AN allotment holder is appealing to a watchdog to overturn Bolton Council’s decision to increase the cost of renting an allotment.

Ian Bullough, of Sapling Road, has reported the authority to the Local Government Ombudsman in the hope that the authority will be forced to rethink its decision to increase plot rents by £25 a year from October.

He says a High Court ruling in 1981 — in which an allotment holder saw rent increases quashed after proving it was not in line with other recreational activities in the borough — gives tenants a basis to mount their own challenge.

Mr Bullough, who has a plot in Sapling Road, has already set about collecting 2,000 signatures to force the council’s director of environmental services to appear before a public scrutiny committee and explain the reasoning behind the hike. Tenants will pay a premium of £5 for access to water and an extra £15 if an on-site toilet is provided.

He said: “The Local Government Ombudsman is entitled to ask the council to reconsider a decision that it did not take properly in the first place and that is precisely what I am requesting them to do.

“It is a fact that water and indeed flush toilets have been included in allotment rents for many decades. To charge a premium now is simply outrageous and, again, I believe, unlawful.”

Mr Bullough has written to Cllr Sufrana Bashir-Ismail, the Executive member for cleaner, greener, safer, to complain that she has so far refused to meet him or a representative from the National Association of Allotments and Leisure Gardeners.

But a council spokesman said that Cllr Bashir-Ismail would be available to meet Mr Bullough and that the authority’s assistant director of environmental services, Sarah Schofield, had held a “positive” meeting with David Morris from the association.

He added: "We do not feel that any of the proposals which have been approved are unlawful.

During 2009/10 the average cost of a Bolton Council Allotment plot was around 61p per week and the approved inflationary increase and the new administration fee will bring the average cost for a plot to approximately 84p per week.

“Charges for all recreational services provided by the council will be similarly reviewed in the future.”