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

 

 

 

 

 


 

HIGHAMS PARK FORUM

 

Minutes of meeting Monday 25th July 2016 (Approved)

 

 

Present:

Oliver Shykles, Graham Reeve, Robert Tatam, Mark Herring, Ian Thomson, Jeff Beaton, John Avis, Trevor Calver, Patrick Rowley, Oona Kelly, Roger Torode, Mike Payne

Apologies:

Cllr Marion Fitzgerald, Cllr Tony Bell, Cllr Tim James, Cllr Paul Braham, Cllr Sheree Rackham, David Roper, Mary Dunhill, Steve Webb, Anne Haines, Nicolas Haines, Gordon Turpin

 

1)         Welcomes & Introductions

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

 

2)         Matters arising from minutes of meeting 13th June 2016

RTo added some further information regarding item 3 (Feedback from meetings with London Overground  & Walthamstow Central changes).  He showed the meeting a brief consultation document describing the planned works at Highams Park Station.  This document had been distributed to public bodies.  The document confirms the description provide by RTo at the last meeting but also mentions a temporary closure of the exit via the footpath to Larskshall Road.  This closure is necessary to allow the building to be created that will house the ticket barriers at that location.  There is also still some confusion as to which body owns the pedestrian subway (Network Rail or London Borough of Waltham Forest).  Both bodies have stated that they think it is owned by the other.  This confusion is impeding efforts to correct faults in the subway.

 

Regarding 12g (Grass cutting without litter picking).  JB had spoken to a street operative who had told him that, when Keir had the contract, litter was picked before mowing.  Other attendees had noticed that the contractor was not collecting grass cuttings but leaving them in situ. This looks untidy.  Attendees wondered if this was a new policy to allow the mulch to fertilise the grass. 

 

3)         The Future of Highams Park's Library ("Hale End Library")

Council Officers have produced a proposal document containing major changes to the buildings which deliver the council's "Library Local" service.  Highams Park's Library (officially known as "Hale End Library") features in that document.  It proposes that the library be sold for housing development and that a new (smaller) library space be rented in a commercial block at the end of signal walk near Tesco.  The document makes claims about the unsuitability of the current building and how the new building would attract better usage.

 

The document has caused a huge negative reaction from thousands of residents who signed a petition and believe the report to be inaccurate and misleading.  They question the supposed issues with the current library and do not think a rented building is viable long term when there is no long term source of funds to pay the significant rental cost.

 

The officers' document went to the council's cabinet meeting 12th July 2016 and the councillors gave agreement in principle to the proposal so the proposal could go to public consultation.  Following consultation, the proposal would go back to cabinet for a final decision.  Residents spoke against the proposal at the meeting.  Large numbers of residents were in the public gallery to show their concern and numerous protests have been held.

 

The conservative group have now "called in" the cabinet decision and it will be put before the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee on 3rd August 2016.  Five speaking slots at the meeting will be available for residents (3 minutes each).  GR volunteered to speak for the Forum.

 

[Note from the Secretary:  At the date of publishing these "approved" minutes (6th August 2016) this topic is moving very quickly and has moved on even in the short time since the meeting.  Officers wrote a document for the Scrutiny Committee which proposes excluding Hale End Library from the consultation process for "up to a year" whilst continuing with the other libraries.  This is effectively a stay of execution for an uncertain period ("up to a year" is not the same as "a year") while the situation at our library can be looked at in more detail.  The Scrutiny committee approved the proposal.  Highams Park's residents groups can be expected to work closely with council officers during this grace period to instigate change in the current building and facilitate a good outcome].

 

4)         Mini Holland - Feedback from latest workshops

LBWF has received £500k to spend on improvements to the road system (especially at junctions) to improve routes for pedestrians and cyclists in Highams Park.  The scheme is known as Mini Holland and an extended period of consultation with residents is now in progress.  Workshops with residents were held in May to gather ideas and, more recently, further workshops have taken place where officers have presented firm proposals for comment.  Some Forum members (including GR & RTo) had attended.

 

It is hoped that a crossing point, proposed by the Forum and The HP Planning Group, across Chingford Lane (near the junction with The Avenue) will be delivered as part of the scheme.

