Fern Avenue Residents Group

Minutes of the AGM held at Jesmond Cricket Club on 26th November 2009

 

Present.   Members of the FAR Group: Jonathan Barrie, Joe Beeston, Richael, Noel Burton-Roberts, Tessa Burton-Roberts, Paul Cooper, Jane Cooper,  Barrie Craven,  Amanda Davidson, Samantha Docherty, Peter Docherty, Suky Drummond, David Hickling,  Grace Hodge, John Hodge, Les Hodgson, Mary Hodgson, Stephen Hunt, Claire Lambert, Tricia McGraddie, Kerry MacIver, Jeremy MacIver, Peter Nicholls, Janet Nicholls, Ian Purves, Nancy Raskin, Mark Robertson, Pam Ranson, Storm Smith, Chris Sutcliffe.  Guests: Cllrs. Ron Armstrong, Tom Woodwark, Catherine Pagan, Bob Walker. P.C. Sharpe, community police;

    

1.  Introduction and welcome by the Chairman

                          

2.  Apologies for absence.  

      David and Alison Priestley, Kyra and Matt Humphries, Claire Ferraro, Lucy and Wes Wareing, Lesley Withers, Pat Evans. Cllrs: Peter Breakey, Chris Boyle. Student Accommodation Liaison: Alison Clemett & Colin Bradley.

                          

3.  Adoption of the minutes of the last AGM 6th November 2008. 

    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.

    Alison Priestley was elected onto the committee.

                          

5.  Chairman’s report

Over the past year the committee has met 5 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: Earlier this year some members of the committee met with a solicitor to discuss the feasibility of setting up restrictive covenants to prevent family homes being sold to become HMOs. The result of this meeting was encouraging. Following this a letter was sent to the street to gauge how much interest there was in going ahead or at least finding out more. 21 households responded to the letter of which 17 said yes, 3 wanted more information and 1 said no but suggested a voluntary scheme instead. This was deemed to be a positive enough response to arrange an open meeting for all residents and this was arranged to precede the AGM.

Street Survey: At the previous AGM it was suggested by a resident that the group could conduct a survey of all households to build a picture of the precise demographic of the street. The committee worked together with the resident and in early September delivered a questionnaire to all households in the street. Of the 92 households in the street only 42 returned surveys so our collected data is for 45% of the street. However there were some strong trends apparent in the answers. For example 97% of the respondents agreed that a list of recommended tradesmen would be useful. 93% would prefer not to have fliers left on their cars. 83% agree that the parking scheme has made it easier to park. 67% agree that having students in the area is an asset although 76% believe that there are too many students. 86% of respondents agreed that the neighbouring streets being blocked has a detrimental effect on the traffic in our street and also that cars are driven too fast in the back lanes. 62% do not feel that the local bars are an asst to our area but 68% agree that we have a good selection of local restaurants.

The feedback on the group’s activities was encouraging with 88% agreeing that members of the household are likely to attend a social event, 83% agreeing with the provision of a student welcome pack and over 90% agreeing that we should lobby the police and councillors when necessary.

Although this data only represents 42% of the street we still feel that it can be used to focus our attention on the areas people see as the most important. There were also some written comments which we may be able to use as a focus for next year. These included suggestions for children playing signs and barriers in the back lanes. Also worries about visitors parking and taxis on Osborne Road.

There are copies of the full results available, if anyone would like a one please let Suky know.

Social Event: A hogroast was held at the cricket club in September and attended by around 90 adults and 30 children. Fascinating facts about past occupants of the street from census material were kindly provided by Jane Cooper. A profit of £90.05 was made. Feedback from the event was positive and another event will be held next year.

 

Finances:

 

Balance Nov 2008

 

 

 

 

 

1130.23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOGROAST

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

income

 

 

expenditure

 

 

 

 

tickets

686.00

 

room hire

60.00

 

 

 

tombola

56.07

 

hogroast

480.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

other food (Wareing)

92.04

 

 

 

 

 

 

other food (Drummond)

9.06

 

 

 

 

 

 

other food (Hodge)

52.30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

742.07

 

Total

693.40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

other expenditure

 

 

NORA

12.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

 

742.07

 

705.40

 

 

 

+/-

 

 

 

 

36.67

 

 

Current Balance

 

 

 

 

 

1166.90

 

 

 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. At the beginning of the year we tried to circulate as much information as possible about the coming parking scheme. 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 student housing and the landlords’ campaign.

 

Bins on pavements. This was an ongoing issue last year which was taken up by our councillors. This resulted in the street being clear of bins for the majority of this year but sadly some are being left out again.

 

Jesmond Community Forum: The FARG is a member of the community forum and at their request one of our committee members attended their AGM and gave a presentation on setting up a residents’ group.

 

6. Report from Jesmond neighbourhood policing team:

P.C. Sharpe gave a general report re crime and anti-social behaviour. The main points were:

There are 17 PCs and 10 Community Support Officers covering Jesmond and Heaton.

