Minutes of 27th APRA Committee Meeting, 26 March 2019

Abbey Precincts Residents Association

Minutes of 27th APRA Committee Meeting, 26 March 2019, 8.00 pm, 9 College Street

1. Present: Geoff Dyson (Chair), Robert Pankhurst, Andrew Yaras, Norman James, Kate Buckley. Apologies: Peter Trevelyan, Justin Douglas

2. Minutes of the last committee meeting were approved.

3. Points arising:

  • KB raised the issue of the letter to residents about waste disposal provided by Jane Parker (SADC). Although this can be seen as setting out Council policy, it is not publicly available and it is not APRA’s role to reproduce and deliver it. Perhaps we should ask if it could be put on our website [KB]. There were now several instances of poor collection practice leaving waste on the streets and pavements. Members should be asked for their experiences before presenting a case to Council for enforcement of the contract, details of which could also be sought via FOI [RP].
  • It was unlikely that APRA funds could supply a significant contribution to lamppost repainting costs as queried by Sandy Walkington. We should ask again now that a new HCC Locality budget might be available, but it would be hard to set a priority between this and the dangerous state of some brick pavements [RP]. GD would ask Cllr Brewster and St Albans BID about the repainting of lampposts in St Peters Street.

. 4. Planning:

  • The Appeal against refusal of a garage conversion in Bowes Lyon Mews and the Application to advance shop fronts in Heritage Close were both ongoing. The Application for roof-mounted air conditioners in College Yard had been approved with a conditional noise test – we should monitor noise.
  • A number of meetings had been held by SADC to look at the conduct of the 2018 Christmas market, including a Scrutiny Committee on 7 March. Majority opinion was in line with the APRA submission that future markets should be held in the city centre, probably for a shorter period.
  • Residents had individually expressed concerns over other public events being planned for Verulamium Park, such as Pub in the Park in September, particularly with regard to preserving the park environment and the lack of meaningful advance consultation. Procedure suggested by SADC for future events seemed to depend on Ward Councillors reporting plans at a stage when they would be difficult to reject. We need to be alert to developments; one of our members was particularly active in this enquiry and was strongly supported by committee.
  • Candidates for the vacant Ward Councillor spot should be canvassed, particularly asking whether they prioritised commercial exploitation of the Park or preservation of the peaceful green environment as these two schools of thought seemed to be incompatible [RP].
  • Unauthorised developments were common in the Conservation Area and should be reported to SADC and followed up, especially those that affected the public street-scene.
  • The ex-Secretary of Verulam Road RA reported that the Community Asset designation of Mitchell Hall had expired and since it was no longer in use it was likely that RBL would look to sell the site for development. (Unfortunately no members of the now defunct VRRA had yet joined APRA).

5. Trees:

  • Kate Bretherton’s talk to members in November was highly appreciated and chimed with a number of current initiatives to promote the value of trees to the city centre environment (e.g., Civic Society, City Neighbourhoods Committee, Green party, government funding). We should encourage members, e.g., by asking for help in identify spaces for new tree planting (this could also be part of the Conservation 50 primary schools competition). NJ noted the advantages of trees and shrubs for screening schools. [KB, RP].
  • Unfortunately efforts by APRA, Aboyne RA and St Peters Ward Councillor Jacqui Taylor to limit and hold to account the felling of numerous trees in the grounds of Verulam House had met with denial and dismissal.

6. Summer Social Event

  • NJ had negotiated a further drinks event in the garden at Parkside House for Friday 21 June. We decided that 6–8 pm would be the optimum timing if suitable to Bishop Banks [NJ].

7. Membership:

  • JD (not present) had reported paid-up membership was now back to about 70 and a further round of targeting was due [JD].
  • Last AGM recruitment drive had produced new members in new locations, but we needed to do more to keep existing members. Offers of help with door-knocking and subscription collection should be accepted. Standing Orders could help to prevent the annual dip from November and a request for this should be incorporated into a 2019 newsletter [RP].

8. Conservation 50:

  • Some APRA committee members were closely involved in planned events to mark the 50th anniversary of St Albans Conservation Area. This should be good exposure for APRA and we could play a role in getting members to attend (and maybe help).

9. St Albans School buses:

  • A resident in Fishpool Street had privately commissioned a safety audit of current school bus operations to which some in SADC were reportedly sympathetic. Significant hazards to pupils and the public related to the drop-off and pick-up area in Romeland Hill and safer options had been identified in High Street and Chequer Street (at least for the morning drop-off phase). As with previous APRA attempts in this regard, neither HCC nor the School was prepared to act on this.
  • Another line of objection to the use of over-size buses and coaches is the air pollution related to the scale of operation in our small and confined streets. Engines are not always switched off while waiting and the cumulative effect is significant; private cars are often worse offenders. We should write to the School and to the bus operator to emphasise this problem [GD].

10. AOB
A summer Newsletter was needed highlighting some of these issues, ideally before the Summer social evening. RP would draft a layout, but would appreciate copy from others.

13. Next meeting: Tuesday 21 May

The meeting closed at 10.40 pm