Harwich Town Council

The Guildhall,
Church Street,
Harwich. CO12 3DS

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Allotments Minutes 27th August 2013

MINUTES of the Meeting of the ALLOTMENTS COMMITTEE
held at
The Guildhall, Church Street, Harwich
on
Tuesday 27th August 2013 at 7.00pm

Present: Councillors J Henderson, King, Morrison, Brown, Calver, McLeod
In the Chair: Councillor A Todd
Clerk: Michelle Townsend
Also present: Site Representatives Mr O’Hara, Mrs Steward, Mr Button and Miss Clark
4 members of the public and no members of the press
Absent: Site Representative Mr Mesher

PUBLIC QUESTION TIME:

Following the draft tenancy consultation, Mr Russell expressed his disappointment that not all plot holders have who have expressed a verbal opinion, have made the effort to make their views known.

Brenda Vincent asked that her comments submitted in relation to the draft tenancy consultation are considered. The Chairman confirmed that her comments had been recorded and would be discussed later on in the meeting.

A23/13 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Cllr Thompson substituted by Cllr Brown
Site Representative Mr McCoy
A24/13 DECLARATIONS OF MEMBERS’ INTERESTS
None
A25/13 MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
RESOLVED that the minutes of the Allotments meeting held on 8th July 2013 (previously circulated) be approved by the Committee and signed by the Chairman as a true record.
FURTHER RESOLVED: that the confidential minutes of the Allotments meeting held on 8th July 2013 (previously circulated) be approved by the Committee and signed by the Chairman as a true record.
A26/13 MATTERS ARISING FROM THE MINUTES
None
A27/13 VACANT PLOTS/ WAITING LIST/NOTICES TO QUIT
The Clerk advised members of the following:

  • 14 people on the waiting list
  • NTQ issued since the last meeting
  • 1 vacant plot which have been offered to new tenants
A28/13 SITE REPS REPORT
Mr O’Hara – Confirmed that plots 8, 8a and 9 had now started to clear their plots.   Plot 14a continues to cause a nuisance to other plot holders and will be discussed later in the meeting.
14a – to be discussed later.Mr Button – Concerns have been expressed over Clause 13 in the draft tenancy agreement. No other issues. Cllr Calver confirmed that this formed part of the Allotment Act and HTC are following recommendations from NSALG for inclusions to the draft tenancy agreement and felt that tenants should be made aware. It was reiteration that Harwich Town Council has no intention to dispose of allotment land and any if any future Council sought to do so, they would need to obtain the authority of the Secretary of State.Mrs Steward – No issues.

Miss Clark – New tenant has settled in well.   Plot 1 is over grown.

A29/13 RENT DEPOSIT SCHEME
RESOLVED: HTC not to proceed with introducing a rent deposit scheme.
A30/13 PLOT NUMBERING
The Committee discussed current difficulties with identification of plots and the need for clear signage in order to navigate around the sites and in particular in the event that emergency services are called to attend an incident. Members debated various suggestions for managing this issue.
RESOLVED: Reminder note to be sent with the renewals in September asking plots holders to ensure that their plot is numbered (clearly visible from the path) and reviewed during site visits in October.
A31/13 DRAFT TENANCY AGREEMENT
The Committee reviewed feedback from the draft tenancy agreement consultation and the recommendations made by the working party. See appendix A attached.Cllr Brown thanked the working party for the thorough job undertaken. Cllr Calver wishes to express thanks to the Assistant Clerk and document the appreciation of members for the additional hours work in order to complete this task.RESOLVED: To recommend Harwich Town Council adopts the draft tenancy agreement as written, at the meeting of the Full Council on 28th August 2013.During discussions on this item, Mr Wood requested that the Chairman closed the meeting to take his question. The Chairman declined Mr Wood’s requests as he was present at the beginning of the meeting when members were given the opportunity to ask questions in relation to items on the agenda had been given the same opportunity to express his views in writing regarding the draft tenancy agreement.
A32/13 PLOT 14A DUNNS MEADOW
Members discussed the need for urgent action to clear this plot. Many complaints have been received as it is causing a nuisance to surrounding plot holders. Due to the long term, historical problem with the lack of any cultivation, very invasive weeds have taken hold and action is needed to bring this plot back into service as a viable allotment plot. Some members raised concerns that a precedent would be set and felt the Council needed to make it quite clear that this was an exception.
RESOLVED: Authority delegated to the Assistant Clerk to negotiate with new plot holder to assist with the clearance and removal of weeds and negotiate with Mr G Warner to treat the area at a cost of no more than £100. 4 members voted in favour and 2 members voted against.
A33/13 MATTERS RECEIVED IN THE POST OR RAISED BY MEMBERS
The Chairman notified members that the site representative for the Redoubt allotment site has sadly tendered his resignation. Members acknowledged Mr Inglis invaluable support and knowledge over years and would be greatly missed.
RESOLVED: Letter of thanks to be sent to Mr Inglis.
FURTHER RESOLVED: Voluntary position to be advertised at the allotment site. Substitution to be considered and discussed at the next meeting.
A34/13 TIME AND DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Allotments Committee will be held at The Guildhall, Church Street, Harwich on Tuesday 23rd October 2013 at 7pm

