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Draft Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Westborough Allotments Self Help Association (WASHA) at St Mary's Church Hall, Aldershot Road, Guildford on Saturday 20th October 2018.

Chairman's welcome: Keith welcomed everyone mentioning  Anne Milton MP for Guildford, Julia McShane, Bob McShee, Pauline Searle and Liz Hooper (Guildford Borough Councillors), Fiona White (Surrey County Councillor). Also present: Keith Lawrence (Chairman), Bev Mussell (Secretary), David Bird (Treasurer), Noreen Moynihan, Mary Lawrence, Maggie Knight (Committee), Colin Barette, Peter Clarke, David Garrod, Christine Giordmaina, Lyn Mussell, David and Linda Rutterford, Helen Ward.

Apologies for absence:  Sheila Kirkland and Keith Witham (Councillors), Siobhan Sagar, Keith Stainer, Mike Smith, Sue Pollard, Tracey Geaves.

Approval of Draft Minutes of 2017 AGM. Copies were on table for reading in reading time prior to meeting. They had been sent to all present soon after the 2017 meeting. Corrections reported were made and amended minutes sent off for final correction. David Garrod moved that these be approved; seconded by David Bird.  Carried.

Election of Officers and Committee. Keith said that the present Committee consists of:

Keith Lawrence (Chairman), Bev Mussell (Secretary), David Bird (Treasurer), Noreen Moynihan, Maggie Knight, Mary Lawrence, Siobhan Sagar, Tracey Geaves.

Siobhan is stepping down.  Keith asked if there was any one keen to join as he could take nominations from the floor.  None.  He said that Helen Ward had been asked to join the Committee and agreed to this.  She was nominated by Mary and seconded by Christine. Approved.

Treasurer's Report:  David reported that income for the year had been £272.09 coming from school donation, honey sales and seed scheme.  Expenses had been £271.48 being payment for two years insurance, spares for WASHA machinery and donation to WBDRA.  Our bank balance remains much as it was last year at £1264.30.

Approval of Accounts Colin moved that these be approved.  Seconded by Helen.  Approved by those present.

Local Plan update: Bob McShee said that the final stage of the Local Plan was an invitation by the Inspector asking for submissions which could cause him to re-open his examination and make amendments.

We need to do this by noon Tuesday 23rd October.

 He said that the nearest concern for local residents is the access road from Blackwell Farm to the Hogs Back.  This will be going through an Area of Natural Beauty (ANB).  No one knows what the proposals are for the A3 and this should be looked at together.( If you are commenting on this quote MM37)

Colin asked why this inspector had insisted that Guildford take up Woking’s housing provision shortfall.  He said it was totally wrong.  He asked Anne if it was possible to over-rule this.  Anne said it could possibly be over-ruled by the Secretary of State. .( If you are commenting on this quote MM2)

These points were made.  The Office of National Statistics had revised the housing need figure for Guildford down, so why was GBC still insisting on the higher figure? .( If you are commenting on this quote MM2)

The higher figure for housing need exacerbates Guildford’s problems of congested roads and exhaust pollution.

If the need is not there, it is pointless to give out planning permission for development especially when it means green belt land is lost.

GBC had agreed to pay for Thames Water to move to a bigger site.  Is this correct use of taxpayers’ money?  If it means SARP (Slyfield Area Regeneration Plan) will go ahead soon – as in at least 1,000 houses built – then Bellfields Allotment site will be closed. This could affect our site as many local residents who have plots on Bellfields may need to be relocated.

Guildford Residents Associations leaflets recommending participation in the submissions to the inspector were available and information can be accessed on their website.

Chairman's Report: Keith said that lack of investment in site resulted in tenants and wardens being exposed to unnecessary risk.

He said that site security was a major issue.  There had been constant intrusions and thefts from plots along the upper perimeter in the early part of the year.  GAS/GBC had made an inspection and possibly a repair but this was useless.  Lately there has been an intruder jumping over the Broadacres gate and the lower main gate and using the site as a shortcut to the shops.  When asked not to do this, the intruder threatened to continue and also to do damage because he had been challenged.  This damage mainly consisted in leaving taps on full and yanking one tap completely off its upright feeder pipe.   Keith repaired the pipe but the water is now turned off.  This had all been reported at length to the police.  No one is quite sure what, if any, action has been taken except that a community policeman had been seen in the lower car park.  He told Keith he was keeping an eye out for the intruder. Bev has an incident report number for criminal damage.

What can be done?

GBC/GAS has a duty of care to fence the upper of perimeter and to alter or change the present gates so that they cannot be easily climbed over. Tenants should complain to both.
Bev to put notices on all gates with the incident number (45180106948 PC Kenny 3518) for tenants to quote when reporting further intrusions to Surrey Police and the phone number of local policeman John Fidler.
Keith to ask that GAS/GBC fix “Private Property. Trespasses will be Prosecuted” notices to all three of the site’s gates.
Everyone (especially women) be very wary of strangers on site.

