Minutes

Chair's Report

Accounts

Allotment Manager's Report

Minutes of Annual General Meeting

Ealing Allotments Partnership

March 5th 2014

Polygon, St Mary’s Church, Ealing W5

Approximately sixty members attended the Ealing Allotment Partnership AGM

1. Minutes of the previous AGM

The minutes of the meeting held on 13th March 2013 were approved.

2. Matters arising

There were no matters arising.

3. Chair’s report

Helen de Jimenez presented her report as Chair of EAP - a copy of which is attached to these minutes. She noted that during the last year the Executive Committee had concentrated on keeping open its lines of contact with the Council and on looking at the future role of EAP. She told the meeting that she was stepping down from her position as Chair and, subject to his election, would be replaced by Patrick Williams. The intention, she indicated was to refocus the activities of EAP. She mentioned that she, the current Secretary and the Treasurer would be standing for re-election to the Committee to maintain continuity while the new Committee decided on the way forward. She noted that Maurice Wells and Derek Harris had stepped down from the Committee during the past year and thanked them for their support and service during her time as Chair.

4. Annual Accounts

The Treasurer, Dominique van Dooren, presented the combined accounts for the previous accounting period Oct 2011 – Oct 2012 (consideration of which had been deferred for the reasons set out in Minute 4 of the 2013 AGM minutes) and the current accounting period Oct 2012 – Oct 2013. A copy of the accounts, which were accepted by the meeting, is attached to these minutes.

In both cases, expenditure was limited to the cost of running the AGM. This was offset in 2011-2012 by income from donations by members collected at the AGM. In 2012-2013, following a commitment from Chris Bunting to fund the venue costs for future AGMs (recorded in Minute 3 of the 2013 AGM), an additional donation was received from the Council to cover the cost of the hall rent. The overall balance held by EAP increased from £499.80 to £557.80 over the 2011-2012 accounting period and from £557.80 to £680.76 over the 2012-2013 period.

5. Allotment Manager’s Report

The annual report from Stephen Cole, Ealing Council Allotment Manager was tabled. It was accepted, in his absence, without discussion. A copy is attached to these minutes.

6. Election of Officers and Executive Committee Members

Patrick Williams, Helen de Jimenez and Dominique van Dooren were re-elected to the EAP Executive Committee as Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer respectively. John Bradley Chair of Blondin Allotment Society) Tony Donegan (Chair of Brentham Allotment and Gardens Society), Andy Doyle (Manager of Braund Avenue allotments), Christina Fox (Chair of Ealing Dean Allotments Association) and Joseph Mangor (Communications Officer of Horsenden Allotments Association) were elected as executive members.

7. Future Plans

Patrick Williams introduced, and led a discussion on, future plans for EAP. He explained that one of the things that clearly emerged from Executive Committee discussions on the subject was that the objectives of EAP as set out in its Constitution, while appropriate as aspirations when EAP was set up, are less appropriate now.

He went through the objectives in turn. The first “fund raising” objective relating to improving all allotments in Ealing is, in practice, only really relevant in the case of education/information aspects and as such largely redundant. The second “education/information” objective in contrast is at the heart of what EAP does best and it was argued that this area could be usefully expanded. The third “Council Liaison” objective as originally framed in terms of the Ealing Allotment Strategy” has again not worn well. In practice, many of the issues that concern EAP and the wider allotment Ealing allotment community lie outside this area and there is a clear necessity for a better defined relationship between the Council and EAP.

The discussion was opened to the floor at this point. There was general agreement that it would be useful to re-define these objectives. Several important points were raised and discussed. It was recognized that with over fifty allotment sites in the Borough, the EAP Committee is not in a position to ”negotiate” with the Council on behalf of the community. It can only act as a conduit for information It was also recognized that while EAP had a major role in the flow of information between the Council and the Ealing allotment community, the fact that this flow was now mainly on-line meant that large numbers of tenants were effectively disenfranchised – various possible solutions were proposed. It was agreed that the Executive Committee should take these messages on board in its attempts to refocus the overall objectives of EAP. The question of whether it should try to broaden its “educational” role by seeking funding for more horticultural courses and arranging lectures on horticultural topics was also raised. A show of hands indicated broad support for these ideas.

The session was concluded by a brief discussion over how such changes could be implemented. It was accepted by the meeting that the new Committee should bring a suggested set of revised objectives to the next AGM for approval. It was also agreed that other essential updates to the Constitution such as fixed maximum terms for Office holders and Committee members should be handled in the same way.

8. Any Other Business

Helen de Jimenez drew the meeting’s attention to the fact that Kew Gardens had recently announced a "Grow Wild" scheme supported by the “The Big Lottery Fund”. Free seed-sowing kits (and funding) are available to community groups interested in reclaiming near-by unloved or disused areas. Further details are posted on the EAP website.

Report from the Committee Chair

During the past year, we have been concentrating on our role of keeping open lines of contact with the Council. We have also been looking at the future role of the Ealing Allotment Partnership. I have decided to step down from the role of Chair of the committee and Patrick Williams has offered, subject to his re-election to the Committee, to take over this role until the new Committee has made its own decisions about the future. I will stand as a member of the committee.

We have two speakers tonight. John Bradley, who represents our communication role, will tell us about the Blondin experience of Self Management. Igor Vaintraub, who represents our educational role, is a soil scientist and runs a small biotech company based at Imperial College. He will be talking to us about soil structure and soil improvement. Subjects, I am sure, that are very dear to all of us.

