Fern Avenue Residents Group

Minutes of the AGM held at Jesmond Cricket Club on 17th November 2014



Members of the FAR Group: Noël Burton-Roberts, Tessa Burton-Roberts, Amanda Davidson, Peter Docherty, Samantha Docherty, Suky Drummond, Grace Hodge, John Hodge, Mary Hodgson, Claire Lambert, Tony Littlewood, Hentie Louw, James McConnell, Pam Ranson, Martin Starkie, Bil Sedgwick, Nicky Smith, Chris Sutcliffe, Andrew Wareing.

In attendance: Councillors: Arlene Ainsley, David Hardman, Felicity Mendelson , Gerry Keating and Peter Breakey , P.C. Amanda Berry and P.C. Sandra Jackson community police.


1.  Introduction and welcome by the Chair


2.  Apologies for absence. Les Hodgson, Marc Robertson, Alison Priestley


3.  Adoption of the minutes of the last AGM 11th November 2013. The minutes were adopted.


4.  Matters Arising – Letting Boards.

Letting boards will no longer be allowed in Jesmond after January 5th. Councillor Mendelson urged residents to report any seen after that date. Also to be aware that landlords may start putting posters in windows. This will be legal but it is worth watching out for and reporting if it is deemed as a problem.


Report from Jesmond neighbourhood policing team

The police gave and compared crime statistics for July - September with October – present. In the first period there was 1 burglary to a house and 1 to a garage and 6 bikes stolen. Since October there have been 4 house burglaries and 11 bikes stolen. The house burglaries have all been through insecure rear doors. The police urged residents to ring 999 (or 101 if uncomfortable with 999) if they see anyone acting suspiciously in the area. The bikes were predominantly student bikes left in garages and front gardens. The police urged bike owners to use D locks at all times. They have an ongoing bike operation prosecuting for lack of lights, cycling on the pavement and dangerous cycling. Operation Oak is also still ongoing. The police urged residents to call if there is unnecessary noise. More students are being warned and extra patrols are put on at busy times – Christmas, post exams etc.


5.  Chair’s report

This has been my first year as Chair and I would like to thank the committee and particularly Grace Hodge and Suky Drummond for their help. 

On behalf of the committee I also thank Alison Priestley, who is stepping down after several years’ sterling service on the committee.

Over the past year the committee has met 5 times.

Information sharing/gathering:

As in previous years, 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 the universities. Nevertheless, antisocial behaviour by students remains an issue.

Bil Sedgwick FAR Group website is now up and running and very smart it is.  Many thanks to him for engineering this.

Over the year I (as Chair) and especially Grace Hodge (as Vice Chair) have attended several meetings as representatives of our group.  I should mention that the FAR Group is regarded by Council and Ward representatives as a shining example of good community practice.

Social gatherings and other events.

One of the aims of the association is to encourage the development of a sense of community in the street. To this end we have organised several street events.

In February, 12 residents enjoyed a lunch at Antico.  

We welcome suggestions for the venue for the next lunch.

The annual back lane party continues to be a great success. This year it was held in June in the south back lane, with about 65 residents and friends joining in. Thanks are due to Suky for its organisation, to the magician and the face painter for their entertainment (esp. the former for returning the chairman’s watch!), to David Hardman for the provision of gazebos, and to all who supplied food (especially the curries!) and who opened their garages for the occasion.

On October 10th there was a very good turn-out at our ever-popular annual get together, a Curry Night at the Jesmond Cricket Club. This was very successful (85 people) and actually made a small profit. Thanks are due to Martin Starkie, Ross Drummond and to Andrew Wareing for the variety of entertaining quizzes provided, and to the (amazingly speedy) quiz marker Suky Drummond.

A big thank you to Suky for organising the event, and to everyone who helped set it up.

Another aim of the association is to improve and maintain the look of the Street:

On November 16th, we had our annual leaf-clearing event. This left us with a street that is an example to the rest of Jesmond, and a warm glow for the 17 people who participated.  A big thank you to them and to Grace and John Hodge for organising it and for storing the huge number of bin bags in their front garden until the council collects them.

On the subject of clearing: every week teams of litter pickers clear the street and back lanes. This has become less onerous for those involved now that there are so many volunteers. Thank you to them and to Bil Sedgwick for overseeing this.

In addition, Grace Hodge leads the back lane group, which is concerned with the “greening” of the back lanes and the administration of the planters. I will ask Grace to say a few words about this.

Back Lane Planters:

All the planters in both back lanes are looking good although there is one badly sited planter that gets little sun or rain and is difficult to keep thriving. Many thanks to all the plant carers for doing such a good job.

Two planters have been vandalised and there has been much discussion as to where the responsibility of maintaining the structure of the planters lies. Throughout the planning the group was told that, as they were on council land, the council would retain ownership and maintain the planters while the residents stocked them and cared for the plants. Now two planters need repair the local authority has been silent on who has the responsibility for repairs. The FAR committee has recently allocated funds for repair and two trellises will be replaced/repaired soon.

