Fern Avenue Residents Group

Minutes of the AGM held at Jesmond Cricket Club on 11th November 2013

Present.   Members of the FAR Group:  Barrie Craven,  Noël Burton-Roberts, Tessa Burton-Roberts, Amanda Davidson, Peter Docherty, Samantha Docherty, Suky Drummond, Grace Hodge, John Hodge, Les Hodgson, James McConnel,  Peter Nicolls, Alison Priestley, David Priestley,  Pam Ranson, Martin Starkie,  Bil Sedgwick, Lucy Wareing.  In attendance: Councillors Catherine Pagan, David Hardman and Tom Woodwark, Sgt Nicola Wearing and P.C. Dave Whelan community police.



1.  Introduction and welcome by the Chair


2.  Apologies for absence. Michele Cowan, Marc Robertson, Mary Hodgson, Janet Nicholls, Rosalind McConnel, communities facilitator Joe Hogan and councillor  Felicity Mendelson.


3.  Adoption of the minutes of the last AGM 7th November 2012. The minutes were adopted.


4.  Matters Arising – Letting Boards.

Nick Brown`s proposed amendment to the Control of Advertisements regulations that would allow local authorities to make the decision at a local level. about the control of letting boards, has been dealt with shabbily by Eric Pickles. The council would like to ban letting boards but E.P. is not complying.


 Whites Hotel. We have continuing concern regarding noise from the terrace nearest the back of Fern Avenue. The Whites` management have cooperated with us at times in the past but point out that a lot of disturbance, reported drug-taking, and the use of the back lane as a urinal, takes place off their premises. The police have been made aware of the problems. Sgt Wearing and Cllr Pagan reported a recent meeting about Whites and the police are taking measures to encourage residents to report incidents and are also making Whites aware that they are being monitored.


Following last year`s AGM, a decoy eagle owl was purchased for £25 and placed at a pigeon perching point at No. 35.   The pigeons were quite comfortable about this and were frequently seen sitting on its head.

A provisional arrangement with the City Council to apply anti-pigeon gunge to the area fell through because City operatives are not allowed to go up ladders to the second level. However, perhaps realising that they were not wanted, the flock recently mysteriously disappeared.


5.  Chair’s report

Over the past year the committee has met 4 times.

Information sharing/gathering:

Again this year an information pack about the FAR Group and welcome to students was distributed to all households in the street in October along with leaflets from the council and universities. Samples of our introductory pack have been requested by other street groups and last year the Northumbria Students Union built on our ideas and put out a good pamphlet for students, which, unfortunately has not been replicated this year.

Over the year, I have attended several meetings as representative of our group. One on the challenge of sustainable energy in the future.

I have been to several Elders Council meetings under the title Bridging the Gaps. This last is aimed at finding and involving potentially isolated elderly people. I don`t feel that this is a major problem for us on Fern but is something that as good neighbours we should be aware of. It is proposed that the library be used by any such groups.



With regard to HMOs, the committee has remained vigilant about attempts to increase their number and has been successful in supplying information to the Planning Dept which has led to the refusal of a conversion to an HMO. The committee is grateful to our councillors and to Environmental Health officers whose actions have led to improvements in the appearance of some properties.

Student matters

We again welcome the initiative of both the universities in dealing more actively with problematic students, for producing an informative postcard, and for their increased contribution to policing. The community police initiative of encouraging landlords to include behavioural standards clauses to tenancy agreements seems to have stalled.

Social events.

One of the aims of the association is to encourage the development of a sense of community in the street. To achieve this we have street get-togethers.

In March, 16 residents enjoyed a convivial lunch at Buono Apetito, which is now  Antico.   Requests have been made for such lunches to continue to be organised.

We welcome suggestions for the venue for the next lunch.

Following the success of the back Fern Avenue/Holly Avenue party in July last year, this year a party was held in July in the north back lane. This again proved to be a highly enjoyable event at which around 70 people joined in. Thanks are due to Suky for its organisation, to the magician and the face painter for their excellent entertainment, to David Hardman and Oxfam for the provision of gazebos, to all who opened their garages for the occasion, to those who provided water for the water fight, to the community police for dropping by from time to time, and to James McConnel for collecting £68 in donations.

In October,85 adults and children attended our annual major get together at the Jesmond Cricket Club, a Curry Night this year which proved very popular. Thanks are due to Martin Starkie and to Andrew Wareing for the variety of entertaining quizzes provided, and to the quiz markers, Ross and Suky Drummond, and Bil Sedgwick.

A thank you to Suky Drummond for organising the event, and to Tessa Burton-Roberts, for her help.


