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The Freemen's Allotment Lands

Trustees of the Stafford Freemen’s Allotments

Annual Meeting of Burgesses of Stafford

Agenda for the meeting to be held in the Walton Room of the Stafford Borough Council

on Monday 16th January 2017 at 7.30 p.m.

1.     1    Attendance and Apologies.

2.     2    Notice of Meeting

Note this has been published, as agreed in earlier meetings, by email or letter to Guild Members and Trustees, as well as on the Guild Web Site,
The Coton Fields Web site and in the Mayor’s Engagements.  (It has also been posted on Facebook.)

3.     3    Accuracy and Acceptance of Minutes from previous meeting

Minutes were published 19th January 2016. They were verified by the trustees, then added to earlier minutes on the Guild Web Site.
Copies will be available at the meeting.

4.     4    Matters arising

Most items will be covered in this year’s reports, but there may be items from the floor.

5.     5    Officers’ Annual Reports

Since the Clerk/Treasurer position was sub-divided no large book is issued.
However, copies of accounts will be distributed and detailed information is available on request.

A.         Chairman’s Report

B.         Vice-chairman's Report

C.        Scribe’s Report, including an update on the situation concerning the Severn Trent projects.

D.        Treasurer’s Report

E.         Site Administrator’s Report

6.     6    Election of New Trustees

There are four trustees retiring after three years, (all standing again).
There are four vacancies and four nominations received to date, which will not require a vote unless further valid nominations are received by 10th January.

7.     7    Any Other Business

    No items have been submitted, but questions from the floor are usually permitted.

8.     8    Date of next meeting

Provisionally 15th January 2018

9.     9    Closing remarks

The Mayor or the Trust Chairman may wish to comment on the meeting.  

Agenda issued 3/1/2017 by John Edwards, Scribe to the Trustees,

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Annual Meeting of Burgesses of Stafford

Minutes of the meeting held in the Walton Room of Stafford Borough Council on

Monday 18th January 2016 at 7.30 p.m.

 Mr Kinnersley welcomed everyone to the meeting, particularly the Mayor and Mayoress of Stafford, Councillor Peter Jones and Mrs Joy Jones.

He then invited the Mayor to take the Chair for the Annual Burgesses Meeting.

The Mayor expressed surprise that there was such a full attendance well before the nominal time for the meeting.

He then formally opened the meeting and proceeded to work through the agenda that had been published earlier.

1)     Attendance and Apologies

a)     Burgesses Present: Ian Campbell, John Edwards, (Scribe), Michael Farmer, (Trustee),  Peter Glover, Terry Griffin, (Treasurer), Dave Hanlon, (Trustee),  Roger Harrison, (Trustee),  Aileen Hill, Graham Kilford, Phillip Kinnersley, (Trust Chairman), Carol Lake, Derek Luker, (Trust Vice-chairman),  Scott Martin, Ian Pettifor, Anthony Piddock, Brian Piddock, Fred Pye, James Redfern, Neville Scattergood, (Trustee), Ray Spurway, Paul Targett, Ken Tillett, (Site administrator), Alan Watkins, (Trustee). (23)

b)     Apologies: Steve Chadwick, Alfred Eley, (Trustee), Arthur Lawton, Stella Machin, Alan Ramsey, Nigel Tonks, Dany Watkins, Barry Wilshaw. (8)

2)     Notice of Meeting

The meeting had been advertised on the Guild and Coton Fields Web Sites and all Burgesses who had supplied the guild with their contact details had been sent copies of the Agenda and last year’s minutes. It had also appeared in the Mayor’s Engagements.

3)      Accuracy and Acceptance of Minutes from previous meeting

a)     Minutes had been published 20th January 2015.

b)     They were deemed to be accurate by those present and were approved. [Proposed by Mr K Tillett and Seconded Mr P Glover – all were in favour]

4)     Matters arising

There were no matters arising that would not be covered by the subsequent agenda.

5)     Trust Officers’ Annual Reports

a)     Trust Chairman’s Report

i)       Mr Kinnersley presented his report, which indicated that the allotments were in a satisfactory state with an improved atmosphere between gardeners on the site.

ii)     He detailed some of the activities that had taken place during the year, including: use of a skip for broken glass collection; pollarding of willows that had been dangerously overhanging prospect Road; development of a damson plantation, including installation of moth traps; Strimming of plots to make them lettable; provision of new sheds where necessary, (14 replaced); maintenance of the central pathway known as “Middle Walk”; repairs to the water supply; repairs to Machinery; replacement of locks; installation of new push-taps in the community building; repainting of the community building floor; pump-out and repairs to the septic tank. Indeed, quite a busy year for gardeners, trustees, wardens and helpers.

iii)    He then reviewed some of the social functions. The Open Day had been very successful, with over 100 visitors attending. The Mayor and Mayoress, who had attended, concurred that it had ben an enjoyable and instructive event. The Murder Mystery evenings with Creative Arts had been entertaining, with over 30 visitors present, as had the barbecue evenings, (with the exception of the Bonfire Night event, which once again had been defeated by the weather).

iv)    The council sponsored “Family Plots”, administered by Derek Hill and designed to introduce new people, particularly families, to the benefits of allotment gardening, had gone well. Two families had progressed to larger plots.

v)     ‘The Coton Fielder’ publication had been revived with two issues this year, the second being an on-line offering. He thanked Jack Hope, the young man who administers the Allotments Web site, for continuing to provide this valuable asset.

vi)    The decision to increase the rent had enabled the Trust to cover the rising costs of insurance and allowed individual membership of the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, (NSALG), which permits access to discounted costs for seeds etc. The extra £5 per plot still kept Coton Fields rents well below comparable allotments elsewhere.

vii)    The decision to become affiliated to the VAST organisation had been beneficial.

viii) An unsavoury note that had to be mentioned was the stupid vandalism, including deliberately leaving taps on to flood the toilets and the even more deranged act of driving a nail through a water pipe. This had made it necessary to close the toilets to the justified annoyance of gardeners and trustees alike. The trustees wondered about the sanity of anyone thinking that such behaviour would achieve anything.

b)     Vice-chairman's Report

i)       Mr Luker reported that he had been working on a number of pieces of equipment used to maintain the site. Many had become inefficient or unusable. Following repairs, all the mowers were now working, including the sit-on types used to keep the perimeter grass in good condition. Strimmers and other small equipment were also ready for use when the season permitted.

ii)     There was general appreciation that Mr Luker had volunteered his time and expertise to this substantial job, which had returned many useless items to service.

iii)   He had also been investigating the installation of an additional building for storage of items required by gardeners. It was thought that this would eventually replace the deteriorating ‘Big Shed’ with a more central and fully waterproof facility. Various quotations had been received, but the project was still dependent on money, (and possibly planning permission), before it could be implemented.

c)      Scribe’s Report

The Scribe’s Report was distributed to the meeting and is appended.

i)       Mr Edwards confirmed that the Trust had met each month, including two site visits and that all the proceedings had been minuted.

ii)     He noted that the bulk of his work had been associated with the Severn Trent project, but there had still been a substantial amount of other clerical work.

iii)   The Site By-Laws had been completely revised and updated.

iv)    Administrative documents including: tenancy records, rent collection paperwork, plot maps, Gift Aid certificates, and By-law acceptances, had been revised and updated.

v)     He informed the meeting that it had been necessary to issue some formal warnings to tenants who were not using the plots properly.

vi)    The plan to digitise the archival documents had been delayed. Various pieces of interesting and useful information had been gleaned from the old minutes and other archived documents.

vii)   He again made mention of the problems with badgers on a couple of plots. They had become a serious nuisance and it was proving difficult to deal with this due to their protected species status.

Mr Kilford queried the right of the Trust to revise the by-laws. He was assured by the Scribe that under the terms of the 1964 (and earlier) Staffordshire Acts, this was within their jurisdiction. Mr Pettifor confirmed that.

