Highams Park Forum
A group of local people all interested in the betterment of life in their area.

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Looking up: An old oak tree putting
on leaf near the lake

 

 

 

 

 


 

HIGHAMS PARK FORUM

 

Minutes of meeting Monday 22nd January 2018 (Approved)

 

 

Present:

Roger Torode, Graham Reeve, John Avis, Cllr Sheree Rackham, Munish Chopra-Evans, Mark Herring, Chris Holmes, Jeff Beaton, Zia Rehman, Ian Thomson, Michael Shellock, Cllr Tony Bell, Trevor Calver, Nicolas Haines, Anne Haines, Oliver Shykles, Mike Payne

Apologies:

Robert Tatam, Rosalind Doré, Cllr Marion Fitzgerald, Cllr Tim James, Oona Kelly, Gordon Turpin, Steve Webb

 

1)         Welcomes & Introductions

Oliver Shykles chaired the meeting.  Mike Payne took the minutes.

 

2)         Matters arising from minutes of meeting 4th December 2017

There were no matters arising.

 

3)         Election of officers for 2018

No new members volunteered to stand for roles so the existing committee stated that they would be willing to continue in posts.  Election of the committee was taken en bloc and the vote was unanimous in favour.  As a result the committee remains as follows:

 

Chair:

Oliver Shykles

Vice Chair:

Graham Reeve

Secretary:

Mike Payne

Treasurer

Roger Torode

 

4)         Financial Report from the Treasurer

RTo reported that, having deducted payments for room hire paid in advance (up to and including 11th June 2018) the Forum's current bank balance stands at £39.74.  The last tranche of agreed Ward Forum funding is £60 and this will be transferred shortly, bringing the total to £99.74.  At our current run rate (including web hosting and the remaining room bookings for 2018) this can be expected to last to the end of 2018 but not beyond.  As a result, RTo will submit a new request for funding to the Ward Forums early in 2018 since these requests can take time to process.

 

5)         Tree felling and replacement

There was considerable confusion among attendees as to the current roles and responsibilities of the teams and individuals responsible for trees on council land (including street trees).

 

Attendees were aware that tree specialists Gristwood & Toms used to be responsible for both the management of tree maintenance work and the performing of that maintenance.  It is understood that council officers have now taken over management of the maintenance but still use Gristwood & Toms for the actual maintenance tasks.  The date of the handover of management responsibility was not known by attendees.

 

Attendees were also confused as to the split in responsibilities between the council's "Operational Tree Section" (part of the Neighbourhoods and Commercial Services directorate) and the council's Tree Preservation & Nature Conservation Officer (Mike Punchard).

 

Attendees were not sure who they should contact and those who had received a response found that it came from a generic email rather than a named individual.

 

Some clarification would be much appreciated.

 

Attendees expressed concern as to the number of trees being felled recently.  Residents querying the reason for trees being felled have been told that it is because the trees have been infected with a fungus causing them to rot and become unsafe.  Some attendees who had examined the trunks of felled trees were unable to see significant amounts of rot and wondered if some trees have been felled in error.

 

A large scale planting programme is said to be in progress and indeed residents have seen some evidence of this with new trees recently being planted in or near some of the sites of felled trees.  Some attendees wondered if the planting programme constrained trees to be replaced in the areas where trees were lost or whether trees being felled in one part of the borough might be "replaced" in a different part of the borough.  It was suggested that in some cases trees were not replaced because the house owner nearby has asked for this not to happen.

 

Attendees suggested that to calm the worries of residents it might be a good idea to post a notice on trees being felled to explain both the reason and the planned replacement process.  Often the operatives doing the felling are approached by distressed residents but since the operatives are often unaware of the background they can appear unhelpful.

 

OS agreed to submit a freedom of information request after the planting season finished to determine the number of trees felled vs the number of trees planted and the planting schedule.

 

It was noted that the pruning cycle for the larger street trees in Highams Park often seems too long and might be a false economy; the roots of the unpruned trees often do damage to the pavement, walls, and foundations causing costs that would not have been necessary with more frequent pruning.

 

6)         Public Phone Boxes - enhance or remove?

