News - Potential Allotments on Muscliffe Farms Estate, Bournemouth

NEW - 3rd April 2013 // UPDATED - 8th May 2013 // UPDATED - 22nd August 2013 // UPDATED - 1st July 2014 // UPDATED - 14th July 2014

UPDATED - 14th July 2014

E-mail from Councillor Ron Whittaker to Councillor John Beesley, Leader of Bournemouth Council
10th July 2014
Muscliff New Allotment Site - THE Reply!

John.

Having seen your detailed reply to Les, and yes knowing the main problem is the freehold which we all know is a major house builder. It seems whatever I say it will be on a loser here. Yes the costs are likely to be greater but one can only again remind the officers that in 2006, after many issues around the tenancy of the farms and THEN UNCERTAIN FACTORS OF THE REGIONAL SPATIAL STRATEGY threat then to the green belt, thankfully their life was short lived, but it took many months of endless ongoing campaigns to see the death sentence to that unelected body as you know only to well.

If the Council agreed to amendments suggested by both my ward colleague and myself to include "Research the possibility of using part of the area of land at Muscliff as a non-statutory allotment site as demand is high in this area". And all that was included in our green space strategy, nothing here has changed, only it seems now due to the issue of Freehold. Question is then as I have asked before in the early part of 2000 why cannot one ask the free holder for such use of a small section of the agriculture, high grade farming land to be used as a non-statutory allotment site.

YES I do accept all would be different if the council was in possession of the freehold, and our interest is one annual agricultural tenancy. So one does appreciate complications to the management of the estate.

In early 2013 a project brief was prepared and went to the gateway board, that set out much of our case by proving benefits in terms of healthy eating, social and more so physical activity and community cohesion, and as the report stated it would improve the waiting list by proving space for community and social projects.

BUT THE BIG PLUS WOULD BE THE OPEN VIEWS ACROSS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PARTS OF MUSCLIFF AND THROOP, a pleasure to farm and grow ones own fresh food.

DISAPPOINTED, JOHN YOU BET I AM, ESPECIALLY LOOKING BACK AT MY FILE FROM 2000, THEN DEALING WITH PETER CHALLEN, CHRIS SAUNDERS AND OFFICERS WHO HAVE LONG GONE ON RETIREMENT PACKAGES.

Councillor Ron Whittaker

UPDATED - 1st July 2014

E-mail from Councillor Ron Whittaker to Ed Alexander, Contract Manager, Bournemouth Parks
30th June 2014
RE: New Allotment Site

Ed.

You won't be surprised but I'm extremely disappointed if not somewhat angry with what you say, especially relating to "poor relation to other sites", this being the highest of AGRICULTURE LAND IN ANY PART OF THE BOROUGH just where are you coming from, back in 2006 a very detailed debate at the panel THEN when member we considering the Farms future Strategy and history including the vast majority of land being in South coast land and Wimpey. Much then was around the real threat by the Regional spatial strategy in relation to the green belt threat, myself then attended some of those meetings and prepared a paper for the Regional Assembly on the great IMPORTANCE OF RETAINING THE FARMS ESTATE AS IT FELL WITHIN THE GREEN BELT.

I remind you that the green space Strategy for Bournemouth 2007-11 made great play of MUSCLIFF as a non-statutory allotment site. More so following the sale of part of Priestley road for housing, again in the report of 2006 part of the recommendation was for allotments in the Muscliff area, this THEN FOLLOWS ON from now 8 years on endless ongoing emails.

What I have asked for many times is to create a orchard of trees / growing fruit, and yes please that Hoopers are looking at a short term agreement on the land, will myself be talking with the family as to their plans.

Never the less once again Muscliff / Throop has been pushed sideways.

