Pay more for your poison plots

Milne Royd Allotments, Sowerby Bridge. Testing for contamination.
Milne Royd Allotments, Sowerby Bridge. Testing for contamination.
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THE cost of renting a contaminated allotment in Calderdale has gone up by 25 per cent.

All plotholders who rent from Calderdale Council – including 28 at Milner Royd in Sowerby Bridge, where arsenic has been found – have received letters their rents are to rise.

Milner Royd allotment holders have been told not to eat their veg because of poisons in the ground.

The letter landed on doorsteps just days before new results revealed further raised levels of pollution at the site – this time in a well.

Mark Thompson, Head of Housing and Environment, said: “Recent tests on a small well on the allotment site confirm some higher readings on some pollution indicators.”

Although Calderdale Council cannot confirm what the pollutants are, it is thought to be arsenic.

They say the cause of the raised levels is not clear and further results will be out later this month.

“In the meantime allotment holders are advised to avoid use of the well water, and consumption of produce as previously advised,” said Mr Thompson.

The rent hike will take prices from £9.11 to £12 per 83.61 square metres of land, bringing the price of a standard plot to £36 a year.

Although the increase is a matter of pounds, the gardeners are still shocked.

Treasurer David Longworth said: “I am bemused that we should get a letter at this time but it’s an example of how one part of the council are not communicating with another.”

Calderdale Council said they sent a standard letter to all allotment holders ahead of the deadline of June 30.

They say if they had not written to all allotment holders, they would not have been able to increase rents at all.

A spokesperson for the council said: “As the current investigations at Milner Royd have not reached a conclusion it was felt premature to exclude the site.

“However, the Council is obviously aware of the fact that the plot holders at Milner Royd have been advised not to eat produce from their allotments and we will be discussing appropriate rent rebates to reflect the period that the allotments have been unusable once tests are concluded and the future of the site is determined.”

In June the allotment holders were told not to eat the produce from their land after tests revealed high levels of poisons including lead and arsenic as well as hydrocarbons. Lead levels were found to be up to 150 times above the safe limit.

Weeks later it emerged a 2005 report had informed the coucnil poison had been found at the site.

Mr Longworth said: “We are still angry that we weren’t told and we are still concerned we may have poisoned ourselves and children. We are looking at the issues of compensation. We’re just mulling it over.

“Instead of feeling happy that we’re leading a green lifestyle, eating healthy food and benefitting from it, all that has been taken away from us and we now look like idiots.”

All but one of the vegetables tested in the second round came back with safe levels, but allotment holders say that is not enough as it is dependant on the type of vegetable, the season and the growing conditions. “We have been duped by the council,” said Mr Longworth.