Making it easier for communities to take part



Things to think about

1. What does the word "community" mean to you?

A group of people with a common cause perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists, usually preceded by the e.g. The allotment community,which reaches out to the larger society.

2. Can you tells us something about your community?

Our community is reflective of the human condition, sometimes fragile in need of support, sometimes robust and determined, sometimes lacking resources, occasionally at odds with itself but  always aiming for the same outcomes, to produce an environment beneficial to the well being of the individual and  the community, neatly summarised as "skint, but happy".

3. How can community councils do more to help local people have their say about how local services are run or managed?

To  have access to the resources to increase the capacity of the community councils to improve communication between local service providers and communities with the aim of empowering communities to effect the change that they themselves determine. 

4. Do you have any ideas about how to make it easier for community organisations to help run or manage local services?

Clear definitions of expectations.

A clear understanding of the consequences of failure and the appropriate contingency planning to reduce or negate the social and economic impact of failure.
 
A statutory national body to provide the necessary resources to encourage capacity and resilience building, conflict resolution, mediation and upskilling for community organisations to properly deliver on empowerment.

All community organisations must have a set of constitutions and rules which have been drawn up when the organisation is created.  The constitution and rules must be reviewed every 5 years.  The constitution must then be approved by a majority of the membership.

Ensure the mandatory inclusion of clause within constitution, that any office bearer cannot hold a post on the committee for more than 3 consecutive years.  Also that they cannot take up the same post  until at least two years has passed, since they left their post.  They also cannot take up another post on the committee for a period of one year, since they left the committee.  This can only be over ruled at an AGM or EGM where the a 2/3 majority of the registered membership must vote in favour of the election of the person.


5. Do you think communities in Scotland should be able to challenge a local service if they feel the service is not run well or does not meet their needs?

Yes

Why do you think this?

It is our democratic right as citizens of Scotland, however we felt the framing of this question allowing only a YES/NO answer was deceptive as we felt there was the need for caveats with our YES answer as the current format of the question could lead to frivolous challenges which through distraction and cost of processing could have a detrimental impact on the successful delivery of any service.

6 .Should local communities be involved in deciding how local money for services is spent?

Yes

Why do you think this?

We arrived at a Yes conclusion as it was felt as contributing taxpayers who fund local services we be included in   deciding how these monies are spent.

If you said yes, what do you think would help to make this possible?

We would refer you back to our answers to question 3 as we feel the answer given there is as relevant here.

Question 7 - Would it help your community if it owned land or buildings?
Yes - unless it is sold at market value

Why do you think this?

The reason for this is community groups may not be able to raise the necessary funds.  For example Oatlands community allotments would not have been able to move if they had to raise the funds.

Also require to have in place robust laws and regulations regarding the ownership of the land.  Number of situations in the past which have raised concerns.

If an entire group of people purchased the land, each paying a nominal price of £1 to own their own piece of land.  What legal redress is there to prevent them from selling the piece of land to some in the local public house or in some other way?  Or situation where the trustees of a piece land sold to a national supermarket.  The trustee’s then shared the profit. The community lost the land and had no opportunity to participate in the decision.  As happened with Grove allotments in Kelso.

Looking to council maintained allotment sites possibility transferring to private / community ownership.  So that the council presumably would not have to maintain sites.  The cost of maintenance of amenities and other costs would then fall directly on the association and the members.  Hence the association fees would most likely have to increase considerably.  Beyond the combined cost of current association and fees charged by the council.  Meaning that a person who is unemployed or on a low income may be force to give up their plot as they cannot afford the fees.  Thus excluding certain groups from allotment's, these groups currently have access to sites.

Also have concerns regarding capacity to raise required funds. Could also mean a change is required with allotments becoming more reflective of a market garden model purely to raise monies required to maintain a working association.

8. Should communities in towns and cities have a right to buy land and buildings that are for sale in their area?
 - Yes

Why do you think this?

However as noted in the answer to question 7 there are issues regarding ownership that require to be addressed.

One suggested model is the one used by the John Lewis Partnership, where everyone has a part to play in ensuring success see http://www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk/csr/our-employees/employee-ownership.html

9.  If the local council or other public authority own land or buildings they are not using, should the local community have a right to ask for the land and buildings? 

- Yes
Why do you think this?

To encourage communities to make use of under used resources.  For example Oatlands Community Allotments where able to identify an area of land near by that was not being used.  They approached the land owner to see if they would be willing to allow them to use the land for allotments.  The result of this request is the Oatlands Gate Allotments site.  Which has made a contribution to the number of allotment sites in Glasgow as well as a reduction in the number of people on the waiting list.  

Also reduces the negative impact on a community of land/buildings lying in a dormant state, see DRS Stalled Spaces program (http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/Business/Environment/Clyde_KelvinGreenspace/) for further information

10. Do you think communities should have more land for allotments and community gardens so people can grow their own food or flowers? - Yes

Why do you think this?

Grow your own projects creates communities, encourages communities.  They have a variety of health benefit's, mental and physical, among them.  Help to increase biodiversity, which is increasingly important in the urban built environment.  Encourages people out to the open air, helping them to understand nature and environment around them.  Also helps to encourage nature conservation, and contributes to education, and environmental eduction especially when they can engage with schools. 

