CORONAVIRUS: What the NAS is doing to help members
15/09 CORONAVIRUS: What the NAS is doing to help members
The National Allotment Society is working to support plot-holders and associations so that they can continue to work their plots and manage sites in a safe and secure manner during the pandemic. 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.
Although there has been a significant drop in transmission and deaths from Covid 19 infections have begun to rise again and plot-holders need to follow the government guidelines that come in to force on the 14 September. Please remember to carry on using social distancing and taking hygiene precautions when visiting the site and touching communal surfaces. Plot-holders over 70 years of age, regardless of general health are particularly vulnerable. It may feel safe on an allotment site but there are still risks.
HANDS: FACE: SPACE and no more than 6 people to gather in a group.
IMPORTANT - The advice below needs to be read in conjunction with any Regional Guidance introduced by the government that further restricts activity in local areas.
NAS Q & A On Allotments and Social Distancing
Protect yourself and your family
Covid -19 - The virus that causes COVID 19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. Some droplets are too heavy to hang in the air and they quickly fall and contaminate floors and surfaces. Other 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.
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 and friends?
18/08 Please check with your allotment authority (council or association) about visiting the plot with family and/or friends, access to the site will vary due to localised restrictions under regional lockdown rules.
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, this includes people who need to isolate after returning from holidays abroad.
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
I am self-isolating and 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 firstname.lastname@example.org if this is required.
15/09 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. Group activities must be restricted to 6 or less members. 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 14 September.
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 it is allowed by your constitution and all your plot-holders are able to participate it may be possible to hold a remote AGM. The FCA will not take action against incorporated bodies whilst restrictions are in place. Contact email@example.com for further information and 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
Shared Machinery- please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for detailed advice
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.
If you are unsure as to which tenants have been shielding or ill, one option of dealing with the situation would be (from the point at which plot inspections are re-instated) to regard all tenants as if they hold new tenancies and apply the relevant criteria in your tenancy agreements. For associations using the NAS model agreement that would mean you would expect a quarter of the cultivable area of the plot to be cultivated within the next three months and the whole within one year. This would give tenants who have been obliged to shield themselves a fair opportunity to restore their plots to good condition, taking into account the degeneration in plot condition that has occurred in their absence. In as much as we are about to enter autumn, this would mean in practice that tenants would just have to ensure that at least of the quarter is adequately prepared for the winter break and ready for spring cultivation. In addition, it would be a good idea to insist that all material nuisances to other plot-holders resulting from non-cultivation be remedied within the same three months. This would mean, for example, the removal of grass seed heads and overhanging brambles.
Plot allocation - we would advise associations to carefully assess the risk of allocating plots. If it is possible to allocate plots safely, 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.
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