Friday, 14 September 2018

MINURES OF THE SEPTEMBER MEETING


ABAS Meeting – 10th September at Astley Bridge Cricket Club

Present: 21 representatives from 11 sites
Apologies from: Audrey Woods (Haslam Park)

MINUTES OF THE AUGUST MEETING 
The Minutes having been posted on the Association Blog-site and there being no objections or requested alterations the minutes were adopted as correct?

MATTERS ARISING 
Road Planings – “Allotments” will accept requests for supplies of road planings which will be used by Societies as part of self-help schemes. Abas still expects to receive details of proposed schemes which require road planings or Council work which we will aggregate into a list to be supplied to “Allotments” for Autumn / Spring work (to date we have received one proposal from Tonge Fold)
Roll-Out of OMAs
We have been informed that (with the exception of one site) Allotments now regard the Revised (April 2018) OMA document as operational. Secretaries should note (if they have not already done so) that Revised Guidelines on Poultry and Structures were issue in May 2018.

Site Visits by the Head of Service may be requested where societies feel this would be advantageous
Hatfield Road
Following the visit by Jeff and Terry, “Allotments” served 5 BoT2 notices and a further 9 plots were identified as untenanted. Allotments asked Community Payback to carry out work on the untenanted sites but CP felt the job was too big for them. Jeff will be carrying out the follow-up inspections on the BoT2 plots on or about 17th September. Abas has to consider the resource implications of carrying out further work of this nature on behalf of the Council.

Monthly Reports and BoTs
(From examining the Revised OMA document in the light of recent events)

Potential Breaches of Tenancy
The Society to conduct a regular (no more often than monthly but it may be less frequent) inspection of the site between March and September (to be undertaken by a minimum of 2 members of the Site Society Committee) and to identify any issues of non-compliance with the terms & conditions of tenancy visible without entering onto the plot. In the first instance, if practicable, the Society will advise the tenant of the breach and request that the matter is addressed within 21 days. This is a BoT1. This notification should be recorded on the monthly inspection report. It is apparent that Allotments expect any plot found in an unsatisfactory condition to be recorded on the monthly inspection report. Where a BoT1 cannot be used - some wording such as “as this tenant is not a member of the society we have no means of contact” or “this tenant has not honoured previous informal arrangements” – for repeat offenders might be used. Inspection teams may wish to take photographs as evidence.

If at the subsequent monthly inspection of the site the outstanding breach of tenancy has not been addressed then the Society will take photographs to demonstrate the breach and advise the Council so that it may consider issuing a formal Improvement Notice for breach of tenancy. The Council will advise the Society when an improvement notice has been issued.  This is BoT2 and the period of grace given is 14 days – which may be extended IF the tenant asks for extra time. Note that the period of grace / improvement period starts from the date that the Council sends the BoT2 – the Council SHOULD inform the society of that date. Similarly the Council SHOULD inform the society of any extension given. Note that if you have requested a BoT2, we would advise the Society to conduct its routine inspections regardless as to whether the Council has informed you that a BoT2 has been sent. By constantly monitoring the condition of the plot, and reporting its condition and asking about the progress of the BoT2 in the Monthly Report, the Society can try to keep the mal-cultivation case “live”.

If the breach of tenancy has not been addressed at the time of the next regular inspection (following the end of the improvement period) then the Society will take photographs to demonstrate the continued breach and advise the Council so that it may consider issuing a Notice of Re-entry and terminate the tenancy as appropriate. The Council will advise the Society when a Notice of Re-entry has been issued and subsequently completed. This is BoT3. – the timetable is entirely in the Council’s hands and the Society is dependent on the Council carrying out the procedure and retaking possession, after which they will advise the Society that the plot may be re-let. As previously, during the period from the Society requesting the BoT3 until the Council informs the Secretary that the BoT3 has been served and the plot is available to re-let, the Society should continue to monitor the condition of the plot and report (with photograph) on its condition in the Monthly Report and should ask each month as to the progress of the BoT3.

ABAS MEMBERSHIP
2018/2019 Membership Subscriptions are now due. These should (where possible) be paid to the Treasurer at or before the AGM in November. We recognise that some societies may not be able to meet this timetable and would therefore request that subscriptions be paid at or before the March 2019 Meeting of Abas.

