MINUTES OF THE AUGUST 2018 MEETING OF ABAS
Held 13/08/2018 at Astley Bridge Cricket Club
Present: 19 representatives of 12 societies
Apologies: Steve Barlow (Moss Lea), Carol Barlow (Sapling Rd.), Albert Skelhorn (Clammerclough)
MINUTES OF THE JULY MEETING
MINUTES OF THE JULY MEETING
The Minutes having been posted on the Association Blog-site http://abas2014.blogspot.co.uk and there being no objections the minutes of the July meeting were formally adopted.
A Progress meeting had been held with the Head of Neighbourhood Services on 17th July at which (amongst other matters) those matters flagged at the July meeting were addressed
The budget remains the same as in previous years i.e. £30k - £31k
The principal budgetary worry is the much increased use of water over the hot dry summer period which is leading to significant increases in water charges on the Council. Since water charges are a significant element in the budget this is a concern.
The number of vacant plots is not expected to materially affect the value of rents received.
The number of offers of rent-free periods (usually up to Oct 2018) to new tenants will increase to encourage applicants to take on difficult and hard-to-rent plots.
The Council is stockpiling “road planings” and hopes (finances allowing) to be able to do some remedial work on site roads and car parking areas on allotment sites in the Autumn / Winter.
Societies are encouraged to send in their “wish lists” to Abas who will compile them and send them on to the Allotments section.
One member asked whether these “planings” might be made available to societies under the “self-help” scheme. Allotments have since confirmed that they will examine requests for planings on a site by site basis. They have again stressed that the programme of work referred to above depends largely on the size of water bills received by the autumn.
Roll-out of revised OMAs
MR has visited Harpers Lane and Green Lane (Horwich). Green Lane are moving to an OMA. A visit was offered to Dealey Rd. but they are happy to do without. Allotments hopes to send emails soon to restart the visits process. The Secretary was asked to enquire as to the progress of the implementation of the Revised OMA
Provision of an updated “Refresher Monitor”
Abas has been supplied with the current refresher monitor which gives current details on waiting lists etc. New monitor sheets are now only being produced every 6 months
Under GDPR there is a potential issue relating to the release of contact data on applicants to site secretaries for the re-letting of plots. There may be a need for site societies to sign a document stating that they will use this data only for the purpose stated and will not transmit the data onwards. Allotments is waiting advice from IT / Legal. In the meantime normal service continues.
Hatfield Road –
The issue about the Portaloo has been resolved –– but a visit by Jeff and Terry suggested a large number of abandoned plots.
Hatfield Rd. is a non-OMA site. Allotments again stated that the Council has no resources to inspect non-OMA sites or enforce mal-cultivation notices on them etc. The only way plots become “vacant” is therefore if the rent isn’t paid. Letting vacant plots depends on time and resources being available within allotments at the time. Non-OMA sites will only get worse and there is thus a danger that at some date in the future they will become unfit for use and then…..
Allotments has invited Jeff to submit a report on Hatfield Rd detailing which plots are involved and the Council will consider issuing BoT2s to the tenants of those plots. Jeff has subsequently done this. Does the Membership wish to see abas do this for other non-OMA Sites?
Doubts were raised – Once BoT2s are issued who will do the follow-up inspection? If there is a move to BoT3s and subsequent eviction who will be responsible for the re-letting of the vacated plots? Are we merely creating a situation of a site with a large number of vacant plots, some of which might then be classified as “unlettable”? Are we assisting in creating an opportunity for the Council to close the site? This issue needs thinking through.
All present recognised the difficult position of Society Secretaries caught as they often are between the Council and their individual plot-holders.
Allotments is establishing a standard procedure that when issuing BoT2s and BoT3s, staff send an email to the Site Secretary concerned at the same time as placing the notice into an envelope for posting.
There is a concern that when one secretary retires and is replaced by a new one (often coinciding with major changes in Committee membership) a lot of knowledge and information gets lost in the handover.
The Abas Committee therefore agreed to create a “Secretaries’ Check List” which will itemise what should be included in a handover pack to be given by the retiring secretary to the incoming secretary. This pack might be extended to include Treasurers and other Committee members.
Work on such a pack has not yet started (the Committee has been too involved in the Allotments Competition, the Show etc. and simply running their own plots at this time of year).
We would hope to carry out work on the pack at the end of the season.
Allotments supports a “3 strikes and you’re out” approach to contacting people from the waiting list. If a secretary has sent either 3 emails or left 3 messages on an answerphone (or any combination of these) without response then s/he should not persist. S/he should however list that person on the monthly report and the Council will move their name down the waiting list.
