5/23 AGM 2023 – Chairman’s Report
MUSWELL HILL AND FORTIS GREEN ASSOCIATION
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2023
Saturday 13 May 2023
This is our 75th Annual General Meeting and my 23rd and last as your Chairman.
Let me start with the Newsletter.
After more than seven years, Christine has decided to resign as Editor. She has done a magnificent job in revitalising and redesigning our Newsletters. She has kept members up to date with local events and activities and published members’ profiles regularly. She has also published items of local history. Her contribution to the continued success of the Association has been enormous. We wish her the very best. We will miss her.
I also want to thank our Newsletter distributor, Peter Davies, who takes the Newsletter to various outlets such as libraries and pubs every two months.
In June Peter Barber, Vice Chair of the Friends of Kenwood, took us on a walk around the Kenwood Estate and talked about its four-hundred-year history and the Earls of Mansfield. In October, following the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Barnet on our doorstep, historian Lester Hillman explained why this was a game changer for the monarchy, for England and for future warfare. He took us (metaphorically) on the two-day march from Smithfield to Hadley following the route taken by the army of Edward IV. In November we heard from Emma Dagnes, CEO of Alexandra Palace, about some of its incredible history, recent achievements, the current situation, the Charitable Trust and future plans for the Palace. In January we were delighted to welcome Nigel Clark to the Committee. Having taken over organising meetings from me, he has already been hard at work. His first task was to agree details with our February and March speakers. In February we heard from conservation architect Zaira Iacopelli. She provided a fascinating and absorbing insight into the values of conservation, and best practices in the maintenance and repair of heritage buildings. She also talked about listed buildings in our area. In March an audience of over forty enjoyed a talk by our member Alison Watson about hidden rivers in London. She focused on the Tyburn the Walbrook the Peck and the Wandle, all tributaries of the Thames. Next month we will have a guided walk of Queen’s Wood led by our member Lucy Roots. Nigel is already planning our autumn talks and will let you know the details very soon.
The website is now 10 years old. Over this period it has grown to more than 60 pages of static content and 130 pages of topical news and information. The Catchup section introduced by Alex Vincenti last year with video recordings of Zoom and live presentations to members, is proving successful and the videos have been seen more than 200 times. Over the last 12 months the number of visitors has kept fairly consistent, at around 3000, but what has changed significantly is the number of pages viewed during each visit. In April visitors watched on average 1/3 more than last year. Since April 2021 the MHFGA website has had about 8000 views. While in 2022 the foreign visitors were fewer than 1 in 10, this year the number has almost doubled, due to an unexplained increase in interest from China, Hong Kong and Singapore. Whilst most visitors come from web browsers, almost 10 percent are directed through the Association’s social media, almost double of last year. In addition, Alex has supported many Committee members, including me, in various ways. In particular regarding MemberMojo and Mailchimp, the two systems the Association uses, and also spending many hours updating my book. His support and advice have been invaluable.
I would like to thank Lara Maisey for the work she has done and was sorry to see her give up her role for personal reasons. We are fortunate to be able to welcome Agnes Gomori who took over in January. You can read her profile in the January Newsletter. This year we welcomed an unprecedented number of local residents into membership. 10 corporates (consisting of businesses and organisations) and 34 households. We now have a total of 784 members (78 corporates and 706 households), 526 in membership. Agnes has been dealing with a growing number of members and non-members across a wide range of matters, including planning, horticulture, crime, local historical information and much besides. We continued to promote corporate members by listing them in our Newsletters and having their logo displayed on our website with a link to their own site. Our membership database MemberMojo is now able to automate our reminders, making it easier for our members to renew their subscription. A special thank you to those of you who pay by Standing Order or Direct Debit.
During the last year Nick Barr has reviewed 340 application and submitted five objections. Haringey has changed the weekly planning lists which now include tree works and permitted development applications. The majority of the applications are now for smaller non-controversial domestic schemes and there are also fewer applications for large developments. In October a new planning website was introduced by the Council causing several problems. For example, some files are missing and it is now more difficult to gauge the level of public support or opposition to an application. The following are examples of matters where we have made representations:
- Cranwood. The planning process for this development seems to be less than transparent. This development attracted 240 comments, mostly objections. When consent was eventually granted, one of the 30 conditions was that a Demolition Plan be submitted and approved before demolition starts. No such approval seems to exist and the buildings have now been demolished. Despite regular reminders, no response had been received and process consequently remains unclear.
- 189 Victoria Road. This application was refused due mainly to objections regarding crossover and front garden parking.
- Woodridings Court, Crescent Road. An application to redevelop a derelict undercroft car park and a provision of 33 Council rent homes in four and five storey buildings was approved. There were 60 comments and we decided not to object due to the need for Council rent homes, which was more important than the traffic and parking issues.
- 26 Connaught Gardens. Following an objection by us that the proposal was out of character and detracted from the architectural style of the area, the application was refused.
Conservation Area Advisory Committee
John Crompton our Conservation Officer represents us on this committee and attends their meetings. Here is his report:
This has been a mixed year. Following the closure of Lloyds and Barclays, no further bank closures took place. We lost our much-treasured music shop, Les Aldrich, which has been trading in our High Street for more than 70 years Other shops or restaurants which closed include Green’s of Highgate and Bill’s. We now appear on the list of sites where McDonalds and Lidl would like to open a branch. We understood that Planet Organic was on the point of closing when the co-founder of the group bought some of the shops of the loss-making chain. Fortunately, Muswell Hill is one of these. We have succeeded in persuading the Council to remove an unsightly black box outside the Muswell Hill Library, which is a listed building. The Association responds to relevant consultation exercises on Planning Policy at national and international level. This year we submitted comments on the much delayed new national planning framework. Locally it was anticipated that the new draft Haringey plan would have been released for consultation during the past year. However, the publication has been put back to the summer.
