CORONAVIRUS: What the NAS is doing to help members
The National Allotment Society is working to provide clarity for our members on what the virus outbreak and ensuing impacts will mean for Allotment Holders. As more information become available, we will be updating our advice to our members, please read the Q & As below on how the outbreak is affecting Allotment Sites and their use.
UPDATED 28/07/2020 - gatherings, toilets, bonfires, masks.
NAS Q & A On Allotments and Social Distancing
Protect yourself and your family
We are all living through a crisis, the likes of which the country has not experienced since war time. The community spirit that exists on allotment sites is now vitally important. Please remember to look out for one another during these very difficult times and take all the steps you can to reduce the risk of contagion from the Covid- 19 virus when you visit the plot.
Covid -19 - The virus that causes COVID 19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. The droplets are too heavy to hang in the air and they quickly fall and contaminate floors and surfaces.
Smaller airborne particles can remain in the air for some time. You can be infected by breathing in the virus if you are within close proximity of a person who has Convid-19- hence the 2m social distancing requirement, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease it is important that plot-holders do not drop their guard and remember that those over 70 years of age, regardless of general health are particularly vulnerable and should be limiting any contact with people outside of their household.
Can I still work my allotment during the Covid19 lockdown?
Yes, allotments are a great way of both getting exercise and obtaining food during this crisis.
Can I visit the allotment with my family?
Yes, government guidelines state that you can exercise with members of your household
How long can I stay at the plot?
The Government have now removed the limit on exercise time.
How can I ensure my family’s and everyone else’s safety at the plot?
Do not attend the plot if you have coronavirus symptoms or a family member is self-isolating
Take a flask of hot water, soap and paper towels to the plot with you (cold water will work too).
Use hand sanitiser (should be 60% alcohol content) before entering the site and opening any gate locks
Wash hands for at least 20 seconds after closing the lock, dry with a paper towel
The most effective part of hand washing is the drying using preferably paper towel to remove the layer of dead skin scales - on which virus and bacteria sit. Paper towel to compost heap.
DO NOT touch your face after using anything that has been touched by other people- use an elbow to work the push taps.
Wash your hands again for 20 seconds, dry with a paper towel before opening and closing the lock to leave the site
Use hand sanitiser after closing the lock
Wash hands when you get home
Observe “Social Distancing” with each other 2 metres
If you take your children to the plot, ensure that they stay within its confines and do not run around on communal paths and spaces.
Do not share tools
Do not wash your hands in water troughs
Can I drive to my allotment?
Yes you can drive to your allotment
What about if I have hens or other livestock to care for at the plot?
Animal welfare considerations mean that this would be seen as essential travel even if further movement restrictions are put in place.
I keep bees on my plot - do they count as livestock?
Yes bees are seen as livestock, the BBKA are working with DEFRA and have advised beekeepers that they can visit bees for welfare purposes such as for checking feed or queen cell preparation. They remind beekeepers that they must take into account social distancing and safe access, and when dealing with swarming to not go into houses, roofs etc, or go through houses to reach swarms. Click here for more from the BBKA.
I am self-isolating or shielding, cannot go to the allotment and worried about losing my plot, what should I do?
Please make sure that you inform your Council Allotment Officer or Allotment Association that you are unable to visit the site, preferably in writing, so that they can make allowances for your situation.
What changes should Allotment Associations make to site management?
Pin up information about social distancing and hygiene on a notice board or the gate, there is a QR code at the bottom of this page that links to our updating page.
If you do wish to bring someone to assist with work on the plot, please ensure that that this is notified either to the Secretary or Site Manager so that they can authorise and are aware of who is on site. It is essential that no un-authorised people are allowed onto the plots for the duration of this emergency. Careful consideration should be given to introducing anyone over 70, those with underlying illness or pregnant women.
Risk undertake risk assessments and take appropriate action to reduce hazards around any areas of the site that could cause contagion e.g. communal water troughs, equipment, taps, and gate locks. Click Here for further guidance and a link to the government advice around cleaning in non-healthcare settings..
The NAS does have further detailed information on risk assessments and the duty of care for Self-Managed Associations please email email@example.com if this is required.
Gatherings Community Activities can resume but reasonable steps must be taken to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance and including completion of a risk assessment. Click here for the full text from the Covid19 FAQs
However, the government advises that you must continue to follow strict social distancing guidelines when you are with anyone not in your household or your support bubble. Click here for government guidance about gatherings from the 4 July.
All communal facilities including toilets should remain closed. The Society's view is that most allotment association's do not have the capacity to fulfill the necessary requirements to safely open and clean site toilets or communal buildings.
