MUSWELL HILL AND FORTIS GREEN ASSOCIATION
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Wednesday, 17th May, 2017
This is our 69th Annual General Meeting and my 17th as your chairman.
I say this every year, but it is true, we had another busy and challenging year, every member of your committee worked very hard on your behalf to make sure that our Association continues to thrive. It still amazes me after so many years, how many aspects of local lives we cover and discuss in our lively committee meetings.
As you know we are non-political and our role is to protect and improve the quality of life and environment in Muswell Hill, Fortis Green and Alexandra Ward.
As usual, I would like to welcome our new members.
I will start my report with the Newsletter. As you have seen Christine Morris, our editor, has produced a series of outstanding Newsletters and is constantly bringing in new ideas to improve each edition, full of interesting items and local stories. I regularly receive e-mails and phone calls congratulating her on the high standards and the layout of the Newsletters, the photos are particularly popular. Christine is always looking for contributions from members either in the form of a letter or an article. Most of our Newsletters are sent out by e-mail but we are happy to deliver or post the paper copy to anybody who prefers it that way. We receive regular notification of events from local groups after the Newsletter has gone to print, in which case Alex Vincenti will send out an Update to inform members.
Last July, committee member Bill Tyler took us on a conducted tour of Coldfall Wood and the Islington and St Pancras Cemetery. In October Louise Stewart the Chief Executive of Alexandra Palace talked to us about her plans for the future of the Palace, and Mark Evison the Park Manager brought us up to date on the many improvements in the park. In November, we were here at the Clissold to take part in an evening of Italian wine tasting, organised by Donatella Bernstein, owner of Drinkitaly. In March Lewis Slayden, the proprietor of Flesh and Flour, hosted an evening on his premises, talking about British charcuterie and the various produce he has in the shop. He offered us a good selection of cheeses, pies and cakes to sample.
In April Emma Williamson, Assistant director of planning at Haringey Council talked to us I will say more about this under planning. On June the 11th at 14.30 we will join the Friends of Parkland Walk, for a conducted walk. Details are in the Newsletter and if anybody wishes to go, please call me to book a place. In October we will go and see the work in progress at the A. P. Theatre and the East Court, and in November we will have a wine tasting evening at Majestic.
The google statistics show steady activity over the year with users from almost 60 countries accessing our site, but with the UK at 66% predominating. Our webmaster, Tony Wells updates and enhances the site on a regular basis adding additional items and images all the time.
Alexandra Palace and Park.
Duncan Neil represents us on the Statutory Advisory Committee, which meets four times a year. He reports that this has been another exciting 12 months for the Palace and Park. As mentioned above, we welcomed the CEO of the Palace and the Park Manager to give us an update on recent and planned developments and they answered questions from the many members attending. Work is ongoing to restore the East Wing, but restoration of the BBC Studios has been deferred and is now dependent on further Heritage Lottery Funds. This is due to rising costs and the need to deliver within the fixed budget. The focus therefore now is the restoration of the Victorian theatre, the North East Tower and the East Court. Committee members were invited to tour the theatre a couple of weeks ago. The theatre is a much bigger space than many would imagine and we hope that it will become a key local asset and a versatile venue. With this in mind the Association has donated £100 towards the restoration fund, on behalf of our members.
Our membership secretary, Alex Vincenti says that the latest membership figures show that we have 748 members, including 45 corporate members. As a comparison, in 2014, we had 691 members and only 16 corporate members. We are grateful to our member Joan Podel who is our unofficial ambassador recruiting new corporate members such as shops, when they move into the area. We e-mail the Newsletter to 301 members and post it to 16. Alex would particularly like to thank Peter Davis who takes the Newsletter to our deliverers and to various shops, cafes and the Libraries, and the 21 Newsletter deliverers who distribute six editions, to 186 members.
We are also want to thank the two Libraries, the Clissold, the John Baird and Waitrose who display copies.
In the last 12 months Nick Barr our planning officer has reviewed approximately 620 planning applications and made 40 objections. This is similar to the figures in the last three years.
