Angry allotment holders have blamed West Norfolk Council after a series of raids have systematically stripped their plots of produce.
The thefts have occurred at the North Lynn allotments close to Lynnsport.
On Wednesday evening, a group of the gardeners met at the Discovery Centre to form and association to represent their interests and to take over running of the plots.
At the meeting, their grievances were aired, of which the spate of thefts was chief among them.
Ken Hoyle, who organised the meeting, said: “The real priority down there is site security. In the past it really was a pretty rare event to have anything taken. But in the past year the sheds have been broken into four times to my knowledge and there is a constant dribble of produce being stolen.”
He said that a 94-year-old woman who has had an allotment on the site since they opened had her broad beans and runner beans stolen.
“I did not get a single apple, pear or plum this year because they were all stolen.”
He said he had lost £2,000 of tools, as had another plotholder. A third had lost £1,000-worth of tools.
Mr Hoyle said the blame for the thefts laid partly with the council after they cut back blackberry brambles that had been close to the fence.
This had prevented people scaling the fencing and also stopped people seeing inside at the plots, the gardeners claimed.
Mr Hoyle said: “A lot of people think that if they have another year like last year they will pack up.”
Mr Hoyle said security was a strong reason for forming the association.
“We have got to do something about it and the only thing we can do is to do it ourselves,” he said.
If the 100 allotment holders take on the running of the plots themselves, they would seek to install 8ft high pallisade fencing. This could cost up to £18,000, but Mr Hoyle hoped that the group could apply for grants to help pay for it.
The friction between the plotholders and the council has grown alongside rent demands.
The annual rent has been £17 on average. This is set to grow to £70.
The meeting heard that relations between the two sides are not good. The council was accused of being “aggressive” and “confrontational” in its dealings with the plotholders, as those who infringed site rules were given warnings or bans from gardening.
There was particular anger about the way a plotholder who was suffering from cancer was treated.
Mr Hoyle said: “This year’s list of bans is bigger than last year’s and you can bet your boots that next year’s will be bigger again.”
The gardeners said they feared the underlying reason for the attitude shown to the allotment holders was that the council wants to build homes on the site.
Mr Hoyle said he hoped that if the allotment holders took over the running of the site on a lease it would give at least 10 years of stability.
“If everybody is a good neigbour, it will be a lot better, but we will have to do a lot more work. You will not only have to keep up your own allotment tidy, but the bit outsie your gate.”