Anger over 200% rent hike for Ponders End allotment holders

Enfield Council is upping annual rent and water charges for Falcon Fields Allotments from £70 to £220, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Allotment holders at Falcon Fields in Ponders End
Allotment holders at Falcon Fields in Ponders End

Tenants on an allotment site in Ponders End fear huge rent hikes planned by Enfield Council will force them off their plots.

Falcon Fields Allotments, in Church Road, is home to more than 200 small plots where tenants – many from low-income and ethnic minority backgrounds – grow fruit, vegetables, flowers and other produce.

As well as being a source of cheap, fresh food, the allotments give them a chance to relax, exercise and get together with other members of the community.

But in April this year Enfield Council put up signs around the site announcing it was taking over the management and upping annual rents plus water charges from £70 to £220 for Enfield residents and £299 for those living in other boroughs.

The council says the increases, which are set to take effect from next April, will bring fees into line with other Enfield allotments, and concessions will be available. But many tenants already being squeezed by the cost-of-living crisis say they will struggle to afford the new payments.

Fay Bernard started visiting the allotments in 2009 to help an elderly man she was cooking for, and she now holds two plots where she grows food for friends and family.

“This site has been going for over 100 years,” she said. “There are elderly people here, and we are here because we need exercise for mental health, we have children, and we all get together.

“It is something to keep the community together – it doesn’t matter if you come from Enfield or Haringey, or wherever you come from.

“It is for family and friends, it is not business, and I just don’t understand where the council is coming from.”

Monique from Edmonton said she started coming to the allotments in 2010 after she was attacked in her home and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. She grows “everything” on her plot – “flowers, vegetables, herbs and a few different trees”.

“For me, when I got sick, my whole view of what is important changed,” she said. “These allotments played a big part in it.

“I still have mental health problems, but coming here has helped me to get better and find a safe place and be around people. If anything serious happened to me, I could count on them to help me.

“We have three community organisations on these allotments. Some came out of the [Covid-19] pandemic, yes, but I started one because I wanted to share what I got from this place – mentally, physically and emotionally.”

Monique said that if the council goes ahead with the rent hikes, she would consider giving up her plot. “But I don’t want to,” she said. “This place is so special. It has been here for such a long time.”

Falcon Fields Allotments
Falcon Fields Allotments

Roy Parke has had his plot for between eleven and twelve years. “I grow veg, cabbage, fruit, a few flowers, potatoes, peas, beans,” he said. “These things are shared with my family who come here. I bring my children, who come up with their children – they love it in the summer.

This story is published by Enfield Dispatch, Enfield's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

“If they increase the rent to that amount of money, obviously I will have to consider [giving up the plot].

“For the council to come and do what they are doing, with no communication with us physically – it is not right.”

Determined to fight back against the council’s actions, the tenants have now called for an investigation into its takeover of the site.

They say they were not consulted on the move, and many only found out when they read signs put up around their plots. During online meetings with council staff, they say officers from the authority pledged to visit and talk to the tenants, but failed to do so.

The tenants claim the council’s decision followed the “mismanagement” of the site by a previous committee, which failed to submit annual accounts. The tenants formed a new committee to run the allotments but say the council is refusing to recognise it.

Monique said: “[The site] was run by an association, and the council have been ignoring plot holders since 2013 because we had a few issues with the management of the association.

“When we went to the council, they did not recognise us or take us seriously – and when the lease came up to be renewed, they didn’t talk to us at all.”

If the council did recognise their committee, the tenants believe it would give them more of a voice and could prevent the authority from imposing such steep increases in rent.

Sandra Salazar, who has worked on the allotments for 13 years, said she thought the council was “pushing people” to “give up their plots”.

“A lot of people, they have been here for so long; 30 to 50 years,” she said. “They can’t afford the increase and are saying ‘we are just going to give up’.”

Fay said: “Enfield Council say they are for the residents – I don’t believe so. I don’t know who they are for. They are not for us. We have been here for a long time and they are treating us really badly.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked Enfield Council why it was refusing to recognise the new committee, why it took over the running of the site and whether it had launched an investigation into the matter, but the authority did not answer.

A council spokesperson said: “The council has returned the management of Falcon Fields Allotments directly to the authority. The council is not collecting any fees from plot holders at Falcon Fields until April 2024, when the fees will align with all other allotment plots within the borough. Appropriate concessions will be available to those that meet set criteria.

“During the lead up to the change, the council held several meetings with stakeholders to inform them of the revised management. Notices were displayed throughout the site and a representative from the council has been present at the allotments for three days per week since 17th April, to communicate with current plot holders.”

No news is bad news 

Independent news outlets like ours – reporting for the community without rich backers – are under threat of closure, turning British towns into news deserts. 

The audiences they serve know less, understand less, and can do less. 

In celebration of Indie News Week, Public Interest News Foundation's Indie News Fund will match fund all donations, including new annual supporter subscriptions for the month of June.

If our coverage has helped you understand our community a little bit better, please consider supporting us with a monthly, yearly or one-off donation. 

Choose the news. Don’t lose the news.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month. £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.  

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or yearly 

More Information about donations