Fern Avenue Residents Group

Minutes of the AGM held at Jesmond Cricket Club on 11th November 2010


Present.   Members of the FAR Group: Calum Bennett, Noel Burton-Roberts, Tessa Burton-Roberts,   Amanda Davidson, Samantha Docherty, Peter Docherty, Suky Drummond, Tony Evans, Grace Hodge, John Hodge, Les Hodgson, Stephen Hunt, Peter Nicolls, Alison Priestley, Pam Ranson, Martin Starkie, Chris Sutcliffe, Diana Terode,  Murray Waldron, Lucy Wareing.  Guests: Anne & Bill Tavernor (Queens Rd).  Cllrs. Ron Armstrong, Catherine Pagan, Bob Walker, Peter Breakey. Ward co-ordinator Elizabeth Grace. P.C.s Mike Fawcett and Richard Dodds community police;


1.  Introduction and welcome by the Chair


2.  Apologies for absence. 

Barrie Craven, Paul Cooper, Mike & Linsley de la Hunt, Pat Evans, Mary Hodgson, Estelle Louw. Ward co-ordinator Susan Johnson.


3.  Adoption of the minutes of the last AGM 26th November 2009. 

The minutes were adopted.


4.  Election of officers and committee members 

All members of the committee who were willing to stand again were re-elected. Grace Hodge was elected as chair.

Tessa Burton Roberts was elected onto the committee. (proposed John Hodge, seconded Noel Burton Roberts)


5.  Chair’s report

Over the past year the committee has met 6 times and discussed a variety of topics. We have aimed to respond to issues raised by residents at the last AGM and also to any arising issues that might affect Fern Avenue.


Covenants: Following last year’s meeting steps were taken towards setting up covenants. However early this year it became apparent that the regulations around planning for HMOs were set to change and possibly negate the need for restrictive covenants so plans were put on hold. In April this year new planning rules came into effect which required planning permission for any house to be converted to an HMO of 3 or more tenants. At this point plans for covenants were dropped as they no longer seemed necessary.


Traffic: Volume of traffic in the street was a concern voiced at the AGM. Two years ago we met with Samantha Dyke the senior assistant engineer in street management to discuss this and she said that she expected the incoming Holly Avenue Parking Scheme to have a positive impact on traffic flow in the area. To see if this was the case Samantha agreed to implement a traffic survey before and after the scheme and to report back the findings. Earlier this year we received the results of the survey and she reported that:

Overall traffic flows have remained the same on Fern Avenue during the morning peak period and have decreased during the evening peak period. The permit parking scheme has perhaps not decreased traffic travelling through the area as much as I had hoped but the two way traffic flows on Fern Avenue are not unduly high. I therefore could not recommend any further measures at present.


Back Lanes: It was clear from the previous AGM that many residents would still like to have something done with the back lanes. Over the year we have endeavoured to explore the possible options and in March we met with some councillors and Samantha Dyke to discuss this. Her conclusion after the meeting was:

I know we talked about other potential solutions at the meeting however I do not see ‘Play Streets’ or other forms of access restrictions as viable options in these locations. These type of restrictions are designed to remove through traffic however residents requiring access would be exempt. As such most of the residential traffic currently using the back lanes would still be entitled to do so and a ‘Play Street’ restriction may mislead people in to thinking that the street is more controlled than it actually is and therefore safer as a result. Any form of horizontal chicane would also have limited success in slowing traffic and would potentially be difficult to accommodate due to the need to gain access to off street parking areas.

My recommendation would be to look to install traffic calming, (ie speed bumps) however access to funding would need to be arranged. As I think I mentioned at the meeting we have limited funding for this and schemes are therefore prioritised on a worst first basis. The good road safety record in this area would make it a low priority compared to other similar requests from other locations in the City. In order to get traffic calming installed an alternative source of funding to our traffic management budget would need to be identified, generally this would be the Ward budgets.

The possibility of applying for a capital grant from the ward was investigated and seemed to be a viable option if residents are willing to raise some of the capital themselves. At this point it became necessary to ascertain the level of support for traffic calming among the residents of the 3 streets that would be affected and to this end questionnaires were delivered to all households that have access to the 2 back lanes.


Parking Scheme: In July Ron Armstrong and Craig Mordue, head of the Parking Services, arranged a meeting about the Holly Avenue Parking Scheme to clarify points of enforcement. This was attended by representatives from Fern Avenue, Holly Avenue, and Queens Road.


