Bonkers claim over health and safety Harpenden allotment row

BEEFING up health and safety measures to prevent children toppling into water storage containers on Harpenden allotments has been described as “bonkers” by an angry resident.

South Harpenden Allotments and Gardens Society has set up a working party to look at health and safety issues including whether all water butts, baths and other water collection sources including ponds on the nine allotment sites they manage should have covers placed on them.

But the suggestion has infuriated a Harpenden gardener who described the move as “health and safety gone mad” and “bonkers” after some old domestic baths at an allotment site he gardens at were recently upturned to prevent water collecting in them.

The gardener, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “We wonder what will be next? We won’t be able to use a fork in case it goes through someone’s foot.”

“It’s an allotment, not a playground. If you tread on a rake it can hit you in the face, so should there be a notice on the rake? Everybody [allotment gardeners] down there says it is stupid and a waste of time.”

He said he couldn’t recall any children falling into water collection vessels as gardeners supervised youngsters on site and there were already warning notices on water butts.

But David Edgington, chairman of the society, said a working party was examining health and safety issues because of, “a change in culture in terms of health and safety” which the group was “anxious” to comply with.

Most Read

The issue of putting covers on ponds and other water collection sources was under discussion because “we are aware of our responsibility,” he said. The society already has risk assessment documentation which has pinpointed the likes of ponds, bonfires and rats as potential hazards.

The group manages nine allotment sites, totalling about 450 plots, throughout South Harpenden on behalf of Harpenden Town Council.

Its decision to examine potential risks has been welcomed by Harpenden town clerk, John Bagshaw, who said council-supplied water butts and troughs on allotment sites would receive covers for health and safety and environmental reasons – including to prevent water evaporation.

He said: “We are being environmentally conscious and managing resources sensibly.”

Mr Bagshaw explained that the town council had not directed the Society to health and safety improvements at the allotments – the group had initiated revising existing guidelines itself – but the society had taken concerns one step further in considering the need to put covers on water collection sources in addition to those supplied by the council. Former chairman of the Society, Clennell Collingwood, who was involved in forming the original risk assessment for the Society, said the organisation was merely being “sensible” reviewing and updating health and safety measures as young families visited the allotments.