An emergency parish council meeting has been called after land which is used for village allotments was put up for sale.
Allotment holders in Great Ayton, near Stokesley, were shocked when a "for sale" board appeared at a side entrance to the plots on Guisborough Road on September 13.
The land is leased from the Marwood Estate by Great Ayton Parish Council. The day after the sale board went up, a notice from the parish council was placed on the "for sale" sign stating the freeholder of the allotments and adjoining grass paddock intended to place it on the open market, with bids requested on or before 12pm on October 20.
The notice continued: "Great Ayton Parish Council lease the land from the private freeholder on a self-renewing and annual basis (April to April) that continues until either party terminates it, after having given proper agreed notice. Any sale will complete with the parish council lease interest in place, and this means that the allotments will continue to be available certainly for the allotment year October 2023/2024 and we hope well beyond that time.
"Ultimately, as has always been the case, the longer-term future of this land may change but that would be subject to due process including planning and would take quite some time. At the present the council are monitoring the situation and will engage with any new owners in the event of a sale going through and will communicate any new information as it arises."
The 18.18 acres of land is being sold through Fordy Marshall, which states that parts offer "potential for longer term residential development, subject to planning". The firm is seeking offers over £445,000 for the whole lot, or split between the 10.34 acres containing the allotments for offers over £250,000, and the 7.84 acres of grassland for offers over £195,000.
The potential sale has left residents shocked, with many voicing their upset on a community Facebook page. One commenter wrote: "I first came to the allotments with my Dad when I was three. I’m now 81 and still keep hens and grow vegetables, fruit and flowers. The allotments need to be kept for local people." Another said: "The allotments are a community hub where people look out for each other. They were a lifesaver during lockdown."
Residents claim that there have been allotments on this site since the late 1880s, and some allotment holders have maintained their gardens there for decades. A substantial number of people keep pigeons on their plots.
Resident David Mason said: "Historically the Allotments Act 1922 provided allotment holders with some security of tenure by setting out specific periods of notice for ending a tenancy. Landlords could only end an allotment garden tenancy by giving the allotment holder a minimum of six months’ notice. This was increased to 12 months by the Allotments Act 1950. In the Allotments act of 1925, the consent of the Secretary of State is needed for the disposal of allotment land for other purposes, and there must be adequate provision for the displaced holders, unless such provision is unnecessary or impractical."
An extraordinary meeting of the parish council has been called at 7pm on Thursday, September 21 at Great Ayton Discovery Centre to discuss the issue. It is understood a proposal will be considered to apply for the whole 18.18 acres of land to be registered as assets of community value.
A statement to the D&S Times from the parish council said: "The parish council were made aware of the proposed sale of the land leased for the allotments on September 7 and set about obtaining further information to pass onto allotment owners and residents. Support was requested from North Yorkshire Council senior planning officer regards their position on the land being used for anything other than allotments or grassland.
"The parish council informed them that the allotments are used by over 125 residents to support their health and wellbeing and the parish council would expect that NYC would not grant any planning permission to take away the allotments from our community. It is noted that the site is shown as a local greenspace allocation in the Local Plan and as such is offered significant protection under Policy IC3 and specifically mentioned and protected under policies C13 and E4 of the plan which is shown to be in place until 2036.
"Councillors share the concern of allotment holders and are keen to work with them to see what can be done. An emergency council meeting is taking place this week to consider the matter."