First Annual General Meeting, 18 November 2014

Minutes of First Annual General Meeting, held at 8 pm on Tuesday 18 November 2014 in the Church Hall, Spicer Street Church, St Albans.

1. 37 persons attended. Peter Trevelyan took the Chair. He welcomed members and thanked Greg Strain and his assistants for their hospitality, which included tea, coffee and biscuits from 7.30 pm

2. Short reports on the year’s activities were presented as follows:

Robert Pankhurst reported that 126 members had registered during the year (35 individuals, 43 joint households and 10 commercial members) of whom 5 did not have e-mail and unfortunately might therefore have missed out on some of the interim information. The website had been fully functional for over six months, thanks to Catherine Soave, and had been well received. One paper newsletter had been assembled and printed by Martin Treasure and was hand-delivered in April; a second one was now overdue.

John Hedges reported the recent history of the School bus campaign. The ‘Romeland roundabout’ scheme had been abandoned and a consultative committee (SACTAF) had received representations and recommended stricter control of the coach bays in Romeland Hill. APRA is continuing to apply pressure to the Council Chief Executive to broaden the scope of the very narrow resulting Safety Audit to include all aspects of public safety. Representatives of the Combined Residents Association had met with the new Head of St Albans School and a friendly dialogue thus established, but no positive action was likely at present other than an offer to help with problems with bus drivers.

Gillian Field spoke on the issues of car parking, and added that until the regulatory order is applied, wardens still had no power to penalise individuals using the coach bays in the afternoon pick-up period. Pressure from residents over the long-term loss of parking bays, especially in Zone B (and still unfulfilled promises to replace them) had led to the Council’s recent car parking survey and questionnaire. More than 800 replies had been submitted and it was unlikely that the results would be announced before January. A question from the floor requested clarification on the apparently recently applied enforcement of no-parking on double yellow lines on Sundays.

Geoff Dyson reported on issues of roads and pavements. The long-standing but recently more active water leak in Romeland was finally being investigated by Affinity who claimed to have found a significant leak near the Spicer St – George St junction. Clearing of the drain in Romeland might help to channel water away from the road where freezing would create a major hazard. Repair of the brick pavements was slow (Romeland could not be started until the water leak had been dealt with, other streets were now scheduled for the second quarter of 2015, and there was no timetable for the promised repair of the College St gutters damaged during re-surfacing). The damage to roads and kerbs by heavy traffic was raised, although it was not easy to apportion blame, for example between buses and refuse-collection vehicles. George St had been resurfaced.

Robert Pankhurst summarised two long-standing planning issues. The Nationwide House conversion to flats was complete and we would welcome residents into APRA. The proposal for the double-stacking mechanical car park at the rear, had been withdrawn. We complained to SADC Trees and Woodlands over the excessive lopping of a privately-owned tree at the rear of the building, in particular the fact that the developers had falsely claimed ownership on the application form – SADC said that a ‘warning letter’ would be sent and that they would in future point up issues of responsibility for ownership in their approval letters.

The redevelopment of The Brickyard (aka The Spotted Bull) public house in Verulam Road was ongoing. Planning permission for the side and additional rear extensions had eventually been refused, but only after building had been completed, resulting in an Enforcement Notice for their removal. The owner has appealed to HM Planning Inspectorate who will hold a hearing on 2 December. Meanwhile fitting out had been completed; a licence hearing in September had endorsed APRA’s objections on the ground of public nuisance due to the full width rear doors opening onto the now totally paved rear garden adjacent to College Street houses and refused a licence, but a second hearing in November following a ‘trial’ weekend opening had granted it. No account has been taken of noise generated in the funnel-like garden area and we would have to monitor disturbance rigorously in the spring and summer to come. (Edgar Hill pointed out that a licence review was due on The White Swan in Upper Dagnall for playing loud music with the doors open.)

Justin Douglas spoke on environmental issues – SADC are open to views on the need for mixed recycling, for example – and pointed out how we could all set an example to engender more respect for cleanliness and appearance in the Conservation Area. The eyesore of ugly recycling boxes could be reduced in some cases by neighbours sharing. Pollution (especially due to car exhaust fumes) was a major problem in St Albans (second only to London) and wardens were now authorised to issues penalty notices to drivers who kept engines running unnecessarily while parked. An offer from the charity Groundworks to visit houses wishing to save water was noted and an example was favourably reported on (contact details will be posted on the APRA website).

3. Accounts

Andrew Yaras said that the APRA accounts for 2013/14, verified by the Independent Examiner, showed an expenditure of £187 (room hire, stationary and webhosting) and a balance of £400. The meeting voted to approve the accounts nem. con.

4. Election of Committee

Three members of the APRA committee had stood down (Beth Hall, Michael Ormiston and Martin Treasure), but no new nominations had been received. As this was our first AGM, Peter proposed that the meeting should elect the existing committee established at the inaugural meeting to serve for the next three years as per the Constitution. This would leave three vacancies that could be filled by co-option if necessary until the next AGM. The meeting voted in favour nem. con.

5. Appointment of Examiner for next year

Gordon Shepherd was reappointed nem. con.

6. Presentation on behalf of Transition Streets St Albans

Catherine Ross gave a stimulating presentation on behalf of the organization Transition Streets. This is fully funded locally and so free to enter. Groups of, say, 6-10 neighbours could register; they would receive an information pack and would be committed to meeting 7 times over approximately 6 months to share ideas for joint action to save energy and reduce their carbon footprint. Individuals with no neighbour group could also register with the scheme. The meeting broke up into small groups to compare what they might do, which proved to be very interesting. More information and contacts will be made available via the APRA website.

7. A.O.B.

Edgar Hill reported on a recent meeting at the Police Priority Sessions. There is a Community Drive-Safe Scheme, with equipment and training available for monitoring traffic speed, and Verulam Road has been selected as a trial priority street. John Hedges reminded us that very few days remained for comments on SADC draft Strategic Plan, which can be made online. Geoff Dyson invited ideas for small-scale projects to improve our street-scene for submission to the City Neighbourhoods Committee funding scheme.

Peter thanked attendees and the committee for their work and the meeting closed at 9.55 pm