This time last year, I was touring allotment sites in my role of Member Champion for Community Engagement promoting the case for reforming Exeter City Council’s ailing and failing allotments service.
Part of that was allaying unfounded fears that ECC was planning to sell sites to developers for new housing. Much of this was based on the number of empty and dirty plots – and with no apparent urgency to let to them to the high number of prospective allotment tenants on the long waiting list.
I was never in any doubt that they were are part of the plans for the City Council. In fact I was happy to repeat a pledge from the Exeter Labour Party manifesto for the city council elections just 6 weeks earlier.
That pledge was on a glossy leaflet post through letterboxes across the city:
Green and Healthy City:
”to protect existing allotments, look for opportunities to provide new allotments and explore the use of public open spaces for community food production.”
For the 2015 City Council elections we reaffirmed that pledge was restated – and at the same highlighted how we have been keeping out earlier promises, including launching an Allotments Forum to improve communications and partnership working with allotment holders across the city.
The impetus for the Allotments Forum was raised in a question under Standing Order 19 put to the to ECC’s Scrutiny Committee – Community meeting on 09 September 2015:
QUESTION FROM CHRISTINE FRASER
Given the difficulty in conducting a consultation on allotment services, a difficulty acknowledged in the Report to Scrutiny Committee (9.3 refers), and given the diversity of experience of the allotment service across the City’s 26 allotment sites, would the Committee support the creation of a user-based Forum with representatives from all the sites to provide not only a helpful channel of communication between the Council and the allotment gardeners, but to highlight best practice, ensure information reaches all tenants, and establish a representative user-group which would assist in the monitoring of the proposed changes over the 2 year period referred to in 13.2, and engage with a further review at the end of that period?
Yes : All these suggestions seem entirely positive and reasonable
As a result I was please to move a additional recommendation:
10) an Allotment Users’ Forum be established in liaison with the Allotment Bodies.
Since then there have been a series of formal and informal meetings, including:
The Allotment pre-forum meeting held at Exeter Community Centre on 19 January 2015 set up a sub-group to draw up the terms of reference for the Forum
The most recent meeting was on 16 July 2015 – agenda. Minutes to follow soon.
I am always happy to answer questions about the Allotments Forum:
firstname.lastname@example.org – please use ALLOTMENTS FORUM in the subject line
To contact ECC Allotments service:
e-mail: email@example.com or phone: