Hixon Allotments Association

Wellington Fields Allotments Association
DRAFT Minutes of the AGM held on Friday 2nd August 2019 in the Memorial Hall.

1. Welcome and apologies.
Simon Ellin opened the meeting and welcomed the plot-holders.
Apologies were received from Chris Hilton, Julie Hilton, Diane Horsfall, John Martin and Kathleen Newbould.

2. Minutes of previous AGM and matters arising.
The minutes of the AGM held on 27th July 2018 were accepted as a true record and signed by the Chairman.
There were no matters arising.

3. Chairman’s Report (Simon Ellin)
Simon began his report by saying that Wellington Fields Allotments are now in their 9th season and remain a great asset to the community. He continues to take great pride in being involved with such a successful local amenity.
Simon outlined the organisation of the site which is divided into 63 plots with currently 37 plot-holders. The allotment site is owned by the Martin family and is leased to Hixon Parish Council, which in turn sub-leases the site to the WFA committee for its day-to-day management. Simon reports to the Parish Council annually.
Simon then thanked John Martin for all his assistance with the site and for his work with Alan Hartley, managing the composting bays. He also thanked Alan for procuring the woodchip and for maintaining the website, and thanked Chris Hilton for running the social media.
Simon introduced the committee and announced that there is currently one vacancy after the recent resignation of a committee member.
It is hoped to construct a compost storage area on the footprint of the old building. Simon outlined the plans for this, which will make the compost, horse manure and woodchip much more accessible and will tidy up the bottom of the site. The Parish Council are getting a structural engineer's report on the plans and are checking on any planning issues and insurance implications, but it is hoped that the work will begin soon.
Simon offered to use the association's strimmer to clear any parts of the site which had become overgrown and explained that we are hoping to trial a cattle trough in place of one of the taps, in the hope that it will speed up watering.
Simon then mentioned the revised Tenancy Agreements which were introduced at the beginning of 2018. These have been checked by the NSALG solicitor and the solicitor for the Parish Council and have been confirmed as fit for purpose. To date 35 of the 37 plot holders have signed the new agreements.
Simon drew the meeting's attention to the allotment rules which state that plots must be kept in good condition and be properly cultivated. There are a small number of plots which have been uncultivated for some time and as we now have a waiting list it is felt that agreements should not be renewed where plots are not being used.
Finally, Simon wished to remember Mark Trickett who had Plot 10L and who sadly died in January after a short illness.

4. Secretary’s Report. (Jane Garner)
Jane reported that it had been another good year and that most of the plots are well-looked after and productive. One plot has just become vacant, but as there are 3 people on the waiting list it should be taken soon.
Jane then outlined a few issues which were causing concern. These included a request for people to be more careful when using the compost bays and not to put vegetables into the heaps as they will encourage rats. We have a contract with Stafford Borough Council and Ian Hughes visits the site regularly to check for infestations and as there are usually signs of activity around the compost bays he has to put down bait.
Plot holders are also asked not to put woody material such as raspberry canes or cabbage stalks in the compost as they take a long time to break downn. These items can be put into the large bucket and John will take them away.
Plastic waste is still a problem and people are asked to remove any that they find.
The bottom of the site is becoming rather cluttered with old compost bins and pots. If they are not needed by other plot-holders it would be helpful if they could be removed.
There's been a lot of discussion nationally and internationally about the dangers of Glyphosate weed-killer. The committee have looked at the evidence for and against and have decided that it would be best for it not to be used on the site. Should plot holders need to use a weed-killer they should first check with the committee and use one which doesn't contain Glyphosate. There is now a Glyphosate-free version of Roundup. Similarly, only organic slug pellets should be used as they pose no danger to birds or other wildlife. These points will be added to the rules.
Jane then reported on some very positive aspects of the allotments, including the regular newsletters and gardening tips from Alan, the Memorial Garden by the church for the victims of the rail disaster which is looked after by plot-holders, the involvement of plot holders in the village clean up, the successful quizzes in the Bank House and the end-of -season barbecue which will be held on 27th September.
Jane then thanked plot-holders for making Wellington Fields the success it currently is.

