Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Abas Meeting 14.03.2016

Minutes of the Monthly Abas meeting held on 14/03/2016 at Astley Bridge Cricket Club

The abas vision statement
Abas exists to achieve fair treatment for all plot-holders on allotments sites within the Bolton Borough boundaries. It seeks to achieve this through effective representation of plot-holders and societies to the Council and the provision of support to individuals and societies.
AGM 2015

Minutes of the AGM 2015
The minutes of the 2015 AGM having been placed on the association’s blogsite at www.abas2014.blogspot.co.uk prior to Christmas 2015, and no matters having been raised by members, the Committee proposed that the minutes be accepted as a true and accurate record.
This motion was proposed by Lennard Nuttall (Rawlyn Rd.) and seconded by Brian Southwood (Rawlyn Rd.)

The matters arising from the minutes were covered by items in the meeting’s agenda

Report back from Progress Meeting with Bolton Council on 24/02/2016
Abas were given ssight of a new copy of the Council’s site refresher monitor – showing numbers of vacancies etc.

The Council’s current “savings review” is nearing completion. The status quo will apply on allotments, we will still be in a balanced budget situation.

The Council has invited abas to consult with members as to the priority areas for any funds which may become available

A discussion was subsequently held in which the following priorities were identified:
1.      Assistance in installing composting toilets (or other facilities) at those sites without toilet facilities
2.      Fencing to secure sites
3.      Assistance in acquiring and installing security cameras and lights
4.      Expansion of the Self-help scheme with a more proactive role by the Council in organising materials etc.
5.      Access to plant e.g. a mini-digger or even a JCB – many sits have work for such equipment

It was recognised that in most cases sites will have to secure grant funding for these initiatives though the Council could assist with e.g. planning applications, support for bids etc.

Other points

Notions that Horwich Town Council might take on a more active role in managing sites in Horwich seem to have been shelved.  Lever Park Avenue remains however a possible site for expansion if funds could be introduced from somewhere.

Longworth Rd, Horwich is now an OMA site, and is the only OMA site not currently in abas membership.
Local Councillors are taking an interest in matters at Longworth Rd., Egerton. They are hoping to convene / facilitate a site meeting to discuss concerns raised with them. MR has agreed to attend such a meeting.

A number of individuals have contacted the Council stating that turning off the water supply discriminates against poultry keepers. The Council believe that the risks of damage to the piping if the water is left on during winter is too great to allow extension of the season.
They argue that tenants are aware of the situation when they opt to keep poultry.

The Abas Concerns Matrix
The Association maintains a Record of issues which member societies request that we raise with the Council on their behalf. We also record the results of representations etc.

We are reliant on member authorities both informing us of issues that need to be tackled and also updating us on progress (or the lack of it)

A number of site specific issues were raised on 24/02/2016 and the responses have been communicated to the societies involved

General Issues raised at the Meeting
(Matters common to more than one site)

The Council cannot provide site secretaries with tenants’ lists containing names and contact details (Data Protection) – abas would advise all societies to keep a record of names and addresses of all society members – providing this info should be a condition of membership) – such a record is a condition for all those insured through the NAS
The Council cannot provide site secretaries with lists of those who haven’t paid their rent and who thus may be liable to Notice to Quit.
There have been delays in the transmission of payments data from Finance to Allotments which has delayed the Vacancy Process
Secretaries are reminded that they should not take action to re-let plots until they receive information from the Council that the plot is free to re-let (unless the tenant has signed a termination / amendment form) (OMA sites only)

The Allotments Section is currently preparing and circulating up to date waiting lists and these are being circulated to OMA secretaries as they become available. Part of this process may include cross-checking Council records against those held by secretaries.

Reporting
The Council had not been expecting Monthly Reports to be submitted during the winter period and had not allocated staff time to deal with them.

The Allotments section is still very short-staffed and is especially vulnerable to staff sickness and absence. The section is also involved in dealing with the aftermath of the January floods.

The section would still prefer all communications to be through Monthly Reports as there is no capacity to provide a guaranteed, timely response to emails.

The Council would not anticipate any requests (outwith emergencies) for actions on Breach of Tenancies or mal-cultivation before the April Monthly Reports.

Abas membership
Abas membership remains as stated at the 2015 AGM
The Treasurer confirmed that all existing members have paid 2016 subscriptions.

The Committee will be launching a second drive to increase membership. The Council however has not so far been able to distribute any membership materials to individual tenants on our behalf.

The Selling of Produce
The following draft policy statement has been received:

The Council is keen to support Societies both in terms of the sustainable management of sites and the potential role that sites/societies could play in the local community around food growing, health and wider social benefits. On that basis the Council, as landlord, will permit the sale of surplus produce on allotment sites subject to the following criteria
·        Sales are of SURPLUS produce
·        Sales must be COLLECTIVE and proceeds must go to the Site Society not to individuals
·        Sales must be ON-SITE and there must be NO OFF-SITE advertising
(some sales at off-site venues e.g. church fetes would be acceptable)
·        Societies should not create any purpose built structure for the purpose of selling produce
·        Sales should be of ‘in season’ produce grown on the site, no produce can be brought from another source
·        There should be no sale of processed produce UNLESS the Society goes through registration as a Food business and Food Hygiene Testing Inspection etc. with the relevant regulatory departments
·        The Site Society should notify the Council by e-mail (allotments@bolton.gov.uk)  that they propose to sell surplus produce / food sales at least 2 weeks prior to sales commencing

The Council reserves the right to require a Society to cease sales if the Society is not following the above criteria OR if other relevant issues are brought to the Council’s attention.

