Chiswick Horticultural & Allotments Society elects a new chairman

Image above: Dennis Flaherty

Chiswick Horticultural and Allotments Society has elected a new chairman. Dennis Flaherty, previously the society’s Allotments Secretary, was voted in as chairman by 219 votes to 58, beating the incumbent Henry Gewanter by 161 votes.

There have been some ‘heated, emotional and bitter rows’ between members of the society over the past year, which became public in February when Henry wrote to the entire membership of over 600 complaining about ‘unacceptable levels of rudeness’. The election campaign for chairman was also quite fraught, with rival supporters ripping down the other candidate’s posters.

Four committee members resigned during Henry’s recent tenure, complaining of his high-handed approach to the chairmanship, accusing him of taking decisions on the society’s behalf without running them by the committee. These four members have now been voted back on to the committee, as has Henry. Four brand new members have joined the committee as well.

Henry has described the chairmanship as a “poisoned chalice” but Dennis hopes his 20 + years as a magistrate will stand him in good stead. He says his vision for the future of the society is that it should get back to being an organisation which puts its members first. His aim is to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard within CHAS, he says.

Image above: Allotment at Staveley Rd

The society manages the provision of allotments. It also provides up to date, useful horticultural information to its members and works with community organisations, running a schools programme and providing an allotment for school age children and teenagers to work on.

The allotments have been “a haven of peace and quiet”, he says, during this past year.

“Because of the pandemic the waiting list is horrendous.”

Hounslow has some 2,100 allotments, of which 600 are in Chiswick. Across the borough there is a waiting list of 400-500 for plots. The biggest issue the society is facing is the proposed hike in charges by LB Hounslow. About a third of Chiswick allotment holders live outside the borough, either just across the border into Hammersmith and Fulham or across the river. They face an increase in fees from £80 a year to £250. Many of these members are elderly, he says, and cannot afford the increase.

The society will decide next week whether they will hold their annual summer show on 26 June as a live show or a virtual one. They believe they were the only organisation in the country to put on a virtual show last year, but as the lockdown easing roadmap allows full socialising on 21 June they are hoping that this year they will be back to normal.

If you are interested in an allotment and would like to join the society, contact membership@growchiswick.org.

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