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Meeting Minutes -7th May 2009

Minutes of 1st Meeting held on 7 May 2009

The meeting was held at the Miller Institute, Church Street, Cromarty on 7 May 2009 from 6.30 to 7.30pm.

Present

Bob Cameron (Area Manager, Highland Council), Jane Clunas, Barbel Dister, Colin Dunn, Craig Fraser, Vanessa Halhead, Jo Hunt, Shirley Matheson, Annie Ratcliffe, Shirley Ross, Paul Shepherd, Jill Williams, John Wood

Apologies were received from Jackie Alston, Veronica Elrick, Gillian and John McNaught, the Mallows family, Patsy Thomson.  Unfortunately the meeting clashed with meetings of the School Parent Council, and the Transition Black Isle group, and others.

Background

John Wood started by outlining progress to date in promoting allotments.  A wish to develop allotments in Cromarty had been expressed over many years by the Community Council, who included this on its 5 Year Plan for Cromarty.  After his election to the Community Council in May 2008, John had prepared sign-up sheets to gauge the current level of public interest.  These had been placed in May 2008 in the Cromarty Stores, the Post Office, and the Emporium.  29 people had expressed a desire to take an allotment if one were available.

A formal letter of request to provide allotments was made to the Highland Council in September 2008.  This was signed by 6 Community Councillors and contained the names of the 29 people who had signed the form.

Allotment Sites


An attempt had then been made to investigate possible allotment locations in Cromarty, but most of these seemed to be allocated for development in the Local Plan.

Bob Cameron reported that the Highland Council had also investigated possible allotment sites in Cromarty but had reached a similar conclusion.  Contact had been made with the Forestry Commission but they too had no suitable land close to Cromarty.

John Wood then had a meeting with John Nightingale to discuss possible sites.  The former walled garden of Cromarty House, which several people had identified as a preferred site, is zoned for housing.  Equally the small area between Bank Street and the School is set aside for school expansion.  In both cases, Mr Nightingale did not want future developments to be complicated by the presence of allotment tenants.  Unfortunately the only one he could offer was the steep, north-facing, tree-covered slope adjoining the East Church graveyard, which was was not suitable.  He had instead suggested either the Daffodil Field, or that part of the proposed Sandilands development set aside for community uses.    He does not own either of these. Unfortunately, the Daffodil Field is also zoned for housing development.  It also  adjoins the sea, in a position very exposed to the east and north.

Jo Hunt drew attention to the Reeds Path fields which he said are currently available for lease.   However, there are problems with this location:   John had raised them at his meeting with John Nightingale, who was apparently unwilling to see any of them used for allotments owing to the likely visual impacts.   Annie Ratcliffe pointed out that there would also be great difficulties with providing security there against vandalism and theft, and others pointed out that users of the Reeds Path might object to a substantial fence or barrier alongside.  Jane Clunas  pointed out that these fields too are north-east facing and exposed.  It seems the lease offered is 5 years only, and there is no guarantee of renewal.  John Wood pointed out that it is also not very conveniently located for people who live in the west end of Cromarty.

The field between Townlands Park and Whitegates Industrial Estate was then considered.  This lies on the west end edge of Cromarty, so might be more convenient for more people, and is owned by the Highland Council.   However it is zoned for industrial development.    It is also an area where Townlands Park residents like to walk dogs and being secluded could face security problems.

Land at Shore Mills was suggested as a possibility.  It was agreed to look into this further, but the distance from Cromarty would be a disadvantage.

John Wood favoured the field alongside the Ladies’ Walk and the Paye, as this is reasonably accessible from most parts of Cromarty, is reasonably level and has been well cultivated for many centuries.  It catches the sun, with a belt of trees sheltering it from the north.   There is enough room there to include enough allotments for foreseeable needs and possible visual impacts could be kept to a minimum there too.   He also felt that security could be dealt with by fencing / hedging and that grants might be available for this.   Water would need to be brought to the site, and there are power lines running across, but in his view this would be the best location available.

It was agreed to approach the owner of this field, understood to be Evan McBean, to see whether he might be prepared to consider sale, lease or rent of part of the field either to the Society or the Council.

It was also agreed to continue to explore any other possible options that might have been missed to date.

Bob Cameron said that the Council would support the development of allotments.  It has powers of compulsory purchase, but would be reluctant to use them unless in particular circumstances as they are costly and time consuming to exercise and can take up to two years to complete.  The Council would also have to compensate the landowner according to the zoning in the Local Plan, so that housing land, for example, would be very expensive indeed to acquire.

He said that the allocation of land in Local Plans can be changed but issues of possible compensation for lost value would arise.

Non-allotment activities

Several people had indicated a wish for a society with a wider remit than allotments, and it was agreed that the Allotments and Gardens Society would  also be open to anyone locally with an interest in gardening.  Possible activities for the Society might include seed and plant swaps, talks, shows, exhibitions, competitions, garden and equipment sharing, community planting, work with the school and others.  Jane Clunas is already running a competition and those present were encouraged to enter.  Details are available from the Emporium.

Formation of the Society

It was agreed to establish a Cromarty Allotments and Gardens Society, with a constitution, chair, treasurer and secretary, and a bank account.  As Bob Cameron reminded us, this will be necessary to take forward the various activities and bid for funding.  The society will need to meet to create these structures and develop its programme, and volunteers are needed to help.  John Wood tabled a draft constitution, based on models supplied by the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society, and incorporating comments received to date ( copies can be obtained from him, or it can be seen online at http://sites.google.com/site/cagsoc/ ).   Bob Cameron offered to comment on the draft; all comments on the draft would be welcome.

John Wood agreed to minute the meeting and to compile a list of members. For the time being, all those present at the meeting, or who had expressed a wish to take an allotment or contribute to the Society, would be regarded as members.  Until decided otherwise there is no membership subscription.  (There are now 40 people listed).  This list is purely for contact purposes and will not be made available to anyone else.  Those wishing to be removed should contact him and this will be done immediately.

Next meeting

It was agreed to meet again on Thursday 21 May at the Hugh Miller Institute at 6.30pm, subject to room availability.

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