Fern Avenue Residents Group

Minutes of the AGM held at Jesmond Cricket Club on 24th November 2011


Present.   Members of the FAR Group: Calum Bennett, Noel Burton-Roberts, Tessa Burton-Roberts,   , Samantha Docherty, Peter Docherty, Suky Drummond, Grace Hodge, John Hodge, Les Hodgson, Mary Hodgson, Janet Nicolls, Peter Nicolls,  Pam Ranson, Martin Starkie, Chris Sutcliffe, Diana Torode, Estelle Louw, Hentie Louw, Morag Kerry, Barrie Craven, Mark Robertson, Lucy Wareing.  Guests: Anne & Bill Tavernor, B & S Rumball, Jen Hughf (Queens Rd) Hilary Hardy, Joanne Gholkar, Mr D Barr-Wells, Bobbie Harding, Jenny & Ian Henderson (Holly Avenue) Martin Monane (Gowan Terrace).  Cllrs. Catherine Pagan, Peter Breakey, David Hardman, Tom Woodwark, Chris Boyle. Ward co-ordinator Chris Mason. N.C.C. officer John Welford.  C.S.O.s Jon Towns and Steve Mason, community police.


1.  Introduction and welcome by the Chair


2.  Apologies for absence.    Paul Cooper, Amanda & Rob Davidson, Alison Priestley.


3.  Adoption of the minutes of the last AGM 11th November 2010.    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.


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. In addition to these meetings there has also been a meeting with our local MP, Nick Brown, and a sub committee has been formed to address the back lanes.


Back Lanes: See item 7


Meeting with MP: Nick Brown requested a meeting with the committee in August so that he could hear local residents’ views. Matters that were raised in the meeting included the non payment of council tax/business rates by the HMOs, how Article 4 should be used to restrict more HMOs in Jesmond, the use of ward money to fund policing that is needed because of the proliferation of bars in Jesmond, VAT on essential maintenance to homes and lack of play space in Jesmond.

A response to these matters was received in early December and can be found in Appendix B.


Social Events: The annual hogroast was held at the cricket club in September and attended by around 75 adults and 30 children, this included our full complement of 6 councillors. A profit of £105.34 was made. Feedback from the event was positive and another event will be held next year. Also, in May, a residents’ lunch was held. 13 adults and 2 small children met for lunch at the Jesmond Brasserie. It went very well and there was positive feedback.


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 an information leaflet has been distributed to all households including, among other things, useful telephone numbers. A full pack containing extra information leaflets from the council and police was delivered to known student households and new residents. Various planning and licensing applications have also been circulated as well as information about local events.

Finance Report: 2010/2011


On behalf of the street the chair thanked the FARG committee and the back lane sub group for all their hard work and input. Also all the councillors for their support, particularly Catherine Pagan and David Hardman; the many ward co-ordinators, particularly Chris Mason; and the many other officers who have had input into the back lanes project and the project co-ordinator, John Welford.

6. Report from Jesmond neighbourhood policing team:

Jon Towns gave a general report re crime and anti-social behaviour particularly focusing on the past 4 weeks.


In this time there have been 18 pedal-cycle thefts and 2 burglaries. The pedal-cycle theft is higher than last year while the burglary rate is lower. Many of the bicycles are being stolen from the back yards/garages and are being cut loose. Of the 2 burglaries one was a walk in into an unsecured house.

Measures in place to counteract these problems are; Operation Delta, which is focusing on the pedal theft. This consists of 2 extra officers during key times (dusk - 7:30pm and 11:00pm – 3:00am) this will be running for the foreseeable future; And a specific burglary team which has been operating for the last 3 months. This continuity of personnel has led to arrests.

 Anti-Social behaviour:

Since September 540 warnings have been issued. Every complaint that is logged leads to a revisit and a 1st warning or an ABA contract will be issued.

Operation Oak is the student disorder patrol. This consists of 2 PCs on patrol 3 nights a week, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday, between 11pm and 4am (5am on Fridays).