A survey by the HP Planning Group reveals that Highams Park has 6 public phones.  Some are the large traditional Phone Boxes and some are shoulder height open kiosks.  Forum members have contacted council officers and have revealed the owners of the phones.  The six phones and their owners are as follows:

 

No.

Type

Location

Owner

1

Shoulder height booth

Outside the library

BT

2

Glass phone box painted black

In The Avenue, opposite the station

New World

3

Shoulder height booth

By the clock tower near the station

BT

4

Shoulder height booth

North side of The Broadway

BT

5

Glass phone box painted black

North side of The Broadway

New World

6

Glass phone box painted silver & black

Outside the Royal Oak Pub

BT

 

Attendees were unanimous in their opinion that boxes "2" and "5" should be removed.  They were viewed as too large, ugly, blocking the pavement, and duplicated the function of other phones nearby (for example "3" is close to "2" and "4" is close to "5").  In short these two boxes were considered to be "street clutter", serving no useful purpose and could be removed without any adverse impact on residents.

 

In contrast the remaining boxes were considered to be unobtrusive in design, not blocking the pavements and were in useful locations for people needing a public phone.  In summary, the meeting felt that the BT phones should be retained and the New World phones should be removed.

 

In preparation for the meeting, MP had investigated the process for removal of public phones and explained his findings to attendees.  OFCOM procedures seem to start with the assumption that the owner wants to remove the phone and states the rules for public consultation so residents are not left without a phone if they want one to remain.  BT are known to follow this procedure, but we are not looking to remove any of the BT boxes.

 

Looking at the websites of New World and a contractor working for them known as "2020 Civils", it would appear that they do not want to remove their boxes.  Quite the reverse; they have a project called "Project Kiosk" to replace all their boxes with new ones.  An example of the new type of box can be seen at South Chingford shopping centre (Albert Crescent, where the buses turn round).  This box replaced a previous box at the same location which was identical to "2" in the table above.  One side of these new boxes is a full height electronic advertising display screen.  Given the limited revenue the owner is likely to get from phone calls, it seems probable that the prime motivation for installing the new boxes is to claim part of the public realm for advertising space in a location where permission for such advertising would not usually be granted.

 

Relatively new government regulations intended to speed up high speed broadband provision give permitted development rights to telecoms companies and restrict the powers of local authorities.  The phone boxes seem to be unintentionally included in this legislation.  Some councils are already seeking to curb such boxes and BBC News has a very relevant piece on its website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-40230216 . The London Councils organisation has also published some guidance on this.

 

Attendees asked (via councillors) that LBWF take a similar hard stand on this matter.  Cllrs SR & TB agreed to take this forward.

 

7)         Local loneliness initiative

Cllr TB described a local initiative to combat loneliness.  It's called "Cake and Company" and encourages people of all ages to "enjoy conversation over a cuppa".  The event occurs monthly with the first taking place at 11:30am on 31st January at the Labour Party Office, 7 Hatch Lane, E4 6LP.

 

8)         Action List: Review of outstanding items

Due to time pressure at the meeting, the review of the action list was performed only in part.  Some items were covered as a by-product of other items on the agenda.  MP will review and update the list outside of the meeting based on his knowledge of progress.

 

Action item A589 relates to new signage to advise drivers to turn off engines while waiting at the level crossing.  Prompted by this item, TC suggested that perhaps the Forum could argue for an air quality sampling station at that location.  He was aware that there is now a specific Air Quality Officer (David Beach) who is responsible for around 20 sampling stations across the borough.

 

In referring to action item A423, RTo gave the following report to attendees on the works and proposed works at Highams Park Station:

********* Start Quote *********

Use of the ticket gates is awaiting London Fire Brigade (LFB) approval of the station evacuation plan, which is expected this month.

The subway exit from the northbound platform (from London) will be closed but will remain as an emergency exit that can be opened remotely in an emergency.

The subway exit cannot continue as an exit from the station as there is not enough room for ticket gates.  We had suggested ways in which space could be acquired for these gates but this is not acceptable to LFB, as it would create a bottleneck between those gates and the steps into the subway, which would be dangerous in an emergency evacuation.

