Thursday 17 July 2014
Receiving concerns from local residents about recently announced City Council consultation on the future of allotments in Exeter via e-mail, Cowick councillors Paul Bull and Heather Morris thought that it would be a worthwhile exercise to meet allotment holders at Cowick Lane Allotments Field, which they did last weekend.
The site is actually in Alphington, so also in attendance at the meeting were councillors for that ward, Margaret Clark and Rob Crew and in addition Cllr Rachel Sutton, Portfolio Holder for City Development, joined in the discussions.
All 5 councillors were keen to hear directly from allotment holders about their thoughts on the proposed changes to the management of allotments, and hoped to allay any fears from allotment holders had that ECC were looking to getting rid of the allotments from the city’s portfolio of assets.
Paul Bull told the assembled group:”I understand that many of you think this this consultation is the first step to selling off the allotments for development. Let me say categorically this is not the case.
He reassured to tenants by referring to the Exeter Labour Party manifesto pledge for the recent local elections.
“In the run-up to the 22 May elections, households in Exeter received a glossy leaflet through their letterbox posted through your letterbox just 2 months ago. The leaflet had this to say on promoting a Green and Healthy City:”protect existing allotments, look for opportunities to provide new allotments and explore the use of public open spaces for community food production.
Labour candidates stood for election across the city with that commitment in mind, and I am happy to stand here before you and repeat that pledge”
The councillors then broke into smaller groups to take to tenants to fully understand what allotments mean to those present and how the current service to them could be improved.
Tenants in Ashwood Road have already thought about ways of coming together to form a management committee and chatted to their councillors about this suggestion.
To the assembled group of Cowick Lane plot holders, Cllr Heather Morris highlighted that one way forward could be the setting up of an Allotments Forum.
“We’ve set up such a body for residents of mobile homes across the city,’ Heather outlined, “and that seems to help residents address a wide range of issues. Setting up a new forum to include representatives of allotments, elected members and paid officers could be a way forward to avoid misunderstanding in the future.”
Rob Crew outlined what happens next.
“The consultation runs until 4th August and submissions can be made directly to Exeter City Council, via your allotment associations or directly to your local councillors.
“Then a report will be compiled by officers to go to a Scrutiny Community Committee on 9th September. That’s an open meeting, members of the public can attend and some will be able to speak and ask questions. The papers for that meeting, including the report on the allotments service, will be available from the Council 7 days before the meeting.”
“This is going to been an on-going process over the coming months”, concluded Paul Bull, “the consultation has prompted engagement with the Council and councillors and I hope that this will develop into organised conversations.
“The afternoon proved to be very positive, with Cllrs enjoying meeting in the open air.
“We are now a lot more aware of the thoughts of allotment holders and the changes they would like to see implemented following the consultation. All Cllrs agreed that some of the ideas we heard today that could and should be implemented as soon as possible.”