Saturday, 17 February 2018

ABAS CIRCULAR FEBRUARY 2018


To all OMA Secretaries and others

Hello everyone and welcome to the new allotments year.
The first ABAS meeting of 2018 will take place on Monday 12th March at 8.00 p.m. at Astley Bridge Cricket Club. We hope as many of you as possible will be there (or send representatives).

Before Christmas we circulated the proposed amended OMA document. Many of you responded with comments etc. and these were collated and presented to the Council.
On Thursday 15th February we had a meeting with Malcolm Russell to discuss these points.
He is now drawing up a further amended version of the proposed new OMA (to take effect from April 2018). We hope to have a copy of this document to circulate at the next Abas meeting.
On the question of the inclusion of time scales for council responses etc. MR is working on this. He is investigating using a batch system for dealing with Monthly Reports etc which he hopes will improve performance and reliability. More information is promised for 12/03.

MR has also requested that secretaries examine the OMA forms pack (version May 2015 applies) and suggest any amendments that would make matters easier – please send these through the abas secretary.

One amendment that will be taking place is an additional line on the tenant registration form (which a successful probationer should now hand back to the site secretary who then forwards it to the council) which will state “I understand that if I do not return the Tenancy Agreement (which the Council will now send me) within 28days then I may forfeit my right to take up this tenancy.”
Tenancy Agreements will now be sent out in fluorescent yellow A4 envelopes so they can’t be missed! Allotments staff will also inform site secretaries as and when a tenancy agreement is sent.
MR also confirmed that it is the Council’s intention to move all applications to go onto the Council’s waiting list for an allotment plot online and that applicants will be expected to apply through the website. There may be a need for a change to that website before this is done.

Please note new Data Protection legislation means that allotments have been instructed that for the purpose of releasing waiting list information to sites there will have to be a named / designated person at each site who will have to sign that they will protect the integrity of that data.

Request to all (OMA) Site Secretaries – please submit (to Allotments) a Monthly Report in March (preferably early) which includes details of – any new vacant plots, any new tenant registrations and any new probationers – this will enable Allotments to ensure that the ‘Refresher Monitor’ / Site Updates are as accurate as possible.

It was also suggested that site committees may wish to carry out a site inspection before Easter and send a (friendly and informal) note to any plot-holders who have not as yet recommenced work on the plots – strictly speaking this is a BoT1 but there is no need for photographic evidence or to tell the council (unless you wish to add a list of persons contacted to your March Monthly report).
Site Committees can then conduct a second inspection in April which should lead to BoT2 requests in respect of any plots which are not felt to be being adequately cultivated. BoT2s are the start of the formal process and if ignored by plot-holders can lead to BoT3s and eventual repossession of the plot. Allotments hope that this will avoid plots lying neglected during the 2018 growing season.

MR also addressed the question of people who refuse an offer of a plot. Secretaries should always inform the Council (via the monthly report) of anyone refusing a plot and (if the secretary feels it appropriate)., the reasons for refusal and whether the secretary feels they should not be demoted to the back of the waiting list. Normally anyone refusing a plot will be demoted.

The question of those who repeatedly refuse plot offers was raised – it was felt that 3 refusals should lead to removal from the waiting list altogether.
The question of making contact with persons on the waiting list to make a plot offer was raised.
It was felt that an email and then a follow-up phone call and (possibly) a further email should suffice (obviously allow a reasonable gap between events)– if there is no response then note this on the Monthly Report and move on down the waiting list.

One proposal which we shall need to discuss relates to Keys and Locks. The Council wishes to move to a system whereby an initial stock of locks and master keys will be supplied to each site. Responsibility for buying new locks and acquiring key copies will pass to the Site Society (Societies will be informed as to sources of new locks and keys.) Keys will then be issued by the site society to new tenants. New Tenants should then pay either a deposit or a charge (to be discussed) for the key to the Society. Charges should cover both the cost of providing a copy of the key and a contribution towards the replacement of locks due to wear and tear / vandalism / theft etc. The net result should be that there is no charge on society funds. Systems similar to this are in fact in place on a number of our sites already.

Finally there is a proposal to have a major push towards replacing the chemical / portaloo style toilets used each summer with permanent Composting Toilets. The mechanism for doing this would be by each site making a bid to e.g. Awards for All for the funds to install such a toilet. The Council would assist in completing the documentation that is required by planning regulations and ABAS is to investigate proposed Council assistance in identifying potential funders, drawing up standard bid documents etc. Potentially some £9,000 could be saved on the Allotment Budget if portaloos were eliminated plus Composting Toilets provide an all-year-round amenity.
Other initiatives relating water saving etc. will be investigated. Together with ideas as to how the periods toilets are available on other sites can be extended.


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