Communal Water Points many sites will have communal taps and water troughs, the use of which could potentially spread the disease. The water supply itself is chlorinated https://www.wessexwater.co.uk/coronavirus. Associations may want to consider a system whereby volunteers fill up plot-holder’s water butts from the taps. The volunteers would wear single use gloves (click here for de-gloving advice) and follow good practice around social distancing and hygiene.
Toilets - the Society's view is that most allotment association's do not have the capacity to fulfill the necessary requirements to safely open and clean site toilets, especially as most are compost toilets with no running water and where bleach/disinfectant should not be introduced to the system. We would also question whether it is reasonable for an association to ask volunteers to carry out this risky activity. Public Toilets that are open are subject to regular (more than once a day) deep cleans by operatives in disposable PPE and are closely supervised. The government also advises people to avoid public toilets.
AGMs If the Association decides to hold a physical AGM reasonable steps must be taken to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance and including completion of a risk assessment. Consideration should be given to the fact that many people, especially those who are clinically vulnerable, will still be cautious about attending gatherings and unlikely to attend.
The FCA will not take action against incorporated bodies whilst restrictions are in place. If it is allowed by your constitution and all your plot-holders are able to participate it may be possible to hold a remote AGM. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for support.
Shops - it is now compulsory to wear a mask when inside a shop. The Society considers that unless you are able to comply with the stringent conditions within the Horticultural Trades Association guidance for Garden Centres (CLICK HERE to view) that Allotment shops should remain physically closed with an online/remote system in place. CLICK HERE for an example
Bonfires Please check with your Local Authority before authorising bonfires on the site. Garden bonfires contribute to air pollution, especially when green material is burnt. Air Quality can be checked at this link - CLICK HERE
Plot inspections - if you have recommenced plot inspections it is important that you stay within government guidelines around social distancing/hygiene/gatherings and do not penalise plot-holders who have been ill, shielding or stayed away from the plot because they are clinically vulnerable.
Perhaps a buddy system could be put in place for people unable to visit their plot, untended plots could at least be covered.
Plot allocation - we would advise associations to carefully assess the risk of allocating plots. If it is possible to allocate plots on a one to one basis, within social distancing rules then it should be possible. Any prospective tenant must be given all the relevant safety information for the site.
Public Footpaths through allotment sites - if you have a footpath running through the site that is used by large numbers of people associations could consider taking the following steps.
• Tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.
• There is no power under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 for landowners to close or obstruct a public right of way, however associations could put up a polite notice asking walkers to respect plot-holders by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through the allotment gardens.
• Offering a permissive alternative route around gardens only where it is safe to do so (permission must be obtained from relevant landowners and steps must be taken to make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained. It is also necessary to check the insurance position before doing this to ensure that appropriate cover is in place.
Please see further advice from Natural England - Using Green Spaces and also guidance on the Countryside Code. NAS recommend that this issue is discussed further with the landowner, prior to any action been taken.
Flytipping - with the increase in people spending more time at home due to COVID-19, Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) became very busy. Many local authorities have taken the decision to turn people away and close centres due to staffing shortages and concerns over social distancing. It is now estimated that 85% of HWRCs have closed and councils have seen an increase in fly-tipping incidents. Steps you can take to prevent fly-tipping happening on your allotment:
- Restricting access to your site by installing gates or physical barriers (strategically placed objects)
- Make sure gates are closed and, if possible, locked when not in use.
- Improving visibility so that fly-tippers are not hidden from view. Fly-tippers prefer to commit their crimes out of sight.
- Install or improve lighting if possible.
- Consider placing appropriate deterrent signage and CCTV cameras.
Manage your sites effectively. Keeping areas tidy and removing waste quickly.
Non-Urgent: Dial 101 to report a crime after it has taken place. If it is a large-scale issue you should also report to the incident to the Environment Agency (for England) or NRW (for Wales).
• State someone has fly-tipped on your property.
• Day/date/time waste was discovered.
• Location of the waste including any landmarks, street, town, grid reference location, or if it is in proximity to water.
• Description and quantity of the waste e.g. bag, drum, fridge, tyres, building waste.
• Take photographs/video evidence.
• Ensure waste is disposed of safely and responsibly once the relevant authority has all the evidence.
Water invoices / payment problems for Allotments
The Consumer Council for Water are based in Birmingham Business Customer Hub. If you are unable to resolve your complaint with your water or sewerage provider, CCW can take up individual complaints on your behalf
Click on the link to read about self isolating
Click on the link to read about social distancing
Click on the link to read some useful advice about hygiene Germ Defence
Government advice about the Coronavirus is updated on a regular basis at this link.
For NHS information and advice CLICK HERE