Fern Avenue Residents Group

Minutes of the AGM held at Jesmond Cricket Club on 7th November 2012

Present.   Members of the FAR Group:  Barrie Craven, Paul Cooper, Noël Burton-Roberts, Tessa Burton-Roberts, Mike de la Hunt, Linsley de la Hunt, Suky Drummond, Grace Hodge, John Hodge, Les Hodgson, Mary Hodgson, Tony Littlewood, James McConnel, Janet Nicolls, Peter Nicolls,  Pam Ranson, Barrie Craven, Mark Robertson, Bil Sedgwick, Lucy & Wes Wareing.  In attendance: Susan Johnson, communities officer C.S.O.s Jon Towns and Steve Mason, community police.


1.  Introduction and welcome by the Chair


2.  Apologies for absence. Amanda & Rob Davidson, Morag Kerry, Vanita Suri, John Welford, Councillors David Hardman, Felicity Mendelson, Catherine Pagan.


3.  Adoption of the minutes of the last AGM 24th November 2011. The minutes were adopted.


4.  Matters Arising – Letting Boards.

As noted in the minutes, in August 2011, Nick Brown, MP, met with the committee, at is request, so that he could hear local residents’ views. Among the matters raised at the meeting were HMOs and the proliferation of lettings boards.

Last week Nick Brown wrote to tell us that he has presented a Private members Bill in July which amended the 2007 Town and Country Planning Act Control of Advertisements Regulations so that Local Authorities could bring in their own rules to control To Let signs. This is awaiting a second reading in the House.

More recently, he tabled an amendment to the governments Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which aimed to amend Regulation 7 of the Control of Advertisements regulations so that local authorities are not required to ask for consent from central government for extra powers to control letting boards. Nick Brown’s amendment would allow local authorities to make the decision at a local level.


5.  Chair’s report

Over the past year the committee has met 3 times. 

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 package containing information about the FAR Group, and leaflets from the council and universities, has again been distributed to all households. Various planning and licensing applications have also been circulated by Suky, as passed on to her councillors and the JRA.


Whites Hotel. We have had concern regarding noise from the terrace nearest the back of Fern Avenue and are monitoring the situation.

Mostly, there has been a reasonably quick response from the licensing authority to most complaints but we are concerned about the slow response with regard to breaches of licensing conditions of other establishments. 


With regard to HMOs, we have nothing to report in relation to Fern Avenue but pleased to say that our councillors, with the support of many Jesmond residents, have successfully objected to the proposed increases in tenants for a number of HMOs in Jesmond.

Student matters

The information pack mentioned earlier, makes a particular point of welcoming students. Earlier this year, enthusiasm was shown by Northumbria students for our initiative in producing the pack and made the kind offer of making improvements to the design of the pack, but so far this has not materialised. I shall be raising the matter again with students with an eye to making improvements to next year’s pack

Although antisocial behaviour is not a major problem for the street we 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.

Social events.

One of the aims of the association is to encourage the development of a sense of community in the street. This year, three events have been held with this aim in mind.

By popular request, a lunch was again held at the Jesmond Hotel Brasserie, which was attended by 23 people. This gathering was deemed a success and requests were made for repeats only to find the occasion unrepeatable as shortly afterwards the Brasserie changed hands and no longer offered lunches. Sadly, we shall have to find a new venue. Suggestions welcome.

In July, a party was held in back Fern Avenue/Holly Avenue to celebrate of the installation of planters in the north and south Fern Avenue back lanes. 70 residents participated, including 25 children. Thank you to those people who tidied up and opened their garages, loaned tents, flooring and play equipment, and organised the screening of the Wimbledon final. A local authority grant of £300 to encourage neighbourliness was used to pay for a magician and a face painter.

In September, 110 adults and children attended our annual Hog Roast at the Jesmond Cricket Club. This event went well, as usual, and it was pleasing to see that ten students came and stayed for the evening. Thank you to Suky Drummond for organising the event, and to Tessa Burton-Roberts, and Lucy Waring for their help.


