Ramsgate Town Council has taken Thanet District Council to the High Court in a battle over former allotments.
In 2017 Thanet council (TDC) sold former allotment land in Manston Road at auction for just under £1million. But Ramsgate council (RTC) said it was the rightful owner of the site, and therefore the sale proceeds, and took TDC to court.
The issue was whether the land should have transferred to the town council, which took on responsibility for allotments, when it was created in 2009.
The judgement for the case, was published on November 9 with the High Court finding in favour of Thanet council, saying the land was no longer used as allotments when the town council was constituted and so would not legally transfer to the authority.
RTC clerk Richard Styles (pictured) said: “Ramsgate Town Council (RTC) took an interest because it inherited a large waiting list and a much-reduced allotment estate. TDC sat on the land for 11 years, failed to get full value for the land and also dropped a significant liability on to RTC, which it is still trying to resolve.
“RTC tried to negotiate and mediate with TDC, but they were adamant, and the matter ended up before the High Court. RTC took the best legal advice it could obtain before going to court. The High Court was asked to adjudicate on a narrow issue of process and not on any idea of fairness or equity.
“The judge unfortunately found for TDC and this now means that in future, any statutory allotment land can be disposed of without any legal restraint, provided that the Government gave its permission for disposal.
“The outcome is that RTC has had to settle a large legal bill, and Ramsgate has been denied a chance to create a really first-rate allotment estate.
“This matters, because there is a need for more allotments, not less. The £980,000 (sale income) would have been well spent on acquiring land and helping those who need it, to grow their own and to rely less on food banks.”
Allotments and the law
Under the Allotments Act 1925, a local authority cannot sell, use or dispose of land which it acquired for use as allotments without first obtaining the consent of the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The Secretary of State can only give consent if they are satisfied that adequate provision will be made for allotment holders displaced or that provision is not necessary or reasonably practicable.
Thanet council was given Government permission to sell the final part of the former allotments in 2006. The authority says the sale was delayed due to the recession but that it was supported by local allotment associations
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Ramsgate Town Council (RTC) claimed that they were the rightful owners of this land and decided to commence legal action against TDC to recover the proceeds of sale.
“TDC had asked RTC to withdraw the claim before the matter came to trial, in order to limit both parties costs, however this action was still pursued and the High Court ruled in TDC’s favour. In deciding to pursue this claim, RTC has now had to pay their own and TDC’s significant legal costs.
“£894,700 was generated from the sale of part of the Manston Road allotments for reinvestment in allotments in the district.”
In 2007 permission was granted for 207 homes on the site.
Mr Styles says the town council is disappointed at the outcome and will now campaign for the law on allotments to be amended to prevent landbanking and examine how proceeds of any sale are spent.
Way i see it, if this land is not the property of TDC, then the sale should be null and void, the land returned to its rightful owners, Ramsgate Town Council.
The individuals who put it up for sale should be charged with theft, and jailed if that’s the Tory councillors then all the better.
TDC have been mis handling and miss leading THANET residents and allotment holders for years. To make it look that they had a lot of allotment plots they divided each plot into two. Making it look as if they had twice the number than they really had. A close relative had an allotment in Whitehall Road that was taken away to build houses on, he was moved to Manston Road Allotments, that was taken away to build houses on, the land stood empty for over ten years. He was then moved to Chilton allotment site. Then they took that plot to build the tunnel down to Harbour.
Well the Allotments Act 1925 clearly states that Authorities cannot sell land purchased for use as allotments without the Secretary of State’s permission, and the Secretary of State can only give consent if they are satisfied that adequate provision will be made for allotment holders displaced or that provision is not necessary or reasonably practicable. This has obviously not taken place in this case so the SoS was wrong to grant TDC permission and the High court was wrong to award in TDC favour, not just because of the legal ownership rights of the land but surely due to the illegal sale of the land for development without first acquiring allotment land elsewhere. Doesn’t the law of the land get followed anymore by those who should uphold it, no wonder there is so much more corruption these days.
I fully agree Kent resident. That is why TDC divided each plot into two to make it appear on paper that they had found more plots when in fact they had greatly reduced the number of plots. TDC did not want Ramsgate Town Council to go to court because it would expose what TDC have been up to. Ramsgate Town Council should take the matter to the supreme court.
So a taxpayer funded body is taking another taxpayer funded body through an expensive legal process – the entire cost of which is being borne by the local taxpayers. You couldn’t make this up. Whoever “wins” in court is irrelevant, the local taxpayers will lose whatever the outcome.
Following your logic THANET Blind, TDC could commit murder and because the police are funded by the taxpayers nothing is doe about it. I would like Ramsgate Town Council to take the matter back to court. I think the court has been miss lead by not knowing the whole picture of what TDC has been getting up to.