In 2015 plot inspections were carried out in May and again at the beginning of October. Unfortunately, there were some adverse comments about this happening so we thought we would let you know the reasons why these are done. There have also been some good comments too!
Plot inspections are carried out at least twice a year and are done as part of our self-management agreement with Merton Council. They are also a necessary part of ensuring that the allotments are fulfilling their role as a place to grow vegetables, fruits, flowers, be a leisure garden or a place to have bees or chickens.
If you are cultivating your plot and an adjacent plot is overgrown with weeds, sending unwanted weeds and seeds into your plot, most people wouldn’t be very happy. Plot holders in this situation will complain and wonder why nothing has been done about it. Well, this is the one of the reasons for plot inspections!
MAGA are trying to ensure that the allotments are a thriving place with all or almost all plots being cultivated in some form and being managed by the plot holders. By going around at least twice a year and looking at how people are using their plots we try and make sure that all plots are cultivated and managed.
The plot inspections are usually carried out by a minimum of 4 people, a mix of committee members and other plot holders. This ensures a balanced view of the condition of the plots when identified as needing further attention. There are over 250 plots to inspect and each inspection of these plots can take 3 to 4 hours. The results are put together on a summary spreadsheet (taking another couple of hours) for discussion at the following committee meeting. The letters issued to plots requiring work are either a ‘Tidy up’ (TU) or a ‘Notice of Non Cultivation’ (NNC) depending on the state of the plot. These range from what appear to be abandoned plots, completely overgrown, to those which have been cultivated in the past but haven’t been worked for a considerable while with weeds and grass taking over the plot. The inspectors and the committee use their judgement as to which letter to issue.
The letters sent ask if there are reasons why the plot has been left, for instance the plot holder may have been unwell or have had family problems and the committee will take this into consideration. The letters also offer the plot holder a reduction in plot size as the plot may have become too much for them to manage. This is usually in the form of halving the existing plot so the plot holder can stay with familiar surroundings and friends.
The TU letter requires the plot holder to attend to the weeds that are growing and potentially affecting neighbouring plots. The committee expect this to be done in a timely manner usually within 21 days. If nothing is done then an NNC letter may be sent.
The NNC letter requires the plot holder to show a noticeable improvement of cultivation within 21 days where the plot must be weed free, clear of rubbish and look generally well managed, where cultivation means digging the beds, removing the weeds and planting crops. These can be fruit, vegetables or flowers. Approximately 75% of your plot should be cultivated. Unfortunately if there is no sign of improvement then the plot holders’ tenancy is terminated and they are given 14 days to remove their tools etc from the plot. The plot then becomes available for new tenants to rent.
For both the TU and NNC letters the plots are re-inspected and the results documented. If the plot was completely overgrown and nothing has been done then the result is noted. If some work has been done but is not considered by the person doing the re-inspection as sufficient then other committee members are also asked to give an opinion which all gets fed back to the next committee meeting to decide the next stage. Hopefully many plots are fine and it’s good to see them being cultivated, well managed and productive.
MAGA let over 50 plots in 2015, part of which comes from freeing up plots after plot inspections, others through plots being given up or that were previously vacant. Plot viewings take time to organise, and the actual viewings when taking say a group of 4 – 5 people around can take several hours.
We hope this clarifies the reasons for plot inspections and we hope that you can see how much work goes into this part of running the allotments in Martin Way. We also have people who thank us for sending them a letter as it was just the push they needed to get going on their plot again! There’s nothing quite like being out in the sunshine working or resting on your plot.