Mr Martin offered the information that badgers do not like paraffin, which was duly noted by the trustees present.

d)     Treasurer’s Report

Copies of the accounts for 2014-015 were distributed and the Treasurer gave more details.

i)       Mr Griffin noted that over the year expenditure had amounted to around £6,500 while income was around £5,800, which left the current assets at around £7,200.

ii)     It was reported that Gift Aid had not been claimed this year, which would eliminate the deficit on the year. This would however be claimed in the next year now that we had the correct documentation.

iii)   The accounts showed the situation for the current year and a table gave comparative figures for the previous five years. While the overall costs and income were rising steadily the financial state of the Trust was satisfactory.

iv)    It was evident that monitoring water costs had shown, as suspected, that nefarious activity over several previous years had resulted in totally unnecessary water costs. Better security, including changed locks, had evidently been worthwhile.

Detailed figures are in the accounts sheet, which is appended.

There were no question from the floor and the meeting accepted the 2014/15 accounts unanimously.

e)     Site Administrator’s Report

i)       Mr Tillett stated that there were currently 10 plots available for letting and there were 6 people on the waiting list. If all these were taken up, having only 4 vacant plots out of some 145, at this time of year, was a very good situation.

ii)     He endorsed comments made by other officers about improved conditions on site.

iii)   He had had to chase up certain gardeners to establish their intentions, as it was then some 4 months after rents were due.

iv)    In his capacity as project coordinator for the Severn Trent work, he told the meeting that things were well in hand on the pumping station area. The boring and installation of the pipe along the Smallman Street fence line had been going well despite the bad weather resulting in a lot of mud.

v)     However, recently the contractors had encountered difficulty with loose sand and high water table on the corner of C block, resulting in major problems with the drill head. They had to pump out a lot of water from the pits to access the projected route, which was causing further delays.

vi)    There had been a good relationship with the contractors’ team on site and it was likely that in the end there would be minimal damage or disruption to the allotments.

vii)  He had been monitoring and photographing progress so that we would have a full record of the project.

viii)In his capacity as the regional representative of the NSALG, Mr Tillett noted that they were happy to have us more involved in the national organisation. The article submitted by the Scribe should be in the forthcoming edition of the magazine.

ix)     In his capacity as the director of ‘Creative Arts’, who had produced several plays on the Coton Fields site, he explained that they had been approached by the Royal Shakespeare Company to put on a local performance of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Having been rejected by Shugborough, who had been asked to host it, he had offered the allotments as a venue which was favourably received. If the performance does materialise this will be a further prestigious use of the burgesses’ lands in Stafford.

x)     In response to a question by the Scribe, he confirmed that the various young groups from VAST, who had done a lot of excellent work transforming a plot from a weed-bed to a leisure area, would be continuing over the coming year. He also informed the meeting that he had been asked to speak at their prize giving ceremony. The support of the Trust in assisting with their personal development had been much appreciated.

6)     Election of New Trustees

a)     There were four trustees retiring after three years and three were standing again.
There were therefore four vacancies and, as four properly completed nominations forms had been received, no ballot was required.

b)     Mr Alf Eley, who had been a stalwart member of both the Trust and the Guild, had decided not to stand for re-election on health grounds. The Trust expressed their gratitude to him and hoped his health would improve.

c)      Hence the trustees appointed for a period of three years were:

i)       Mr Michael Farmer, Mr Terry Griffin and Mr David Hanlon, who were re-appointed

ii)     Mr Michael Haywood, who was sworn in as a burgess in 1993, was thanked and welcomed by the Mayor as a new trustee.

7)     Any Other Business

Only one item had been submitted.

a)     Update on negotiations with Severn Trent

i)       The scribe had produced a report that detailed the numerous processes that had been undertaken in relation to this project. However he did not distribute the report as, taken out of context, it may have suggested that the project was complete, which was far from the case.

ii)     The report is appended, but whilst not confidential, burgesses should note that this is an interim review for the purposes of this meeting, not a final report.

iii)   Last year Burgesses, as the land owners, approved the stance taken by the Trustees and gave authority for negotiations to continue as follows:

(1)  To gain benefit by the sale of land for the expansion of the pumping station so that significant improvements, notably a new water supply system, could be made to the site. It was also hoped that sewage and electrical connections could be made to the Community Building to enhance facilities and enable additional usage.

(2)  To try to get some redress for the land currently occupied by Severn Trent, for which no rent had apparently been paid.

(3)  To ensure that adequate compensation was paid for putting a high pressure sewage pipe across the site.

(4)  To gain some benefit from the use of uncultivatable land for the storage of machinery.

(5)  To ensure that the site is not devalued for future generations.

iv)    The purpose of the attached report is simply to show that this policy has been followed, because the Trust did not want any implications that this was in any way for the personal gain of the trustees, as had happened some twenty years ago.

v)     However, the matter of actual expenses claims for the time and other cost incurred by trustees was raised. The meeting felt that was important that the Scribe, in particular, and others who had spent time on the project should take the accepted value of recompense, whatever they elected to do after that. Mr A Piddock thought it imperative that the trustees should not be out-of-pocket as a result of undertaking these voluntary duties.

vi)    There was disappointment that, (due mainly to the machinations of Fisher German), this project had not been resolved long ago.

vii)  At the 2015 meeting the Scribe was asked to write to Fisher German expressing disappointment that the detailed proposals and payment breakdown had still not been received. He was to express the wishes of the Burgesses as a whole to obtain the information as soon as possible and bring the protracted negotiation to a close. This had been done; resulting in some progress and, with a more helpful new member of the Fisher German staff (Mr Evan Hughes) involved, matters had improved considerably.

8)     Date of next meeting

i)       Provisionally 16th January 2017

9)     Closing remarks

a)     The Mayor, as meeting chairman, gave the closing remarks.

i)   He thanked the Trustees for the work they had done over the past year.

ii) He thanked the officers for their reports and for the time they spend working for the Trust and thanked the assembled Burgesses for their attendance and participation.

iii)          He declared the meeting closed at 8.50 p.m.

Minutes issued 19/1/2016 by John Edwards, Scribe to the Trustees.

Appendices

Scribe’s Report to the Burgesses Meeting 2016

At one time, all the administrative duties of the Trust were undertaken by a paid clerk. Currently, with the trustees being voluntary, the duties have been shared, so the Scribe’s role is principally the production of Trust minutes, internal and external correspondence, and documentation. The major work, which has involved a considerable amount of time and expense, has been concerned with the Severn Trent project, which will be covered separately.

I can confirm that the Trust has met monthly during 2015, and that minutes of meetings have been issued and approved. There have been two formal site visits to review the overall state of the allotments, although with regular reports from the Site Manager, seven of the trustees being burgess gardeners and others visiting regularly, there is much more awareness of situations on site than used to be the case.

At every Trust meeting in 2015 Mr Vincent, the Site Warden, has attended to report on the current situation. He has left the meeting after giving his report, which avoids him being harassed by people prying into Trust business.

Minutes have generally been issued by e-mail, with hard copies sent to trustees without that facility. Hard copy prints are filed and a DVD backup is maintained. The Tenancy Spreadsheet and Plot Map have been regularly updated. Hard copies in A3 were printed for the purpose of rent collection. In the light of changes to government regulations for Gift Aid, new forms were produced to permit eligible gardeners to authorise the claims.

As the Site By-Laws, which have legal standing, had become outdated and were difficult to understand, I therefore decided to re-write them completely. Although the majority of clauses are simple common sense, it is necessary to document them to ensure that the small number of problem gardeners are forced to comply, or face eviction. Unfortunately, as the By-Laws have changed over the years, or have not been enforced, such things as shed sizes have become bones of contention. At rent collection every tenant signed to say they had received a copy of the new By-Laws, so misunderstandings should be minimised in future. Such things as banning the introduction of new glass on site should help make the allotments safer in future.

It has been necessary to write to some tenants about the state of their plots requiring improvements or the removal of inappropriate materials. Broken glass, scrap wood, old carpets, tyres and asbestos sheeting have caused considerable problems in the past and the current trustees are endeavouring to eliminate them as soon as possible.

There have been other items of correspondence, e-mails and telephone calls to establish whether tenants wish to continue gardening as well as reminders about rent payments. Happily, the vast majority of gardeners behave very well, so it is in everybody’s interests that the others are brought quickly into line.

