Friday, 24 October 2014

ABAS MEETING 13th OCTOBER 2014


 
Membership Position
There are 954 plots on 37 sites in Bolton of which 823 are on the 26 sites with a Society and / or Secretary

 

Site                              Plots    Paid-up Abas members

Sapling Road                61        40

Clammerclough             12        10

Harpers Lane               83        70

Florence Avenue           50        50

Smedley Avenue           28        28

Cemetery Road            26        4

Moss Lea                     44        33

Rawlyn Road                40        40

Shepherd Cross St       61        44

Tonge Moor Rd            54        29

Tonge Fold                   37        32

Haslam Park                 23        13

Dealey Rd                    25        22

Settle Street                  42        30

Ainsdale Rd                  49        31

Lever Park (Horwich) 31          25

TOTAL                       671      501

0n 16 sites

 

Mr Alan Hull

Given that the NSALG’s Regional Mentor, Mr Alan Hull was in attendance the Chair invited him to address the meeting.

 

Mr Hull stated that the National is concerned that 17 of the 37 sites in Bolton are temporary sites and that these should (as a matter of urgency) be re-designated by the Council as Statutory sites, as at present they are in danger of being re-designated as potential housing development land as the Council seeks to meet Government targets. It was pointed out that 10 of the 17 sites have only 34 plots between them and none has more than 7. Abas has informed the Council that it wishes to discuss this matter and will raise it with Malcolm Russell but would advise that individual sites should (if they so desire) pursue their case for statutory site status through their ward councillors.

 

Mr Hull stated that the figures for membership quoted on the Abas blog-site did not accord with the figures on the NAS database, and should thus be corrected. We would point out that the figures on the Abas database refer to Abas members, while the NAS database refers to National society members – although there is an overlap between the two groups they are not identical and there is no reason why these figures should be the same. Abas has asked for further details as to what is held on the National’s database.

 

Mr Hull stated that an item on the Abas blog-site referring to payments to Site Secretaries and Site Societies was also incorrect and should be corrected. Mr Hull stated that the information in the item came from a report of the North West Allotment Officers Forum. Mr Hull pointed out that our (i.e. Bolton Council’s) Allotments Officer did not attend this Forum. It was pointed out from the floor that Bolton does not have an Allotments Officer. Mr Hull stated that we used to have a very fine one in Alan Crook who had served us well for many years. Mr Hull went on to say that the figures quoted related to ‘Allotment Managers’. He then defined ‘Allotment Managers’ which in the opinion of those present was an exact description of the role of Site Secretaries in Bolton both before and after the introduction of OMAs. The actual article from which the figures were taken appeared on page 52 of Issue 3 2014 of Allotment and Leisure Gradener. The article does not use the term ‘Allotment Manager’ but uses the term Site Rep(resentative). Members may read that article for themselves to decide whether the interpretation on the Abas blog-site is incorrect.

 

The meeting then continued.

 

Minutes of Last Meeting and Matters Arising

The Minutes of the last meeting have been posted on the Association’s blog-site http://www.abas2014.blogspot.co.uk

 

The majority of issues from the last meeting were taken to Abas’ meeting with Malcolm Russell on 15.09 and will be reported on later.

 

A ‘Blue Fin’ Insurance form had been obtained on behalf of Smedley Avenue site and this was passed over.

 

The National had been asked to clarify whether societies need to provide lists of members with names and addresses. No reply has been received to date..

 

Mr Hull confirmed that the National do indeed (for insurance purposes) need this information. He also asked for details as to who had been contacted at the National and the Assistant Secretary has since provided these.

 

Report Back on NWCAA Meeting

 

Committee members had intended to attend the NWCAA Meeting to be held in Morecambe on 12/10/2014. However, this meeting was cancelled by the NWCAA as insufficient Executive Officers were available

 

Recent High Court Judgement

 

There has been a recent High Court Case which may have interesting implications for sites considering self-management whether as part of a ‘federation-style’ scheme or as independent sites

 

Geoff Hamer (Longworth Rd., Egerton) kindly agreed to update the meeting.

 

Our current understanding is that the judge in the case ruled that as the agreement setting rents is between Allotment ASSOCIATIONS and the Council rather than between the Council and individual plot-holders it is NOT an ‘Allotment Agreement’ within the meaning of the acts, it is a commercial or business agreement and thus subject to normal commercial rules on setting rents rather than subject to Reigate and Banstead style rules. This is obviously a serious point that needs addressing IF sites are to approach self-management.

 

Meeting with Council (MR) 15.09.2014 – REPORT BACK

 

Matters of Information

 

Backlog of works on Sites

MR reported that (unlike other areas of work) the Allotments section has not maintained its central register of requests for work on allotment sites, nor is there a central record of contracts let or a system of progress checking on contractors in place. He is remedying this discrepancy as a matter of urgency.

