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News and Comment July 2004

Experience of devolved allotment site management sought

Following from Conference 2004 Peter Newbury has agreed to lead research into the various forms of devolved management in use on allotment sites. As chairman of an allotment society whose plots are on land leased by a local authority from a charity and as the chair of Croydon Federation of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Peter already as considerable experience in this field but he needs to hear of your experiences of devolved management as well.

The picture seems to vary considerably across London. In some Boroughs management is done entirely by the local authority. In some the local Authority collects the plot rents but leaves much of the site management to the plotholders or to societies. Many Societies hold long term leases of their sites and are almost completely independant of their landlords. Peter wants to hear your experiences of devolved management particularly he needs to hear from sites which are not owned by the local authority.

You can contact Peter by e-mail at siteman@londonallotments.net

The ICT Workshop at Conference 2004 Examined ways that Allotment Societies and plotholders might make better use of Communication Technology.

Modern technology makes communication fast cheap and relatively easy, the problem as the workshop members saw it is how to get allotment communities to use it. One priority was seen as developing the GLAF web site and publicising it as widely as possible. A second priority identified is to get as many plotholders as possible to contribute to it, the more information and opinion which comes in the better able we will be to advise, campaign, and to attract yet more interest.

The possibility of setting up a "Chat Room" on the net was discussed. This might appeal to the younger element but it was decided that the present discussion group which uses e-mail should be developed as much as possible first.

The idea of "londonallotments.net" hosting websites for allotment societies and groups is technically simple but our ability to do it will depend on the availability of funding. It was agreed that wherever possible we should help groups and societies to design and set up their own web sites but our ability to do this will depend on the willingness of the computer literate among us to contribute their own time to help those less skilled.

The message which was sent back to conference is that the web site, the discussion group and all that goes with them belong to the allotment gardeners of London. Success will be largely dependent on their use of the facilities and their willingness to keep us informed of their ideas, interests, policies, projects, concerns and on all of them spending small amounts of their time helping us.

What to do each month in your garden

Pesticide Action UK now produge a monthly sheet of useful tips. For more information see The Pesticide Action website.


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multi-tier plot rents?

You can't charge different rents for two plots the same size and next to each other on the same site can you. It would not be fair would it. Well in fact it has been done for years, ever since most of us agreed to give half rent to pensioners.Very few of us thought that was unfair. Now however I hear that at least one Local Authority has developed the idea further, double rent for "out of Borough" tenants.This I feel is totally wrong.

I can already imagine some of the outer London sites seizing joyfully on the idea as a means of filling their usually empty coffers, they should think carefully before they do so. Every plotholder should have a right to a plot on a site near their home, if there happens to be a Borough boundary (a purely arbitrary line) between the tenants home and his plot it is inequitable to charge a higher rent for the plot. I have come across a case where an applicant was referred to a site two miles from her home, when she said what about the site which is the other side of my garden fence fence she was told 'You can't have a plot there it is in another Borough.

What we should be trying to do is to find a plot for everyone who wants one as near to their home as possible. This helps to build a sense of local community, it helps to reduce travel in an area where travel is costly both to the traveller and to the environment. Judging by the length of some waiting lists we will never be able to create enough allotment sites in Inner London to satisfy demand, the Outer London Boroughs are the only ones who have enough space to supply the numbers of plots which appear to be needed as demand continues to increase. Thus there will always be a need for a certain amount of travelling to the plot but let us try to minimise it.

I believe that the GLAF should be campaigning for every applicant to have a right to the nearest available plot regardless of borough boundaries and for higher rents for "out of borough" tenants to be banned.

Discussing this with a neighbour led me to discover that my local angling club have developed a two tier rent system which is much more positive in its effects. They own a lake and like most allotment societies had maintenance problems, a handful of committee members doing all the work while the bulk of the membership did none. A wonderful way to frighten good people from joining the committee. Their solution has been to charge an exhorbitant annual fee for the use of the lake but to reduce it by 80% for those members who spend two days a year on maintenance ( grass cutting, fence mending, weed clearing etc) now a policy like that could have wonderful benefits for some allotment sites. I wonder if any one has tried it yet, or if anyone will.


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