Cripley Meadow Allotments Association

Healthy, productive leisure time

Site Audits

 AUDIT REMINDERS

To comply with our lease with OCC the Association must make every effort to ensure that: the allotments are used and occupied as allotment gardens only; that they are not used for trade or business except for the sale of surplus products; they are clean, free from weeds, well manured and in a good state of cultivation and fertility. Plot holders may remove any perennial crops or fruit bushes planted or purchased by them before the end of their membership provided they replace the surface soil disturbed by such removal.

Cripley Meadow requires members to cultivate at least 75% of their potential space.  This is taken to mean that it is either in readiness for growing, well stocked with produce (relevant to the time of the year) or being made ready for crops or being prepared for the following season. Some plots are being reclaimed after previous neglect and one season’s allowance is generally given for this. 

 

Cultivation and weed control

The most important thing that we look for during an audit is the degree to which each plot is cultivated and maintained. A badly maintained plot causes problems for its neighbours and to be fair to all we must make sure that each plot is being used as fully as possible. The rules and our lease specifies that members must keep their plots cultivated in a proper and husband-like manner.  Our rules state this is taken to mean that 75% is either in readiness for growing, well stocked with produce (relevant to the time of the year) or being made ready for crops or being prepared for the following season.  Some plots are being reclaimed after previous neglect and one season’s allowance is generally given for this.

Plot holders must take steps to eradicate pernicious weeds - such as bindweed, thistles, ground elder, and nettles – and ensure that they do not spread to other plots. Members must not cause a nuisance to other plot holders by allowing weeds to seed. Plot holders may grow any kind of vegetables, flowers, soft fruit or herbs. Invasive plants like bamboo are not permitted and blackberry is restricted to headland or on plots if pruned and kept 5 ft from any boundary.

 

Fruit growing

Fruit trees may be planted only with permission and on dwarf stock and managed at 10ft max if at least 5 ft from any boundaries. Fruit trees and bushes should be sited only where they will not create an obstacle or nuisance to others as they grow. If plot holders do have permission to cultivate a number of trees they must ensure that the surrounding areas are kept weed free and cut to avoid seeding. We limited fruit trees to no more than 25% of the larger plot holder’s total or 30% if they are underplanted with productive crops.

 

Plot boundaries

All plots should have a pathway between them.  A  minimum of 2 to 2.5ft is required as are managed headlands. Some of the paths got lost in clearing and fencing but they are a necessary buffer between plots and should be re-established if missing.  Traditionally each plot-holder managed the path to the left when standing on the plot shed line looking out.  (Some of these shed lines have now changed so check with the committee if you are not sure)  The main thing is that members cooperate and keep paths between them managed. The headland is the bit outside your fence and up to the mowed path. We have a 5 ft fence/ hedging limit on headlands. Adjoining fences must be kept clear of blackberry and any plants that shade more than the path width.

 

Storage, structures, safety and waste

All structures like sheds and polytunnels must have permission, be kept well maintained and not shade adjacent plots and be secured adequately.Only material for use on the plot can be stored  and no rubbish may be dumped on any part of the Association's land.  We commend recycling but plots cannot be used to store or accumulate material.  Unwanted vegetable matter must be burnt or composted on your plot and other rubbish kept in sacks and put in the skip provided from time to time or taken to Redbridge. Plot holders who have a well on their plot are responsible for the safe maintenance of it and for providing and maintaining a strong, raised well surround and cover. New wells may be dug but please notify the committee so we keep their positions logged for safety. No barbed wire or razor wire is allowed.

 

Most plots are now numbered and we have put temporary numbers on all gate posts where we could.  Please make sure you have a visible numbers on your plot, preferably on the entrance.  If there was ever an accident or someone fell ill and the emergency services had to track down a particular plot in a hurry, the numbers would make all the difference.

 

Plots are checked regularly through the year but whole site audits take place twice a year.  Dates are in the diary.  The audit committee consists of at least 5 committee members with all letters agreed by the Committee.  The committee is elected annually and all members have a chance to influence the management of the site by standing for election.  The main purpose of the audit is to comply with our lease and use the land well for growing fruit and vegetables.  Membership is annual and conditional on keeping the rules. The holder of a plot which is falling below an acceptable standard is sent a reminder letter. Reminders are intended to be just that: a friendly reminder or query to see if there is a temporary problem.  The purpose is to alert members to problems and ask for them to be rectified.  Warning letters are sent when reminders are not heeded and less time is given during the growing season. Members with 3 audit letters risk losing their plot.


No one likes to receive a letter.  It is quite common to feel angry if you reach a level 3!  Often this is because time flies and a problem has bounced from one year to another.  Also there has to be some standardisataion to make the  process manageable. We aim to be fair in applying the rules to all. If you are having problems maintaining your plot please let the committee know as soon as possible so that we can help you out if possible. Allotments are a limited resource and it is not fair to members waiting for bigger spaces or potential members wanting a plot when they can see plots that are not used in accordance with our rules. This can be more difficult where members have more than one plot!

