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 5th March 2018 (Approved)

 

 

Present:

Cllr Marion Fitzgerald, Cllr Tim James, John Avis, Jeff Beaton, Gordon Turpin, Roger Gillham, Catherine Saumarez, John Moss, Chris Holmes, Keith Zakrzewski, Phil McKinder, Ian Thomson, Nicolas Haines, Anne Haines, Oliver Shykles, Mike Payne, Zia Rehman, Cllr Tony Bell

Apologies:

David Jennings (HRA), Michael Shellock, Roger Torode, Steve Webb, Robert Tatam, Ros Newnham, Rosalind Doré, Cllr Sheree Rackham

 

1)         Welcomes & Introductions

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

 

2)         Matters arising from minutes of meeting 22nd January 2018

There were no matters arising.

 

3)         Action List: Review of outstanding items

The Action List was reviewed and updated (distributed separately from these minutes).

 

4)         Transport & Street Scene

Dropped curb rules

Dropped curbs (also known as "crossovers" or "vehicle crossings") are installed by the council (chargeable) by modifying the pavement to allow vehicles to cross the pavement to park on a resident's land.  The council will only install a dropped curb if it considers there to be enough room on the resident's property for parking a vehicle without it overhanging the pavement.

 

A resident emailed the Forum asking attendees to discuss the fact that LB Redbridge has more relaxed rules for drop curbs than LB Waltham Forest and to consider whether the Forum should encourage LBWF to change its rules to those of Redbridge so more residents would be able to have dropped curbs.

 

The rules for LBWF are:

"The depth of the front garden will be 4.8 metres, this can be relaxed to 4 metres. Where an applicant's front garden depth is between 4 to 4.8 metres they would have to enter into a conditional legal agreement with the

council. This agreement would be recorded on the property's title deeds so as to continue in the event of change of ownership or occupier."

 

The rules for LB Redbridge are:

"The council will only grant permission for a footway crossing when the available off road space is large enough to accommodate a vehicle, this requiring a minimum space for end on (right angles to the property) parking of 2.4m wide and minimum depth of 3.6m deep and for parallel parking a minimum space requirement of 5.5m wide by 2.4m deep.  In all cases the space should be sufficient such that the vehicle to be parked in the space does not overhang the public footway as this would result in enforcement action...  ...The agreement will be registered as a local land charge in the miscellaneous section of the Local Land Charges Register for the relevant property."

 

Discussion on the subject was quite muted with attendees seeing pros and cons of the issue.  Some of the points made were:

·         Although it looks like this might make more parking available, in practice this might not be the case; one attendee thought that Redbridge did not allow parking across a dropped curb, even by the resident.

·         There was concern about the paving over of front gardens and the impact on the environment and water runoff.

·         3.6m depth seemed very small since even small family cars exceed 4m.

·         One attendee thought that LBWF might be looking to make the requirements more onerous (rather than less) and that the Forum's intervention might not be welcomed by residents if it triggered such a change.

 

As a result, it was agreed the Forum should not seek a change to current regulations.

 

5)         Analysing crime figures

OS reported that a couple of pages had recently appeared on Facebook focusing on crime "awareness" in the area.  He was concerned that whilst the motives of the individuals may be well meaning, the discussions can turn into "group scaremongering" which creates a culture of fear which is not justified.  Attendees noted that crime levels in our area are consistently half the London average and people have a reason to feel safe, not nervous.

 

Attendees felt that residents interested in crime matters might find it beneficial to get involved with the Police "ward panels".  These meet regularly to discuss trends with the local Police teams and to assign priorities.  This is likely to be a more satisfying course of action, leading to practical resolutions which won't necessarily be achieved by writing on Facebook.

 

6)         Planting of street trees

At previous meetings, concern has been expressed about the number of street trees being felled.  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.  The Forum had been advised that a major planting programme was scheduled for the beginning of 2018.

 

Attendees were pleased to report significant progress in many roads:

·         OS counted 10 new trees in Coolgardie Avenue

·         KS reported new trees in Larkshall Crescent

·         JB reported new trees in Evanston Avenue

 

Cllr Moss noted that it is council policy for replacing every tree felled with two new trees (though not necessarily in the same plot or location).  CS pointed out that although it seemed logical not to plant a new tree in a plot harbouring a disease, sometimes the disease is very specific to one tree variety and another variety could be planted without fear of infection.

 

Although replacement of recently felled trees was supposed to be an automatic process, this may not be the case for trees that were felled some years ago where records may not have been kept.  For these, some lobbying may be required.  GT advised that the Highams Park Planning Group (HPPG) was conducting a survey of residents to document these historic lost trees so they can be replaced.

