Council defends allotment decision

NEAABE120327e2, Arthur Martin, allotments at Dovecote road Eastwood.
NEAABE120327e2, Arthur Martin, allotments at Dovecote road Eastwood.

EASTWOOD Town Council has defended its decision to throw a pensioner off his allotment over health and safety fears surrounding his hip.

The Advertiser reported last week how Arthur Martin, the chairman of the Dovecote Road Allotment Society, was being turfed out against his will amid council claims he wasn’t fit enough to run an allotment.

The story has since made national headlines and the council has this week admitted being ‘inundated’ with complaints since we broke the news.

As a result Liberal Democrat councillors have now arranged an extraordinary council meeting to question the leading Labour group’s decision.

But despite the weight of public opinion, leading councillors this week backed their original decision.

“The council have looked at this case very carefully, and have been more than reasonable to Mr Martin,” said Cllr Sue Bagshaw.

“We had no further choice than to ask him to vacate his plot and allow someone from the waiting list to take over.”

But Mr Martin’s daughter has accused the town council of an ‘abuse of authority’ and has advised her father to seek legal advice.

Annette Thompson said it was wrong of the town council to force her dad off his allotment without doing a formal risk assessment.

Mrs Thompson said: “Does this mean that if a disabled person applied for an allotment that they would be excluded from consideration ‘just in case’ they had an accident?

“My dad would be the first person to give up his allotment to someone both younger and fitter than himself if he felt he could no longer manage the work required.

“However this should be his choice and not a decision imposed upon him with a lack of formal consideration and forethought.”

Last month Mr Martin received a letter from the council saying they had a ‘duty of care’ and did not want to be held responsible should he have an accident due to his hip.

Mr Martin admits he cannot do the heavy digging on his allotment any more, but says he gets a friend to help him.

But the town council claims this is breaching rules, and unless he has a family member helping out, he is ‘sub-letting’ his allotment.

“Mr Martin is subletting under Allotment Rules and Regulations,” added Cllr Bagshaw. “This means they are bypassing the people who are waiting patiently on the waiting list. This is unacceptable.

“We gave Mr Martin another opportunity to keep his allotment by providing us with a letter from his consultants confirming he was able to maintain his allotment.

“He replied to the council saying he was not prepared to provide personal information, even though we were trying to help him.”

Mrs Thompson said the news ‘saddened her’ when her father was enjoying a ‘well-deserved retirement’

“After spending many years as a miner, working in difficult conditions for long hours, he is finally enjoying a well-deserved retirement,” she added.

“My dad has a strong sense of community and has always invested his time, helping other elderly residents in the area and sharing the produce of his allotment with other members of the community.

“It is a shame that the council do not share these qualities and believe that they are suitably qualified to determine when someone is ‘past their best’.”

The problem first came to light two years ago when Mr Martin’s hip displaced whilst he was on his allotment and an ambulance had to be called out. This then happened again several months later.

The pensioner says the two incidents were before he had an operation for a second hip replacement, and he has been fine since.

The extraordinary council meeting next Tuesday is open to the public and will be held at the Dora Phillips Hall at 6.30pm.