ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Wednesday, 18th May, 2016.
This is our 68th General Meeting and my 16th as your Chairman: how time flies! As always, this has been a busy and challenging year. Apart from the very full committee meetings throughout the year, most of us have attended many other meetings, representing our members. Before I tell you what each committee member has achieved in the last 12 months, I wish to welcome our new members.
Let me start with the Newsletter and Update.
David Orme retired in December as our editor and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for the fantastic job he has done in updating the Newsletter and making it a more user friendly and up-to-date publication. His contribution has been much appreciated.
I am delighted to say that we do have a new editor. Christine Morris took over in February and has now produced two excellent and high-calibre editions, having already made some changes. Starting with the current issue we will use larger print and the whole Newsletter will be in colour. For events which take place after our Newsletter is printed, or as a reminder, we now send out regular e –mail updates. I am very grateful to Alex for taking on this task.
It is worth noting that the first Newsletter, published in 1965, was called Fortisman and it appeared as a booklet two or three times a year.
Last June we had a second conducted walk in Queen’s Wood. Our member Lucy Roots, a former Chair of the Friends of Queen’s Wood, gave up her morning to take us round and tell us about the work they do.
In October we had a presentation by the Met Trace team of the Metropolitan Police on smart water property marking as part of their crime reduction program. In November Graham Parkinson told us about his trips to the Buddhist communities in northern India, illustrated with lovely photos. Thank you Tony for arranging this fascinating talk.
After the talk we presented the winners of our second Photo Competition (Tom Buckland, Birgit Kaye and Patrick Simpson) with their prizes.
In March the vicar of St James’ came to talk to us about the work the church does in the community.
In April our very good friend Hugh Garnsworthy, his wife Ruth and his son gave us a moving talk on letters written by her uncle, Sgt Victor Hember, who was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Now we are here at the Mossy Well pub. A big “thank you” to Genevieve Gardiner the manager, for looking after us tonight.
On Saturday, 2nd July, at 11.00 committee member Bill Tyler will take us on a walk in and around Coldfall Wood and East Finchley cemetery.
We will welcome the Chief Exec of A. P. on the 5th October, and an Italian wine tasting will take place on Thursday (please note not Wednesday!) 10th November at the Clissold.
Very few members attended both the March and April meetings. This is very sad and upsetting. For future meetings we need suggestions of speakers and ideas on how to increase attendance figures.
Website, Shop Front Photos and Photographic Competition
Tony Wells has been busy this year. He reports that the Google statistics show steady activity over the year with users from over 8o Countries accessing our site, 22% from the USA 33% from this country. Tony updates and enhances the site on a regular basis with news items and new images. Do have a look!
Our book: “Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Association, a history of its campaigns and landmark achievements”, originally published in 2010, was updated recently and is now available on the website.
Tony is also responsible for keeping our shop front photo archive, which he has to update regularly as shops close and new ones open. These albums are an interesting and unique record of the many changes in shops in Muswell Hill. In addition, we have taken photos of our green spaces, pocket parks and flower boxes. The albums are here, please have a look. For the last two years Tony has also been responsible for our photo competitions which were open to members and their families and friends. The prize-winning images can still be seen on our website. I would like to thank the judges, committee member Zoe Norfolk, who is a professional photographer, Graham Parkinson, president of the Muswell Hill Photographic Society and Tony who was the third judge.
Alexandra Palace and Park
Committee member Duncan Neil attends the Statutory Advisory Committee of Alexandra Palace. He reports that the last twelve months has been an exciting period for the Palace and the Park.
We are pleased to report that the new CEO, Louise Stewart, has maintained the strong progress made over recent years.
An estimated 2.8 million people visited the Park on foot last year. Add to this those coming to the Palace by car or bus to a growing number of events and it is easy to see that it is one of the biggest attractions in North London. For example, the World Darts Championship sold 66,000 tickets and 50,000 people attended the fireworks festival. The income generated helps towards long-term financial sustainability.
The early stages of the East Wing restoration project, including covering the East Court, the theatre and the BBC studios, are on track. Main works are planned from June until September 2017, with opening planned for spring 2018. Most of the funding has been secured, but another one million pounds needs to be raised by the Trust.
After many years, unfortunately, the famous fallow dear were removed from their home in the Park to new deer parks in Devon.
As far as the Park is concerned, the Park Manager has written a paper called “Towards a new vision” setting out planned improvements to the park over the next 10 years.
Our Membership Secretary Alex Vincenti has produced some interesting facts. We now have 730 members, compared to 691 in 2014.