Concerns were raised by members re safety issues around cyclists. The CSOs assured the meeting that they would take our concerns – riding without lights and on the pavement – to the sergeant and initiatives and student liaison would be discussed.

CSO Towns also mentioned Hermes which is a property ID scanning program. If any resident wants this they can contact the CSO via the secretary and the officers will come to their house.

7. Report on the Back Lanes Project.

As a result of discussions at the 2010 AGM a back lane traffic sub group was formed and representatives from Queens Road and Holly Avenue were invited to join. This group has spent the year in liaison with various councillors and council officers and council officer John Welford has the role of project manager. John delivered his report to the meeting. This can be seen in Appendix A.

The main points were that if there is to be any beautification/traffic calming it needs to be tied in with the resurfacing of the lanes. The north lane is to be resurfaced early in 2012. Funding for coloured surfacing and planters has been agreed. The possibility of bollards can be looked in to although it is recognised that many residents may find this daunting.

Various concerns were raised by residents particularly concerning the point of beautification and planters when the lanes are full of bins. John Welford assured us that there will be a focus on bins before the project gets underway and there will be enforcement on taking them in which should lead to identification and removal of unused bins.

It was stressed that a full consultation will be carried out by the council before any changes are made and any concerns will be addressed.

It was acknowledged that there are a range of different priorities among the residents and that a compromise will need to be reached.


8.  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.

No suggestions were offered.


9. Any other business

A resident thanked the committee and sub – group for all their work this year.

It was asked whether there is anything anyone can do to prevent junk mail, sadly it seems there isn’t!

A resident asked about reporting anti social behaviour and litter. It was noted that the welcome leaflet gives the relevant numbers to ring and agreed that the more people ringing the better.


Appendix A

Meeting at Jesmond Library on 29th July 2011

Councillors, officers, and representatives of residents, concerning traffic calming measures in the north and south back lanes of Fern Avenue met to agree a way forward

Purpose of the meeting

To further explore methods of discouraging speeding in the north and south back lanes of Fern Avenue.

Observations and Conclusions

  1. The reasons for seeking traffic calming measures are:
  • To make the back lanes safer for the children who play in and for pedestrians to use safely.
  • To facilitate the use of the lanes for activities organised by residents in the interests of social cohesion.
  • As a consequence of the above, the encouragement of families to move into the area.


  1. Because of the potentially divisive effect on neighbour relations of a request for humps, this option will no longer be pursued by the residents` group.


  1. The intention to place 20mph signposts at the entrances to the lanes is appreciated by residents but more action is needed.


4.   Further measures discussed included the creation of visual chicanes by the use of coloured road surfaces and the strategic placing of planters.  An Officer of the Council agreed to inspect the lanes, to give advice on these projects, and to provide an estimate of costs.  If approved, the cost to be met from the Ward Capital Fund.


  1. Planters – The maintenance of planters would be undertaken by the Back Lanes sub-group of residents, possibly assisted with funds raised by residents.  (It was noted that indication from a survey of residents in late 2010 were that a number of residents were willing to make contributions to traffic calming measures).


6.    Artworks and custom made planters were considered unnecessary.


7    It was hoped that some information about plans for the two lanes could be given to residents at the FAR Group Hog Roast on 16 September 2010.


8.   Given that there are three Council Departments involved with the back lanes plans, it was agreed that it would be helpful for the Council's officers to have a co-ordinator of information for this project. John Welford agreed to act in this role and to be the focal point for receiving and sending messages from officers. Grace Hodge will be the co-ordinator of information for residents.


9.   Consultation. It was agreed that once there were firm proposals for action, the Back Lanes sub-group of residents will canvass the opinions of the residents in Holly/Fern/Queens affected by the plans. The final consultation will be conducted by the city council.


Reasons against 20mph roundels 

       The city council is against having 20mph roundels painted on the road.

