Present:

  • John Hayward (Chair and Host)
  • Gordon Gillies
  • Hilary Jackson
  • Cllr Stephen Barnes Andrews
  • A local resident
  • Chris Jackson
  • T Jacobs (Minutes)
  • Rosy Maguire
  • Barbara Matcham
  • Sue Swallow

Apologies:

  • Phine Dahle
  • Barbro Fitzjohn
  • Andy Haslehurst

1. Introduction

John opened the meeting by welcoming the attendees. The apologies were given. He announced that he had invited Cllr Stephen Barnes-Andrews to the meeting to discuss the council’s latest budget situation.

2. The Council’s Financial Situation

2.1 Cuts in the central government grant

Cllr Barnes-Andrews set out the situation with regard to the council’s budget. The council’s turnover is about £600 million each year. Cuts to local government funding by the current Tory / Liberal coalition have necessitated reductions of £57M in the last three years, with cuts of a further £60M in the next three. After the statutory services have been paid for, there is little left over for other services that the council may wish to provide.

2.2 Consultation

The council has consulted the public about how potential cuts to services might be managed and the messages that came back were:

  • There should be no service reductions;
  • Children should be kept safe;
  • The roads and pavements should be maintained properly;
  • There should be inward economic investment.

2.3 The pressure points

Cllr Barnes-Andres summed up the three main pressure points in the city:

  • There are no manufacturing jobs in Southampton so the city as a whole has a very low average wage;
  • Children’s safeguarding presents many challenges and there are over 10,000 children in the city living in poverty;
  • The environment suffers because of poor roads, and very high numbers of students result in a disproportionate number of HMOs with a knock-on impact on parking and poor accommodation.

2.4 The challenges

Cllr Barnes-Andrews set out the council’s current challenges:

  • Reducing the number of libraries based on book usage, and exploring ways of transferring the assets to the community (know as community asset transfer);
  • Joining Public Health with the NHS so that an holistic approach to care can be pursued;
  • Encouraging local groups (such as residents’ associations) to take responsibility for their own areas with support from the council where appropriate;
  • Becoming a commissioner of services (ie: buying them from the private sector) rather than a direct provider of services;
  • Working more efficiently by cutting the number of buildings the council occupies but utilising the ones that remain to the full eg: combining libraries and local housing offices in the same building.

2.5 New developments

Cllr Barnes-Andrews detailed some new developments in the city which should bring more jobs and promote economic prosperity:

  • A developer has been appointed for The Royal Pier, where it is planned to build out into the estuary and provide a permanent home for the Boat Show;
  • Redevelopment of the old Town depot and Waterfront;
  • Development of the new Arts Complex in Guildhall Square.

2.6 Questions

Cllr Barnes-Andrews was asked:

  • How money can be saved if services are bought from the private sector. He responded that services from the private sector are likely to be cheaper because the council does not have to pay for the overheads eg: building maintenance.
  • What help can be provided to Residents’ Associations such as our own. He responded that he is seeking a larger pool of community funds so that RAs can bid for grants.
  • How the environmental impact of a dense HMO population can be mitigated now that street cleaning and sweeping by the council has been dramatically cut. He responded that a local landlord has offered to discuss ways in which he can put something back into the community

John thanked Cllr Barnes-Andrews for attending and invited him to stay for the remainder of the meeting.

3. Venues for future general and committee meetings

3.1 Venues for Committee meetings

Committee meetings take place in Committee Members homes and were agreed as follows:

  • 3rd June to be hosted by Barbara Matcham
  • 15th September to be hosted by Chris Jackson
  • 16th December to be hosted by Sue Swallow

3.2 Change of Committee meeting date

John reported that he is unable to make the original 15th December meeting and asked for it to be moved to Tuesday 16th December.
Action: T to amend the front page and Events diary entries; all Committee members to note

3.3 Venues for Ordinary General Meetings

John reported that he and Maggie O’Connor had been in touch with the church on the Avenue; they had good facilities but there may be a charge for the hire of any rooms. Hilary reported that because she is a school governor at Bevois Town School, she can become a key holder. It was agreed that all Ordinary General Meetings would be held at the school.
Action: T to amend the front page; all to note

4. Planning Issues

4.1 Planning appeal

There are three houses in the OARA area that we are currently aware of that are not properly authorised to operate as HMOs. One is the subject of a planning enforcement appeal that will be heard later on in the year.
A representative of those affected by the enforcement appeal explained the current situation:

  • The enforcement appeal documents are online and can be accessed via the SCC planning portal;
  • Anyone who wants to respond to the enforcement appeal must do so by 24th March 2014;
  • Evidence given at the appeal will not be under oath unless a decision is made to turn the appeal into a public inquiry;
  • Residents who have already given evidence to SCC have to give their permission for that evidence to be used and, where appropriate, made public by 24th March;
  • Evidence of occupation by the SCC deadline of 23rd March 2012 must be proved by the landlord to overturn the enforcement notice.

4.1.1 Actions agreed

  • Cllr Barnes-Andrews will contact the Head of Legal Services at the council to find out what the legal position is currently
  • Cllr Barnes-Andrews will provide details of potential planning specialist solicitors
    OARA will make a separate statement on this matter which will be co-ordinated by interested parties
  • OARA will make a separate statement on this matter which will be co-ordinated by interested parties

4.2 HMO licensing

Sue reported that she had attended the latest Residents’ Planning meeting. All HMO properties have be registered by July 2014 otherwise they will be in breach of the regulations.

