«CONTENTS 1. INTRODUCTION 2. LEGISLATION 3. NATIONAL CONTEXT 4. WIRRAL ALLOTMENTS 5. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES 6. ACTION PLAN 7. MONITORING AND REVIEW 8. ...»
It is important for the Council to establish an agreed quality standard for allotment sites in consultation with appropriate partners and aim to achieve and sustain this standard at all times and at all sites. This standard should seek to ensure good access, good security, good facilities, good paths, adequate water provision and prompt attention to neglected plots. It could be based on the Civic Trust’s Green Flag Award Scheme assessment criteria.
The Green Flag Award Scheme defines the national standard for parks and green space. Nationally some allotment sites have been entered for the award and have achieved the Green Pennant, which recognises high quality green spaces managed by voluntary and community groups.
A thorough survey of allotment sites needs to be carried out to ascertain the levels of current provision at each site and to recommend any improvements that may be necessary to raise the site to the required standard. From this survey a programme of improvements will be prepared. Potential funding sources will be investigated.
A detailed improvement plan will be drawn up for each site, in partnership with site secretaries and local associations, following the example of the recent plan for Harris Allotments. This plan will provide all tenants with the opportunity to consult and comment on the schedule of improvements proposed for their site.
The majority of allotment sites do not have toilet facilities. This is recognised as a serious deficiency, restricting the amount of time tenants can spend on the site. The lack of toilet facilities particularly affects the prospects of encouraging women, disabled people and school groups. Finding a means of establishing toilet facilities must be a key target for the future. Mains toilets should be the expected method of provision but it is recognised that the location of water and sewer utilities will not make this possible in some locations. Alternatives such as septic tanks and compost toilets will need to be investigated. A survey will be carried out to establish what type of provision could be provided at sites currently without toilets and at what cost.
Maintenance of toilets is also an issue to be addressed, as funding is not currently available for repairs, toilet cleaning and provision of consumables.
A review of programmed grounds maintenance operations needs to be carried out to ensure that best value is being achieved.
No capital investment from the Council has been available for allotments in recent years and therefore improvements have been limited. However individual associations, who have been able to obtain grant funding, have carried out various schemes on their sites. These include roadway improvements, fencing, biodiversity and communal projects and provision of storage containers.
Aim 2 : To have safe and secure allotment sites A Security Audit will be carried out on all allotment sites, with 15 sites targeted for completion in 2008 and 26 sites in 2009. When completed the results will be analysed and incorporated into the annual review of the Allotment Strategy.
More active and well-tenanted sites deter intruders. A strong community on the site encourages tenants to “watch out” for each other and for the site.
Links with local residents could also be developed to help keep a watch on sites. Consideration will be given to setting up an Allotment Watch scheme, in discussion with partner organisations.
The Council will investigate ways to improve the analysis of crime data and continue to actively liaise with and involve the Neighbourhood Police, Community Patrol and Community Safety Team in safeguarding sites.
The Council will seek to promote best practice in health and safety on all allotment sites. A system will be set up to enable annual site safety inspections to be carried out on all sites. This will be carried out by the Allotment Officer in consultation with the Site Secretary, with an assessment checklist to be completed. The inspection is intended to identify defects that present a safety problem to allotment users and adjacent residents.
2.1 Carry out security audits
2.2 Investigate the possibility of setting up an Allotment Watch scheme in discussion with partners
2.3 Improve the analysis of crime data
2.4 Set up system for an annual site safety inspection on all sites
The Council will ensure the effective management and administration of allotment sites by continuing to develop a strong partnership with Site Secretaries, the Allotment Association, the Allotment Federation, relevant agencies and individual tenants. It is also important to develop partnerships with other local agencies, which might also have an interest in promoting allotment use, such as the local Primary Care Trust and the Department of Adult Social Services.
To ensure that a high quality service is provided all administration and management procedures will be reviewed. This will include a review of plot letting and waiting list procedures. Allotment administration systems are already computerised. In April 2006 the accounts process was integrated into the Council’s new central procurement system.
The Council will liaise with the Wirral Federation to complete their review of the Tenants Handbook, Tenancy Agreement and Roles and Responsibilities booklet. The proposed amendments to these documents need to be agreed and finalised, so that they can be brought into use as soon as possible.
The Council will continue to promote allotments and monitor vacancies with the aim to have all of its sites fully tenanted. A high level of vacant plots reduces the condition and perception of the whole site by weed spread from overgrown plots, a sense of dereliction and a lowering of value. This can lead to an increase in the rate of failed tenancies. Sometimes individually tailored advertising campaigns can be used to attempt to address this problem. Site clearance and maintenance of plots is not always possible within the available budgets.
Vacancies in Wirral have been falling over the past few years:
January 2005 at 14% January 2006 at 11% January 2007 at 8 % The Council uses the annual percentage of vacant plots as a departmental
performance indicator (Local P.I. 4258). The target for the next two years is:
2008 = 7% reduction in vacancies 2009 = 6% reduction in vacancies The Council will continue to investigate the status of allotment sites to confirm their legal status as statutory or temporary sites, where this is unclear.
