Annual General Meeting 2015
Another year has passed: it seems only yesterday that I gave my 2014 report to you.
I am pleased to say that we have had a very productive and successful year.
I will start with our Meetings. In June, Committee member Bill Tyler conducted his second East Finchley walk, pointing out different architectural styles and details in his fascinating and well informed way.
In October, our member and author David Frith talked about the fascinating history of the Rookfield Estate, based on his book.
In November I invited the police inspector responsible for West Haringey to update us on police activities in our area. He discussed crime statistics, future plans for the police and the setting up of a contact point at Planet Organic, where residents are able to go for advice. He also explained how the Safer Neighbourhood ward panels work.
In March we held a joint meeting with the North London Hospice, having decided to support them with articles in our Newsletters, a poster on the Notice Board and a donation. 35 members attended a thought-provoking meeting.
In April we had a joint meeting with the Horticultural Society about allotments, with a plant sale, which turned out to be one of our most popular and enjoyable evenings.
This AGM will be followed by a presentation by our new corporate member, Planet Organic, who have also very kindly provided the refreshments.
On Saturday morning 20th June at 11.00 we will gather at Queens Wood for a return visit and another conducted walk: details are in the Newsletter.
On the same day we will participate in a public event at the new piazza outside the Odeon.
By the way, I am still looking for somebody to help me in finding speakers and organising and running meetings.
Alex Vincenti reports that the number of members totals 441 households and 698 individuals, which compares with 691 last year. We have 18 corporate members. We distribute the Newsletter by e-mail to 234 households, by hand to 197 households and by post to 19. Our aim is to reduce the number of printed Newsletters and increase the number sent by e-mail. A huge thank you must go to our volunteers who deliver the Newsletter to your door.
We distribute 150 additional copies via volunteers and another 250 copies are made available to the public through the two libraries, coffee shops, pubs and at our monthly stall near Sainsbury’s, where members of the Committee talk to passers-by about our activities, encouraging them to join the Association.
As another new initiative, members are now kept informed of time-sensitive developments through News Updates. We have already done this 15 times.
To facilitate membership subscription, it is now possible to pay the membership fees by credit card through our website.
We intend to continue increasing membership numbers by recruitment campaigns (such as the stall), and by working together with other organisations in our area.
You can all help by giving our Newsletters to your neighbours and friends.
During Nick Barr’s second year as Planning Officer he has reviewed approximately 560 applications (up from 360 last year) and made over 40 objections. There are many reasons for this, including the increase in house values and in stamp duty, freeing up equity for domestic projects and making larger projects financially viable.
Nick’s approach is to target applications that represent a substantial threat to the built environment and to support development sympathetic to the overriding Edwardian character of our three wards, encouraging new design that complements the visual mixture of styles.
Nick particularly objects to the creation of crossovers and the turning front gardens into car parks. Council policy on this is not clear, leaning towards objection but consent can still be granted, representing a threat to the character of the streets we live in. He continues to work closely with the local Crossover Group.
Earlier this year Haringey issued a number of consultative documents that represent its vision for the Borough in planning terms. With some exceptions the documents are clear, well thought through and sympathetic to Conservation Areas. There are a number of general policies that would affect our area. In conjunction with John Crompton, Nick has made representations on behalf of the Association supporting, objecting and making comments on the proposed policies where appropriate.
The following are a few matters of particular interest:
Shops and flats adjacent to the Odeon Cinema.
This prominent development, is slowly progressing, however two of the original tenants, Metro Bank and Wagamama, have both withdrawn. It is understood that one of the units will be taken by the Bills chain of restaurants, serving salads, burgers and grills. The developer remains silent on the occupancy of the unit next to the Cinema.
10-27 Connaught House, Connaught Gardens
In the face of much opposition, including that of the Association, consent was granted in October for the substantial refurbishment and extension of the original building.
5-9 Connaught Gardens
A scheme immediately opposite Connaught House is to be developed for housing. The original designs were not acceptable. Following a public consultation the developer is preparing new plans for five houses which is the subject of local opposition. In connection with this application and Connaught House, Nick is in contact with the local opposition group.
This is an interesting and potentially pivotal time in planning terms for our area.
House price inflation has been above the national average and the development of key sites such as the Odeon site, St Luke’s Hospital, the Village pub, 30 Muswell Hill and The Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy all potentially coming on stream soon.
Each proposed development represents a challenge and an opportunity in one form or another which Nick will endeavour to ensure are balanced during the coming year.