Registration for HMO licensing has been very slow with only about a third of properties being registered so far. One of the major problems is establishing whether a property is an HMO or not. The council will now take evidence from Residents’ Associations to identify HMOs. We agreed that we would revisit the HMO spreadsheet that was developed earlier.
Action: Gordon and Sue to co-ordinate the updating of the spreadsheet

4.3 Permitted development

Sue reported that landlords now have permitted development to extend their properties; this means that they don’t have to submit a formal planning application and only have to consult with the immediate neighbours. The result is that some of these developments go under our radar as Sue is not formally notified of them by the council.

4.4 New student accommodation on the corner of Rose Road and Lodge Road

T reported that she had been made aware of a proposed development for student accommodation on the corner of Rose Road and Lodge Road which would be between two and six storeys high with associated accommodation for 97 students. One of our residents is going to challenge the application and we agreed that OARA Committee Members would also challenge it.
Action: Committee members

For reference, the planning application can be viewed here:
https://planningpublicaccess.southampton.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=N1709EOZ43000

5. Moving things forward

John set out his ideas for moving forward the work of OARA:

  • Making contact with the landlords, possibly through the landlords forum;
  • Working more closely with Avenue St Andrews Church for their national litter pick;
  • Making contact with EU Welcome, an organisation that works with the Polish community.

We agreed that we would ask the residents at the next Ordinary General Meeting on 1st April what they would like us to focus on. Lynn Murphy, an ex-Committee member, had been very helpful in leading such discussions in past years and Gordon agreed to liaise with her in this respect.
Action: Gordon to contact Lynn

6. Street Cleaning

6.1 Support for street cleans

Barbara reported that we have fluctuating support at the regular street cleans; sometimes ten people turn up to help, at others only three.

One concern is a large HMO on the corner of Alma Road and Earls Road. They have insufficient bins to accommodate their rubbish and recycling and much of it blows into the street. John agreed to contact Jason Evans at the council to obtain larger commercial bins for the property.
Action: John to contact Jason Evans

6.2 Street-cleaning sub-group

Gordon informed the meeting that a small sub-group, comprising himself, Hilary and Barbara, has been set up. Gordon distributed a spreadsheet that captures all of the issues and the actions required to address them. The spreadsheet is sub-divided into topic areas:

  • Organisational issues eg: encouraging residents to look after their section of street;
  • Issues with bins eg: contamination of recycling bins;
  • Street problems eg: reduction in council sweeping resulting in blocked gutters;
  • Communication / provision eg: not all residents are aware of or care about bin issues.

Hilary stated that Jon Dyer-Slade, Head of City Services, has agreed to fund some follow-up leaflets for street cleans which the group have devised. We agreed that the leaflets were excellent, both in content and the aim of telling residents what we have done. However, delivering them could be a problem with so few people supporting the street cleans on a regular basis.

7. Letting Boards

John updated the meeting on the latest situation regarding letting boards. The Daily Echo article planned for the blight of letting boards has been delayed and is unlikely to published now. John has been in touch with Cllr Letts who has agreed to investigate letting boards.

Sue added that clarification from the council means that they cannot now enforce the removal of letting boards, and they can remain up if an HMO still has empty rooms.

8. Greening Group

8.1 Improvements

Sue reported that the cut way between Gordon Avenue and Westwood Road had been cleared of litter, weeded and planted with bulbs. The Greening Group is now planning a similar exercise in Clifford Dibben Mews, off Avenue Road.

8.2 Signature cheery trees

Sue informed the meeting that seven new cherry trees had been collected from Hilliers and planted: one replacement tree, five new ones, and one for Westwood Road.

9. Any other business

9.1 SUSU Contact

T reported that Southampton University’s Students Union (SUSU) have been in touch and asked us to help them develop their Union Plan. She has passed on the email to John for action.
Action: John to follow-up

9.2 The Community Arts project

Rosy reported that the project to turn the corner of Livingstone Road and Gordon Avenue into an amenity space is going well. We now have someone who can do a proper drawing of the site and proposed designs.

Rosy has also ordered samples of slips – tiles that can be personalised and then fixed to the wall / pavement. More can be added as required.

9.3 The History project

John reported that the Bevois Mount History Project is going well. The Facebook page is being updated regularly. Some of the latest revelations: A local author has published a mystery novel called 9 Bett’s Lane. Bett’s Lane is the original name of Avenue Road. We have also found links to Mary Boleyn, Lady Diana, Prince William and our current prime minister, through families who lived in Bevois Mount House. We are discovering that our suburb has a very rich history indeed, and there’s much more to come!

Sue asked how we can get our area, or parts of it, into the conservation zone. Cllr Barnes-Andrews responded that the council has new conservation guidelines. If we wish for our area to be considered for conservation listing, we need to write to the council to ask for this. We can even specify individual houses. Cllr Barnes-Andrews agreed to find out the name of the Conservation Planning Officer and send it to John.
Action: Cllr Barnes-Andrews

10. Dates for 2013 meetings

OARA General Meetings

  • 1st April 14
  • 7th July 14
  • 7th October 14
  • AGM: 19th January 15

OARA Committee Meetings

  • 3rd June 14
  • 15th September 14
  • 16th December 14