We have 32 corporate members compared to 12 four years ago, showing the clear interest of local organisations, businesses and retailers to be active and supportive of our community. We are very grateful to our 21 members who distribute the Newsletter by hand to 197 members and give out additional copies to potential members. These are: Florence Marriott, Ann Elliott, Ann and Chris Ruff, Richard and Jo Campbell, Eugene Myerson, Diana O’Sullivan, Bill Jago, Christine Perelman, Barry White, Peter Stevens, Peter Freeth, Enid Hunt, Peter Thompson, Vivien Parker, Dawn Miles, David Orme and several committee members. We are also grateful to those establishments and public outlets, such as our two libraries, the Clissold Arms, the John Baird and Sainsbury’s, who support the Association by displaying copies for the general public.
For the period 30 March 2015 to 1st April this year, Nick Barr has reviewed 660 planning applications and made 45 objections.
This is an increase of 100 applications over the previous 12 months, which in itself was an increase on 2013/14. The underlying reasons for the increase are a combination of Government policy, the increase in house values, making new builds financially attractive and freeing up equity for domestic projects.
The increased rates of stamp duty will be a further incentive for people not to move but to improve. Nick has recently detected an increased number of applications to convert houses into flats.
At the last AGM Nick referred to Haringey’s consultation on the draft local plan. The amended well-drafted and clear documents were issued earlier this year for final consultation. Representations were made by us particularly concerning cross overs and front garden parking.
The following are some matters of particular interest:
103 Alexandra Park Road. An application for a cross-over and front garden parking which should not have been granted consent, precipitated a meeting with the Council on our behalf and the Crossover Group.
1 Elms Avenue and rear 25 Dukes Avenue. The applicant sought to demolish existing garages and erect a two-storey house with basement in the heart of our Conservation area. This application was inappropriate and was refused following representation by us as well as many others.
Land at rear of Yew Tree Close. This is a current application for four detached houses with basements adjacent to the Valance Road Conservation area. The designs are inappropriate and Nick has submitted an objection on our behalf based on potential breaches of planning policy.
The London Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy decided not to move into a new bespoke building at the old Green Man site and instead moved to Coppetts Road. Haringey now owns the site and is considering moving the Muswell Hill Library there. This would bring into question the future of the current library building and the adjoining land.
Overall, Muswell Hill remains a desirable place to live in. With housing stock limited and capital values still rising, the future will present ever- greater challenges and an increase in involvement as applicants push boundaries to maximise living space and capital return.
Conservation Area Advisory Committee
John Crompton our Conservation Officer represents us on this committee and attends their meetings. Here is his report:
Firstly Shops. We are fortunate that we have a very good rate of occupancy of shop units and the vacancy figure is well below the national average. We do seem to attract some high-end retailers who, generally speaking, observe the local design guidelines.
It is notable, however, that we have too many charity shops, occupying some prime locations. At the beginning of this year we told the Council that we support their suggestion that such shops should have an 80% business tax relief, rather than the present 100%.
Muswell Hill Library. As we reported in our Newsletter, the Council is starting consultation on the future of the existing building in Queens Avenue. Their preferred option is to relocate the Library to the vacant Green Man site, which is being developed at the moment.
The Everyman Cinema. The building is undergoing redevelopment both inside and outside, which should be finished in the autumn.
Work on the adjacent flats and shops has also been carried out and a piazza called St James’ Square was created. The square is rather barren and it is a shame that the developers did not take note of our comments which would have softened the impact.
Looking at planning in general, new houses and flats are being built on various locations in Muswell Hill. The government has relaxed planning powers to make it easier for developers to convert buildings into residential use. We have been aware for years of the fact that there is no third party right of appeal against an unpopular planning approval. If permission is granted then local residents are not able to appeal against the decision in the same way as an applicant can do if his scheme is turned down.
The Raglan Hotel in Queens Avenue has closed and there is an application to convert it to 18 flats with basement parking. It is regrettable that the only proper hotel offering decent accommodation and function facilities in our area could not survive.
We objected to the application of 6 houses to replace 32 garages in the Rookfield Estate, supporting an excellent local campaign. Unfortunately despite the Council originally refusing permission, the scheme had been allowed on appeal.
The new block of flats at 150 Fortis Green has been a matter of concern to both residents and us for some time. Despite our and local residents’ objections the Council has now granted permission for another flat on the roof. The nursery school has opened on the previous clinic site, on the ground floor and the basement.
We have been involved in a number of transport issues during the year. We welcomed the introduction of the 20 mph limit on most of our local roads. We were involved in discussions around the introduction of controlled parking in Woodberry Crescent, which comes into effect shortly. The proposal for a wider CPZ in our area is still being discussed. We supported a suggestion by the Highgate Neighbourhood Forum for a shuttle bus service linking Muswell Hill and the Whittington and Royal Free Hospitals. We are pleased to note that the campaign by Cross Safe N10 for safer conditions at the junction of Colney Hatch Lane, Alexandra Park Road and Pages Lane has been successful.
We have written again to Barnet Council asking for a filter to be installed for right-turning traffic into Fortis Green at the Bald Faced Stag.