We had a meeting in December with TfL, LBWF, the developer of the goods yard site, Cllr Tony Bell and Roger Torode (Highams Park Planning Group and Highams Park Forum).

LBWF have taken up our earlier proposal and are suggesting to the developer that he provide for an exit through what is now the car park, to come out on Larkshall Road opposite Signal Walk, and he is taking this idea away to come up with some plans.  However, this development will take several years to achieve.

Such an exit might be in addition to, or instead of, the Larkshall Road exit - depending on whether it needed more staff.

In the meantime, the usual exits will be Larkshall Road, and the main exit via the footbridge.  In an emergency there will also be the subway exit.

We have also asked for upgrading of the footbridge, which we do not consider to be safe.  This is now the responsibility of TfL who have the station on a 125-year lease from Network Rail.

TfL have a restricted budget but have responded to our lobbying and are now carrying out remedial work on the steps (scheduled completion by 3 February).  We have asked them to postpone use of the ticket gates (and closure of the subway exit) until this is complete.

We have continued to press TfL for a replacement footbridge and lifts, to provide step-free access between the platforms, and a wider footbridge which would take two streams of people.

TfL do not have budget for this, and it is clear that there are many other stations across London with far worse facilities than us (including Wood Street and St James Street).  However, we continue to prioritise this matter and we will look for sources of funding such as Section 106 agreements from the various developments taking place in Highams Park.  These developments can be expected to increase passenger numbers on the railway.

These are complex, expensive and long-term problems, but we are having an effect.

********* End Quote *********

 

9)         Transport & Street Scene

a)    Proposed changes to Tesco delivery times

The Forum had been alerted to planning application 174221 submitted by Tesco seeking to remove the restrictions on delivery times imposed as part of the original planning approval for the building of the store.  Planning officers have now rejected the application (on 18th January 2018) and the existing restrictions remain as follows:

All delivery vehicles above 30 CWT GLW shall use Larkshall Road/Hale End Road, except at such times when these roads are subject to authorised closure or diversion. There shall be no deliveries to, and movement of delivery and service vehicles within the site between the hours of 23.00 and 07.00 Monday to Saturday. Deliveries to, and movement of vehicles within, the site shall only be permitted on Sundays and Bank Holidays between the hours of 10.00 and 16.00 .

 

b)    Larkshall Road: Bad organisation of gas pipe replacement (& road sub-structure revelation)

IT reported on some experiences he has had recently with renewal of gas pipes to his house.  This is part of a scheduled programme of works taking place in Larkshall Road.

 

Operatives arrived at his house to replace the old iron supply pipe with new plastic pipe to connect to a new gas main being installed in the street.  Residents were supposed to have been given warning of this in the form of an information pack which was supposed to have been delivered to all impacted properties 6 weeks prior to the works.  It seems that no one in the street had received this.  A neighbour who was not at home had to be contacted urgently by IT because if the pipe was not replaced on time the gas supply would be disconnected to the neighbour's house.

 

The fault for the communication failures seems to be down to "tRiio working in partnership with Cadent".

 

As a by-product of the works, IT noticed that the old gas works in the street (exposed by the excavations) had not been backfilled correctly.  These works were carried out after Larkshall Road was re-laid with a reinforced concrete sub base which had been installed to reduce vibrations in the surrounding houses.  Looking at the exposed pipes at one location showed that the reinforced concrete sub-base had not been replaced, only back filled and the road surface had begun to break up.  At a different location, the concrete sub-base had been replaced but a void had appeared below it.  A resident near to these locations noted that that bedroom furniture had started to vibrate again and this was possibly the cause of it.

 

IT has informed council officers and Cllr SR agreed to advise Cllr John Moss, in whose ward the problems have occurred (Larkswood ward).

 

c)    Station Public Address System volume and frequency of announcements

At the last meeting, it was reported that the station public address system was causing noise nuisance to houses close to the station.  The PA was very loud and the high frequency of the announcements made it a significant problem.  The problem was first reported when TfL took over the running of the line and started making more frequent announcements using the old PA.  This system had just one large horn speaker and it was expected that the new PA system (recently installed) with its multiple small speakers would solve the problem but this did not seem to be the case.