NWCAA –
Email to members
The (former Committee members of the North West Counties Allotment Association sent out the email below to (a number of) local allotment societies
Dear members,
Earlier this year the officers of the NW Counties Allotment Society took a decision to resign following issues with the National Allotment Society and its management team which could not be resolved, in fact they choose not to seek a resolution before or during the National AGM with the North West County Officers, so we felt we had no alternative to resign from the National.

The Hard work done in this region over the past few years including the great work that Andrea has done seems to be just ignored and not even recognised by the National Allotment Society, despite the largest growing region, the greatest number of meetings, communications, web site, emails etc. the NAS seems to have shown little respect for this hard work only lip service.

May we also remind you that the region will now longer have the fantastic services of the mentor as Alan has also resigned from the mentor post.
We had asked that the NAS to contact each member several months ago but it appears this still has not been done and emails are still coming to the North West so therefore this weekend we decided to contact you to advise you we are no Longer Part of the NW nor the NAS and if you need support or help you contact your regional rep or the NAS direct https://www.nsalg.org.uk/

You will have noticed over the last few months there has been no newsletters or meetings and this is not something we have taken lightly and clearly the NAS doesn’t have an interest in the North West as they have even contact you as members despite assurances in June they would.

We are extremely sorry that the outcome has come this way but we feel we are unable to continue to work with the National allotment Society as an organisation as we don't consider it the best for the membership going forward.

Please note that both our web site and email address are now closed and there will be no further correspondence from either the email or website address.

We thank you for your commitment, value support and dedication over the years  & We wish you well in whatever you decide going forward

Happy Gardening 

NWCAA – Regional Rep’s Response to an email from abas

Hello Dave,
There has been a disagreement between some members of the NWCAA management committee and the NSALG Management Committee over the funding of the Southport Show display.

The "Blackpool Group" wanted more money than was allowed under the present rules- they wanted the money up front- the National Management team suggested that there was enough funds in the NWest to cover the display and any excess would be paid for by National on receiving accounts and receipts.

 Andy Percival did not like this and resigned, as did Derek Cooper the treasurer.

 Alan Hull who has not been well also resigned over this and other reasons.

 The Southport Show Display could have gone ahead under the new financial arrangement, in my opinion, it may have been smaller but Andy Percival cancelled it.

 That, I think is the matter, in a nutshell. A more correct financial breakdown can be got from Dave Morris, who was National treasurer at the time.

 Meanwhile, an e-mail from "Blackpool" has been sent out to all sites (?), stating what it says.

 I am calling a meeting at Crumsall Model Allotments on 21st Oct to discuss this and other things. I have not resigned and I am continuing to follow up case work across the area.

 I attach a letter and invitation for your members to come to Crumpsall and express their views.

  Please circulate the letter to all your members and they can decide what they are going to do.

NWCAA – Action Meeting
FROM REGIONAL REP
You may have received an e-mail from Blackpool stating that the officers of the NWCAA had resigned.
This is only partially correct. The NWCAA rep has not resigned and I am still in post,
Any questions you have may still be sent to me, and I will answer them.
A meeting has been called for Sunday October 21st beginning at 1 p.m.
Crumpsall and Cheetham Model Allotments,
Hazelbottom Rd,
Cheetham,
Manchester,
M8   0GQ
Please confirm with me on nw.nsalg@yahoo.co.uk for numbers attending.

Agenda:
Apologies-
Committee Reports-
NW reps report-
Constitutional Issues-
Election of new committee:- chair, secretary, treasurer, website manager.
Next meeting.

NWCAA – abas comments

1. Based on our (Bolton's) experience the resignation of the "Blackpool Group" – will have little effect – though the previous resignation of the Regional Secretary (Andrea) was a major blow to communications generally. (What were the circumstances of Andrea’s resignation and what happened to the contacts network she had created? – question for Oct 21st?))

 2. Interventions by the past Regional Mentor (Alan Hull) have generally produced negative reactions from Bolton site secretaries etc.

 3. The National does not seem to have taken the situation arising in the North-West seriously or acted with any urgency – we question whether they have a functioning database of member contacts

4. We reserve judgement on the role of the Regional Rep - would we (Bolton) have learned about this "Crumpsall" meeting if the Secretary hadn't emailed him – but then maybe he too has received no mailing list from either National or Blackpool?

NWCAA – looking ahead
What kind of NWCAA will emerge from the Crumpsall Meeting ?
Who will be on the Committee etc.?
How are communications / relations between the NAS, the Regional Level and NW societies and federations to be (re?) established and put on a constructive basis?
 What support will the National be giving (financial and otherwise) to the "new" NWCAA? (What is the current financial position of the NWCAA – question to D Morris “then” National Treasurer?)
 Can we assume John Irwin continues as Regional Rep? Is the Regional Rep the NSALG’s representative to us (NW societies) or our Representative to the NSALG?
Who will be the new Regional Mentor?

