SPAA AGM 2023 Minutes

Swallowfield Parish Allotment Association AGM
Thursday 13th July at 8pm – Rose Room, Swallowfield Parish Hall


Attendees: Nick Kolpin, Amy Kolpin, Sue Dormer, Ian Swan, Brian Carter, Duncan Hamilton, Harminder Kandohlar, Linda, Reg Granados, Bev & Neil Marshall Smith, Jane Henderson, Tina Edmond, Liz Imrie

The meeting started at 8.05pm

1. Apologies – Claire Hamilton, Bill Dormer, Lucinda Bassett, Jane Scuffle, Alison Shorto, Caroline Fletcher, John Poole, Helen Coulter

2. The Minutes from the meeting held on Thursday 21st July 2022 were unanimously agreed and there were no matters arising.

3. Chair’s Report – Nick Kolpin

This spring I moved from Riseley to Woodcote. As such not only am I stepping down from the committee, but Amy and I are also giving up our plot. We’re glad that for five years we’vehad our plot, which we mostly turned into a tomato farm.

At the AGM, a number of long-standing committee members are standing down. I’d like to thank them all for their efforts over the years. In particular I’d like to thank Ian and Claire. Ian has been on the committee both as a chair and member for eight years. Claire has been the secretary for five years, putting in much more effort than any other committee member or plot-holder. Claire really has really been doing the heavy lifting of keeping SPAA running for almost half of its existence. (A rose bush was presented to Duncan to pass on to Claire to thank her for all her hard work).

The flooding on site at the beginning of the year was the worst anyone has experienced. It is hard to know what can be done to improve the situation, as the whole area was flooded.

However the committee has been working with our neighbours to improve drainage from the site. Given the trend for warmer summers and wetter winters, this may become an increasingly frequent problem that SPAA will have to deal with.

We held our annual open day (a condition of our lease of the site) to raise project funds and advertise ourselves to potential new plot-holders. I’d like to thank the small group who helped organise and run the event. We managed to raise a decent amount of money, with a good turnout despite the poor weather. It was disappointing that other than the volunteers, no other plot-holders attended.

This year has been a difficult one for the committee. Over the last few years we’ve seen an increase in plot-holder apathy. Over the years we’ve run working parties to maintain the site.

However, we have found that only a small number of plot-holders contribute to this effort. I am very grateful to the small group who have regularly helped. However, it has never been sufficient effort to keep the site maintained to a good level, with a number of issues slowly becoming more difficult to fix.

SPAA was set up by a keen group of allotmenteers to be a low-cost allotment where all plot-holders worked to maintain the site as a whole. Unfortunately, this model does not seem to be sustainable. A small minority of the plot-holders contribute to the site maintenance, the majority do not contribute at all. I would urge the incoming committee to seriously consider whether some or all plot-holders should instead be paying a much higher price to cover the cost of having the site professionally maintained.

Since the start of the pandemic we’ve mostly put off any site projects, but have been steadily raising project funds. I hope that the new committee will include some members who are enthusiastic to use these funds to improve the site. Previously funds have been spent to install the polytunnel and to purchase the generator. In the near future some funds may be needed to replace or improve the sheds area, and potentially to mitigate flooding risks.

This is a risky time for SPAA, with a number of experienced committee members in key roles stepping down. Our constitution requires that some members perform specific roles, and that we have a minimum committee size. I hope at the AGM that we’ll be able to elect sufficient volunteers for these roles, so that SPAA can continue to operate. The committee agreed to slim down the secretary role and have more committee members share out the wide range of tasks that Claire performed.

I hope SPAA as a whole can continue to exist for many more years, but it will take some effort from more plot-holders. I look forward to returning as a guest for open days in the future.

Nick was thanked for his time as Chair – and Amy was also thanked for her support of SPAA.