Landican, Plymyard and Earlston allotments are designated as temporary sites.
The Council wants to ensure that it provides the very best service for tenants, ensuring that it’s performance remains high when compared with other local authorities. The Council will continue to enter the annual local authority competition managed by the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG) as this is the only nationally recognised means of comparison between Local Authorities. In particular we will continue to liaise and compare our service with neighbouring councils to show our commitment to high service and standards across the Wirral.
It is important to investigate ways of securing financing to ensure the continual improvement of the allotment service. This will involve exploring new and creative ways of generating additional funding, by way of local and national grant mechanisms.
3.1 Review all administration and management procedures
3.2 Review and finalise amended tenancy documentation
3.3 Confirm the legal status of sites, whether statutory or temporary
Aim 4 : To improve customer satisfaction and increase tenant participation in the management of sites It is important to generate effective communication and consultation with both allotment associations and individual plot holders. All tenants are members of the Wirral Allotment Association.
Some sites have their own associations and tenants are encouraged to participate in them. These associations are members of the Wirral Federation of Allotment Societies, who hold regular meetings to discuss relevant allotment issues. Council officers will continue to attend these meetings.
Further information can be viewed at: www.wirralfedallotments.20m.com The Council will continue to work in partnership with the Wirral Allotment Association and the Wirral Federation of Allotment Societies.
Each site has an appointed Site Secretary who provides an important link between the Allotment Officer and the tenants. Their responsibilities include providing a communication link with tenants, meeting new gardeners, showing them available plots and notifying the Allotment Officer of any site problems.
They are expected to apply the tenancy conditions fairly, in the interests of all and to receive support from the other tenants. A Site Secretary’s meeting is held with Council officers twice a year. An annual general meeting is also held and all allotment tenants are invited to attend.
The Council will continue to encourage self-help on allotment sites, which is a benefit to all.
The Council’s web site is in the process of being upgraded. This will include reviewing and upgrading the allotment pages to provide better and clearer information.
The annual Wirral allotment competition will continue to be promoted to encourage higher standards and levels of participation at all sites.
“The Future of Allotments” (ref. HC560-1) published by the Select Committee, recognises that delegated self-management fulfils two aims: ensuring greater control by the tenants of an allotment site and reducing the administrative burden to the allotment authority. For individual plot holders, devolution can also bring more responsive management on a day-to-day basis, a sense of pride in any improvements to the site, and opportunities for volunteers to bring their own skills and expertise to a new challenge.
The Council will continue to offer the option of delegated self-management agreements to allotment sites, ensuring that tenants themselves have the opportunity to develop their own role as participative citizens. There are currently two self-managed sites in Wirral at Sandringham Avenue in Hoylake and at Wingate Avenue in Eastham.
The Council will introduce an exit survey to identify the reasons for tenants leaving a site, as another means of providing an early indication of emerging trends and problems. This could be accomplished by adding a section onto the current vacating slip for tenants to give their reason for leaving the allotment.
4.1 Improve the allotment information on Wirral Council’s web site
4.2 Introduce an exit survey
It has long been recognised that there is something special about allotment communities. Within the setting of the allotment site age, gender, race, social status and occupation have little relevance.
The Council will continue to seek innovative ways of promoting and advertising allotments, especially in areas of poor uptake, with the aim of reducing the number of vacant plots. The Council will review and update the provision of allotment information utilising leaflets and posters, ensuring these are displayed for maximum effect, in public places such as libraries, doctors’ surgeries, community centres and community notice boards and also by developing the allotment pages on the Council’s website. It is also important to develop links with other Council promotions and strategies, such as healthy living.
The Council will carry out a review of allotment site notice boards, to determine what on-site information is available and to promote better communication with tenants.
Allotments can play a valuable role in environmental education and some sites have plots let to local schools, such as at King George’s Way, Bidston and Church Road, Tranmere. The National Curriculum provides scope for pupils to study plant growth, urban land use, composting, recycling, soils, organic gardening and local sustainable development. All of which can be taught effectively outside the classroom at an allotment.
The Council will investigate with appropriate partners the production of leaflets and guides for new tenants, which could take the form of an allotment starter pack such as provided by Sheffield City Council. This could help to reduce early drop out rates and to retain new tenants.
The Council will continue to offer half plots as well as full plots and publicise this facility to new tenants.
In recent years more interest has been shown by some allotment sites and community groups in having ‘communal gardens’ where everyone works together for their mutual benefit, this can help strengthen bonds in the community. Dawson Allotment Association was awarded a Lord Winstanley ‘Changing Places’ award for their community plot, which has a wildlife area, seating, barbecue and a summerhouse. The Council will continue to support community schemes.
It is important to widen the appeal of allotment sites for vulnerable sections of the community and to increase accessibility. This could include making the sites more physically accessible with wider paths and raised beds, such as at Church Road Allotments, Tranmere. This aspect of allotment development needs further detailed researched, so that correct and adequate provision can be established.
5.1 Review and update leaflets and posters
5.2 Review notice boards and on site information
5.3 Investigate the production of an allotment guide for new tenants with appropriate partners