The minutes of the meeting of 14/07/2014 having been posted on the Association’s website at http://www.abas2014.blogspot.co.uk were accepted as correct.
Matters Arising from the Meeting
It was stated at the last meeting that a member society had been told by a Council official that having paid membership to the NSALG the society gained automatic public liability cover through NSALG. This is in direct contradiction of information given by the National itself. Members are directed to two articles in “Allotment and Leisure Gardener” Issue 3, 2014 pages 7 and 8 which give more information.
Matters raised between Meetings
The position of registered buddies – The Council has said that buddies acquire no rights to succeed to the plot when / if the tenant retires. The Association feels that this is not a fair situation, and whilst we accept that in the past the buddy system has been abused to help people jump the waiting list, we will ask the Council to reconsider its ruling. We are encouraged that the Council has re-opened the ability to retrospectively turn a tenancy into a joint tenancy. The meeting was however told that the Council is intending to restrict this facility to spouses, partners and family members.
The definition of a community plot – the Assistant Secretary repeated the definition given to us for the last meeting – any plot being cultivated (with the Council’s approval) for which no tenancy agreement is applied. This means that various forms may be adopted to suit each site’s individual needs,
Some Societies are having difficulties sending Stage 1 ‘Breach of Tenancy’ letters to plot-holders as they do not have current addresses for the tenant and cannot contact the tenant. The Council will not release the addresses that they hold to the Society (Data Protection). It has been suggested that one solution in such cases will be to go straight to Stage 2 and have the Council issue a formal notice. It was suggested that the Council should provide lists of CURRENT tenants to society secretaries (to include contact addresses), each year after the rent payments in October and whenever new tenants are taken on. It was suggested that Tenancy Renewal notices might be amended to contain a clause in which tenants agree for their contact details to be given to Site Secretaries for administrative purposes.
We have been informed that Bolton Council may be extending the OMA principle to Bowling Clubs. We are not aware of the terms Bowling Clubs are being offered and so members were asked to use their contacts to find out what is being offered.
The NWCAA has issued warnings about ‘Protecting Our Plots’ and on the need for vigilance in the face of the new ‘developer friendly’ planning climate. Members were directed to look at the website www.locality.org.uk for information on community rights and community assets and at the National’s website www.nsalg.org.uk members are urged take any opportunity to speak to their ward councillors and their MP about the need to protect Allotments sites.
A number of points have been raised by the Regional Rep, and newly elected Chair of the NAS Management Committee (Andy Percival).
Mr Percival has asked sites who are asked to undertake unpaid for work by their Councils to consider this very carefully. He argues that doing so makes it harder to hold Councils to fulfilling their responsibilities to maintain sites properly. He argues that sites which cannot achieve self-management, should aim for self-maintenance status in which councils pay an allowance to societies for conducting minor Maintenance works.
In general OMAs don’t include much maintenance (weed-killing or some grass cutting at most) mostly being concerned with administration, (primarily new tenancies and mal-cultivation) but the point about an allowance is one ABAS has raised frequently.
The situation in Bolton (as understood by ABAS) is that Bolton Council has flatly refused to support true self-management or to offer any such allowances to Societies or to debate the level of services we receive
ABAS would like to take this opportunity to correct the view (held by some) that ABAS promotes OMAs. ABAS believes that OMAs offer much of value but also involve Societies in some costs. It is for each Society to decide (in its own individual case) whether the advantages of being able to directly influence the letting of plots, the operation of the tenancy rules (especially the issuing of mal-cultivation notices) and the building of structures on their site outweigh the work / costs involved in their particular OMA. For a number of sites the choice has been to adopt an OMA , for others it has not been accepted. ABAS supports all members societies in their decisions.
In the recent report from the North-West Region Allotments Officers Forum it was stated that in some other authorities, Society Secretaries carrying out duties similar to those our Site Secretaries carry out under OMAs receive benefits for so doing. Possible Benefits have included – a free plot for the Society Secretary and payments of up to £85 p.a. There was no support for individual benefits to be paid to Society officers but the meeting felt that some payment to the Society would be appropriate and instructed the Committee to raise the matter with the Council. It was also felt that societies should raise the matter with their ward councillors.
The prizes were presented on August 10th by Cllr Sufrana Bashire Ismail at Harpers Lane Allotments Site.
Issues from the Floor
Dealey Road reported that there was a clause in their OMA that specifically allowed for surplus produce donated by plot-holders to their Society to be sold by the Society to raise funds for the Site. The meeting felt that such a clause should be added to all OMAs.
The question of gates and locks was raised. Some societies felt that grants for new locks etc. were still available from Area Forums, whilst others felt they were not. Other sources of grant funding can be accessed through the ‘Portal’ at Bolton CVS.
On a lighter note, a question was raise as to how a pet rabbit (which had been released onto a site) might be captured without harming the animal. Numerous suggestions were made.
Date and Venue of Next Meeting
The next meeting will take place at Astley Bridge Cricket Club at 8.00 p.m. on Monday September 8th.