Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Feedback from meeting on Run-A-Muck

I attended a meeting today at the Council House to discuss the future presence of Run-A-Muck on the Council’s allotment sites.

Councillor Ray Hassall, Chair of the Leisure and Culture Scrutiny Committee, chaired the meeting.

Other attendees were: Ian Brown and Mike Williams from CSV who run Run-A-Muck; Gordan Richards and Adrian Stagg from the Council; Clive (?) from Birmingham District Allotments Association; Sue Griffiths from the Scrutiny Office and myself.

The meeting started off with a truthfully opinion of how Run-A-Muck were badly running their compost sites. The meeting ended with positive actions on how the Council will work with Run-A-Muck make it run correctly and give it longevity.

The current situation can be summarized as follows:
1) Run-A-Muck operate from 3 Council allotments: Forman Road; Bordesley Green and Burney Lane.
2) The Council and the allotment association are deeply unhappy with how the compost heaps are run. The areas of concern can be broken down into three distinct areas.
2a) the compost heaps look like rubbish tips. Run-A-Muck have resolved the issue of mounds of unopened plastic bags of compost from Summer 2005. However, recent close inspections of the compost heaps show them to be full of plastic bags, guttering, household items and in one photo a household pillow.
2b) inexperienced allotments holders are helping themselves to the rotting compost, since they think it is quality stuff. This means that the domestic refuse and plastic is being spread on the allotments. Also because the compost has not fully rotted down, perennials such as Japanese knotweed and various fungi diseases are being spread on the allotments.
2c) the compost that Run-A-Muck gives back to local residents and allotment holders is sieved to remove any items such as plastic. But it is still considered that it is not to fully rotted down and requires a further 2 to 3 years composting.
3) Run-A-Muck accept that the running of the scheme has been one long learning process, mainly because it was the first of its type in the country. Accepting too much compost onto the local compost heaps without having the human resource and infrastructure in place has caused many of the problems. They are now giving excess compost to Lifford Lane depot to compost.
4) Run-A-Muck do not have Exempt Environmental certificates for their three sites. CSV have one for a compost heap at the Wheels site in Saltley, but this does not cover the Run-A-Muck compost heaps.
5) Run-A-Muck were originally offered two sites at Forman Road – one close to the River Cole, the other on higher ground. Run-A-Muck accept that it was a mistake for them to decide to use the River Cole site, since it regularly becomes flooded and unusable.
6) Run-A-Muck have stopped using the Forman Road site and are about to begin clearing it. They intend to concentrate on two allotment sites: Bordesley Green and Burney Lane
7) Run-A-Muck may not be eligible for future Neighbourhood Renewal Funding (NRF) due to the government getting stricter on what NRF can be spent on. Half of Run-A-Muck’s funding comes from NRF. The other half comes from the National Lottery, which insists on local composting.

The action points to come out of the meeting were:
i) Run-A-Muck are to stop allotment holders from taking compost direct from the compost heaps
ii) Run-A-Muck are to re-organise their compost sites, with the assistance of Council Officers, so that it is clear that a composting process is taking place over a number of years. Similar to the composting heaps at Croft Park nursery.
iii) A meeting with between the Environmental Agency, Council Officers and Run-A-Muck is to be organized to resolve the issue of certification.
iv) Officers are to check whether the other site on Forman Road, on higher ground, is still available for Run-A-Muck to use.
v) A meeting is to be organized with Councillor Len Gregory to see if Run-A-Muck can be funded from Council funds - £5million has been set-aside for the next financial year for recycling projects. This would give Run-A-Muck the longevity that it presently lacks by having to rely on NRF funding.
vi) Councillor Martin Mullaney to be invited to all the forthcoming meetings


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