Keith said that he had great difficulty being the only warden on a site of this size. He was often on site but had other commitments.  If he asked Bev to cover, then the people who were largely responsible for her removal as his joint warden, complained to GAS that she was still acting as warden and he got snotty reprimands from the previous GAS Committee.  If machinery was not available just when some tenants wanted it – as in when he was just about to go home – they then complained to GAS and he got yet more reprimands.  The previous GAS Committee lacked objectivity. To them everything was the warden’s fault, yet they did nothing to help.    At one point he had four broken down mowers in the container and requests for one of the new ones fell on deaf ears.  In the end he packed all four into Bev’s car and took them to the GAS machinery depot at Larch.  This did at least get the site a new mower and two “fixed” old ones.  It was also very discouraging that none of the complainants came forward to help him.  Others who considered helping, decided against, quoting what had been done to Bev as the big obstacle.    

Bev said that she and Keith had been joint wardens for 5 years and used a division of labour that worked well.  Keith did the major jobs such as mowing, fixing machines and ploughing.   The ride-on mower did not charge its battery and a new alternator was no longer available for such an old machine.  As she wouldn’t drive her own car if the battery wasn’t being charged, she regarded it as foolhardy to get on the mower.   To her this was a prime example of lack of investment in site which put wardens at risk.  Nor could she fix machines or use the big plough.  She could not do any of these essential jobs but she was on site most fine days for long periods so she could do all the simpler jobs – put the machines out for use, buy the petrol, make up the strimmer mix, refill the strimmer cord, refuel the machines, show tenants how to use the machines, keep the H&S records updated, watch for misuse of machines.  She also removed rubbish from plots about to be re-let and took this to the dump.  She then strimmed them and if weather allowed, Keith ploughed them.  This gave newcomers a fair start.  They need this because the soil is difficult to work.

Her expulsion from GAS membership meant that she could no longer be a warden.  The nature of the expulsion was extremely unpleasant and she had taken legal action to protect herself.  However the deterioration in the condition of the site has been marked.  Not only do we have only one warden but the previous GAS Committee seemed to be in some form of paralysis.  Keith has responsibility for day to day site management but his reports of non cultivation went unheeded.  At present we have an unprecedented 12 plots seriously overgrown.  By law, unless a tenant is evicted and the plot declared vacant by GAS, wardens or other tenants cannot go onto it.  Plots have gone all year and in some cases for longer, completely untended.  Whoever comes on to them now has a major task to restore them to order - let alone productivity. 

The question which has to be addressed, as far as WASHA is concerned, is this.  Is the site being deliberately blighted?  Again?  In January 2016 Anne Milton announced in the Surrey Advertiser that a bid for £200,000 had been made for improvements and enlargement to the AR site.   Did someone in GBC think, “Oh no it’s not.  We still want that land for development.”?   Not only did this expenditure not happen but we then descended into a period of great difficulty both for wardens and tenants.   That’s the question for politicians present this morning.  The Local Plan says our whole site is needed for allotments.  So what’s going on?

The general agreement amongst councillors present was that there was no blighting intended.  Keith said that there was a glimmer of hope in that the new Acting Chairman of GAS was Philippa Wright from AR site.  However her idea of let bygones be bygones is not likely to change the situation.  Julia McShane offered to act as mediators between WASHA officers and GBC/GAS so that a way forward could be found.  This offer was accepted with thanks.

Secretary's Report

  • School Plot: Bev said that the school plot had won a gold award in Guildford in Bloom.  It had been a difficult year as three regular mentors couldn’t help, leaving just four grandmothers.  However we have new offers of help for next year and some of our regulars may return.  The school plot is meant to be a model plot.  Much money and investment of tenants’ time have gone into it.  Its main purpose is to let all parents and grandparents know that there is an allotment site on the hill. It’s amazing how it goes unnoticed.  We get quite a few of our tenants from the publicity generated by the school plot. Pauline said she would like to record the thanks of the staff and governing board of St Josephs
  • WASHA Facebook page: Siobhan has left the site which meant a falling off in the amount of material being published on the WASHA Facebook.  Tracey is filling this gap.  Helen is a regular user and Siobhan will still contribute.  Bev asked that tenants remember to take photos and use the page.  Julia said that she enjoyed reading the information it contained and thought it was a good way to publicise the site.

Any Other Business:  This suggestion was made.  Could we have a WASHA Whatsap?  Keith will investigate possibilities and practicalities.

Colin asked what would be done about the thefts - mainly of produce – on site.

Keith said that unless he had proof he could take no action.  Colin said that one particular culprit (a tenant) had been seen.  Keith asked that phones be used to take photos.

Closure: Keith thanked everyone for coming.  He also thanked those who provided refreshments.

Matters arising from 2017 AGM minutes: (These were not discussed in the meeting but were screened)

Establishment of the AR wardens’ email – there are only 23 tenants listed on the wardens’ email.  Compliant with GDPR.
Emergency drill with De-fib has not been arranged.  No way of getting notice to all tenants.

De-fib to be made visible and easily accessible.  Done. Now boxed and firmly secured to cement shed.  Registered with Web Nos.  On making the 999 call, tenants will be given the code to open box.

Community Plot help appeal.  Helen Ward has taken over the management of the CP.  Keith Stainer helps with essential maintenance and all is well.  Thanks to both.


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