ROSENDALE ALLOTMENTS’ ASSOCIATION ANNUAL REPORT 2011 - 2012
Another year has gone by and it is time for another AGM. It has been a mixed year for the weather, and some crops suffered from odd weather conditions. A few of our older members are sadly with us no more. Some of our younger members have had babies and are bringing them up to the allotment for early education into the pleasures of gardening. It has been a very busy year for the Committee as will probably be next year.
- The Big Lottery Local Food grant.
At last year’s AGM we were still discussing how to raise the additional funds to match the grant from the Lottery. Fortunately, because of the difficulty of all groups trying to attract grants, the Lottery changed its rules and allowed us to re-apply for additional funding. We did this and were successful. At the time of writing we have just received the official confirmation of the grant from the Lottery. We have the builders lined up, have planning permission, have demolished the old stores and have made the site ready for the building work to commence in April 2012.
The grant will make a huge difference to our facilities. Apart from having our own meeting room and for offering courses on all aspects of gardening, for our members and for the community, we will at last have running water, toilets, office facilities, cooking facilities. There will also be a new stores building with electricity, light and heating. Also there will be some paid project workers to help deliver the grant’s educational side.
The grant will require a commitment from our members to help with fitting out, landscaping, hedge planting etc. Hopefully all members will do what they can to help make this project the great success it promises to be. It has involved a big commitment in time, effort, and enthusiasm for some years, especially Catriona Andrews and Rachel Sharp.
No new grants were applied for but the 3 earlier grants have now been largely spent leaving a little over for outstanding commitments. Under the Lottery Awards For All grant, 5 new community plots have been allocated, a communal tool shed established and some funds made available for each group to have some facilities for their service users. A survey has also been conducted by an outside organization to advise us on a long term plan to improve the site’s safety for vulnerable groups and people with disabilities.
The Grassroots grant has been spent on extending the shed, and establishing a library/resource centre. An excellent collection of new books have been bought covering all aspects of gardening, and members have also been generous in donating furniture, books, magazines and other resources. Unfortunately, we have not been able to open the resource centre as often as we would like, due to the shortage of volunteers. The committee is considering relocating it into the new building once it is completed. Thanks to a grant from Lambeth Council, we have been able to replace the main gates and fit digital locks.
Until such time as additional grants/ other resources are obtained, the main gate is the only one which permits disabled access. Members who have disabilities and need a plot nearer to the main gate should contact the committee who will do what they can when a suitable plot becomes available
Any help from Members with experience in obtaining grants will be gratefully received. Grants are time consuming to apply for, and difficult to obtain in the current financial context. The Spa Hill allotment site, for example has a small multi task tractor, paid for by a grant. Think what we could do with that!
- Communal tool shed.
Thanks to the A4A grant, we hope to extend the range of tools that can be borrowed, and their availability for use by members but this will depend on the construction of the new stores building and the stores re-opening. Tools will be able to be borrowed by all members via the stores. A list of tools will be provided and placed on the notice board. Other allotment groups have a core of volunteers ready and able to maintain these tools, sharpening blunt instruments etc, and we will need to have the same type of group to maintain our communal tools.
- Volunteer day and volunteers.
RAA was approached twice by outside organizations offering to do some volunteer work. We had two groups of volunteers who worked hard in beginning the task of clearing the overgrown ditch and painting the committee hut and we are very grateful for this assistance. Unfortunately our committee member who was to be our volunteer co-coordinator had to resign and we have not had anyone willing to be the replacement. We had one weekend of volunteering in March 2012 which cleared the site for the new building and cleared much of the bottom ditch. Three more volunteer weekends will be held in 2012. Members are reminded that all the work of the association is performed by volunteers and we need the participation of members to keep the site maintained and other routine tasks completed.
- Social events.
The annual barbeque was held in September 2011. We also had a seed and seedling event in the spring. Hopefully, with the new building there will be more opportunity for socialising, and sharing our ideas ….good and bad, and having a laugh….
- Rent rises.