Social Event: A hogroast was held at the cricket club in September and attended by around 70 adults and 30 children. Fascinating facts about past occupants of the street from census material were again kindly provided by Jane Cooper. A profit of £139.60 was made. Feedback from the event was positive and another event will be held next year.

We also initiated two smaller events for women, a coffee morning/lunch hosted by Janet Nicholls and a gathering for tea hosted by Grace Hodge and Janet. Apologies to anyone who was not invited but as the hosts do not yet know everyone on the street these pilot events were aimed at those residents known to possibly be available during the week. Out of 22 invited to the tea 11 attended with ages ranging from 30s to 90s. It was thought that more small events would be popular and suggestions for future events are always welcome.


Information sharing/gathering: Over the year it has been our aim to keep residents informed of any matters that may have an impact on them or that they may find useful. The group also aims to include as many residents as possible. To this end a welcome leaflet has been distributed to all households including, among other things, useful telephone numbers. Various planning and licensing applications have also been circulated as well as information about local events.

Thank you to the councillors for their support over the year, to the committee and also to Lucy Wareing for her help with organising the social event.

Finances: 2009/2010

Balance Nov 2009 £1081.40

                                                                            Room Hire (H-Roast 2009) £60.00

HOGROAST 2010 Receipts £784.90                     Expenditure: Room hire  £60.00

                                                                                                              Hog £480.00

                                                                                                        catering £105.30


                                                                        OTHER EXPENDITURE

                                                                                      NORA: Subscription £12.00

                                                                                   Meeting (L Hodgson) £124.44

                                                                 Stationery: Envelopes, cartridges £50.81


TOTAL £1866.30                                                              Total expenditure £892.55


Balance 23 September 2010 £973.75



6. Report from Jesmond neighbourhood policing team:

Mike Fawcett gave a general report re crime and anti-social behaviour.

The statistics for South Jesmond for the period from August show 6 burglaries, 10 incidents of damage to vehicles, 2 thefts from vehicles and 2 thefts of vehicles, 18 incidents of noise. Burglary and criminal damage is down 21% on last year but vehicle crime is up 12%. Operation sunshine has been put in place to counteract this. Generally the thefts from vehicles are opportunistic due to valuable items being on display.

There have been 7 arrests with half of these charged.

Operation Oak is the student disorder patrol. This consists of 2 PCs on patrol 3 nights a week between 11pm and 4am (5am on Fridays). This is still running and will be at least until May 2011. Since August 500 warning letters have been issued with 12 of these being escalated to signed agreements.

Two redeployable cctv cameras are being placed, one on Grosvenor Rd and one on the junction of Grosvenor Place and Fern Avenue.

It was asked whether the impending cuts will affect policing. Mike Fawcett said they have been assured that front line policing will not be affected.


7. Report from Neighbourhood Watch street representative.

NHW scheme was set up to include Osborne Avenue, Holly Avenue, Fern Avenue and some of the associated north – south streets.  There were six local representatives. CSO Sherrie Harrison was active in promoting NHW and arranged distribution of leaflets.  There was an intention to have two or three meetings a year.  Sherrie Harrison was moved back to City Centre duties in August.  In terms of actions, the Holly Avenue representative has used email contacts to collate information on damage to vehicles.  There might not be a distinctive role for NHW in Fern Avenue as there is an active residents’ group.  Maybe the community policeman is a better focus for quick response and ‘intelligence’.

The police mentioned that having neighbourhood watch stickers was probably a deterrent to thieves and that being in a NHW scheme could get a 10% discount on house insurance.


8. Report on current situation with HMOs and planning rules by Councillor Armstrong.

Prior to 06/04/2010 no planning permission was needed to convert a family house in to an HMO for up to 6 tenants. After 06/04/2010 planning permission became necessary to convert houses to any size of HMO. In October the new government changed it back to prior to 06/04/2010. (Houses being converted for 7 or more tenants have always needed planning permission and still do.)

The council is aiming to set up areas where planning permission will again be necessary, Jesmond will be one of these areas, however this will take about a year to put in place. Ron assured the meeting that he will keep us informed of progress.


9. Back lane traffic calming.

A questionnaire seeking residents’ opinions on traffic calming in the back lanes was recently sent to all residents of Fern and those of Queens Rd and Holly Avenue that share the back lanes. There were 20 responses to this questionnaire 70% of which were for installing traffic calming and 30% of which were against. A total of £1500 was offered by residents and the treasurer, Paul Cooper, proposed that £300 – 500 from the FARG account should be added to any fund. This proposal was seconded by Martin Starkie.