The statistics for “total crime” show that there is a 17.4% improvement and incidents are down. Also burglary is 48.7% lower than last year. It was noted that 90% of the burglaries in our immediate area are on student households.

Parking is now a council matter.

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). If a household is reported to the patrol it will be listed and revisited the next day. The police are working with the universities on repercussions for anti social students and there is a “3 strikes and you’re out” system in place.

It was mentioned from the floor that this system does not seem to be working properly in that there are persistent offenders who are not “out”. It was also suggested that this may be the universities not being fully committed as they do not want to lose students. PC Sharpe felt that the universities were being supportive of the scheme. It was also noted that the noise team and environmental health seem to be disjointed.

At the beginning of the academic year Operation Oak had a zero tolerance policy towards anti social behaviour and they feel that there has been some improvement as a result.

The issue of Taxis illegally parked on Osborne road was raised. PC Sharpe acknowledged that they were a problem but also pointed out that the taxis remove the drinkers from the area and having groups waiting for taxis is disruptive.

 

7. Report on covenant meeting.

A meeting to discuss restrictive covenants was held before the AGM. The main issues discussed were enforcement and cost. The solicitors present felt that enforcement would be fairly simple and that most law firms would expect to be able to claim the cost of the court injunction from the individual who broke the covenant. It was thought that the set up cost for all the covenants together would be between £5 – 600 and that registering the covenants with the land registry would cost £90 per home.

For full minutes of this meeting see Appendix A.

 

8. Register of recommended tradesmen.

Following the support in the street survey for this it was suggested that the group secretary should hold a list of recommended tradesmen for the rest of the group to access when necessary. It was agreed that this idea should be implemented.

 

9.  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.

Back Lanes. It was noted that the back lanes are still seen as dangerous for children to play in. It was suggested that the committee look into further options for making them safer.

Traffic. This is still seen as an issue. Fern Avenue is over used due to Holly and Queens being blocked. Suky reported that the council agreed to do a survey to see if the parking scheme had any impact on the traffic volume. We are waiting for the results of this.

Councillor Woodwark acknowledged that there is a problem with traffic in our street and felt that some solution will be found. It was agreed that the committee should continue to liaise with the council on this.

Elderly. It was noted by a member that a significant proportion of the street are elderly and that this could be a focus for the committee.

 

10. Any other business

Central list of key holders. It was suggested that we could compile a list of key holders for properties in our street for use in emergencies. PC Sharpe felt that it would be possible for the police to hold this on an informal basis in paper form.

 


Appendix A

Minutes of the Covenant Meeting held at Jesmond Cricket Club on 26th November 2009

 

Present.   Members of the FAR Group: Jonathan Barrie, Joe Beeston, Richael, Noel Burton-Roberts, Paul Cooper, Jane Cooper,  Barrie Craven,  Amanda Davidson, Samantha Docherty, Peter Docherty, Suky Drummond, Claire Ferraro, David Hickling,  Grace Hodge, John Hodge, Les Hodgson, Mary Hodgson, Stephen Hunt, Tricia McGraddie, Kerry MacIver, Jeremy MacIver, Peter Nicholls, Janet Nicholls, Ian Purves, Nancy Raskin, Mark Robertson, Pam Ranson, Storm Smith. Guests: Jonathan Stokes and Jamie McGowan

   

Welcome by the Chairman

                          

Jonathan Stokes invited questions from the floor.

 

Are restrictive covenants feasible and viable for Fern Avenue?

Yes – it can be done.

It will be more effective the more people that are involved.

People could join after it is set up.

 

What is a restrictive Covenant?

A promise, usually created when a property is sold. The restriction is on the use of the property and registered with the land registry so the buyer will be aware of it.


What is the mechanism for implementation?

A court injunction would need to be applied for. This would cost around £2500 but Jonathan suggested that most law firms would not charge the entire fee up front as they would expect to claim it back from the breaker of the covenant.

 

How would it work in our street?

We would need a deed of mutually enforceable covenants. This should continue to be enforceable even as individuals move away as the covenants would be cross covenanted.

 

Who would enforce the covenants?

This could be individuals or a committee. Jonathan suggested that it would be easier to leave it as individuals. Any individual in the covenant scheme could enforce any of the covenants.


How would the covenant be worded?

This was only touched on. It was suggested that it should not mention families, rather single households. Multiple occupation or HMOs could be key terms. The lawyers suggested not using the term HMO as there are many interpretations; Ron Armstrong suggested using HMO as defined by the 2004 Housing Act, as the Act stood on 31 December 2008. The lawyers felt that it could be better to use the phrase “Primary Purpose” ie the property’s primary purpose should be a home not income generation.


What would all this cost?

To set up a deed of mutually enforceable covenants would be in the region of £5/600. To register the individual covenants with the land registry would be £90 per property.