 

7)         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)    The application to redevelop The Old Regal Cinema site.  (application id 173877)

Revised plans have now been submitted (19th February) under the same application id.  The planning application is scheduled to go before Planning Committee on 20th March as the only item on the agenda.  The key changes from the previous plans are:

 

·         Slight reduction in the number of residential units (30 rather than 34)

·         No basement level created

·         2 cinema screens rather than 3

·         The cinema screens to be on the ground floor rather than basement

·         The large ground floor bar/restaurant replaced by a smaller café/bar

·         Some small set back of upper levels to reduce overshadowing adjacent properties.

·         New cinema operator (Rio rather than Curzon).

·         The development remains approximately the same height and external appearance

·         The development remains without car parking facilities or affordable housing

 

When looking at the plans, counting the number of floors/storeys can be confusing since the top two floors are now "duplex properties" (i.e. over two floors); since reference is made to the floor bearing their entrance, the presence of their upper floor can sometimes not be obvious in the documents.

 

Attendees noted that the smaller bar/café area would be better for local premises offering similar facilities.

 

Attendees who had looked at the Rio model for running the cinema thought that their community focus would work well in Highams Park.  In their model, residents play an active part in running the cinema and agreeing the schedules for what plays there and what events take place.  For example, the web page for their existing cinema in Hackney states: "The Rio has a Board of Directors who are a group of local people elected each year to help set our policy and oversee the running of the cinema and charity".

 

Cllr Moss expressed some reservations that he had not seen a detailed business plan from Rio and would have liked to have seen some evidence of long term financial viability.  Since there have been some sacrifices in the design to allow for the inclusion of the cinema, he was anxious to see some conditions in any planning approval to assist in this viability.  For example, perhaps restrict the sale of a proportion of the residential units until the cinema was fitted out to ensure this work was given sufficient priority and budget.

 

b)    Fairview Homes proposals for the Naseberry Court site (2, Merriam Close, E4 9JQ)

In November 2016 outline plans were submitted for this site (original application id 163572) seeking outline planning permission.  This proposal was for 48 residential units.  Although a new application has not yet been formally submitted it is known that the developer is commencing some consultations of residents regarding a significantly different proposal.  One attendee said he understood the proposal would be for 116 residential units.

 

The developer is currently seeking the views of councillors and community groups prior to a full public consultation.

 

c)    Older applications still outstanding with no apparent movement

For the three applications below, no decision has been recorded and they are not on the agenda for the next planning committee (6th March 2018):

                         i.     Planning ref 172438: 19-21 The Avenue.  Change of use: 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.

 

At previous meetings 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.

 

                        ii.    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.

 

                       iii.    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.

 

8)         Brief Updates:

a)    HP Plan update

Gordon Turpin, chair of the Highams Park Planning Group (HPPG), gave a brief summary of the activities of the group.

 

The Highams Park Plan has been recently sent out 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 late March or early April 2018.  History boards are being created for the inside to tell the varied history of the building.

 

A large number of events are being planned for the whole of 2018 by HPPG members.  Details can be found on the Forum's What's On page here: http://www.highamsparkforum.co.uk/whatson.html

 

The installation of external decorative lighting for shops in the town centre has continued, ensuring continuous blocks with no gaps.  These have also been put on automatic timers so they all operate to the same schedule.

 

Forestry works ("snedding") continues around the lake with volunteers targeting different areas in need of attention with help and guidance from the Corporation of the City of London (who are responsible for the lake and its surrounds).  Some volunteers are receiving formal training on the use of motorised brush cutting machinery.  This will speed up ongoing maintenance tasks significantly.  Currently such tasks are very labour intensive.

 

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

 

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

Background: 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 the delay, wondering whether this might be a bad sign for our library in Highams Park (despite earlier assurances).  When made aware of these concerns Councillor Ahsan Khan (cabinet member for Libraries, Arts and Culture) 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."

 

Since the statement some further details have emerged as to new services and facilities planned for the library.  These include:

·         Installation of a remote entry system which will make out of hours use more practical

·         Lending of musical instruments

·         Online room booking

·         Regular newsletter and email distribution list (to users and staff)

 

Attendees were very pleased by the proposals and assurances.  They felt things were definitely moving in the right direction but some were still puzzled by the delay in the publication of the report and remained keen to see it published so they could see the grand plan for libraries in full context.

 

HPPG is organising a new permanent notice board to stand near the pavement outside the library to advertise events.  A ward forum grant has been given to facilitate this but officers have also found additional funding to assist.  It will be installed shortly.

 

The working party of residents and library staff continues to meet regularly.

 

Attendees were encouraged by the joining together of "libraries" with "Arts & Culture" in the cabinet member's portfolio.  This gives the library buildings a higher profile as cultural centres which may well lead to additional funding sources and greater usage.

 

c)    Chingford Lane crossing point

This is an initiative sought by The Forum and other groups over several years to create an informal crossing point across Chingford Lane near to the junction with The Avenue.  This will join two forest paths which are regularly used by walkers and cyclists and was included in the Mini Holland projects.

 

Cllr Fitzgerald has now received notification from council officers that the installation of this crossing point will take place very soon.  The timetable quoted at the beginning of February was "1-2 months".

