Minutes of the meeting of ABAS held 13.03.2017 at Astley Bridge Cricket Club
The meeting was attended by 24 individuals representing 13 allotment sites
MINUTES OF THE 2016 AGM – held November 2016
The minutes of the AGM having been posted on the Association’s blog site and there being no further points or matters arising, the Committee moved that the minutes be accepted. This was unanimously agreed by the meeting.
ABAS Vision statement - a reminder
1. Abas exists to represent the allotment societies within the Borough particularly in relations with Bolton MBC
2. Abas exists to assist in the formation of new societies and the maintenance of existing ones
3. Abas exists to promote allotment gardening and local food growing in the Bolton area.
Currently Abas membership (in terms of signed-up plot-holders) stands at 447
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE FOLLOWING SECTION CONSISTS OF THE ABAS COMMITTEE’S REPORT ON ITS MEETING WITH THE COUNCIL ON 13.03.2017
REPORT ON PROGRESS MEETING HELD 13.03.2017 (between the ABAS Committee and Mr M Russell – Bolton MBC)
The key points to report are:
Allotment Section Budget – in two parts – the money they can spend and the staff time they have available – in terms of money which can be spent this is again limited to the amount raised in rents (the “balanced budget”), in terms of staff time this is not planned to change but Council spending / staffing reviews are continuous.
Outstanding Issues raised by members since the last progress meeting
Pigeons on Plots – MR is considering how requests by (non-stock plot) plot-holders to keep pigeons on their plots should be addressed– no decision has been made
NOTE: A number of procedures are in place to try to reduce the clerical work on both secretaries and the Allotment Staff.
Rabbits and between 3 and 12 chickens may be kept. The plot-holder should inform the society (or on a non-OMA site, the Council). The Society should inform the Council of any new rabbit or chicken keepers in the Monthly Report. This is important since the Council may need (as in the current Bird Flu incidents) to contact poultry keepers with advice.
The previous requirement to pre-submit drawings etc. when wishing to erect a shed or greenhouse on a plot no longer applies. If a structure is within the rules (which have been forwarded by the Council to all secretaries) then all that is required is that the plot-holder informs the Society who record it in the monthly report
There are also Council Guidelines / Regulations on the keeping of Bees – these centre on the Training and Insurance Requirements for prospective beekeepers. Societies also need to be aware that there are people who are extremely allergic to Bee stings and therefore Societies and the Council should work with prospective bee-keepers about the safe placement of hives etc.
Outstanding Breach of Tenancy Requests / Reports
MR believes that the majority of outstanding (pre-Nov 2016) BoT3 requests were dealt with. There may be one or two that have been delayed due to disputes. He is checking on these and also on non-payers.
Abas and the Council have agreed to look into developing a new form and procedure to deal with probationers.
The Abas suggestion is that:
Probationers should be given (in writing) a date at which their progress will be assessed and a decision made as to whether they should be recommended for a tenancy. (Until they have ‘passed’, they have no tenancy rights).
The length of any probationary period should vary with the time of year, the state of the plot and the situation of the tenant. 6 months is the maximum.
Progress should be assessed at monthly intervals (in a similar way to assessing existing tenants). The criteria applied should be appropriate to the expected progress. Societies should take photographs as with normal inspections.
Dependent on the results of these assessments the probationary period may be extended, or the tenant be recommended for a tenancy or (in the event of insufficient progress) the probation terminated.
Probationers should not be given permission to erect new structures nor to keep chickens or rabbits until such time as they have satisfactorily completed their probation.
If a probationer fails an assessment, he / she should be informed (in writing) and should vacate the plot. Probationers may appeal to the Council.
Probationers should return any site keys in their possession
It is suggested that Societies charge a deposit of £10.00 for site keys, which is returnable when someone terminates their probation or tenancy.
MR confirmed that the Council WILL provide one set of keys for each new tenant, as needed.
Breach of Tenancy
It was felt that a reminder / summation of our joint understanding of the Breach of Tenancy System should be issued. Both parties would prefer the term Breach of Tenancy since it is both wider and better defined (by reference to the Tenancy Agreement) than the term “Mal-cultivation” – which leads to arguments about what constitutes “adequate cultivation” etc.
The system is as follows:
BoT1s are informal warnings given by a Society to a plot-holder. They allow a common sense approach to dealing with tenants who are either experiencing difficulties or who are causing problems to others. In an ideal world all problems would be solved by coming to an agreement at this stage.
Only if BoT1s do not sort the issues should the formal system be invoked and the Council become involved. (It is important however that societies should maintain a (written) record of all communications sent and agreements / undertakings given– emails are useful)
The BoT2 is the first formal warning.
The Society issues a request for the Council to issue a BoT2 (with accompanying photo evidence) as part of the Monthly Report.