Conservation Area Advisory Committee.
John Crompton continues to be the Association’s representative.
It is sad to report the death of Ken Gay who was a long-standing Committee member of the Advisory Committee. He will be missed by all, not only for the enormous contribution he made by sharing his immense knowledge of the history of Muswell Hill, but also his friendship, generosity of spirit and zest for life.
Shops. In Muswell Hill and in Alexandra Park Road we have a very good rate of occupancy of the shop units, and our figure is well above the national average.
We have expressed our concern at the large number of charity shops. Research has revealed that they all receive 100% business rate relief. There is a sliding scale for this discretionary relief and the Association feels it would be fairer if the full 100% were only granted in the case of local charities.
As ever, there have been quite a few openings and closures of shops during the year. The new shop-fronts have been of better quality design than was the case say five years ago, which is very encouraging.
It is very sad when long-established businesses close down, but not surprising when you consider the burden of rates and rent, and sometimes in the case of family firms there is no-one to take over the business. One way forward for some shops has been to down-size and trade from one unit rather than two. This is what is happening with the Muswell Hill bookshop. It is, however, more pleasant to be able to report that the Money Shop has closed. The Association was clear that there was no case for allowing permission for this shop in the first place, and it is good to see that we have been proved right; however, the unit may well be difficult to re-let.
Restaurants and pubs. Muswell Hill has a good range of restaurants and they all seem to be doing well. Wetherspoons submitted an application for pub use for the former Village Pub. This attracted a lot of comments, both for and against, including extended opening hours and possible noise nuisance, especially from the proposed beer garden. There is still no sign of the Council making a decision on this application. We very much hope that the future of the site can soon be determined.
Telecommunications Equipment. The installation by the mobile phone companies of antennae, etc., at the top of tall buildings is now a fact of life. When commenting on applications for new equipment, the Association requests the Council to impose a condition which requires the removal of old equipment.
Muswell Hill Library. This has been on our “watched” list for many years, with the Council coming up with all sorts of proposals for making better use of the building and developing the small site behind the library. Recently the question mark over the future of the building and the provision of library services has arisen again.
We understand that the Council is looking at how library services can be best provided in Muswell Hill. Please be assured that this is something we are keeping a close eye on and will keep you updated.
St Luke’s Hospital site, Woodside Avenue. The scheme for 161 new homes is one of the largest in Muswell Hill and it was approved by the Council’s Planning Committee in January. Our Association and many local residents did have concerns about some aspects of the proposal. Now that permission has been granted, the important thing is for the developer and contractors to work together to ensure that disruption to neighbours is kept to a minimum.
Hollybank site, in Rookfield Estate. The Association objected to the application for six houses to replace three garages. This was in support of an excellent local campaign. After a long period when nothing happened the Council eventually refused permission, however an appeal has been lodged.
150 Fortis Green. This block of flats in Fortis Green near the junction with Tetherdown has been of concern to the Association for many years and now there is an application to provide another flat on the roof of the completed and occupied building. The Council had not made a decision yet. There is also a proposal to open a nursery school in the basement in the area which was intended to be a replacement for the previous clinic use on this site.
Alexandra Palace and Park.
The past twelve months has been a very exciting time for Alexandra Palace and Park, reports Duncan Neill. The future of this local landmark looks a lot healthier than it has for many years, and a big factor here was the successful bid for Heritage Lottery Funding to enable the redevelopment of the East wing of the Palace.
The East Court will become a flexible and welcoming space for dining/drinking and special events. The Theatre, which has not been used for some time, will be able to host drama, music, dance, film, award ceremonies, and weddings.
The BBC Wing will contain a ticketed experience for visitors based on the history of public broadcasting, and will include access to archive material.
Now that planning permission has been granted and most of the funding needed is in place, building work will start next spring, with opening of the new areas in late 2017. Other aspects of the Palace and Park also continue to move in the right direction with more events and therefore income, a new “Go Ape” facility to open later in the year, and the well-run Fireworks event will again take place.
The Association was sad to see the Chief Executive, Duncan Wilson leave, but we are confident that the management of the Palace will continue making progress in giving it a sustainable and successful future.
Due to ill health Denise Feeney has not been able to attend the Consultative Group meetings and has now resigned. She has represented the Association since February 2004. I am delighted to tell you that, following an appeal in our Newsletter, member Chris Roach has come forward and has now taken on this role. Chris, an architect, will represent us on the Consultative Committee alongside Duncan Neill, who sits on the Statutory Advisory Committee.
