2019 Annual General Meeting

Abbey Precincts Residents Association: Minutes of Seventh Annual General Meeting,
Tuesday 12 November 2019, Spicer Street Church Hall, 8.00 pm

Peter Trevelyan took the Chair and opened the meeting. He thanked Pastor Greg Strain for use of the hall and providing refreshments. Guests were welcomed and apologies noted.

1. Invited talk from Police Safer Neighbourhoods team. PCSOs Matthew Bennett and Chris Stokes said that they appreciated getting to know residents at such meetings and gave up-to-date summaries on extra patrols being carried out following the spate of vehicle crime in the area during the summer, as well as local drug-dealing and burglaries (neither of which has been very significant here). They provided contact e-mails and reminded us of the live incident phone number (101 – obtain reference No., inform SNT or Matthew, use 999 for genuine emergencies only). Participation in OWL (Online Watch Link) was recommended and information on joining was provided (also available from Secretary).

2. Invited talk from St Albans Aircraft Noise Defence (STAND). Paul Barnes spoke about the significance of Luton Airport’s expansion plans, driven by desire for financial growth. NB Luton Borough Council is the beneficial owner, who also processes the required planning permission!! Doubling capacity as planned would severely affect the intensity and spread of both noise and pollution over St Albans. Complaints were an essential means of opposing this, as were membership of STAND and delegating authority to make complaints (details of how to participate were circulated).

3. Review of APRA activities during the year:

Robert Pankhurst (Secretary) said that the 2019 Newsletter (700 copies distributed last week) summarised most of what had happened during the year.

Planning application for six houses at 1 Mount Pleasant had been withdrawn, but there was a new one for a large house with separate garage and swimming pool buildings. Decontamination of the College Place garage site had still not been verified. Yet a further application for garage conversion in Bowes Lyon Mews had appeared after unsuccessful appeal and refusal of a Certificate of Lawfulness. Despite objections from APRA, Heritage Close residents and the Civic Society, SADC had approved the extension of shop premises in one corner of Heritage Close into the covered courtyard, hence ruining the coherence of the locally listed design, and showing the lack of an intelligent vision for Conservation in the city centre.

SADC seemed to have accepted the unsuitability of the Westminster Lodge water meadow for large-scale public events (2019 Christmas events would be held in the city centre as we had advocated). Pub-in-the-Park took place at the St Michael’s end of the park for three days in September and was claimed by both organisers and SADC as a great success, likely to be repeated in 2020. APRA residents did not seem to have been badly affected. Cllr Chris Davies was due to hold a round-up meeting but this was now delayed by General Election business. The Verulamium Park Forum was now the main body to oversee events and would be led by Cllr Stephen Barrett (next meeting tba).

Geoff Dyson reported the almost imperceptible progress with restoration of the blue brick pavements, kerbs and gutters. Minor DIY repairs had saved the iron railings outside the Romeland cottages from further destruction: this seemed better than allowing things to fall apart. Repainting the ‘STOP’ signage on College Street had not yet been carried out, nor resurfacing of Temperance Street and College Place.

The available HCC budget was also insufficient to allow repainting/replacement of more than a couple of heritage lampposts (costed by Ringway at ca. £2000 each), but we would continue to press for a cheaper solution to halt their decay and corrosion.

Conservation 50, in which several APRA members were active, had held very successful events during the summer and was continuing with the purpose of setting up a blue plaque scheme and exploring the possibility of a Conservation Area Advisory Committee to work with residents, businesses and SADC Planning department. [The meeting was asked for and approved nem.con. a further £100 donation from APRA reserves].

Trees were the big environmental topic of the year, and the APRA talk in February was given by Kate Bretherton (“The Remarkable Trees of St Albans”); it was enthusiastically received. Unfortunately we still seemed to be losing our urban trees at an alarming rate through building development. Residents with gardens could help by more planting. A Midsummer party in the Bishop of Richborough’s garden was again held and much enjoyed. A fund-raising raffle was suggested for future events.

4. Questionnaire.  A questionnaire had been included in the Newsletter and will also be posted on the website. It was designed so that members could make their views on the most important issues affecting their local environment: this is especially important for the committee to judge priorities for APRA activities in 2020. Members were asked to return completed forms to the Secretary as soon as possible.

5. Membership. Justin Douglas reported that current membership (just over 100) had fallen from the high point of 2018 and required a fresh round of encouragement by telephone. Wherever possible members should pay by Standing Order to avoid the sudden dip in numbers at this time of year.

6. Financial Accounts. Andrew Yaras presented the APRA Accounts for 2018/2019 (with some difficulty due to problems with the screen display! They will be posted on the website). Subscriptions were down by ca. £170 but so were expenses, largely due to the Newsletter costs which will now fall in 2019/2020. A surplus of £30 for the year meant the reserve balance was now £1339). Gordon Shepherd was thanked for his stint as Independent Examiner and Claire Lawrence was appointed to take over for the current year.

7. St Albans School Buses. Kevin Keenan was invited to explain the background to the campaign for St Albans School buses to use alternative drop-off and pick-up locations as recommended in the private safety audit that he had commissioned, rather than Romeland Hill,. The recent one-day closure of Fishpool Street had in fact obliged the School to do this. The School authorities claimed that this proved their unsuitability as also claimed in their own recent assessment of bus operations. On the other hand, given the total lack of preparedness for this emergency, we felt that the alternatives were justified by this experience. The meeting expressed unanimous support for the campaign to relieve the Conservation Area of unsuitable traffic, but hoped that this could still be achieved through continued negotiation with the School and SADC.

8. Committee. One new nomination had been received. With none forthcoming from the floor Ralph Parry was elected and welcomed to the committee. The existing committee (Peter Trevelyan, Geoff Dyson, Robert Pankhurst, Andrew Yaras, Justin Douglas, Norman James and Kate Buckley) was re-elected en masse nem. con.

Peter thanked the Secretary and the rest of the committee for their hard work for APRA.

There being no other business the meeting was closed at 9.45 pm.