A trend over the last 12 months has been the increase in the number of applications for Certificate of Lawfulness. No matter how aesthetically challenging a proposal is, provided the government guidelines are not breached, the Council cannot refuse the application and we, the public cannot object either. Many Permitted Development rights apply to the Conservation Areas, with often seriously detrimental consequences.
Following the decision to allow front garden parking at 103 Alexandra Park Road, which includes a dropped curb, Nick had a meeting with Emma Williamson, Assistant Director of Planning, and other interested parties. It became clear that the head of the Highways Department is not sympathetic to stopping this type of development even in the Conservation Areas. It should be made clear that there is no public consultation in the Highways approval process. A further meeting has been proposed.
On the 13th, April, as mentioned under Meetings, Emma Williamson gave a wide-ranging presentation, highlighting the number of factors that are taken into account when making a planning decision. This was one of our best attended meetings, with over 45 people present. The Q and A session covered such topics as, inconsistent decisions, affordable housing, Conservation Areas, front garden parking and many more.
The following three matters are of particular interest:
Land at the rear of Yew Tree Close. Two schemes to erect four houses adjacent to the Valance Road Conservation area have been rejected by the Council. The Association’s objection to the scheme will be carried over to the appeal process.
103 Alexandra Park Road. As also mentioned above, two contentious approvals were granted for a crossover and front garden parking, conditional to a turntable being installed. This was ignored. Nick was instrumental in notifying the Council which resulted in a third application being made for retrospective consent without the turntable. We have submitted a full objection.
Coppetts Wood Hospital. This is an application to create 80 residential units on the site of the old hospital, which would mean the demolition of the original buildings that survive, which would in turn mean losing a piece of local history. Public consultation should have ended in November, but no decision has yet been made.
Conservation Area Advisory Committee.
John Crompton continues to represent us on this committee, which at the moment is taking part in a review of locally listed buildings. This important committee is keen to recruit new and younger members, so if you are interested, please speak to John.
As far as local shops are concerned, we continue to have a good rate of occupancy and the vacancy figures are well below the national average.
Against the national trend, we have attracted two butchers and a fishmonger and we remain one of the few shopping centres which do not have a Tesco, KFC, or McDonalds.
We have been disappointed to see that the Council’s preferred option for the location of the Muswell Hill Library is in the building on the former Green Man site, rather than keeping it where it is now, despite the fact that the result of the recently undertaken consultation showed 1280 responses with a clear majority in favour of retention of the existing building. We are waiting for further communications from the Council.
Nobody can fail to have noticed the construction work taking place at several locations in our area. This is probably the longest sustained period of building activity since before the Second World War. We do of course
look forward to welcoming new residents to Muswell Hill and hope that they will join our Association. Looking ahead, the United Reform church has put Tetherdown Hall up for sale. The Hall is used by a variety of Community groups and it is hoped that following the strict rules laid down by the Council, the new owners will continue to allow these groups to use the new facilities.
Our transport officer Chris Barker reports that we have been involved in several issues during the year. We have succeeded in two campaigns to make road crossing easier for pedestrians. One is at the junction of Fortis Green and Tetherdown, where there is now a pedestrian phase when all traffic is stopped. The other is in Priory Road at the bottom of Redston Road where the Council agreed, subject to funding, to install a zebra crossing. After complaints about buses on route 234 not stopping at convenient places along Coppetts Road, London Buses has now installed permanent bus stops in this section.
We have also been complaining for some time about the delays experienced by traffic turning right from East Finchley into Fortis Green. The London Borough of Barnet is now considering installing filter lights to make the turning easier.
Environmental issues, green sites, flower beds and pocket parks.
Brian Livingston is our environmental officer. He reports that we have continued to maintain the flower boxes around the roundabout and would like to thank those members who made donations towards the cost of flowers, to Sunshine Gardens who gives us a discount on the cost of flowers, and Avid Gardener who helps with the planting. Our member Pauline Hudson continues to look after the flowers in the water trough opposite the Library. Brian asked the local shops to help with watering and Nat West, Barclays KFH and Hamptons have agreed to do so. In addition Mossy Well maintains the boxes along their footpath border.
As far as the Colney Hatch Lane beds are concerned, three of us, Brian, member Lucy Haynes and I, carry out regular maintenance work, weeding and pruning every few months. We always get positive comments from passers-by. We do receive further help from Mark Falconer and from the Council’s Parks Department who regularly cut the grass.
