Friday, 5 February 2010


Readers since 2008 will know that Bertie had a 'bee in his bonnet' about the unsightly and ill thought out TDC fencing around allotments in Thanet that began in Culmer's Land Broadstairs, and which then spread around the Isle. The funding for this fencing came from the sale of Manston Rd allotments but TDC has yet to explain what it has done with £2.1 million having spent £900,000 on allotment fencing.

It gives me no pleasure to see that the industrial security fencing put around Chilton West allotments did not prevent thieves from breaking into 65 sheds and making off with over £1,000 of kit. The picture above is from this weeks IOTG ( a much improved paper and congrats to the team there) and shows Dave Nimmo who represents the allotment holders at Chilton West. It would appear that it is the third time Chilton West has been 'done' and Mr Nimmo is quoted in IOTG as follows:
'Mr Nimmo believes the fence put up by Thanet Council is not enough of a deterrent'.

I hate to say that this is no surprise to me. I pointed out to 'Our Leader' in 2008 at Cecil Sq and to assorted Broadstairs Cllrs and others in Culmers Land, that a simple spanner is all you need to take out a section of this fencing; that unless you put a concrete base under it you can excavate a simple access groove in the soil below it and the bottom line was that a false sense of security is generated if you rely on such fencing.

There are far more effective ways of improving allotment security and it would help if TDC had a dedicated 'allotments officer' as many other authorities do and a co-ordinated joined up approach as suggested by The Allotments Assoc. I put some suggestions on

So throwing £900,000 at allotment fencing was a rushed ill-thought out TDC 'policy' that is now being shown to be ineffective. I came in for much criticism from allotment holders 2 years ago for suggesting that this industrial fencing would be a waste of money and that a combination of measures was what was neeeded. So now we have Mr Nimmo talking of further expense with video-cameras and Cllr David Green supporting this.
Why stop there, gentlemen? Go for triple concertina wire;  guard-dogs on running leashes ; goon towers; search-lights and permanent security men. Of course this is absurd.

It would have been better to have put in cheaper, less visually intrusive fencing; planted blackthorn and hawthorn hedging and have TDC fund a replacement and repair scheme when theft and damage occurs. The Isle would not have unsightly eye-sores dotted around and the tax-payer would have had better value for money,as would have the allotment holders. The basic problem is that TDC has no joined up policy on the whole issue of its allotments and this false sense of security will persist as sadly will further damage and theft.


Anonymous said...

what an excellent idea a blackthorn hedge, obviously why tdc didn't go for it.if was £900,000 for the fencing the council should be taken to task by the audit office for wasting public money.

Anonymous said...

Our non-TDC allotments have minimal fencing and although there are occasional cases of petty vandalism (crops pulled out and scattered around etc.) most of us no longer keep valuables in our sheds, in fact, the door to mine fell off and hasn't been replaced.

Each year there are a few problems but fencing wouldn't stop those as the incidents at Chilton show.

We accept that there may be cases of vandalism but it was agreed by most of us that fencing isn't a deterrent nor are locked gates since the vandals merely climb them.

Councillor John Kirby said...

From John Kirby:-
Many thanks for your observations - but having been a plot holder at Chilton for many years - the fencing has been a great deterrant and improvement on the past security problems and most plot holders agree with that. if thieves are detemined enough they will break in - however good the security is - Dave nimmo is a very dedicated plot holder and his views are very pertinent. I lost a strimmer worth over £150 last October october when there was a break-in at Chilton East Plots - entry was gained from a most unlikely area off the Canterbury Road - when my shed was broken into but it does not defeat the determination of the majority of allotment holders to carry on regardless. I do hope that you will accept from me that security is an insurmountable problem - but the fences already in place have proved their worth as to what was there before. best wishes John Kirby

councillor John Kirby said...

From Councillor John Kirby - As a long term plot holderat Chilton East allotments - all i can say is that the security fencing provided is a vast improvement on what was there before - and most plot holders agree with these sentiments.If thieves are detemined to break in - they will - whatever the security levels - e.g Tonbridge two years ago -Dave Nimmo is a very well respected plot holder and his views are pertinent but must be taken in conjunction with the actual numberr of breakins. Last October i lost a strimmer worth nearly £250 which I left in my shed - but to obtain insurance is virtually impossible - but most allotment holders carry the same risk with equipment stored on site. It is impossible to cultivate an allotment if you have to transport everything on every visit - the fences have proved a deterrant and great help to most plot holders butv as already indicated no-one can guarantee 100% security except to remind plot holders to keep the gates shut at all times - which is a well publicised requirement - best wishes John Kirby

Councillor John Kirby said...

From Councillor John Kirby - we were all fed up with the break - in at the Chilton allotments last weekend - but to be fair the security fencing has made a great improvement to the virtual opoen door that was there before.I lost a stimmer worth £150 last october - where entry was gained off the Canterbury Road behind the bushes - where a determined effort is made to obtain entry to any premises - to provide 100% security is nearly impossible. Dave Nimmo is a very well respected plot holder and his views are legitimate and personal - but the fencing has proved a deterrant. Insurance is the key problem - we all have Public Liability Insurance through our Allotment Fees - but it is virtually impossible to get on-site insurance for tools etc - and you cannot support an allotment by having to take all your equipment every time you visit - my rotavator needs an empty car to transport it. There is no easy solution - but with the greatest respect the answer is not to co9ndemn TDC for the fencing recently installed - it has proved very worthwhile according to the majority of opinion on the site which I am privy to - best wishes and good gardening Councillor John Kirby

Councillor John Kirby said...