There were then a few comments from plot-holders:
• It was suggested that the spare compost bins could be used for storage on plots. If it appeared that they were still unwanted they could be taken to a charity shop such as Katherine House.
• Signs should be placed around the compost bays, giving clear instructions as to the correct items for composting.
• Questions were asked about why two tenants had not signed their Tenancy Agreements. Simon gave a brief explanation of the background to the issue, saying that the Association has a devolved duty to provide Tenancy Agreements which are fit for purpose and that the original agreements were only relevant for the first year. The revised agreements have been ratified by the NSALG and the Parish Council's solicitor. The plot holders all felt strongly that the issue needs to be resolved at the earliest opportunity and that all tenants must sign. Simon will therefore contact the tenants involved in the hope of bringing the issue to a close and before further action needs to be taken.
• It was pointed out that WFA is fortunate in having full occupancy as there are several vacant plots at allotments in Stafford.
• A question was asked about why some of the ring-fenced money held by the Parish Council could not be used to contribute to the construction of the compost storage area. Simon said that WFA has raised enough money to fund it and that the ring-fenced money will be needed for repairs to the fence and the site.

5. Treasurer’s Report. (Karen Appleton)
Karen presented the accounts for 2018/19. She explained that they have again been separated into two sections, showing the income and expenditure from rents and the income and expenditure from fundraising.
The rents were all paid on time and several people used the BACS facility this year.
The expenditure from the rents includes the rent and water charges which are paid to the Parish Council, the pest control and NSALG subscriptions.
There were also costs relating to stationary, fuel for the strimmer, hire of the Hall, a present for the accountant, web domain renewal and a new tap.
The income from fundraising included that from the quizzes, the sale of seeds and the sale of some of the spare weed-suppressant material.
The cost of the memorial in New Road came from the ring-fenced money held in the account and the balance of this line is now £69.25, which will be used to replace plants as needed.
The ring fenced money held by Hixon Parish Council now totals £1,190.79. This money is set aside for repairs, insurance and other general costs.
A question was asked about whether we should continue to be affiliated to the NSALG and what benefits we receive from the subscriptions. Karen responded, saying that the committee already have this under review and that enquiries are being made to see if other organisations might suit our needs better.

6. Setting rents for 2020/21.
The rent and water charges for 2020/21 from the Parish Council include an increase in line with the RPI and the water charges are over £200.00 more than last year because of the dry summer.
The committee are determined to keep the rents as low as possible and for the third year are not increasing the running costs. The NSALG subscriptions also remain the same.
The plot charges will therefore increase only slightly, to avoid a budget deficit.
There is now £167.00 from rents charged to new tenants who take a plot midway through the year. This is ring-fenced (to a maximum of £350.00) to subsidise possible empty plots in the future.
Karen proposed that these rents be accepted for the next growing season and this was carried unanimously.

7. Election of Officers.
Chairman: Simon Ellin (proposed by Karen Appleton, seconded by Suzanne O'Farrell) was unanimously re-elected.
Secretary: Jane Garner (proposed by Joe Craen, seconded by Nigel Baxter) was unanimously re-elected.
Treasurer: Karen Appleton (proposed by Nick Brookes, seconded by Simon Ellin) was unanimously re-elected
The committee was then unanimously re-elected en bloc – Chris Hilton, Mark Connell, Alan Hartley, Barry Williams, Nick Brookes and Suzanne O'Farrell.

8. A.O.B.
Karen has a limited number of Kings Seeds catalogues and she asked anyone who would like to place an order to sign for one so that she can keep track of their whereabouts.
Pete Appleton suggested that AOB be removed from future agendas because the committee should be given notice of all questions in advance. It was therefore agreed that when the notice of the AGM is sent out, plot holders will be asked for their comments and questions.

Simon Ellin thanked everyone for their attendance and closed the meeting.