We have continued to work with the Parks Department and with Veolia to ensure that our green spaces are kept clean. During the year we have been in regular touch with the Neighbourhood Action Team, reporting issues which needed to be sorted out. These included rubbish collection, potholes, paving stones, benches, blocked road gullies and damaged waste bins. Unfortunately the Action team has been disbanded and issues can now only be reported by phone or on the website.
A long campaign by the Association and others to have the pavements re-laid in Fortis Green eventually succeeded last summer.
A site visit was arranged with the Council, Veolia and Homes for Haringey in Queens Avenue to discuss the problem of rubbish dumping and overflow of bins. The Council promised to improve storage facilities for the bins and agreed to put up anti- dumping signs.
We have also kept an eye on St James’ Square, as well as Western Avenue, Lauradale Road and many other locations, reporting graffiti, blocked gullies and loose slabs.
Shop Front photos.
The shop front photo archive has been kept up to date by Tony Wells in digital format, showing all the changes to our street scene. Selected prints are kept in binders for viewing here tonight and at our stall.
Photos are taken by Zoe, Jacqueline and Tony, not only of the shop fronts, but also of the green sites and flower boxes. These are displayed on our website and from time to time in our Newsletter.
It was committee member Zoe Norfolk who came up with the idea of the “Odd one out” competition. After months of hard work Zoe is now ready to speak to shops in our shopping centre, who we hope will take part.
The concept is simple from the 24th July to the end of August children under the age of 12 will go round the shopping centre and will try to find the odd one out article displayed in shop windows. The completed entry form will be deposited in a box at the Muswell Hill Library. All winners will be given a free ticket to the Everyman cinema.
Graffiti and flyposting.
For many years now, members Jack Whitehead and Bill Jago have been patrolling our streets, especially in the shopping centre, and have removed or reported graffiti and fly posting. They are doing a fantastic job and I wish to take this opportunity to thank them on behalf of the Association. I have a small gift for both of them, but unfortunately they could not attend tonight.
The Board is near Sainsbury’s on the roundabout is looked after by Pat Lott and it can be used by any group or association who have regular local events and wishes to publicise what they do. There is no charge for displaying this material.
We still do not have a public relations officer, which I believe is becoming more and more important for our Association.
We urgently need somebody who could coordinate not just notifying the press of our events, but also publicizing the many ways in which we now communicate not just with members but also with the general public on social media. Just to remind you, apart from the Newsletter (both digital and printed versions) and the e-mail Update, this includes the website, Notice Board, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
Our representative at the London Forum of Civic and Amenity Societies is Bill Tyler. The Forum maintains its good contact with City Hall as new policies emerge under Sadiq Khan, and has continued its work of engaging Societies in local and national planning issues that affect London’s varied communities.
The Forum’s members, like us, continue to monitor and hold to account their local authorities in upholding policies of local plans, and have been involved in updating policies impacting on the built environment of their particular borough.
The number of followers has grown well with people engaging from the local community. We have 409 followers on Facebook. Committee member Zoe Norfolk posts events on the page. It is important that Zoe is fed information regularly for posting, creating a schedule so that we have a constant presence. Post from Twitter being shared on the Facebook page at the same time, is working well. As far as Instagram is concerned, we have 182 followers, but it is more picture orientated.
We have 450 followers of our Twitter Account, which is updated regularly by Duncan. This is an important PR tool to help us communicate both with members and the general public and raise awareness of local issues, news, history and a sense of community.
Stall and Midsummer Muswell.
From time to time we have a stall near Sainsbury’s on a Saturday morning and we will also take part in the annual Midsummer Muswell event on Saturday the 24th June, to publicize our Association and hope to sign up new members at the same time.
As usual I want to thank Sandra who for many years has been our minute secretary. Not only does she contribute to our discussions in committee but she also takes minutes which are always an accurate record of our deliberations.
I am delighted that Hugh Garnsworthy has again agreed to be our Independent Examiner, having recently recovered from illness.
John Crompton is our Honorary Secretary and he will be speaking to us under item 5, about membership fees.