If applicants say “they are not ready for a plot yet” – then abas has proposed that IF a society can get a statement (in writing) from such people as to a date at which they might be ready to accept a plot – it might be acceptable NOT to contact such people with offers before that date? The secretary should list that person on the monthly report stating that no offer has been made and stating why.
The Council is hoping that it can amend its system so that “buddies” will be clearly indicated on the waiting list. Abas has proposed that it should be up to the Society (with its local knowledge) to decide whether buddies need to be contacted with offers? Again when an offer is not made the reason should be stated on the monthly report.
The rationale for putting “reasons” (in all these cases) on the Monthly Report is so that Allotments don’t spend time contacting Secretaries to enquire “why has number five on the list been offered a plot, when there are four above her?”
AN INCREASING CONCERN
Discussions with some site secretaries has uncovered a concern relating to the application of OMAs.
We think it may be worthwhile to set out again our (abas) current understanding:-
An OMA is a working agreement between the Council and a Site Society under which the Society acts as the agent for the Council in relation to a number of defined functions. The Society can (and should) carry out these functions regardless of whether a plot-holder is a member of the society or not. In all cases where a tenant does not accept the decision of the society they have a right to appeal to the Council.
The functions are (in the main):
Granting permission to erect structures (greenhouses, sheds etc.) – guidelines are provided by the council as to what is acceptable
Granting permission to keep poultry (and rabbits and pigeons – bees are in dispute) - guidelines are provided by the council as to what is acceptable
Inspecting the site on a routine basis and submitting Monthly condition reports to the Council
3.1 Inspections should be conducted by a designated team of Society members and not by a single person. Inspections can / should lead to initiating the BoT (Breach of Tenancy) processes (specifically mal-cultivation)
BoTs have three stages
3.2 Stage 1 – informal – the Society contacts the tenant and tries to resolve the issue without the formal involvement of the Council – photographic evidence of the plot condition may be taken. Where a tenant is NOT a society member (and thus the Society may have no contact details for him / her) this stage may be deemed inappropriate. Stage 2 may also be skipped in the case of “repeat offenders”. (Current advice received from Allotments (15/08/2018) would seem to be that whilst it is not necessary for a Society to actually go through a BoT1 stage, the Society should (in the month prior to requesting a BoT2) noted on the Monthly report that the plot is giving cause for concern. It might be worth reminding Allotments that you’ve done this when requesting the BoT2.)
3.3 Stage 2 – BoT2 – the Society informs the Council (through the monthly report) that a particular plot is not being cultivated to an acceptable standard. They then request that the Council serves a Formal Improvement Notice (usually referred to as a BoT2). Such a Request must be accompanied by a dated photograph / photographs showing the state of the plot on the inspection date. If the Council agrees then they will serve the BoT2 on the tenant which gives them 21 days (the improvement period) to remedy the problem. The Council will inform the Society as to the date at which the BoT2 was served, and thus the date the improvement period ends.
At a date subsequent to the completion of the improvement period, the Society will re-inspect the plot and determine if the plot is now in an acceptable condition. They will (supported by photographic evidence) then inform the Council of this decision through the Monthly Report. If the plot is deemed “acceptable” then no further action is required.
3.3 Stage 3 - If the plot is deemed not “acceptable” then the Society will request the Council to terminate the tenancy by issuing a Notice of Re-entry (usually referred to as a BoT3). If the Council agrees it will then serve a BoT3 on the tenant. This begins a process by which the tenant is removed from the plot. The Council will inform the Society as to a) the date when the BoT3 is served, b) the date when the legal processed of retaking possession have been completed and c) the date from which the plot may be re-let.
4. The Letting of Plots
4.1 Site Secretaries are provided with periodic updates to the Waiting List for their site.
A Site Secretary cannot (unless expressly authorised by the Council) offer a plot to any person who is not on the waiting list.
All other things being equal plots should be offered in the order the names appear on the Waiting List.
If after three attempts (email or leaving a ‘phone message) the Society cannot make contact with the applicant then they should inform the Council via the monthly report that it proved impossible to contact this person. (See earlier notes) They should then move to the next name on the list.
4.2 When they are informed that a plot is available for re-letting they should contact the person at the top of the waiting list and ask if they still want a plot. (There are some exceptions which relate to a) considering transfers for existing site tenants and b) when the person at the head of the list is a “buddy” on the site or has previously indicated they do not yet want a plot – see abas minutes).
4.3 If the person does want a plot, a society representative should meet with them on site, show them the plot and ask if they want it.