The Chairman closed the meeting at 8.35pm

APPENDIX A

HARWICH TOWN COUNCIL
DRAFT ALLOTMENT TENANCY CONSULTATION – AUGUST 2013
Number of plots holders consulted: 211

Number of plots holders who provided comments: 10

COMMENTS RECEIVED: WORKING PARTY RECOMENDATIONS: Committee Response
1. The proposed schedule states ‘The tenant shall not plant any trees other than dwarf fruiting trees and or fruiting bushes without the prior consent of the Council’. If we already have trees and bushes on the allotment, do we still need permission? No retrospective permissions will be required. All in favour
2. Section 5i of the present allotment agreement permits the growing ofAs the allotment is my only garden we enjoy the flowers a lot. I get some lovely comments from visitors to the Redoubt. They are also good for attracting bees and pollinating insects to my soft fruit. Section 7, 8 and schedule item on cultivation are amended to include flowers. All in favour
3. Anomaly in clause 10 – appear to being saying that no poultry may be kept on a plot without the written consent of the Council but then state that chickens and rabbits may be kept in reasonable numbers. My personal view is that the second part of the clause should be removed and leave it that any livestock require written permission. Clause 10c – removal of wording ‘other than reasonable numbers of hens (no cockerels) or rabbits which shall not be kept for a business or a trade’ All in favour
4. Makes no mention of use of hoses. My understanding is that hoses should only be used to fill up allotment holders’ water butts and watering is then only with watering cans. However, I know some allotment holders believe hosing is permissible. On my site, one water tap services over 40 holders and therefore hosing is not used – only to fill water butts. Is hosing on allotments permissible? The issue over hosepipes was considered during the drawing up of the proposed agreement and the working party believes that the proposed wording is fit for purpose in a modern environment. All in favour
5. Under clause 14, there is no clear opportunity to issue a 28 day notice after the first 3 months of a tenancy agreement. To insert an additional clause stating that ‘The tenant will abide by the rules and conditions set out by Harwich Town Council at all times.’ All in favour
6. Proposed agreement does not require a tenant to advise of any changes of contact details. Clause 6 to include ‘or contact details.’ All in favour
7. New tenants, a minimum of 50% cultivation in the first 12 months, existing tenants 75% cultivation at all times. We ask, what is your definition of the word ‘cultivation’? In the dictionary, it is as follows ‘prepare the land to grow crops to develop or improve the land for cultivation. In your estimation do you think 50% or 75% of land in winter should be growing crops, you clearly do not understand that this is not viable. Even farmers, leave some land fallow and at rest, ready for the forthcoming season. We think this needs rewording as allotment holders think this is not acceptable. To remove ‘at all times’ and insert throughout the growing season. All in favour
8 Conduct – The allotment may not be used for immoral purposes and cause a nuisance or annoyance to other ploy holders. It has come to our attention that there are a regular group of persons consuming alcohol and discard their empty beer cans, near the gate of the allotment nearest the old doctors’ surgery. When one or two of them have had a few drinks, they become loud and unpleasant and make it uncomfortable for other allotment holders. We think you need to put in an extra clause regarding the prohibition of alcohol consumption on site. Clause 10b is sufficient and the working party feel that people should not be denied quiet enjoyment of their allotment which might include an occasional alcoholic drink. All in favour
9. The hedges mentioned do not belong or are rented by the allotment holders and they feel it is not their responsibility to maintain them. The law states that if you cut someone else’s hedge, you must return the cuttings etc back over to them, the owner. We feel this could cause neighbourly disputes, friction and unpleasantness to all concerned. As this requirement was already part of the existing tenancy agreement, the working party sees no reason to alter it. All in favour
