Friday, August 15, 2014

Dick Youngson's remarkable eight years as Chair of Nairn Allotment Society

Dick stepped down as Chair of NAS at the Group’s AGM in the Community and Arts Centre on Wednesday night. During his 8 years in the job plotting in Nairn has gone from a state of near oblivion to be at the forefront of a resurgence of the past-time in the Highlands. The group are also renowned for their approach and have been a source of help and advice to others beyond the Highlands. From those 18 plots at Sandown which faced extinction in a development scheme the Society now administers over a hundred plots. At one point two thirds of all plots in the Highlands were in Nairn. 

Dick Youngson addresses the 2014 AGM of NAS
On Wednesday night Dick spoke of the days when the plots were moved from Viewfield to Sandown in 1988 and he said that there were still a few of those original Sandown plotters still in the group. He went on:

“It has been a very good year again for the Society. We’re much admired in the allotment system. When I was down in the conference in June in Dunblane they couldn’t get over the fact that we have a hundred plus plots, independent really of Highland Council. We manage our own affairs, there’s been no problem in doing things. Many of these other areas are fighting hard for sites, many of those that are on the waiting list have been on the list years and years with very little chance of getting a plot. We are right down to a waiting list of thirteen or so and we’ve got a pretty rapid turnover of people taking up plots. People really aren’t on the waiting list for very long. They can’t really get over, here we are in Nairn – we had to fight like mad to keep Sandown, because they wanted it for development, they wanted to sell the whole of Sandown for development and that’s when we set up our Society.

Our Society isn’t a very long established group, we set it up to make sure that we have a strong voice and we managed to keep the 18 plots and then we managed to get Mill Road and then we managed to get the next bit of Sandown. Hence the reason we have grown from 80 plots up to a 100 plus. The way we have actually designed our different sites leads to a lot of the other sites in the Highlands coming to us and seeing what we’ve done and how we’ve done it, and they’ve picked up a lot of our rules and regulations and the way that we actually manage our system. Unlike many of them we do everything from allocating plots to setting the rentals and taking in fees for plots. They’re also very interested to come and see our composting toilet because they are all wanting toilets on their sites. They feel that having water in a toilet block leads to all sorts of problems in the winter time and having to drain off, of course with a composting toilet there’s no problem, it’s there throughout the year. And with all these plots now with families and little ones, some of them aren’t very close to home or close to public toilets and they have to have a toilet and a composting toilet is one way round it. [...]

At the moment in Highland Region we’ve got 25% of the total number of allotments. There are a lot of sites coming on stream That percentage will shrink in the next few years. I’ve had Kinguissie on the phone quite a lot, they’ve got a super site which they got through an enterprise company because Highland Council’s land and it was part of the old heritage site. [...]There’s a new site as well in Inverness coming up in Milton of Leys and it’s not Highland Council’s ground it’s private ground and they’ve got 40 odd plots coming on stream there.  They’ve come to see us as well about how to run it. It’s going to be again privately run independently of Highland Council and they will keep a waiting list. We keep all these records, the waiting list,  a list of plot holders and if they ask for it we can produce it similarly we’ve got the annual revenue sheets absolutely nailed to the last penny. There’s a lot going on North.

The SAGS (Scottish Allotments and Gardens) conference which was in Dunblane, it’s always very well attended, it tells us a lot about what is going on on the Scottish Scene. I was really speaking at it on experience on training and having allotments in the community garden for groups of people, children as well and people with all sorts of health problems or otherwise. Really this is something that is coming into all the allotments no. There has to be provision for disadvantaged groups coming in and getting the best out of plots or areas within an allotment site. It was quite interesting and quite well received. A chance down there to exchange information. Lesly Riddoch chaired it, she is working along similar lines on areas for communities to get involved in all sorts of things a bit like this.

And the last thing, is really the allotment legislation which is slowly going through committee stages in parliament. It’s been run by Derek MacKay MSP and he and his team have been gathering up a lot of information and this is the bill which is the Community Empowerment Scotland Bill and they’ve tacked on allotments for some reason. Sorting out all the allotment legislation that went back to the 1880’s, 90’s. [...] Most of it refers to Councils it doesn’t necessarily spell out what private allotment sites have to do. [...]We’ll see before the autumn’s out what they’ve got for us."

Dick concluded and then after a treasurer’s report officer bearers were elected. The new Chair of NAS is Billy Milne who will be assisted by a new Vice Chair, Mandy MacKenzie.
Mandy MacKenzie makes a presentation to Dick
Dick was presented with gifts and a selection of home-made produce form the membership. His tenure of office has been remarkable; he has been an incredible leader and an example to all the plotters. Under his stewardship the plotting in Nairn has moved from near extinction, experienced remarkable growth and has become an example of the way forward in the Highlands and beyond. 

1 comment:

Sheena Baker said...

Well done Dick an excellent stint of being the Chair

Solid effort and perseverence on your part has resulted in Nairn having an excellent allotment group