First Annual Report:  April to December 2010.

Background.

The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Growers (NSALG) is the only organisation recognised by central government to advise and speak on allotment matters.

Anyone can become a member, either individually or, as is more popular, as a member of an associated society.  The National Society divides its operation into ten regions and the regions are further divided into local federations.

Federations are made up of those member societies within a given area, usually a Borough or County Borough.  Although there were federations in most of the surrounding boroughs it had not been a priority in West Lancashire.

In the whole of the West Lancashire Borough only eight allotment sites had been identified.   Of these only two had properly constituted societies who were members of NSALG. These two, both in Skelmersdale, are Liverpool Road Allotment Society (LRAS), Old Town and Skelmersdale Horticulture Society, Ashurst (SHSA). These two societies jointly approached NSALG in 2009 for assistance in the forming of a new federation for West Lancs.

At this same time West Lancashire Council for Voluntary Service (WLCVS) and West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC) were jointly looking for unused land that might be suitable for allotments. A site was identified at Christ Church Digmoor and Digmoor Inspired Growers Allotment Society (DIGAS) was formed to start work on the new site.

The first nine months.

An open meeting was called for the 22nd April 2010 at the Ashurst site in Skelmersdale.

Phil Spark, NSALG northwest region secretary, chaired the meeting. Six people attended representing the three societies in Skelmersdale. All six were conscripted onto the working committee and three officers were appointed. The members will in future elect these officers for a period of three years in rotation. To set this process into motion the chairman will stay for a further year, while the other officers will be re-elected at this the first annual general meeting of the Federation. (The secretary for two years and the treasurer for three years).

A constitution was agreed and signed at the second meeting on 12th May 2010.

On 20th June we received our first set back when our secretary resigned, happily quickly replaced by another volunteer. 

As West Lancashire Borough Council is the landlord for most of the sites in the borough, they were asked if they would like to be represented.

While WLBC continue to assist regarding the provision of allotments, they are currently unable to let us have complete details of waiting lists for the whole borough.  Consequently the information available to us at this time relates mostly to Skelmersdale.  The federation has offered to keep and maintain the borough list on their behalf.  We still await their decision.

We also invited the WLCVS to join us because of their current involvement in the promotion of new allotments and the regeneration of established allotment sites throughout the borough.

In October 2010 the WLAF were invited to serve on the West Lancashire Community Food Growing Steering Group (WLCFG).  During 2010 WLCFG, in association with Red Apple Community Trust, provided raised beds and equipment to many primary schools across the borough. All these schools are eligible to join the national society.

Now at the end of 2010 there are fifteen known allotment sites and five member societies within the borough. In addition there are eighteen primary school projects. This is a remarkable increase in provision for just twelve months. While the federation acknowledges with gratitude other agencies efforts in achieving this (principally WLBC and WLCVS and WLCFG), we must accept the end result as a successful year for the federation.  

Throughout the borough the demand for allotment plots continues to grow and waiting lists continue to lengthen.  In Skelmersdale alone there are currently 110 on waiting lists with only 49 plots available, all of which are currently occupied.

Aims for 2011.

Our aim for the future is the increase of allotment provision within the borough.  Two new sites are due to come online early in 2011. These will eventually provide a further sixty plus plots bringing the total to over two hundred.  In addition target areas for new allotments have been identified at Burscough and Skelmersdale.  At the same time we must commit to improving facilities on the older established sites.

We have however noticed a trend towards new sites attracting new person interest rather than attracting people off the waiting lists.  We must find a way to influence organisers of new sites to persuade them to approach people on the waiting lists first before going public.  However many new sites come onto line in the future, if they do not take people off the lists it will only make the situation worse.

It is our aim to bring all these sites, old and new, into the West Lancashire Allotments Federation family.

As you can see, we are still very much ‘at the beginning’.

Ray Fowler,
Chairman.