Training Day 2013-03-16

The Day’s Program

(funded by Leeds and District Allotment Gardeners Federation and Leeds City Council)

This training is for the 97 allotment sites, self managed or city controlled, which are within the remit of the Parks and Countryside Department of Leeds City Council and is free to those attending.

As LDAGF is currently undertaking a feasibility study into future allotment management models, and as Leeds City Council is carrying out a similar review, we felt we should make this topic the main focus of the day. Time has been set aside in the afternoon for sharing of good practice but this may have to be held over until the next training day if the morning sessions need to be extended. If there is sufficient demand future training will be offered on poultry management and pest and/or disease control – in addition to those discussion topics listed below.

Venue – Sheepscar Club, Scott Hall Road, Leeds LS7 3EJ
Time – arrive & register from 8.45 (tea/coffee on arrival) prompt start at 9.30 am, close by 3.00 pm


  • 9.30 welcome, introductions, groundrules (Ian Wood)
  • 9.35 outline of feasibility study progress (Ian Wood & Joanne Clough)
  • 9.45 allotment management in 6 UK cities small group discussions
  • 10.30 feedback from groups
  • 11.15 possible ways forward in Leeds small group discussions
  • 12.00 feedback from groups12.30 Lunch break (sandwiches, tea and coffee will be provided)
  • 1.00 optional information/discussion topics – grant applications, site security, self management – best practice
  • Closing remarks & future actions (Ian Wood)
  • Close 3.00

Summary of the Day

LDAGF training day 16th March 2013 – summary of morning group discussions
The morning session was in two parts:

  1. Questioning and understanding the six city benchmarking matrix plus the
    supplementary findings about concessions, Norwich and Nuneaton.
  2.  Discussing and recording issues around future management of the 97 Parks &
    Countryside allotments in Leeds – with particular regard to the headings in part 2 below.

Part 1 – questions about the benchmarking exercise
What is the net profit or loss for city controlled (CC) sites compared to self managed (SM) sites? If there is a deficit, what is its source? Initial findings from the P&C spreadsheet seem to indicate:
Type of site Income Plot holders Costs of water, maintenance & repair
Profit or loss
Self managed £19K 3100 £13K £6K profit
City controlled £23K 700 £43k £20K loss
These figures could be unsafe as the grass & hedge cutting allocations to CC and SM sites are not yet understood. Nor do we know the site by site detail of the maintenance/repair spend nor the full detail of the “allotment office” spend. There appear to be significant and worrying anomalies in the water spend. The  spreadsheet these figures are based on may also be unsafe in classifying SM & CC sites.

Concern was expressed for those sites currently designated as non statutory. It appears from the Parks and Countryside spreadsheet that Calverley (leased in), Carlton Lane, Cross Hall (leased in), Haigh Road, Hollinhurst, Lastingham Road, Moorland Rise, Priesthorpe, Scotchman Lane (leased in), Seacroft Hall, Stanningley Road, Sunset View, Toll Bar, Unity Street, Victoria Pit (leased in), Westdale, Whitehouse Farm and Woodhouse Moor are all non-statutory sites.

Concern was also raised that if some self managed sites are not being managed in a way that involves their members and keeps them informed (and so may be breaching the terms of their constitutions) – what role would LDAGF have in future with such sites?

One group wanted to remind everyone that LDAGF and SM sites are run by volunteers.

Part 2 – future management of allotments in Leeds
Groups were asked to pay particular attention to nine issues. The “conclusion” in each section was added by IW when writing this report in an attempt to reach a consensus view.

Here are the topics with their corresponding conclusions, verbatim flipchart responses follow on:

  1. Plot rents – conclusion: limited phased increase possible once current income &
    expenditure understood.
  2. Concessionary rents – conclusion: maintain concessions but manage them more
  3. Lease length – conclusion: increase lease length to 25 years.
  4. How much should be refunded to self managed sites – conclusion: re-negotiate
    current refund & set defined benefits.
  5. Who should be responsible for site maintenance/improvement – conclusion: audit
    current & desired provision & be clear about site insurance cover.
  6. Major/costly site improvements – conclusion: all sites must have toilets. LCC &
    LDAGF to fund raise together.
  7. Timescales for any changes that might be proposed: conclusion: don’t make
    changes for 1 – 3 years and ballot all plot holders on each site.
  8. Which future legal issues need to addressed – conclusion: current levels of legal
    cover need to be clarified.
  9. LDAGF & LCC roles in any future management system – conclusion: LCC and LDAGF to work more closely in real partnership.

1. Plot rents – summary of discussions:
Rents are good value currently and need to take account of total costs (i.e. water
costs) but we can’t decide to increase/decrease until we know the full breakdown of current costs and see if can make any savings before putting rent up.

Generally in favour of increasing rents (5% pa?).

In general majority in favour of overall rent increase rather than removal of

Increased gradually, different methods of payment, weekly/monthly/quarterly.

Fees/plot rents- equal cost across city to dig plot per sq metre, however additional
fees could then be added on for facilities e.g. site has toilets, maintenance fee
dependant on site size/acreage (eg to go to fencing repairs), e.g. service fee for
upkeep, sites could add additional improvement fee – eg want to fund raise for toilet project over 2 years.

Conclusion – limited phased increase possible once current income & expenditure understood.

2. Concessionary rents – summary of discussions:
Keep high proportion of plot holders on concessions or keep relatively high to ensure people will take care of and be responsible for plots.

Maintain concessions at present percentage.

Inflation linked increases with max £50 if capped.

If concessions scrapped – partial reduction of overall rents to £35. If concessions
retained – review and reduce concessions, review which groups of plot holders are to be given concessions.

