Ealing Allotments Partnership
March 13th 2013
Polygon, St Mary’s Church, Ealing W5
Sixty two members attended the Ealing Allotment Partnership AGM
1. Minutes of the previous AGM
The minutes of the meeting held on 7th March 2012 were approved.
2. Matters arising
There were no matters arising.
3. Chair’s report
The Chair presented her report: a copy of which is attached to these minutes.
She explained that the main focus of the Committee’s activity over the past year had been on its role as a facilitator of discussion with the Council on behalf of all allotment plot holders.
She also reported that EAP, which has no direct access to funding to support its activities, was still having problems raising funds for such basic activities as paying hall hire fees for the AGM and expenses associated with the maintenance of its website. Approaches to the Council for the use of a room in the town hall have been turned down, although for this year at least the Allotment Service had agreed to pay the hall fee. Efforts to find a cheaper, alternative venue to the Polygon had proved unsuccessful.
The possibility of using Northfields Community Centre was suggested from the floor. The Chair pointed out that this was not available on Wednesday evenings, the evening usually used for the AGM, but that she was happy to go back and see if it could be made available if the AGM were held on a different evening of the week. Following the meeting, Chris Bunting made a commitment on behalf of the Council to fund the venue costs for future AGMs.
4. Annual Accounts
The Chair apologized, on behalf of the Committee, for the fact that she was not in a position to present the Annual Accounts to the meeting. This she explained was occasioned by the fact that Maurice Wells, elected as Treasurer at the previous AGM, had for health reasons not been able to take up this position. This had resulted in some confusion regarding the security arrangements with the bank that had still to be resolved. She promised that a copy of the Accounts, when prepared and checked, would be posted on the EAP website together with the draft minutes for the current meeting and subject to approval at the 2014 AGM.
5. Election of officers and executive members
Helen de Jimenez, Dominique van Dooren, Maurice Wells, Patrick Williams and Derek Harris were duly nominated and re-elected to the EAP Executive Committee. Helen de Jimenez and Patrick Williams were confirmed as Chairman and Secretary respectively.
6. Allotment Manager’s Report
The annual report from Stephen Cole, Ealing Council Allotment Manager was tabled. It was accepted, in his absence, without discussion.
7. Any Other Business
There were no items of other business
After the Organic Gardening Course that we ran last year, we have had a very quiet year this year.
We are a small committee and this year we have been beset with various difficulties. Our long standing treasurer resigned last year and her replacement had to resign during the year. Today, we are short of another member due to the inclement weather in Northern Europe, where she is stuck, unable to get back
Whereas last year we concentrated on our educational role, this year we have concentrated on our role as facilitator of discussion and on keeping contact with the Council on behalf of all allotment holders. We have arranged for Chris Bunting from the Parks and Leisure Department, to come and talk about the views of the Council for the way forward for Allotments in Ealing.
We are also very fortunate in having Denis Bowen to talk to us about the Cultivate London Project, which has been set up in Brentford.
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 Williams, for his hard work, in keeping the website up to date. Funding will be needed to ensure that this facility continues
Last year I brought up the prospect of having to find funds in order to hold our AGM. We did look at alternative sites that could reduce the costs. The Log Cabin facility was not available to us and other places seemed to be unavailable.
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
|Organic gardening course||£2,659.68|
|Surplus / Deficit||£499.80||£557.80|
The gardening year
In stark contrast to recent years, in 2012 most of us saw rather too much water (and not enough sunshine), leading to generally poor cropping and significant absences from the allotments. Those who were successful achieved results by continually re-planting when seeds failed, eventually catching a drier spell and warmer weather. This resulted in some surprise late crops, with French beans often being harvested well into October. The same was true of late-planted courgettes, which generally succumb to mosaic virus by early September but made it through some of the early frosts this year. The truth is that there is always something wrong with the weather, and we have to persevere to get results.
