Allotment Self-Management

There appear to be three basic forms of self-management of Council allotment sites currently in operation in the London Area and its surroundings. These are:

(a) Management of individual sites, or groups of sites, by individual Local Allotment Associations that take responsibility for all aspects of the management of their sites, including major infrastructure changes, with minimal Council back-up.

(b) Management of all Council owned sites in a borough by a single Local Allotment Association that takes responsibility for all aspects of site management on all Council sites again with minimal Council back-up.

(c) Management of individual sites, or groups of sites, by individual Local Allotment Associations that take responsibility for all aspects of management of their sites apart from major infrastructure changes which remain the sole responsibility of the Council.

In all cases, major decisions on matters such as major infrastructure changes are subject to prior Council approval. Where a Council's allotments are managed by a multiplicity of individual allotment associations these are normally, but not invariably, part of an over-arching Federation of Local Associations that ensures some degree of uniformity in the way that different sites are managed.

There are many variations in the details of how these three categories of self-management are organised in practice in different boroughs and urban authorities. There is also, in some cases, overlap between the different categories of management and/or operation of more than one scheme by the same local authority.

For the sake of convenience, the three management categories are referred to below as the Croydon Model, the Guildford Model and the Kingston Model. This is not to imply that these categories were originated in these areas or even that they are necessarily the best examples of each category. They are, however, typical of their category, up and running and most importantly documentation and copies of model leases showing how they work are available and are reproduced below.

The Croydon Model

Background: Croydon has two types of site - "Direct Let" where plots are let directly to the plot holder and the site managed by the Council - and "Leasehold" (comprising the vast majority of sites) where the leasing associations have full management responsibilities. There are six "Direct Let" sites, three of which have a limited self management agreement with the Council which gives the local association control of the waiting list and letting, and eleven "Leasehold Sites". All but one of the leasing associations are Industrial & Provident Societies (regulated by the FSA) which limits the liability of the association and its officers.

Lease Summary: The lease is between the Council and the leasing allotment association running for twenty one years (with right of review after seven and fourteen years). The association pays a fixed annual rent (with the right of an increase by the Council if there are improvements to the site at Council expense). The site is leased for allotment gardening only: The association is responsible for the maintenance of the site infrastructure including the upkeep of fences, gates, hedges, the water supply system, paths, car parking areas etc., Any construction of major sheds, trading huts etc., requires prior permission of the Council. Proper insurance has to be in place and proper accounts (available for Council inspection) have to be kept. The leasing association is required to maintain the rents to plot holders at a level no less than eighty percent of that charged by the Council on Direct Let sites. Appropriate provisions for the resolution of disputes are included.

To access a full copy of the lease click on Croydon Lease (PDF)

The Guildford Model

Background: Guilford has fourteen allotment sites all of which are managed by a single allotment association (formed by the amalgamation of two pre-existing associations). This association is responsible for setting the policy for, and oversight of, the management of all sites. The detailed day-to-day management on individual sites is exercised by site managers appointed by, and responsible to, the central association.

Lease Summary: The Guilford Lease covers much the same ground as the Croydon Lease. As in the case of Croydon, the association is responsible for the maintenance site infrastructure. The main differences are that only one leasing association is involved and that this association is charged with producing, in conjunction with the Council, an approved five year business plan covering all Council sites. This is designed, among other things, to ensure an equitable distribution of maintenance and development funds between the different sites, A further difference, not unique to Guilford, is that there is a detailed schedule setting out the relationship between the leasing association and the individual plot holder.

To access a full copy of the lease and the accompanying schedule click on Guildford Lease (PDF)

Kingston Model

Background: Kingston-on-Thames has twenty three allotment sites split between eleven self-managed sites (referred to as voluntary management sites) and sites whose management has been contracted out by the Council to a company named Quadron. The essential difference in the case of Kingston, lies not so much in the involvement of an outside contractor but in the extent of responsibility of the leasing associations (nine in number) for the maintenance of site infrastructure. The leasing associations are responsible for routine repairs to the gates, fencing, water supply system etc., but not for major repairs and replacements. The responsibility for these tasks remains with the Council operating via Quadron. This reduced responsibility is reflected in the rent agreement. The fact that, the leasing associations are not responsible for planning and supervising major projects means that this system is suitable for the management of sites with smaller associations that may lack the depth of managerial skills for such tasks.

