The fear of the “swarms” of 20,000 bees in the garden of Solihull causes a “squabble” over health and safety



A community garden has found itself embroiled in a health and safety “feud” over its 20,000 bee colonies.

Jubilee Gardens, based on Kingshurst Allotments in Solihull, was debated by councilors when fears of swarms, stings and anaphylaxis were raised.

But those involved in the garden, which distributes its produce to those in need, insisted proper procedures were followed and asked why the issue was being raised.

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In March, we reported how the patch of land, covered in brambles and rubbish, had been transformed into a thriving community garden thanks to the hard work hours of residents and local groups.

Family lot holders, waste collection groups, local charities and Solihull Council were among those who rallied.

But the garden, home to more than 20,000 bees, has found itself embroiled in the health and safety “feud” – which some of those involved claim is a battle for control.

At a lively Kingshurst Parish Council meeting on October 14, Councilor Pablo Sultana said more consultation was needed when the garden is holding events because it is the parish council that owns the allotments where the gardens are based. .

He told the meeting that visitors could walk to a beehive and said the risk of swarms, stings and allergic reactions was a concern.

Cllr Sultana said: “We need to ensure that any new project within Jubilee Gardens has the full consent and prior knowledge of the parish council.

“The problem is really that, as we have had issues with the land we own on The Pavilions, we need to establish a good working relationship and know what new activities are planned.

“And that’s really from a guilt of risk perspective. I think everyone knows that as landowners of subdivisions, we have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of these people, including other holders of lots. ”

Cllr Sultana then congratulated those involved in the gardens, including fellow councilors Mark Frampton and Marcus Brain. He also mentioned Jo Cole, a community activist and one of the most intimately involved with the garden from the start.

“I am an absolute big fan of what is going on at Kingshurst Jubilee Gardens,” continued Cllr Sultana.

“But we just need to make sure that we don’t put ourselves or any other allotment holder at risk as we run forward in terms of new business there.”

Ms Cole, assisting as a member of the public at the hearing, said she would be “interested” to know where the risk was.

She defended the work of the project and said there had been a risk assessment and an event log that the council had not requested to see before.

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Cllr Sultana said: “All I’m saying is that there is fantastic work at Jubilee Gardens, but in the end some activities have come to my attention, and it’s not just me. before people think it’s some sort of vendetta which I know has been suggested in the past by some members.

“Certainly Cllr Frampton has had concerns in the past and other award holders have had concerns there. Now I love to see bees on an allotment, but as landowners we have a responsibility to allotment holders not to be stung or inconvenienced.

“It’s about protecting the people who are currently in the job and engaging fairly with them rather than someone coming in to make changes that could affect their health and safety.

“And in terms of risk assessment, in terms of beekeeping, beekeeping is classified as livestock. And I think under the current subdivision lease agreement any new activity, other than normal subdivision activities, would have to go through council and have full council ratification and authorization first.

“These things obviously weren’t brought before the board. You say we didn’t ask for the risk assessment. It’s not for the board to ask you for the risk assessments once they find out about this. that is happening.”

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Cllr Sultana continued, “There are health and safety considerations to take into account. And some quite serious. People suffer from anaphylactic shock, bees swarm quite regularly and the hives need to be some distance from others. .

“When I was asked to come down and take a look, there were no barriers around the beehives.”

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Following a ‘quarrel’ between members over the site’s legal liability, Cllr Frampton, who chairs Jubilee Gardens, said: “I think yes we made mistakes, we didn’t communicate the best. that we could, but I think we can move on. “

Cllr Cole then closed the debate: “I’ll save you here. While I think what you are saying is correct, what I would like to see is that Jubilee Gardens and the council representatives get together and settle the issue rather than quarrel at a parish council meeting.

“I really think you should just sit down and talk about it because parish council is not the way to talk about it.”

The community activist said she spoke to all of the award holders and said none expressed concerns. She added that she believed it was a struggle for control of the gardens and suggested that the volunteers could start leaving if the policy continued.

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