Minutes of the AGM 9 October 2023


The following members were present in person:
Chris Bailey; Chris McFarlane; Diego Magrini; Jamie Pope; Tomasz Wojtowicz; Nicola Saragossi; Janet Swadling; Rashmi Kohli; Philippa Slatter; Adam Butler; Tania Cimonetti; Chandru Mullaparthi; Sharmila Pillai; Fulvia Placitelli; Richard Wilson; Tomasz Wojtania; Lucy Castang; Kevin Ramsden; Andreas Kollegger; Jack Coghen-Brewster; Claudio Dagostin.

The Management Committee received the following proxy vote approvals:
Anne L’Hernault, Emma Preston, and Anna Biard to Diego Magrini

Luis Rey, Jyothish Bhai, and Justin Lecher to Tomasz Wojtowicz

David Newcombe, and Michael Derringer to Philippa Slatter

Julian Mannion, to Dolores Mannion

Carol Holloway, to Sina Beier

Jonathan Robinson, to Christopher Macfarlane.
All proxy votes representatives are present.

With the representation of 33 voting members (38% of membership), having reached the quorum, at 19:40 the meeting started.

Management Committee Report

Chair and Treasurer Diego Magrini delivered a brief report of the activities of the association in the past year.

  • Membership has been growing steadily, reaching 85 members representing 83 plots, which is 55% of the plots at Clay Farm. 35% of members chose to support the Society with an extra donation of £6/year in addition to the membership dues.
  • Through the year, the cooperation with the Council has been strong. We sense that Council officers see the association as a good ally and a support on the ground.
  • Seed potato orders went up 100% compared to last year, with 18 orders in total, delivering savings and value for membership to our members.
  • To 7 September there were 19 people on the waiting list at Clay Farm, which makes it one of the shortest waiting list across the 14 Council-managed sites in the City.

State of the financial accounts

Chair and Treasurer Diego Magrini reported on the association’s financial activity

  • The Society opened a bank account with Metro Bank as mandated at the last meeting. This allowed us to become financially active.
  • Total deposited funds on 9 October are £278.45
  • There are also £99.99 of undeposited funds in Stripe (our card payment provider), due to arrive in a week.
  • In total the Association has a current cash balance of £378.44
  • Of the deposited funds we owe £122.40 to Trumpington Allotment Society, for seed potatoes orders.
  • Other significant expenses were a total of £33.07 in Stripe commissions, over a total taking of £723.45, which is equal to around 4.6%. Switching membership payment to Direct Debit can significantly lower this figure.
  • The website operation is still not being charged to the society, and it is worth £5/month (£60/year) for hosting and £8.50/year for the domain. The service is being donated by RainingBits LTD, fully owned by Chair and Treasurer Diego Magrini.
  • No major expenditure is expected in the coming year.

In response to questions and concerns about the financial stability of Metro Bank, the Treasurer suggested to continue monitor the situation. Business accounts, such as the association’s, are also protected by the FSC.

Considering the incidence of card transaction fees on the total budget, the Treasurer recommended that communication is sent to all members to encourage them to switch payment method for their membership to Direct Debit, instead of Bank Card. This should reduce the cost of the typical transaction of £4 to £0.02 in fees, instead of £0.26.

Suggestions were made to consider the purchase of communal power tools, such as strimmers, and to organise bulk purchase of material such as woodchip and soil conditioner.
The Management Committee will look into the possibile options, grants available, and organise accordingly.

Council’s proposal to increase the number of plots

Council Officer John Parrott proposed to convert the unused areas S5 and S7 (as denominated on the map attached) into additional plots, or turn them into communal composting facilities.

The Management Committee does not recommend the implementation of communal compositing facilities, and the meeting agreed with this view.

Furthermore, the Management Committee identified three more potential areas that could provide additional growing space, and these are S2, S3, and S6.

The members discussed the proposal, with some lamenting the lack of bulk delivery space further into the site, if all unused areas were to be turned into plots.
Another comment was raised by plot holders with water troughs in their plots, who lamented a lack of understanding of plot boundaries by other plot holders, often causing trampling of cultivated areas.

Having identified all unused areas, the meeting voted on their proposed utilisation, coming to a majority consensus on the following:

S2 recommended to become a drop area facing the main path, and plot behind.
S3 recommended to become a plot.
S4 recommended to be left untouched, and further developed in amenity area by the association.
S5 recommended to become a drop area facing the main path, and plot behind.
S6 recommended to be left untouched due to size.
S7 recommended to become a drop area facing the main path, and plot behind.
S8 recommended to become a marked drop-off area.

A discussion on the future of communal area S1 terminated with the consensus that proposals should be further investigated to develop this area into a communal space. Furthermore the easternmost part of this area could host dwarf trees as and when they become available from the Council. Finally it was recommended that a notice board is put up in this area, and materials are already available from the former Friends of Clay Farm Allotments Group.

Communal areas management

Area S1 has been tidied up with the help of various Members, and some tables have been installed here. As outlined before, this area remains open to further development.

Additional Management Committee Member Chris McFarlane reported being in conversation with City Council Officers regarding receiving bare-root trees from the “Free Trees for Babies” scheme later in winter.

It was reiterated that communal composting areas are not advisable, particularly noting that there is still an issue with dumping.
It was recommended that the City Council removes any wooden crate and plastic box that might suggest that the site support communal composting.

Updated information on proposed lease from the Council

Chair and Treasurer Diego Magrini apologises in these minutes for not having reported during the AGM about this point, overseeing it due to the late hour. However, no decision was required or has been made, and all information is included in these Minutes.

The City Council advised us that for season 2023/24 the lease of the land would amount to £509.35/year.
With the current level of plot rental, there would be a total of £3,548.50 in revenue from rent, meaning over £3,000 of working cash after land lease.

Council Officers were still not able to quantify the charges for water consumption, and the Management Committee will work with the City Council to estimate this value.

For seasons 2024/25 and 2025/26 the land lease will increase by a fixed 3%. After season 2025/26 there might be a change in mechanism which will see the increase based on the inflation rate, rather than a fixed percentage. Council Officer John Parrott reported that this was proposed by various independent associations on other sites, and is still subject to negotiations.

Election of the Management Committee

In accordance with the Constitution and Regulations of the Association, the following Members were elected to form the Management Committee:

Diego Magrini, as Chair
Adam Butler, as Treasurer
Chris McFarlane, as Secretary
Claudio Dagostin, as Additional Member

Treasurer Adam Butler will also have access to the bank account opened with Metro Bank at the Cambridge Branch, as well as authority to independently authorise transactions.

Former Secretary Tomasz Wojtowicz will no longer have access to the bank account.

Member Philippa Slatter was proposed by Member David Newcombe to join the Management Committee. It was agreed that because of past history of friction between Ms Slatter and City Council Officers, it would be recommendable that Ms Slatter is not involved in the Management Committee at this stage.

Chair Diego Magrini extended a heartfelt thank you to former Management Committee Members Nicola Saragossi, and Tomasz Wojtowicz for their service and support.

Any other business

The Members recommended that the Management Committee distribute a quarterly newsletter to all members via email, in order to keep the larger membership aware of the running issues and progress made.

It was further suggested that the Management Committee engages regularly with the membership using the existing channels, whenever appropriate to guide the decisions of the Committee.

Having exhausted all agenda points, and with no other business to discuss, the AGM was concluded at 20:50.