Monday, 2 July 2018

MINUTES 19.06.18


MINUTES OF THE JUNE 2018 MEETING OF ABAS
Held at Astley Bridge Cricket Club on June 19th 2018
The meeting commenced at 8.00 p.m.

Present: 16 people from 9 sites
Apologies from: Terry Farrell, Carol Deplitch, Carol Barlow

Minutes of the May Meeting 
The Minutes having been posted on the Association Blog-site for the required period and there being no objection, the minutes were adopted as full and correct.

Matters Arising 
We have been informed that the Revised 2018 OMA Documents are being rolled out incrementally. The Council are offering site meetings to discuss OMA issues.

Still no details on Council Allotments Budget

We have not received an updated “Refresher Monitor” but the Council report the current position to be:

On 12/06/2018- within Bolton there were:
86 plots lettable and vacant, of which 33 are on OMA sites and 53 are on non OMA sites – members on OMA sites were asked to review how quickly they are (given points raised elsewhere) re-letting plots once they become vacant. Re-letting on non-OMA sites is the direct responsibility of the Council (see below)
In addition 41 plots are held by plot-holders on probation

The Council waiting list currently stands at 623 – this figure was challenged in that members believe that it contains a number of “buddies” who technically are not waiting for a plot but are acting as assistants to existing tenants.

In 2017 89 tenancies were given up or terminated and the Council issued 86 new tenancies

The question was raised by some members as to why we (as Abas) should be concerned about the size of the Borough waiting list and indeed the other data above. The Committee would argue that there are (at least) two reasons:

a)      86 vacant plots represent 9% of the rental income which supports the Allotments Budget (estimated at around £30k-£32k per annum).  41 probationary plots (on which no rent is collected) represent a further 4%. Assuming the average length of probation is 3 months then roughly that represents some £3,000 in income which if it were being collected could be spent on the Allotments service. Members may recall that the Head of Service has previously estimated that the sum of £5k could provide sufficient part-time staff to resolve the communications and administration issues currently affecting member secretaries.

b)      The overall waiting list provides a measure of the unmet demand for allotment plots within the Borough. As the local “federation” – part of the NAS – part of our remit is to pressure the Council to increase allotment provision to meet more of that demand.

The Council is currently targeting non-OMA Sites with Letting Issues

a)      Longworth Rd., Egerton has a large waiting list and 16 vacant plots but drainage / flooding problems have led to a large number of refusals over winter. The Council will renew re-letting efforts as ground dries. The Council are recommending raised beds but many applicants don’t want to incur the significant extra time, cost and effort involved. The Council are offering plots at nil charge until October.

b)      Cemetery Rd., Farnworth has a large waiting list and 7 vacant plots. However many are stock plots and people on the waiting list want cultivation plots. The Council are looking to convert plots and recommending raised beds. The Council are again offering plots at nil charge until October.

There are still concerns about the Council’s response to Monthly Reports.
It is generally felt that the Council is responding well to “physical” matters – water leaks etc. but that the administrative system that services re-lets, mal-cultivation etc. is not functioning. Concern centres on Communications between sites and “Allotments”.

The Council accept the importance of Secretaries knowing that date for BoT2s so that they may schedule re-inspections etc. The Council has asked us to remind secretaries that the date a BoT3 goes out does not indicate when a plot can be re-let. The Council has to complete the legal process and will then inform the Society that the plot is available for re-letting.

The Head of Service has confirmed that BoTs WILL be issued in response to monthly reports, and has asked that staff now either include the date they have been sent in the response to the monthly report OR send a subsequent email to confirm the date. Feedback from sites suggests that this second phase (e.g. informing secretaries that BoT2s have been sent or that plots are available for re-letting) has not been happening.

We are advised that the Council is currently focusing on advising secretaries when new tenancy agreements have been sent out. (On a related issue one site at least reports continuing delay in getting Allotments to send a tenancy agreement to a tenant.)

The Council has subsequently emailed us stating that they acknowledge that they are behind with the agreed process at the moment. Due to the recent unseasonably good weather after a wet winter they are having to deal with a significant increase in customer enquiries in relation to mowing, pest control, and last week high winds. This has impacted on time available for other works, including allotments.

An article on page 23 of the Bolton News of 20/06/18 shows the pressure that the “green spaces” section is under from residents and elected members. The message is clear, if Societies (and Abas) want allotments to have a higher priority, then they should lobby ward councillors, attend Area Forums etc.

The Abas committee has asked that site secretaries tell us (with details plot numbers, names etc.) of the cases that are most vexing them when it comes to the Council dealing with mal-cultivation and other ‘admin’ tasks. We will compile a list and submit it on a regular basis to the Allotments section. Such action was taken for two sites in the last week, we await the outcomes and will report back.