Chris Barker, our Transport Officer, has also written to TfL asking for the renaming of the W7 bus stop at the bottom of Muswell Hill, which inaccurately suggested that it was the stop for Alexandra Palace. This has now been done.
Environmental issues, Green sites, Flower beds and Pocket Parks
Our Environment Officer, Brian Livingston, reports that we continue to maintain and replant our flowerboxes around the roundabout, every June and November. The work is done by our friend Mark Falconer of Avid Gardener and members Lucy Haynes, Pauline Hudson and Brian himself.
Pauline also looks after the flowers in the water trough opposite the Library; unfortunately many of the plants are often stolen and have to be replaced. We are grateful to our sponsors, including the local Sustainability Group and donations received from members of the Association. Brian has again approached NatWest, Barclays, Nation-wide, the Library, KFH and Hamptons and they have all agreed to water the flower boxes outside their premises.
This year we planted some extra shrubs in the Colney Hatch Lane beds which look splendid. We continue to receive positive comments from members of the public when our regular team is working there. If any of you could spare an occasional hour to help, please contact Brian.
We continue to work with the Parks Department and Veolia to ensure that our green spaces are kept clean and that rubbish is removed daily. We have a joint “walk around” twice a year to identify work to be done.
In Midhurst Green the Parks Department planted three dozen roses.
At the same time, our member Eugene Myerson persuaded the Council
to provide two new benches, which were installed in February. Following a meeting with the authorities, it was agreed to provide new, fox-proof bins, which means that rubbish is not strewn over the area at night.
Brian is regularly in touch with the Neighbourhood Action team to report issues which need to be sorted out. These include: potholes (where often repairs are of a poor standard), graffiti removal, bench repairs, loose paving stones, damaged railings, blocked gullies, damaged street furniture and rubbish collection.
Brian has spent a lot of time trying to persuade the Council to bring back the night collection of rubbish bags from shops, and is delighted to report that the Council has listened and the night service was reintroduced after one year.
Brian is a member of the Environmental Champions Scheme. This is a group of environmentally conscious residents who work with Haringey and Veolia.
Subjects discussed include litter, fly tipping, graffiti, fly posting, dog fouling and waste management concerns. Brian’s involvement means that local issues get resolved much more quickly.
Finally, a few words about St James’ Square and the car park.
Brian monitors this new area and have reported to the Council and car park managing agent issues including: damaged trolley park railings, loose paving slabs, graffiti, broken manhole covers and skateboarders causing a nuisance.
Graffiti and Fly Posting
Bill Jago and Jack Whitehead continue their sterling work, undertaking weekly inspections and cleaning up around the Broadway. The Council continues to respond quickly when they have been called in to help.
The Notice Board
We asked the Council to turn the Board 90 degrees for greater visibility and they agreed to do this. Following several logistical problems with the Board, Bills Restaurant kindly came to our aid, firstly by repainting it and secondly by repairing it after the front window blew open in the wind and had to be taken off for safe keeping. I would like to thank Pat Lott and Alex for keeping the Board up to date and doing running repairs to the door and the frame.
Bill Tyler represents us on the London Forum where he is one of the vice presidents. He tells us that last year the London Forum have been much pre-occupied with ideas for new planning and environmental legislation emanating from Whitehall and with changes that can allow disused shops to be converted to residential use which could have profound effects on the nature and appearance of our high streets. Commenting on the many proposed changes has involved considerable work.
One of the questions put to the Mayoral candidates was the potential loss of parts of the Green Belt to meet house building targets.
As usual, the submissions for the London Forum Awards were of very high standard. The Awards jury panel was chaired by Bill and the presentation took place in November.
Committee member Zoe Norfolk took over the administration of our Facebook page from Duncan. This will continue to enable us to communicate instantly news and updates, direct traffic to website, target audiences and allow people to make comments. This will help all of us to get more engaged with the local community.
Duncan reports that our Association Twitter account which was launched last year currently has 300 followers, but we welcome all help in spreading the word and increasing our reach. We are using Twitter to share local news and interesting items on a regular basis. Please sign up and spread the word. At the same time we welcome relevant items from you to share.
We have continued to have the occasional Saturday morning stall near Sainsbury’s and will again have a stall at the Midsummer Muswell event on the 25th June. We hope to continue with this project but without volunteers we cannot do so. The idea of having a stall next to our Notice Board was suggested by our member Ruth Schamroth, who organised and manned the stall with her husband together with other Committee members. Unfortunately, Ruth is now out of London at week-ends and so cannot help, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for her contribution.
No committee can survive without good Minutes and as usual I wish to thank Sandra Howell for not just providing accurate Minutes, but also keeping up with all of us at Committee meetings while still being able to contribute to our deliberations. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity of thanking our friend and member Hugh Garnsworthy for taking on the role of Independent Examiner.