Councillor Ron Whittaker

E-mail Reply from Ed Alexander, Contract Manager, Bournemouth Parks
30th June 2014
RE: New Allotment Site

Dear Cllr Whittaker,

Following a meeting with the existing allotment sites in March, it was felt that Muscliffe Lane would remain a poor relation to other sites and may even become just a holding site until people could move to a more established site with better facilities. We would also need to charge a higher rent to go towards offsetting some of the set up costs which could result in people moving on to established sites with lower rents. This would make management of Muscliffe Lane difficult and frequent changes to plot holders would not provide the continuity found at the other sites in addition the investment required at Muscliffe Lane would not provide a site to the same standard of our other sites. Therefore, following discussion with the other sites and Peter Whiting in particular, we decided to look at the option of the land opposite Longbarrow Allotments where the enhanced facilities are already in place on the existing site and the management of the Longbarrow site could be extended to include any new area.

When we were first looking for a site we were not able to consider the land opposite Longbarrow, this situation has now changed and would in my opinion provide a better offer if funding can be achieved to develop an extension to Longbarrow. In the meantime the land at the rear of 161/163 Muscliffe Lane will be rented to Mr Hooper of Berry Hill Nursery on a short term agreement in case we do need to revisit this option in the future.

We are still looking for a cost effective allotment site in the area, however this is less likely to be at Muscliffe Lane now other land in the Council's ownership has been identified as a possible site and we only rent the Muscliffe Lane site. As for the overall estate, the new residents at Muscliffe Lane are involved in growing their own food and the older residents are still in their properties. The agricultural part of Hicks Farm is under a short term agreement 3+1 years while the Stour Valley Master Plan is being developed, both Erlin Farm and Berry Hill Nursery are broadly operating as before, all of which was in the plan put forward in 2006. In addition we have the BCHA rehabilitation project opposite Berry Hill Nursery. I am continuing to manage the estate in line with the 2006 plan (which did not include allotments as there were no waiting lists in the Borough at the time). I am not aware of any corporate changes to the management of this land and I will continue to review the position each time a tenancy changes in line with the 2006 plan, which was for residents in Muscliffe Lane to become more 'self sufficient' and maintain the unique character of this part of Bournemouth.

Regards,
Ed Alexander,
Contract Manager, Housing, Parks and Bereavement Services, Bournemouth Parks, Bournemouth Council

E-mail from Councillor Ron Whittaker to Ed Alexander, Contract Manager, Bournemouth Parks
27th June 2014
RE: New Allotment Site

Ed.

Your email fails to address the issue in Muscliffe Lane. As I continue to ask what are the plans for the farms estate more so having as you know identified 163 as a possible site you were looking at options and reminder you in 2010 at soil testing/with plans drawn up then for 100 plots, know Muscliff does not feature in this councils administration as any priority, we know that from 2008 on then Hicks Farm, so can you now tell me as to the future of the farms estate. And please answer my question as put in my email.

Councillor Ron Whittaker

UPDATED - 22nd August 2013

E-mail from Councillor Ron Whittaker to Ed Alexander, Contract Manager, Bournemouth Parks
21st August 2013
RE: Muscliffe Allotments

Ed.

Having today taken the two photos of the what one was hoping eventually to see the new allotments at Muscliff, as you know the whole of the farms estate dates back into history, with seven of the cottages built as part then of the programme for "home for heroes", 1918, with the land and livestock to enable the inhabitants to make a living. Yes time have changed and appreciate now that new tenancy agreements are in place when existing tenancy finish for one reason or another.

We all know this land is of the highest quality agriculture, so yes the question I am asking, IF this authority does NOT support my endless request to invest in securing this 95 half plots, THEN what plans does this authority have to MAINTAIN the existing farm land and as one can see from my photos the site is large, not sure of the Acres for 163, but it needs to be put into active agriculture use and NOT AS INDICATED PUT ON HOLD OR EVEN DROPPED.

As Trevor has so rightly pointed out the enormous social / health benefits in his email of 11th, including our policy of in the Green space strategy, adopted by council 2007.

As I have endlessly pointed out the land being lease from South coast land society I don't need here to spell out my fears if the land is not used or even maintained? Don't need to spell that out.