Traffic calming

With regard to the planters, an agreement has been drawn up between the committee and plant carers regarding mutual obligations and responsibilities. The scheme is working well and the committee thanks the plant carers for their work. The planters have considerably enhanced the appearance of the lanes and have been much admired.

We understand that the completion of the greening of the lanes is still under negotiation.

On behalf of the committee, I have written to all businesses at the telephone exchange asking them to encourage their employees not to use the back lanes going to and from work. Adderstones responded that they would make the work force aware but that they were moving out of the premises in a week`s time



We are pleased to note that more people appear to be taking their bins in, and now that most of the extraneous bins have been removed by the Council, we hope that all householders will remove their bins when empty as this facilitates the work of the road-sweeping vehicles which are now coming down the lanes more frequently.


Environmental cleanliness

Earlier this year representations made to the Masons and shops on that site requesting that the excessive amount of rubbish behind their building should be cleared up. No action was taken and we are grateful to John Welford for arranging a community clear-up. The site has remained fairly tidy since. Shiners have amended their business and no longer remove fireplaces, one of the main causes of the build up of rubbish. In return, the management of Shiners ask that residents do not leave their cars in front of the shops.

Beginning in September, working in pairs, eight residents have formed a street and back lanes clearing group coordinated by Bil Sedgwick. Litter is picked up on Sundays or as soon as weather permits.  Our thanks to Bil for this work.


Following the departure of Paul Cooper to the Orkneys, Bil Sedgwick has taken over as webmaster.

6. Finance Report

The year started with a balance of £941.62

The year 2012/13 ended with a balance on 24 October of £462.08

The Curry Social get together made a small profit.

The financial situation at Newcastle Council is poor and this may represent difficulties for future grant funding from this source. 

There is a grant application for £944 for various running costs, including a street party,  currently lodged with the North and South Jesmond Council. Although this has been received by the Council further processing is dependent upon event insurance.  This is available for about £30 from Endsleigh.

I recommend that the Committee discuss this agree purchase.


7. Election of officers and committee members

All members of the committee who were willing to stand again were re-elected.

Grace Hodge has resigned as chair and Noel Burton – Roberts was elected onto the committee as chair (proposed by Suky Drummond seconded by James McConnel)

Barrie Craven was confirmed as treasurer and Paul Cooper thanked for all his hard work as treasurer and website manager.


8. Report from Jesmond neighbourhood policing team

The police gave a report on crimes in the area. Over the last 12 months there have been 8 reported crimes on Fern Avenue (2 damage, 1 car theft, 2 bike thefts, 3 student incidents). This is very low for 12 months. In the last 28 days there have been 27 burglaries in the Jesmond area (which includes parts of Heaton) but none on our patch – “uniform 3”.

Operation Moonlight is a police initiative focussing on vulnerable properties. They are trying to raise awareness of the risks of leaving properties open and also leaving “useful” objects in gardens such as spades, rocks, etc and will talk to homeowners or contact landlords of vulnerable properties. Antisocial behaviour. Police are encouraging reporting of all antisocial behaviour as they are taking a tough stance. Working with the universities bad behaviour can lead to a student being thrown off their course.


9. Funding

We have been fortunate so far in receiving funds from both North and South Jesmond Wards. However, in the present economic climate we can expect grants to be reduced. We have just been granted £200 by North Jesmond Ward. It is evident that we shall need to become more self-sufficient and there was some discussion over the best way forward on this. Various suggestions included running a 100 draw, e-mailing residents as and when money is needed asking for donations giving members the bank details to make a transfer easy. It was noted that it is easier to get donations when there is a specific budget – plants for back lanes, magician for back lane party etc. – than just general funds. It was noted that the main social event is self financing but does not raise extra cash while funds are needed for printing, the back lane party (if it becomes an annual event) and plants for the back lanes (although less now as many carers are propagating their own new plants.).


10.  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.

Nothing was raised


11. Any other business

The Sustrans DIY streets were discussed. It was agreed that no-one in the room thought that making the junction of Acorn Rd with Osborne Road into a shared space was a good idea. In fact the overall feeling was that it was a mad and potentially dangerous idea. David Hardman noted that there is £375,000 earmarked for Jesmond DIY streets and everyone should get involved to ensure it is spent as the community wants.

A resident suggested that Fern Avenue should have communal bins instead of individual. David Hardman reported that the trial of communal bins in South Jesmond has been successful, finer points have been discussed and may result in a mixed solution. This may begin to be rolled out in South Jesmond by March.

A resident noted how enjoyable the curry night had been.