Abbey Precincts Residents Association Annual General Meeting 2021 Tuesday 16 November 2021, 7.30 pm via Zoom

Minutes approved by APRA Committee

The meeting started at 7:35 after assembly from 7:20. Approximately 25 members attended the bulk of the business enacted.

Geoff Dyson (Chair) welcomed participants (a number of apologies had been received from those unable to attend, which are gratefully noted as evidence of continued interest). 26 members and guests were on-line for most of the meeting. Alluding to the opening slide Geoff commented on the success of the summer party, which good weather allowed us to hold in person despite the continued pandemic. Bishop Banks was thanked again for the use of his garden, which he has agreed to for a 2022 party on 15 July. Justin Douglas (Membership Secretary) took over as Chair for the rest of the meeting, assisted by Mike Horsley to run polls where appropriate.

Kate Buckley began committee’s reports on activities in 2021. Planning and Parking issues had been a major problem due to continued overdevelopment of Conservation Area properties, especially in Lower Dagnall Street and College Place. The flood of heavy construction vehicles and associated vans was responsible for damage to roads and pavements and unauthorised blocking of parking bays, as well as being a constant eyesore and threat to public safety. Victorian streets such College Place had suffered infrastructure damage to water, electrical supplies and sewerage. Many further works were in the pipeline. A meeting of aggrieved residents in late 2020 had led to an appeal for action to Ward Councillors. Cllr Chris Davies, who also spoke to this item, had taken this up with a Motion to Council which was referred to the Planning Policy Committee. He had established a Planning and Development Working Group. Kate had submitted comprehensive and detailed APRA reports on (1) detailed evidence for the disruption caused by continual development (to Ward Councillors in June 2021) and (2) a comprehensive documentation of the damage caused by HGV traffic in College Place (to Ward and County councillors in August 2021). Restructuring and officer illness had delayed progress and, once feedback from Officers and our MP had been received, Cllr Davies had received reports from Planning and Parking officers. Once he had the Head of Planning’s briefing note on these issues he would set up a new group meeting to concentrate on potential advances, including insistence that Planning imposed stricter conditions on application approvals, and introduction of a ‘considerate constructors’ scheme and the involvement where necessary of local MPs in changing policies. Kate noted signs of more critical assessment in a recent case, and members in the audience complimented the careful work of current development in Temperance Street, in contrast to the long-suffering abuses suffered in College Place. Finally Kate spoke about interaction with other groups, notably the Combined Residents’ Association and the City Neighbourhoods Committee – both of these offered residents a means for putting pertinent questions to SADC.

Geoff Dyson brought us up to date with renovation work on the area’s roads and pavements. A long length of blue-brick pavement In Lower Dagnall Street had been re-laid and was much safer. Unfortunately, a portion of unsuitable red-brick edging had been retained and was already breaking up. Cllr Sandy Walkington explained that this had been a mistake and that th section would soon be replaced with a harder blue brick kerb. Other pavement areas were uneven and unsafe, e.g., the east side of College and Spicer streets (Sandy agreed to inspect these once more, but his budget was restricted and had to cover the whole of South St Albans Division). Abbey Mill Lane pavement was also unsafe (where the orchard wall was collapsing, with neither the Cathedral of the District Council prepared to accept responsibility).

Robert Pankhurst had been APRA representative in the consultation on the effects of the Covid-related closure of city centre roads. The position taken was in line with the results of the APRA survey of members’ views last year, where a good response had supported the idea of pedestrianisation of both George Street and High Street, albeit with sufficient access for deliveries and emergency services – a 24% vote opposing this also had to be respected. The subsequent HCC survey of the district and a quick check with APRA members in October both confirmed this as widely desired for the future. In the consultation on whether or not to extend the scheme for an 18-month experiment, we concentrated on pointing out the most difficult down-sides, namely much longer car-based journeys to the eastern side of the city and the displacement of traffic congestion and pollution to other areas (especially Folly Lane/Catherine Street and King Harry Lane). We urged HCC to try to find effective amelioration of these problems in order to retain the best possible central environment for citizens and tourists. Cllr Sandy Walkington told us that the HCC decision was imminent, proposing a three-phase trial, but had to be ratified by SADC Public Realm Committee. He also mentioned that HCC would be receiving extra government funds to invest in bus services, which could be relevant.

