Monday, 31 March 2008

WHAT ARE WE SECURING?

(I must apologise to any readers for returning to this topic and I promise to not mention allotment fences until next month.) The picture above shows the St Peters Footpath end of Dane Valley Allotments with green, 6'security fencing adorned with grafitti but what is most interesting is what is behind the fence. I leave you to admire a Thanet Allotment. If you believe the tales that nice hedges will soon screen ugly galvanised fencing, ask yourself if this fence has been screened despite being in place for a number of years?

The whining of allotment holders continues along with the growing rumble of discontent about unsuitable fencing blighting Thanet's 'townscape' that the rest of us have got to live with for years to come. There has barely been a week since late December that 'Allotment Fences' has not been in our IOTG.

This week saw yet another bleat from Mrs P Hitch of The Ramsgate and District Leisure Society about the need for security and the fact that 2.4m galvanised steel fencing will be screened. Everyone accepts the need for security but there has to be a sensible approach to the whole matter and at the moment 'commonsense' is missing.

Cllr Hart and Mr Went appear to have achieved some positive steps with the fencing you see here being used up the path to Drapers Mill instead of 2.4m galvanised steel and the fence will be set back to allow for hedge planting. What may seem odd, is why should it take involvement of Mr Went and his ward councillor who describes negotiation with TDC as 'heated' to achieve these minor concessions.?

I loved the way, the Allotment Act 1908 was used in Mrs Hitch's letter as some form of justification for what is going on. We can all quote Allotment Acts:
Allotment Act 1908, 1922, 1925, and 1950. However the most relevant Westminster guidance on allotments was the Fifth Report of the Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affair of 1998. It recommended best practice in allotment management as:
1. Designation of a Council Allotments Officer.
2. Providing water and toilets.
3. Preventing vandalism and theft by improved security fencing, locks on gates, hedges, Plot Watch schemes and involvement of the local community and schools etc. a small extract:

"Specifically, a local authority should have in place a designated allotments officer; should seek to provide water and appropriate fencing at all allotment sites; and should have a basic programme for encouraging demand for allotments including simple advertising of vacant plots in the local media and an information board at each site displaying whether plots are available along with details of whom to contact."

The Biggles view is that TDC has over the years neglected its allotments and allotment holders; failed to implement most of the 'good practice' that marks out many other local authorities and having 'sold' a site for development has rapidly 'bought-off' opposition by stating it would spend a great deal of money providing improved security at all the other allotments. It then rushed the process along without careful consideration of each individual site and its needs, waiving planning regs in the process and not involving the local community in the process BEFORE drawing up a detailed PLAN for each allotment. The letters in the press about Culmers indicated that no real plan was drawn up and the fact that 'concessions' have now been accepted at Dane Valley would indicate no careful planning.

Is this process to continue around the Isle or will TDC pause for breath and have a re-think? We are all reading about the 'fiasco' at Heathrow with some amazement; we have our own ' can't organise a p**s up in a brewery' incompetence story running in Thanet over this fencing business.

The photograph below shows another allotment at Dane Valley. The 1998 Select Committe report stated that Local Authorities should clear unused plots and rotivate them prior to a new 'holder' taking over the plot and advertise and encourage up-take. Without a radical re-think on effective Allotment management, TDC will just have galvanised steel fencing around derelict ground, sorry I mean allotment plots, like this.


19 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's obvious from comments made by the Culmer's Association that there was no consultation or plans shown. The fencing was erected after discussions between the Town Clerk, Paul Verrall the parks supremo and the contractors. No consideration was given to the lie of the land, the general aesthetics or what might be the most appropriate type of fencing. There are a number of abandoned plots there in addition to a hideous ship's container, used perhaps for storage. Let's not overlook the fact this fencing has been paid for by the tax payer and that Culmer's, unlike Dane Valley, is a private allotment site owned by the CT10 Charity and leased to the town council. It is not a TDC site. It would be interesting to get hold of a police report and find out just how many cases of vandalism there have been on this site. On my own site, also owned by the same charity, vandalism is minor and petty stuff done by kids. Pinching stwaberries and the like.Hardly major crime.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, strawberries.

Anonymous said...

Vandalism is major, speak to allotment owners. Vandals are dangerous criminals just starting out on a life of crime where there is no punishment. Its best to stop them not to moan about them-PUT THE FENCE UP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
TDC should clear and bring up to requirements all the allotments at present lying dormant. People will not take them on as they are

bertie biggles said...

Allotment holder 12.37 highlights the lack of thought about this fencing business,14.25 whilst you as a fellow allotment holder, can only think about your basic security to the exclusion of all else. Your allotment is part of the Community's 'Townscape' and does the rest of the community not have a valid right to not have our pleasent Isle turned into an industrialised security park? It is no wonder that others lose sympathy with allotment holders when some of you seem so blinkered.

Anonymous said...

Bertie are you in a world of your own. How do you stop vandals. On Saturday evening more vandalism was carried out due to the fencing being delayed. The shed owned by the handcapped was trashed or does that also not matter. We all pay rates in the area and all demand security from the police. If the police have to keep being called to our allotments(I have called them many times) they could be elsewhere. Yes allotment vandalism is a petty crime but very soon somebody is going to get seriously hurt by one of the vandals.
Please do not bleat on about the fencing unless you have a more valid way to stop the vandals.
Yes the galvanised fencing does not look great, it should have been green-but it can be painted.
Spend more time getting the allotments cleared. With better security and them being cleared for use, more families &pensioners would be able to use them.

Anonymous said...

