Meeting to decide whether council commits to spending £50,000 on land for more allotments
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More allotments could be coming to Honiton - but the town council would have to commit nearly half of its reserves to make it happen.
Town clerk Mark Tredwin said that a winning bid from the council in an upcoming auction for land at Merryfield (Roundball Lane) could leave the council’s reserves dangerously low.
The land has a guide price of £30,000 plus fixed fees of £660.
But in a report to the council, Mr Tredwin said councillors need to decide whether the authority should commit around £50,000 of its reserves it currently has to secure the land.
The figure is almost half of the council’s current reserves, which at the end of the financial year is £104,895.
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An extraordinary meeting of the council will be held next week so members can discuss the possibility of bidding for land at Merryfield to use for additional allotments.
In his report, Mr Tredwin warned the council could be left ‘vulnerable’ if it wishes to commit to purchasing the land.
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Mr Tredwin said: “With a guide price of £30,000 plus fixed fees of £600 for the land, this will mean each allotment will cost a minimum of £3,000 per allotment just for land alone.
“There will then be the costs entailed at some point for the preparation of the land and the management of the additional allotments.
“Whilst these costs are unlikely to be as high as for the Combe Estate allotments, they are going to be significant – potentially around £20,000.”
The town council is already working to bring allotments to Honiton, having submitted a planning application for the provision of 30 last month.
The proposed site for the allotments is a strip of grassland running alongside The Gissage river beside Battishorne Way.
Although the land it owned by Combe Estate, the council is currently in the process of finalising a lease agreement.
There is currently a lengthy waiting list in Honiton for allotments – with some 80 people pushing for the amenity to be provided.
However, Mr Tredwin said the town council could be left in the lurch if an emergency presented itself after the authority committed £50,000 towards purchasing the land at Merryfield.
He added: “Whilst appreciating that suitable land is rarely placed on the market, it is for this council to decide at this point it wishes to commit around £50,000 of the reserves it currently has.
“This would potentially leave the council vulnerable should there be a need for the council to call its reserves for other matters.”
In a separate report to the council, Cllr Roy Coombs said: “Even though there are large areas of countryside in Honiton Parish, including land in two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other land outside the built-up area boundary of the town, it has been very difficult over the years to acquire land for allotment gardens provision.
“This is due in part to land that could be suitable rarely being offered for sale.”
According to Cllr Coombs report, there was several chances for allotments to be developed in town - but all faced difficulties.
Allotment gardens at Newlands and Silver Street were developed for housing, even though they were described as Features of Special Importance in the 1999 Honiton Conservation Area Appraisal.
In 2007, the town council was outbid at auction for land in Combe Raleigh.
The land was being considered as no land seemed to be available in Honiton.
Another blow was dealt in 2011, when land at Honiton Bottom Road was declared as a town green by Devon County Council, preventing use in part by the council for allotment gardens.
In 2013, the council would be outbid again - this time by South West Water - for surplus land.
Councillors will resolve whether to bid for land at Merryfield at an extraordinary meeting being held next Monday at the Beehive, starting at 7pm.