Highams Park Forum
HIGHAMS PARK FORUM
1) Welcomes & Introductions
Oliver Shykles chaired the meeting and Mike Payne took the minutes.
2) Matters arising from minutes of meeting 18th January 2016
David Roper was an attendee at the 18th January meeting but was not shown in the minutes as attending. MP apologised for the omission.
Item 2e described a mistake by council contractors who mistakenly dug over the garden in Abbots Crescent. The garden is officially adopted by residents and the digging destroyed planting. OK reported that the council have (as promised) delivered some new plants to replace those destroyed, together with some compost and the residents planted the new plants last weekend.
Cllr TB reported that (in an update to item 4) the "perception survey" for the Mini Holland project (to improve junctions for cycling and walking) will be sent out to residents next week. The object of this survey is to gather residents' views on "hot spots" which would benefit from attention by the project. OK suggested that it would be beneficial to involve schools in this process. Cllr TB agreed that this was a good idea and would pass it on to the organisers.
3) Specific problem buildings & the effectiveness of the new Private Rented Property Licence
Waltham Forest Council has designated Waltham Forest as a Private Rented Property Licence Area.
This means that owners of every privately rented home in the borough must apply for a Private Rented Property Licence (PRPL), to be issued by the Council, unless an exemption applies. Owners with multiple rented properties in the borough must complete an application for each property. The fee per property is currently £500 for 5 years. The fee is due to increase to £650 on 1st April 2016.
OS & GT reported on action being taken to resolve issues with some problem rented properties. Positive outcomes have been seen in all but one. OS expressed disappointment that the remaining property has recently received a Private Rented Property Licence from the council despite having had a history of problems which continue to this day.
OS has made a freedom of information request to determine how many licences have been issued, how many have been declined, and how many properties have been visited.
TC reported that he attended a recent Community Ward Forum meeting where council officers responsible for the scheme spoke. Some figures (in round numbers) mentioned at the meeting were:
· The total number of properties that need to be licensed in Waltham Forest is 25,000.
· These properties have 18,000 owners.
· As at the date of the Ward Forum meeting, 16,000 property owners had signed up leaving 2,000 outstanding that are being chased.
It was stated at that meeting that the registrations, and the funding received from them, should make enforcement of standards by the council easier from now on.
It was noted that some of the successes locally had been a result of actions agreed during recent "Ward Walks" where councillors and residents meet up with enforcement officers to tour specific areas to identify any problems and propose solutions.
4) Pollution in the car park under the Tesco store
DR, being sensitive to poor air quality, believed that the air in the underground car park at Tesco might be below standard. His own carbon monoxide meter seemed to support this view so he asked a council officer to attend to check. The officer was unable to bring any test equipment because it appears the council does not have access to such portable equipment. However, the officer consulted the store manager and reviewed the store's electronic monitoring system which automatically turns on extractor fans if pollutants exceed a certain level. The officer was satisfied that all was operating correctly.
Attendees recognised that it was not just carbon monoxide that was a potential problem but also oxides of nitrogen (often referred to as NOX) and "particulates" (the minute carbon particles that originate primarily from diesel engines). The meeting was disappointed that the council did not have any portable measuring equipment to perform spot checks on the levels of these pollutants.
OK reported that Walthamstow Girls School recently needed to check levels in the vicinity and had to employ a consultancy to perform the measurements.
It was noted that sometimes unnecessary pollution is generated by drivers leaving engines on after stopping. Polite notices asking drivers to turn off engines might help.
5) Waltham Forest Annual Spring Clean 2016
The Highams Park Society is coordinating Highams Park's involvement in this event. Anyone able to participate should meet outside V&A Books and Gifts in The Avenue (opposite the station) at 10am on Saturday 12th March. Those present can then break into teams to take on a number of suggested projects. These involve litter picking in various locations, tidying the station gardens, and planting out some tree bases. This is usually a very sociable and rewarding event.
6) New online system for reporting defects to council
JB noted that recent callers to Waltham Forest Direct have been told of a new system whereby some types of reports can be best performed using a new online reporting system. Cllr PB gave a quick demonstration on his tablet. The system is called "Report it" and can be accessed by going to the council website (www.walthamforest.gov.uk), then (under the "Report" heading) click "All report forms" to see the subjects covered by the system.
7) Brief Updates:
a. HP Plan update
GT, chair of the Highams Park Planning Group (HPPG), reported that a large number of activities are in progress and reported on a small sample as follows:
b. Public rights of way in Highams Park.