 

GR & RTo laid out a map and explained the proposals to attendees.  Most of the discussion that followed focused on proposed changes at the junctions where Beech Hall Road and Handsworth Avenue meet Hale End Road.  Beech Hall Road and Handsworth Avenue form part of a proposed North-South cycling route and the changes are intended to make crossing Hale End Road easier.  The proposal involves creating a "Tiger Crossing" at that point.  This is effectively a zebra crossing plus a separate cycle lane.  The crossing is not controlled by traffic signals.  To achieve this, it is proposed to restrict the widths of both Beech Hall Road and Handsworth Avenue at the point where they join Hale End Road and, for motor vehicles, restrict Beech Hall Road to exit only (and left turn only) and Handsworth Avenue to entry only at that junction.  The roads with the restrictions would not be designated one way streets and two way traffic would still be permitted but the restrictions would require performing a U turn to go back the way you came.

 

The points raised in discussion echo the concerns set out in a document written by the Highams Park Planning Group.  These include:

·         Access from the north side of Highams Park to the town centre, Walthamstow, A406 and M11 will only be via The Avenue, which is already heavily congested at peak times.

·         Parents dropping children at the schools in Handsworth Avenue will have to use Church Avenue or turn in Handsworth Avenue, which will add to congestion there.

·         Currently, the two way traffic in Handsworth has a natural traffic calming effect because of the expectation of oncoming traffic.  If the entry restriction means the road gets treated as one way, this might increase traffic speeds outside the schools.

·         Doctors needing to leave the Health Centre southwards will be delayed and may be on urgent business.

·         Lorries unloading at Nisa and The County Arms will have to exit via Handsworth Avenue and other unsuitable roads, either Church and Castle Avenues, or Falmouth Avenue.  Parking bays planned for them will reduce existing parking spaces near the Health Centre.

·         The planned 'Tiger Crossing' will lead more pedestrians onto the south side of Hale End Road and the crossing over the Broadway at its junction with Larkshall Road.  It would be better for these pedestrians to continue on the north side of Hale End Road and cross at a new crossing opposite Tesco.

·         The proposed restrictions on traffic into Beech Hall Road will also cause inconvenience to residents there.

 

GR & TRo showed attendees a possible alternative cycle route devised by The Highams Park Planning Group which would not create these problems.  This route would leave Beech Hall Road using Studley Avenue and then follow Vincent Road and the footpath through to Gordon Avenue, continuing to Falmouth Avenue and then as in the Council's proposal.  This would:

·         avoid the changes to the junction of Hale End Road with Handsworth Avenue and Beech Hall Road,

·         give a more level route for cyclists avoiding the hill up and down in Handsworth Avenue,

·         separate the cycle route from Handsworth Avenue which is very congested with school traffic, and

·         give a direct cycle route into the rear entrance of Highams Park School.

 

Cyclists attending the meeting could see the merits of the alternative proposal but had concerns about the narrow and gloomy footpath included.  This would not be attractive to some riders.  Efforts to make this area wider and better lit would be necessary if this were to be taken forward.  One attendee recollected a historic plan to completely remove all the scrub between the footpath and the River Ching and create a grassy picnic spot.

 

One cyclist noted that cyclists tend to go the most direct route and both the council route and the alternative route would be seen as a diversion by some and might not be followed.  It was pointed out that the alternative route skirted around the hill of Handsworth Avenue so might be faster even though it is slightly longer.

 

OK noted that the proposed Tiger Crossing does not show a central island.  The existing crossing near the proposed new crossing does have an island.  That crossing will be removed.

 

5)         Tesco Car Park Rules - Signs which suggest only for Tesco Customers

MP had noticed that the signs displayed in the Tesco Car park state that the car park is only for Tesco customers.  It was his recollection that the agreement with the council, when planning permission was given for the store, stated that the car park should be available to all users of the shopping area and not just Tesco Customers.

 

GR retrieved a copy of that agreement dated 2nd February 2011 and confirmed that it states that the car park is: "for visitors to Highams Park Neighbourhood Centre but not commuters or long stay".

 

GR agreed to email council officers requesting that they ask Tesco to change their signs.

 

6)         Feedback from Highams Park Day 2016 (16th July)

Everyone involved felt that it was an excellent day and wanted to express their thanks to Andrew Golds and the members of the organising committee.

 

In respect of the Forum's presence on the day, the display consisted of two sections:

a)       Selwyn School through the ages

b)       The Save the Library campaign (see section 3 above)

 

Mary Dunhill curated the Selwyn exhibition for us and attendees wished to express their thanks to her for the enormous amount of work she put it in.  It was very well received by visitors to the tent.  MD in turn wished to thank TC for his efforts in sourcing photos and OS, MP, RTo, & SW for the construction of the displays on the day and acting as hosts.

 

300 additional signatures were added to the already extensive library petition.