Once we have some answers to the above, we can debate whether in the long term we (as societies and as individuals) see an advantage in remaining members of / being affiliated to a) the NWCAA and b) the NSALG / NAS?

GM SPATIAL PLAN
No new developments
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
We are in contact with the Salford Federation about Salford City’s reported attitude to including allotment provision in planning / development consents.

APSE REPORT – KEY POINTS
The Association for Public Sector Excellence conducts an annual survey of the Allotment Service across 140 local authorities. A copy of their recent report has been supplied to us. If members wish to have a copy of the full report please email the Secretary and we’ll send you one

Highlights

COSTS – there is a wide variation in costs, but typically an allotment now costs in excess of £70.00 per annum

SIZE – The most common size of a plot is now 200-249 sq metres, this is a fall from the 2017 figure of 249-299 sq metres

WAITING LISTS – 75% of Councils have waiting lists of 100-400, 8% have waiting lists of >1,000. Bolton’s waiting list is 623

TIME TO TAKE ACTION ON MAL-CULTVATION – 39% take 1 month, 44% take 3 months, 11% take 6 months, 5% take 9 months and 1% take a year or more (Question – what is action? What is measured?)

BUDGETS – some debate about the meaning of these figures BUT

Councils report spending under 4 headings, average spending being

Operations - £29,760 (we believe this is the figure BMBC quote to us)
Development - £28,364 (Do BMBC spend anything on “Development” and if so how much and on what?)
Staff - £35,440 (BMBC do not supply us with any data relating to staff costs)
Other - £6.127 (BMBC do not supply any data on this heading)

What budgets cover:-
89 % Perimeter Fencing Walls
87% Paths/Roads
87% Water Bills
28% Promotion Social/Schools
28% Provision Huts/Maintenance
27% Electricity Bills

Facilities Provided
 93% Fencing
86% Mains water
61% Composting
42% Lock Up store/Shed
36% Community Rooms
30% Washing Facilities
29% Toilets
28% Special Needs
29% Live Stock

59% of Ground Maintenance was carried out by Operations Contracts

Allotment Provision

36% of Councils reported their intention to increase the number of allotments available (Bolton would appear to fall into the 66% who have no such intention). We understand that Bolton would only consider a new allotment scheme if it came with a long-term management plan which ensured no call on Council Funding or Resources.

Of these
78.38% intend to examine direct provision by the Council
70.27% intend to examine provision by developers/builders as part of housing / planning policy
32.47% intend to examine provision through Community Groups supported by the Council
13.51% intend to examine provision through other Council Departments
5.41% intend to examine other methods

Management of Sites
28% were managed by a Council officer [4% down on 2017]
7% stated that Allotment Sites were managed by Committees (Self-Managed)
65% of Respondents Stated that they have a mix of Council/Site Committee/Associations Managing Allotments which was an increase of 5% on 2017 and 9% increase from 2016

On Local Authority Allotment Strategies
 49% stated they had one
51 % stated that they did not have one (we believe that Bolton are one of the 51%)
37% stated that they were planning to develop one
60% stated that they recognised the Well Being and Value of Allotments
56% of Local Authorities have Friends/Forum Groups
66% include allotments in their Local Plans

APSE Concluded that

The increasing demand for building land and the lack of plots for new allotment holders is causing concern amongst allotment holders as is the reductions in council budgets which is having an impact on the ability to maintain such sites.

In light of these pressures, many allotment sites are now moving to self-management models, often with the continuing support of the local authority.

In this way allotment holders can not only ensure what finance is available is used to meet the known needs of the site, but they are also able to apply for funding which is not available to local authorities.

This allowance by local authorities for allotment holders to manage their own sites should not be seen as them negating their responsibilities.

Abas comment: There is a danger with ill-considered self-management initiatives that allotment provision may therefore become totally dependent on grant-funding and / or higher rents.

