BHAF 2010 AGM Comment

Question and Answer Session

By Melanie Matthews

APPENDIX TO THE MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING HELD 24 MARCH 2010

This appendix represents a record of the questions taken from the floor after the formal meeting had been concluded, and the answers to those questions as provided by the representatives of the Federation Committee and the representatives from the Council.

In relation to the assessment of bringing the site maintenance work in house:

Q: Was amortisation of the Council equipment considered and, if so, over how many years?

A: Yes, it was considered and the period was five years.

Q: The Race Hill Farm Representative advised that they had not been involved in the consultation process, that they felt like outsiders and would value the opportunity to be more involved in such decisions.

A: Noted.

Q: If there were not so many empty plots, or better observance of the Rules, there would be more revenue available.

A: Noted.

Q: Although the good work of the Site Representatives (SR) is appreciated, and the value of it understood, tenants do not always know what is going on but would like to make their views known to their SR.

A: Accepted and agreed that communications need to improve.

Q: Tessa, in relation to the Newsletter, stated that lots of people had not received their copy and that many people did not know about the date of the AGM as a result.

A: It was acknowledged that there had been problems with the Council database, that many people had not received the Newsletter and the issue was being addressed.

Q: The Rules state that mains water is available from a date in March but it remains switched off.

A: There is a problem with the water because of the extremely hard winter conditions that have been experienced but assurances were given that the Council plumbers are attending to the problems.

Q: Regarding nuisance allotment holders, what do the Council actually do about it? What help is there?

A: The first port of call must be the SR who will report to the allotments office via Matt Hewes. In this particular instance, it was noted that the perpetrator had moved on but the complaint of the member was noted by the Federation and the Council and assurances given that such problems would be resolved.

Q: The fruit tree restriction to the height of 2m as required in the new Rules is unrealistic and must be reviewed.

A: If there are questions regarding new root stock, they should be addressed to Matt who can offer advice as a horticulturalist.

Matt advised that the 2m rule is a clarification of an old rule where there was previously a 2m rule applying to all manner of plants including hedging and therefore it was necessary to clarify it. The 2m rule is a guideline and what the Council really want to do is to be made aware of trees over 2m which cause a nuisance. If a tree exceeding 2m in height is not problematic then the Council do not wish to intervene and he stressed that there have been no notices issued in respect of overgrown trees to date.

Q: What is a problem tree?

A: Eucalyptus, for example, or trees that shade other tenants’ plots. The advice is that all newly planted trees must be dwarf root stock and if they cause a problem, even as dwarf root stock, they will be addressed.

Q: I am all for democracy, I have great hopes of the new Rules, the review of the Rules has required a lot of work but the position of the SR is compromised. There now needs to be an open meeting to discuss the new Rules.

A: There will be training for all site reps in understanding and communicating the rules to tenants.

Q: Keith Leggatt (Race Hill Farm) argued that there are still a large number of vacant plots and that it would make such a difference, not only for financial reasons, if they were worked and not left vacant. They should therefore be tenanted.

A: The problem is in knowing when the plots have been left vacant and it is agreed that there needs to be a more stringent process for reporting.

Matt advised that there are two new SRs for the Race Hill Farm site who will work with the Council in offering out new plots to new people.

Q: A tenant commented that there are some very long standing tenants on sites but that it is the new tenants who are volunteering to be SRs and tenants are not happy with this at all.

A: Where new SR are required, everyone should have access to their existing SR to ensure that everyone’s contact details are available if they wish to be considered for the vacant role. The role of SRs is vital and the only way of ensuring that issues are raised at SR meetings. If you want to volunteer, please do but if you don’t then you must accept the position of the new tenants as SRs.

Q: There has been a lack of democracy and there should be better communication regarding major developments.

A: Another tenant replied that, on their site, they enjoy lovely, informal meetings at which democracy is enforced and tenants’ views are expressed.

Q: Is there going to be a public meeting to discuss the enforcement of the new Rules?

A: No, they have been formally adopted after consultation with between the Federation, SRs and the Council.

Q: What is the point in rules, let alone the new Rules, if they are not enforced!

A: Agreed absolutely, this is quite correct. It is the responsibility of the SRs to report issues to the Allotments Office.

Q: That simply does not work!

A: Agreed, the Rules must be enforced by the Council.

Q: The junk issue; the new Rules outlaw “rubbish” e.g. for the collection of water or wind protection. Are the Rules and the rent increases going to discriminate against those on low incomes?

A: Matt advised that it really is a matter of judgement, good sense and there are a number of key considerations e.g. on environmental grounds no glass, rubber tyres or painted wood should be used on the allotments. Also, there are financial implications in paying contractors to take away, say, old washing machines which have no place at all on an allotment. It is therefore a matter of responsibility to ensure that the use of the item is for cultivation whilst not contravening any pollution or health and safety issues.

Q: I have not received a copy of the Rules but I do not endorse them.

A: The Chair agreed to a general meeting to discuss the Rules, given the apparent demand. (FURTHER NOTE FROM BHAF CHAIR - in retrospect I feel that I was hasty in saying at the AGM that I would call a special meeting to discuss the issues raised. As Chairman I was under pressure, and was sincere at the time. But having spoken to Council officers there is no likelihood of the Council rescinding the decision, and therefore I have decided not to call a special meeting).

Q: Where are the Rules then? Will the same database be used to send them to us, as was used for the issue of the Newsletter?

A: The problems with the database are being addressed currently. An apology was given by Hugo Blomfield because the Rules have not yet been issued but he also made it very clear that Matt Hewes has been working extremely hard with some sites, even working at the weekends, in allocating new plots. There has had to be a balance between letting plots or issuing the Rules. Nonetheless, the point was noted.

This page was added by Melanie Matthews on 13/06/2010.