The plan to digitise the early minute books has not taken place, due to time spent on other matters, but hopefully I will be able to make a start on the four large boxes of documents soon. We should then be in a position to discuss transfer of the originals to the County Records Office. The Trust has made a contribution towards the digitisation of Coton Fields Tithe Maps, which should provide interesting material about the history of the site.

The burgesses have lost a great deal of their lands over the centuries and we now administer only blocks A, B and C, whereas in the early 20th century references are made in the minutes to blocks D, E ,F, G, and H. These are now occupied largely by houses, roads and a school for which the burgesses appear to have received no compensation!

Little progress has been made on the problem of badgers on the site, and it is not easy to get help or advice on the matter. The 35 page form required by Natural England, before anything can be done has proved very difficult to complete. We have had badgers on two plots for many years, but their recent expansion has caused many justifiable complaints from gardeners. If we cannot do anything to solve this problem, people will start to take extreme measures and trustees will have no means of monitoring the situation. Regrettably, some people are feeding and thereby encouraging them.  We were even reported to the police for disturbing them. We received a warning letter, but the police took no action, because it was simply regular maintenance, but it does show how sensitive and emotive this issue can become.

I have submitted an article to the “Allotment and Leisure Gardener” magazine concerned with the history of our allotments. This followed an article implying that allotments, some 500 years younger than ours, were the oldest in England. It should appear in the next edition.

An A5 leaflet briefly explaining the history and role of Stafford Burgesses has been compiled and printed. That should give interested parties a little more information about our organisation and the Freemen’s Allotments.

Thankfully, this year has involved no court cases, threats, abusive phone calls, arson or intimidation, which is mainly due to trustees taking a firm line with miscreants. While we have not completely eliminated troublemakers, it has not only made for a happier site, but reduced the unpleasant side of being the Scribe to the Trust.                                                                      

John Edwards, Scribe to the Trust. January 2016

Severn Trent Project Report

Since the initial approach from Severn Trent, the trustees have been trying to ensure that any agreements are in the best interests of the Burgesses

This entailed:

1)     Establishing the correct title to the lands.

a)     Changes were made to the land registry to update contact details.

b)     The Land Registry confirmed our title

c)      The various Royal Charters from 1215 and the various Staffordshire Acts to 1964 all confirm the rights of the burgesses.

2)     Confirming the legality of the sale of any part of the allotments.

a)     The fact that the land was actually sold in 1993 established the right although it had to be returned due to the inability of the trustees to meet their legal commitments. We are not currently in that position so we have the right to sell all or part of the lands subject to providing alternative land.

b)     There are no restrictions as long as it is done with the approval of and in the best interests of Stafford Burgesses.

3)     Obtaining a correct valuation of the land.

a)     This was very difficult and took a lot of time and effort, but eventually the sum offered was in excess of the independent valuation.

4)     Establishing the long term effects on the land.

a)     The pumping station would result in the loss of two plots

b)     The pipeline would possibly make the land less valuable for housing, but would not affect cultivation.

5)     Ensuring that appropriate advice was obtained on technical and legal matters.

a)     A land agent was appointed to assist with the negotiations.

b)     A Solicitor was appointed to deal with the actual sales and compensations.

c)      Advice was sought from the Freemen of England and wales

d)     Assistance was obtained from Mr Lefroy, MP for Stafford

6)     Establishing if we have any options faced with the statutory powers of S-T.

a)     Advice from various sources indicated that we could take major legal actions, but would need to find specialist lawyers.

b)     Overall the trustees’ felt that the time and costs involved would not be beneficial.

7)     Ensuring that the land would not be devalued.

a)     The only significant loss would be if the land were to be sold for housing.

b)     As we do not currently wish to do that there would be minimal loss

c)      The contractors have undertaken to reinstate any aspects of the site that have been damaged during construction.

8)     Avoiding unnecessary damage to the existing allotments, buildings, trees, etc.

a)     The original demand for a 20m swathe was unacceptable

b)     Negotiations with contractors vastly improved the situation.

9)     Ensuring that the maximum compensation is achieved.

a)     Thanks to the land agent there was a significant rise in the offer.

b)     Due to unnecessary delays by the agents professional fees soared, but some recompense was negotiated by the trustees.

c)      The payments are fixed for pipeline compensation.

d)     The land purchase should exceed the independent valuation.

10)  Minimising the disruption to the site and gardeners.

a)     Access points were agreed

b)     Timetables were agreed with contractors

c)      Revised Routes were agreed with Contractors.

d)     Activities to be mainly when gardening is minimal.

11)  Obtaining the relevant documents covering the works from contractors.

a)     Method statements, plans, routes, Equipment data were supplied

b)     Health and safety and Risk Analysis data was supplied.

12)  Obtaining the best benefits for improving the site and its services.

a)     Any money obtained would be beneficial, but enough to install electricity and improve water supplies would help a lot.

b)     The trustees are anxious not to spend this immediately, but it is a valuable backup for matched funded grants.

At this stage the project is ongoing, but by next year the trustees should be in a position to provide full details and the land should be restored to its original condition.

John Edwards, Scribe to the Trust, January 2016.

 

Annual Meeting of Burgesses of Stafford

Minutes of the meeting held in the Walton Room of Stafford Borough Council on

19th January 2015 at 7.30 p.m.

 

Due to a clash of commitments, the current Mayor, Councillor Raymond Sutherland, was unable to chair the meeting initially, so Mr Trevor Reeves, Burgess of Stafford and a former Mayor of Stafford, took the chair. Councillor Sutherland joined the proceedings part way through, but asked Mr Reeves to continue as chairman.

 

1)   Attendance and Apologies

a)   Burgesses Present: Ian Campbell, John Edwards, (Scribe), Michael Farmer, Edward Foreman, Peter Glover, Terry Griffin, (Treasurer), Dave Hanlon, Roger Harrison, Aileen Hill, Phillip Kinnersley, (Trust Chairman), Derek Luker, (Trust Vice-chairman),  Ian Pettifor, Ant Piddock, Brian Piddock, Alan Ramsey, James Redfern, Trevor Reeves, (Acting Chairman), Neville Scattergood, Raymond Spurway, Paul Targett, Ken Tillett, (Site administrator), Alan Watkins. 

b)    Apologies: Alfred Eley, Graham Kilford, Carol Lake, Arthur Lawton, Stella Machin, Merlin Maddock, Scott Mills, Fred Pye.

2)   Notice of Meeting

a)   The meeting had been advertised on the Guild and Coton Fields Web Sites and all Burgesses who had supplied the guild with their contact details had been sent copies of the Agenda and last year’s minutes. However, for reasons beyond our control, it had not appeared in the Mayor’s Engagements in the Newsletter.

3)    Accuracy and Acceptance of Minutes from previous meeting

a)   Minutes had been published 25th January 2014.

b)    They were deemed to be accurate by those present and were approved. [Proposed by Mr R Spurway, Seconded Mr P Glover – all in favour]

4)   Matters arising

a)   The Chairman dealt with the previous minutes a page at a time and there were no matters raised. However, there was a comment from the Scribe that, following the trouble with Mr Roe at that meeting, he had eventually been sworn in under Servitude during the year. It was hoped that this would close the matter of his Burgess status.

5)   Trust Officers’ Annual Reports

a)   Trust Chairman’s Report

i)      Mr Kinnersley presented his report which indicated that the allotments were working well and that it had been a good year with a much improved atmosphere. (Full report appended.)

b)    Vice-chairman's Report

i)      Mr Luker reported that he had undertaken to check and service the equipment belonging to the Trust on the allotments site. This had turned out to be a major task which would take a long time to complete, however the sit-on mowers had been restored to service together with a push mower, so the grass cutting was now much easier. The refurbishment would be an ongoing process as many items were still to be tracked down and assessed.

ii)    There was appreciation that Mr Luker had volunteered his time and expertise to this substantial job.

c)    Scribe’s Report

The Scribe’s Report was distributed to the meeting and is appended.

i)      Mr Edwards confirmed that the Trustees had met each month, including two site visits and that all the proceedings had been minuted.

ii)    He outlined the various tasks that had been necessary during the year, including a substantial amount of work in connection with the Severn Trent project detailed later under AOB. Item 2

iii)   He made particular mention of the problem with badgers on the site, which was not proving easy to resolve legally.

d)    Treasurer’s Report

i)      Mr Griffin gave a résumé of the accounts that had been issued to those attending.

ii)    He reported that overall the Trust was some £300 better off than in the previous year, but an additional £500 or so had come in recently.

iii)   The balance on the various accounts at the end of the financial year was £7,913.12.

iv)   The accounts are appended.

e)   Site Administrator’s Report

The report is appended.

i)      Mr Tillett confirmed that the site was almost fully tenanted. Ongoing interest in gardening was useful in ensuring high standards.

ii)    He reported that the condition was far better than at the beginning of the year.

iii)   There were ongoing problems with glass on many plots, which was historic, but needing a lot of work to resolve.