The cost of £11 000 for the speed bumps was questioned and rubber humps mentioned. The councillors stated that these do not comply with standards and can only be used on private roads.

Ron Armstrong confirmed that as there have been no accidents in any of the back lanes there would be no money from the council for traffic calming and that the only possibility of getting any traffic calming would be a joint approach between residents and ward funds. Bob Walker said “where there is a will there is a way” and suggested that if £2000 was raised there may be possibilities of match funding not necessarily from the ward capital grants. It was also suggested that it may be possible to get funding from other sources such as Sustrans.

It was asked who would be responsible for the maintenance of speed humps. Once they are installed they would become local authority responsibility.

There was some discussion as to what residents are trying to achieve – less traffic and less speed. The fact that the bumps on Fern Avenue send cars down the back lanes was also discussed so if there are humps out front there should be humps out the back as well.

It was also noted that the current plans fro speed bumps do not include the top north back lane by Whites Hotel.

It was acknowledged that the whole street does not agree on this issue and that some residents are very against the idea of speed bumps.

The chair read an e-mail voicing concern as to the safe conduct of children playing in the back lanes. See Appendix A.

John Hodge proposed that the committee, in conjunction with representatives from Holly and Queens, continues to pursue investigations into the possibility of installing speed humps in their respective back lanes. This motion was carried 13 votes to 1.


10. Social Events: It was discussed that while the hogroast is popular and easy to organise it could be seen as exclusive and other options could be explored. The general feeling of the meeting was to continue with the hogroast.

Suggestions for smaller types of social event were encouraged.


11.  Re-evaluation of major concerns of members/residents. The chair requested suggestions from members as to what they felt the group could do next year.

Storm drains. It was noted that two at the junction of Fern and Grosvenor are blocked. Catherine Pagan said she would investigate and get this sorted.

Whites Hotel: Antisocial behaviour from patrons of Bar Blanc is still seen as an issue. The corner of the garden nearest Fern Avenue is still being used and the back lane is frequently used as a toilet. It was noted that the noise is worse on nights when no bouncers are working and especially bad in the summer. The secretary agreed to e-mail Brian the manager and Catherine Pagan agreed to approach licensing. Residents were encouraged to log days and times of incidents and to call the police.

Jesmond Hotel. It was noted that they are applying to have the restrictions on the use of their outdoor space lifted.

Posters in windows. A concern was raised about the unsightliness of large posters in house windows. It was confirmed that nothing can be done about this unless they are obscene.


12. Any other business

Rubbish collections. A resident had heard that Newcastle may be moving to 2 weekly rubbish collection, The councillors knew nothing of this.

Osborne Road garage site. Definitely has permission for a shop but has 3 years before the planning expires. All else was confirmed to be rumour. (it has since been confirmed that Waitrose will be taking the site)

Lost property. A pair of orange handled scissors, a ladle and a mixing bowl have been left after the social events. If these belong to you please collect from number 43. If not they will be sent to charity.



Appendix A

Having lived here for 33 years I am aware that there have always been drivers going too fast down the lane (even before students). I am assuming that residents looking for traffic calming are mostly those who have children now playing in the lane.

A few weeks ago I came round the corner into the lane - slowly as it is a blind spot. A group of children were playing close to the end (or beginning?) of the lane. Instead of moving out of the way of the car safely and promptly this was done very slowly and one boy then jumped out in front of my car, jumping up and down and making fun of being there. A big laugh from his friends.

This is very dangerous behaviour - if I had started to accelerate at that point, even slowly, the child could have been run over. I would of course have been blamed and not the badly behaved child who was doing something very dangerous to impress his friends. There is not much point in putting in traffic calmers if children do not behave safely in the lane.

A week before this incident 3 boys from the same group had walked out in front of my car in Fern Avenue, laughing and obviously thinking it was a bit cool, one of them making unpleasant gestures when I stopped and told them it was dangerous to walk out into the street without looking and waiting. I told the boys that if I knew who their parents were I would have let them know about this behaviour. One boy was wearing a yellow and brown uniform.

Traffic calmers serve no purpose if children do not behave sensibly and put themselves at risk, exuberance and fun is one thing - putting me (and any other driver) and themselves at risk is quite another.

Could you please pass this information on at the FAR meeting?