The council is responsible for maintaining a formal document known as "The Definitive Map and Statement" (DMS). The purpose of the document can be summarised as follows:
"The DMS is a legal record of the public's rights of way in one of four categories (footpath, bridleway, road used as a public path, or byway open to all traffic). If a way is shown on the map, then that is legal, or conclusive, evidence that the public had those rights along the way at the relevant date of the map (and has them still, unless there has been a legally authorised change). But the reverse is not true."
For various historical reasons and failures in record keeping over many years it has been suggested that the DMS for Waltham Forest is incomplete/inaccurate. Forum members have agreed that the Forum should be instrumental in having known rights of way in the Highams Park area included in the DMS to ensure that footpaths and cycle ways are not accidentally lost during developments.
OS stated that he is steadily making progress. He is taking information provided by The Ramblers and Forum member Mike Reddy and combining them into one map. Some technical issues relating to different map formats have posed obstacles but he has a solution. He is also systematically walking the routes to record accurate GPS plots to be transferred to the map.
c. 7a The Avenue
This property had been of some concern to the Forum and the HPPG since the previous owner had applied for planning permission to change the shop into living accommodation. Many residents objected to this for fear of setting a precedent and eroding the shopping area. Planning officers agreed with residents and rejected the planning application. The property was then sold.
The new owner, Michael Cohen intends to use the building for the purpose for which it was intended. The shop will become "E4 Interiors" and Michael attended the meeting with sales manager Tracey Woolf. Attendees welcomed them to Highams Park.
The shop is expected to open in May and will provide a showroom for the company's products and an admin facility. Manufacturing will take place in an existing building in Romford so it is unlikely that any adverse congestion or noise will occur. The company manufactures upholstered furniture, curtains, blinds and re- upholstery amongst a number of other services within the soft furnishing and interior sector.
It was noted that the business has some synergies with other businesses in Highams Park and the company hopes they will be able to work together on some projects.
d. Redevelopment of Selwyn School
This item refers to the proposal to build a new school on the Selwyn Avenue site, demolishing the existing school. A formal planning application has been submitted and the closing date for comments by residents was 26th January.
This was discussed at the last Forum meeting and a group of Forum members accepted an invitation from the school to meet with staff, governors and staff to better understand the problems of the existing building and their reasons for proposing the redevelopment. The meeting took place at the school on 25th January 2016.
OS produced a report of the meeting which has been posted on the Forum's Facebook page. If you'd like to read it you can find it by going to the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HighamsParkFrm) and then scrolling down to the entry for 26th January 2016.
The status of the planning application is currently still pending.
The details of the planning application are now available online on the council's website. You can view it by going to www.walthamforest.gov.uk/planning-search , enter Application Id: 153749, and press Search. The decision will be presented on that page when it is made. All the documents, including plans, are revealed by the "Documents" button but The Highams Park Planning Group have downloaded the plans to make them easier to access. They can be viewed by clicking this link: http://highamsparkplan.org/selwyn-school-details-of-planning-application/
e. Change to 15 Minutes Free Parking
Previous Forum meetings have expressed concern over what appeared to be the council's plan to remove the free 15 minutes parking in bays outside shops.
Currently, parking bays outside shops in Highams Park have the first 15 minutes free with no need to buy a ticket. This is believed to be beneficial to the shops since it makes it easy for people driving by to "pop in" for a quick shop and then move on, freeing up the bay for someone else. For longer stays in Highams Park, there is 3 hours free parking in the Tesco car park without any obligation to shop in Tesco.
A new change in regulations from central government mandates a 10 minute grace period and the council does not want this to turn the 15 minutes free period into 25 minutes free.
It would appear that common sense has prevailed and the council now plans to reduce the free period to 5 minutes which, with the 10 minutes grace, comes back to 15 minutes free. Attendees noted that this might not be obvious when the signage on lamp posts is revised and we may need to ensure the rules are well publicised.
There is an article on the proposals in the latest issue of Waltham Forest News. It can be found online by following the link below and then look for Waltham Forest News, Issue 157 (7th March 2016). The article is on the 5th page of the document but the page is headed as page 3:
TC pointed out that the article states that parking prices and the cost of CPZ permits are increasing.
A council consultation on the subject launched on 7th March (running until 3rd April) and is available here: http://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/parkingconsultation
f. Tesco outside lighting problem and impact on Elephant & Tortoise artwork
It has been noticed that the new Elephant & Tortoise artwork has not been illuminated recently. GT reported that the artwork is linked into the same circuit that controls the street lighting in Signal Walk (the paved area outside Tesco). Apparently a fault in one of the street lights has been stopping all the lights (and the artwork) switching on. The fault is being traced and will be rectified shortly.