The Council will then (if the evidence is sufficient) issue a BoT2 and inform the Society of the date of that issue.
The Society should then re-inspect the offending plot not less than 14 days from the date of issue of the BoT2. There have been some problems because Societies have carried out inspections (as part of their normal inspection cycle, usually a month after the previous inspection) which have fallen within the 14 day “improvement” period referred to above and thus the photographic evidence obtained (which Societies have used as the basis of a BoT3 request) is inadmissible.
If insufficient improvement is found at the inspection date, then a request for a BoT3 (with accompanying photo evidence) should be submitted as part of the Monthly Report.
A BoT3 is issued by the Council and is a Notice to Vacate the Plot. Once the Council has served that Notice they must give the plot-holder a calendar month to clear the plot. They will then “take possession”.
A BoT3 is not a further ‘grace period’ in which a plot-holder gets a second chance to improve their plot.
There needs to be some clarification about e.g. the purchase of e.g. greenhouses by new tenants etc. and to a degree about clearing a plot of structures etc., – however it is clear that once the notification period has elapsed ownership of everything remaining on that plot belongs to the Council and that the Council will transfer ownership of those items to the new tenant when he/she/they take possession.
Once the Council has retaken possession then they will notify the Society that the plot is available for re-letting.
The Society should not re-let the plot until it has received this notification.
The Council acknowledge that some problems have arisen in the past because they have not informed site secretaries of the issue (dates) of BoT2s, BoT3s and Repossessions.
Termination of a Tenancy by the Tenant
If a tenant informs the Society that they are quitting their plot – GET IT IN WRITING and keep a copy in your files. Inform the Council through the Monthly Report.
In such a situation arrangements between the outgoing and incoming tenants about the transfer of e.g. greenhouses and sheds can be made, provided they are concluded BEFORE the new tenant takes possession. If no agreement is reached the outgoing tenant should either remove the structure OR the structure becomes the property of the incoming tenant.
There will be occasions when a tenant (for whatever reason) informs the Council and not the Society that they are terminating their tenancy. The Council accepts that on occasion they have been lax in not informing the Society so that the plot may be re-let. Similar problems can arise / have arisen when a tenant has been “evicted” for non-payment of rent.
Some tenants simply abandon their plot, without word to anyone. Such abandonments should be dealt with through the BoT system (in these cases BoT1 may not be appropriate since contact cannot be established with the tenant.)
There is a related point here which applies to Secretaries having contact details for the plot-holders on their site. Secretaries should have contact details for all members of their society – indeed if your society is affiliated to the NAS then they will require you to provide such a list.
The problem arises with non-members – the Council cannot (Data Protection) provide contact details of tenants to Secretaries. Tenants can be asked by Societies if they will voluntarily provide contact details (this helps e.g. when there are break-ins) and Secretaries should take such opportunities.
When a plot becomes vacant it does NOT automatically have to be spilt. A Society shoud assess whether splitting is workable and desirable.
Remember Council advice is that:
1. You should not split any plot so that any resulting part is less than 125 sq metres
2. You should not split a plot of less than 250 sq metres
3. Any plot created should have a direct frontage onto a site road or path
Remember that you can (re-)amalgamate smaller plots where this is sensible.
Remember this does NOT mean that you have to upset any existing arrangements / plot configurations where the plot-holders are satisfied with them. These suggestions merely apply to opportunities that arise when one or more plots become vacant.
REQUEST FOR ACTION
Most Societies have (as was requested) not been submitting Monthly Reports during the Winter.
Can you therefore (as soon as practicable) please inform the Council of
1. Any tenant who has notified you that they have quit their plot (terminated their tenancy)
2. Any tenant who the Council has informed you has had their tenancy revoked (non-payment, BoT etc.)
3. Any new tenant who has been allocated a probationary plot
4. Any probationer who has quit the site
5. Any tenant who is being / has been recommended for a Tenancy Agreement
The Council intends to use this information to update its database and thence to reissue the waiting list and vacant plots information that was sent to Secretaries on 20/12/2016
Current Waiting Lists
The current waiting list stands at 483 – this is historically very high
The Council believe that the figure is distorted due to
The introduction of a new on-line new application system which is very easy to use and may encourage less than committed applications
The Council believe a number of people on their waiting list were offered probationary slots during the winter and will in fact be working those plots. (Judging from issues raised by plot-holders with societies there could also be a number of people who have been recommended by their Societies for Tenancies but who have either not been sent Tenancy Agreements by the Council or who have not returned those agreements.)
There also appear to be a number of multiple applications.
1. Some people have submitted 2 or 3 applications each for a different site
2. Some related people living at the same address have submitted individual applications for plots
The Council will exercise sensitivity in the latter group due to the complications arising from extended families, houses in multiple occupation etc.
