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Cambridge Central Council of Allotment Societies Activities 2000

This has been a very busy year. As well as the usual trading, administrative and consultative activities, we faced two extra major challenges:

The threat to plots at the Elfleda Road site

Implementation of Cambridge Allotments 2000 promotional campaign

 Our AGM in January saw most officers re-elected. An exception is Chairman which post is now rotated amongst the societies.

Quarterly meetings have been held with meeting dates are set well in advance. Each has been preceded, a week in advance, by a postal mailshot containing agendas and information about some of the issues up for discussion.  Each meeting has been followed up with draft minutes in the next mailshot along with NSALG newsletters as available and further news items, such as the recent consultative papers from the LGA. Meetings have generally been well attended although two societies are irregular attendees - the secretaries have tried to stay in touch by telephone in these cases. A pleasing development is interest from several plot holders at Council-run sites. These constitute 10% of the City's allotments yet have no plot-holder organisation.

Our promotion campaign - funded by a 5000 grant from Cambridge City Council's LA21 fund - has heightened awareness of allotments. The main tools were: leafleting; constant activity on the Internet; a competition, and a total of 21 publicity stalls during the year

The highest profile stall was at Strawberry Fair, Cambridge's major summer event. We used display boards (purchased using our grant) to promote allotment gardening and distribute information about organic growing. We co-operated over this with the local Organic Gardeners group, affiliated to the HDRA.  The other stalls were held at Cambridge's Farmers Market, where a display board, local and national leaflets, magazines and booklets, and sales of fresh, surplus allotment produce have kept allotments at a much higher profile than for many years. The stall generates a steady trickle of plot enquiries.

Our website generates an ever-increasing number of enquiries. These comprise:

  Individual plot enquiries (always followed up)

  Requests for gardening advice (sometimes followed up)

  Requests for information/guidance from other allotment groups in the UK

The last of these often includes questions which the NSALG is better qualified to answer and these are referred to the national office. Sometimes one gets the impression that groups are unaware of the NSALG until we provide the details. A new association has been formed at Duxford (have they affiliated yet?) and we hope that our networking will eventually assist the formation of new affiliated associations at the following Cambridge sites: Grantchester and Empty Common

It is worth emphasising that the growth of the Internet is revolutionising the way we can communicate about our hobby. It empowers individuals with only a little spare time to share news and ideas with great convenience, speed and accuracy. This carries the parallel danger of creating a gulf between those who use the Internet and those who don't. We have tried to bridge this, but frankly with little success.

The Cambridge Allotments News (distributed by email) has now reached issue #66 and the subscriber list has grown to 205.  These include plot holders, local council officers and councillors, and other interested people including allotment societies further afield. The newsletter is an effective way of reaching allotment holders, for example an offer of Vegetable Jotter booklets, free to local plot holders, was taken up by 12 of 205 subscribers (6%), who received their copy by post in December. The offer credited the NSALG for supplying these free of charge.

We ran a citywide Best Allotment Competition, also part of Cambridge Allotments 2000. 21 entrants shared 600 in prizes as well as free seed. Judges from Gardeners' World, the Wildlife Trust, Unwins of Histon and Cambridge Sustainable City all gave their services for freely and substantial coverage was obtained in the local press. A report has been sent to the editor of the NSALG journal.

The threat to 19 plots at the Elfleda Road site came to a head on January 12th when the City Council's planning sub-committee debated Cambridge United FC's application. It had always looked as though there would be a majority for the application, as the ruling Labour group had supported it. However representations to Councillors continued up to the day and our campaigning paid off (see 1999 report for details) when the committee decided to defer the decision, to allow more time for the parties to explore compromise.

This had the effect of ensuring that CUFC respected allotment holders' viewpoint, and led to a reduction of 25% in the allotment land claimed for the new stadium. We continued to argue that no allotment land should be lost. Land to the west of the current site (approx. 8 plots worth) was offered as partial replacement. This land is waterlogged and unsuitable for cultivation. CUFC offered funding for installation of drainage to correct this. Offers of further substantial funding for site improvements, free advertising in programmes, a new site noticeboard, and a free meeting room, were added. Regrettably a small number of plot holders would still have to be relocated. Whitehill felt, given that the drainage work should also improve drainage on approx. 7 existing plots which are disused, this finally constituted a reasonable settlement leading to no overall loss in usable allotments, and real improvements for the site.  These have been designed between the City Council and Whitehill AS. Both the CCCAS joint secretaries had both worked hard to help Whitehill AS maintain a strong negotiating position throughout, which lead to a result frankly better than any of us had dared to hope for.

 Other issues dealt with include:

  Ongoing  consultation with City Council over site improvements costing 215000

  Generating positive publicity about allotments using local radio and newspapers

  Attended quarterly 'Allotment Forum' liaison meetings with City Council officers and councillors

  Attended quarterly meetings of City Bio-diversity Group, maintaining contact with other environmental groups, especially in relation to habitat conservation and improvement 

  Rejuvenated proposal for funded post 'Allotment Support Officer' and helped City Council to draft a job specification (attached; now awaiting news of funding applications).

  Trading activity co-ordinated by trading officers (Tony Chapman, Whitehill AS, & Alan Day, New Chesterton AS). This includes promotion of the seed scheme to all societies in Cambridge

  Additional effort to promote the seed scheme and shop opening times to individual plot-holders, at non-society sites, with a few takers.

  Designed and placed an Autumn 'plots to let' advertisement in local press, funded using market stall takings,

  Continued project linking with a Malian market gardener community, including sharing of seed donated by Unwins between local plot holders and African growers.

  Obtained funding for, and implemented with Romsey AS, a "Year of the Artist" project leading to natural sculpture installation and Open Day at Fairfax Road site, attracting 100 new visitors and much fun for plot holders

  Received visit from Richard Wiltshire and Profs. Crouch and Azuma       

Dave Fox/Paul Jones 28/12/00

Latest update 01/02/01