AFTER caring for his allotment for more than 50 years, a Peebles man is concerned he may not be able to keep it in the new year.

Eric Stevenson, 87, has owned his allotment at the Gytes, Peebles, for 52 years.

But he’s told this newspaper that he is “incensed” at the announcement that the annual cost of renting a plot could increase next year.

Mr Stevenson said: “I’m annoyed by the proposed hikes, especially as most of the people down there [at the allotment] are pensioners.”

The Gytes allotment is one of six owned and managed by Scottish Borders Council (SBC), and has 36 plots.

The proposed price change would see rental costs calculated by the size of the plot rather than the same fee for all.

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According to Mr Stevenson, this year he paid £43.50 for his allotment plot, but if the new scheme is introduced at the end of March next year, his renewal fee could be £93.50.

“I got my allotment in 1968 and it cost me 10 shillings for the year,” Mr Stevenson said. “A few years ago it was £10 then it went up to £40.

“Since then it’s gone up bit by bit.”

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However, SBC has said that the final fee for next year will be considered and agreed upon during the council’s annual budgeting meeting in February 2021.

A spokesperson for the local authority said: “The provision of allotments is heavily subsidised by the council and their importance has been recognised in the Food Growing Strategy, which is currently undergoing a final consultation.

“Allotment fees are considered every year as part of the annual budget setting process and a rental fee per square metre was approved in addition to a fixed administration fee when the 2019/20 budget was agreed.

“The introduction of a rental fee based on the size of the allotment provides equality for all allotment holders due to the varying sizes of plots across our allotment locations.

“However, due to the impacts of COVID-19, it was determined not to put this new rental scheme in place this year and therefore the rental amount collected this year is in line with that of 2018/19.

“The new scheme of charging will commence in April 2021, with allotment fees to be considered, as normal, by elected members as part of the budget setting process in February 2021.”

One of Mr Stevenson’s concerns is that a “price hike” could see older people unable to cover the fees – losing their place.

He added: “People like myself, OAPs, might find it too much [the price increase].

“The allotment has given me 52 years of so much pleasure but I may have to say ‘this is the end’.

“It would be upsetting if I’m not able to keep it.”

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Mr Stevenson moved to Peebles in 1938 after his father had spent time working in India.

A former merchant seaman, Mr Stevenson uses his allotment to grow a range of fruits and vegetables, including raspberries, strawberries, potatoes, sweet peas, onions, and leeks.

When asked how he came to care for his allotment, Mr Stevenson said: “My friends were all taking up golf at the time and I never fancied it.

“I got the chance to have the allotment and I took it.

“I spent a lot of leisure time there. It’s my golf course, my football pitch.”