 

7)         Ongoing problem of wheelie bins not being replaced properly after emptying

Attendees reported on ongoing problems with wheelie bins not always being properly replaced after emptying.  Some operators go to a lot of trouble to return bins to their proper place but some leave them in obvious wrong places, blocking paths.  Apart from the danger and inconvenience, this is an obvious sign that the resident is away on holiday.

 

It was also noted that collection days have been a bit random sometimes of late and even the operators, when phoned, were unsure as to the correct day.  At one time the council website ("My Place" feature) was giving a next collection date and a day of the week that disagreed with each other.  This was reported to the web team and has now been corrected.

 

8)         Brief Updates:

a)    HP Plan update

GT, chair of the Highams Park Planning Group was unable to attended but gave a brief update via MP on some of the large number of initiatives being pursued by the group:

·         The proposed policies for the plan are now in the final stages and are expected to be sent to council officers for review shortly.

·         Reed planting is being organised for the lake to provide habitat for the fry of fish.  A lot of such habitat was destroyed as a by-product of the recent dredging of the lake.  The first phase of planting took place on Saturday 23rd July 2016.

·         The first external decorative balls of light for shops in Hale End Road have been installed.  These can be enhanced with different covers, reflective of seasons and festivals.

·         Numerous events being arranged including, Festival of Culture, Picnic in the Park, Last night of the Proms, Shop Local day, Evening with the stars, and the Xmas Fayre.  Dates and details can be found on the "What's on" page of Forum's website: www.highamsparkforum.co.uk/whatson.html

 

b)    Selwyn School Redevelopment

It is understood that this development was given planning approval on 12th July 2016 "subject to conditions".  It is to be expected that this development will now go ahead.

 

c)    Air Quality in Tesco Car Park

Background:

Forum member David Roper, 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 had asked a council officer to attend to check.  The officer had been 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 of the last meeting noted 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).

 

DR had been in communication with the Jess Walker, Tesco Area manager, and asked the following questions on behalf of the Forum:

 

1)       Do the sensors in the Tesco's store indoor car park only measure Carbon Monoxide (not sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter, lead and benzene)?

2)       If the answer to question 1 is "yes", at what level of Carbon Monoxide pollution in the car park are the extractor fans programmed to activate?

3)       If the answer to question 1 is "yes", would you please agree to allow three small professional measuring units to be placed high up (near the car park ceiling and out of reach of customers) for three months (minimum legal requirement), so that average pollution levels (particularly of nitrogen dioxide) can be measured accurately?

4)       Will the signs asking drivers to switch off their engines as soon as they park will be put up soon?

 

DR was unable to attend today's Forum meeting but (via MP) provided a response from Ms Walker to the above questions following her communications with Tesco's technical team.  She states:

"I have looked into this for you and collected as much information as I can from the technical teams. I understand the majority of the car park sensors only detect Carbon Monoxide and the detectors are set at standard alarm levels: - A1: 30ppm A2: 200ppm. Following on from your enquiry a member of the engineering team has been out to look at the system, and has retrieved information and photos of the system, and the panels that control the gas detection and smoke extraction. As you stated the extractor fans and monitoring system are operating properly on the site, though we have arranged for a contractor to come and service the system and look at the detector panels, which I hope addresses your third point."

"The system is due to receive a thorough check and service, though unfortunately we are not allowed to put third party kit on the premises, especially as the equipment has not been through the property trials and design standards process that we use.

 I have raised the question around signs for drivers in the car park, and the team seemed happy in principle with this sensible idea. They are looking into the options and will come back to me shortly."

 

To date, no signs have been put up in the car park.

 

d)    Routing of Tesco delivery vehicles

Background

GR and Cllr TB have been pursuing the matter of large delivery vehicles not following the prescribed routes.  Vehicles are supposed the use Hale End Road and Larkshall Road.  They are supposed to avoid, in particular, Winchester Road because parking often means they get stuck and cause congestion.

 

Investigations suggest that, as part of the planning consent for the Tesco store, Tesco delivery vehicles over 30cwt GLW (Gross Laden Weight) are not supposed to use Winchester Road, but enforcement is not straightforward due to uncertainty as to the actual weight of an observed vehicle.  It might be better to have a blanket ban of all large vehicles using Winchester Road with some obvious signage.

 

Cllr TB has been discussing this with council enforcement officers and has asked them to explore the possibility of changing existing signage which says "Unsuitable for HGV" to read "NO HGVs residential street ahead".

 

GR is exploring the validity of claims that it is difficult to know the weight of a vehicle because it depends on whether it is laden or unladen.  It has been suggested that some vehicles with a certain number of wheels and axles are always over the prohibited weight even when unladen.

 

e)    Car parking changes (15 mins free, etc.)