       The council is currently rolling out a 20mph speed limits on all the residential streets in the city. This process is due for completion this calendar year. Following its completion we intend to monitor the scheme to ascertain its success. It may at that time be appropriate to place the roundels on some roads.

       Currently there are some existing 20mph roundels in place elsewhere in the City. These have been used in the past only to identify 20mph zones. Different legislation applies to 20mph zones as opposed to 20mph speed limits and when implemented 20mph zones had to be ‘self enforcing’, generally through the inclusion of speed reducing features such as traffic calming. Those schemes with 20mph roundels were introduced as a trial with signs and lines only and the roundels were deemed to be the speed reducing features.

       As the scheme which is currently being introduced Citywide uses speed limits as opposed to zones we are using entry signs and repeater signs within the areas where the limits apply and not applying any roundels at any locations at present. To include roundels at this stage in the introduction of the scheme would set a precedent for similar features Citywide which is not sustainable. 

Reasons Against Play Streets

       Play streets have not been used in the city for many years now. These play streets rely on the police to enforce and in the past these schemes have fallen out of favour. Play streets only prohibit through traffic and do not prevent access for residents properties that have access from the street. Access would also still be permitted by emergency service vehicles, vehicles delivering to properties within the street and any vehicles undertaking servicing works e.g. refuse vehicles or highway maintenance vehicles. This can give a false sense of security and as such we would not encourage the introduction of a play street.

Planters with seats

       On safety grounds we could not support the introduction of planters with seats. In other areas where similar road treatments have been used seats have not been used, only planters. The area where the planters are proposed to be provided is not sufficiently wide to accommodate seats without any occupants sitting partially on a live carriageway which gives rise to serious road safety concerns.

 Bollards in the Lane

Bollards could be considered to close the back lane to through traffic. This has been done recently, on an experimental basis, at a location where there have been problems with rat running traffic avoiding traffic queues at a set of traffic signals. For such a scheme consent is required for all properties as such scheme can cause access difficulties for some properties.

Legal Responsibility

       We have discussed the proposed scheme with officers within the Council who have highlighted the need for a licence agreement between the Council and those who it is intended will be maintaining the planters. 

       The purpose of the agreement is basically to set out who is responsible for what in terms of maintaining the planters.

Resurfacing of Fern Back Lane

       Engineers have decided to leave the existing kerb line in place and repair it where needed, the majority of the kerbs are solid and in decent condition. Also the foundations of the property walls may become unstable if we remove the concrete and kerbs. Leaving these kerbs in will not affect the installation of the planters. 

Cost of Markings

       I have had a cost back from the contractor for a Green Slurry Seal, this is similar to the material that was used on Back Rothbury Terrace in Heaton.

       Allowing 2 sqm’s around each of the 20 planters.

       A total of 40 sqm’s of Green Slurry Seal 6mm thick would cost £3,530.00 

Cost of Planters

       Following your recent request, an estimate has been prepared for the installation of planters at Fern Avenue back lanes. The estimated cost of this work is £550 per planter.

       We estimate that up to 20 can be accommodated, 12 on Fern/Holly, 8 on Fern/Queens.

       This estimate shall remain firm and open for acceptance for 90 days from the above date.

       All works arising will be subject to re-measure upon completion.

Next Step

       Residents to be consulted by Community Engagement working with Elected Members and Fern Avenue Residents Group

       Locations of Planters to be identified

       Properties that the planters are positioned against to be consulted

       Implementation of the scheme to be completed by end of March 2012



Appendix B

Issues in Jesmond

A summary of issues raised by Jesmond residents with Nick Brown MP and cllr David Hardman and action being taken on these

Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) 

‘The concentration, quality and maintenance of HMOs in Jesmond can have detrimental effects on the wider area.’

Nick is working with South Jesmond Councillor David Hardman to ensure there is careful monitoring of the Article 4 Direction when it comes into effect from November. Nick has written to the Chief Executive of Newcastle City Council making the case for strengthening the rules on HMO consents to make sure we are minimising the adverse effects some HMOs can have on their neighbours.