Concessions should be unlimited, however, instead of sites getting % of fees back – the governing entity gets % of total of all site fees back in order to distribute concession costs across city – inc. water costs. Could form a limited development fund.

Conclusion – maintain concessions but manage them more creatively.

3. Lease length – summary of discussions:
Extend from 7 years to avoid costs of renewal i.e. legal.

Plot holders will take better care if assured of long term leases.

Funding availability i.e. Big Lottery Fund i.e. 25 year lease.

20 plus years.

Would like to see longer lease – concern over length, present lease not acceptable
because of funding implications (eg BLF). If longer leases brought in an appropriate termination clause in wording is essential.

25 years due to external funding restrictions.

Increase to 15 to 25 years plus (benefit to all).

Must absolutely be longer – possible 25 years lease, cost implications i.e. reduces
admin costs each time lease renewed.

Conclusion – increase lease length to 25 years.

4. How much rent should be refunded to self managed sites – summary of

Rent refunded – if change proportion we want justification plus assurance of how
changes will affect each site – i.e. will LCC improve the fences to the standard we want?

Majority would be prepared to accept a negotiated rental adjustment – no change (seeprevious point).

100% to be kept by all allotment associations and defined contributions to be made by them into a communal pool for each association to access for development projects.

Percentage paid back to sites- peppercorn rents to council 100% agreement on this; transitional period with funding for – transfer budget each year and we will run it- £72,000; can be used to match fund big projects, run as a social enterprise (not for profit), will need a full time admin person – paid; increased legal/insurance costs could be incurred by sites or by LDAGF depending on management model adopted.

Conclusion – re-negotiate current refund & set defined benefits.

5. Responsibility for site maintenance and improvement – summary of

If we have a say, existing state and desired quality of maintenance/improvement audit – e.g. plastic water pipes and water taps – before any agreement is reached on who should be responsible for which parts of allotment management system.

Insurance cover for all allotmenteers if doing own site’s M&I work.

Conclusion – audit current & desired provision & be clear about site insurance cover.

6. Major/ costly improvements items – toilets? Power? Fencing? – summary of

Toilets needed on all sites – mentioned by two groups.

Lack of electrical power not detrimental issue though large benefit to some sites – e.g. lawn mower recharging, burglar alarm – definitely need and to look at solar panels.

Fencing needs improving but very expensive.

Site reclamation or maintenance – big ticket items – LCC responsibility.

Toilets – needed for H&S reasons. SM take over responsibility for fencing with reduced % payment to LCC.

National funding via central government? – who’s in better position – LCC or LDAGF?

What about a huge green spaces application – £100,000s for massive development on sites across city.

Conclusion – all sites must have toilets. LCC & LDAGF to fund raise together.

7. Timescales for any changes which might be proposed – summary of

For any change have a ballot for each member of an allotment site.

Can take at least a year for changes to be implemented, have to wait for next year’s rent allocation and then have to get agreement of plotholders to new contract.

2 to 3 years.

Conclusion – don’t make changes for 1 – 3 years and ballot all plot holders on each site.

8. Legal issues to be addressed: e.g. legal status of future arrangements, site
legal support – summary of discussions:

Want support from council, concerned if don’t have all sites involved in new system.

Could come in different ways if associations change to charities or limited company.

If associations sued – different insurance required or not?

Conclusion – current levels of legal cover need to be clarified.

9. LDAGF and Leeds City Council roles in the system – summary of discussions:

LDAGF to work closely with council in proper partnership.

Transparency on all areas especially with costs.

Potential issue – availability of LDAGF resources/ capacity and whether council wants to /has resource.

Boundaries – responsibility is LCC’s.

Allotment management should be responsibility of council – LDAGF is run by

When discussing management models the large number of CC sites presents a
stumbling block.

Temporary trial: LDAGF to run sites over set period. SM or CC to be involved in this?

If it’s not broken don’t mend it.

If LDAGF take over – fee for leasing sites instead of peppercorn.

Maintain allotment principles.

Phased take over by LDAGF – council support over few years; maint/fencing/
improvement – we can often do it cheaper and we have the skilled labour sometimes; insurance / certification implications; vandalism ; site security/ toilets/water/power;

funding for projects matched?

Conclusion – LCC and LDAGF to work more closely in real partnership.

Other issues raised in part 2 – summary of discussions:

Possibility of aggregating running of small CC sites i.e. share water/insurance costs if not viable to become SM.

Procurement of goods and services out to tender/competition, renewals/ good quality provision.

Overall question – what does the national do? – compare best practice nationally.

Issue with smallCC sites – need legal plus insurance cost support/or aggregate sites.

£72000 allowance given annually to allotments in the longer mentioned & instead we hear about cost neutral and deficit budget. i.e. we always had a ‘deficit’ budget which recently was about £72000? Now is this the future way for all the cost centres or is LCC still prepared to put in any allowance for allotments? A question for Cllr Dobson perhaps?

Pool resources – uniformity (services, insurance, day to day maintenance,

Consultation – how do we get mandate from all members?

Computerised management system – introduce one.

More technology.

Back up plans, especially smaller sites if management fails (self management) throughenhanced LDAGF role?

CC requested to become voluntary SM for one year with one SM site to mentor it.

More free training for everyone.

Number of vacant plots – potential income unused/derelict, lease arrangement – why only 7 years? access to funding/grants; has anyone ever been refused funding for having 5 years on lease? boundary issues – public/ joint who maintains; CC how do we get them on board; distribution of collected plot fees (% set back to each site or % set of all fees back to site); fees per sq mtr? like for like as not all sites have same facilities.

Conclusion – pool resources, have strategy to convert CC to SM, bring in computer system.

LDAGF Officers 22nd March 2013