ABAS Membership

A number of societies have still not yet paid their annual subscriptions to the Association.
Current membership still stands at 399 plot-holders.

Bolton Allotments Competition 2018

First Round Judging in the Fairhurst, Greenhalgh, New Tenant and Rosebowl Competitions will take place in in week commencing 25th June. Second Round Judging will take place in in week commencing 16th July

Abas Onion, Leek and Vegetable Show

The Annual Vegetable Show will be held on Saturday 4th August at Trinity Church, Tonge Fold
There will be 25 Vegetable Classes. The Show Schedules are almost ready for Print and will be available shortly.
Members are reminded that the Treasurer (Terry Farrell) is happy to give short talks on ‘Showing Vegetables’ if societies want this. He has already given one such talk.

NWCAA
Abas has recently (see May minutes) drawn members’ attention to the new NWCAA email address:
nwcallotmentassociations@gmail.com .
The new NWCAA website is www.northwestallotments.btck.co.uk

However, we believe that the NWCAA website is currently out of action.
The Chair has tried to contact Alan Hull and Andy Percival and also the National HQ about e.g. the “Best Allotment Comp”. He has received some 2017 entry details from the Regional Representative of the NAS, Mr John Irwin. Mr Irwin’s email address is Nw.nsalg@yahoo.co.uk

The Best Allotment Competition is for “best” site and is well worth entering (and winning!).

GDPR

General Data Protection Regulation came into effect on 25 May 2018.
Abas has contacted all names on its circulation list – the majority have now replied so that we may continue to send out calling notices and bulletins
Anyone who is not receiving such bulletins and wishes to should contact the Secretary

GM SPATIAL PLAN
The revised plan (due June 2018) has now been delayed (due to the May elections) It will now appear in July and will be followed by 12 weeks consultation. Subsequent to the meeting it was announced in the Press that the Plan will be delayed until October pending revision of population forecast for the area covered.

On a related issue the Chair has noted a proposed development on the corner of Hatfield Rd and Shepherd X St. He is concerned that from the outline drawing it covers the redundant bowling green and seems to encroach onto the Allotments Site. He will monitor the planning application when submitted.

One member reported that he had been informed that a mobile toilet had been / was being removed from the Hatfield Rd. site. Abas will seek to find out if this is correct and if so what the implications are.

WHAT’S ON IN 2018?

PLEASE TELL US OF ANY EVENTS THAT YOU ARE PLANNING OR THAT YOU THINK WILL BE OF INTEREST TO PLOT-HOLDERS
August 12th – Summer Festival and Show at Harpers Lane Allotments
August 25th Open Day / Show at Moss Lea Allotments
September 8th – Open Day / Show at Settle St Allotments

Additional Item

Harpers Lane is intending to have a produce market as part of its Summer Festival on August 12th.
If any plot-holders on other Bolton sites wish to have a stall at that event could they please contact us at boltonallotments2014@yahoo.co.uk  for details.

GRANTS ETC.
The training session on completing submissions to Awards for All was held at the Hub in Bolton Town Centre on June 11th. It was attended by 13 people representing 7 member societies.
Lesley Turner (Bolton MBC) ( lesley.turner@bolton.gov.uk )  and Helen Tomlinson (Bolton CVS)
( helen@boltoncvs.org.uk )have offered to assist with bid writing and proof reading etc. They can also help with standard policy documents e.g. on safeguarding which some funding bids may require.

ANY OTHER BUSINESS

Repeat Offenders
Members are still concerned about what they term “repeat offenders” – tenants for whom they repeatedly request BoT3s but on whom the Council appears unwilling to take any action. There is a concern that “some people” (for reasons right or wrong) seem not to be subject to the same rules and standards on cultivation as the rest of the community. The existence of these plots is often used by groups dissatisfied with their society as evidence that the OMA system and even the Society itself are ineffective. There seems to be a need for the Council to state clearly to Site Secretaries its reasoning in any case where a request to serve a BoT is not actioned and fulfilled.

(There is also a related issue of people who are served BoT2s who then do the minimum of work and wind up being served with another BoT2 a couple of months later)

Tenants with a disability

The discussion started with a question about the application of the mal-cultivation procedures to tenants / plots where the plot-holder claimed their ability to tend the plot was impaired by a disability either temporary or permanent.
In general we would argue that ensuring that persons with a disability are not discriminated against when seeking or cultivating a plot is the responsibility of the Council (as Landlord).