THE AGM
In preparation for both the AGM and the continuing operation of Abas in the future we are inviting you to think about nominations for two groups

The ABAS Executive Committee – The Officers (Chair, Secretary and Treasurer) plus 3-4 other Committee members

The “Shadow Committee” – membership of the Shadow Committee has two functions a) a familiarisation role with the implied intention that members will move into the Officers’ roles in the future and b) long term thinking and planning about Abas, allotments and relations with Bolton MBC

INSURANCE
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

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

October 14th Local Produce Market at Harpers Lane Allotments

OUTSTANDING ISSUES
So far as we know the principal outstanding issues from the previous meeting have been covered in previous sections. Please make sure we are informed as to issues that you feel need raising and resolving

ANY OTHER BUSINESS
It was reported that the Council had suggested that all new tenants be supplied with a starter pack which sets down the site rules, mal-cultivation processes, structure approvals etc. There is a question as to who should produce this pack and who will pay for it?
The Head of Neighbourhood Services has responded - Unfortunately I think this is a mix-up. The new OMA pack includes the information about structures and poultry and, as previously, refers to those being part of the new tenant’s pack, something we send to new tenants on non OMA sites. There is no suggestion that OMA sites should be providing a ‘pack’.

It was reported that the Council has issued revised guidelines on structures approvals and that tenants are now to be permitted to erect a boundary (presumably with a gate) around their plot provided such a fence is less than 4 feet in height. Members felt that there was a previous prohibition on plot boundary fences and the secretary was asked to check whether the change was “official”.
The Head of Neighbourhood Services has responded - Fencing has always been described as a structure and tenants were required to seek permission in the old days. We’ve now included it in the description as we have had a few enquiries.

It was reported that the Council has stated that the access path running on the LH side of a plot (when standing on the site road / path looking up the plot) is for the sole use that plot-holder. Further that the plot-holder has no right to use the RH path which is the LH path of his / her neighbour. It was felt that this is a contravention of the established convention that access paths are for shared use. (Although some sites have defined LH / RH rules for path maintenance responsibilities.) Secretary to check Council statement.
The Head of Neighbourhood Services has responded Interested to hear the views on the access paths and I agree that is what you would expect in most cases, where tenants can get on amicably. However, the plot boundary either has to be up the middle of the path or within one plot or another. In the case of the situation at ******* the arrangement wasn’t working and the changes made by a previous tenant haven’t helped. We had to take a view on that case so we did.

There was a discussion of on-site conflict and bullying. The case of one site secretary who had had their greenhouse trashed following a disagreement with a tenant was raised. In this case communications errors by Council staff were felt to have been a major cause of the incident. The Secretary will contact the Head of Neighbourhood Services to raise the creation and enforcement of anti-bullying policies.
The Head of Neighbourhood Services has responded I don’t think I was aware of the problem at ********. But ***** has requested a meeting on the back of the new OMA). I think the existing rules could be used but it might be worth us working up a joint statement on the interpretation and a process for reporting. Happy to hear Abas thoughts on that.

The question of Bonfires was raised. Whether or not to hold a November Bonfire is a question for individual allotment societies dependent on their local circumstances, insurance provision and the layout of their site. Following the meeting the information below has been provided by Shepherd’s Cross Street Allotments Society who have successfully held a Bonfire in recent years.

A couple of people approached me after the meeting last night to ask who we used to insure our bonfire event last year.  We used the following: https://www.events-insurance.co.uk/

The premium was £60 for £1,000,000 cover, I can’t speak to how they are as an insurer as we haven’t had cause to claim.

 We usually submit a risk assessment to the council sometime around August and they typically get back to us with an answer within a fortnight.  The key points we address are:

  • Attendance count (we say 50-60)
  • Fire site radius (we say 3m)
  • Fire radius (we say 1.2 starting, 2.1 finishing)
  • Fuel (we say clean wood and cardboard stored at a distance from the fire site)
  • Fire control methods (extinguishers, water etc)
  • First aid facilities
  • Emergency vehicle access
  • Marshall head count

The recent spate of shed break-ins that has affected Rawlyn Rd., Harpers Lane and Shepherds Cross St. was raised. The Secretary undertook to contact the Bolton News to try to raise recognition of the problems allotment sites have with such incidents. An email was sent to the News Desk on 11/09/2018 and an article appeared on 14/9/2018.

It was suggested that there might be a confidentiality problem for some sites in sharing their monthly reports with abas. The Secretary has been asked to design and circulate a form which can be used as an alternative through which Societies can inform Abas as to how many BoT2, BoT3 requests are made each month and the result.

MEETINGS SCHEDULE

The following meetings are planned

Monday 8th October

Monday 12th November (THE AGM)

The minutes of all Abas 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

http://abas2014.blogspot.co.uk


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