There is an old army saying that my dad taught me, which is “never volunteer!’.
I should have listened to my old dad in that case. As a fresh faced new member of the committee at the first meeting (way back in a time when we could still meet face to face) I said I was happy to project manage the fence security group. Little did I know what I was taking on!
The purpose of this (and I hope subsequent articles on this matter) is to let members know what we are doing in terms of trying to increase security on the site. It is also my aim to stimulate debate, suggestions and yes, offers of funding and or volunteer help from members. More of that later
However we also need to start with an understanding of just how big the size of the problem is.
One of the things that makes Moor Green Allotments the amazing place it is, is the sheer size. It means we have 242 plots (and therefore plot holders) from a vast array of different backgrounds and nationalities that come together as a community.
However the drawback of this is the sheer physical size of the site. Allied to that we border onto public rights of way, a public park and the rear of private properties. All this provides a massive challenge to the management of the site.
It is also fair to say that long ago in a far distant time it would merely have been a case of talking to Birmingham City Council about maintaining or increasing security fencing. Being realistic, we have to accept that Birmingham City Council has massive budgetary problems, which have been made even worse by the Covid 19 pandemic and such jobs really cannot be counted as a priority.
Therefore the committee are albeit reluctantly willing to accept that any action needs to be initiated from within rather than waiting for external help and funding.
Given that we have a massive site it is virtually impossible to make it impregnable to determined intruders. We have therefore taken the view that if you cannot eat the elephant whole you can at lease start with some small bites.
It has been identified that the most vulnerable section of fence is at the extreme south of the site, near the main gate alongside the Holders Lane footpath. At present this is largely a chain link fence. It is clear that in places access has been gained. Merely patching this up is not going to stop anyone from gaining access who is determined to do so. Therefore we are actively looking at replacing the whole of that fence.
The problem, as always. is the cost. The indications we have so far is that to put up palisade fencing such as we have at the northern end of the site we are looking at a bill of around £45,000. Let me also add that that does not take into account the additional cost of tree surgery that would be incurred as new fencing would require the removal or lopping of a number of quite mature trees.
So that is the first part of the project underway. Understand the scope of the job and get some idea of costs.
Spending that sort of sum on this particular job at this time is just not feasible. The Association just does not have the resources.
However that is no excuse for inaction or to throw our hands up in dismay! As I alluded to earlier the only way to eat an elephant is in small bites.
The next step is to see if we can raise sufficient funds to at least start the work . We do have some options. Local and national (in the form of lottery funding) grant funding is being actively explored. This has been made much more difficult by the current pandemic. With life returning to something like normal we can now press on with this and this will be updated as and when we have some news.
In addition to this a separate group is working on CCTV coverage of both the main gate and the areas around the Pavilion and the Seed Store as these seem to be the main targets for intruders
So as huge and seemingly intractable as this problem seems action is underway. However it is something that the committee can do alone. Your Association needs you! As JFK once notably said, “ask not what can my allotment committee do for me, but rather what can I do for my allotment committee!” (I am probably paraphrasing a little but you get the gist).
We need funds. Direct donations from mega-wealthy plot holders are of course warmly welcomed! However removing my tongue from my cheek we will (as soon as social distancing allows) be looking to do fundraising events in a manner similar to when money was being raised for the borehole. So anyone who has any ideas for fundraising please feel free to respond to this article or make yourselves known to any committee member.
One way of keeping the cost down will be to do some of the work ourselves so anyone willing to help out with tree removal or fence installation if that is the route we decide to go please ignore my dad’s advice and step forward now! Just indicate willingness and we will get back to you when the time comes.
The bottom line is that we all know the site needs to be made more secure, and the committee would do this in a heartbeat if resources allowed. However those resources are not there but the problems still remains, so we need to draw on the creativity, imagination and possibly the muscle and sweat of our members to get the project off of the planning and consideration stage and into reality.
If security is a concern to you, and I am sure it is to most, be assured that work is underway, but that we face very significant challenges, so any help that you can offer will be very gratefully received.