The committee unfortunately had to raise rents considerable this year because of rising costs and because of the need to embark on a long term plan to spend more on site maintenance. Our landlords, Dulwich Estates, review our rent every seven years and 2011 was a year for a review: the amount we pay to Dulwich Estates thus rose by the rate of inflation over the last seven years (about 20%). The water bill is also a considerable part of our expenditure. The maintenance tasks included clearing the dump near the top of the site, and although this was expensive it was a task that had to be tackled in this way. We have also had to replace the locks on the other gates and by the end of the financial year will have done more long overdue maintenance projects. The 2011 AGM was held over 2 evenings because of the discussion about grants and the need for rent rises.
- Special general meeting.
Some members were dissatisfied with the running of the association, the rent rises, and financial management. A special general meeting was called to consider a vote of no confidence in the committee. It was a lively, very well attended meeting for which the committee prepared background papers and updated financial information. After much discussion the motion of no confidence was defeated.
- Waiting list.
About 30 new plots have become vacant this year and will have been reallocated by the time of the AGM. We still have about 800 people on the waiting list which we have now closed. But in the process of reallocating plots it is clear that a lot of people on the waiting list have either moved or not updated their contact details so the committee had decided to contact all those on the list to make a more up to date list. Those newly allocated plots this year have been waiting for at least 4 years. It is clear that the demand for plots greatly exceeds supply which means that those who have got plots are very fortunate.
- The stores.
We have not been able to open the stores as often as we would like due to the shortage of volunteers for the rota. Once the new stores building is available we will hope to be able to open it regularly on both Saturdays and Sundays and would encourage all members to participate and help with the rota. We have sold off all the stock at rock bottom prices and will restock anew when the building has been finished. Thanks to all those who helped with the final sale and Pek who managed the stores.
We continue to get regular deliveries of deliveries of raw manure, and this year have finally persuaded the delivery people to deliver to the Peabody gate as well as the main gate. However members continue to complain quite rightly that when the manure arrives it goes too quickly because a significant minority are too greedy and take more of their fair share. We urge members who are there in the day time not to hog the manure so others are left perpetually with nothing. One member even reported that a large number of bags had been loaded up and taken off-site in a van, and on another occasion the whole lot had been bagged up into three separate loads by three small groups of people.
- Communication with members.
Thanks to Andrew Pembroke who has set up the Facebook site, and also Pek Choo, who has started a newsletter, we have improved the means of communicating with members. We can also use the web and email as nearly two thirds now have access to the internet. Members are encouraged to update their email addresses and, if no internet access, regularly consult the notice boards. The rise in the price of stamps makes normal mailing very expensive.
- Plot Inspections.
Plot inspections occur twice a year and members written to and warned if their plots don’t pass the tests. A number of plot-holders were warned this year and did put their plots in order before the second inspection. The committee will again carry out two inspections this year, the first in May, and be stricter in ensuring that the overall site is being well used and that people are abiding by the Rules and the bye-laws. Plot holders complain when their neighbours have neglected the paths, neglected cultivation keep rubbish on site.
Vandalism, Arson and Thefts.
Unfortunately there have continued to be a number of incidents of vandalism, and breaking into sheds with tools and other things being stolen. A shed was also burnt down. Some members have also had produce stolen from their plots. All such incidents should be reported both to the committee and to the police. Members should consider adding their possessions on their allotments to their household insurance as the Association’s insurance does not cover any compensation for these items. The Committee has spoken to Peabody Estates and Network Rail about the state of the fencing for which they are responsible, and believe that it has obtained an agreement from these bodies to rebuild their fencing. The Committee is examining options for improving the fencing near the two entrances on Lovelace Road, as well as making safe a wall near one entrance.
- Rent taking and Record keeping.
We are endeavouring to update our records, especially as regards sharers. Hopefully this will be easier when we have the new building and internet and PC access on site. Meanwhile the rent taking this year went very smoothly and nearly everyone paid on time. We have to thank Marco who was on duty all the time and is finishing updating the records. We also thank all our members who paid up promptly and without hassle. Please ensure that when your contact details change that you let the committee know.