Present: Jeremy Galloway (acting chair), Michael Grimwood (note taker), John MacDonald, Helen O'Brien, Councillor Robert McConnell, Pat Fisher, James Slattery-Kavanagh, Ann Ridley, Grahame Fearon-Wilson, C Williams.
1.1. Anne Orange, Councillor Jeremy Baker, Councillor Geraldine Evans, Gabrielle Garton Grimwood, Richard Moore, Rod Brown, Jane Pickard.
2. Minutes/Matters Arising
2.1 It was agreed to formally record NAG's gratitude and appreciation to all the sponsors who had donated prizes for the Gardens Competition: the Floral Hall, South London Decorators, Mr Patel (newsagent 345 Norwood Road) and James Slattery-Kavanagh of Virtual Norwood.
2.2 It was reported that there had been no progress toward resolving the issues which had concerned some members about Somerfield (Minutes para 5.2 a. and b.).
3. St Luke's gardens
3.1 Pat Fisher said that the working group was exploring how best to fund the project and was looking for sources of funding. The Parochial Church Council had not yet decided whether it would be prepared to accept Lottery funding.
3.2 Another issue for the group was whether to pursue a combined project covering the church and the gardens. There had also been a meeting with the Georgian Society.
4. NAG views on priorities for the council (from July meeting, minutes para 6)
4.1 James Slattery-Kavanagh reminded the meeting that shortly after the local elections Councillor John Whelan had invited NAG to identify issues for the new administration to tackle.
4.2 Jeremy Galloway had been told by Richard Moore that the proceeds of sales by the Council of properties in Lancaster Avenue were to be spent on housing estates in Myatt's Fields - a conservation area that could attract other funding - not in Norwood. John MacDonald said the proceeds were around £1.8m and that there was much that needed to be done on estates in Norwood. He understood that the decision on where to spend the sale proceeds was linked to an over-spend in 2001/02. Councillor McConnell thought that there must be a very good reason for this decision for Thurlow Park councillors (including the deputy leader and the executive member for housing) to have agreed to it.
It was resolved that Councillor John Whelan and/or Councillor Irene Kim should be invited to explain the decision.
4.3 Jeremy Galloway invited discussion of priorities for NAG. Councillor McConnell reminded the meeting that ward councillors had a duty to pursue local issues raised with them, for example by organisations such as NAG. Jeremy and others then identified a number of issues of concern to NAG:
Lighting - Councillor McConnell offered to undertake a walk round with John MacDonald after the meeting.
Kavanagh Recovery - the nuisance caused by the firm's vehicles.
Pedestrian crossings - in particular the need for one near Jack Stamps and one at the junction of York Hill and Norwood Road. Councillor McConnell said that his efforts over two years to get a crossing at York Hill, and more recently on Knights Hill had failed, despite accidents at York Hill. If a petition were raised, he would be happy to take it to the Council - the new administration was pledged to provide services. It was noted that the need for a crossing on Knights Hill had increased as more children had to cross Knights Hill, following the Crown Lane school move.
Improvement to the environment and presentation of West Norwood station
Traffic calming - this, or perhaps a speed camera, and/or pedestrian crossings were needed at Crown Dale (it was noted that for part of the road the borough boundary with Croydon ran down the centre of the road).
Crime - Bernie Bullbrook provided valuable reports on police and crime issues and had meetings with the police every six weeks or so. It was suggested that NAG might attend. It was also suggested that it would be useful if a beat officer came to NAG meetings from time to time.
Waylett Place - Jeremy Galloway understood that the Council now apparently claimed not to know who owned the land - he found this difficult to believe. Councillor McConnell said that Councillor Clare Whelan had met with B&Q regarding clearance and maintenance of the area.
Regeneration - James Slattery-Kavanagh said that this was supposed to be a policy of the council, but he saw no real evidence of regeneration happening.
Parking/Traffic Wardens - it was thought that the use of wardens was not well targeted and no use seemed to be made of CCTV to help direct them to problems. John Macdonald thought it would be useful to see comparative figures showing where and for what tickets were issued. Auckland Hill didn't seem to get any attention. Jeremy Galloway thought the current wardens were better than the previous ones, but the lack of parking for people wishing to use the shopping facilities remained a problem. He remained convinced that the best way forward would be a supermarket (with parking) on the laundry site. Councillor McConnell said that the budget position of the Council meant there would be pressure to raise revenue but that he would note the problem in respect of Auckland Hill. He asked whether there should be more 20 minute parking.