6)   Election of New Trustees

a)   There were four Trustees retiring after three years. All were standing again.
There were four vacancies and four nominations received which did not require a vote.

b)    The Trustees re-appointed for a period of three years were:

·       Mr Phillip Kinnersley

·       Mr Derek Luker

·       Mr Roger Harrison

·       Mr Alan Watkins

7)   Any Other Business

Two items had been submitted.

a)   Reappointment of Land Agent and Solicitor to represent the Trust with Severn Trent.

i)      It was agreed that Mr Steven Egerton should be appointed as the Land Agent to represent the Trust in connection with the Severn Trent project.

ii)    It was agreed that Mr John James of Hand, Morgan and Owen of Stafford, be appointed as the solicitor for the Trust in particular for the Severn Trent project.

b)    Update on negotiations with Severn Trent

i)      The scribe outlined the basis of the project and explained the current situation

ii)    He sought the approval of the meeting to endorse the stance taken by the Trustees.

(1) To gain benefit by the sale of land for the expansion of the pumping station so that significant improvements, notably a new water supply system, could be made to the site. It was also hoped that sewage and electrical connections could be made to the Community Building to enhance facilities and enable additional usage.

(2) To try to get some redress for the land currently occupied by Severn Trent, for which no rent had apparently been paid.

(3) To ensure that adequate compensation was paid for putting a high pressure sewage pipe across the site.

(4) To gain some benefit from the use of uncultivable land for the storage of machinery.

(5) To ensure that the site is not devalued for future generations.

iii)   The scribe stressed that this was totally different from the reprehensible situation of some 25 years ago when the Trustees sought to sell the land for personal gain.

iv)  He regretted that no detailed plans had been received from Severn Trent or their agents Fisher German so that concrete proposals could be put to the meeting.

The meeting endorsed the Scribe’s Report on the Severn Trent Project

There was considerable discussion about the fact that by now we should be in possession of the requirements of the project and have a clear view of what payments were to be paid and what ongoing authority was needed for the pipeline.

There was a proposal from the Chair that we set a four month deadline for the receipt of the above information, so a further meeting could be called if necessary. After much debate it was decided to be less specific, but the scribe was asked to write to Fisher German expressing disappointment that the detailed proposals and payment breakdown had still not been received. He was to state the wishes of the Burgesses as a whole to obtain it as soon as possible and bring the protracted negotiation to a close..

It was felt that in the 18 months since the initial approach, it should have been possible to give us more information.

8)   Date of next meeting

i)      Provisionally 18th January 2016

9)   Closing remarks

a)   Mr Reeves, the Meeting Chairman gave the closing remarks.

i)      He thanked the Trustees for the work they had done over the past year managing the Coton Fields Allotments, which is the primary asset of the burgesses of Stafford.

ii)    He thanked the officers for their individual reports and for the time they spend working for the Trust. He also hoped that the details of the Severn Trent project would be resolved soon.

iii)   He then said that the burgesses appreciated the attendance of the Mayor and invited him to say a few words to the meeting.

b)    The Mayor regretted that he was unable to chair the meeting since he was always pleased to be involved in the activities of the Stafford Burgesses. He thanked Mr Reeves for stepping into the breach to chair the meeting.  He gave some encouragement to the Trustees over the planning aspects of the land, but warned that Severn Trent has no obligation to defer to the planning authority. He wished the Trustees well with the various projects relating to the allotments that were due to materialise in 2015. He looked forward to participating in the forthcoming dinner and any other events arranged by the burgesses.

Mr Reeves thanked the assembled Burgesses for their attendance and participation and declared the meeting closed at 8.45 p.m.

 

Minutes issued 20/1/2015 by John Edwards, Scribe to the Trustees.


Appendices

Chairman’s Report 2015

It has been a very good gardening year, the general “happy allotments”, feedback from many tenants.

There are now 6 Trustees with plots on the site. Along with other Trustees, they have been involved in working parties and, despite the poor weather, many projects were achieved.

The week ending 7th February has been provisionally chosen for major glass removal, which is one of the serious problems on the site.

Community Projects:

The “Family project” was disappointing this year, as 3 families did not last the summer, despite having lots of support! We hope that this year’s applicants will be better suited.

The “House of Bread” received a plot, and good feedback was received. Many gardeners donated produce enabling them on one occasion to cater for 90 people at a total costing of £10. They now have support from Dobbies for supplies, and are looking forward to this year’s produce.

The Probation service has also taken a plot. The ‘gardeners’, a maximum of 6, will be escorted and supervised.

Sadly, we lost the gardeners from St Georges Hospital this year. There is an open invitation for them to return.

Fun Events:

We had a number of Barbeques throughout the summer, and the community spirit is growing with up to 50 plus people attending.

Murder mystery theatre was well enjoyed by all.

General:

There are now 2 site wardens, allowing more hours for maintenance of a busier site.

The Association shop continues to enjoy success.

Sadly, 2 sheds were lost due to fire, and one poly-tunnel was stolen! Unfortunately there are still historical disruptive undertones from some tenants!

My thanks to all involved on the site for their support during 2014, particularly Derek Luker for undertaking the mechanical repairs and maintenance of our equipment and Ken Tillett for the general management of the site and the plot holders. I would like the meeting to appreciate their commitment to these areas, so they receive due credit as deserved

Phill Kinnersley, Chairman of Stafford Freemen’s Allotments Trust.

Scribe’s Report 2015

Since the decision was made to divide up the various activities of the Clerk, it has not only made the tasks more manageable, but given the holders more time to concentrate on developing their areas of expertise. Hence, my role as Scribe has been largely a matter of correspondence and documentation.

I must confirm that the Trustees have met monthly during 2014, including two formal site visits to assess the overall state of the allotments. The minutes of the meetings have been issued, generally within a week of the meeting. As most of the Trustees are now on e-mail this is the preferred method of distributing the minutes. Not only does this speed up the process, but in the light of significant postage costs, saves quite a lot of money. Hard copy versions are supplied to Trustees without internet access. We have also eliminated the signing of the minutes by the Chairman, as that implies retention of hard copies. Approval is now minuted and an Archive DVD is held as a backup.

Much of the scribe’s work this year has been concerned with the Severn Trent project, which will be detailed later.

Letters of thanks were sent to Mr Rowlands and Mr Nowakowski on their retirement to recognise their considerable contribution to the Trust over many years. It was gratifying that both said they felt the Trust was now in good hands.

There are a lot of documents that have been passed on to me from earlier clerks and last year I sought permission to archive them at the County Records Office. However, as that department is currently in a state of flux, I was asked to defer the matter until the new premises are complete.

During the year I have had to issue eviction letters to problem tenants, which may seem straightforward, but when it results in receiving numerous abusive and threatening telephone calls, you wonder why you volunteered for this job. Thanks to solidarity of the Trustees the matter was resolved. This time the threatened court case did not materialise, for which after last year’s saga, we were very thankful. However, vandalism, arson and intimidation of innocent tenants probably emanated from this decision.

As set of spreadsheets for plot tenancy and rent collection has been created, which has made it a little easier to manage the site.  With the constantly changing tenancies and difficulties in communication with some plot holders it has necessitated several ‘sub-committee’ meetings to establish the current situation.