Tony Wells reports that the new, redesigned and regularly updated site is working well with new items and images added all the time. The Google Statistics show big growth in activity over the year, especially in the last four months, with increases from over 30 countries from every Continent, but mostly from the U.K. and the U.S. The Archive of Newsletters has been added. Our Twitter Feed has been embedded.
Links to other websites were reviewed and limited to those who also list us.
A new page under Our Projects called “Our Green Spaces“ has been added, which covers the origins, development and current work of The Pocket Parks, Colney Hatch Lane Beds, Flower Boxes & trough, all with photos. Please look at the website and let us have your comments.
As you know, the Newsletter is available in print or electronically and it is less about news items and more about local stories and features. We have covered such important issues as the Alexandra Palace project, proposals for Pinkham Way, the Piazza development, support for various traffic schemes and opposition when necessary to unreasonable planning schemes. The Library, shortages of school places, opening and closing of pubs are all topics that create conversation and controversy in the community. David Orme, our Editor, believes that members are at the heart of the publication both as subjects (like the members’ profile) and as contributors, but it is in this last category that members are reluctant to participate, so the challenge for next year is to increase the level of correspondence and articles. The next major event will be our photo competition: the next Newsletter will give full details and we will of course publish the winners’ entries in the autumn. David is always keen to hear your views and receive your contributions on local topics.
Brian Livingston continues to organise and maintain the planting of flowerboxes around the roundabout, new plants are planted regularly. We are grateful to our sponsors (including the Muswell Hill Sustainability Group, donations from our members, and the Ham and High) who helped with the funding. As usual, the plants were purchased from Sunshine Gardens and the planting undertaken by Mark Falconer of the Avid Gardener, both of whom gave the Association a generous discount. Brian again approached NatWest, Barclays, Nationwide, the Library, KFH and Hamptons, who all agreed to water the flowerboxes outside their premises.
The re-modelling of the Colney Hatch Lane beds and the new planting completed three years ago has proved very successful. The plants are now well established and we have recently added a few new plants to the beds. Regular maintenance work is important and there is a small team of us who continue to give an hour or two of our time on a regular basis to carry out weeding and pruning.
We are often approached by passers-by, telling us what a difference we have made to the area. We are grateful to member Lucy Haynes for her help, Mark Falconer for his advice and planting work and to the Parks Department for cutting the grass. On-going maintenance of the beds is crucial, so if any of you are able to give a little of your time to help, please speak to Brian or me.
Last year it proved difficult to motivate the Council Parks Department to carry out repairs to our green spaces. Brian approached the manager of the Department and he agreed to meet with us for a walk around Muswell Hill with two of his colleagues. As a result, a list of works was drawn up, all of which have now been completed. This included the planting of two new trees at Midhurst Green, four dozen new roses to fill in the gaps in the rose beds at Midhurst and Blaenavon greens along Fortis Green Road, and various repairs in the Pocket Park at the John Baird.
We are in contact with the developer of the Odeon Piazza regarding the new tree planting. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the Parks Department failed to rescue the large palm trees from the beds and they were destroyed.
Following a meeting and an inspection tour with the manager of the Neighbourhood Action Team, a list was drawn up of repair works required, including: potholes, uneven paving, graffiti removal, blocked road gullies, bench repairs, damaged waste bins, loose paving stones and damaged street furniture. This work is now being undertaken: some of you will have noticed the white markings which have recently appeared on the roads and pavements identifying areas to be repaired.
The Council recently repainted the street furniture and lampposts in the Broadway but this did not extend into Fortis Green Road. Brian contact the Highways Department and they agreed to return. This has now been done.
Towards the end of last year Haringey invited Brian to join the Environmental Champions pilot scheme. The idea is to involve ‘environmentally conscious’ residents to work with Haringey and Veolia. This involves such items as litter, fly tipping, graffiti, fly posting, dog fouling and waste management concerns. His involvement enables him to raise issues and to get them resolved much more quickly than via normal reporting channels.
Brian has reported a number of issues regarding litter, rubbish and dumping to the Council and to Veolia. One ongoing problem is that the overnight collection of the rubbish bags left on the pavement by shops, flats and the street cleaners, is not working well. Bags are often opened up by foxes and rubbish is strewn over the pavement.
Brian has also attended the Haringey Area Forum meetings to raise issues on environmental matters and to keep in contact with representatives of Haringey departments. However the Council now decided to scrap all future meetings.
