Fern Avenue Residents Group

Minutes of the AGM held at Jesmond Cricket Club on 6th November 2008

Present.   Members of the FAR Group: Calum Bennett, Noel Burton-Roberts, Tessa Burton-Roberts, Alex Cowan, Paul Cooper, Jane Cooper,  Barrie Craven, Mike de la Hunt, Linsley de la Hunt, Amanda Davidson, Samantha Docherty, Peter Docherty, Suky Drummond, Simon Grude, Grace Hodge, Les Hodgson, Mary Hodgson, Claire Lambert, Tricia McGraddie, Alan McGraddie, Peter Nicholls, Janet Nicholls, Ian Purves, Mark Robertson, Pam Ranson, Richard Short, E Spaventa, Meryl Wakeman, Lucy Wareing, Lesley Withers.   Guests: Cllrs. Ron Armstrong, Tom Woodwark, Chris Boyle, Peter Breakey; Andy Percival, community police;


1.  Introduction and welcome by the Chairman                  

2.  Apologies for absence. John Hodge, Hentie & Estelle Louw, Jonathan Barrie, Ross Drummond. Cllrs: Catherine Pagan, Bob Walker. Student Accommodation Liaison: Alison Clemett & Colin Bradley.                        

3.  Adoption of the minutes of the last AGM 22nd November 2007. The minutes were adopted.


4.  Election of officers and committee members

Mike Jellema, group treasurer, very sadly died this year. He will be a huge loss to the group and      community of Jesmond. He was involved with the group from the beginning and put a lot of time   and effort in, he will be sadly missed. Our condolences and best wishes go to his wife Anna.

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

This leaves three vacancies on the committee including treasurer.


5.  Chairman’s report

Over the past year the committee has met 7 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.

Traffic: At the last AGM it became clear that residents are concerned about the volume and the speed of traffic on Fern Avenue and in the back lanes. Recently members of the committee held a meeting with Samantha Dyke the senior assistant engineer in street management and councillor Ron Armstrong. We raised four main issues with them.

1.     20mph Zone:

We asked if it is possible to make the residential areas around Fern Avenue a 20mph zone. Samantha Dykes reported that the council is already working on a program to create 20mph zones in all residential streets and back lanes across the city. At present it is unknown whether this will be a voluntary scheme – as is being trialled in some areas – or a mandatory one. It is hoped that this will be completed within 2 years. Samantha thought that it is unlikely to start before the next financial year. We asked for a deadline for completion.


2.     Closed Streets:

It was pointed out that Fern Avenue has a very high level of traffic caused in some part by both Holly Avenue and Queens Road being blocked. The possibility of unblocking either of those streets or even blocking Fern was raised. Samantha stated that it is very unlikely that anything that would have such a large impact on traffic flow in the area will be done. She also mentioned that she expects the incoming Holly Avenue Parking Scheme to have a positive impact on traffic flow in the area. To see if this is the case Samantha agreed to implement a traffic survey before and after the scheme and to report back the findings.


3.     State of Pavements:

The uneven state of Fern Avenue’s pavements was raised and it was pointed out that it is unsafe for the elderly and disabled. Also that it has not been renewed for at least 35 years. Ron Armstrong reported that the pavements are inspected on a 2 year basis and a report is given to the councillors outlining priorities.

Since this meeting the pavements were inspected on 22/10 and only minor defects reported. These were due to be repaired by 31/10. Also in March a meeting was held with Mr Fulcher which resulted in potholes and a manhole cover being fixed.

4.     Parking:

Students’ eligibility for permits was questioned as it is stated that the address needs to be their sole or principle residency. Ron confirmed that they will be eligible but that they will need to register their car to their Fern Avenue address as you must have vehicle registration to apply for a permit. It is thought that this will discourage many of the students from applying for permits.