If they refuse the offer then the Society should inform the Council of the refusal and the reason given – the Council may then take action either to a) remove them from the waiting list, b) amend the date they came on the list to the date of the refusal (thus putting them at the bottom of the list) or c) take no action.
4.4 If the person accepts the plot then it is usual for the Society to offer them the plot for a probationary period (usually three months). No rent is payable during a probationary period. (See also earlier minute about rent-free periods.) The Society will inspect the plot during and at the end of the probationary period. In certain circumstances the probationary period may be waived.
If at the end of the probationary period the Society feels that the probationer has not made sufficient progress then they can advise the Council of this fact (with suitable photographic evidence) and request that the probationer leave the plot and that they be allowed to re-let it. Strictly speaking a probationer is not a tenant (see below) and has no tenancy rights. (However this has on occasion been a contentious issue, with “failed” probationers appealing to the Council and to elected members, hence the importance of dated photographic evidence).
4.5 When a prospective tenant has successfully demonstrated their ability to cultivate a plot, then the Society should get the applicant to sign a Tenancy Registration Form. The Society should then send a copy of this form with the Monthly Report to the Council requesting that a Tenancy be offered. The Council then sends the prospective tenant a Tenancy Agreement (and informs the Society that of the date that this document was sent).
4.6 It is then the Tenant’s responsibility to return the Tenancy Agreement to the Council. Until such time as this is done no tenancy exists and the applicant has no rights to cultivate the land.
4.7 Once the Tenancy Agreement is received by the Council they will a) inform the Society and b) arrange the billing of the tenant
5. General Administration
An important document is the tenancy amendment form – this lets a secretary record and communicate to the Council when a tenant signifies they’re giving up or when something else on their tenancy changes. It’s important that Societies have actual written evidence that a tenant has for example quit their plot. Societies should keep copies of any emails or letters they receive that relate to such matters.
Dealing with Members
Membership of a Society represents another (separate) agreement between a Society and an individual who chooses to join it. The Society therefore has a “duty” to provide agreed services to those members (and only to those members).
A number of societies have still not yet paid their annual subscriptions to the Association.
Current membership still stands at 399 plot-holders, although total numbers of plots on sites in membership exceeds this figure.
The Treasurer will now start membership for 2018/2019.
BOLTON ALLOTMENTS COMPETITION 2018
The final round of Judging took place W/C 16th July. Some 27 entries were received from 9 sites and the results are as follows
New Tenants Trophy
1st Martyn Swain Rawlyn Road
2nd Lee Smith Dealey Road
3rd Denise Sweeney Sapling Road
The Fairhurst Trophy [ Best Full Size Plot]
1st J Dyson Sapling Road
2nd D& D Urmston Sapling Road
3rd A Saunders Sapling Road
The Fred Greenhalgh Trophy [ Best Smaller Plot]
1st Mike and Mary Marsh Nasmyth Street
2nd Pauline Oliver Moss Lea
3rd Phil Woods Sapling Road
Rose Bowl Competition [For Best Allotment site in Bolton]
1st Tonge Fold Allotments
2nd Moss Lea
3rd Sapling Road
Special thanks to J MAHER of Bolton for supplying the Prize Vouchers and to Abas Volunteers for Judging the Competition
ABAS ONION, LEEK AND VEGETABLE SHOW
The Show took place this year on Saturday 4 Aug at Trinity Methodist Church.
The Show consisted of 25 Vegetable Class with some 180 entries tabled on the Day,
The Show Judge Mr Mike Osbourne FNV remarking on the excellent quality of Vegetables Shown
Association of Bolton Allotment Societies Shield for a Collection of 4 Vegetables
1st Mr Brian Milne
The Secretaries’ Shield for Most Points in Show
1st Mr Jeff Gibson
The Stan Pickles Trophy and Silver Medal for most Meritorious Vegetable in Show
Mr Jeff Gibson
The Bolton Allotments Council Challenge Trophy for the allotment site with Most Points
Won by Sapling Road Allotments
Thanks to the following for sponsoring the Show
The Duchy of Lancaster
Mr George Wild
Mr Richard Hayes
Mrs Sue Clegg
Mr Les Butterworth
Mrs Margaret Farrell
Mr Terry Farrell
Mr Jeff Gibson
And a special thanks to Terry and Margaret Farrell and the Show Committee for organising and running the show.