 

RTo has been working with TfL seeking to resolve the problem.  TfL argued that they were still testing the system to get the levels correct.  This was more complicated than might be expected because different types of announcement originate from different sources at different levels.

 

GR lives close to the station and reported to the meeting that things are now much improved.  He confirmed that six weeks ago the announcements were very loud but were now quiet and almost inaudible indoors with the windows closed.  He pointed out that in the summer, in the garden, they may be more irritating.  Whilst he understood the need for announcements advising passengers of unusual circumstances, he questioned the need for the frequency of regular announcements; every train is announced (8 an hour) and slotted in-between there are health and safety announcements.

 

10)     Planning & Development

[To the reader:  We are advised that comments on planning applications sent to the planning department from individual residents carry more weight than a group letter from an organisation.  If you would like to see the details of any planning application, including plans and any decision documents, you need to visit the council's website here: http://planning.walthamforest.gov.uk/application-search and enter the relevant application id.]

 

a)    Planning ref 172438: 19 - 21 The Avenue.   Change of use from care home (Class D1) to HMO (Class C4).

Current position:  No decision has yet been recorded.

 

Background:

This application (Planning ref 172438) was submitted 31st July.  Graham Reeve for the Forum has objected based on a number of reasons, not least of which is that some of the rooms are smaller than the Council's minimum space standards for HMO.  The HPPG has also objected and has stated a preference for the building to remain as a care home since there appears to be a demand for such facilities.   It was also pointed out in the objection that the development does not meet the standards required by Policy HDA3 of the emerging Highams Park Neighbourhood Plan created by the HPPG.

 

The owner has engaged a PR company to approach residents (by meetings and knocking on doors) with the intention of putting their minds at rest and reducing the level of objections.  Attendees who had received this briefing were not impressed and remained concerned about the proposal.  14 occupants in the space of two semi-detached houses (each occupant quite possibly bringing a van or car) seems likely to cause issues with their neighbours.

 

Attendees were concerned at the possibility of setting a precedent.  Converting family homes to HMOs is likely to be attractive to landlords since it yields significantly greater rental income.

 

b)    Application Id.170468: Proposed development at 70 The Avenue, backing onto Castle Ave.

Current position: The application was refused by LBWF but the applicant appealed the decision.  The appeal process has now concluded and has decided that the appeal be dismissed.  As a result the application is refused.

 

Background:

The application relates to a proposal to demolish half a semi-detached garage and create a small residential property on a very constrained plot at the bottom of a garden in The Avenue.  The plot would open onto Castle Avenue.  The development would be problematic for a number of reasons discussed at previous meetings.

 

A number of applications have been made for this site, each varying the precise location and size of the property.  Each has been refused to-date.  The latest application was submitted 10th March and proposed a 2 storey house.  The planning ref for this was 170468.  The planning officer's report recommended refusal of the application and planning committee unanimously refused the application at its meeting of 2nd May.

 

The applicant then lodged an appeal with the planning inspectorate.  This is a government body separate from the local authority.  It is understood that a number of residents wrote to the inspectorate in support of the council's decision to refuse permission.

 

c)     Application Id.170081: No. 2 The Charter Road - Demolition of existing house, and construction of 8 apartment block.

Current position: No decision has yet been recorded.

 

Background:

The Highams Park Planning Group have written to planning officers, objecting to this application demonstrating the problems with the application and how it does not adhere to the principles set out in the emerging Highams Park Plan.

 

Cllrs Rackham and Fitzgerald have both asked for this to be referred to the Planning Committee, if officers are minded to approve it.

 

d)    Application Id.173176: Demolishment of 73 Falmouth Avenue and construction of an apartment block plus extension to 75 Falmouth Avenue.

Current position:

No decision has yet been recorded.

 

Background:

73 Falmouth Avenue is a large double fronted detached house built in the 1860s.  75 Falmouth Avenue is a small modern block of flats.  The proposed development incorporates both sites; demolition of number 73 plus a small extension into the space behind number 75.  The existing use of space behind number 75 will be changed by the proposal, integrating the two buildings (e.g. relocation of the car park so it is adjacent to the gardens of adjoining properties).