Earlier in the year committee members undertook a doorstep survey of members’ opinions on the parking permit consultation. We were able to report to the council that out of 42 households 38 favoured a limit of 2 permits per household

Environment: a) Gardens. In March a front garden tidy up was held with residents joining up with a local authority team to tidy over a dozen gardens in the street. Paul McKinnell also arranged for letters to be sent to landlords of properties with neglected gardens.

b) Bins on pavements. This is an ongoing issue which has now been taken up by our councillors. There is debate as to where the bins at the Southeast end of the street should be collected from. This year the private lane behind the Tyneside flats has been made accessible so the bins could be taken to the back lanes but at present they are still being collected from the street.

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 and bin collection schedules. Various planning and licensing applications have also been circulated and, in the case of the New Northumbria’s license extension application, 32 households presented objections.

Covenants: At the last AGM Rex Winter reported on his progress with creating a restrictive covenant that would prevent more properties becoming HMOs or flats. For a variety of reasons there has been no significant progress on covenants this year. 

Social Event: A summer barbeque was held at the cricket club in July and attended by around 80 adults and 30 children. The raffle raised £394.72 for the Children’s Foundation. Feedback from the event was positive and another summer event will be held next year.

Finance: We applied again to both North and South Jesmond wards for grants to help with the annual social event and administration costs. We were awarded grants of £189.92 and £210.08 respectively. The balance of the account at the end of October was £1215.84.


6. Report from Jesmond neighbourhood policing team:

Sergeant Andy Percival gave a general report re crime and anti-social behaviour. The main points were:

Crime: Burglary numbers are up but apparently 51% of recent burglaries have been at what are classed as “insecure households” (doors or windows unlocked). Also there are more arrests being made.

Anti-social behaviour: Statistically also increased this year but 38% down in Jesmond & Heaton. The police are being proactive and trying to educate students to prevent anti-social behaviour. If noise is reported at night, and they are unable to deal with it then, they make a policy of going to the house early the next morning. Offenders are often required to sign letters agreeing to certain behaviour and the police liaise with the universities and private rented project. There have been more than 20 students arrested since 31st October. It was stressed that it is worthwhile reporting noise via the night noise number.

It was suggested from the floor that we need policing between 2 and 4am for going home noise. The area outside the Masonic Hall was highlighted as a bad spot where people tend to stop on their way home. Ron Armstrong mentioned that he had hoped to trial an extra policing team to deal with night noise in Jesmond and that he had asked the universities to share the cost. He reported that Newcastle University had agreed to the proposal but that Northumbria had refused.

The issue of Taxis illegally parked on Osborne road was raised. Andy reported that there is currently an ongoing operation dealing with taxis.


7.  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.

Covenants. It was proposed that we should continue to try and set up covenants to preserve the family homes in the street. Possibilities for advice were discussed including the CVS and Northumbria University law office.

Parking. It was noted that the scheme is finally being put in place. Proposed that we should review its impact, possibly for the next AGM.

Street Survey. It was suggested that the group could conduct a survey of all households to build a picture of the precise demographic of the street.

Number 76. Concerns were raised as to the number of tenants in number 76 and whether the property had planning permission/was licensed. Councillors agreed to look into this – see Appendix A.

Bins. A resident asked when we will get our blue recycling bins – between November and February. Some confusion as to what plastic will be accepted.

The issue of bins on the pavement at the south-east end of the street was raised. Agreed that it still needs to be clarified where they should be collected from.

Chris Boyle & Tom Woodwark agreed to raise these two issues at South Jesmond ward meeting.

8. Any other business

Antiques village Christmas Fair. There is to be a fair on Saturday December 6th and FAR Group has been asked if they would like to be involved in any way. Agreed after some discussion that there was no obvious role for residents but that the village should send fliers out to the street.

Appendix A


1. If a family home is to be converted into an HMO, planning permission will be needed for more than 7 tenants in the HMO. The law says 6 tenants, but case law points to seven tenants.

For 7 or fewer tenants no planning permission is needed.

The relevant Use Class is C3 which comprises "Family houses, or houses occupied by up to six residents living together as a single household".

Planning permission is never needed to change a use between two uses in the same use class.

2. Once the planning issue is sorted, the HMO will need to be licensed if there are 5 or more tenants spread over 3 or more floors. With 4 or fewer tenants OR 2 or fewer floors there is no need for a licence. A licence is only granted if certain standards are met. It costs £1000 and lasts for 5 years.