Residents dig in over sale of allotments

Harleston Parish Meeting are unhappy that a plot of land, formally an unofficial allotments, was sold by Mid Suffolk District Council at a low price''Pictured: Ray Hearn (Harleston resident), David Chapman (Goddard Place resident) and Geoff Rey Fairclough (Parish Meeting Clark)

Harleston Parish Meeting are unhappy that a plot of land, formally an unofficial allotments, was sold by Mid Suffolk District Council at a low price''Pictured: Ray Hearn (Harleston resident), David Chapman (Goddard Place resident) and Geoff Rey Fairclough (Parish Meeting Clark)

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A row has broken out after a village’s allotments were sold at a cut price rate.

Harleston Parish Meeting has criticised Mid Suffolk District Council after it discovered its well-used allotments were sold for just £120,000.

The land, at Goddards Place, was sold to Havebury Housing Association last year to create five affordable homes for rent and two for open market sale, but a valuation undertaken by the council’s District Valuer in May 2008 set the land price at £550,000.

Parish clerk Geoff Fairclough, who accessed the figures using a Freedom of Information request, said: “What justification can there be to let it go to a developer for so little? The plot was not an official allotment but people from the village have used it for 30 years. The public are not getting their money’s worth out of the land.”

Parish chairman Traver Scarff said: “It is obviously a concern to the village that it was sold off at a very reduced price.

“I think the general feeling of the village was that it should have raised more money.”

A spokeswoman for the council said that the when the recession hit, values of properties plummeted destroying the property market.

She said in early 2010 the site was extensively marketed but no interest was shown and by April 2012, the land was valued at £145,000 – reflecting the crash in the market.

She said in adopting a scheme with five affordable homes for rent, £25,000 was taken off the price to install the homes with green heating systems.

But Mr Fairclough said: “They still shouldn’t have sold it, they should have waited for the market to recover.”

Mid Suffolk district councillor John Matthissen agreed, saying Mid Suffolk could have waited as the land was being tended to by the community.

He said: “I think when it got down to £145,000 I think that we should have just said ‘okay, we will keep the land for a few years and wait for the land to go up in value’.

“If no-one wanted it we should have given it back 
to the village, got potatoes grown on it, and sold it at a later date.”