Tower Gardens, Harrogate
Tower Gardens

Award Winning Garden at risk after Council Policy change bumps up rent

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Major concerns have been raised following a Council review of several sites it owns that are currently let to local residents.

The review, carried out in August 2018, looked at 22 small plots of garden land that have been let to householders via a garden license agreement. Council have recently written to all residents substantially increasing the annual rental fees by an average of 723% with one resident seeing a proposed increase of over 3000%.

The policy change could see a total increase in income to the council of £7,730 per annum from the current £1,565 generated.

However, it is reported that several residents have decided to not accept the new terms passing responsibility for maintenance and upkeep back to the council. This is likely to increase costs for the council instead of generating additional income as expected.

One garden impacted is the award-winning grounds at Harlow Hill Observation Tower that received a gold wildlife award in 2013 from the Harrogate District Biodiversity Group. The gardens developed and maintained by local charity and currently let to residents Neil & Lucy Hind has been transformed over recent years from unkept grassland to a nature friendly oasis.

Hill Observation Tower
Hill Observation Tower

Neil Hind, who is also chair of local conservation charity the Pinewoods Conservation Group, said:

In our case the increase will be £1000 per annum that is a massive amount and can’t be justified. We’ve met with and Cabinet Member Cllr Swift to discuss our concerns, but they were unable to find any resolution. We’ve also met with council officers and offered several compromises including a reluctant 25% increase in fees, but all have been rejected.

As such it is likely the majority of the land will be returned to the council, but we know due to recent cuts in the parks department they do not have the capacity to maintain it. This could result in a massive environmental loss plus lost income to that is much needed.

It does seem that the effort and focus on this from the council is disproportionate when there are much more pressing concerns for them that would generate much higher levels of income. We suspect this new policy could result in the council incurring new costs negating any benefits.

Neil and Lucy Hind
Neil and Lucy Hind
  • Land And Buildings On The South West Side Of Harlow Moor Road – 167%
  • Bilton Lane Cycleway Former Railway Line At And Bilton – 50%
  • Land Comprising Garden Area East Of 4 Wheatlands Road East – 1520%
  • Land At Stonefall Cemetery – 903%
  • Bilton Lane Cycleway Former Railway Line At And Bilton – 1598%
  • Bilton Lane Cycleway Former Railway Line At Starbeck And Bilton – 329%
  • Bilton Lane Cycleway Former Railway Line At Starbeck And Bilton – 900%
  • Bilton Lane Cycleway Former Railway Line At Starbeck And Bilton – 1025%
  • Bilton Lane Cycleway Former Railway Line At Starbeck And Bilton – 1400%
  • Land Lying To The West Of Halfpenny Lane And On The East Side Of Stockwell Road – 500%
  • Land Lying To The West Of Halfpenny Lane And On The East Side Of Stockwell Road – 500%
  • Land At Charlton Avenue, Charlton Drive, Charlton Grove, Manor Crescent, Manor Drive, Manor Gardens,
  • Manor Road And Nora Avenue – 200%
  • Little Studley Meadows Nature Reserve – 593%
  • Land Lying To The East Of Harrogate Road – 3021%
  • Land Lying To The East Of Harrogate Road – 485%
  • Garden Area Rear Of Low St Agnesgate – 406%
  • Garden Area Rear Of Low St Agnesgate – 375%
  • Land Lying To The North East Of Priest Lane – 463%
  • Land And Buildings Lying South Of Lead Lane – 275%
  • Garden Area Rear Of Low St Agnesgate – 169%
  • Garden Area Rear Of Low St Agnesgate – 275%
  • Land And Buildings At Tranmer Croft – 750%

Lucy Hind, who has over 20 years’ experience in estates and property management, added:

The main concern here is the lack of transparency around the new costs. Despite several requests, the council have not shown any evidence that the new costs are based on any commercially supportable figures.

We’ve undertaken our own benchmarking that has been shared with the council that shows the new costs seem unreasonable and higher than comparable commercial rates.

It seems that the council is determined to extract as much money as possible from residents without any real discussion or justification that is really disappointing.

Tower Gardens, Harrogate
Tower Gardens

Cllr Graham Swift, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources, Enterprise and Economic Development, said:

In 2018 we did review our private garden leases as part of an asset review. We have a number of private gardens that are leased by private individuals. These are small plots of land that are owned by the council and are often adjacent or close to private houses. Many of these leases were agreed tens of years ago and were at very small peppercorn rates.
We put in place a standard policy to ensure that all leaseholders were treated equally and although some tenants saw large percentage increases, in most cases the actual monetary amount was small. Clearly tenants leasing large plots of land were asked to pay more. Almost all of the tenants have simply agreed to the new rates.
In almost all cases, tenants have accepted the increases as the value that they derive from the use of the land is far greater than the monetary value. No tenant is mandated to pay and there is one tenant who does not want to pay the increase and this is fine too. will simply take back the land at the end of the lease and reuse it for alternative purposes.

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