Bill Jago and Jack Whitehead continue to do a fantastic job on our behalf going round the shopping centre every week and cleaning up graffiti. However we have noticed graffiti appearing on the walls of banks and pubs, so it was decided to get in touch with them and ask for their help. As a result I am glad to say that they are now in most cases aware of the problem and are dealing with it. Bill and Jack report large graffiti to the Council, who deal with it very quickly. They also report fly posting and damaged cable TV boxes.
After many years, Jack Whitehead and Bill Jago have handed over the job of looking after the Notice Board to our members Ruth Schamroth and Pat Lott. Ruth is in charge of the placing of notices on the Board and keeping it up to date and Pat collects information and reminds regular contributors to supply details of forthcoming events. She also passes information to our Newsletter editor for the “Round and About” page. This is the first time that one person is co-ordinating these two activities. After lengthy discussions with the Council, I managed to convince them that the Board would be more visible if it were turned by 90 degrees, which has now been done. The next step is to repaint it.
Chris Barker reports that our campaign for a bus pick-up point on Muswell Hill roundabout for routes W7 and 144 has at last come to a satisfactory conclusion. The 144 was added to the stop from the middle of last December, ending the need for a steep walk down the hill to the old stop.
We have supported the Cross Safe N10 group for better pedestrian crossing facilities at the junction of Colney Hatch Lane and Alexandra Park Road. The Council has now promised to install a new light-controlled crossing, remove or relocate the traffic island in Alexandra Park Road to make the road safer to cross, and also to install a new zebra crossing in Pages Lane.
Considerable inconvenience was caused when the first section of Muswell Hill Broadway and then Colney Hatch Lane was closed for road works. We did our best to inform our members so that they understood the extensive diversions of local routes.
The Council has consulted residents on proposals to impose a 20mph speed restriction on residential roads. Whilst our Association has no view on this, we encouraged our members to respond to the consultation.
We have been campaigning for better crossing facilities at the junction of Tether-down and Fortis Green as there is no safe period when the entire crossing is free from traffic. The crossing is used by hundreds of children twice a day going to and from school. The Council has now agreed to investigate.
Photographic Competition and Shop Front Photos.
The Shop Front Survey Archive has been kept up to date by Tony Wells with all the latest additions and changes to our Street Scene. The photographs are always available and are on display this evening. Photographs of the various Green Spaces and Flower Boxes were taken for inclusion in the Newsletter and Website.
A new Photographic Competition for Members and their family and friends is planned for the summer: the opening date is the 1st July and the closing date the 30th September. Members and friends of members are eligible to take part. The winners will be announced at our November meeting. Leaflets are available with full details.
Bill Tyler reports that the London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies, of which we are members, has continued its task of commenting to the GLA and various Government Departments on land use and development issues and the monitoring regulations that affect planning policies, involving aspects of the built environment of London and open spaces. Bill is an ex-officio member of the Executive Committee and is responsible for the organisation of the Bor Awards, for outstanding promotional work by the London civic societies. The Forum commented on the Thames flood risk mitigation project, additional airport runways, office-to-residential conversions and the Mayor’s proposed alteration to the London Plan. It noted in their recent Magazine the local controversy over the plans for the east end of Alexandra Palace.
As every year, I wish to thank Sandra for her clear and accurate Minutes and for keeping up with our sometimes rather heated discussions at Committee meetings.
We are still hoping to find a member who would be interested to take on this exciting job, which incorporates being in touch with the Ham & High Broadway edition, the Muswell Flyer and the Archer, and also finding speakers for our meetings and reporting on them four times a year.
The idea came from member Ruth Schamroth and her two friends, Pat Lott and Lys de Beaumont and I am grateful to them for coming up with this new way of publicizing our Association and running the stall, next to our Notice Board.
Another new development: Committee member Duncan Neill launched our Twitter Account earlier this year. We are using this to share local news and interesting items on a regular basis and would encourage members to sign up and spread the word. We also welcome relevant items from members to share.
We already have 100 followers and our target is 200 by the end of this year.
This concludes my report.
After the formal business of the AGM in May, a brief talk was givenby Peter Marsh (pictured), CEO of Planet Organic, about their history and ethos.
Sixty five per cent of their customer base is under 40, and they travel the world for healthy new products. The next trend is sprouted grains and seeds.
We were treated to an exceptional buffet and freshly made juices with a wonderful mixture of flavours. The chain is very happy that they have made their flagship store in the heart of Muswell Hill. Thank you, Planet Organic.