Financing the FAR Group.

In the past, the Group has applied for and received grants from the Council. Our finances are supplemented (a) by the sale of tickets for the curry night (making a small profit), (b) contributions collected during the back lane party and (c) by one-off donations and standing orders from a few members. The Treasurer will give details in his report.  

The committee feels that, at a time of local government austerity, it would be desirable for the Group not to depend on local government funding, i.e. aim to be self-financing.  This could be achieved without too much hardship if more members were to make regular donations, in the form of a small - even very small - monthly standing order or an annual donation.

6. Finance Report

I should mention that the committee treats the Group`s business year as running from AGM to AGM.

With reference to the financial report, the North and South Ward grants of £958.50 and healthy bank balance of £1,081.60 might suggest that the Group is awash with money. However, this is not what it seems. 

Ward Grants

The Wards grants included the return to the Group of a £172.50 Public Liability Insurance premium which we had been wrongly informed was necessary for us to pay before the Wards grant of £390 towards the 2013-14 budget could be could be released.  That payment should have occurred in the October of the 2012-13 business year but was delayed until March of this year because of the protracted debate on the PLI issue.

A further Wards grant of £396 towards our 2014-15 budget was then paid in October of this year. 

Our anticipated expenditure in this coming financial year is between £550-£600, including up to £60 for the repair of vandalised planters. This will bring our bank balance close to the £462 which it was what it was at the beginning of the 2013-14 year.

It is the view of the committee that this is not an unreasonable amount to keep for unanticipated circumstances.

Back lane collections

This is cash collect by Noel Burton-Roberts at the back lanes party. It could be described as donations but is best kept separate from donations from individuals.


Four donations were made by residents amounting to £80. These have been much appreciated by the committee. It is hoped that residents will continue to make donations but this cannot be automatically assumed.

Standing orders

Two, of £3 and £5 monthly, giving an annual income of £96.

It is very much hoped that more standing orders will be taken out as this can be treated as guaranteed income.

See Appendix 1 for the figures.



7. Election of officers and committee members

All members of the committee who were willing to stand again were re-elected. (proposed by Amanda Davidson, seconded by Andrew Wareing)

Many thanks to Alison Priestley, who has resigned from the committee, for her many years of service. A resident thanked the committee on behalf of the street.


8. 10 year celebration.

In 2015 the group will have been running for 10 years. Suggestions for ways to celebrate were asked for. It was proposed that we should hold a street party instead of a back lane party next year. It was suggested that the street could be closed in the middle – from Grosvenor to Gowan. The committee will look into it.


9. Re-evaluation of major concerns.

Residents did not raise any particular concerns. The informal list of recommended trades people was flagged up as a useful thing.


10. Any other business

Traffic proposals for Osborne Ave/Manor House Rd/Gowan Terrace.

There were conflicting views about the raised tables that are being proposed. Some issues raised were the loss of parking (it has been clarified now that there will only be any loss of parking on Osborne Ave), that this is a solution where there is no problem and that traffic will be even more tempted to rat run down the north back lane.

Councillor Hardman explained the rationale behind the scheme which is that the council are trying to make Jesmond a clearly family friendly area (they are also offering grants and loans to help convert unused HMOs into family homes). Improving streets for families with pushchairs etc. is a side project of the cycle fund ambition which is where the money is coming from. He also stated that the councillors have secured a commitment that the traffic in the north back lane will be monitored and dealt with if it becomes a problem. Councillor Keating suggested proposing a raised table at the junction of the back lane with Gowan Terrace.

Communication with councillors and other officers.

The committee raised worries about how consultations are held (particularly with Acorn Road and the upcoming roll out of communal bins). It was proposed that in the future consultations should work on one vote per household. The councillors agreed that this will be how the bins consultation is carried out but noted that this is not always practical if the issue for consultation is not a straight yes/no decision. It was noted that the council recognises that there is a lack of clarity on how consultations are used. Councillor Ainsley stated that she would be happy with a 1 vote per household if the consultation is a yes/no vote.

It was noted that streets will not be balloted re communal bins unless there is a problem with the bins being left out. Once a ballot has taken place if 30% of the responses are no then the lane won’t get communal bins. There is no space in the Fern/Queens back lane for communal bins.


11. Date of next AGM.

Monday 16th November 2015.

Also noted that the annual social evening will be held on Friday 25th September



Appendix 1



Financial Report 11.11.2013 - 17.11.2014

Opening balance 11.11.2013




Ward grants* **


AGM room hire






Back lane collection


AGM refreshments




Back lane party





Face painter

Curry tickets


Curry night room hire




Curry quiz


Curry supplements


Standing orders


Litter picking materials


Sale of plants




Printer cartridges




Social events stock


Spoons, forks, etc.






Closing balance 17.11.14


*Includes repayment of public liability insurance

** Includes two year`s grants