One way streets to prevent "rat running" - Councillor McConnell said that there were proposals for a one-way system involving St Julians Farm Road. He offered to bring a map showing the proposals to a future meeting.
Street rubbish and fly tipping - James Slattery-Kavanagh said that it was not just that there was dumping near the recycling centre, all sorts of rubbish was dumped on the streets. Pat Fisher said that Lambeth were good at coming to collect bulky items, though it was noted that many people seemed unaware of this service, or could not be bothered to use it. John MacDonald pointed out that the contractor was paid extra for this service and so was happy to provide it. On the other hand the contractor was poor at keeping the busy high street area clean and bins were often overflowing. He added that as vans had been stopped from using Vale Street there was more fly tipping on the streets. Councillor McConnell said that street agents had promised to tackle these issues.
4.4. Councillor McConnell then said that he had attended a Council budget meeting the previous evening and that the Council faced severe budget pressures this year and next so there was little prospect of extra funding for anything. Jeremy Galloway asked if the problem was caused by pressures on social services expenditure. Councillor McConnell noted that the Chief Executive and a consultant had now taken charge of this budget, but thee were financial pressures eg expenditure on agency staff to cover for vacant social worker posts.
4.5 Jeremy Galloway suggested that instead of simply selling property to the highest bidder the council should look for opportunities for partnership eg with Housing Associations to provide key worker housing (though he noted that even housing associations found it difficult to work in the borough). He was also concerned, in the light of the financial position, about the ability of the council to deliver solutions to any of the issues of local concern. To help the financial position the council should ensure it collected rents due to it.
4.6 James Slattery-Kavanagh asked whether the financial problems arose from demographic shifts (eg an ageing poulation) or could be addressed more easily. John MacDonald asked what avenues there were to try to seek funding for some of the things discussed.
4.7. Councillor McConnell was asked about the proposals for Area Committees. He said that the committee would have the 9 ward councillors as members. The town centre forums would continue in order to air issues and hold committees accountable.
4.8 Councillor McConnell said that progress was being made on the Old Library in West Norwood. £900,000 had been secured for bringing it into use. West Norwood Community Development would be required to bring in another partner to help with grants. John MacDonald thought it would be difficult to get further funding, doubted that there would be other partners who could bring in money to the project and wanted to know how much the project would cost overall. Graham Fearon-Wilson and James Slattery-Kavanagh recalled estimates for more than £900,000. Councillor McConnell said that £900,000 was for architects and building work, more would be required for furnishing, but there were many further sources of Government grant - the Council would not have to put any more money in. The whole building would be in use when the project was complete.
4.9. Jeremy Galloway enquired about David Pitt house which, he thought, was a low maintenance building more suitable for youth/community use. Councillor McConnell said that it had now been let.
4.10. Councillor McConnell reported on a number of other matters. He said that Norwood Hall remained unused. He mentioned that there were proposals for a new building to replace the derelict one in Knights Hill Recreation Ground (Tivoli Park). It was proposed that the new building would be a nursery and after-school club. He mentioned that a former playing field area off St Julians Farm Road had been cleared and was subject to a planning application for housing development - a previous application had been turned down, but changes to Government guidance meant a new application might succeed.
4.11. Jeremy Galloway concluded the discussion by suggesting that the high hopes generated earlier in the year had been somewhat dashed.
5. Town Centre: Use of empty properties / mix of commercial uses
5.1. Jeremy Galloway said that there was not much that could be done with many of the empty properties. There was inappropriate use of some of the retail premises, eg for re-packaging pharmaceuticals. He remained of the view that the best way forward for the area would be a new large supermarket which would add to the value of local shops and help attract other retailers.
6. Any other business
6.1. Michael Grimwood drew attention to an appeal by the Friends of Norwood Park for donations of trees to mark the Golden Jubilee. There was a list of suggested trees ranging in cost from about £70 to £300. It was resolved that Nag should donate up to £200 for the purchase of two or three trees. The Secretary was asked to take this forward.
6.2. James Slattery-Kavanagh said that he had heard that the Quality Hotel at Upper Norwood had been closed and was being re-opened for use by up to 300 refugees.