 

d)    Remodelling the Handsworth Ave / Hale End Road Junction

As part of the Mini Holland proposals, significant changes were proposed to the junctions where Handsworth Avenue and Beech Hall Road join Hale End Road.  The proposals were not popular with residents and officers put the proposals on hold while they considered alternatives.

 

Cllr Fitzgerald reported that the proposals are now on hold until the next financial year.  In the meantime, it is understood that officers are examining some new options for the junctions.  These are said to include widened pavements and more "stop & shop" parking spaces.

 

e)    LBWF Borough of culture

It has just been announced that the London Borough of Waltham Forest has won its bid to be the first "London Borough of Culture" in 2019.  This will attract £1.35 million of direct funding to the borough but some parties feel that the beneficial knock on effects could increase the benefit to as much as £5m.

 

f)     WF Spring Clean Events postponed

It has been advised that the borough wide spring clean events involving residents have been postponed due to the bad weather.  They were originally scheduled for 2nd, 3rd, 4th March.

 

g)    Air Quality Diffusion tube at level crossing

Forum action item A623 is to argue for an air quality sampling station at the level crossing.  MP advised that he had seen a map of monitoring points in the borough and Highams Park level crossing was already shown as the location for a "Diffusion Tube".  The map can be viewed by clicking this link:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yvZzJDFpLjROsdSHfiDo_6PVp--7waa4/view

 

Some attendees expressed a desire to find the device to confirm its location.

 

h)    Making Places: Latest on proposed projects & concerns over the HE&HP Ward project

The Making Places scheme has been 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 following 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 has been working with local residents to approve the designs for the gates.  This has now been agreed and details can be seen on the "projects" page of the Making Places website (see link above).

 

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. This proposal has been well received but some residents close to the site have recently expressed some concerns about possible antisocial behaviour.  Attendees hoped that the design could take account of this through proper lighting and CCTV coverage.

 

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

Background: 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.

 

The results will be announced in Waltham Forest News which is to be published 6th March and until that time councillors had been asked not to reveal the successful projects.

 

Following the meeting, the results were indeed revealed and can be seen by clicking the link below: bit.ly/WF_ParksImprovement2018

 

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

·         Chapel End

Date: Wednesday 14th March 2018

Time: 7.00pm - 9.00pm

Venue: Town Hall, Forest Road, Committee Room 2/2a

 

Cllr Fitzgerald reported that progress on agreeing a replacement for Community Ward Forums (the "Engagement Strategy") has been slow but a consensus seems to be emerging.  Although this remains "work in progress", it looks likely that the Community Ward Forums as they are currently organised will be discontinued but that the ward councillors will be provided funding to allow them to arrange public ward meetings on subjects of specific interest to residents in their ward.  It has been noted in the past that such meetings attract far greater participation from residents than the more general Ward Forum meetings.

 

9)         Any other business

a)    Slight confusion of residents for venue of Hatch Lane Community Ward Forum

The recent meeting of the Hatch Lane Community Ward Forum (27th February) took place in All Saints Church in Church Avenue.  The site contains three venues (the church, the church hall, and the Selwyn Lounge) and potential attendees can easily arrive at the wrong venue unless they read the invitation carefully.  The church itself is increasingly being made available for secular activities and this may not be expected by attendees.  Two residents admitted to being uncertain as to the exact location of the Ward Forum meeting even though (with the benefit of hindsight) the documentation provided was clear.  Perhaps the wording of invitations to future events at this location could warn of the scope for confusion.

 

b)    Forum email problems

MP explained that recently, emails sent to the residents on the Forum's email distribution list have been incorrectly marked as "spam" by some receiving email providers (notably Virgin Media).  This can cause the emails to be directed to the receiver's "spam" folder, where they can be overlooked because they do not appear in the inbox.  MP asked that if any receivers find this happening to them, will they please click on the problem message and specifically choose (in the menus) to mark the message as "Not Spam".  This will eventually train the email system that the messages are OK and will benefit other receiver's since their messages will then not be incorrectly marked either.

 

c)    Anti-idling Initiative

Cllr Bell advised attendees that the council is running an Anti-idling Initiative to try to improve air quality in the borough, particularly around schools.  There will be an action day in Highams Park on Wednesday 7th March focusing on the schools in Handsworth Avenue, and at the level crossing.  The Council is looking for volunteers to assist its team.

 

On the day volunteers will receive training on how to approach people and the information to give them to encourage them to turn their engines off when stationary and idling their engines.  The action will be supported by council staff.  Training will be provided between 1:30 pm & 2:30 pm in Hale End Library.  Immediately after the training the available volunteers will join the Council team at the target locations to speak to the motorists and pedestrians between 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm when the action day finishes.

 

10)     Items for next agenda

No items for the next agenda were put forward.

 

11)     Confirm date, time for next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Monday 23rd April 2018 at 7:30pm in the Selwyn Lounge, All Saints Church, Church Avenue.
 

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