Robert reported on activity of the Conservation 50 group to which he and Kate contributed as APRA representatives. The case for a Conservation Area Advisory Committee had been accepted in principle by SADC and was being developed. Both are still involved in discussions to incorporate a City Centre Vision into the new Local Plan, since the promotion of a Neighbourhood Forum/Plan has now been withdrawn. A scheme for erecting Blue Plaques to celebrate past citizens is well advanced and the first, at the College Street/Lower Dagnall Street crossroads was ready to be installed. Two potential funds would be available for APRA to propose local projects – a share of £6000 made available by the Civic Society to further its aims and up to £5000 from the District Council community fund: suggestions for projects are sought, a possibility being green space improvements.

Justin presented Accounts for the year in behalf of Andrew Yaras, showing a surplus of £281 (largely thanks to pandemic-related restrictions and the lack of an annual newsletter) thereby increasing reserves to £1400. Current membership was 113. The meeting voted (1) to accept the accounts, (2) to reappoint Claire Lawrence as Independent Examiner for 2022, (3) to increase APRA annual subscriptions to £6 for an individual and £10 for a two-person household, and (4) to make the fee-waiver for members without e-mail permanent. In a separate vote an amendment to the Constitution to revise the quorum need for committee meetings to ‘at least 50% of the elected committee’ was approved.

APRA committee members were re-elected for 2022 as follows: Geoff Dyson, Justin Douglas, Robert Pankhurst, Andrew Yaras, Kate Buckley, Norman James, and Jill Fisher. In addition two new members were elected: Paul Farnsworth and Chrissy Alford.

The meeting ended at 9:45pm

Results of Polls at AGM

OFFICIAL BUSINESS

Acceptance of the Accounts:

17 people voted out of 21 present & the results were that 16 accepted the accounts as a record of APRA’s finances with 1 abstaining and nobody voting against.

=> The accounts are accepted as above.

Independent Examiner

17 people voted out of 21 present & the results were that all 17 were happy that the Independent Examiner, Claire Lawrence, be reappointed for the 2022 year end.

=> Claire Lawrence is appointed as above.

Current Committee

19 people voted out of 22 present & the results were that all 19 were for the current Committee to be re-elected en masse.

=> The current Committee were re-elected en masse [except that one person is standing down]

New Committee Member

1A show of hands was requested for Paul Farnsworth to join the Committee.  Of the 24* people present including 5 existing Committee members 14 votes including 2 of the Committee voted for Paul Farnsworth to join the Committee. 

=> Paul Farnsworth is appointed.

2A show of hands was requested for Christine Alford to join the Committee.  Of the 24* people present including 5 existing Committee members 20 votes including 2 of the Committee voted for Chrissy Alford to join the Committee.

=> Chrissy Alford is appointed.

*1 person was known to be ineligible to vote as someone who has never yet been an APRA member, ie, no membership fee pending; this person did not vote.  Our administrative host, Mike Horsley, is excluded from the above numbers, being out of area & solely present to assist.

Membership Fees

19 people voted out of 22 present & the results were that 15 voted for the membership fees to be increased from £5 to £6 for individual membership and from £8 to £10 for joint membership; with no change to business membership of £10; nobody voted against and 4 people abstained.

=> The membership fees are increased as above with immediate effect.

Committee Quorum

20 people voted out of 22 present & the results were that 18 were for the Constitution to be amended so that Quorum of Committee meetings is achieved when 50% of the Committee are present; 1 person voted against this; 1 person abstained.

=> The Constitution shall be amended to reflect the above change in Quorum rules.

NON-OFFICIAL BUSINESS – Seeking Opinions

Restricting HGVs

Would you put your name to a petition which aims to restrict access to HGVs over 7.5t?

20 out of a 24 possible electronic votes were received as follows: 12 indicated ‘Yes – definitely’, 7 indicated ‘Possibly – need to understand more’, 0 indicated ‘No – I do not mind the current level of HGVs’, 1 indicated ‘No – I am just not a petition type of person!’

City Neighbourhoods Committee (CNC)

Which of the CNC topics matters most to you?

9 out of 11 possible electronic votes were received as follows: Waste & recycling policy – 0 votes, Planning updates for Conservation Area streets – 2 votes, Parking review of Zone B – 2 votes, Heavy & polluting vehicles – 5 votes

APRA Survey, January 2021

St Albans Road Closures and Traffic Rerouting – the Future

We are running a survey of members’ views on the current closures of George Street and High Street to enable ‘social distancing’, and what you would like to happen when these temporary measures come to an end. The results will be fed to our County and Ward councillors in the hope of informing a full consultation exercise. We earnestly request prompt responses and would welcome new members

Please read and respond to our survey here