Date: 19:30 on 3rd November 2014
Venue: Bevois Town School Community Hall

Present:

As identified on the Attendance List

Alma Road

  • Peter Wirgman
  • Dave Rounce
  • Heather Soper
  • Richard Soper

Avenue Road

  • Ally Hayes
  • Des Hayward
  • Izzy Hammett
  • Adam Phillips

Spear Road

  • Ed Parsons

Gordon Avenue

  • Chris Hawthorn
  • Maggie O’Connor

Other attendees

  • Cllr Rayment
  • Cllr Burke
  • Ellie Cawthera, SUSU
  • Kat Ballet, Solent Uni
  • Josh Hoskins, Solent Uni
  • Karen Hunter, SCC
  • Jason Evans, SCC
  • Barry Olson, SCC

OARA Committee

  • John Hayward (Chair)
  • T Jacobs (Secretary)
  • Hilary Jackson (Committee Member)
  • Sue Swallow (Planning Officer)
  • Rosy Maguire (Committee Member)
  • Chris Jackson (Committee Member)
  • Barbro Fitzjohn (Committee Member)
  • Phine Dahle (Committee Member)

Apologies:

  • Andy Haslehurst
  • Gordon Gillies
  • Barbara Matcham
  • Jerry Gillen
  • Cllr Barnes-Andrews

1. Welcome

John opened the meeting by welcoming all of the attendees.

2. HMO Licensing

John invited Karen and Barry to update the meeting on the role of the HMO Warden. Karen explained that there has always been HMO licensing in the city but that there is now a new licensing scheme in force.

2.1 How the HMO licensing scheme works

Karen outlined how the licensing scheme works:

  • Landlords have to identify themselves as the owners of an HMO property and pay a licence fee.
  • SCC will then inspect the property to ensure that it complies with current legislation governing features such as fire safety, amenities and space standards.
  • After the visit, a draft licence is issued on the condition that all HMO licensing requirements are met.
  • After a period of consultation, a five year licence is granted.
  • It is an offence for landlords not to apply for licensing and there have been recent prosecutions.

2.2 The role of the HMO Warden

Barry then detailed how his role fits in with the licensing scheme. He explained:

    • That a new HMO Warden has been appointed to cover Swaythling, Portswood, Bevois and Bargate wards, so there are now two wardens.
    • The wardens patrol the neighbourhoods three to four times a week and feed information to the Enforcement teams.
    • They report dumped rubbish to the Street Cleaning teams

They monitor letting boards which should only be left up for two weeks after a property has been let, and ensure their prompt removal. Erection of letting boards is controlled by the Town and Planning Act, and over 100 boards have been removed thus far.

John asked Barry to keep him informed of HMO Warden activity in our area so that he can keep local residents informed.
Action: Barry Olson

Hilary commented that the HMO Warden’s role has had a positive impact on the area and was money well spent. John thanked Barry and Karen for attending.

3 Planning Update

John invited Sue to update the meeting on current planning issues. Sue reported:

  • Most current planning applications seek permission to increase the number of bedrooms through loft and other property extensions. There are current applications for properties in Lodge Road, Avenue Road, and Cambridge Road.
  • An HMO can be licensed as an HMO even if planning permission has not been granted to turn the property into an HMO in the first instance. It was agreed that this was an anomaly, and Cllr Burke reported that the council is actively lobbying central government to have the legislation amended so that the situation does not persist.
  • There are now two Planning Panels, one for the east and one for the west side of the city. The Planning Panel Chairman is common to both but local councillors are not allowed to sit on the panels.
  • The Planning Panels will be reducing the number of letters that are issued in response to applications and residents will be expected to learn of council decisions by using the council’s website.
  • There have been 6 meetings of the council’s Scrutiny Panel A to assess the effects of Article 4 of the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) since it came into effect in March 2012. The panel recommends that the SPD should be reconsidered with consultation to cover thresholds, HMO occupant population density, amenity and character of HMO properties and implement a new rule to ensure that HMOs do not sandwich family houses.
  • The Panel also supports the introduction of a model like the Leeds City Council code to restrict the proliferation of letting boards.
    The Panel has recommended that the council raises stop orders, fines and charges with central government, and wants local councillors to be informed of Permitted Development. Cllr Rayment commented that the new Head of Planning is an advocate of the use of Stop Notices and has issued two stop notices and an injunction so far. Their use and effectiveness will be monitored.
    There will be a Public Enquiry into the Enforcement Notice on 111 Alma Road. This will take place on Thursday 20th November at 10:00 in the Council Chamber at the council. This is a public meeting and interested parties can attend.

4 The Common Ground Initiative

4.1 Background

John briefly outlined how the Common Ground Initiative had come about.
At our meeting in July 14, we invited key stakeholders in the area to say what they liked about the area, what bugged them and what we could do to make things better. These ideas were captured and worked into a draft Charter for adoption by the community. Please see the minutes of 7th July OGM for full details.

4.2 Common Ground Newsletter

Hilary explained that the council had been very supportive in producing the Common Ground Newsletter by assisting in its design and printing it for us. She thanked Cllrs Burke and Rayment for their support. The Newsletter details what the Initiative is about, who has been involved and what we can all do to make it happen. It will be delivered to all properties within the OARA area, landlords and letting agencies.