A computer based site map has also been produced to get a clearer idea of the vacant plots, the unusable plots, unpaid rents, need for improvement notices, etc., but keeping it up to date is far from easy. Now that we have passed the deadline for the 2014 -15 rent collection, I will be getting together with the site administrator and the treasurer to ensure that we all have the current information. The whole site has now been classified in terms of half and quarter plots, as few people can cope with full plots.

I have been trying to resolve the problem of Badgers on the site. When they only occupied one plot, they were seen as a bit of a novelty and it was decided to leave them alone as a piece of urban wildlife.

However, they have now expanded to make three plots unlettable and are causing a substantial amount of damage to crops on the site. Their numbers have increased significantly and there have been complaints from numerous gardeners. I have been in touch with the North Staffs Badger group and other bodies to try to get advice with little success.

It seems that we need a licence to disturb them, so I have written to DEFRA, who are the authority, with precious little response. Natural England did give helpful, (if not very practical), advice. I tried filling in the on-line application form, which did not work, so I will now try the hard copy version. To summarise, we are trying to do things legally, but as I told the Badger group, if something is not done soon, gardeners will take matters into their own hands, which will definitely be detrimental to the badgers. We are well aware of the problem, but resolving it legally is not easy.

During the year I have given talks to local groups and explained the status of the freemen’s lands. I was surprised how many people are aware of the allotments and their history and intrigued to discover how many people are monitoring the state of the site.

I have dealt with the appointment of a Land Agent and a Solicitor to assist us with the Severn Trent project. I have also been through the bureaucratic process of changing the Land Registry Contact from Mr Nowakowski to myself. And I have dealt with the requirements of the charity commission to ensure that all the Trustees are properly registered and our annual report is submitted.

I am in the process of updating and simplifying the Site Bylaws booklet to ensure that all tenants clearly understand their responsibilities. Most items may seem obvious, but there will always be someone who decides that the rules do not apply to them.

I must thank Jack Hope for continuing to manage the Coton Fields Web site, which has been a useful way of conveying news and information to many of the gardeners. Combined with the Guild Web site it is the modern way of communicating with both burgesses and tenants of their lands. However, we do not assume that everyone has access to these services.

I think it is important to say that the relationship between the Guild and the Trustees has improved immeasurably since I first became a burgess. Several Trustees are also Guild Council members which makes communication much easier. It is also important to note that more than half of the current Trustees are gardeners, which again has helped our understanding of the needs of the site.

John Edwards, Trust Scribe.   January 2015

Site Administrator’s Report

The standard of the allotment area is far better than it was at the beginning of 2014.

The take up of allotments let was very good and a considerable increase has helped to achieve the present standard.

There is a problem with the amount of glass still located at the rear of some the allotments, and one tenant has left due to the glass problem.

This is a historic problem. We are determined to remove the glass and make safe the dangerous situation this year.

We have had some tenants finally come to pay their rents for this coming year. They were informed that they were very lucky that their allotments had not been reallocated.

We have had several enquiries over the past two weeks from new tenants who have all signed up for the 2015 season.

Having a waiting list means that we can be more assertive in letting vacant plots.

Over the last week we have had four allotments taken up giving us a further £100 with another two to be signed up this following weekend, 17th / 18th January, adding another £50.

There are currently 8 allotments vacant and I’m sure this will diminish over the next weeks.

The water supply to the site has been shut off to prevent burst pipes due to frost.

The current meter reading has been taken and the Terry Griffin our treasurer informed.

Ken Tillet, Site Administrator, January 2015

 

Minutes of the 2014 Annual Meeting of Burgesses of Stafford

Held in the Walton Room of Stafford Borough Council on

Thursday 23rd January at 7.30 p.m.

The Mayor, Councillor Angela Loughran, took the Chair and welcomed those present.

The meeting followed the published agenda.

1.     Attendance and Apologies

The following burgesses were in attendance: John Edwards, Roger Harrison, Dave Hanlon, Pete Glover, Mike Farmer, Alan Watkins, Paul Targett, Ken Roe, Aileen Hill, John Henson, Carol Lake, Edward Foreman, Derek Luker, Alfred Eley, Ray Spurway, Brian Piddock, Ken Tillett, Ian Pettifor, Neville Scattergood, Terry Griffin and Phillip Kinnersley.

Apologies were received from: Mick Nowakowski, Reg Rowlands, Merlin Maddock and Ant Piddock.

2.     Notice of Meeting

It was confirmed that publishing the Notification on the Guild Web Site, The Coton Fields Web site, The Staffordshire Newsletter Community Pages and the Mayor’s Engagements was acceptable.  

3.     Accuracy and Acceptance of Minutes from Previous Meeting

Minutes were published in March 2013 and verified by the Trustees. Copies were provided at this meeting. The Mayor asked for acceptance of the accuracy of the minutes a section at a time. It was acknowledged that they were an accurate record of the proceedings. No amendments were requested from those present.

4.     Matters Arising

Again the Mayor asked for any matters arising. None were required that would not be covered in the subsequent agenda. The Scribe mentioned that the amendment to 2012 minutes, as requested by Mr Yale, had been made.

5.     Officers’ Annual Reports

It was noted that there was no large document this year, as the Clerk/Treasurer Role had been sub-divided and each officer would report separately. Summaries of their reports were issued to those present. Copies of those summaries are appended and form part of these minutes.

The Mayor informed the meeting that questions could be put to the officers on their reports.

a.     Chairman’s report.

There were no specific questions on this report, but there were thanks expressed to Mr Kinnersley for undertaking the Chairman’s position and for the new approach that he had brought to the job.

b.     Scribe’s report

Mr Edwards amplified the various points in his report and explained the tasks that had occupied his time this year. Particular mention was made of the work and expense of the court proceedings and the benefits of being able to seek free advice from the Freemen of England and Wales.

This report was generally accepted with compliments paid to Mr Edwards for the way in which he had undertaken the task.

At this point Mr Ken Roe sought to clarify his status as a Freeman. He stated that he had received a letter confirming that, as his name had been entered on to the Burgesses Roll, his membership should stand, even if the original qualification had been accepted in error. He told the Mayor that he proposed to seek enrolment under Servitude at the next Burgesses Court.

Mr Edwards informed the meeting that, (in compliance with Mr Yale’s comment that this should be resolved by SBC), he had spent over an hour with the Mayor’s staff, going through the Roll.
It transpired that Mr Roe’s grandfather had been sworn in as a burgess before the grant of his Honorary Freedom. Had Mr Roe applied correctly, then none of this would have arisen.

Mr Roe then went on to raise numerous matters relating to the County Court proceedings; his perceived lack of response from the Trustees; his annoyance that he had not been given names and he referred to situations dating back many years. Although the Scribe sought to clarify the situation, it was obvious that nothing would be resolved by arguments at this meeting. Eventually, the Mayor deemed these matters to be outside the reports presented and instructed Mr Roe to sit down.

c.      Treasurer’s report

Mr Griffin expanded on the accounts provided and covered the most significant items. He made particular note of the considerable rise in the water bill and suggested that some of this had been due ti foul play by disgruntled gardeners or ex-gardeners. Although a small leak had been identified and repaired it seemed likely that the water main had been switched on by unauthorised persons. To counter this, high security locks had been fitted with a very few people knowing the combination. The readings would be regularly monitored.

He noted that some £2,000 of gift-aid, arising from the rent paid by taxpayers who had agreed, was received in the financial year in question, but it was gained over a three year period.

Referring to the six year comparison chart; he noted that certain Items appeared large. However, they had previously been covered by the grant to the Coton Fields Management Committee, which was not paid in this period.

Significant expenditure had arisen from the decision to resurface the central path. This was for machinery hire and materials, as the work itself had been done by voluntary labour. There was also £1,400 spent on new sheds to replace irreparably damaged or missing ones. Felt and nails had also been purchased and issued to gardeners to effect their own repairs.

In all, some £8,700 had been spent this year on site improvement and maintenance. This was above the normal expenditure, but the Trust felt it was desirable.

Despite the additional outgoings, there was still a healthy balance of around £7,600 in hand.

There were no questions for the treasurer and the accounts were adopted unanimously.

d.     Site Administrator’s report

Mr Tillett expanded on the various items in his report. Essentially, from the gardening point of view, the site was close to fully tenanted and the overall standard was improving.

