsidy they pay, we take away the argument that they cannot increase the number of sites and by giving them a surplus, we put pressure on them to provide.

“Our own opinion at FEDAGA is that allotments should pay their way. If plot-holders want reduced rents in Edinburgh, they need to take on more of the responsibility for running their sites.”

Council bosses insisted the decision to up rents was reached in agreement with allotment owners and said they would continue to invest in sites.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, said: “The charging arrangements are part of a strategy agreed by the Council in 2010. This was done in partnership with both The Scottish Allotments and Garden Society and FEDAGA.

“We are aware of Mr Cotter’s views on this but these do not reflect the majority of allotment owners or the organisations involved in the running of them.”