Our website is still running and there is a quarterly newsletter with current information, available to anyone who wishes to access it. Many thanks to Patrick for his hard work in keeping the website up to date. Funding will be needed to ensure that this facility continues.

We will be collecting contributions at the end of the meeting and would very much appreciate donations to EAP to help towards the running costs. We have received a donation from the Council to help towards the cost of this evening. This will not cover all the expenses that are incurred. Last year your contributions were very generous. Many thanks for that.

Helen de Jimenez
5 March 2014

Ealing Allotments Partnership accounts for period Oct 2011 – Oct 2013

    2010/11 2011/12 2012/13
Opening balance   £3,088.83 £499.80 £557.80
Income General Donations 69.25 122.96 244.00
  Council Donation     136.00
  Interest    1.40   
Total   £3,159.48 £743.80 £816.76
         
Expenditure AGM   186.00 136.00
  Organic Garden Course  2,659.68    
Total   £2,659.68 £186.00 £136.00
         
Surplus / Deficit   £499.80 £557.80 £680.76

Prepared by Dominique van Dooren - acting Treasurer - for the AGM March 2014

Allotment Manager’s Report for 2013

Weather:

Whatever the cause, we’re learning to live with extremes of weather: a late, cold spring; a scorching but short summer; a wet autumn and an extremely wet but very mild winter. There’s no point in assuming that tried and tested planting plans are going to be right for the coming seasons. In both 2012 and 2013 the most successful gardeners sowed often until they had established plants, and most things came good at some time during the year.

Water:

I'm pleased to say that we are continuing to get on top of water waste and loss. In part this is due to tighter monitoring (almost every site has a water meter) so that leaks and unauthorized use are quickly identified. We’ve had to spend quite a bit on the water supplies, and this will continue into 2014, but I hope that in so doing we will eradicate the worst losses.

Fencing:

The winter storms have caused a lot of damage, and our spending on fencing has been much higher than usual. We’re still catching up with the work, but it should all be done by the end of March.

Maintenance:

Our regular contractor of the past 20 years or so has left us, his journey from Suffolk taking longer and longer. This is a real disappointment, as no one knows the allotments so well, and he has been a good friend to the allotments over this time. I wish him well, and hope to find a contractor who can take on at least some of this work in the coming weeks.

Theft:

Following new legislation, metal theft (taps and tanks) has diminished greatly through 2013. But power tools are still attracting thieves, and anywhere the thieves are successful they target again – so if you have a power tool, take it home after use, otherwise you’re encouraging thieves to break into sheds over and over again. It’s nice to report that on several occasions the thieves have hidden their haul nearby and it has been discovered by vigilant site managers, but please don’t rely on such an outcome. Take these tools home, please.

Rubbish:

This is a real problem on the majority of sites, and rubbish is surprisingly expensive to have collected. The make-do-and-mend attitude on allotments is commendable, but the desire to hoard materials “just in case” ends up being costly to the budget that we all fund through our rents. The next time you’re tempted to take something down to the plot rather than throw it out, please remember that most of this material never gets used.

Rents:

The balance of 10% was added to the rents this year, bringing about the 50% increase announced in 2011. I’ve no doubt that to many the rent will seem expensive, but there are benefits to having a balanced budget. One is that it removes allotments from the discussion about what the council tax is used for; from now on, if someone complains that their council tax is paying for your allotment, you can tell them it isn’t.

Self-management:

Following Chris Bunting’s presentation to last year’s AGM, and subsequent meetings, the development of localised management for allotments has moved forward. Horsenden Allotments Association has led the way, based on a model created by Blondin Allotments Association some years ago. This provides for an increased level of local autonomy (and greater control over spending on site) without being cut adrift from Council support. It is early days, but Horsenden can already report some significant success and I hope other sites will see some of the advantages they might take from the arrangement.

Development:

At the risk of re-announcing something that has been proclaimed before and then failed to happen, it looks like our new site at Popefield will happen towards the end of this year. It is tied up with the development of a cricket pitch and pavilion, and funding for the latter is now coming together, so I hope to report next year that the allotments are up and running. We’ve found a partner to take on Wolf Fields Allotments, a virtually unoccupied site in Norwood Green. The charity A Rocha will develop the site as a community resource as well as promoting allotments, and they expect to secure funding of in excess of £120k to clear and develop the land and deliver gardening projects. Wolf Fields has suffered frequent fly-tipping, rough sleepers, and drug abuse, and the advent of A Rocha on site has already put a stop to much of this abuse. We also have a partner in the charity Green Corridor at Western Road Allotments, a small site in Old Southall. This is in its early stages, but heralds another unused piece of land being brought into cultivation as part of a broader regeneration initiative. More generally, the good summer led to reasonable levels of rent renewal. Of course plenty of newcomers found the work more than they had anticipated, but we’ve never had a year when that hasn’t been so.

The recent mild weather means over-wintering crops are doing well, but probably also indicates an explosion in the slug population in spring. If it stays mild, many crops will get off to an early start, though there are plenty of places where the waterlogged soil may not drain in time to take advantage of the early season. There’ll be new challenges, but I’m confident that Ealing’s allotment gardeners will find ways of benefitting from whatever the seasons deliver.

Stephen Cole
Allotments Manager