To access a full copy of the lease and the accompanying schedule click on Kingston Lease (PDF)

Self Management

AGM and Self Management

The EAP-AGM, held on March 7th 2012, was well attended and went off very successfully. Draft minutes of the meeting, together with the annual reports of the Chairman, Treasurer and Ealing Allotments Manager can be accessed by clicking on AGM. The AGM itself was followed by the ever-popular " Gardeners Question Time" session involving local gardening experts. The highlight of the evening, however was the talk on "Self Management - the Pitshanger Experience" given by Doig Simmonds; particularly timely in the light of Ealing Council's plans to change the system of allotment management foreshadowed in Stephen Cole's Allotments Manager report. To access a summary of the talk and the ensuing discussion click on self management in AGM 2012 notes. Expect to hear a lot more on this topic over the next year. Currently nobody - including the Council itself - seems to know exactly what is happening but it is very clear that we as a community need to be discussing this issue with Council officers before their plans are finalised. It is in nobodys interest to let things go right down to the wire as happened with the recent controversy about allotment rent increases. See also the Spring 2012 Newsletter.

Posted: March 22nd, 2012

Things are Moving

As reported elsewhere, Cllr. Mahfouz (Portfolio Holder for Transport and Leisure - which includes Allotment Provision) set out, at a meeting organised by the Council last September to discuss allotment rent increases, a number of possible ways for the future management of Council allotment sites:

  1. Self-management of individual sites by local associations along the lines of Pitshanger allotments.
  2. The setting up of a self-managing charitable trust that took over responsibility for all Ealing Council allotment sites.
  3. Contracting out allotment management to a private company.

It was stressed at the time that these changes would be subject to consultation with the Ealing allotment community. It now appears likely that a formal decision is to be made over the coming months regarding which, or which combination, of the above is to be adopted.

With this in mind, representatives of the site-based Local Allotment Associations (Blondin, Brentham, Framfield, Horsenden and Oldfields) met recently to set up a Forum to discuss the proposed changes. It was recognised that any changes will have implications for the management of all Council sites and it was agreed that it was important that the Forum should include those of the present Council appointed allotment site managers that wished to participate and offer their views on the best way forward. A second meeting is planned. See the EAP Summer 2012 Newsletter for further details.

Posted: 7th June, 2012

Forum Update

The Forum set up to discuss proposed changes in the management of Ealing Council allotments – see "Things are Moving" posted below – had its second meeting earlier this week. There was a good turn-out of both local association representatives and site managers. It was agreed that while some sites may be in a position to take on self-management if they wanted to – it must be emphasised no Ealing site has at this stage decided that it will to do so – it was quite clear that many other sites, for a variety of reasons, were not in a position to go self managed. The Forum had little faith in the practicability of setting up a charitable trust to administer all sites and favoured some form of mixed solution in which those sites that felt they could handle self-management moved towards this while the other sites were managed directly, or indirectly, by the Council. The current plan is for the Forum to continue in its attempts to assess opinions within the Ealing allotment community while at the same time setting up formal meetings with senior Council Officers in order to determine current Council thinking and to make constructive contributions to the final outcome. See also the Summer 2012, Newsletter.

Posted: 30th June 2012

Clarification of Council Self Management Proposals

Following a meeting of the Allotment Management Changes Forum in June, Hilary Jayne and Patrick Williams (the Forum co-ordinators) met with Cllr Bassam Mahfouz (Portfolio Holder for Transport and Leisure) and Chris Bunting (Assistant Director for Leisure Services) to clarify the situation regarding Ealing Council's plans for the future management of its allotments. This meeting was extremely amicable and constructive.

Cllr Mahfouz explained that the Leisure Services team were seeking Cabinet approval to investigate the feasibility of changing the management of the Council's allotments to include the possibility of introducing a self-management system. The motivation, he stressed was to try and introduce a more effective and efficient management system that provided allotment tenants with a greater say in how their sites were run. Cllr Mahfouz emphasised that there there was no financial motivation driving this proposal, that any decisions would be made in close consultation with the allotment community, and that the present system could be retained if no better alternative emerged.

