ALLOTMENT holders in Hyndburn face forking out hundreds of pounds after the council hit them with a rise in their rent.

Frank McVan, treasurer of Baxenden Allotment and Garden Society, has slammed the fees as ‘extortionate’ but the council said it was the first increase in 10 years.

Mr McVan’s allotment is at the back of the recreation ground, off Hollins Lane in Baxenden.

His annual rent is going up from £34.45 in 2012 to £90 in 2013.

It will then rise to £130 in 2014, £170 in 2015 and £200 in 2016.

His wife Sheila, who rents a neighbouring plot, is also facing a 100 per cent hike.

Frank said: “The council said each allotment is costing taxpayers £240 to run each year.

“We just can't see how that is true because nothing has ever been spent on this allotment in years.

“The wall fell down 15 years ago and it's still down. I had to put fencing around it. There are no pathways and no maintenance whatsoever.

“There is only a gate because I put one in. The council has spent nothing on this plot so I can't see how they can justify it.”

Now he fears some growers may have to abandon their hobby because of the hefty rent rise.

Frank said: “I know one woman who is facing paying £1,000 a year. People will struggle to pay it. There is a lot of anger about it.”

Brian Watts, 77, who has had an allotment for 54 years, is also dismayed about the rent rise.

He said: “We had a battle a few years ago when they wanted to take the land off us for housing. We fought and kept the allotments.

"There will be action over this. We’re all up in arms about it.”

Coun Ciaran Wells, who oversees the council's 620 plots, has defended the move and said it was part of a £300,000 investment programme over the next five years.

There are currently around 300 people on the waiting list for an allotment.

He said: “To finance this we have had to look at what tenants pay. Each allotment is currently costing local taxpayers £240 per year and this cannot be sustained in the current economic climate.

"Rent levels on allotment sites have been frozen for over ten years. Almost all of our tenants pay less than £1 per week.

"I have secured agreement with cabinet colleagues that no increase would take place until 2013.”