 

Nearby residents have expressed concerns about the proposed development and Cllr Fitzgerald has asked for this to be referred to the Planning Committee, if officers are minded to approve it.

 

11)     Brief Updates:

a)    HP Plan update

Gordon Turpin, chair of the Highams Park Planning Group (HPPG), was unable to attend the meeting but MP gave a brief summary of the activities of the group on his behalf.

 

The Plan is currently being prepared for an independent external review by experts as a precursor to being formally submitted to LBWF for formal consultation of residents. 

 

The project to convert the building in the park next to the lake continues to progress well with volunteer residents pitching in at regular sessions to work on the building.  The intention is to provide a small community space, café, and toilets for the benefit of park users.  It is hard to give an exact date when the facility will open because it is dependent on the time available by volunteers, but it is hoped to open in time for the Easter school holidays.  Pop your head round the door if you see people working there; you'll be surprised at the transformation inside.

 

The HPPG continues to work with Library staff to expand uses for the library.

 

The project to install a significantly sized signature tree (and ultimately a circular bench) at the entrance to Signal Walk (by Tesco) is progressing well and the new tree officer is enthusiastic and helpful.  It is possible that the officer may be able to find additional funding (in addition to that already promised) to further improve the outcome.

 

A large number of events are being planned for 2018 by HPPG members (details in due course).  These include:

Concerts at All Saints Church:

·         Abba tribute

·         1940s/50s Andrews Sisters Tribute

·         Last Night of the proms

·         Chapman Brothers (Motown)

 

Events in The Highams Park:

·         Spring Festival (including the return of the Vikings)

·         Picnic in the Park

 

Events in and around the centre of Highams Park:

·         Xmas Fayre in the shopping centre

·         Arts Trail (all over Highams Park

·         Vintage Market in the Library Car Park

 

b)    Making Places

The Making Places scheme was reported at previous Forum meetings.  Under the scheme the council took nominations from residents for projects of up to £40k funding in each ward in the borough.  This money is in addition to the normal £10k ward forum allocation.  The scheme is described in the website:

www.makingplaces.co.uk

 

The winning application for Hatch Lane ward is for new ornate gates at each of the three entrances to The Highams Park together with notice boards / information boards.  Cllr Fitzgerald is currently working with local residents to approve the designs for the gates.

 

The winning application for Hale End and Highams Park ward is to improve an empty space in the centre of the Aldriche Way estate.  The idea is to create a community space for everyone, designed by young people from the estate who will be actively involved in how the space is designed, built, used and looked after. There may be scope within the project for particular young people to have formal training/scholarships as part of the works.  The Aldriche Project may continue past 2018 with the Council coordinating future funding bids to develop the project further.

 

c)    The £25k per ward to be spent on green spaces and parks.  Results of consultation

At the end of 2017 it was announced that £25k was available for each ward in the borough to improve its parks and green spaces and the council asked residents to submit ideas.  This is a separate initiative from "Making Places" mentioned above.  The deadline for submissions was 22nd December 2017.

 

Cllr TB reported on the results for Hale End & Highams Park ward as follows:

Thanks for promoting via minutes of Forum, we got the most resident ideas for Hale End and Highams Park ward in whole Borough!.  There were some great ideas, last week I worked with Officers to work out what was realistic within the budget - preferred option is to up-grade Vincent Road Play Park plus more benches, as there was a majority for this.  There will be smaller works across the ward including flower planting at the end of a street and more street trees.  There were many interesting and ambitious ideas but were trickier in terms of money and location including one raised in Forum in December, namely the overgrown footpath that runs from Gordon Avenue to Vincent Road which could be improved, other suggestions around this are focused on renovating the 2 bridges and making them a feature.  Could be funded by future ward forum monies?

 

The results of the consultation in Hatch Lane ward were not available at the time of the meeting.

 

d)    Highams Park's Library ("Hale End Library")

A report on the future of the borough's libraries was due to be presented to cabinet in December 2017.  This did not take place and no timetable has been given as to when the report will now be tabled.  Some Highams Park Residents have been concerned by this delay, wondering whether this might be a bad sign for our library in Highams Park (despite earlier assurances).