Although the number of entries (180) was high, 179 of these came from two sites (Sapling Rd. and Tonge Fold) with just 1 from Moss Lea. The Chair commented that few if any representatives of other sites (other than people collecting awards from the Allotment Competitions) had attended the show as visitors. The Committee hope to initiate a discussion as to a) should we continue to hold the Show, b) How do we better get information about the show and how to enter down to the ‘grassroots’ plot-holders c) How do we encourage those plot-holders to enter produce in the Show? e) How do we better publicise the Show?
Following advice from a member, and subsequent to the meeting the Secretary tried to access the NWCAA website to find it had reverted to a generic BT website builder page. A further attempt to contact NWCAA produced the following response:-
14 Aug at 10:12
Please Note as from Monday 4th June 2018
Your (that is the NWCAA’s) current officers have resigned and are no longer part of the National Society or North West Region
This email account is no longer monitored and therefore if you need support or information please contact the NW Rep on email firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively please contact the National Allotment Society Direct on email@example.com
Thank you for your support and we wish you well in the future
We’ll try to find out more through the Regional Rep and / or the NAS HQ
GM SPATIAL PLAN
The revised plan (due June 2018) has now been delayed (due to a need to revise the area population projections). It will now appear in October and will be followed by 12 weeks consultation
Noted – but not yet confirmed
We have been informed (informally) that Salford City Council appear to have acceded to their Federation’s request that space for allotments be considered when granting planning permissions for new developments. It appears that such space is included in a current permission but the land that the developers have offered lies within Bolton rather than Salford.
Bolton planners are against the idea and would also seek to reject any abas approaches for a similar provision on planning applications in Bolton. A sticking point seems to be who would have responsibility for the management of any sites thus created.
As members will know the proposed Hosepipe Ban has been called off.
We would remind members of the continuing need to save water. Water usage has been very high so far this year and this will be reflected in the bills submitted to the Council. Higher water bills will mean that there is less money available for site work by the Council e.g. on site roads and car parks
Contact details for JLF (who have taken over the Bluefin Allotment Insurance Scheme) have now been posted on the abas blogsite at http://abas2014.blogspot.co.uk The Secretary has further details of the JLF offer for those who wish to have them.
We would again repeat that this information has been acquired at the request of member societies and that abas does not endorse any particular supplier.
WHAT’S ON IN 2018?
August 18th Open Day / Show at Moss Lea Allotments
August 25th Produce Market at Florence Avenue
September 8th Open Day at Settle Street Allotments
September 8th Horwich Annual Home & Produce Show
(Horwich Community Centre – contact horwich.gov.uk)
September 9th Local Produce Market at Harpers Lane Allotments 11.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m.
October 14th Local Produce Market at Harpers Lane Allotments 11.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
REQUEST TO KEEP BEES.
A member site wishes (following some incidents with a previous beekeeper in which plot-holders were stung) to impose a blanket ban on beekeeping on the site.
They have now been approached by a person (not a plot-holder /tenant, not on the waiting list) who has stated a desire / intention to establish bee hives on a former plot which the Council, has declared "unlettable". Abas assumes that this person has some connection with a plot-holder on the site who has advised them that this space exists.
At the meeting The Secretary gave Abas’ opinion (subsequently supported by Allotments 15/08/2018) as:
"All plot-holders are TENANTS of Bolton Council - Council Policy allows any tenant to apply to keep bees (either on their allotment or in certain cases on another part of the allotment site where such provision is available). Therefore a Society may not (unilaterally) pass a blanket ban on bee-keeping on their site - this contravenes the plot-holder's tenant's rights.
Our current understanding (following a recent case at another site) is that applications to keep bees should be referred to the Council.
Addressing the second part of our member’s query, the right to keep bees is a right flowing from holding a tenancy on a plot. Therefore to apply to keep bees. an individual must be a tenant with a plot on the site in question. This means they will have applied for a plot, been on the waiting list and then been granted a plot.
We have been advised by Allotment (15/08/2018) that were a non-plotholder / non-tenant were to approach them with a proposal to establish hives on a piece of unused ("unlettable") land within the boundaries of an allotment site, the Council would not approve the application unless it had the support of the Site Society.
The member also asked "How do we check that the beekeeper has adequate insurance and has attended a suitable course?" since these are part of Council guidelines. We advised that if the beekeeper has insurance though say the MBKA then they will have had to have attended a suitable (in the eyes of the MBKA) course in order to be MBKA members and obtain MBKA insurance. However if the Council is handling the application the Council is responsible for making these checks (and for ensuring any other conditions they impose on the applicant are met) and should do this.
Please note abas still support the BBKA / NAS stance that (wherever possible) bee hives should not be on individual plots within the main growing areas and should be situated in suitable areas away from other tenants.
The following meetings are planned
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