As our Honorary Secretary, John’s role has expanded this year to include coordinating the arrangements to seek and appoint a new Chairman of the Association. This work is ongoing.
Chris White has taken over from Tony Wells who regretfully has had to retire for health reasons. The highlights of the year are as follows:
We have prompted the Council’s licensing team on several occasions to enforce the pavement licences held by Planet Organic and Oree. We made representations to the local police community team about proper enforcement of regulations regarding cycling on the pavement and the illegal use of scooters on public highway. We have raised awareness via our Newsletters of how members can formally object to the experimental Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in our Borough. Following representations from us the pavement on Queen’s Avenue has been added to the Council’s schedule of repairs. At our suggestion the Council is now considering introducing a better system whereby residents can be notified of parking suspensions on specific roads. We have also made representations to the Council regarding casually discarded Lime bikes, and litter on the highway especially from takeaway shops. We will continue to monitor progress on all these issues.
Environmental issues, green sites, flower beds and pocket parks
Our Environment Officer, Brian Livingston, reports:
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. As usual, the Association has funded, after receiving a good discount from Sunshine Gardens, new plants for the flower boxes and the cattle trough. Lack of convenient water supply continues to cause some issues and water has to be drawn from the bus station early in the morning. The Colney Hatch Lane beds are now well established and we often receive positive comments from the public. We have recently planted a few new plants and as usual we make visits to maintain the beds. Thanks are also due to Mark Falconer and his crew who undertook the annual pruning of the shrubs. Brian approached the Parks Department about whether the flower beds outside Cook and by the traffic lights could receive a makeover to help celebrate our 75th Anniversary. As a result, you will have seen that last month the beds were transformed with new planting and bark infill. In addition, soon two new benches will replace those outside Cook. Over the next few months you will also see some improvements to the Pocket Park opposite the Village Green pub. Over the past 12 months Brian has managed to reinstate a good working relationship with key managers at the Parks and Highways Department and with Veolia. Regular walkabouts have been reintroduced with them and improvements to green sites have been made and are regularly maintained and kept clean. Together with the help of some members we have undertaken a few working parties during the year, clearing brambles and tidying up the two entrances of the Grove Lodge Garden path. Brian continues to report any issues to the Council using the “Love Clean Streets” App. He also had several discussions with the Everyman cinema concerning the removal of graffiti at the back of the building. This has now been done. We notified our members about the Council Waste collection and cleaning consultation about bin collection, so that everybody could complete the online survey. Brian attended one of the consultations and made some comments on behalf of our members. We are still waiting for the results to be published.
Graffiti and fly posting
We have to thankBill Jago and Jack Whitehead who for many years have patrolled our shopping centre, undertaking their fantastic work of removing or reporting graffiti and fly posting. Unfortunately, they have now decided to hang up their boots and equipment and retire.
This task was undertaken by George Danker until just a couple of months ago, when he stepped down due to work commitments and moving out of Muswell Hill. He regularly e-mailed and informed members of meetings, events and other items relevant to our area. He encouraged corporate members to publicise their latest news and to offer discounts in our Newsletter. He wrote articles in the Muswell Flyer. He set up a ticketing system for our Kenwood walk. He reported various issues to local councillors. He was on the judging panel of the successful Community Fund for two years, liaised with the applicants and helped to choose the winners. We thank him and wish him well for the future.
Alexandra Palace and Park
Duncan Neill represents us at the Palace and Park. It has been good to see that there has been a continued recovery from the huge impact of Covid, with an ever- increasing number of events through the year, such as the darts tournament, the Fireworks Festival, theatre runs, exhibition and shows the weekly park run and many others. There has also been an increasing number of creative learning projects. The Café Palais is very popular among local residents and there is a monthly organised free café event for people living with dementia. Additional funding and improvements in energy efficiency mitigated some of the financial impact from the fuel prices. Experiments to improve participation in the various governing bodies such as the creation of Young Trustee positions on the charity Board are under way. Members will be updated on this via the Newsletter. There has been a delay in introducing car parking charges, which will be introduced in the next few months.
This is the 150th anniversary of the Palace and we wish to congratulate them on this historic occasion. There will be a free party on Saturday 27th May.
Social Media, Facebook, Notice Board
Zoe Norfolk reports that in the last year the followers on Facebook have grown by 500. We now have 2543. Zoe regularly posts any changes in Muswell Hill, so that our audience learn first hand from our page of any local news. This builds up trust and consequently engagement with our followers. Our Instagram followers number 1397, having more than doubled in a year. She has been part of the 75th Anniversary sub-committee and has contributed by creating a set of photographs by using Hugh Garnsworthy’s collection. She is responsible for our Notice Board, keeping it up to date and displaying our Newsletter and other items. She has also designed various posters to advertise committee vacancies and to attract new members.
Duncan reports that our Association Twitter account which he launched in 2014 currently has 1300 followers.
Laura Bugden: another new appointment encompassing recording all Minutes and supporting the financial records of members. No committee can survive without good Minutes, and I wish to thank Laura not just for providing accurate Minutes, but also keeping up with all of us at Committee meetings whilst still being able to contribute to our deliberations.
This concludes my report.