The end of the cheque
Clearly the needs of small voluntary organisations like Allotment Associations were not at the forefront when it was decided to phase out cheques. They remain a very useful and handy way of conducting transactions, whether it be collecting rent money or paying bills such as water rates, insurance or affiliation fees. Under the rules our Building Society account requires two signatures before money can be accessed in the form of a cheque – an important safeguard which guarantees accountability. There must be thousands of small community organisations who will be affected by this proposal. It’s an election year when politicians want our votes – so we should get busy contacting our local MPs.
Shortage of allotments and private landowners:
It’s interesting to note that the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners has posted advice on it’s website (nsalg.org.uk) for landowners and farmers thinking of converting land to allotments. Given the failure of local authorities to provide more land to meet the rising public demand it’s not surprising that alternative solutions are being considered or offered. With a timely initiative, last year the National Trust set out its plan to create a thousand new plots on its land over the next three years. This is a welcome move but with a national waiting list of 100,000 and rising, more needs to be done. Can privately owned allotments fill the gap?
The shortage of allotments has become a political issue. Last year the Welsh Assembly discussed the problem and suggested that additional powers be granted for private allotments. The Local Govt. Network thinktank came out with a report calling for larger landowners to come forward with land; suggesting that if this was not done voluntarily then a quango be set up (the Large Private Estates Commission) to enforce land conversion.
Given the practical and legal issues involved in setting up allotment sites, access to advice and small grants to cover start up costs would be a more effective way forward.
Down on the Plot:
After the heavy December snow the allotment looks like a bomb site! The weight of snow crushed the netting covering my leeks and sprouts and some of the perimeter fencing needs fixing. After the snow and ice came the thaw and flooding – our site in Haslingfield, S. Cambs., is on low ground leading down to the River Rhee, a tributary of the Cam. The neighbouring meadow has disappeared and surface water stands along the edges of our lower lying plots. Every job takes forever but I managed to dig some parsnips and pull some leeks. Come February I’ll sow some new parsnip seed and a couple of rows of broad beans. But its an empty, chilly place just now. Only the hardier tenants are making an appearance, the rest must be hibernating.
Jonathan Spain is a freelance writer and Secretary of Haslingfield Allotment Gardeners Association. To find out more see http://www.linkedin.com/in/Jonathanspain