Unconfirmed Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at Burchatt’s Farm on May 11th 2016 To be voted on and approved at the next GAS AGM in 2018, date to be confirmed
Present: Alastair Watson (GAS Chairman), Andy Simmonds (Hon. Secretary), Gill Simmonds (Hon. Treasurer), David Millingen, David Harris, Les Daubney, Mike Flarry, Kim Harriott, Jean Wickens and 41 other members
Guests: The Mayor of Guildford, Cllr Gordon Jackson & Mrs Jackson, and Mr Paul Stacey (GBC)
Apologies: Invited Guests: Anne Milton MP, Cllr Jenny Jordan
16.01 Welcome: The GAS Chairman, Alastair Watson, welcomed members and guests to the meeting.
16.02 Meeting Chairman: Alastair Watson was proposed by Les Daubney, Seconded by David Harris and elected nem. con.
16.03 Approval of the Minutes of the 2015 Annual General Meeting: This was proposed by Les Daubney, Seconded by Jean Wickens, approved nem. con.
16.04 Matters arising from the Minutes, not otherwise on the Agenda:
Epsom Road Air Raid Shelter; further investigation showed this was not suitable for an equipment store, and a suitable store has since been purchased.
16.05 Presentation by Mr Paul Patton, “Bugs and Beasties”. Paul described a variety of bugs and beasties that may affect our allotments and gardens, and explained how prevention was better than cure. Hygiene is important, and so are beneficial bacteria; particularly nematodes. Alastair thanked Paul on behalf of GAS.
Alastair Watson wished to acknowledge the service given by Wally Young over many years running the store at Bellfields, and asked the Mayor to present him with an inscribed silver tankard in recognition of his many years of service.A request for volunteers to help Mr Young with the operation of the store was made.
16.07 Chairman’ s Report: Organisation: Alastair Watson explained that he would be retiring at the end of his current term in 2 years time, and consequently succession planning is important. We should have each of the senior roles in the society understudied so that fresh blood can take on the role in a seamless way.
We enjoy good relationships with GBC. They accept that we do a good job managing the allotments on their behalf and we keep them informed of site improvements, tenant relations, etc. GBC pays for major Capital Projects; Alastair said he wanted to put on record our appreciation of the help we get from GBC.
We have to employ outside contractors for many of our projects. They are reliable, do the jobs, and at a reasonable price.
16.08 Treasurer’s Report: Gill Simmonds presented the accounts for 2015-16. She said that there was an operating deficit of £9,393 for the year; this was planned and was due to expenditure of site improvements of £19,656. The end-year cash balance was still very healthy at £11,303 but the NAS membership fee of just over £2000 for 2016 is still unpaid (see item below) . The audited accounts are appended. The main items of note are:
- Rental income has fallen slightly, due to a small increase in those with concessions.
- Admin costs have increased by just over £1000, but this includes promotional costs of just over £900.
- Two new computers (for Secretary and Admin Officer) have been purchased, £681.93
- Machinery repairs have more than doubled to over £2000 hopefully this will not continue
- Projects £19,656 includes: Repairs to equipment store roofs, £3040; Burpham Roadway £1800; Septic Tank at Bellfields £2408; equipment stores for Larch, Lime Grove and Epsom Road; and path shoring at Lido.
- Plot clearance at Larch cost £1593. The Chairman explained that this was due to the amount of rubbish and plastic on the plot; it was necessary to hire in a mini-digger and fill 3 Hippo bags to remove it; due to the position of the plot, ignoring it wasn’t an option. Therefore vigilance over the way plots are worked is required; we all need to be eyes and ears of the society.
- Acceptance of the accounts and the appointment of Jan Spencer as our independent financial examiner for 2016-16 were proposed by Alan Osgood, seconded by Dave Turner and passed con.
The Chairman thanked Gill for her hard work in managing our finances over the past year.
16.09 Secretary’s Report: Andy Simmonds reported that the committee had met on 10 occasions during the past year, the wardens on 4 occasions and there had been 5 meetings with GBC Parks & Countryside officials. Two Newsletters have been produced.
Since taking over as Secretary in June, Andy has been surprised by the number of letters written regarding non-cultivation, and the reasons given for this. We all need to ensure that our sites are productive, and that unused plots are passed on to new tenants before the weeds and waste issues become too daunting.
16.10 Administration Report: Mike Flarry reported that there are currently 671 GAS tenants, plus about 230 Co-workers. 64 tenants have more than one plot. During the past year there were 119 new lettings and 99 terminations.
The high turnover rate results in poorer cultivation and adds to the administrative workload. There has been some success in reducing the time delay between a tenant leaving and the replacement taking over, but it is still too long resulting in loss of cultivation.The committee wishes to reduce that amount of time; how to achieve that is the problem.
The total waiting list is currently 152, 22 more than this time last year. Current waiting times vary from zero to over 2 years, depending on the site.