There seem three areas at issue –

a)      Access – is there a sufficient number of plots (either within the Borough or on the applicant’s chosen site) which can be accessed by a person with the disability of this applicant? This might mean that site roads and perhaps allotment boundary paths need to be upgraded. We would argue that the responsibility for funding and carrying out such work is the responsibility of the Council. However, it was indicated (at the Awards for All training session) that where a Society wished to step in and assist an individual or a group such a project might be eligible to apply for grant funding. Societies might wish to consider this. Such an initiative would of course be entirely voluntary on the part of the society.

b)      Upkeep – who should take action and what action should they take when disability means that a tenant cannot maintain and cultivate their plot to the standards normally accepted? Effectively this means how should a Society (on an OMA site) apply the mal-cultivation procedures? Hopefully any problems arising which are caused by disability should be identified at the BoT1 (informal) stage. As above Societies might wish to consider what assistance might be given and how this might be funded. However societies are not experts in the effects of particular disabilities nor on the appropriate responses to make and we would advise any secretary in this position to seek the advice of the Council. 

c)       Additions – there may be instances where a tenant (under the OMA agency system) seeks approval to e.g. erect a structure, keep chickens etc. If the applicant feels that a disability is relevant to their application they should be encouraged to make this plain at the time of application. If the Society is unsure as to how to take this information into account they should refer the application to the Council together with any proposal they may wish to make to assist the tenant / member.

Responsibilities towards non-members

Sites in Bolton (whether OMA sites or not) are termed Direct-let sites (they are not self-managing).
On such sites the primary relationship is between tenant and the Council (as Landlord).
As such a Society’s role can be twofold.

a)      A Site Society on an OMA site may act as the Council’s agents in dealings with tenants on issues such as initial letting of plots, permission to keep chickens or bees, or permission to erect structures. In such dealings the Site Society must apply Council Policy to any application (it may not make its own rules or impose additional restrictions). In cases where that policy is unclear (as in the case of beekeeping) the Society should refer the application to the Council and request advice and clarification.
Where a Society’s judgement on an application is challenged / rejected by the applicant, the Society should advise the applicant of his / her rights as a tenant of the Council and inform them that they may appeal to the Head of Service who will make a final decision.

b)      There may be other matters in which a tenant or tenants find themselves in dispute with the Council (or another body). In such circumstances the Society may decide to or be asked to advise and represent those tenants.  The question has been asked as to whether a Society has any obligation to represent a tenant who is not a member of the Society. The Council has clarified that the terms of the OMA do not require any Society to represent a non-member. The NAS has also clarified that Societies have no obligation to non-members.

Non-members should deal with issues under the normal tenant / landlord relationship or through legal or other assistance.

It is also clear that non-members have no rights to access services provided by the Society whether the provision of manure or bark etc. or the coverage of a society insurance policy. Non-members should be advised that they should seek to clarify their own insurance position and make appropriate arrangements.

The position of a large site in Bolton was raised.

This site had raised two issues (below is a rough summary of the advice given by members present) :

a)      The use of CCTV – it was reported that a number of sites have experimented with CCTV. It is essential if having the cameras etc. that this fact is clearly signposted around the site and at gates etc. It was further reported that “wild-life” cameras provide a practical and affordable means of providing a similar for of cover. There are also alarm systems which will ring the mobile of e.g. the Secretary if activity occurs on site. The problem with these is finding someone willing to respond and go onto a dark, empty site on the middle of the night to confront unknown adversaries! The best advice we can give is that the Site Committee in question should contact their local PCSOs and seek advice. It is likely that grant funding for security improvements could be identified through CVS.

b)      Unlettable plots

The site in question has no waiting lists and a large number of large (in excess of 250 sq metres) plots which have become very overgrown. The Council has suggested that these larger plots be split. The advice given included:

a.       Survey these plots and determine whether any plots or part of plots are in fact truly unlettable and determine what if anything could bring these areas back into cultivation. The site Committee should discuss these works with the Council and may (if it so wishes) either ask the Council to carry out the work (they after all will collect the subsequent rents!) or design a project to conduct the work for which they can then bid for grant funding etc.

b.      Split any remaining areas according to the accepted rules

                                                   i.            No plot of less than 125 sq metres should be created
                                                 ii.            Any plot created should have direct access to a site road or access path

c.       When embarking on a splitting exercise the site committee should first agree the current site plan and plot numbering with the Council. They should then confirm the revised (post-splitting) plan and numbering system with the Council BEFORE re-letting vacant plots. This will reduce subsequent problems of plot identification, issuing tenancy agreements and billing.



MEETINGS SCHEDULE

The following meetings are planned

Monday 9th July
Monday 13th August
Monday 10th September
Monday 8th October 
Monday 12th November (THE AGM)

The minutes of all meetings are posted on the blog site as soon as possible after the event, we also post any other information we feel relevant to our members’ concerns to http://abas2014.blogspot.co.uk

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