He gave further details of the regrettable acts of arson and vandalism, but informed the meeting that the police were actively monitoring the site and it was to be hoped that things would improve. It was clearly a tiny minority who were creating trouble and efforts were in hand to isolate them.

Improved locks had eliminated deliberate damage and the site security had been improved, however, with a plot as large as ours, it was impossible to remove all such risks.

He also commented on the improved atmosphere with social events as well as interaction between gardeners contributing to a happier site. The fact that there was someone with whom gardeners could discuss problems face to face was seen as beneficial by many people.

Again there were no specific questions, but compliments were paid to Mr Tillett for taking on this task and the way his presence had befitted the site.

Asked to comment on charitable groups requesting plots, he confirmed that a charity for disabled or autistic adults had approached the Trust and plots would be made available for their special requirements. On the same subject; Mr Kinnersley said he had recently had an approach from the “House of Bread” charity to use a plot to provide food for their project. This too would be viewed sympathetically.

The Mayor enquired whether further such groups, such as Stafford and Rural Homes could be approached, possibly to create a community garden project. Mr Kinnersley said this would be discussed by the Trust as we wished Coton Fields to be seen as a community asset.

6.     Election of New Trustees

There were four Trustees retiring after three years, with two standing for re-election).
One co-option needed verification and one Trustee was sadly deceased.
This left six vacancies and as only six properly validated nominations had been received by the due date it was not necessary to have a vote.

Hence, the following Trustees were deemed to have been duly elected:

John Edwards, Ken Tillett, Ray Spurway, Neville Scattergood, Roger Harrison and Alan Watkins.

For information: the Trustees continuing in office are Phil Kinnersley, (Chairman); Derek Luker, (Vice-chairman); Terry Griffin, (Treasurer); Alfred Eley, Michael Farmer and Dave Hanlon.

The two gentlemen not standing for re-election, after considerable excellent service to the Trust, were Mr Reg Rowlands and Mr Marion (Mick) Nowakowski. Both had sent apologies as a result of ill-health. Votes of thanks for their service and best wishes for their recovery were proposed and universally endorsed. The Mayor suggested that the feeling of the meeting should be conveyed to them and it was agreed that the Scribe should write to them accordingly.

The Mayor asked if this meeting should deal with the various officer appointments for the Trust. It was explained that this Burgesses Annual Meeting only had the responsibility to appoint Trustees, but the officers would be appointed by the Trustees at their AGM, which would be in February. This rather unusual procedure emanated from the Staffordshire Act of 1880 and as it seemed to work it should continue.

She also sought clarification why this meeting covered only matter relating to the allotments, not other items relating to the activities of the Burgesses. It was further explained that such things are normally dealt with at the Guild AGM, which had taken place in November. This rather confusing state of affairs was also something of a mystery to some of the newly sworn burgesses, so the Scribe offered to try to explain things more clearly.

7.     Any Other Business

Two items submitted were dealt with first but questions from the floor were permitted.

A)    Appointment of land agent to represent the Trust with Severn Trent.

In the Scribes report, reference was made to the project to be undertaken by Severn Trent by way of freemen’s land use during and after construction. As none of the Trustees had the necessary knowledge to deal with the legal or financial aspect of this they proposed to appoint an independent Land Agent to represent their interests.

Mr Farmer had had dealings with Severn Trent before and recommended Mr Stephen Egerton to act for us. The Scribe had met Mr Egerton on site and they had discussed the project in principle as detailed plans would not be available for some time.

The Trustees sought the endorsement of the burgesses to make this appointment to ensure that the greatest benefit was obtained from their assets.

This was agreed: 20 in favour, 1 abstention.

B)     Archiving of Trust Documents.

The Scribe sought permission to approach the County Records Office to take the historic documents including Trust minutes going back to the 19th century. This would have two benefits namely to create space in the officers' homes and to provide secure storage for documents which contain interesting information about the town.

He said that he hoped to be able to record most of the documents in digital form either prior to depositing them or by withdrawing some over an extended period.

It was agreed unanimously that such an approach be made and the digitisation should be investigated.

Other items:

·         Mr Harrison enquired, on behalf of his grandson, who has been running the Coton Fields web site, whether an additional communication channel for Trustees would be beneficial. The Trust Chairman agreed to discuss the possibility, but stated that they were very satisfied with the service that Jack was already providing. Mr Harrison was asked to convey their thanks to his grandson.

·         It was noted that the details of that web site are in the Scribe’s report.

·         Mr Eley was very complimentary about the way in which the current Trustees have continued to develop both the site and the relationships of the gardeners over the past year and he congratulated all those involved.

·         This was further endorsed be Mr Luker, the previous Chairman, who noted many improvements.

8.     Date of next meeting

This was set provisionally for the 19th January 2015

9.     Closing Remarks.

The Scribe said that it was pleasing to see three of the recently sworn burgesses at the meeting including for the first time, two ladies. It boded well for the support of the Trust.

He also thanked the Mayor for taking the chair at the meeting.

The Mayor closed the meeting at 9 p.m.

John Edwards, Scribe to the Trustees,

Trustees of the Stafford Freemen’s Allotments

Minutes of the Trustees ANNUAL MEETING with the Freemen and Burgesses, held in the presence of the Mayor of Stafford, Cllr Brian Cross.

Monday 21st January 2013, held in the Walton Room, Civic Centre, Riverside, Stafford, commencing at 7.30 p.m. 

Item

Detail

1. Attendance and Apologies

The meeting was opened at 7.30pm by the Trust Chairman Mr D Luker, inviting the Mayor to take the Chair.

The Mayor accordingly accepted.

Attendees: Cllr B Cross (Mayor), Mr D Luker (Trust Chairman), Mr I Pettifor (Treasurer and Clerk to Trust), Mr A Eley (Trustee), Mr J Edwards (Trustee), Mr M Nowakowski (Trustee), Mr R Rowlands (Trustee), Mr M Armstrong, Mr I Campbell, Mr M Farmer, Mr E Foreman, Mr P Glover, Mr T Griffin, Mr A Haggett, Mr D Hanlon, Mr R Harrison, Mr R Kenderdine, Mr G Kilford, Mr P Kinnersley, Mr S Palmer, Mr A Piddock, Mr B Piddock, Mr F Pye, Mr T Reeves, Mr K Roe, Mr N Scattergood, Mr R Spurway, Mr P Targett, Mr K Tillett, Mr A Watkins.

Apologies were noted from: Mr R Harris, Mr A Lawton, Mr M Maddock, Mr M Smith, Mr N Tonks, and Mr R Yale.

2. Notice of Meeting

Mr I Pettifor advised that the meeting had been advertised on the allotment site noticeboards since 14th December.

In addition, letters of invitation had been sent to approximately 116 Freemen and Burgesses.

3. Accuracy and Acceptance of Minutes from previous meeting

Copies of the Minutes from Monday 16th January 2012 were made available to all attendees.

Mr T Griffin proposed that the minutes were an accurate record of the meeting; this was seconded by Mr J Edwards and unanimously agreed.

4. Matters arising

Mr I Pettifor reported that Mr Yale had requested that his comment about Mr Roe’s qualification as a Burgess should be amended to read that “the matter should only be settled by the Legal Dept of SBC” rather than “the matter could only be settled by the Legal Dept of SBC.” The file copy was amended accordingly.

5. Officers’ Annual Reports

Chair: The meeting was referred to Page 4 of the Annual Report Booklet. In addition Mr Luker told the meeting that he was retiring as Chair. Questions were invited from the floor.

There were no questions, but Mr A Eley requested that the Minutes record the Burgesses thanks to Mr Luker for his service as Chair.

Clerk: The meeting was referred to Pages 5 of the Annual Report booklet. Questions were invited from the floor.

Mr J Edwards asked if the SBC Family Project was to be run in 2013. Mr I Pettifor responded that SBC had requested that it should, and Mr D Hill had again agreed to run it at Coton Field.

Treasurer: The meeting was referred to Pages 6 - 9 of the Annual Report Booklet. These provide:

Receipts/Payments summary

Details of all transactions

Comparison over previous 5 years

Questions were invited from the floor, but there were none.

