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setting up/running an Allotment Association/Committee - request for advice


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  • setting up/running an Allotment Association/Committee - request for advice


    My plot is on a site owned and run by the Town Council. By their own admission, they lack the resources to give it the attention it requires. At a recent meeting of plot holders, the idea to introduce an Association was suggested.

    Some of us (including me) are in favour, others not. The idea will be revisited in a few months once some long overdue improvements have been made to the site and empty plots cleared and allocated.

    I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has helped set up an Association, particularly where the control formerly lay with a council. I'm particularly looking for advice on how to sway doubters, and for those plot holders that are dead set against it - can they be obliged to join or can they be left out?

    In terms of running the association, there are some obvious pitfalls such as inconsistent application of the rules, too many rules, too few rules etc. Examples of good/bad rules, pet hates would be welcome.

    I'm keen to ensure the allotment site remains a place of relaxation and pleasure, not a demanding burden with numerous petty rules. Several sites nearby have become 'regimes', apparently to the detriment of many.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

  • #2
    I joined the committee on my site about 5 years after the site was setup - its Council owned. The original committee was more of a rubber stamp thing that allowed a (mostly) benevolent dictator to get things up and running. I would suggest that if the Council don't have the resources then they should be the ones to hand over control officially - you probably can't have a workable situation where not everyone on the site is a member of the association. The hand over could always be done on the proviso that if in X years time there is an AGM vote to go back to Council running.
    All I can say is that our town has two sites owned by the Council (and one owned by the CofE) - I'm clearly biased but the one run by our Association is the one that most people on the Council waiting list ask to join. The other Council site is known to be a-social and apparently has a lot of petty back-biting going on.
    You won't be able to please all the people all the time. We based our initial rules and regs on 'standard' allotment rules we found online - amalgamated a couple of other sensible ideas from other online resources and then added a few specific to our site. Each year we have an AGM where members can vote for changes. If there is a particular issue then they have the ability to call an emergency meeting (don't think that has ever happened).
    Make sure the plotholder know the rules. Make sure they are enforced fairly. If people are e.g. not maintaining their plots make sure there is a communiction process. Document any notices that go out to people (in case they go to the Council to complain).
    Most of our plotholders appreciate the work the Committee (and the other regular helpers) do - some think that the site magically looks after itself and there are a few that take umbrage when we ask them to tidy their site or tell them they can't put up a 10*8 shed (6*4 thanks)!
    1574 gin and tonics please Monica, large ones.


    • #3
      Do you have an existing contract/set of rules from the council which you can use as a starting point?

      Personally, I think that if the site is run by an association, then all plotholders would have to agree to that to remain plotholders (if some prefer to remain under council ownership, could they be offered a plot on another council run site instead? Even split the existing site???)

      A few useful rules on our site include
      No bringing carpets onto site (also existing carpet must be removed ‘where possible’-which is hard work!)
      Maximum height of fruit trees, maximum number and size of polytunnels, sheds, greenhouses
      Agreed procedure for termination of tenancy for non cultivation(1st warning to tidy up stays on record for 2 years, second letter 6 weeks later gives you a week to remove your possessions before the plot is no longer yours)
      a clause for new tenants minimum % in cultivation at 3/6 months, all plotholders 75% in cultivation (excludes paths and ‘wildlife areas’)
      No alcohol, barbecues, illicit drugs, firearms, explosives, criminal acts, sleeping overnight, fires after dark or between april-oct, cultivation of psychoactive substances. If it’s not in the rules you could have a real problem getting rid of someone....

      We also have a few clauses on the (1940s) contract that are actively ignored by the association - maximum 25% area for fruit or flowers
      must be kept weed free (unrealistic!, but reasonable weed control and safely walkable paths are still expected).


      • #4
        many thanks for the wise advice.


        • #5
          I’m the secretary of our association founded just a few years ago. Our Allotments are Council run, we started up so that we could speak to the Council with one voice. We have no say in the running of the site e.g. waiting list or rules, but we have raised £20K for equipment and polytunnel etc. We have a good relationship with allotment officer, who supplies bulk compost when required. There has been a marked improvement in the plots since we started. Most people seem to take more of an interest, cutting grass pathways etc.


          • #6
            As you're in Bristol, have you contacted some of the other sites that are association-run for help?

            Sara Venn at Incredible Edible Bristol might be able to help too, or point you in the direction of local support.

            In my borough we have an association (KFAG) which helps council-run sites become self-managed. You might have something similar.

            My site went self-managed in around 2010 so it's all I've ever known. I've been on the Committee for about 4 years. We have a clear set of rules and try to keep those to as few as possible - though it includes a lot of the things listed above, one shed & one greenhouse per plot for example with max sizes for each specified.

            Common moans that come up time after time are:
            -tenants not managing their access paths between plots (main paths are mown by us on a rota)
            -tenants planting trees on their boundary without remembering that young trees grow
            -tenants not managing their weeds, specifically horsetail, bindweed and docks
            -tenants building on their boundary so structures cast significant shade on neighbouring plots
            -only Committee members and the reliable few turning up to work parties, setting up or clearing up after communal events

            On the plus side we have pulled together to improve site security, build field drains, dig a pond, build a communal loo. Managing things ourselves means we set rents. We have a very small operating surplus but we also have one of the lowest rents in the borough. We don't have lots of equipment, seeing that more as a magnet for thieves, but a couple of the plotholders are landscapers and have the right licences for heavier work if we need it done.

            I love it there, we have a really friendly atmosphere, and our socials seem to go down well too.
   - growing fruit and veg in suburbia


            • #7
              Small PS:
              I wouldn't think there could be a halfway house with those not wanting to be self-managed. Either it is or it isn't managed by the council.
     - growing fruit and veg in suburbia


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