Thursday, 23 April 2009


Site Report on Sutton Allotment Group Meeting on 21 April 2009

The meeting was attended by John Bresman and I from Stanley Road. Not surprisingly, the discussion was dominated by the site inspections that have been carried out so far. It emerged that only fully- tenanted sites are subject to periodic inspections, hence this is the first for Stanley Road and Demesne Road Allotments.

Overall, the feeling was that the Council was right to send out a message that given the high demand for allotments across the Borough and the record waiting lists, it was not acceptable for large portions of plots to be left unworked. Bill Wyatt, who carried out the inspection at Stanley Road with Di Wood, accepted that inspections are a matter of judgement even though they tried to be as objective as possible. In carrying out the inspections, they used as a benchmark a recommendation from the London Allotment Officers’ Forum (this is a body to which Local Authority officers with responsibility for allotments belong.)
In December 2008, the Forum agreed that:
“…a plot that is less than 75% worked could be defined as an uncultivated plot. Allotment law stipulates that there should be evidence of at least 25% of the plot should be worked in the first 3 months and 75% of the plot should be worked within the year.”

In discussion, it was accepted by Bill Wyatt and his staff that there could be arguments whether the amount of cultivation on a plot at the time of the inspection met the 75% criteria. He also conceded that the benchmark might be incompatible with the image on page 5 of the Allotment Guidelines of a leisure garden: “complete with a lawn, flower borders, summerhouse, a bench in the sun, a vegetable patch and even a swing for the children.” However, in the latter case, he did say that if there was evidence that the lawn was tended, it would be taken into account. More generally, ‘75% cultivation’ would be taken to mean visible and unmistakeable evidence that the plot has been tilled or worked, dug over or maintained. It was not enough to simply cover over large areas in plastic.
For the first time, the Council also signalled its intention to act against those who brought rubbish onto allotment sites and simply turned their plots into a mini-dump. The council have advised that a "Rubbish Letter" had been issued before to a tenant at Stanley Road.
I hope this clarification may help you to understand the reasoning behind the non-cultivation letters and more importantly what needs to be done before plots are re-inspected.

One other point of general interest is that Di Wood will be leaving the service in the next few weeks. There was a well-deserved valedictory expression of appreciation for the work that she has done for allotments. There will be an interview for a replacement, but it will be a hard act to follow and whoever it is will not be a dedicated allotment officer.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Site Inspection - April 2009

Site Inspection
I understand that a number of people were upset at receiving non-cultivation letters from the Council, following the recent site inspections. These inspections were announced in the Council’s Winter 2008 Allotment Gardeners’ Newsletter and the Spring/Summer 2009 edition noted that the inspections would be “starting shortly” and warned that: “if you do not want to receive a non-cultivation letter, make sure your plot is being worked.”
The Council made it clear that it was acting out of fairness to the many people on the waiting list. The letters had nothing to do with the Society. I understand that the site inspection at Stanley Road was carried out on 2 April. Like everyone else who reads the newsletters, I knew that the inspection was imminent, but I had no prior knowledge of the date, nor had I any need to know.
I recognise that the letters must have come as a surprise, but once the initial shock has died down, please try and put it in perspective.
A site inspection is no more than a snap- shot or a judgement on the condition of a plot on a particular date. With the lighter evenings, and hopefully, less inclement weather in the next few weeks, we are all venturing out on our allotments, so that you will soon be able to catch up and put the judgement behind you. The key point is to make sure that you take remedial action within the stipulated 28 days. If there are extenuating circumstances why you have not been able to work your plot, then let the Council know.
As I said at the recent AGM, we are privileged to have an allotment. We shouldn’t take it for granted.

Site Rep
17 April 2009