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Gardener claims victory in battle with Eastleigh Council over allotments
A Hampshire allotment holder is claiming victory in his long-running battle with a local authority over rent increases.
Alex Mullins, who represented more than 700 Hampshire gardeners, has had his request for a judicial review into what he viewed to be “incredibly unfair” rent increases by Eastleigh Borough Council turned down.
But the 64-year-old is still claiming victory because the original aim of his legal challenge was to stop soaring rent rises, which council bosses have not done and look unlikely to do in the future.
The battle lines were first drawn in February last year when Mr Mullins successfully challenged the council’s bid to up his fees for a plot by 60 per cent, from £25 to £40, during a small claims hearing.
But the authority launched an appeal amid speculation that the ruling could spark a flurry of similar claims in the borough – and payouts totalling hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
A judge ruled in the council’s favour after calling the original small claims procedure “wholly inappropriate” for a dispute that could have “potentially involved substantial sums of money”.
But Mr Mullins, who fronts the Eastleigh and District Allotment Association and runs a plot in South Street, vowed not to give up the fight and sought for the High Court to impose an order on all local authorities to increase rents in line with other recreational activities.
However, a judge has ruled that the request for such a review was out of time and ruled it should be dismissed.
Although disappointed, Mr Mullins believes victory is his as the proposed increases never materialised but he has vowed to “closely scrutinise” the next rise in allotment rates by the council.
He added: “The council has decided not to increase rents in 2012 when they were due to increase and furthermore, it has been reported from a well informed source that the council will in future increase rents by the same rate of increase as other recreational activities.
“This means that the original demand and reason for the legal action has been achieved.”
Eastleigh Borough Council has always maintained that the increase was reasonable for the service it supplies, which includes water and electricity.
The council has also said that the fees amounted to 77p a week and that it was subsidising allotments by more than £70,000 a year.
No one was available for comment from the authority over the comments made by Mr Mullins.