< note from the evening abas meeting>
Members at the meeting raised the issue of ‘rotating applicants’ – as waiting lists at some sites have become shorter the following situation has arisen –
· A name (or group names) reaches the top of the list.
· The Site Secretary therefore contacts that person and asks if they want the plot.
· The person says “not just at the moment” – sometimes for valid reasons
· The person then goes down to the bottom of the waiting list (but is not removed from the list)
· As time passes the person reaches the top of the list again and the process is repeated. Some sites say the same name(s) have been round a couple of times now, slowing the process of re-letting plots and wasting secretaries’ time.
OTHER MATTERS AT THE PROGRESS MEETING
There may be some funds available to assist societies with plot-holders who are having difficulty accessing their plots due to some form of disability. Societies should approach the allotments section directly by email if they have such issues. It was agreed at the meeting that the issue of Florence Avenue’s car park would be dealt with under uch arrangements.
There was some discussion about unaccompanied children on allotment sites. Allotment sites can be dangerous places (there are frequent warnings issued by NWCAA and this is why we all have Public Liability Insurance (don’t we?)). Plot-holders need to be reminded that any children they bring onto the site are their responsibility and should be adequately supervised. Children should not be on site unaccompanied by adults (in extreme cases this might be seen as a safeguarding issue)
THIS MARKS THE END OF THE REPORT BACK FROM THE PROGRESS MEETING
GM Spatial Plan
As far as we can ascertain the 3 plot site in Chequerbent is under threat from possible housing development. We understand that this site is actually rented by the Council from Peel Holdings at present.
We would like to thank Cllr N Peel for his help in confirming this and also our Chair, Jeff Gibson for all the work he put into compiling information on the GM Plan. Abas continues to collaborate with other GM Federations and the NWCAA both on protecting existing sites and in lobbying for new land to be set aside for additional allotment sites to service new developments.
ABAS ALLOTMENTS COMPETITIONS
We are again organising the Fairhurst, Greenhalgh, New Tenant and Rosebowl Competitions.
Judging will be in June and July
Forms etc. available via our Treasurer, Terry Farrell. (Forms were distributed at the meeting and will be posted to those Societies not present.)
The scoring system for these competitions is as follows:
A APPEARANCE OF PLOT (inc. condition of structures) 20
B LAYOUT/ ORGANISATION / COMPOSTING 20
C BRASSICAS 20
D LEGUMES 20
E ONIONS AND LEEKS ( all onion types) 20
F ROOT CROPS 20
G FLOWERS (including Borders) 20
H FRUIT (Hard and Soft) 20
I SALADS 20
J HERBS AND OTHERS (anything not included above) 20
Each entry must have:
Section Entered (Greenhalgh, Fairhurst, New Tenant etc.)
Name of Site
Plot Number (also it is important that the number of any plot entered is clearly indicated on the plot itself)
Name(s) of Plot-holder (with contact details)
ABAS ONION, LEEK AND VEGETABLE SHOW
The Show will be held at Trinity Church, Tonge Fold
The date is Saturday 12th August
The list of classes is given in a separate posting
We are also canvassing interest in a Photographic (and possibly more general Art) Exhibition on an Allotment Theme to be staged outside the main judging room at the Onion, Leek and Vegetable Show. We need to assess interest and we also need volunteers to help organise, curate and set-up the exhibition. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Abas has been successful in obtaining funding to support the competitions and show from:
The University Of Bolton
If approved we will seek funding for the photo competition
Could members please advise us of any events, shows or functions that you are planning for 2017 and we’ll put them on our blog page as well as trying to get wider publicity.
Mr John Woods (FNVS) will give a talk on
“The Growing of Vegetables on Allotments” at our meeting on April 10th
This talk will be suitable for all levels of growers so please encourage your members (especially New Tenants) to attend
A talk on Bee-Keeping has been suggested
Are there other topics?
The North-Western Counties Allotments Association will be holding its AGM at Stanley Park, Blackpool on 25th March.
Terry and Jeff will be representing ABAS, and will report back at the April meeting
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Members raised the issue of “recurring offenders” – those people who are at regular intervals receive either BoT1s or BoT2s and who then do the minimum work to prevent a BoT3 only to relapse immediately into their former ways and the process begins again. This issue has been raised at the Progress Meetings and we will continue to follow it up.
Some members also reported issues where some requests for BoT notices are not actioned and the plot-holders are leaving semi-derelict plots lying idle sometimes for years. Again this issue has been raised and we will continue to follow it up. We would urge Societies to issue BoT2s to any such cases they have and then follow the procedure outlined previously.
Our next meeting is on Monday 10th April, this will be followed by:
Monday May 15th – please note this is the 3rd not the 2nd Monday in May
Monday June 12th
Monday July 10th
Monday August 14th
Monday Sept 11th
Monday October 9th
And the AGM on Monday November 13th
All meetings start at 8.00 p.m.