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Barrowby beekeeper evicted from allotment which she describes as her ‘salvation’

A Barrowby woman is being evicted from her allotment in the village - a space that she describes as her “salvation”.

Tanya Walton, a lifelong resident of the village, has had an allotment for almost 20 years and received a notice dated August 21 from the Barrowby Parish Council Allotment Committee (BPCAC), informing her that her tenancy would cease.

The notice explained that the decision had been made as it was the third time that the BPCAC had issued a letter to Tanya in 12 months about the maintenance of her plots.

Tanya Walton tending to her bees.
Tanya Walton tending to her bees.

Tanya keeps bees on her allotment plot and said the space had helped her through some “terrible times”.

She explained: “The allotment is just a few doors down from where I live. It's not just a piece of land to me, it's an extension of my home. I designed it to be a welcoming place.

“[It is] my space, my salvation. It's where I grieved for both my parents. It's where I helped get through some terrible times of my life.

Tanya's allotment.
Tanya's allotment.

“It's my go-to place when everything else just gets a little too much. I know that tending the allotment or the bees will pull me back to a better place, stabilise my mental health, bring my anxieties back down to a manageable level and let me effectively carry on another day. The allotment was simply my well-being.”

She was informed that she had the right to appeal within 28 days and responded with a letter on September 3, noting her disagreement with the decision.

As no BPCAC meeting was due to take place until October, Tanya also attended a parish council meeting on September 11 to raise her concerns with them.

She continued: “I was assured that I did have a case, that a meeting would be set up and then the chair of the parish council told me not to worry, that I would not lose my allotment.”

Tanya then received a letter on October 11 from the BPCAC saying that, as her letter did not contain a “formal appeal”, the time allowed had lapsed and no appeal could now be made.

She said: “As far as I was aware, sending a letter with my disagreement on a decision, and requesting a formal meeting was in itself appealing the decision. I sought no legal counsel when writing my letter and have never worked in law.

“Surely if the BPCAC deemed my letter as insufficient to class as an appeal, decency would have had them contact me so that I could have reworded it?”

Tanya was first contacted by the BPCAC about issues with her plots in April 2022, and was asked to move compost bins from a pathway and to tidy the grass area near her bee hives.

She responded, admitting that she was “upset and angry” to receive the letter,. She explained that the bins had been there for 10 years and that no issues had arisen as, although the bins were “technically” on the path, “they are in nobody’s way”.

Tanya added that if the bins had to be moved, she would do so but claimed that the paths are not “clearly marked”.

The BPCAC responded in May, noting that the issues were beginning to be addressed and described an appropriate position to place the bins.

In October, Tanya said she received a letter as she had not finished moving the compost bins, after finding bumble bee nests in them while moving them.

“A conversation with the committee was had and I was assured it was okay to leave them in situ until the bees had lived out their lifecycle,” added Tanya. “I accepted the letter and moved the compost bin within a week.”

The BPCAC wrote to Tanya again in June 2023, stating that an inspection had deemed that her plots “did not meet the standard required”, with two of the plots showing “very little cultivation” and “out of hand” weeds.

Tanya responded, stating that she had “worked hard” on her plots since the last letter, but was losing a battle with weeds, while her crops were stunted.

She contacted an agronomist (a soil and crop expert) to gain a better understanding and was told that the soil was of “poor quality” and “very acidic”.

Tanya then provided an action plan to the BPCAC, outlining the next steps that she intended to take to improve the plot.

BPCAC followed up in August with another inspection, which “showed little evidence of activity” since the last one and that they could not “consider that the minimum 75 per cent was under active cultivation”.

They added that adjacent plot holders had not appeared to have issues with soil fertility, and informed Tanya of the cessation of her tenancy.

Julie Moss, clerk to Barrowby Parish Council, said: “Unfortunately, we cannot divulge any personal circumstances relating to the circumstances and actions leading up to this dispute and the outcome, except to say that the parish council is satisfied that the allotment committee has followed the rules as set out in its policy which all tenants, including Miss Walton, are aware of and have signed up to.

“The allotment committee are also working with Miss Walton to ensure the safe transfer of the beehives and the removal/sale of other items on her plot.

“I can confirm that Miss Walton requested a meeting to discuss the allotment committee policies and rules (not to discuss her case as she claims) but the allotment committee declined.”

Tanya said that she does not want this to happen to anyone else, and is resigned to losing her plots.

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