Background

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.

 

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.  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.

 

Because of a large petition from residents, the matter went to full council.  This took place 14th July 2016 at 7.30 p.m.

 

It has now been decided to leave the current 15minutes free period unchanged.  The originally proposed change to allow free parking between 1pm and 2pm each day is still to go ahead.  New signs will be put up.  The parking restrictions are understood to apply between 10am and 4pm.

 

Final sign off of the scheme is expected this week and is expected to come into force 8th August 2016.

 

f)     Proposed development at 70 The Avenue, backing onto Castle Ave

This item relates to a proposal to demolish half a semi-detached garage and create a small house on a very constrained plot at the bottom of a garden in The Avenue.  The plot would open onto Castle Avenue.  The new house would be in a very elevated position overlooking existing properties.

 

It is understood that no decision has been taken as yet but the case officer has requested further information from the applicant.

 

Cllr Fitzgerald has told the Forum at a previous meeting that because of the sensitive nature of the proposal she has asked planning officers to refer the application to the council's planning committee if the officers are minded to approve it.

 

g)    Feedback from HE&HP Community Ward Forum Meeting (27th June)

Excellent minutes are available of this meeting.  MP will distribute these with the Forum minutes.

 

h)    Dates of next Community Ward Forum Meetings

Hale End & Highams Park

Date: Monday 12th September 2016

Time: 7pm - 9pm (Informal chat with Councillors from 6.30pm)

Venue: Thorpe Hall Primary School, 123 Hale End Road, Walthamstow, E17 4DP

Chapel End

Date: Monday 19th September 2016

Time: 7pm - 9pm

Venue: Chapel End Infant School, 3 Beresford Road, Walthamstow, E17 4LN

Hatch Lane

Date: Thursday 10th November 2016

Time: 7pm - 9pm

Venue: Longshaw Primary School, Longshaw Road, Chingford, E4 6LH

Note: Meeting will include a discussion on funding of community projects (deciding which applications can be approved).

 

9)         Action List: Review of outstanding items

Due to time pressure at the meeting, the Action List was not reviewed.  MP will review and update the list outside of the meeting based on his knowledge of progress.

 

In respect of Action A597, Cllr Tony Bell emailed MP with the following explanation he had received regarding the remodelled bus stops in Larkshall Road.  This came from the council officer concerned:

 

The Bus Stop bypass on Larkshall Road was constructed as part of an improvement scheme using S106 funding, and is not specifically part of the Mini-Holland programme. However the road does form part of the boroughs cycling network and in fact the London Cycle Network.

 

The bus stop bypass at this location allows cyclists who have travelled down Larkshall Road or the quiet route on Coolgardie Road to continue their journey southbound without having to navigate around a bus into general traffic. This is both safer for cyclists and reduces delays to bus passengers and general traffic. The fact that cyclists don't have to navigate around a bus into general traffic reduces the potential for conflict and removes a significant barrier to all cyclists, especially those who are less confident.

 

10)     Any other business

a)    Rubbish clearance in the centre of Highams Park

This relates to the ongoing problem of shops, and flats over shops (who have no external rubbish storage facilities) putting out rubbish in bags incorrectly on non-collection days.  These bags then often get broken open by foxes.

 

JB noted that at 7:15am (on 15th June) rubbish was distributed all over The Broadway.  He suggested that the street cleaners (who have to deal with it) should be provided with cameras so they can show their management the problem they have to deal with.

 

It was also noted that the footpath from The Avenue to Handsworth Avenue (via the back of the Health Centre) was a particular rubbish hotspot.

 

b)    Planning application for the Budgen site opposite Tesco.

A planning application (ref 161970) has been submitted for this site stating: "Part change of use from shop (Class A1) to business (Class B1) together with associated internal alterations".

 

Attendees did not have any immediate concerns with the proposals.

 

If you wish to view a planning application online you can use a search engine (e.g. Google) to look for "lbwf search for a planning application" to get to the LBWF search page and then enter the planning reference.

 

c)    Foxes

Some attendees noted that there seemed to be less foxes in gardens and in the street this year.  Other attendees however had seen many so the trend may be to do with the local availability of food.

 

11)     Items for next agenda

No specific items were suggested for the next meeting.

 

12)     Confirm date, time for next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Monday 12th September 2016 at 7:30pm in the Selwyn Lounge, All Saints Church, Church Avenue.

 

OS stated that he would be unable to attend that meeting.  OK volunteered to Chair the meeting in his absence and attendees thanked her for stepping in.  MP will liaise with OK at the time regarding the agenda.
 

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