February Newsletter – Feb 10th 2024

Dear Tenant
This newsletter is being sent to all registered plot holders by the Elms Farm Allotment Association (EFAA). If you have friends or helpers working with you on your plot, we would urge you to share this with them.

There was an incident on the site this week in which a shed caught fire, destroying most of the contents and other structures in the close vicinity. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and the site has been deemed safe by the Fire Service. We don’t know the exact cause of the fire, but it does raise questions about safety, so we will be reviewing the current policy, along with information from Fire, Police and government sources.
In the meantime, please consider the following issues on your plot:

• Are you storing fuel (petrol, gas canisters, barbecue coal, etc)? If so, the current tenancy agreement states that fuels should be limited and stored in appropriate containers. A maximum of 5l of petrol/diesel at any time. We’d suggest these be kept separated if at all possible or taken home.
• Do you have electrical equipment? This might include batteries and solar panels. If there is anything like this that may produce a spark, then it needs to be kept as far away as possible from fuels such as petrol, or contained in some other way.
• Are there other flammable materials on your plot – oils, matches, stacks of paper or dry straw? Are they contained? Do you really need them?
• Can you remove or take home any of these fuels, electricals or flammables to minimize the chance of a fire on the plot?
• Do you switch off and disconnect gas supplies from heaters and cookers after use? If not, then it is increasing the risk of leakage of gas into an enclosed space.

There are many dangers on allotment sites and it is in everyone’s interests to regularly review materials and structures on your plot to minimize risk.

The date for this year’s Annual General Meeting is Wednesday, April 17th, at 7:30 PM at the Day Centre / Touchpoint Café. Please mark it in your calendar. ALL plot holders are invited, and it’s an ideal opportunity to find out more about the Association and what we’re planning or to put yourself forward for election to the steering committee. A more detailed announcement and agenda will be sent in March. You are, of course, welcome to contact us at any time.

We will shortly be delivering a waste skip to the car park area so that rubbish can be cleared from the community block area, car park and borders of the site. The skip is available to all plot holders if you wish to get rid of rubbish from your site. It is ONLY to be used for allotment waste, so please don’t bring things from your home or office. Please use the following list as guidance.

• General rubbish, plastics, metal and wood where it cannot be recycled or repurposed. If you have clean wood such as pallets, planters and pots in good condition, please leave them next to the skip so that others can take them if useful.
• Stones that have been sifted from the soil can be left in the buckets next to the skip and will be used elsewhere on the site.
• Soil, grass clippings, turf, weeds and other organic material should be composted on your plot, as required in the tenancy agreement. Please avoid filling the skip with this kind of waste.
• Old tools, lawnmowers, strimmers, etc, may be repairable, and we intend to have a repair service of some kind available over the summer. If you wish to get rid of tools, please leave them by the community block.

We’ll leave the skip for a month or until it’s full. If it proves useful and isn’t abused, it could be a regular service each year.

As part of a full review of the site, we are consulting with the Parish Council and landowner about how to make better use of the borders and fences around the site. This is communal land and cannot be used for the cultivation of vegetables under the terms of the agreement between the Parish Council and the landowner. Fruit bushes and trees may be an option or a planned programme of planting wildflowers and shrubs to attract pollinators. We will have a proposal for discussion and comment in the next few weeks, and we welcome your input. In the meantime, please do not cultivate or plant on any land outside the borders of your plot or remove any of the existing trees and shrubs. Thank you.

Security measures and signage around the plot are in review and will be published over the next few weeks.

The spring inspection will take place in the first two weeks of April. We want the process to be as smooth and trouble-free as possible. A minimum of two association members will inspect plots, make notes about any concerns and take photographs. We will then get in touch with any plot holder who we have concerns about. A formal notice of inspection is HERE, but to summarise, this is what we’re looking for:

• Evidence the plot has been tidied after the winter break.
• Planting areas, including beds, raised beds and planters, have been weeded and prepared for sowing, ideally with some plants already in the ground.
• Grass has been cut within and around the borders of each plot. Bear in mind you are responsible for grass on all borders of your plot up to halfway across each path.
• Structures such as sheds, polytunnels, fencing, cages and awnings are in safe condition.
• The plot conforms to the requirements of the tenancy agreement and schedule and doesn’t contain any prohibited items or hazards.

As with all previous inspections, we take the tenancy agreement and schedule as our guide for assessing plots. Nothing has changed in that respect, so please review your tenancy agreement if you need to. You can download a copy from the new website (shortly). If you have any concerns about your plot and want to discuss them with us in advance of the inspection, please get in touch.

There has always been a small area allocated as a beekeeping plot in the northeast corner of the site, which is currently empty. If you know of any qualified beekeepers who are interested in taking it on, please ask them to get in touch.

There are currently 4 empty plots, and we are contacting people on the waiting list to get these plots allocated as quickly as we can.

We‘d love to find ways of engaging with plot holders and building more of a community. So we are running a competition. The EFAA has never had a logo, so we’re looking for ideas for a permanent logo and identity for our organization. You are invited to submit your suggestions. It could be a sketch, drawing, design or photograph, along with any comments you wish to make. We’ll then select a ‘winner’ and convert the winning idea into a formal logo. There will be a prize! It’s something for fun and completely optional. Just send your entry to us by email before the end of March.

After many months of planning, we anticipate the Stansted Men’s Shed group will be refurbishing the community block in the first 2 weeks of March. Once complete, this will form the heart of an important community group, and they will be able to support plot holders in different ways. We also plan to tidy up the car park area as part of that project.

As the daylight hours are increasing and (hopefully) with the worst of the winter weather behind us, we hope you have an enjoyable and productive spring on your plot.

The Elms Farm Allotment Association