10. Water is a precious commodity. We should all be aware not to waste it in this day and age. The minority are making it hard for the majority. We think you should state that if excessive water consumption continues, you will have no alternative other than to install press taps. The wording should remain as proposed as the introduction of press taps is not an issue for the tenancy agreement. All in favour
11. Site members have made it clear that they will not be able to afford public liability insurance. They feel that you seem to be taking all the responsibility from yourselves and putting it upon allotment holders instead. What are you actually responsible for? If we as members of the general public go into such places as cemeteries, parks, recreational grounds etc are you suggesting that every man woman child needs public liability insurance? Wording to remain unchanged as the comment suggested a misinterpretation. All in favour
12. There is no mention of Site Reps however you classify them and their role on the allotment site. The role of Site Representative is not included within the tenancy agreement as this is a Council decision on how the Allotment Committee is structured and operates. All in favour
13. Clause 7 – include ‘a few flowers’ in the ‘cultivation of fruit and vegetables’.   Flowers are important as companion plants but also for pollination; therefore their cultivation should be encouraged and not discouraged. Dealt with under comment no. 2 All in favour
14. Clause 10c – The exclusion of cockerels seems to be harsh today when the general level of noise has increased due to the levels of road traffic, hence merging the various sources of noise. Moreover, most houses have double glazing which does deaden sound. Dealt with under comment no. 3 as wording has been removed. All in favour
15. Plot size – charging arrangements. Having taken an interest in all the Council’s allotment sites during my involvement I was concerned with the disparity in size of a number of plots in relation to their declared ‘rod’ measurement. This was particularly apparent on the older sites and I felt it was open to challenge, with a potential knock-on effect. Proposal – not proceeded with, change to 3 charging grades.
Small – up to and including 5 rods
Medium – in excess of 5 up to and including 8 rods
Large – in excess of 8 rods
This range would have covered all the then known variants.
This would require a change in policy and the draft tenancy agreement has been drawn up in line with existing policy. All in favour
16. Clause 7 – Although one of the ‘hard and fast’ rules this clause would benefit from the addition of flowering plants that encourage bee pollination. Dealt with under comment no. 2 All in favour
17. Clause 10b – path width ideally determined by the spread of the legs of a wheelbarrow, say 21” plus 3” either side, particularly with grassed paths. Path widths vary and half a metre is suggested as a standard minimum. All in favour
18. No mention of watering by hosepipe. Original restriction referred to use for transfer from stand pipes to individual storage containers on plots only. Dealt with under comment No 4 All in favour
19. Paths – partially referred to in comment on Clause 10(h). Paths that form either central walkways or provide main access from gates should be a minimum of 1 metre. Dealt with under comment no. 17 All in favour
20. The working party realised that the agreement as worded did not
protect existing paths.
Addition to clause 10h ‘and shall not extend their plot into an existing path’. All in favour
OTHER COMMENTS MADE WORKING PARTY’S COMMENTS: Committee Response
a. On your spreadsheet, you must be showing the full and halfFull plots should be marked with two, and the half allotments with one, you will get to the figures to divide into the water rates. Then times by two for the full allotments and times by one for the half allotments. This policy is determined by the Committee and not legislated under the tenancy agreement. To be placed on a future agenda for discussion.
b. I agree with the new tenancy agreement and would like rule 19 enforced on plot……..The plot needs clearing of loads of chip board sheets, pallets, tin, iron, 2 car wheels and general rubbish. Also there is a water tank on the plot that looks like asbestos. No plot should be left in this condition. Has been dealt with by the Clerk.
c. Due to recent dry weather we have had to water the allotment early morning or late evening. On every occasion, either one or all the gates have been found to be unlocked. Security seems to be a dirty word. The old guard continue to do as they please so locks, keys etc have been a waste of resources. Request to lock the gates is in the new tenancy agreement.