(A number of issues relating to individual sites were discussed and the results of the discussions passed back to member sites –some actions have already been taken but others need chasing)

 

MR reiterated that issues affecting Health and Safety will be given priority in actioning any work

 

Any society carrying out work on its own behalf must have adequate insurance and (unless specific volunteer insurance is in place) get all participants to sign a disclaimer form (but please see later discussions)

 

It was proposed at the meeting on 15.09 that a register of self-help projects be created (to be maintained by Abas). Effectively societies would submit projects to this register which could then provide a basis by which any ‘self-help’ resources that may become available during the year may be allocated by MR.

 

On 13.10 - there was general support within Abas for this proposal, however, it was pointed out and reinforced by the Regional Mentor that any volunteers carrying out such projects must be covered by either ‘volunteer’ or ‘employee’ insurance taken out by the Site Society organising the project. It was advised that the normal Public Liability cover was not sufficient. It was estimated that obtaining such cover (e.g. through an addition to the standard insurance package available through ‘Shield’) would cost around £40 per annum. The funding of such extra insurance costs needs to be addressed.

It was felt by some Abas members that the former system (introduced by Alan Crook) whereby volunteers signed a disclaimer form was probably not defensible in law.

Mr Hull gave a short talk about insurance. The Treasurer later provided a spare insurance form for Moss Lea.

 

Clarifications on OMAs – points from the meeting on 15.09

 

To be eligible for an OMA a site must have:

·        A functioning society, with a secretary, a committee and a constitution

·        A majority (or at the least a significant proportion) of plot-holders who are members of that society

·        Have held a site meeting at which a majority of members have voted for an OMA

·        Have appropriate insurance (this applies only to those societies which intend to hold events to undertake maintenance work, but is advised by the National for all societies)

It was recognised that the current systems of reporting etc. are in their early stage and will require tweaking and simplification over time.

 

A Stage 1 ‘notice’ need not be a written document, it may be a telephone call or a face to face conversation (provided a record is kept of what was said by whom and when)

 

A Society Secretary should only re-let a plot IF

He / she has written evidence from the plot-holder that they are vacating the plot OR

The Council has provided evidence that a notice of re-entry has been served and that plot re-possessed

The Council’s procedure for non-payment will be tightened from this year – there will be a 40-day period for the payment of rents. Late payments will be accepted for a further 30 days after which societies will be informed and the plot re-let

 

 

It was clarified that if structures, materials etc. are left on a plot by a previous tenant and not removed within three weeks of the termination of the tenancy then they become part of the plot and as such the property and responsibility of the new tenant

 

The Council is to amend the letter offering a new tenant a plot so that there is a time limit on their acceptance (i.e. a date by which the signed Tenancy Agreement must be returned). If the agreement is not returned within the time period the offer lapses and the plot becomes available for re-letting.

 

Monthly Inspections may be suspended by Societies during periods when nothing is happening (if however there are stage 2 and 3 notices issued then these should be followed up)

The is no standard definition of ‘inadequate cultivation’ – the Council prefers the term ‘actively managed’ – which roughly means that over say a 2-year period all parts of a plot must have been used.

 

When a prospective tenant ‘volunteers’ to work on a “Community Plot” they are not taken off the waiting list, they retain their position and when they reach the top should be offered a plot of their own (which may involve them taking over all or part of the community plot)

 


Non-OMA sites

 

The Council’s stated position is that current resources preclude a comprehensive programme for the management of non-OMA sites. Site Visits will have to be prioritised and this means that follow-up actions such as the issue of Breach of Tenancy notices, re-letting of plots etc. may take considerable time.

 

At present the Council feels OMAs are the only option available to sites which want to improve / accelerate these processes

 

Abas feels that this is not a satisfactory position for those sites who cannot or do not wish to take on an OMA and that there is a need to address the issue of smaller sites in particular.


Matters for Consultation

 

The Council asked the Abas team to take back a number of proposals to the Abas meeting of 13.10 .Those proposals are listed below together with the meeting’s response.

 

It is proposed by the Council that the creation of new joint tenancies be limited to the addition of partners and close family members.

 

There was general support for this proposal. However the Council was requested to include some procedure whereby if two friends had been jointly working a plot for a prolonged period, and the Site Society could provide evidence of that joint working, the Council would allow the creation of a joint tenancy as a special case. It was agreed that the possible new rules relating to ‘buddies’ might also meet this need.

It is proposed by the Council that after two years as a registered buddy on a plot and having been on the waiting list for that period a buddy would acquire succession rights. It is further proposed by Abas that at that point the Council should consider creating a joint tenancy for the specific plot in question.