It was agreed that consultation would be primarily via the Forum as well as other existing channels and Chris Bunting volunteered to organise a workshop for Forum members on different models of allotment self-management that might suit the Ealing situation. It was acknowledged, both by Cllr Mahfouz and Chris Bunting that the introduction of any workable scheme may require phasing over several years and would necessarily involve a considerable input both in training and mentoring on the part of the Council. See also the Autumn 2012 newsletter.

Posted 6th October, 2012.

Self-management Workshop

Progress on the self-management front has been slow but things are now beginning to move. Chris Bunting (Assistant Director for Leisure), who is the Council Officer responsible for looking into the self-management question, is to hold a workshop on Different Approaches to Self-Management on Tuesday 22nd January. Representatives of local allotment associations and site managers from the different areas of the borough have been invited. A full report on the workshop will be included in the winter edition of the EAP newsletter and it is hoped that Chris Bunting can be persuaded to attend EAP’s AGM to talk to a wider audience.

Posted 2nd January, 2013

Self-management Meeting Update

Twelve members of the Self-management Forum group attended the workshop run by Chris Bunting on February 22nd referred to above. Following the meeting, we now have a clearer picture of the Council's motives for wanting to investigate self-management, the financial constraints in terms of the overall allotment budget and the general approach that they might want to adopt.

The main achievements of the meeting were that it firmly established a consultation process as regards self-management, that the contracting-out of allotment management has been ruled out for the foreseeable future at least, that any acceptable scheme will be a mixed one allowing sites that are not in a position to take on self-management to remain under their present management arrangements, and that the "status quo" is the default position in the event of a failure to come up with an agreed scheme. A fuller report will be included in the Winter 2012 edition of the EAP Newsletter which should be available for circulation sometime next week.

Posted 24th January, 2013

Spring Newsletter

The latest EAP newsletter containing reports on the presentations at the EAP-AGM by Cultivate London and by Chris Bunting on the possibilities for Self Management of Ealing Council allotments is now available. Go to News/EAP Newsletter or simply click on spring 2013 newsletter.

Posted: 27th March, 2013

Changes at Horsenden

The three Horsenden Sites (Whitton Drive, Whitton Place and Horsenden) are going over to a limited form of self-management similar to that currently operating at Blondin Allotments. The sites already have a long history of collaboration under the aegis of the Horsenden Allotments and Garden Association (HAAGA). A new association, Horsenden Allotments Association (HAA), has been formed to take over responsibility for the management of the three sites. It will take on responsibility for issuing the annual rent letters and collecting the rents, for the issue of non-cultivation orders, and for reporting breaches of Council Allotment rules. It will also be responsible for minor day-to-day site repairs. Responsibility for the maintenance of the basic infrastructure of the site gates, fences, underground piping etc. remains with the Council. To cover expenses, and in recognition of the managerial responsibility taken on by HAA, it will retain 15% of the rental income. HAAGA’s activities as a Trading and Show Organising Association will continue unchanged working in parallel, and in co-operation, with HAA.

Posted October 8th, 2013

New Local Association

Ealing Dean Allotment Society (EDAS), based on the Northfields site in West Ealing, has recently been formed following the proposed move by the Pathways charity to introduce self management of their Ealing allotment sites Northfields and Haslemere. EDAS will be holding its inaugral AGM in the Main Hall of the Northfields Community Centre, 71a Northcroft Road, Ealing W13 9SS at 7.30 p.m. Tuesday 14th January, 2014. Click on website for more details of the society and its activities.

Posted 12th December 2013

Local Management

There have been a couple of important developments in this area. Ascott is the latest site to agree to take on local management and the possibility of High Lane following their footsteps is currently under discussion. Click on autumn 2014 newsletter to access the recent article on the pros and cons of local management published in the autumn edition of the EAP newsletter and agreement to access a copy of the agreement between Ealing Council and participating local allotment associations.

Posted 7th November, 2014

The Current Situation

The are are now eight Council allotment sites operating under Local Management; Ascott. Blondin, Brentham, High Lane, Horsenden, Whitton Drive and Whitton Place and one site Pishanger that is fully self managed .Borough-wide, there are currently:

Management SystemNumber of SitesApproximate Number of Tenants
Fully self-managed 1 -
Local Management 8 564
Council-appointed Site managers 19 709
Managed Centrally 11 112

Posted 22nd September 2015