IT’S the green-fingered good life they thought they would enjoy until their dying day.
But furious gardeners in the Capital face having to give up lovingly tendered allotment plots amid plans for a five-fold hike in rents.
Currently fixed at £100, annual fees are set to jump by an average of £105, while wage earners could be hit with a sum as high as £300.
And the overall increase would be more than 500 per cent for around 300 individuals currently paying £25 concessionary rents for half-plots.
The proposed rises come as waiting times for the Capital’s 1429 sites continue to soar as hundreds of fresh applications are submitted each year.
Gardeners have warned the changes are unaffordable and could force them to walk away from their prized plots.
Retired oil worker David Stevens, 66, from Craigmillar, who has rented a plot at Lady Road for 25 years, branded the increases extortion.
He said: “If this goes through, my bill would go up from £50 at present to £150, which is totally out of line with any other yardstick that we have. Giving up the allotment is something I would have to consider very seriously.
“[The proposed increase] is way out of order. It’s about one quarter of my monthly old-age pension. And for anybody who’s working, my understanding is that it would go up to £300 from £100 presently.”
Mr Stevens said the council’s current fee structure, together with the volunteer efforts of dozens of plotholders across Edinburgh, meant the city allotment service was paying its way.
“Apart from the obvious in that it gives me something to do, I actually enjoy it to the full,” he said.
“I’m 100 per cent involved with it. I’ve re-edged the burn bank at the allotment with sticks so it doesn’t collapse into the burn. I’ve put flowers in there every year. If the pipes burst, I fix them.
“The cash that the city council takes in at the moment is enough to fund the service that they provide, which is precious little.”
The rent hikes – among a range of proposals outlined by council leaders as part of the 2015-16 budget-setting process – have been slammed as “heartless, unfair and cynical” by leaders of the Capital’s plotholding community.
Peter Wright, president of the Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Gardens Associations, said: “For some, the increase could be up to 500 per cent – for everybody, it’s going to be a minimum of a 130 per cent increase, equal to an additional £105. The cost to a wage earner for a standard plot could be as high as £300 per year.
“We are very disappointed that the good working relationship we had with the city council appears to have been soured by a team working within the council which is unaware of the fact that the allotment service in Edinburgh is self-financing.”
A spokesman for the council, which hopes to raise £150,000, said: “No decisions have been taken and feedback will be considered as part of the budget process. This will help shape the final budget proposals put to the council in February.”