Despite the constant rain, mains water use was not significantly reduced. Almost all our water is metered, and the cost is roughly a penny per watering can. Whilst that sounds pretty good value, the cost soon adds up – on just one site, 500,000 cans of water were used in 2012, at a cost of around £5000. I’ve witnessed people watering in the rain, just after rain and when rain is imminent; and people watering the same plants each day, apparently unaware or maybe uninterested in the state of the soil. If challenged, people often take the position that water is provided in the rent and therefore they’re entitled to use it. This is true, but quite apart from the consequences for the plants, indiscriminate use simply leads to higher rents.
The theft of metal reached something of a peak last winter/spring, and one site (not a council site for once) lost not only taps but tanks, pipe, tools and almost anything metal – moveable or not. Since the spring, thefts declined somewhat and, whilst those that took place were still a significant disappointment and nuisance to those targeted, the volume seems to be down on the past couple of years. Maybe thieves don’t like working in the wet, but maybe recent legislation concerning payment for scrap metal has deterred some. Regardless, for the individual plotholder the message can only be - don’t keep anything valuable at the allotment.
As announced previously, rents went up by 40% in October. By and large, this has not had a significant impact upon tenancies, though doubtless there are many people who’ve had to tighten belts and for whom the generally poor cropping made the increase even harder to stomach. I hope the spread over two years has made the increase a little more bearable. This autumn’s instalment of 10% puts the service budget into balance.
This year we’ve had a reduced programme of work for two reasons, one planned and the other not anticipated. We agreed, in order to limit the rent increase, to a £10k permanent cut in the budget and a further £10K cut for 2012-13, so there was always going to be less done over the year. But our regular grounds maintenance contractor stopped working for the organisation through which he had a franchise, and the terms of his agreement meant that he couldn’t work in Ealing for the year. The alternative offered proved woefully inadequate to the task. I hope that we’ll return to a more normal service for 2013-14, though things will still be difficult.
Progress on alternative management was delayed as other issues impacted upon the parks service generally, and have only recently been picked up. There has been one meeting with interested members of the community, hosted by Chris Bunting, Assistant Director of Leisure. This discussed the pros and cons of different styles of management and agreement was reached that a variety of approaches would be needed in Ealing. Further meetings will follow. There are some potentially very positive outcomes, but as with any such endeavour it is vital that the proper preparation is undertaken.
It has been a difficult year for our volunteer managers. The poor weather has led to many gardeners disappearing over the summer, not all of whom returned when rents became due. This has led to painfully slow rent collection in some places, and we’re still not quite there. The untended plots of those who felt they were making no progress led to complaints about weeds and about the state of sites generally, and the wet has caused many native plants (weeds, that is) to thrive like never before. Where people don’t come back and weeds flourish, we can’t re-let the plots until work has been carried out to check that no dangers lurk in the undergrowth. Please bear in mind that site managers are volunteers who have given up some of their time to ensure that you can garden; they’re not there to maintain the site in the style you’d like, cut your paths or assist you in gardening your plot. You should be helping them by volunteering to carry out tasks around the site – please don’t leave everything to someone else.
Every year I happily mention that allotment use has gone up, but sadly this year I can’t. The proposed opening of Popefield Allotments has been further delayed due to objections from neighbours, and I am uncertain as to when the site will open. Similarly Mansell Road didn’t reopen, as the weather put paid to our spraying programme intended to take care of the prolific marestail. We’ve not had the turnover in tenancies suggested by some in response to the rent increase, but the poor weather and corresponding difficulties certainly didn’t encourage new gardeners. I don’t have detailed figures, but looking through the changes in tenancy it certainly looks as if turnover amongst new gardeners was high in 2012, with a great many giving up after a couple of visits.
Climate analysts predict that global warming will lead to more wet summers, and that 2012 will not be seen as particularly unusual in years to come. Gardeners are an adaptable bunch and we’ll learn to cope, but I do hope on behalf of everyone that we’re in for a warmer, drier and more productive year in 2013.