8) Action List: Review of outstanding items
The action list was reviewed and updated. Copy distributed separately from these minutes.
9) Any other business
a. An interesting idea for the Forum's display at Highams Park Day 2016 (16th July)
Mary Dunhill was unable to attend the meeting but suggested (via MP) that a theme for the Forum's tent at Highams Park Day could be "Selwyn Primary School through the ages". She says:
"Selwyn School, where so many people in Highams Park spent some of their childhood, is about to be redesigned and the old buildings are to be pulled down. For some reason, the Centenary celebrations for the school did not materialise in 2004 and on HP Day, the plans and drawings of the new school might be displayed. I have many pictures of classes going back to 1923, which could be enlarged and might be interesting to local people to find their relatives. Famous ex-pupils could feature too."
Attendees were enthusiastic about this idea and undertook to rummage in their cupboards and attics for any Selwyn memorabilia which could contribute to such a display.
It was pointed out that children at the school are undertaking projects about the school's history so we might be able to involve this too.
b. The Crickhowell Tax Avoidance rebellion
DR drew the meeting's attention to a BBC TV programme, "The Town that took on the Taxman". This relates the story of a Welsh town that sought to emulate the tax avoidance strategies of some large corporations in order to draw attention to the practice. The programme is no longer available to view on iPlayer but can be found on YouTube. The Fair Tax Town Scheme is espoused on the following website: http://www.fairtaxtown.com/
c. National Parks Run ("parkrun")
AH drew the meeting's attention to a National scheme which helps organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs in pleasant parkland surroundings. She wondered whether it would be possible to organise such a run in the area around the lake and park. Attendees thought that this would be a good idea.
MH stated that the Peter May Sports Centre (in Wadham Road) is a host for one of these runs on Saturdays.
This is the link to the organisation's website:
www.parkrun.org.uk (Note: Events map on this site does not work properly in the MS Edge browser)
Details of the Peter May Event are here:
d. Highams Park Station outstanding issues
The Forum has been pressing for some improvements to the station for some time. These include:
· Installation of ticket gates
· Improvements to lighting and drainage in the subway
· Better management of the Pigeon problem
· Improved CCTV
· Improvements/replacement of the "sub-standard" footbridge
RG expressed disappointment that LOROL (the new operator of the line since the takeover by TfL) have repeatedly acknowledged these problems but have yet to deliver on their commitments. Indeed they have yet to provide any dates by which the problems will be resolved.
RG stated that LOROL at the last Transport Liaison Meeting (a Council Committee) undertook to provide at the next meeting, a schedule with dates but he noted that unfortunately this commitment was not recorded in the minutes of the meeting. The next meeting is Tuesday 15th March.
RG asked if any other Forum members would be willing to represent the Forum at the Transport Liaison Meeting. RT, OS, & GT all stated that they would be happy to take it in turns to attend.
PR raised a matter in respect of the station that had not been raised before. This was in respect of the ageing public address system. This is very loud and disturbs the residents of houses close to the station. A number of other attendees supported this assertion. The station has a small number of old fashioned large horn speakers which are set to a loud volume to cover the whole station. A more modern system would have a larger number of smaller speakers at much lower volume. Cllr PB agreed to raise this at the Transport Liaison meeting and requested OS to email him with details of the issue.
LOROL had complimented the Highams Park Planning Group on the quality of their accessibility report on the station. The report suggests that wheel chair access between platforms is not up to standard and that the footbridge needs replacement with a solution including lifts. RG expressed disappointment that despite the compliments, LOROL had designated this as low priority.
e. The next Community Ward Forum meetings will be as follows:
Date: Thursday 10th March 2016
Venue: Chapel End Infant School, 3 Beresford Road, Walthamstow, E17 4LN
Hale End & Highams Park
Date: Monday 14th March 2016
Time: 7pm - 9pm
Venue: Thorpe Hall Primary School, 123 Hale End Road, London, E17 4DP
Date: Wednesday 8th June 2016
Time: 7pm - 9pm
Venue: St. Andrew's Church, Chingford Lane, Woodford Green, Essex IG8 9QP
10) Items for next agenda
None were identified at this meeting.
11) Confirm date, time for next meeting
The next meeting
will be held on Monday 25th April 2016 at 7:30pm in the Selwyn
Lounge, All Saints Church, Church Avenue.