 

The meeting was in agreement with both aspects of this proposal

 

It is proposed by the Council to simplify the regulations relating to the erection of structures (sheds, greenhouses, poly-tunnels, fruit cages, cold frames and chicken houses and runs) on plots. In future so long as the 2 ft rule is maintained then up to 20% of any plot can be covered by structures (regardless of the individual size of any structure)

 

While many in the room would accept this change, there were significant elements of dissension, and the proposal needs further discussion.

 

A number wonder why the current (simple and well known) system need be changed

.

There was a request to include a caveat relating to the case where a Society has voted at a General Meeting to impose local conditions (e.g. a maximum size of e.g. a greenhouse) and where an application breached this agreement, would the Society be correct if it then refused that application. If so would this only apply to society members or to all plot-holders?

We were also asked what is the position where a plot-holder has ignored the current procedures and put up a structure which breaches current regulations – what action should a Society (Secretary) take? The Committee opinion was that such an action is a Breach of Tenancy and should be reported to the Council in the normal way.

 

It is proposed by the Council that on NON-STOCK plots, the number of hens that may be kept be set between a minimum of 3 birds and a maximum of 7 birds. As previously no cockerels may be kept. 

 

It was made clear (on several occasions) that this is not to be applied retrospectively and there will be no demands to cull existing flocks. This applies to new (i.e. future) poultry keepers.

The proposal gained general support but a substantial minority felt that the maximum limit was too low. The Regional Mentor commented that a figure of between 6 and 8 birds was common in the North-West. Others proposed a maximum of 12 birds to allow for ‘wastage’.

There was also a query as to whether the regulations needed to address the question of the density at which birds were kept i.e. the number of birds in relation to the size of house and size of run.

It was felt that further discussion was needed on this proposal.

 

Future Matters

 

Abas will continue to press for payments to site societies operating OMAs and performing management functions.

 

Abas will enter into discussions with the Council to establish the desirability / feasibility of setting up a group insurance scheme (operated by the Council) which will (appropriately) cover ALL allotments sites. It is hoped that this may considerably reduce the costs incurred by Site Societies.

 

At the start of this discussion Mr Hull made a short presentation about insurance requirements.

 

In the discussion it was argued that the Council would need to clarify exactly what the scheme would cover and that the following areas should be examined:

  • Society Public Liability – covering the society and its activities against claims by the public
  • Members’ Public Liability – covering individual society members against claims by the public
  • Events Insurance –covering any events that the Society organised
  • Volunteers / Employees Insurance – covering anyone carrying out ‘work’ for the society
  • Trusted Persons Insurance – covering the actions of committees and trustees

Some sites might also be interested in:-

  • Buildings Insurance – for communal amenity huts etc.
  • Equipment Insurance – for equipment owned by the Society
  • Product and Stock Insurance – covering those societies which operate a members’ store / shop

It was stressed that each society must have a copy of its own policy setting what is and is not covered.

On a broader level, it was felt that Societies currently operating OMAs should confine their activities to administrative tasks relating to waiting lists, re-letting of plots, site inspections, approving structures etc. and not undertake ‘maintenance’ work until they have examined their insurance position and satisfied themselves that their provision is adequate.(in particular they should examine ‘volunteer’ / employee insurance)

 

Programme of Talks

 

It was agreed to have a programme of talks in 2015 and the Treasurer requested that ideas be submitted for the topics to be covered. At present suggestions include:- Fundraising, Vegetable Growing and Showing, Dahlias (Grey Mare Society) and Beekeeping.

 

Allotments Competitions 2015

 

Abas intends to run the Borough-wide competitions (which will again be open to All plot-holders on Council sites within the Borough) in 2015. Entry Forms will be sent to all sites (with contact details) in March. Judging will take place in June and July

 

Leek and Onion Show

 

Abas will re-introduce the Leek and Onion Show on 27th September 2015 (tbc)

 

At present there are 10 class sponsors at £10 per class. Any sites / societies or individuals willing to sponsor the show would be most welcome.

 

Any Other Business?

 

Abas was asked to publicise the following events

 

19th October – Car Boot sale at Harpers Lane Allotments Site

 

26th October Apple Day at Ainsdale Rd. Community Allotments

 

The Comitttee has been asked by Clammerclough Allotments Site to contact the Council on its behalf. Plot 5 at Clammerclough is vacant and in a very bad condition. They have an applicant willing to take this plot on (but are not an OMA site).

 

Date and Venue of the AGM / Nominations Procedures

 

The AGM will be at Astley Bridge Cricket Club on 17/11/2014 (7.30 for 8.00 p.m)

 

Nominations for Officers and Committee should be submitted through boltonallotments2014@yahoo.co.uk

 

Issue for the agenda should also be submitted through that channel.

 

It is hoped to publish the developing agenda on http://www.abas2014.blogspot.co.uk

 

 

 

Close of Meeting

 

 

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