The Committee would make the following observations:

There are no limits as to the period during which sales may be held nor to the number of occasions on which sales may be held.
Whilst there would be no objections to say offering tea and coffee from the site hut during ‘open site’ sales any extension into cakes etc. or a full cafĂ© style operation would constitute creating a food business.
The question of cake stalls etc. on Open Days was not clarified, we suspect if they’re one-offs then common sense will prevail, if they become a regular feature then they might attract attention.
On the question of notifying the Council it was later clarified that our understanding is that a single notification setting out a number of dates / events would be acceptable.

Allotment Watch
Following the NWCAA meeting held at Bolton on 24/01/2016 the notion of establishing an Allotments Watch system across Bolton was raised.
There seem no available resources and little enthusiasm for this within the ‘management’ ranks at GMP. Like all public services they are dealing with cut-backs and we are a low priority.
However, PCSO Sandra Furnival at Middlebrook is trying to collate allotment crime data across the Division(s) and keeping us informed.
It would be a great help if societies informed abas of any crimes on sites so that we can inform Sandra.
Again, the advice is report ALL crimes to the Police and give a FULL valuation of any property stolen or damage done.
Important
The meeting was informed by Alun Morris (Sec. Florence Avenue) that he had recently got GMP to accept a single report on behalf of a number of victims of break-ins. Because he was able to provide details of each individual crime (including the victim’s name, address, approx. age etc.) the call handler gave separate crime numbers of each break-in. This emphasises the importance of Secretary’s having full information about tenants / members.

Allotment Competitions
Entry Forms for the Fairhurst, Greenhalgh, New Tenants and Rosebowl Competitions are now available from Terry, 0786 393 3064

It’s important to get copies of the scoring criteria

Closing date for entries is 16th May 2016

Judging will be w/c 06/06 (1st round) and w/c 18/07 (2nd round)

Prizes will be presented at the Veg Show on 20/08/2016

Abas Onion, Leek and Vegetable Show
The expanded Bolton Vegetable Show will take place at Trinity Methodist Church on 20th August 2016.
There will be 25 classes this year (schedules will be available)

Last year abas members (societies and individuals) sponsored all classes (@£10.00 per class), we need sponsorship again this year if we are to provide the prizes. Could anyone interested please contact Terry.

We’re hoping for an increased entry this year both in terms of the number of entries and the number of participating sites.

Grant Applications
The Committee applied to the Big Bolton Fund (run by Bolton CVS) for funds to run both the Allotment Competitions and the Vegetable Show.

The CVS has provided a partial grant (£620.00) but felt unable to provide monies that would be used for prizes.

This has left a deficit in our budget of around £465.00

We are actively seeking other funding and sponsorship.

There was  suggestion that we again approach Asda Community Fund which we shall do.

The “Allotted” Exhibition
We are supporting a group of local artists and writers who are staging an exhibition at neo:gallery27 in the Market Place from 30th June to 31st July 2016.
The broad theme of the exhibition is around allotments, wildlife, food growing etc. It will feature paintings, prints, installations, 3-D work, textiles, photography, stained glass and there will also be a written record featuring interviews with plot-holders and others plus both fiction and non-fiction writing on allotment-related subjects.

Abas will be allocated an area within the gallery where we will promote allotment gardening in general but more importantly all the events that our member societies are holding over the summer (so make sue you let us know what you’re planning and when)

External Affairs
Abas hosted the NWCAA Quarterly Forum at Hollywood Rd Social Club on 24/01/2016. The central theme was “Allotment Crime” and a presentation was given by officers of GMP. The minutes of that meeting are available on the NWCAA website.

It was clear at that meeting that there are tensions both within the NWCAA and between some elements of the NWCAA and the NAS.  Some within NWCAA proposed a motion for the NWCAA AGM for leaving NAS and forming their own organisation. Should this proposal become fact Abas would need to take a position.
The meeting noted that Andrea Hallissey (Secretary NWCAA) has announced her impending retirement from the post (she is relocating to the North-East). The meeting felt she would be hard act to replace.
The meeting also expressed concern that a break-away would remove our access to support from Liz Bunting and Di Appleyard at NAS.

The general feeling in the meeting was that whilst member societies support the National there would be little enthusiasm for joining a regional break-away.

National Vegetable Society
As members of Abas you are also members of the National Vegetable Society.

The Committee would encourage you to visit the NVS website and to examine their list of publications many of which deal with questions on which you have suggested we have talks.

If you wish to access the members-only areas please contact Terry or Jeff for the membership number

Compost Donations

Viridor – GM Waste are running a scheme whereby community gardens and allotments societies can receive a free delivery (1 pallet -  60x40L bags) of Revive compost / soil conditioner

The contact in the first instance is JBolger@viridor-laing.co.uk who can provide an application form

Future Programme

Current suggestions for our future programme include:

Organising a further talk by John Woods FNVS
Organising a trip to the Harrogate Autumn Show

Both these suggestions attracted support from members. Terry will follow them up.

We shall also hold the monthly meetings here at ABCC (8.00 p.m. every second Monday in the month)

AOB

The next meeting will be here at ABCC on 11th April 2016



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