The pigeon flock in the street has increased to around 40 birds, and their droppings are causing a particular nuisance for a number of properties. Following complaints from residents, the situation has been explored with the local authority pest control and private companies. A number of solutions have been suggested which include live trapping, spikes, repellent gel, decoy birds of prey, and shooting them by air-gun (on your own property). Food should not be available for pigeons.

Individual householders are responsible for the cost of treatment to their homes.

Back lanes traffic calming sub-group

It is on record that my first enquiry about making back lanes safer for children was back in 1989 stymied at the time by two totally conflicting responses from the local authority.

The lack of safety in the back lane remained a major concern for residents and was one of the first issues raised at the inauguration of the FAR Group.  This concern led eventually to the motion adopted at our 2010 AGM to establish a sub-group of FAR consisting of representatives from Fern, Holly, and Queens, “to look into the possibility of installing speed humps in their respective back lanes”. Humps were swiftly deemed non-viable because of their impracticability as far a services were concerned, their cost, and the fact that it was divisive of the residents. The upshot of the group’s investigation last year is summarised at the end of the minutes of the 2011 AGM.

We are grateful for advice from Anne Tavernor, who has acted as secretary to the sub-group,It was decided that we should opt for a greening of the back lanes via planters and painted chicanes. This solution is being made possible by grants from the North and South Jesmond Wards.

Twelve planters in each lane were installed in July, and we await several continuous dry days before the coloured chicanes can be applied. Thanks are due to Jenny Henderson, Sue Rumball, Pam Ranson, and John Hodge for help with interim planting, and to Mark Lamb and Trevor Potts, and their staff, for the superb final planting. We now have a plant care team across the three streets. Thanks are due to all six councillors who have been supportive of the scheme, to Susan Johnson, Community Officer, for their advice and support, and to John Welford for project managing the scheme. We are responsible for seasonal planting. 


I recently wrote to the councillors regarding the problem of unlicensed garden bins and contaminated recycling bins. As a result 10 tons of waste was collected from 10 nearby back lanes. John Welford is going to address the problem of over-- provision of  bins and bins being left out.

6. Finance Report

Please see attached pdf.


7. Election of officers and committee members

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

(proposed by Noel Burton – Roberts, seconded by Linsley de la Hunt)

Morag Kerry has resigned from the committee. James McConnel was proposed as a new member by Noel Burton – Roberts, seconded by Suky Drummond and elected.


8. Report from Jesmond neighbourhood policing team

Steve Mason gave a general report re crime and anti-social behaviour particularly focusing on the past 4 weeks in our local area (Osborne Ave – Grosvenor Rd).

Crime has been low in the past 4 weeks. In this time there have been 4 pedal-cycle thefts, 1 car theft and 2 burglaries. There has also been 1 arrest.

There is a specific burglary team which has been operating for the last 6 months. This continuity of personnel has led to arrests.

Anti-Social behaviour:

In the last 4 weeks 148 warning letters have been issued. The universities are now issuing fines

Operation Oak is still running with the universities now contributing more to its costs.

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.

A member raised the possibility of trying to change the general perception – particularly among students and encouraged by letting agents – that Jesmond is a “student area”. The police agreed that this is a problem, quoting examples of comments from students. CSO Towns told the meeting how the police have worked with Fraser Grant to include a section of anti-social behaviours within their letting contract, this appears to be working.

Agreed that we should find out which agents rent houses on Fern and let CSO Towns know with the possibility that more agents could be persuaded to include this in their contracts.

It was also suggested that having a good personal relationship with student neighbours and letting agents can be very beneficial. Having a student discount for the next hogroast was proposed.


10. Any other business

Susan Johnson flagged up the usefulness of attending ward meetings, she is willing to e-mail agendas to anyone who is interested.

The collection of non paid for brown bins is still a work in progress.

It was noted that there is going to be a trial of trade waste bins instead of individual bins in certain streets in South Jesmond over the next 6 months.

The sharing of information about tradesmen was inquired about and Suky confirmed that many people on the street have used this. If anyone has new tradesmen to add to the list they can just e-mail Suky.

A resident thanked the committee for all their work this year.