(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.
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