THE decision to hand Arthur Martin his allotment back was greeted with spontaneous applause from the public gallery who had gathered to support the pensioner.
Mr Martin was stripped of the allotment earlier this month amid claims this his history of hip replacements meant he was unfit to keep it.
He had a hip replacement in 2007 and it dislocated twice whilst he was on his allotment, leaving some councillors concerned.
But the public turned out in force on Tuesday night to support the keen gardener, who is also chairman of the Dovecote Road Allotment Societyand says his hip has not dislocated since a second hip replacement two years ago.
The meeting on Tuesday night was called by councillors Ian Stevens and Josie Forrest who strongly opposed the decision to end Mr Martin’s contract.
Cllr Stevens said at the meeting: “I am not qualified to say what Mr Martin’s health is, but there’s one person that is and that’s Mr Martin’s doctor, who has said he is 99 per cent confident his hip will not pop out again.”
When the decision was made council leader Cllr David Bagshaw said the council had a ‘duty of care’ and they were concerned Mr Martin could sue if his hip popped out again while working on his allotment.
They also said the pensioner was breaching rules and ‘sub-letting’ because he was getting a friend to help him out with his heavy digging.
Cllr Bagshaw and his wife Cllr Sue Bagshaw, two of those responsible for the decision, left the meeting at the beginning saying they had a ‘prejudicial interest’ and did not want to comment on the matter.
People from the public gallery shouted at them as they left.
But deputy leader Cllr Charlie Robb defended the original decision: “We have a duty of care to Mr Martin, I don’t care what people say.
“If we didn’t do this he could sue the council. We know the situation and we know there’s a possibility that you could injure yourself because of your hip replacement.
“Our insurers could then turn round and say we are not going to sort any damages or costs, you sort it out between the 15 of you. I am not putting my house on the line for that.”
However, Cllr Stevens rubbished the reasons and read out a dictionary definition for the term ‘duty of care’ saying liability was a ‘matter for the courts’ and another for the term sub-letting, claiming it meant money had to be exchanged.
And Cllr Forrest added: “You can’t just discriminate against one man. I have got health problems. Where does it end? Mr Martin uses his allotment to as part of his physiotherapy to get his health back instead of sitting around all day. Do we want to take that away?”
The story hit the national press earlier this month after the Advertiser first broke the story and the council was bombarded with complaints and messages online from people all over the world, branding them ‘allotment bullies’.
Cllr Brian Griffin said at the meeting: “I am ashamed about the comment we’ve received. Ashamed that people aren’t saying we are a council that will help the elderly.
“This is not what the people of Eastwood want. Three years ago we received an award for being a caring council. We should return to what was once a caring council and put the residents first.”
At the end of the meeting Mr Martin said: “I want to thank all of the people who have supported me. Councillors, family and friends.
“I have had emails from all over the world. I know it’s caused a lot of disagreement in the council, but don’t you think they have brought that on themselves?”