Nick firmly believes that enforcing better standards and control will not only benefit the wider community, but tenants as well. Nick supports calls for greater licensing of HMOs as a way of driving up standards in the Private Rented Sector and, along with Councillor David Hardman, is exploring the innovative use of selective licensing in Byker as way of achieving this. Nick is keen to find out whether, after an evaluation, it has any potential application in Jesmond.
Letting Boards

‘Many Letting Boards are becoming near permanent features. There are too many and they are detrimental to Jesmond’s appearance.’

Nick has written to the responsible Government Minister putting the case in support of the proposed Regulation 7 Direction to control letting boards and urging the Government to grant this application as it applies to Newcastle.

Nick has been looking at the scheme operating in areas of Leeds to control Letting Boards as a prospective model to use in Newcastle.

Nick is looking at primary legislation, or amending existing legislation, as a way of dealing with the problem. He is supporting an application for a Regulation 7 Direction for Newcastle if the City submit one. 

Noise and Anti-social behaviour

‘Not enough is been done to address issues of noise and anti-social behaviour.’

Nick met with the Vice Chancellors of both Universities, raising this and stressing the effect it is having in certain neighbourhoods

Nick has arranged to meet with the local Neighbourhood Police Inspector and the Newcastle Area Commander to raise the policing of anti-social behaviour. 

Nick has raised the issue in his letter to the Chief Executive, asking for the Council’s assessment of the current Operation Oak scheme and making the case for its extension, as well as arranging to meet with Council Officers to discuss anti-social behaviour.

Good Citizenship

‘Being respectful and considerate of your neighbours and local area can make a real difference.’

Nick recognises the importance of good citizenship by all who live in the community. Students shouldn’t be blamed as the root of all problems and that the vast majority are considerate citizens who are an asset to their community. The Universities in particular have a wealth of information and guidance on ‘good neighbourliness’. The key issue is in getting the message across to those who are disrespectful of others. 

HMOs and Council Tax Exemption

‘It is unfair that some HMOs do not pay any council tax at all.’

Nick looked into this issue and recognises that it is a large concern for many who live in areas of high HMO concentrations. It is a difficult policy area to address since in many cases either the tenant or the landlord does pay council tax, depending on the nature of the tenancy contract. The exemption to pay comes when a property is occupied only by full-time students. A Government response to this issue in 2007 stated ‘the Government has no plans to make owners of HMOs liable for business rates. To do so would mean treating them differently from other domestic property’. As such it would be difficult to implement many of the suggested proposals. Nick does not support charging full time students council tax, which in many cases could end up costing the taxpayer more in associated Council tax and Housing benefit payments, which students are currently not eligible to claim. 

Alcohol Licensing

‘Excessive drinking is often the root cause of disturbances in Jesmond.’

Nick has written to the relevant Government Minister querying the scope provided through the Localism Bill for the restriction of licensed premises in an area and the rights community groups will have in putting their views and concerns across.

The late-night levy, a charge on licensed premises serving alcohol between midnight and six am, proposed in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, would have a minimal impact on Jesmond due to the closing times of many local licensed premises. This levy is designed to help contribute to the costs of policing and clean-up from alcohol related activity. Nick has written to the Government to see whether it would be possible to extend the scope of this levy.

Conservation of the Natural Environment

‘The preservation of our valued natural heritage in Newcastle is important to many residents.’

Nick is a longstanding supporter of conservation and environmental protection and fought a long battle in Parliament against the original draft of the Newcastle Town Moor Bill, which was designed to allow property development on the edge of the Town Moor.

Nick is strongly opposed to abandoning the present planning regime for Newcastle’s greenbelt.

Nick was concerned to hear of the ongoing pollution problems in the Ouseburn River. He contacted the City Council to find out what was being done on this and they have launched a full investigation with the Environment Agency and will keep Nick informed

To see copies of Nick’s letters to Government Ministers and the associated responses, when they are available, please visit Nick’s website at www.nickbrownmp.com.