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.)
“…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.
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.