d. Some allotment holders are completely flouting theEven up to yesterday’s date, a bonfire had been lit and left to burn in the middle of the day. This has been made clear in the new tenancy agreement.
e. Not only on our site, hand held hoses and irrigation systems are being used to water allotments on a regular basis. The proof is easy to see as the persons involved have better flourishing crops than those using watering cans only. Covered in the new tenancy agreement.
f. We have asked a Site Rep what is his/her official capacity but he/she was unable to tell us as they are unclear themselves. No leadership, no one to turn to, in the end anarchy rules! Do we all descend upon the Town Hall with our gripes, concerns, worries? Site Representatives felt that their role did not need to be formalised, but should a Site Rep feeling it necessary in the future, this item could be placed on an agenda for discussion
g. Allowing dogs on allotments can cause problems as some dog owners who are not allotment holders use the path round the Redoubt to walk their dogs. On a number of occasions the path has been fouled by dog faeces. It is a delicate matter to question dog owners as to the legitimacy of their presence and that of their dogs on the premises. Not relevant to tenancy agreement as concern is over the actions of non allotment holders. Signs are visible on the Redoubt Site
h. Under paragraph ‘Security’ of the schedule the importance of locking gates is stressed but on the Redoubt only one out of three entrances has a gate, which renders futile the locking of this one. So I am asking the working party to emphasise to the relevant authority the urgency to put lockable gates at the two open entrances for the safety of holders, to make vandalism, break-ins and thefts of and from sheds more difficult. This would also resolve the problem of dog owners who trespass on the site. This comment is site specific rather than part of the general tenancy agreement. No further comment.
i. Clause 13 – In the event of land disposal etc, appears to have insertedAlways a worrying sign when a Council has been unable to get to grips with managing its sites in a satisfactory manner. The working party included this clause on the recommendation of NSALG This was covered earlier in the meeting.
j. Bee keeping – I am not aware of any of the local sites offering suitable areas for this Bees are already being trialled on two plots on the Redoubt site. No further comment.
k. Carpets/underlay are totally unsuitable for allotment paths particularly the fibres released at breakdown. This comment supports proposed recommendations within the draft tenancy agreement. No further comment.
l. Rats found on site are not attracted to uncooked foods on allotment sites but rather to the warmth generated by sewer pipes and discarded barbecue food. The working party find no connection between this comment and the proposed draft tenancy agreement. No further comment.
m. Bonfires – reference to legal position of burning and potential complaints. The new tenancy agreement states approved times.
n. Site inspections are far too lax. Next site visits booked for 7th October
o. The following is a suggestion which I believe might make Councillors more aware of ‘life on the allotments’, ease their need to deal with lots of nitty gritty and allow them to provide a more balanced approach to problems.
First, divide the allotment sites into four sections as follows:Section 1:
Redoubt/Tower Hill
3 RepsSection 2:
Dunns Meadow
2 Reps
King Georges Ave
1 RepSection 3:
Boatswains Call
3 Reps

Section 4:
Long Meadows
1 Rep
Abdy Ave
1 Rep
Willow Way
1 Rep

Each of the 4 sections would be allocated a Council representative from the Allotments Committee to liaise with Site Reps.

Responsibilities:
Council – specific – all external fencing; access gates; approach roads/paths; water supplies; setting of rules etc; collection of rents/water rates
Site Reps – Day to day internal management of the site activities; general improvement of the plots; correcting internal paths etc; and generally improving site in the interest of all. Minor fund raising would be useful for purchases linked to multi-user equipment.

This is for the Committee to decide whether or not it wishes to consider a change of policy. Possibility of substitution for Site Representatives to be placed on a future agenda.