The historical and current waiting lists would suggest that this demand can only be addressed by releasing more land for the above purposes.  There may also be a financial requirement as many more families find themselves slipping into Food Poverty as the price of food staples is projected to increase by 18% in the next financial year due to weather patterns in the cereal producing lands of North America and Central Eurasia.

11. SHOULD YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITY BE ABLE TO USE PUBLIC BUILDINGS OR RESOURCES LIKE BUSES FOR PART OF THE WEEK OR FOR A SHORT TIME?

Consider: What do they mean by Short Term. 

'There should be access to more buildings for meetings and buses to transport people to events.  Access to such community resources would encourage a community spirit.  This group has proposed that if a transport resources was made available it could be used for visits other allotments. Or other events of interest the community, such as Gardening shows.

12. ARE EMPTY HOUSES, SHOPS OR AREAS OF LAND A PROBLEM IN YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITY?

Consider: Grade A Listed Land, similar in concept to a grade A listed building.  This land that has never been built on, the status once granted to this item of land would mean it could not be built on.   Only used for purposes of growing projects.

Consider: Should we be looking at shops when we are not allowed to sell produce commercially but only sell on the allotment for Association Funds.  Could these shops be considered as an outlet of the allotment ie the locale where the produce is sold for Association Funds not profit rather than this being done only on the allotment as we fail to see any logic in that thinking.

Ensure that local authorities had to provide information on the owners of un-used land or buildings from the land registry or other sources, free of charge.  This facility would only be available to community groups.
  
13. WOULD IT HELP YOUR COMMUNITY IF IT COULD USE LAND OR BUILDINGS THAT OWNERS ARE NOT USING JUST NOW?

Allotments require land for a longer period of time than would be considered by the owners.

Problem of Land Banking – lay to waste. Planning permission granted to this land for three years to develop site. Often not taken up if not financially beneficial. Place restriction for amount of time this ground can be kept. Place a proviso that land has to be  made available to lease for allotment purposes.

14. SHOULD YOUR COMMUNITY HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK THE LOCAL COUNCIL TO ARRANGE THE SALE OF AN EMPTY BUILDING OR LAND?

Consider: Again, what does Short Term mean.  It is possible that this be open then to frivolous abuse and manipulation by the more unscrupulous members of our communities who may see a profit to be made by harnessing this community right?

Consider: When Planning Permission is granted, there are three years in which to carry out the project before a new Planning Application has to be made. If the development cannot go ahead in this time, perhaps the land could be used for allotments. However, would people want to have to give up the plots in such a short time.  Would the time frame of three years allow for community groups to be in a position to develop this.

Consider: If such land is there, somebody would want to build on it. We need to look at green places that are derelict. Would it help owners who cannot use it just now.
Consider: The remainder of the Glasgow Festival site which has lain derelict for many, many years. Could some of that land be used for allotments especially as:
a. This is in the Govan area which is an area of deprivation.
b. There once were FIVE allotment sites in the Govan area but now there are NONE (as at Sept 2012).

Consider: There were allotments, once upon a time, in the local parks. As most parks do not have as much use by the public nowadays, could these allotments be re-instated.  

Consider: Could land that has been lying vacant for many years be compulsory purchased by the Council for the benefit of the Community in that area.

Consider: Where there are new developments, then provision be made for allotments sited next to schools or community centres. The allotment community could help out with school plots.

Consider: Could the Councils be required to provide lists of unused green land in their area. 

15. Other points to consider

All new allotment sites must have an area set aside for toilet facilities to constructed within 3 years of site opening.

A pre-condition of Local Authority acceptance of plans for new housing development should be that allotment gardens must be included in those plans.  All future building projects, either commissioned by or funded from central government such as school or hospital should include allotment site.  Furthermore the allotment sites that are designed for these projects, the design process be fit for purpose.  With the designers seeking out and implementing best practice for allotment site design (eg SAGS guidance).  With the visual design of the site being the least important aspect of the design.   There a number of growing your own sites which have been designed by professional companies, which appear to demonstrate little understanding of growing, and the user community they are designed to serve.

Improve inner city – improve moral. Fund core community gardeners to facilitate in the creation of these places teach to grow food \ beautify with flowers.

Also ensure that government policy directs local authorities to work with and develop associations that already exist. Such as existing allotment associations, with funding, rather than directing towards organisations which have recently come into existence.  To reverse the significant underfunding that has taken place in the last 30-40 years which has resulted in the lost of grow your own resources. Which local authorities are only now trying to put back into place.  In the case of Glasgow funding projects which do not have the same track record or sustainability that is offered by allotment sites.

With several plots in Glasgow, there is evidence of mismanagement or intimidation of plot holders, and some more serious accusations.  There should be an arbiter that both parties can approach in order to resolve or review the matter.  This body would be independent of council bodies.  In particular if a committee is being run in a manner which is not in accordance with the their constitution.  Or the committee appears to be acting in a manner which is considered to be intimating one or more plot holders.

Current allotment legislation is out of date and requires review and not fit for purpose.  It reflects a society and generation which has not existed since the end of the second world war.  As such given the growing importance of growing your own projects the legislation needs to recognise and reflect that.