At the last ABAS meeting, the question was raised as to what was the correct procedure when a plot became vacant and there was a structure on it – e.g. a shed, a greenhouse or a chicken run.
We’ve discussed this with the Council and our current interpretation of the situation is as follows:-
Where the outgoing tenant is available then the Site Society should attempt to broker a settlement between the outgoing tenant and the incoming tenant – this settlement may or may not include payment. If this can be achieved then the incoming tenant then takes over the structure. The Site Secretary should ensure that there is a signed document in which the outgoing tenant gives up any title to the structure. There have been a number of cases reported in the national journal of tenants returning to a site after having left and trying to reclaim a structure - usually a metal framed greenhouse which is readily transportable.
If the incoming tenant does not wish to take over the structure then it is the outgoing tenant’s responsibility to remove it within three weeks of terminating their tenancy. If the structure is in reasonable condition and could be transferred from its existing position onto another plot then the site society may acquire ownership of the structure (in agreement with the outgoing tenant) and take responsibility for its transfer within 3 weeks (again payment may or may not be involved). Again the outgoing tenant should relinquish any claim to the structure in writing.
These are the two most desired outcomes – note that both require the Site Society to contact and gain the agreement of the outgoing tenant.
The Tenancy Regulations state that if the structure is not transferred to the incoming tenant or otherwise removed from the plot the Council will remove it and recharge any costs incurred to the outgoing tenant. In practice this rarely happens and the structure is simply left on the plot.
In this case:-
a) If there is no gap in tenancy of the plot, the ownership of the structure, and/or the responsibility for its removal, effectively transfers to the incoming tenant. – but note our previous comment about former tenants returning(outside a reasonable period) to try to reclaim structures.- here at least one society has had strong and effective support from the Council when resisting such claims on behalf of the new tenant
b) If there is a gap in tenancy then the structure becomes the property of the council until such time as the plot is re-let (and thus cannot be resold or given away by the Site Society as has been the previous practice of some Secretaries). Once a new tenant has taken on the plot a) above applies.
In effect an unwanted structure / ownerless structure is a form of waste.
The Council’s stance that they will not remove redundant structures extends to waste on vacated plots in general. The only waste they will remove is hazardous waste (the prime example of which is asbestos).
In other circumstances the incoming tenant takes on the plot “as seen” – the Council will not be clearing plots, providing top soil or any of the other tasks which TV programmes seem to suggest get done for new allotment holders.
It is always open to Societies to organise volunteer groups to clear abandoned plots (whether by designating them as community plots or not). However you should ensure that any society doing this either has Volunteer Insurance or gets the members of any working party to sign a suitable disclaimer form. This option is probably most applicable to Societies with OMAs.