We now have so many members  that the letters are standardised with some variation. We understand these can never tell the whole story but we trust members will appreciate the importance of communal responsibility to ensure the sustainability and cultivation of the site.  Please talk to us and we have found that, in all but very exceptional circumstances,  we can find a way forward

The Field Secretaries are responsible for regular checks of the site and reports problems to the committee. The audit committee manages the audit and has at least 5 committee members who report to the executive committee. 

2014 We carried out the two annual audits slightly later than usual in 2013, to take account of the slow start to the growing year after the coldest March in decades. The vast majority of letters we send out raise only minor points or nothing at all, and that's what we're aiming for. These are things like asking people to put visible numbers on their plots, and making sure that boundaries and paths are kept clear. This year we did have a slightly higher number of letters raising the more serious sort of concerns - 11 in July and 9 in November - but that's only 20 out of more than 320 letters that were sent out this year.

 

Do look out for the letters, which go to the email address we have on record for you (or by post if we don't have an email). They do contain important information, and it would be nice not to have to send out quite so many repeated reminders about numbers for example! In particular though we sometimes pick up serious safety concerns, like wells that aren't covered properly or dangerous structures. These need to be acted on immediately.

 

Finally, in almost every case where we wrote to members whose plots seemed as they weren't being looked after it turned out that either the member was about to give up and hadn't told us yet, or there was a issue that had prevented them working. In cases like these it's really important to get in touch with the Committee and let us know as soon as you can. If you're moving away, we can let the plot to someone else before it gets covered in weeds. If you're ill or looking after a relative, we can arrange help with short-term maintenance to stop your plot getting out of control before you can work it again. Early communication can make all the difference between returning to a bare but cultivatable plot, or to a jungle. Your plot neighbours will definitely prefer the former, and so will you!

 

2013 We carried out the two annual audits slightly later than usual in 2013, to take account of the slow start to the growing year after the coldest March in decades. The vast majority of letters we send out raise only minor points or nothing at all, and that's what we're aiming for. These are things like asking people to put visible numbers on their plots and making sure that boundaries and paths on communal plots are kept clear. This year we did have a slightly higher number of letters raising the more serious sort of concerns - 11 in July and 9 in November - but that's only 20 out of more than 320 letters that were sent out this year.

Do look out for the letters, which go to the email address we have on record for you (or by post if we don't have an email or they are final notices). They do contain important information, and it would be nice not to have to send out quite so many repeated reminders about numbers for example! In particular though we sometimes pick up serious safety concerns, like wells that aren't covered properly or dangerous structures. These need to be acted on immediately.

Finally, in almost every case where we wrote to members whose plots seemed as they weren't being looked after it turned out that either the member was about to give up and hadn't told us yet, or there was a temporary  issue that had prevented them working. In cases like these it's really important to get in touch with the Committee and let us know as soon as you can. If you're moving away, we can let the plot to someone else before it gets covered in weeds. If you're ill or looking after a relative, we can try to arrange help with short-term maintenance to stop your plot getting out of control before you can work it again. Early communication can make all the difference between returning to a bare but cultivatable plot, or to a jungle. Your plot neighbours will definitely prefer the former, and so will you! 

2012 We had 2 members who expressed dissatisfaction as a result of the audit but many more explanations, thanks and renewed activity on plots as a result of the June letters.  It is a relief that more members understand  the audit and recognise it's benefits for members and for the protection and sustainability of the site. We have noted that when members finally do give up, often after a long history of not being able to cope we are often thanked for relieving them of the guilt! Auditing is a difficult job which we try to do with sensitivity.  

 

2011 report 10 plots with long term ongoing concerns.  Reminders were : 9 with wells that needed to be made safe/4 tree reminders/9 number reminders/6 members needing support/2 building /rubbish reminders/10 path reminders/13 headland reminders/ 10 adjacent boundaries This year more members responded with thanks and plans of what and when they were going to address th eissue. This makes it much easier to manage the site fairly and resolve problems before they become serious or dangerous. 

 

2010 report May report showed isues with 24 -cultivation ,19 -Headlands,47 -missing numbers,15 -missing or path maintenance problems/6 other issues including sheds/rubbish/bamboo/willow posts. The number and paths issues should be readily resolved and of the 30 plots with issues many just needed more regular attention to unkempt areas or continued/greater cultivation.  Serious issues were focussed on a very few plots which were a nusiance neighbours and/or  persistently not managing to comply with our rules.  All members got a letter and the vast majority were congratulated on the now splendid variety of frut, flowers and vegetables which were a deligh to see.