 

When made aware of these concerns, in the past few days, Councillor Ahsan Khan (cabinet member for libraries) issued a statement saying: "I am taking time to consider responses to our proposals and in particular to explore options for external funding so that we can achieve our ambitions for our libraries.  I remain committed to the statements I have made in respect of Hale End Library and would confirm there are no plans to move the library regardless of any external funding bids.  The library service are actively working with the community in Higham's Park to develop the services and events available via the library."

 

e)    Dates for forthcoming Community Ward Forum meetings & update on their replacement

·         Hatch Lane

Date: Tuesday 27th February 2018

Time: 7.00pm - 9.00pm (hall will open at 6:30)

Venue: All Saints Church Hall, Church Avenue, Highams Park, London, E4 9QD

·         Hale End & Highams Park - To be advised.

 

Cllrs report that progress on agreeing a replacement for Community Ward Forums (the "Engagement Strategy") is very slow.  There have been lots of meetings.  It would appear that there is now a majority of wards that wish to keep some form of Community Ward Forum but change it radically in some way to overcome the problems experienced in the past (poor attendance and "same faces").

 

12)     Any other business

a)    Road safety meeting with Council Officer

A road safety meeting has been organised at Selwyn School with the Council Officer responsible on 23rd January at 2:45pm.  This is to look at problems associated with pick up and drop off by cars.  The idea is to discuss with parents and look for solutions.  A similar meeting is planned for Oak Hill School in the near future.

 

b)    Community safety and Cohesion cabinet member meeting at Aldriche estate

A meeting has been arranged for residents with the Community safety and Cohesion cabinet member in Aldriche estate Community rooms 23rd January - 10.00am.  There will be an opportunity to discuss the Making Places project mentioned in the last paragraph of section 11b above.

 

c)    Local Plan

Background: There is a hierarchy of planning documents which set out the "rules" by which planning officers must judge planning applications.  The hierarchy for Highams Park consists of:

a)    National Planning documents (from central government)

b)    The London Plan (from the London Mayor)

c)    The Local Plan (from LBWF)

d)    The Highams Park Plan (created by residents in the form of the Highams Park Planning Group)

 

One level of planning document must not contradict the levels above it.  Each level going down the hierarchy is supposed to add finer detail.

 

MC-E reiterated concerns over the LBWF "Direction of Travel" document which is the first consultation step in changing The Local Plan.  The consultation closed on 22nd December 2017.

 

At the same time, changes to The London Plan are being consulted on.  The consultation for this closes 2nd March 2018.

 

These were discussed at the last meeting of the Forum and some attendees who had looked at the documents were very concerned about their possible impact on the suburbs in terms of relaxing planning rules to achieve greater density and higher buildings.

 

The Highams Park Plan does not currently contradict any documents above it.  As a result, the HPPG has submitted a response to the LBWF Direction of Travel, offering the whole of the current Highams Park Plan as a response to the consultation, arguing that because of the high level of resident involvement in the creation of the Highams Park Plan, any amendments to the document hierarchy above it which will contradict the Highams Park Plan would be to ignore the residents wishes.  The HPPG will send a similar response in respect of the consultation for the Draft New London Plan.

 

d)    Clutter at entrance to Signal Walk

It has been noted that there are now three bins of various types (recycling and litter) cluttering up the entrance way to Signal Walk (towards Tesco) and obscuring the view of the Elephant & Tortoise artwork.

 

Attendees felt that none of these bins should have been placed there and that there are better locations.  The bins get in the way and are unattractive at a location which is supposed to be a "grand entrance" to a public space.  It was suggested that the clothes recycling bins would be better located in the Tesco car park where people could drop off easier from their cars whilst shopping.  The litter bins would be better placed more centrally in Signal Walk, closer to the locations where litter is prevalent.

 

Cllr SR (with OS) agreed to pursue a resolution of this.

 

13)     Items for next agenda

a)    No items for the next agenda were put forward.

 

14)     Confirm date, time for next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Monday 5th March 2018 at 7:30pm in the Selwyn Lounge, All Saints Church, Church Avenue.
 

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