Cllr Burke commented that the council hoped to use the Newsletter as a prototype for other areas in the city. Cllr Rayment added that it is clear that we have a good community in the OARA area and she is keen to support the local community, so that everyone benefits.

4.3 Meet Your Neighbour Street Party and links with SUSU

John reported that we had organised a Meet Your Neighbour Street Party on 5th October. About 40 students and local residents attended; there was music, soup and leaflets from both SUSU and OARA. Ellie commented that she had heard many good stories about the event eg: helping to sort out bins, and that the students hadn’t expected to be so welcomed in our community.

4.4 Moving the Common Ground Initiative forward

John then asked for ideas on how we could take the initiative forward, and went through briefly each of the points on the Charter (on the back of the Newsletter). One idea that he had was that willing residents could put a SUSU / OARA notice in their windows to act as a help point for students if they needed it.

He noted that the Greening Group had had great success in making the area look nicer and the regular street cleans were having a positive impact.

He also noted that social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, were powerful weapons in reaching people. Streetlife is another social medium which is local; it has been used by Maggie O’Connor to promote OARA events.

Action: Committee to consider how to exploit these tools at the next meeting

Ellie reported that Highfield RA has started a student buddy / resident scheme to make front gardens attractive, with the intention that these will be entered into a competition. John responded that OARA could also consider this. Cllrs Rayment and Burke offered to donate a prize if we needed it.

5 Street Cleaning Group and Joint Working with SCC

Jason Evans, the Waste and Recycling Compliance Officer at the council gave the meeting a quick update on council activities:

  • Because of the small frontages in Livingstone Road, the recycling bins have been removed and residents wishing to recycle are using clear sacks.
  • They have also knocked on doors to advise occupants about fire safety.
  • Next month, residents in Alma Road and Avenue Road will be
    approached with advice on bins and recycling.
  • Jason will consider having the recycling literature currently provided by
    the council translated into some of the Eastern European languages.

Hilary reported that residents in Gordon Avenue are working with a local landlord to ensure that his tenants’ bins are returned to front gardens, and to encourage good recycling. This is working well and it is hoped that the scheme could be extended to other landlords’ properties.

6 Greening Group Update

Sue reported that:

  • Jason Evans and Bob Reeves had kindly provided a tonne of compost /manure to the Greening Group which is now stored in various locations around the area. A lot of it has been used to improve the soil quality of the cut through between Gordon Avenue and Westwood Road. Unfortunately, the weeds did better than the planting but the Group will persist!
  • The annual Plant Swap was held in June.
  • There are now extra half whisky barrels in Avenue Road, Alma Road and Gordon Avenue planted with bulbs and flowers.
  • There have been two acts of vandalism to signature cherry trees; they may survive as bushes but not as trees. It was agreed that this is a great shame.
  • The Group wants to extend the tree planting scheme and is looking for residents who would like to have a signature cherry tree in their front garden.
  • A table top sale is planned for Sunday 9th November between noon and 14:00 in front of Headmasters hairdressers on Portswood Road. Donations to 59 Alma Road, please.
  • A bulb planting session is planned for Sunday 16th November from 11:30 to 13:00 at the planters between Gordon Avenue and Alma Road. Everyone is invited to bring along a pot so that it can be planted with spring bulbs. B&Q have kindly donated a sack of daffodil bulbs for this purpose.

Richard Soper reported that a landlord in Alma Road has chopped down a tree in the front garden of his property; the tree was originally provided by the council.

Action: Barry Olson to take this up with Nick Yeats (Tree Officer)

7 Announcements and Other Business

  • The OARA History Calendar is now available for £5 and can be ordered from John Hayward.
  • The History Day on 18th October was attended by about forty people over the course of the afternoon. The History Day was the launch day for our Bevois Mount calendars.
  • An electronic Newsletter, about our events, issues and projects, is currently being researched by Kat Ballett and Josh Hoskins, two journalism students from Southampton Solent University. It will be issued electronically about three times a year. It will also feature an interview with a local business owner, Ann Binns from The Bitter Virtue.
  • The Christmas Party will take place on Sunday 7th December between 14:00 and 17:00 at the Bent Brief on Lodge Road. There will be live music, carol singing, a raffle and a local quiz set by Ally Hayes.
  • Ellie reported that Highfield RA, in association with SUSU, are holding a curry night on 7th November in the Students’ Union bar at 19:30 as part of the Building Bridges initiative by Highfield RA. The event is free and includes a curry and a drink. There will also be an activity called “Speed mating” where residents and students meet each other briefly and then move on to the next person. We are all invited to attend!
  • Phine suggested that it would be good if trees could be planted in Portswood Broadway. Cllr Rayment responded that the trees would be £150 each. If we could raise half the money, the council would consider match funding. She suggested that local businesses are approached to determine their interest.

Action: Phine to investigate local interest; Jason to investigate the idea further with the council

8 Conclusion

John thanked everyone for attending and asked for any further ideas on the Common Ground Initiative to be sent to him.

9 Dates for 2014 Meetings

OARA General Meetings

AGM: 19th January 15

OARA Committee Meetings

16th December 14