16.11 Committee Elections: The current term of office of Gill Simmonds has expired. The following Nominations have been received: Gill Simmonds (currently Treasurer), and Andy Simmonds (currently Secretary). There remain 5 other vacancies, with no other nominations put forward.
Bev Mussell objected to these on several grounds: Governance issues (which the committee is aware of, and the reason why Andy Simmonds has refused to be a cheque signatory); and that inadequate notice was given as she had only just read it in the agenda at this meeting; alleging that the whole business lacked openness and transparency and not complying with the constitution. Several attempts were made to explain the situation; that there was a lack of volunteers, and that the agenda was posted on the website well in advance of the meeting, which was publicised in the newsletter at the beginning of April; and that it complied with the constitution in full. However, Mrs Mussell continually interrupted these attempts, and the explanations were almost certainly not heard in full by most of those assembled. Hence we moved to the elections, with both Gill Simmonds and Andy Simmonds being elected to the committee with 4 votes against, and 16 votes in favour.
16.12 National Allotment Society Membership
˜This Society agrees that continuing membership of the National Allotment Society is in the best interests of members of the Society”
The chairman explained that in the past 10 years, over £20,000 of the Society’s money had been spent on NAS membership, and that their fees were increasing. He outlined the benefits that we receive; how some of these supposed benefits we can receive with or without membership, but that fundamentally it gave us access to specialist advice that we could not obtain readily by any other route, However, with the increase in NAS fees, it would mean that the GAS membership charge would need to increase from the current £3.50 to £4.00 in the near future; if not this coming September, then the following year.
Voting in favour of continued NAS membership would mean agreeing to the higher membership charge of £4.00 There were questions regarding the magazine; a society of our size receives 120 copies of the magazine quarterly, although their distribution seems somewhat haphazard. Members can obtain a copy through their site warden, although this may not always be as prompt as we might wish.The magazine is available to all members on-line in electronic format.
A vote was taken, 32 in favour, 1 against.Thus the motion was passed.
16.13 Chairmans Summing Up
No formal items of Other Business had been received by the deadline for such submissions.
Bev Mussell queried the lack of opportunity for AOB; that she wished to discuss the matter of two committee members who had recently been dismissed. The chairman stated that he understood that an appeal was to be lodged, and that was therefore unable to report on the issue, but that a full report would be made at the next General Meeting. Ms Mussell made several further attempts to discuss the issue, but the chairman repeated his position.
Ms Mussell commented that she believed it was linked to GAS attempts to close the northern access to the Aldershot Road site, and force all tenants to use the Woodside Road (southern) entrance.Both the Chairman and Secretary said that there was absolutely no such intent; that the position had been made quite clear in a recent statement by GBC to all Aldershot Road tenants. Ms Mussell stated that she did not understand this; and the Secretary was asked to read it out. In the statement, Westborough Allotments in GBC parlance, known to GAS members as the Aldershot Road site. The statement read:
There are ill-founded rumours circulating regarding the possible development of the car parking area adjacent to our site. These rumours have no factual basis and distort the real situation. Your committee works closely with Guildford Borough Council through Parks & Countryside to jointly protect the Society’s Tenants and Members interests. The following statement has been prepared and agreed by both GBC and GAS.
Guildford Borough Council and Guildford Allotment Society is aware of the possibility of a development site adjacent to the Aldershot Road and St Joseph’s School, backing on to Westborough Allotments. The site is understood to be currently for sale. The site has been promoted to the Local Plan for future development and is being considered as a proposed site allocation in the draft Local Plan (Site Allocation policy A19).
We can confirm that Guildford Borough Council have a right of way reserved, with or without vehicles to pass and re-pass over the land to facilitate access and egress from Westborough Allotments. The Council has a further right to park up to six motor vehicles, this right is passed to Guildford Allotment Society under the lease with them. Guildford Borough Council is already in discussion with GAS as to how we ensure that suitable access and parking remains at Westborough Allotments for Guildford Allotment Society on behalf of the tenants of the site, should the owner/developer wish to submit a planning application and develop the site. The GAS committee, as managers of all GBC allotments, have stated that they will continue to work with the council to protect the interests of tenants of Westborough Allotments whilst recognising the legitimate need to utilise brown field sites for development. GAS will keep tenants informed of significant developments and gain acceptance of changes that the committee believes are in the best interests of the society.
In addition, in the draft Local Plan, the Southern end of Westborough Allotments is being considered for allocation for use as allotments (Site Allocation Policy A21) which, if allocated, will expand the allotment site and the number of plots available. To support this, in Guildford Borough Council’s financial planning, the Council has provisionally allocated a significant capital budget to support the works required to turn the vacant land in to working allotments.
Therefore the Council is protecting the interests of the allotment holders and seeking to enhance provision on the site through working with Guildford Allotments Society.
Thus the Society is working with GBC to ensure that access at the northern gate is not only maintained, but enhanced if at all possible; its importance is fully recognised. It is not under threat.
16.14 Closing Remarks:
Alastair thanked all the members and guests for coming to the meeting, which was formally closed at 9:15 pm.