Dear OARA Members,

2014 has been a very busy and successful year for OARA. We have shown our solidarity over two major planning issues and have had a successful outcome in both cases.

We have strengthened our relationship with officers from the council and gained solid support from them in improving the overall environment.

Through persistent effort and local co-operation, the streets are beginning to look much tidier.

The greening group have continued to clear and plant desolate patches and have maintained the barriers and tubs.

We have started a major initiative; ‘Common Ground’ involving a wide range of stakeholders. We have also run several successful social occasions, including street parties, table-top sales, history events and a Christmas party.

More details to follow, but before that, tribute must be paid to all of you who work so hard to make OARA a success, and all of you who give us your whole-hearted support.

Common Ground Initiative

This year saw the launch of the Common Ground initiative. The seeds of the idea came from a brainstorming session at an OARA General meeting in April, when the need to reach out to other sections of the community came out high on our list of future priorities. This led to a Common Ground survey, which was used to raise interest and collect views from “stakeholders”, and a Common Ground meeting in July. It was heartening to see a range of interested parties, including residents, students, councillors and council officers, businesses, landlords, letting agents and a local church representative come along and enter into the hoped-for positive spirit, sharing ideas about how we could work together to improve our area.

We have received encouraging feedback for launching such a positive initiative, which has been cited as a role model for other groups. We are looking forward to building on this promising start in the year ahead.

Membership

The OARA Membership Card scheme was launched in May 2012. Each Membership card costs £3 and lasts for one year from the date of application. The Membership Card entitles the holder to discounts on goods and services at local businesses in Portswood. Details of these discounts can be found at http://www.outeravenueresidents.co.uk/join-us/discounts/

A total of 128 Membership Cards have been issued to date and there are 101 current card holders.

The Card Scheme is just one of the ways that OARA raises funds for its projects, and because renewal is annual, it generates a steady income stream.

Planning

The Residents Association continues to receive notification of Planning applications within our area. These have mainly been the enlargement of existing HMO properties both by loft conversions and the building of rear/side extensions .

You are probably already aware that 111 Alma Road became an HMO without planning permission at the time that the Article 4 directive came into force in 2012. The Council served an enforcement order early last year which was challenged by the owner/landlord. A legal appeal was held in November 2014 and the Council won their case. At the end of this Academic year this house will revert to a C3 dwelling house.

Looking ahead

The Council has approved a proposal to regulate the plethora of Letting boards, which when implemented, should have a considerable visible impact on our area.

Police Liaison

Structures are changing, but we will continue to build links with whoever takes over responsibility for our patch. Portswood police building is being refurbished and will hold the rapid response teams. We will come under Central from January 15th and will have a new neighbourhood team assigned to us. You will be updated as soon as we have more information.

Liaison with local landlords

In November three committee members made a presentation of our ‘Common Ground’ initiative to the Southern Landlord’s Association. We went with some trepidation, but what we are doing as a residents’ association met with a great deal of support. We were even given a donation towards cherry tree planting. It can only be in all our interest to work with responsible landlords in order to improve our neighbourhood.

Bin Buddy Scheme

A pilot scheme is being run in partnership with a local landlord, who pays OARA to ensure that bins at his properties are put away by local OARA residents every Friday. The pilot, which is being conducted in Gordon Avenue, is due to end in late January 2015. So far, the feeling is that the scheme has been successful and we are now looking at extending this to other roads and have invited two more landlords to come on board.

History Group

Bevois Mount History has been going for just over a year. Our aim is to promote the incredibly rich history of Bevois Mount and thereby, the community as a whole. We have a web site and a Facebook Page. Google ‘Bevois Mount History’ and you will easily find them. The web page has 7,600 unique visitors and 9,800 page views. Our Facebook page is regularly updated, with most posts reaching a minimum of 50 with some over a 1000. In 2014 we have organised history days, history walks, an Edwardian picnic, and have produced a very successful Bevois Mount History Calendar which has raised money for future projects.

Greening Group 2014 -15

The Greening Group has continued with many projects already under way.

Flowering Cherry Trees

We planted another 6 six trees at the beginning of the year and are looking to do the same again this year. We need more people to support this so that if you are interested, or have a site in mind then speak to us at the meeting or email SESwallow@gmail.com Information sheets are available. Sadly 2 of our trees have been vandalised and need replacing . We hope to do this soon.

On a happier note we have received donations from two people from outside the area, which, with match funding, will pay for 3 more trees.

Events

We held our now annual plant swop/giveaway in late May which was a very good sociable event and provided us with more plants and donations for use around the area.

We have held 2 table top sales on the forecourt of Headmasters and the White goods shop. These each raised approx £100 which is being spent on more barrels, compost bulbs, plants and trees. As a by product of these we weeded the tree pit near Waitrose and it now has some bulbs and lavender, donated by Waitrose, to improve the look of the pavement.

A big thank you to the Parks Department who came up trumps with a donation of compost/mulch to help us.

We plan to continue with this kind of work and see if we can gradually make weed patches into something better.

Street cleaning / environment

Our regular street cleaning sessions continue on the first and third Sundays of each month. 11 o’clock at the Alma Road Planters.

We hope to have a good turn out on February 1st as we are planning to leaflet streets after a litter-picking session asking for co-operation in keeping the streets tidy. We will be using leafelts with English / Polish text.

We have established very good links with council officers who support our efforts to keep the area tidy and free of fly-tipping. Several ‘eyesores’ have been tackled with council officers visiting problem properties and talking to the tenants and landlords. In most cases, this has improved the situation considerably.

Social Events

We have held several very successful social events this year. Particularly notable was the ‘Meet Your Neighbours’ street party in October, to welcome new students to the area. We coordinated with the Students’ Union, resulting in quite a large number of students attending. They were given SUSU welcome packs, and our own OARA welcome leaflets for students. We had live music, free soup and rolls and plenty of opportunities for interaction between local residents and students. We hope to hold a similar event this year.

There was also a ‘Big Lunch’ street party in June. We put on an assembly at Bevois Town School to promote the event and this encouraged local families and their children to attend which we were very pleased about. We also ran a very lively Christmas party at The Bent Brief which finished with carol singing around the piano.

Getting involved

Finally, if you are interested in getting involved with OARA in any capacity, please get in touch. The greening group, the history group, the street cleaning crew, involvement in organising social events, all present opportunities for local residents to help. Get in touch through our web-site, or contact me at:
oarajohn@outlook.com / outeravenueresidents.co.uk