Mr A Piddock proposed that the accounts be adopted, and this was seconded by Mr G Kilford and agreed by all present.

The meeting requested that the Minutes record the Burgesses thanks to Mr Pettifor for his service as Clerk and Treasurer.

6. Election of New Trustees

The Trustees who have reached the end of their 3-year term are

·       Mr I Pettifor – not standing again

·       Mr David Clarke – not standing again

·       Mr S Palmer – not standing again

·       Mr A Eley – standing for re-election

In addition there are 2 vacancies caused by the resignation of Mr Piddock and the death of Mr Crutchley making a total of 6 vacancies.

Mr I Pettifor reported that there 9 candidates so a ballot would be held. A 10th candidate, Mr K Roe had been disallowed from entering the ballot on advice from the Charity Commission.

Mr I Pettifor announced the names of the candidates in alphabetical order, and invited candidates to make themselves known to the meeting by way of a short statement. Mr A Piddock and Mr R Spurway both withdrew from the ballot; therefore the ballot was between the 7 remaining candidates.

Voting papers were passed to all present, the procedure outlined and the votes counted.

During the counting of the votes Mr J Edwards, (Master of the Freemen’s Guild), gave a short presentation to the meeting about the work the Guild was doing with SBC to modernise the qualification criteria.

Mr I Pettifor announced the results of the ballot:

Mr A Eley           - 19 votes                Mr M Farmer      - 17  votes

Mr T Griffin       - 16 votes                Mr D Hanlon      - 18 votes

Mr G Kilford      - 9 votes                  Mr P Kinnersley - 13 votes   

Mr K Tillett      - 10 votes

Mr A Eley, Mr M Farmer, Mr T Griffin and Mr D Hanlon are therefore elected for a 3-year term.

By agreement with the meeting the 5th and 6th placed candidates will fill the remaining vacancies for 2 years (Mr Kinnersley) and 1 year (Mr Tillett) respectively.

Any Other Business

Mr K Roe asked the Chair if the reasons for the Trustees’ refusal to allow his candidacy could be made public.

Mr J Edwards responded on behalf of the Trustees saying that the action taken was not victimisation of Mr Roe, but was based on advice from the Charity Commission that Trustees’ responsibility to their Trust must take precedence at all times. The information received by the Trustees from 4 verifiable sources led to the conclusion that Mr Roe’s election would not be in the interests of the Trust or the allotment site. He did not feel it would be appropriate to disclose details to the meeting, but offered to pass the information to the Mayor, who could pass on the information to whoever he deemed appropriate.

Mr Roe informed the meeting that his qualification as a Burgess, via his grandfather’s honorary freedom, had been accepted by SBC, so he should therefore be eligible and the information held by the Trust should be made available to him. The Mayor recommended that Mr Roe accept Mr Edwards’s offer to pass on the information, which Mr Roe agreed to do.

Mr Roe went on to comment on a previous accusation made about him by members of the Borough Horticultural Committee, and cast doubt on their reliability if they were implicated in the current situation. He even stated that his mistreatment meant that he would rather be a Freemason than be a Freeman.

Mr R Harrison commented on the poor state of cultivation of some plots at the allotment site.

Mr Edwards stated that with the considerable change in the make-up of the Trust, a new approach may be possible in 2013.

Mr R Harrison went on to say that too many new tenants did not appreciate the work involved in maintaining a plot, and that the Trust should consider taking a deposit which could be used to re-instate an unkempt garden on vacation if necessary.

Mr A Piddock agreed that some tenants under-estimate the commitment needed, and need some encouragement. He felt that the now-defunct Management Committee has helped to provide this, but the general state of the gardens had declined since its demise.

Mr R Harrison asked if the Trust had a plan to end the ongoing bad feeling between some tenants, and stated that the culprits should be evicted.

Mr A Piddock felt that it was not always easy to do that, or to solve deep-seated problems.

Mr I Pettifor said that there were gardeners who were prepared to assist the Trust in running the site if the Trust wants them to. He also reminded the meeting that much of the bad feeling was based on anonymous letters and allegations aimed at un-named tenants, which the Trust could not act upon.

Mr D Luker agreed that the Trust can only act with names and reasonable evidence.

Mr A Piddock felt that the Trust and Guild could continue to work together to improve the site.

Mr A Eley asked the meeting to look at the positives, and remember how much the site is improved.

Mr J Edwards asked the meeting to remember that the two issues of poor cultivation and troublemakers on the site are separate.

Mr J Hudson asked the Trust to consider that tenants may have personal circumstances leading to periods when they cannot cultivate their plot properly, and some support at such times would be valuable. He felt that this support had largely come from the Management Committee previously.

Mr J Edwards stated that the Trust can provide support, and have done so in the past.

Mr A Eley agreed that the Management Committee had been useful, and did not rule out its re-instatement in the future.

Mr K Tillett stated that he would be happy to work with such a proposal.

Mr M Nowakowski told the meeting that Mr D Hill was willing to get involved on some level again, but no agreement had been made. At present the general maintenance is being taken care of by Mr J Vincent in the capacity of Site Warden.

Mr D Luker stated that the Trust had deferred any discussions with Mr Hill or other gardeners until the elections had put new Trustees in place.

Mr R Harrison reminded the Trustees that the website which is maintained by his grandson may need to be paid for during 2013.

Mr I Pettifor stated that it had been agreed previously that the fee would be paid by the Trust.

Mr J Edwards took the opportunity to ask the Mayor to present gold ‘Stafford Burgess’ badges and certificates to Mr Luker, Mr Pettifor, Mr Nowakowski and Mr Rowlands for their service to the Trust.

8. Date of next meeting

Provisionally, Monday 20th January 2014, date and venue to be confirmed.

9. Close

The Mayor thanked the Trust for the invitation, and the attendees for a lively and interesting discussion. He stated that he was pleased to see the increasing presence of the Burgesses at Civic events.

The meeting closed at 8.45pm.

Minutes compiled March 2013 by I. Pettifor, Clerk to the Trust and J Edwards, Trust Scribe.

 

Minutes of the 2012 Burgesses Meeting

Trustees of the Stafford Freemen’s Allotments

 Minutes of the Trustees ANNUAL MEETING with the Freemen and Burgesses, held in the presence of the Mayor of Stafford, Cllr Mr S Highfield.

Monday 16th January 2012, held in the Walton Room, Civic Centre, Riverside, Stafford, commencing at 7.30pm.

Item

Detail

1. Attendance and Apologies

The meeting was opened at 7.30pm by the Trust Chairman Mr D Luker, inviting the Mayor to take the Chair. The Mayor accordingly accepted.

Attendees:

Cllr Mr S Highfield (Mayor)
Mr D Luker (Trust Chairman)
Mr I Pettifor (Treasurer and Clerk to Trust)
Mr J Edwards (Trustee)
Mr K Crutchley (Trustee)
Mr R Rowlands (Trustee)
Mr M Nowakowski (Trustee)
Mr David Clarke (Trustee)
Mr Daniel Clarke (Trustee)
Mr R Warren
Mr P O’Sullivan
Mr K Roe
Mr R Yale
Mr R Kenderdine
Mr T Griffin
Mr F Pye
Mr I Campbell
Mr G Kilford
Mr M Armstrong
Mr D Ecclestone 

Apologies were noted from:

Mr A Eley (Trustee)
Mr A Piddock (Trustee)
Mr A Lawton
Mr R Harris
Mr J Liddle
Mr R Spurway

 

2. Notice of Meeting

Mr I Pettifor advised that the meeting had been advertised on the allotment site notice-boards, and on the Civic Centre notice-board.

Unfortunately, the meeting was not mentioned in the Civic Diary of the Staffordshire Newsletter.

In addition, letters of invitation had been sent to approximately 100 Freemen and Burgesses.

Mr J Edwards advised that the meeting was also mentioned on the Freemen’s Guild website.

3. Accuracy and Acceptance of Minutes from previous meeting

Copies of the Minutes from 17th  January 2011 were made available to all attendees.

Mr J Edwards proposed that the minutes were an accurate record of the meeting, this was seconded by Mr K Crutchley and unanimously agreed.