Councillor Ron Whittaker

Muscliffe Lane Allotment Site, Bournemouth 1
Muscliffe Lane Allotment Site, Bournemouth 2

E-mail from Councillor Ron Whittaker to Ed Alexander, Contract Manager, Bournemouth Parks
11th August 2013
RE: Muscliffe Allotments

Ed.

Received a very supportive email from Trevor at Kingston Lacy, appropriate all you say but am copying in the Chairman [David d:Orton-Gibson] and Executive Director, as with the issue of a healthy life style why are we not making contact with colleagues / university, as I have said so many times my fear is unless we take a very pro-active roll on the high quality agriculture farm land that those who own much of the land i.e. South Cost land society, will say that the land is not being farms as per the lease agreements.

Councillor Ron Whittaker

E-mail Reply from Trevor Muddimer
11th August 2013
RE: Muscliffe Allotments

Thanks Ron,

Tony Williams may recall my contribution to environmental / health issues at the council, and be more open to the broader perspective.

If you have a Health and Wellness group, could I suggest they be appraised of the issues. They will appreciate the range benefits from allotment usage, and may be able to quantify reductions in health costs?

Choosing a mixed range of plot sizes, on a well provisioned site (toilets, rest room and parking), will differentiate the site.

It's good to hear you are conversant with Kingston Lacy, where plots are not cheap and regulations strict.

However, take up is good across a wide age range, gardening skills and indeed abilities.

Turnover will always occur, as some underestimate the work to maintain a full size plot, but Kinston Lacy also has 1/4 size plots, and raised beds, which are a pleasure to operate and quite productive.

I doubt many make a financial profit from allotments, but health and exercise, along with the discipline of regular attention pays dividends in fresh veg, fresh air and socializing too.

Please let me know how it goes, and if I can support you in any way?

I suspect that only when the wider health picture is appreciated, will the project be seen as viable.

Best Regards.
Trevor Muddimer M.Sc, MCIBSE, AIEMA,
Low Carbon Consultant, Workplace Sense Ltd

E-mail from Councillor Ron Whittaker to Trevor Muddimer, Workplace Sense Ltd
11th August 2013
RE: Muscliffe Allotments

Trevor.

Email which does not give me much encouragement at all.

Councillor Ron Whittaker

E-mail from Ed Alexander, Contract Manager, Bournemouth Parks to Councillor Ron Whittaker
2nd August 2013
Muscliffe Allotments

Dear Councillor Whittaker,

As discussed on Tuesday, I am writing to update you on the allotment provision in the Borough. As you are aware the Council started to look at a potential new allotment site at Muscliffe when all sites had increasing waiting lists. This got as far as us taking it to the Council's project board to advise that we were looking at this possible project and an investment in the region of around £200,000.

There were significant vacancies in the Borough right up to the mid 2000's with sites having surplus plots, offering people two plots just to keep them maintained etc.

Suddenly in 2008 there were around 200 people on waiting lists and this steadily rose to the peak in the autumn of 2009 of 474. Since then there has been a falling of numbers and the current total stands at just under 300 with a drop of over 50 in the last four months and now with an average waiting time of three years. The falling waiting lists is being reflected across the south west and is due in part, to less tv coverage on home grown food and with the two very poor growing seasons we had in 2011/12.

We are aware of people going on more than one list and a drop out rate of between 25-30% of people when offered a plot. Our own list for Merrivale currently stands at 97, we have just written to all who have been on the list more than 18 months to ask if they are still interested, I expect this number to fall as well.

The Council recently opened the mini plots at Southill Gardens and the raised bed plots at Elizabeth Gardens and again the drop out rate has been around 30%.

Given that we seem to be in a bit of a fluid situation at present I will be consulting with the Federation of Bournemouth Allotment and Leisure Gardeners and the National Association of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners on the Muscliffe site with the following options:

  • Continue with 95 half plots (subject to funding) at Muscliffe. The risk here is we open a site but can't fill it or has a very high drop out rate. This will, in my opinion, have a very detrimental effect on the allotment cause.
  • Look at the costs of a smaller scheme, possibly 45 plots, but this will cost more than £100k with the set up costs, installing a water main, car parking etc.
  • Put the scheme on hold until we see the long term direction of waiting lists.
  • Drop the scheme altogether.

