Abbey Precincts Residents Association: Minutes of Third Annual General Meeting,
Tuesday 8 November 2016, Spicer Street Church Hall, 8.00 pm
1. Peter Trevelyan took the Chair and thanked the Church authorities for their generous hospitality. He welcomed members (more than 30 attended) and County Councillor Sandy Walkington (District Cllr Chris Davies also attended a little later). Apologies were noted from Cllr Edgar Hill, Cllr Jessica Chivers, Justin Douglas and several other members.
2. Car Parking
John Charlton and Gary Payne (SADC) were thanked for attending and John explained progress with the two-year consultation that had concluded on 11 October. The final report had been slightly revised but contained all the essential elements previously announced for the merger of Zones B, Q and E. Some 26 new parking bays had been found. The Traffic Regulation Order should be signed off by Cllr Read soon but it would take until the end of the year for full implementation due to the necessary changes of signage. A question session followed. Two recent bays in Mount Pleasant had been re-marked in error, the top end of Abbey Mill Lane was now more heavily used, and new parking areas might not have marked bays. John Hedges asked about control of parking around the School entrance. The Police had also objected to two parking bays on the opposite side of Romeland adjacent to the Abbey Gateway and they would be omitted from the TRO; our request for School-Keep Clear signs there had not been adopted, but there would be a 3 minute waiting limit. Our proposed Code of Conduct School bus operations had been ‘tweaked’ and passed to the School for approval.
3. Reports on the year’s activities and progress were presented as follows:
Accounts & Membership. Andrew Yaras presented accounts verified by Gordon Shepherd showing a current balance of £1124, which was regarded as a reasonable ‘fighting fund’. Gordon was confirmed as Examiner for 2016/17. Overdue subscriptions amounted to a further £112 for 2015/2016. Robert Pankhurst reported that about 30 new members had registered during the year, but losses meant that the total membership was only slightly up at 114.
Website & Newsletter. Robert drew attention to the website which records committee minutes and other items of interest. A four-page newsletter, distributed in August to 500 houses, was well received but had not resulted in much enlargement of the membership area.
Roads and Pavements. Geoff Dyson reported that despite last year’s relaying of uneven brick pavements in Lower Dagnall and New England streets, many others were in a poor state – apparently they are only considered ‘dangerous’ if bricks protrude by more than 2 centimetres. Mount Pleasant had finally been resurfaced, but the carriageway in College Place was seriously deformed; the stone sett gutters in College Street had still not been restored. Sandy Walkington agreed to pursue all these matters with HCC. APRA would like to be notified of problems with roads, pavements and street lighting. The community budget was still available for small projects that we were free to propose – ideas would be welcome.
Planning. Robert Pankhurst said that APRA had supported members in objecting to a planning application for a 6-house terrace in the garden of 1 Mount Pleasant, which was refused by SADC on the grounds of overdevelopment and inadequate car parking. Similar reasons might apply to the proposal to demolish the (private) garages at the cul-de-sac end of College Place and build two new semi-detached houses. Excessive infill and the loss of parking for up to 15 cars that will be dispersed into the new Zone B are factors: continuation into the future of severe disruption in the narrow street caused by inconsiderate heavy construction traffic is another. Sally Hickman raised concern over plans to redevelop Heritage Close with several new restaurants beneath residential apartments. Updates had been requested from SADC on local developments without planning permission, but none received.
Environmental. Peter read a report from Justin Douglas welcoming SADC efforts to increase recycling figures and reduce littering (the latter still depending on personal action by dedicated individuals, albeit now backed by the SADC provision of penalties if persistent litterers are identified). Pollution from vehicle fumes is a major problem but drivers with idling engines can respond to polite requests. Robert highlighted devastation in the Abbey Orchard following the firework party on November 5th – this was very efficiently cleared up by Abbey volunteers the following day, but much litter and damage was related to mobile vendors. The long-term health of Verulamium Lake was still a worry. Justin would keep members informed on environmental and wild-life matters.
Social Events. The APRA garden party, generously hosted by Bishop Banks in his garden and organised by Norman James with helpers, was rated a great success, despite the wettest day in September. Most of the members present at the AGM had attended. Robert announced a talk on the on-going geophysical archaeology of Roman Verulamium, to be given by Dr Kris Lockyear of University College, London and hosted by APRA and Fishpool Street RA for the benefit of members. This was arranged for 13 December in the Cross Street Centre.
4. The Brickyard
Peter recapped the background to APRA’s call for a Licence Review, held 11 December 2015. The owner had legal and expert representation; APRA’s case was argued by two committee members. The cross-party committee found some evidence of Public Nuisance and loss of amenity to neighbours and added a condition that the rear courtyard garden should close one hour earlier at 10 pm. Somewhat unbelievably this was then blamed by the owner for the collapse of his business in 2016, ending in closure of the bar in mid-September. This was followed by a month-long campaign against neighbours and APRA in the Herts Advertiser, supported by biased editorial comment (no journalist had attended the review hearing) and a number of uninformed immoderate letters, as well as censoring of APRA’s responses. Robert added that despite this closure an application to install further French doors into the courtyard only 2 metres from the boundary with neighbours had not been withdrawn and had come before the SADC Planning Committee 24 hours earlier (7 November 2016). Despite presenting the objection of 15 households to further enhancement of outside area usage, the application was approved. Comments at the AGM emphasized the lack of attention paid to residents’ concerns by SADC Planning and the failure to properly evaluate effects on their amenity. A vote of confidence in APRA’s handling of the Brickyard saga was passed unanimously (nem con).
5. Constitution and Committee
Peter advanced the Special Resolution that the committee considered necessary for officers, all of whom were appointed in 2013, to continue in their present roles for a further year; this was passed nem con. One valid nomination had been received and Sally Hickman was elected nem con. Committee would bring proposals to modify the Constitution to the next AGM.
Margaret Stone raised the long-standing deterioration of Abbey Orchard walls (Abbey Mill Lane and behind Orchard Street); some sympathy had been expressed by the Dean and APRA should lobby to secure repairs before total rebuilding became necessary. Sandy Walkington would take this up with SADC. Mike Hall noted the disorganised charity collection at the Fireworks display; APRA should address this to the Abbey administration.
The meeting closed at 9.40 pm