4. Financial Report – Treasurer, Harminda Kandohla

Harminder presented the SPAA Accounts, which are attached in a separate document. She drew the meetings attention to a few specific issues:

  • Payments have come from 24 full and 4 half plots
  • Following damage by a lorry to our water meter last year, our water bills have been nominal sums. The water company has repeatedly said they will fix the meter but has not yet done so. At some point, when this is fixed, the bills are likely to go up again.
  • There have been some small increases in insurance and the ground maintenance contract
  • The committee isn’t satisfied with the work of the ground maintenance contractor and recommends that the new committee sources a new supplier
  • Other maintenance costs have included roofing felt for the sheds, tape for the polytunnel, wheelbarrow wheels etc
  • Equipment has included a roller. Reg offered to give SPAA a heavy metal roller
  • SPAA currently has a healthy bank account with funds available for new projects
  • Harminder & Claire were thanked for sorting out the new bank accounts when the old accounts were closed because the charges were rising too high. SPAA can now make BACS payments

5. Future of the Allotments – Discussion

The discussion fell into two categories:

a) Participation of more plotters in running SPAA

Nick highlighted the issues as  the committee saw them. When SPAA was set up, volunteers did all of the work running the allotment and everyone joined in to help. Today, almost no-one except the committee joins working groups and the Open Morning was run by the committee and a small group of volunteers. There are many plotters who do nothing all year. Do we need to change the level of membership fee to significantly increase it for those who don’t contribute in any way or do we need to pay more to a professional contractor? Several members commented that they felt strongly that plotters who didn’t help out should be thrown off the allotment. Several ideas were suggested such as changing the terms of the plotter’s licence such that if they didn’t turn up to THREE working groups in a year and contribute actively in the Open Morning (anything from helping out on the day to making cakes) then their licences should not be renewed in September. It was described as grossly unfair to those that put in the effort – non-contributing members were free-riders! It was noted that there were many jobs to be done that were heavy physical jobs, but that there were plenty of other tasks that were much lighter, such as making cake for working groups, making the tea/coffee or trimming brambles with secateurs.

It was agreed that a new community spirit needs to be built up following the difficulties of the pandemic. The new committee should look at ways to get ALL plotters involved. These included

  • producing lists of tasks needing to be done and allocating them to plotters so they can be done at any time, not just at working groups
  • changing the licence for plotters so that they sign up to help or cannot renew licence
  • two possible levels of fees
  • changes to new applications to become plotters so that they know their responsibilities
  • address ways to enforce licence if plotters break their agreement

It was agreed that if changes are to be made to the constitution, then an EGM may be required.

b) New projects

Plotters were asked to make suggestions for new projects

  • hiring a sit-on lawn mower (may be issues with insurance and willing and qualified drivers)
  • regular mower servicing
  • sheds – not water-tight and may need serious repairs or replacing soon
  • compostable toilet
  • water butt – needs to be connected to gather water
  • heavy duty cables to extend area that could be used by the generator & train more people to use generator
  • cordless hedge trimmer (corded probably has a longer life)
  • more tools for working groups
  • polytunnel shading
  • professional assessment of infestation of horse tail

6. Questions from Members

Bev asked why renewals of licences had been moved from April to September. The response was that September fitted in better with the planting and harvesting seasons. Also, there were often renewal issues which took a while to resolve.

7. Election of Committee

The new committee were elected as follows:

ChairJane HendersonProposed by Ian Swan, seconded by Liz Imrie
(meetings & minutes)
LindaProposed by Ian Swan, seconded by Nick Koplin
TreasurerHarminda Kandohla
Site ManagerJohn Poole
OthersLiz Imrie
Lucinda Bassett
Jane Scuffle
Alison Fletcher

8. AOB

Prizes were awarded to:

Best plot          Reg Granados 

Prettiest plot   Lucinda Bassett

Newcomer      Linda

Congratulations were given to all three plotters.

  • Harminder reminded everyone that the Swallowfield Show was coming up soon and that entry forms were now available – please enter!
  • Liz asked about taking a stall but at £100 a day it was considered too expensive
  • Liz said she had the polytunnel tape and was ready to mend it – Saturday 22nd July pencilled in for this

The new committee are to discuss their first meeting date and various hand-over meetings will be arranged asap.

The meeting closed at 9.40pm