Leicestershire allotment holders defy new owner's bid to turf them out
Gardening pensioners were watched by police while they picked parsnips after a row over village allotments.
Billesdon Allotment Society say they were given permission to use the land by the former owner of Spring Brook Farm at the end of 2010 to plant fruit and vegetables.
But the farm in Coplow Lane – including the 19-plot allotments site – was sold to Steve Marsh in November 2011.
The dispute began when he gave them notice to move off the land.
Society secretary Jonathan Unna said the new sale particulars of the farm included the agreement with the former owner, that the society could still use the land for the next 10 years.
But Mr Marsh says the sale was a "vacant possession" deal with "clean deeds" – that the society has no right to stay on the land and the 10-year deal was not included in the sale.
Mr Unna, who grows leeks, sprouts and gooseberries on one of the plots, said: "On Saturday, he came to plough up the allotments."
He said in the sale particulars the allotments were referenced a number of times and it said they had a 10-year right to occupy them.
"Legally, there are some loopholes there, but I think we most certainly should have it until the end of the year because we have paid rent.
"It has been going on for a while, but has been getting unpleasant in the last few weeks.
"In the last two weeks police have come and stood with us while we picked vegetables because things have got so bad.
"Someone went on Saturday to pick parsnips to be met by a man on a plough, digging up the allotments. He just wanted the parsnips to take to the church."
Mr Marsh said he had served five notices on the society to leave, most recently telling them they had until the end of September to clear off his land.
He said it was he who had called police to the allotments to supervise the vegetable picking in a bid to let the gardeners collect their crops once and for all.
Leicestershire Police did not respond to a request for a comment.
"This is our home and it is at the bottom of our driveway," Mr Marsh said.
"At their annual meeting in January, we said they could stay for a short while, to finish up what they had planted, but they would have to leave at some stage. They said that was fine.
"In July we said it was time to move along and could they finish harvesting what was there but not plant anything new. It was getting untidy.
"I didn't go out and plough up the land on Saturday, I was just clearing the area – you know, bits of wood and things.
"We waited till all the crops were finished and there was nothing of any significance. You know what this year's growing season has been like."
Mr Marsh said he did not accept rent from the society, but that they had offered him money which he refused to accept as rent, donating it to charity Help For Heroes.
Mr Marsh also says he offered the society another plot elsewhere on his land – which they turned down.
The allotment society said they were looking for a new home.
Anyone who can help can contact the group by visiting their website:
www.leicestershirevillages. com/billesdon/billesdon- allotments-association.html