I did something for the first time this week, I went to a meeting of my allotment association. It wasn't just any old meeting though. It was an EGM to discuss accepting the terms of new leases for both allotment sites in the town where I live and to also vote on the association changing its constitution so we could self manage the sites.
It's been a long process to get this far; over four years in fact. The other site in the town is relatively straightforward, although it still took numerous draft leases before the association committee received one that they felt was good enough to accept the terms of.
My site however is a different kettle of fish.
Apparently my site has been an allotment site for over 100 years yet despite this it hasn't been designated what is known as 'statutory allotment land'. When a site is designated as such, it has additional protection under the Allotments Act of 1925. Section 8 of the act states that local authorities cannot dispose of allotment land without the Secretary of State's consent.
And why hasn't my site been designated as statutory allotment land? Because the actual land is owned by the county council. County councils cannot be allotment authorities so they can't lease it directly to us. Only district or local authorities can be allotment authorities. And so the county council lease the land to the district council who then rent the plots to the tenants of each plot.
A simple solution would be for the county council to sell the land to the district council so we could then become a statutory site. But they refuse to do this.
Currently, when our tenancy agreements are up for renewal on 1 April each year, the district council could just say they won't be renewing them i.e. we have no protection at all. The new 25 year lease will give us 12 months notice that they wish to evict us and while this is far from ideal, it is more protection from what we have now. So that is why I voted to accept the new leases.
The extra complication and perhaps why it was better to accept a slightly more protected position, is the councils are currently still in discussion about the local plan for the town. Supposedly they need to build nearly 3,500 homes in my little market town which has a current population of around 10,000 people. And guess what? My site, which is bordered by farmland on two sides and roads on the others (one an A road) is one of the areas that will possibly be allocated for development.....so everything may all change in 18 months time.
Self management will hopefully put us in a stronger position should we have a fight on our hands, as well as bring our extortionate rents down in a few years time.
I guess only time will tell.