The national view is that any new site should be self funded over a period of time. To achieve this, rents at a new site would need to be significantly higher than at other sites who have better facilities. This could lead to people using the new site as a stop gap until they could move which in turn would increase the running costs and viability on a new site.

You mentioned putting something in your newsletter, which of course is fine, however allotments are already clearly advertised on the Council's web page for those with an interest and we need people with a long term wish to have a plot to go on the waiting lists. One of the issues has been those who see a tv programme and think it is easy to grow food and don't realise it needs commitment on a regular (at least weekly) basis.

Please be assured we all want the best outcome but empty or unkept plots after a significant investment will not help the allotment cause and will ultimately cost the Council more in maintenance. However if we find that there is a increasing demand and people are prepared to pay a higher rate to cover the site establishment costs then we will continue to work towards delivering a new site of appropriate size.

Regards,
Ed Alexander,
Contract Manager, Housing, Parks and Bereavement Services, Bournemouth Parks

UPDATED - 8th May 2013

E-mail from Councillor Ron Whittaker to Michael Rowland, Parks Manager - Development at Bournemouth Borough Council
5th May 2013
Muscliffe Farms Estate - ALLOTMENT SITE,

Michael, having yes cycled down Muscliffe Lane on Sunday, seeing many walkers and cyclists all enjoying the lovely sunny day, and looking over to the proposed site at 163, really hope progress is being made on this long fought out project for our allotment site to take IT BACK TO THE GATEWAY BOARD this month.

As you know and I have made numerous mentions of it over the many years to our green space strategy from 2006, which identified then the likely area for such a facility, i.e. Throop, same time any properties that become vacant as you know are market as small holdings which then returns the land back to allow new tenants to use up to five acres to continue broadly in its current form, it is so nice to see the new tenants working their land, in 2006 the echo did a brilliant feature on the farms estate, with the tenants of Berry Hill Nursery [Anne and James Hooper] by Faith Eckersall.

That feature to me and so many people summed up the whole feeling of this wonderful farms estate, one we don't ever want change, my wish is to see this council get behind the project for the 75 plus allotment sites without further delays, after all seven plus years, I really think deserves our full support, be nice to see this project up and running for next year.

Have copied in our new Portfolio holder and our area forum plus our chairman of our Garden club.

Councillor Ron Whittaker

NEW - 3rd April 2013

E-mail Reply from Ron Whittaker
1st April 2013
RE: Muscliffe Farms Estate

Michael.

Last week at Cabinet made a few comments regarding the need to get this through the gateway board. I fully appreciate you and Ed will do all you can to secure the additional financial information so hopefully in May the CE and Executive team will get behind the allotment project, after all we are only talking of now some seven years in being. With the waiting list and being in the area of the farms estate one could not wish of a better area to grow one's own vegetables.

Also in 2006 under the so called green space strategy for Bournemouth 2007-11, much play was made of the allotments, where such comments made "the most likely area for such a facility would be in the north of the Borough, in the Throop/Muscliff area," report of November 22nd 2006.

I believe it has the full support of both the Leader and Portfolio holder.

Councillor Ron Whittaker

E-mail from Michael Rowland - Parks Development Manager, Bournemouth Parks, Bournemouth Council to Councillor Ron Whittaker
13th March 2013
RE: Muscliffe Farms Estate

Dear Cllr Ron,

The outcome of gateway board was that we need to do some market testing on potential allotment customers to look at how we can set up a pricing structure for any new site that we develop, this is to ensure that anything we do build from this point is as sustainable (financially) as possible. I don't think we will develop anything completely sustainable, to build a new site will take some sort of subsidy, but we may be able to come up with something that repays some of the £150k-£200k that the council invests over a period of time.

We have recently undertaken an e-panel survey which asked questions on allotments - I will see if I can go back to those people who said they were interested to set up a focus group to get this work completed as soon as we can.

We'll also see if any external grants are available.

Kind Regards, Michael Rowland