There's fencing and fencing. Why a 2.4 metre high fence? Why not something similar to what is round school perimeters? No consultation took place with the allotment holders as to what would be most suitable. Anyway, a fence is only any use if the gates are kept locked. I've walked by Culmer's and seen the gate by the footpath left unlocked. On my own allotment there is someone who leaves the gate open when he leaves despite reminders to secure the site. Oh and let's not forget no planning permssion was sought so the public didn't have a chance to put their point of view first.

Anonymous said...

Bertie

I wonder if you watched a series of programmes featuring Colin and Justin (Jockanese interior designers) on a Scottish housing estate ?

You seem wedded to the idea that if the environment is made, to your aesthetic approval, that fact will lift the standard of morality and personal conduct in the area.

Your position amounts to this. Leave your front door open to dissuade burglars.

You are in Cloud Cuckoo land. Rather like ECR, though he gives us a laugh, who alighted on a word "Gippo" as if it is a red hot issue.

How about this ? When you have solved Thanet's vandalism problems then the fences can come down.

Set to.

Bertie biggles said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bertie biggles said...

I have just removed my own intemperate reply to some of your posts and forgive me for being a poor host.

The issue is not security for allotments but how you achieve it. As well as looking at Allotment Acts and Select Committee Reports I am getting the bit between the teeth and have read up today on best practice from the UK Bean Growers Body. They list the top four ways to deter crime on an allotment site; they are:
1. Develop good community relations
2. A strong community on site.
3. A well occupied and tidy site.
4. thorny hedges

Not a mention of industrial galvanised fencing! The more I look at how other authorities deal with allotments,it dawns on me that TDC has severely neglected its allotments in Thanet. Like drowning men, our allotment holders are so grateful to be rescued by TDC that they fail to ask who was responsible for sinking their ship in the first place. TDC's offer to put one fence suits all security in place has been grasped without any-one thinking how it could be done better. That is the problem but I do not expect any rational thought from some allotment holders on this topic. I wonder if I would take a rational view if my allotment had been vandalised and my shed burnt down twice or three times?

steve said...

economics. whats the cost of fencing allotments verses the damage done?
Vandalism should not be tolerated, but they are hardly dangerous criminals.

bertie biggles said...

Steve, you raise a valid point. I suspect that the £700,000, the rumoured cost of the fencing, could have been spent in a far more effective way to improve all TDCs allotments as well as improve security. I am beginning to think that it was the easiest option for TDC to throw money at contractors to do a quick fix fencing job.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear what can the matter be. All the wonderful answers from people who have never had a crime commited against them. Vandals are criminals, basically young criminals. Stop them early and they will not commit crimes when they are older-probably your house or your car.
As I said earlier stop the crimes in any other way and I agree with 20:10, then take the fences down.
Vandalism crimes on the allotments are affecting all ranges of people. Now the fencings going up more people want an allotment.

Anonymous said...

If vandals see an apparently derelict site they may assume no-one cares for the area and feel it's ok to get on the site. Getting the council to clear badly-maintained plots must help or perhaps offer the vandals or bored youth a plot to grow their own vegetables. It's worked elsewhere as the youngsters feel responsible for their own area and will discourage others from messing it all up. We have a couple of poorly-looked after sites at my own allotment and the secretary may have to take action as both are close to the gate and look so negelected. They're an open invitation to kids with the Easter holidays about to start.

sue said...

This fence was paid for with revenue from the sale of an allotment site that was allowed to be sold off due to lack of use, mainly due to vandalism. How come so many people are interested now in the state of allotments with or without fences? Last summer the silence was deafening. How come you all weren't campaigning to get the footpath cleared of dog excrement, broken glass, overgrown bramble and garbage so the local parents and their kids could enjoy their walk to school amid the "unblighted" Thanet townscape then? Had it not been for the plotholders there, the path would have been completely impassable.
There is an attempt to involve the local young people in the allotments. Unfortunatley, the efforts are being undermined by vandalism.
As for the damage being minor, that is a matter of opinion, and experience.
You think the fence is unsightly, have you taken a good look around Thanet lately? Maybe you would like a white picket fence instead?
If not then tell me what you do want.If you were consulted, what would you suggest we put there that will protect us?

bertie biggles said...

Sue, the interest is there because the allotment security fencing style is OTT and inappropriate in an urban or rural setting and impacting on others views. You must not blame others for TDC's neglect of its responsibilities over the years. I think TDC will give you all this quick fix solution and let the allotments wallow again on the basis that "we've just spent £700,000 on you all so stop bothering us in future"!

steve said...

sue, for £4.2mm you could have called the A team......

Anonymous said...

For Sue,

No one disputes there is vandalism. What folk are concerned about is the excessive response with funds that were raised from the sale of allotments in Manston Road. What other types of fencing were considered? Was any other solution sought? Did you as an allotment holder say what you wanted other than 'security'? Was the contract put out to tender with a range of options on the table? In any case, a fence is only of use if the gates are locked. I've walked by Culmer's in Broadstairs and seen the gate unlocked with only one person in the distance working. I could have walked in and done any amount of damage had I been so inclined. On my own site there is a gate often left unlocked by one individual. Councillors with children's play areas in their wards have asked for fencing to keep dogs out to be told, 'Sorry, no money'.

sue said...

I appreciate all your points. I do. But you have still not given me a viable alternative to a big fence. Whether it's green, white, polka dotted, it's a fence. What else can stop the vandalism?

bertie biggles said...

According to my Thanet Tree Hugger contacts, a hawthorn hedge planted in front of a chestnut paling fence offers excellent security and is cheap,environmentally positive and enhances the local landscape. They might have a point?