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Management

Management Policies

1. Lease and Management Committee

We obtained a comprehensive lease from April 1992, which was re-negotiated in 2013, that gives us full rights as the landlord for plotholders on the site. The only information supplied to the Borough Council is the total rental income each year, the amount of which paid to the Council in accordance with the lease. This gives us the power we need to implement improved management policies, and to act swiftly and positively in response to opportunities when they appear. Plotholders are protected against abuse of that power (a) by the terms of the lease and rental agreements and (b) by the fact that the trustees are drawn from members of the Association's committee, half of whom have to stand for re-election each year. To prevent that re-election becoming automatic we require each candidate to be elected separately unless agreed by the body of the AGM. The lease is subject to review every seven years, and when it was renewed in 2013 the Trustees were confirmed in office. Two of these Trustees subsequently resigned and were formally replaced by two tenants and committee members. We have tightened up the rental agreements slightly - by banning bonfires during the summer months (for the sake of asthmatics), prohibiting dumping anywhere on the site, restricting herbicide use near paths, and establishing priorities for users of the water supply system. Waste produced on site is managed through the encouragement of composting, bonfires in season, and when approved, a skip service for non-compostable and non-combustible waste. The public areas of the site are regularly mowed, and all rubbish is removed immediately before there is any chance of it encouraging further accumulation.

The former requirement for nobody being allowed to serve in any combination of the posts of Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer or Trustee for more than ten years was rescinded by a majority vote at the 2017 AGM.

2. Reclamation

The site was about 35% derelict when we took it over. Where there were contiguous blocks of vacant plots we cleared away all the metal and other debris and then paid a local farmer to rotovate the land. It cost us £50 to rotovate 9 plots, and all were rented (at £20 per plot) within three months. Prior to achieving full tenancy of the site we attempted to keep at least two plots vacant but in tenantable condition at all times, using old carpets covering half of each vacant plot to enable cultivation and planting on the same day that plots are rented. Vegetation on vacant plots was strimmed each summer to avoid nuisance to plotholders from seed dispersal. Some of the carpets on site have been used on more than a dozen different plots since 1992. We store surplus materials in our own concrete garage, supplied free of charge by a builder who had to get rid of it before he could put up a side extension. We have widened suitable paths wherever possible to accommodate a tractor and trailer, and installed 10 meter square bays built from pallets at intervals along the main track through the site to allow for deliveries of manure and building materials. 

3. Promotion

We have never advertised vacancies - we have done everything by word of mouth, which is possible if you enjoy a good reputation. We have made no concessions on rents - which we raised from just under £12 per plot to £20 when we took over. We have, however, reduced plot sizes to 4 or 5 rods where appropriate, to give newcomers a better chance, and to accommodate people who are just too busy to keep a full 10 rod plot under control. All new tenants are given a free copy of the PBI Vegetable Jotter and a leaflet on composting. We have upgraded the water supply, provided barrels (donated to us by a local company) as water butts for £2 each, and provided unlimited numbers of pallets for building compost bins, sheds, frames and raised beds, again through contacts in industry , and free of charge. In dealing with applicants we have gone out of our way to be friendly and helpful, and to encourage groups who have not traditionally been involved in allotment gardening, such as young mothers. We issue a newsletter at least once a year that is delivered by volunteers to the homes of all plotholders. The Winter issue goes out with the rent demands, and gives advance warning of any rent increase in the following year. Information on vacancies are regularly exchanged with other sites, and the Association has entered into a number of formal overspill agreements with other sites, under which a prospective tenant on our waiting list agrees to take a plot elsewhere on condition that his/her place on our waiting list will not be affected. These agreements have contributed to the reclamation of other sites in the Borough, and complement the advice on self-management which the Association has regularly provided to other Associations.

4. Helping Plotholders in Difficulty

We have been fully tenanted on and off since January 1993, and this is unhealthy, because you need new people all the time to bring in new ideas and new talents. It is imperative, therefore, that we have ways to free up land that is not being used, and to do so as quickly as possible, but without undermining our reputation in the community for fair dealing. We review the state of cultivation of each plot regularly, and plotholders in difficulty are contacted as soon as possible to determine what the problem is (if this is not already known), and to offer remedial actions. Let's consider a typical example. A tenant with a ten rod plot has been unable to keep it under full cultivation. The tenant is offered a number of options, and a recommendation will be made depending upon the circumstances. In this case, the options will be:

(i) To terminate the tenancy voluntarily, and accept the tenancy of half the current area (or some other agreed proportion). This creates a new tenancy, and thus affords the tenant special protection under the Allotment Acts for the first year of the new tenancy (3 months to get one quarter cultivated, etc). This would free up land for a new tenant, of course, or for someone who has less than a full plot to expand.

(ii) To terminate the tenancy voluntarily (at once, or on a pre-arranged date), and ask to be placed on the priority reapplication list. This is a list of former tenants who have given up their tenancies voluntarily and who remain in good standing with the Association. If you are on this list and you apply for a new plot at a later date, you will go to the top of the waiting list (once the terms for priority allocation of plots within the lease have been satisfied), and are thus virtually assured of a plot in better condition than the one you are vacating. This has been a very popular option, and we have several plotholders on site today who previously gave plots up because of illness or lack of time, and are now active gardeners and strong supporters of the Association.

(iii) To bring the plot to a required and specified standard of cultivation within one month (or a longer period when special circumstances such as illness require it), with the warning that failure to achieve this standard will result in notice to quit. This option constitutes a "non-cultivation notice", and when such notices are sent out they are accompanied by a copy of our code of practice, which explains how you should appeal if you think you have been treated unfairly (we include a provision for an outside adjudicator, who is the secretary of another site, but we have never had to use this provision). The specified standard of cultivation may range from fully dug and planted to simply being strimmed and/or covered with carpet, depending on the circumstances of the tenant and also the number of times there have been problems before.

(iv) To do nothing, and face 30 days notice to quit immediately the non-cultivation notice expires, the notice period provided for in the rental agreement. We always issue notices to quit as soon as the other options have been exhausted, either through the action or inaction of the tenant. This means that in extreme (and fortunately rare) cases we are able to regain possession of the land just two months after the problem has been identified - and normally we regain it even faster than this.

Sometimes plotholders run into financial difficulties, and we help out by taking quarterly payments. But when the rent is overdue we give fourteen days warning in writing that a notice to quit will be issued if the money isn't paid in full, and once a notice to quit has been issued we do not revoke it - a fact, once again, of which tenants are forewarned in writing.

5. Community-Building

Allotment gardening is a leisure pursuit and tenants have a right to enjoy their plots in peace. There is an award to the best newcomer and the best 'Overall' plot made by the Association. Sometimes there are other competitions (perhaps for children) - for example, an ornamental gourd competition (using plants provided by the Association) judged by weight, attractiveness, and best decoration (turn your gourd into a model of humpty-dumpty, etc), which is judged by committee member(s).