From Councillor John Kirby:-
The new fencing provided at Chilton and other sites has provided much better security than previously enjoyed by Plot Holders. As a long term resident at Chilton i can confirm this - but if thieves are determined to break in it is hard to provide 100% security -as we found out at Tonbridge two years or so ago
Dave Nimmo is a well repected site rep and does a brilliant job. I lost a £150 strimmer in another break in last year - but the main problem is getting insurance onsite for the protection of tools etc. - it is virtually impossible to run an allotment having to transport all tools at every visit - for example my rotavator needs an empty car for transport.
This is an ongoing problem - but would repeat that the fencing has been successful in stepping up onsite security on mostsites in Thanet - best wishes Councillor John Kirby

Anonymous said...

None of the measures you suggest would prevent a determined thief Bertie. Worse, we live in an age where this kind of incident is hardly even considered a crime any more.

Bertie Biggles said...

Thank you for your comments and my apologies for delay in putting them up. Any security perimeter is as strong as it's weakest point; a simple fact.

I am sure that determined thieves will always be a problem with un-manned sites and accept that petty vandalism has probably been deterred by these ghastly fences.However, the Allotments Assoc and many other Local Authorities have looked at this problem for many years and have advised 'best practise' that TDC ignored in its ill-thought out, rushed and expensive 'quick-fit' solution. My point is simply, we could have done it better; should have done it better and we will have to live with the consequences of unsightly galvanised security fences for many years to come. In the meantime, our long suffering allotment holders just have to do the best they can and have my full sympathies for the crime and any vandalism they suffer.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about 3 posts - did not seem to be accepted at first - then like buses three came together John Kirby

Bertie Biggles said...

No problems Cllr Kirby, it's the comment moderation system. They do not appear until I open up and press the publish button!

Cllr David Green said...

Ramsgate Town Council takes over responsibilty for the Chilton Rd and Jacky Bakers allotments this year, so any discussion on security is of interest.
As an allotment owner myself, I accept the security fencing has made a large difference to the ammount of petty theft and vandalism. It is ugly though, and unsustainable. I'm attracted by its gradual enhancement with blackthorn hedging.
Perimeter security will not stop the determined thief though, so we will consider all other measures, including cameras, secure storage, security marking ect.

Bertie Biggles said...

I would be happy to meet at some stage Cllr Green to advise on screening. I would suggest that CCTV is a waste of money; you will only get pictures of hooded/balaclava wearing thieves as a local business in Birchington got recently.

A secure container for desirable/expensive items is probably a better option and unlocked sheds with just hand tools in would avoid expensive damage caused by forced entry, assuming that bored vandals are being excluded from the sites.

Anonymous said...

I hope the RTC is getting some of the allotment millions squirreled away by tdc in the reserves. I am not sure who are the bandits the officers or the elected members, but that money should be utlised for the benefit of the community not for the benefit of the bottom line accounts.

Anonymous said...

Many allotment holders are in the process of growing prickly sharp bushes up and over the fence already. It's not rocket science.
The fences will soon be covered as long as some div parent doesn't complain about them being a risk to their vandal son.

ascu75 aka Don said...

Bertie I wonder were it becomes TDC's responsibility for some having their shed broken into. The fencing is a separate issue, you and many others don't like the fencing but it was never going to stop sheds being broken into. To me the fencing looks far better at Dane Valley than the previous rubbish and brambles that it replaced but that is just my opinion. We at Saint Pauls have no shed on our allotment and the people who tend it take the tools to and fro.I know this is not possible for everyone but it stops stuff getting stolen, unless they break into church and take it.

I fail to see how it is the councils job to secure peoples sheds, the fence around the sites is never going to stop vandals or thieves nor is a rusty padlock on a shed. You would need 24/7 site security guards to stop that. I can only say I am sorry that stuff has been stolen, but it is more of a police issue than a reason to have a pop at TDC.

Bertie Biggles said...

Don, allotment security is TDC's concern on TDC's allotments.
What we had in 2008 was a rushed, ill-thought out scheme that threw money and 'silver' galvanised security fencing that by TDC's own Planning Rules required consent becuse it exceeded height, at allotments.
It was first installed on allotments that were not TDC's (Culmer's Land, Broadstairs) and as such was mis-spending of funds by TDC. It seemed that there was great haste to spend some of the proceeds of Manston Allotments sale to improve TDC's allotments. All I urged at the time was that industrial security fencing was not the answer; it would look hideous; was costly and would not provide security and that 'best practise' should be adopted. Some concessions were obtained (green instead of 'silver'); Scrutiny became involved; planting plans were going to be looked at etc. Is there an Allotments Officer? Is there now a co-ordinated approach to allotment security involving best practise? An idiotic and expensive quick fix was and is not the answer and was not best value to the allotment holders nor to the council tax-payer; that is why I was and remain critical of TDC on this issue. Hope that explains where I am coming from