05:28PM, Thursday 25 March 2021
A childminder is locked in a dispute with Stoke Poges Parish Council over whether she can use her rented allotment while looking after children.
Hannah Lovelock, 43, is one of 55 plotholders at the parish council-run gardening site in Duffield Lane.
After the first national lockdown last year, the Stoke Poges resident started taking three of the children she looks after to her plot to learn about growing vegetables.
But the mother-of-four has now said the parish council has banned her from visiting the site while she is childminding due to the activity being classified as ‘business use’.
Mrs Lovelock told the Express the decision has deprived the young children of a ‘massive opportunity’ to learn about the great outdoors and enrich their mental health.
She said: “As a childminder we have been so heavily restricted on what we can do.
“We have to provide a service for these parents desperate to go back to work and most of mine are NHS key workers.
“We haven’t been allowed to go parks or anywhere. This opportunity to go to the allotments would have been ideal.”
Stoke Poges Parish Council said the cost of each allotment plot is heavily subsidised by council tax and therefore any kind of business use on the site is banned.
It added that if it allowed Mrs Lovelock to use the venue while childminding, a safeguarding officer would have to be introduced at a cost to the council.
Spending money in support of a private business would be unlawful, the council added.
Mrs Lovelock told the Express she is covered by her own public liability insurance and had received no complaints from fellow plotholders.
She added: “Basically what it comes down to is in 1922 the Allotment Act was created which said you cannot use it for commercial purposes which I completely agree with.
“But that was nearly 100 years ago when childminders didn’t even exist. It’s down to the common sense of each parish council, it’s entirely up to them what they deem as business use.”
A statement from Stoke Poges Parish Council said: “The Parish Council prides itself on listening to villagers’ views and has been in discussions on this matter for seven months.
“All legal and practical reasons for reaching the decision have been explained in detail to all parties.
“We do not believe in significantly raising the council tax of every resident of Stoke Poges in order to facilitate an extra benefit offered by one local business.
“Decisions are made ensuring your council tax is spent wisely and used in the best interest of the whole village, not individual residents.”