4. Matters arising

Mr J Edwards reported that the Freemen’s Guild had not made any progress with formally amending the Burgess’ qualification criteria, but they were now in contact with the Legal Dept of Stafford Borough Council.

5. Officers’ Annual Reports

Chair: The meeting was referred to Page 4 of the Annual Report Booklet, and also to the CFAMC report on pages 13-16. Questions were invited from the floor.

Mr F Pye asked if it was known where the asbestos that had been buried had come from.

Mr D Luker replied that it had all been found on site.

M P O’Sullivan asked about any action that had been taken against the tenants concerned.

M D Luker replied that formal enforcement action had been left in the hands of the Environment Agency.

Mr P O’Sullivan was still concerned that site rules had been breached.

Mr D Luker replied that the original accusation against the tenants was that they had buried non-organic material on a large scale, but initial investigations had shown that the amount of material was relatively small. Their tenancies had originally been terminated, but after hearing further information this decision has been rescinded.

Mr P O’Sullivan stated that it seemed to take a long time to conclude the matter, and that many gardeners would have preferred quicker action.

Mr D Luker responded that advice sought immediately from SBC was vague, so the Trust were unsure how to proceed until the E.A. advised the correct process to follow. He went on to say that the Trust had been exonerated by the E.A. who had placed the responsibility with the tenants, and that the E.A. did not plan any further investigation.

Mr F Pye asked about the cost of removing all of the asbestos from the site.

Mr K Crutchley stated that if the estimated quantity of 3 tonnes was correct, the cost would be around £1,000. He went on to say that it had taken a small group of volunteers 4 weeks to collect it all, including removing sheets from sheds, and taking dividing fences down.

Mr Dave Clarke reminded the meeting that asbestos sheeting posed a minimal risk, and there were still many buildings in existence with asbestos sheet in their construction.

Mr D Luker added that the E.A. position was that buried asbestos sheet is safe unless disturbed, but that sheets left on the surface can be attacked by acid rain, which dissolves the cement binding.

Mr Dave Clarke stated that the ultimate disposal is to bury it, although this will be in recognised landfill sites.

Mr I Campbell asked if the Trust would be responding to the allegations made in the local press.

Mr D Luker felt that the Trust would not approach the press, since it is not in the interests of the Trust or the Burgesses to perpetuate the story. He stated that the Trust had dealt with the issue to the best of its abilities, to give an outcome satisfactory to the majority.

Mr J Edwards stated that the task had placed a big strain on key Trustees, made worse by the animosity and accusations surrounding the basic issue.

Mr D Luker concurred, saying that some individuals had tried to get the Trust to take sides in their own personal arguments, but it was not the Trust’s role to do this. Most gardeners simply want to see the site return to normal, and carry on cultivating their gardens. Over 100 people had turned out for the recent bonfire and BBQ, showing that there is a will to work together as a community.

Mr K Crutchley agreed, saying that there was a better atmosphere already evident on the site.

Mr G Kilford asked if the concept of a management committee would be considered again.

Mr D Luker replied that there was no plan to do this, but he hoped that gardeners would like to get involved in arranging social activities, perhaps via the Allotment Association. The CFAMC has worked well in the main, but failed through personal animosity between certain people. In addition, he stated that the Trust would be happy for gardeners to take an interest in how the site is run.

Mr R Yale asked about Mr D. Hill’s statement that notices stating the re-empowerment of the CFAMC in May had not been posted.

Mr D Luker agreed that the notices had not been posted.

Mr I Pettifor explained that the CFAMC has put up their own notices, so it was felt that additional Trust notices would be unnecessary.

Mr R Yale asked if this had been a primary factor in Mr D Hill’s resignation.

Mr D Luker stated that in his opinion, the CFAMC was simply not accepted by gardeners, irrespective of whatever notices were posted, and that Mr Hill had also been looking to reduce his involvement in the allotments, as he was taking a full-time job which entailed more travelling.

Mr J Edwards asked if the information surrounding the events would be circulated more widely.

Mr Dave Clarke suggested that the minutes of the Annual Meeting could be put up at the Big Shed.

Mr D Luker agreed with this, and also stated that he would make a statement to the local press if they were to get in touch.

 

Clerk: The meeting was referred to Pages 5 of the Annual Report booklet. Questions were invited from the floor.

Mr I Campbell asked if the site was on agricultural water tariff.

Mr I Pettifor confirmed that it is.

 

Treasurer: The meeting was referred to Pages 6 - 12 of the Annual Report Booklet. These provide:

Receipts/Payments summary

Details of all transactions

Summary of CFAMC delegated transactions

Details of all CFAMC delegated transactions

Comparison over previous 5 years

Summary of budget vs actual.

Questions were invited from the floor.

Mr J Edwards asked whether the Gift Aid income would be different to previous years.

Mr I Pettifor stated that it would be higher, since it reflects a percentage of rent income.

Mr J Edwards asked if the Trust and CFAMC would become fully integrated in future.

Mr I Pettifor replied that the CFAMC monies had been incorporated back into the Trust now, and that 2011-12 would be fully integrated.

Mr T Griffin proposed that the accounts be adopted, and this was seconded by Mr Rowlands and agreed by all present.

6. Election of New Trustees

The Trustees who have reached the end of their 3-year term are Mr Dan Clarke, Mr K Crutchley, Mr P Emberton and Mr D Luker. All four are willing to stand again. However, there are 2 additional nominations, Mr K Roe and Mr R Spurway.

Mr J Edwards questioned Mr K Roe’s eligibility as a Burgess, stating that the records showed his grandfather had been an Honorary Freeman not a Burgess.

Mr K Roe agreed, stating that his grandfather had been made an Honorary Freeman in 1901, and that this had been accepted by SBC at the time of his own swearing-in. However, he had also served an apprenticeship but had not submitted his indentures.

Mr J Edwards reminded the meeting that Honorary Freemen’s rights are not hereditary.

Mr K Roe asked why it was being brought up now.

Mr J Edwards replied that whilst the Trust is under close scrutiny due to other events, it is important the qualifications of the Trustees should be 100% correct.

Mr K Roe explained that he had been a Trustee several years ago.

Mr M Nowakowski concurred with this.

Mr R Yale stated that the matter could only be settled by the Legal Dept of SBC.

Mr M Nowakowski asked if Mr Roe could produce his indenture papers.

Mr K Roe was not sure he could still find them.

Mr I Pettifor referred to the Staffordshire Act, and proposed that since Mr Roe was currently on the Freemen’s Roll, he should be accepted as a candidate pending any later decision by the Legal Dept.

This was agreed by all present.

Voting papers were passed to all present, the procedure outlined and the votes counted. The outcome was:

Mr Dan Clarke –  16 votes

Mr K Crutchley – 18 votes

Mr P Emberton –  13 votes

Mr D Luker –        18 votes

Mr K Roe –           5 votes

Mr R Spurway –   6 votes

Mr Dan Clarke, Mr K Crutchley, Mr P Emberton and Mr D Luker are therefore elected for a 3-year term

Mr Dave Clarke thanked the unsuccessful candidates for their interest, and suggested that their names be kept in mind in the event that new Trustees needs to be co-opted in future.

7. AOB

Mr M Nowakowski suggested that Mr D Hill should be thanked for his efforts on behalf of the site over the years. It was agreed that the Clerk would write a letter.

8. Date of next meeting

Monday 21st January 2013, venue to be confirmed.

9. Close

The Mayor thanked the Trust for the invitation, and the attendees for a lively and interesting discussion. He stated his appreciation for those that promote allotment gardening, since they provide valuable green spaces within the Borough.

The meeting closed at 8.45pm.

 

I M Pettifor, Clerk to Trust

These minutes are supported by a 12 page document containing all the reports and accounts, which it is not practicable to reproduced here.

That document was made available to all Burgesses present and included reports from the Chairman, the Clerk and Mr Derek Hill covering his period as Chairman of the CFAMC.

There was a note on the accounts to explain that the item, under "Donations", was the money collected for the water surcharge, (which was not authorised by the trust). Receipts were issued to contributors where possible.

This is not a secret document, but it is a "Report to the Burgesses", not intended for the general public.

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