The night of the 2019 AGM

It started to rain at about 6 pm tonight. All throughout today there have been very high winds. As I arrive in the village, and walk down the street towards the Village Hall, the rain is coming down and the wind is howling.

This picture was taken just before I entered the village hall where the AGM was being held. The time is 7:23 pm and the AGM starts tonight at 7:30 pm. Looking at the picture again, it looks like a beautiful evening and very picturesque. On the way in I could even smell log fires, and cooking from some of the houses.

But that’s just on the surface looking in from outside, the weather is actually really bad.

Last years AGM only took 15 minutes from start to finish. After the meeting minutes had been read out, people went back to chatting and drinking cups of tea, then there was a quiz; some of the people broke out the wine – that is the way AGM meetings usually turn out. It’s laid back.

This year, I thought I was slightly early but I struggled to find a seat in the hall. It was packed, and I didn’t realise there were so many allotment holders in the Association. There was also a representative from the council (I’ve seen them several times in this meeting now), and the landowner of the allotments was represented and ready to give an explanation of their plans, and to take any questions.

To give you an idea of how bad the weather actually is, the AGM this year took over two hours to complete.

The first hour was taken up entirely with questions from the floor directed at the landowner. The second hour was the actual AGM were the main topic of conversation was (again) the proposed large composting area in the centre of the walled garden allotment.

To me, before the AGM started tonight (actually, from weeks and weeks ago) it has been quite clear: there are only two choices presented. Either the landowner takes the land back and uses it for a different purpose, or they don’t.

I’m sure the landowner know what answer they expect to get when presenting that simple question to the allotment holders! How unkind would be of me if I suggested the landowner didn’t know the answer to a completely black-and-white question with no room for discussion? Shall we take the land off you or not? What do you think to that?

Many people stood up and gave their opinion of why it was a bad idea, and several people, I am very humbled to say, stood up and defended me specifically and the effort I had put into the plot over the years.

But to me, this was not the point. It’s not about the hundreds of reasons why they shouldn’t use the land in this way. Because the answer to “do the allotment holders want the change of use?” must already be known. The answer is no and the landowner surely knows that already.

So my first question was, what other places have you considered? But nothing else was presented this evening, just that they are going to consider taking the land off the allotment holders and use it for composting instead.

So finally, at the end of the AGM, there was a vote. It was 100% of the allotment holders: “no to the change of use”, versus, two people who volunteer for the landowner but also hold an allotment, one said “yes, in principle” and the other abstained.

That’s not a surprise to me.

It is a surprise that the landowner thinks that asking the question in the way they did is such a good idea. When it’s such a binary choice the answer will also be similarly polarised.