Happy Christmas, Minutes and other things….

Minutes of IARA meeting 6 December 2010

Present: Hilary Barnes, Liz Woodeson, Charles Collett ,Colin Barr, Norma Wynter, David and Debby Hyams (Alma Street), Anne Darrell, Diana Harewood, Don Hibbs, Adam Leys, Geraldine Shelton, Sarah Harvey, Jeff Baynes, Jean Hart, Jim McGrane, Nicholas Hadaway, Laura Andreae (Willes Road), Dominic Tinley, Lucy Bowman, Jon Bowman, Anne Hearn (Ryland Road), Mary Hill, Paul Seviour, John Nicholson, Robert Livock (Raglan Street), Louis Loizou (Raglan Estate), Richard Organ, Fraser Jackson, Ed McGinnis, Dawn Mottram (Grafton Road), John Gedge (Una House), Alexander Goldie (Cathcart Street)

In attendance: Sgt. Peter Ryan, Leo Cross (JobTrain), Cllr Julian Fulbrook (Holmes Road Hostel Item), Louise Bond (Acting Head of Public Realm & Transport) and 3 members of Camden’s traffic engineering team (Baths/traffic/parking item), Cllr Georgia Gould, Cllr Meric Apak

Apologies: Cllr Jenny Headlam-Wells, Tim Gray (Public Realm Officer/Street Environment), plus about 14 residents.

Traffic and Parking. Louise Bond (Acting Head of Public Realm & Transport) told us that the funding system for traffic and parking had changed. Previously funding was obtained from Transport for London on a competitive bidding basis which Camden usually did well at. The system is now changed and is based on a formula which will result in considerable reductions in revenue quite apart from the Comprehensive Spending Review which requires a 21% reduction in three years.

Camden previously received £6.5 million which will be reduced to £2.8 million this year, £2.5 million next year and £2 million in 2013/14.

They are however planning a three-year Kentish Town wide analysis earmarked for 2012/13 to be implemented in 2013/14. There will be large-scale consultations in the New Year and all issues raised at the meeting will be on record.

The study will include the High Street and they wish to do pre-consultation soundings.

Camden is committed to reviewing the arrangements for the parking for Kentish Town baths. She asserted that the carriageway along Grafton road was not wide enough for parking on both sides. People at the meeting pointed out this is exactly what happens at weekends and evenings on the single yellow lines.

She mentioned the complications arising with the junction of Grafton and Prince of Wales Road and it was suggested that double yellow the lines could be retained for long enough to give a safe passage near the junction but have parking both sides further up with passing spaces so as to create the chicane / slowing down effect that has been welcomed in the past.

Dawn Mottram said that she and her neighbours had done traffic counts and that more than half of the traffic is rat running. They are encouraged to do that precisely because the traffic flow is kept easy by the ban on parking. This is a vicious circle as the high level of traffic is used to justify banning the parking.

The fact that the French school would be opening soon and would have an impact on parking and traffic might mean that the survey would be confused by this.

Ed McGinnis made the point that double yellow lines are in fact more dangerous as they encourage faster traffic. Richard Organ suggested a more radical solution – banning entry from the South.

Jean Hart mentioned the question of business parking permits and how they are allocated and asked whether school parents would be given any parking rights.

Adam Leys said that business permits on vehicles used to look different from residents permits but that is no longer true and he raised the strong suspicion that some local businesses have business permits which in fact are simply used by commuting staff. Louise Bond agreed that Camden would provide some information about the take-up of business permits.

Louise Bond confirmed that questions of parking hours and weekend parking restrictions would be on the agenda for the review.

The old problem of coaches having their engines running while being parked for long periods was raised and we were told that Camden participates in the London Coach Forum where it was discussed frequently and messages were sent to coach operators to discourage that. Robert Livock pointed out that this is also true of coaches attending the Raglan Street Day Centre.

Louise promised to undertake a review of the whole issue by mid-January and would look at the possibility of having parking on both sides of Grafton road.

Holmes Road Hostel. Debby then introduced the question of the Holmes Road Hostel which was well regarded in the area as a very well-run hostel providing an essential service. The previous threat of closure appears to have been lifted and there is now talk about redevelopment. Staff there have recently raised concerns about reduced staffing levels which will endanger the quality of the service.

Julian Fulbrook told the meeting that the new administration was pledged to review the previous plans of selling off five hostels. There are two in Hampstead which is a highly expensive area with relatively few homeless people and the site of one of them will be redeveloped as a school as there is a shortage in state school provision in that area.

The other three had been reviewed together with our local councillor Meric Apak who was also present at the meeting. The current plan is for Mount Pleasant to be demolished and replaced with social housing and Holmes Road to be redeveloped to be brought up to the 21st century standards.

It will have a new reception area but the frontage will be kept. The dining room needs to be redeveloped and they want ensuite accommodation with a more modern women’s side.

There is pressure on expenditure because of the government cuts and there will be negotiations with the union on appropriate staff levels. “There are no operational plans for a reduction in staffing levels at the hostel.”

In reply to questions he said that the development would be carried out in the next year or two although it will be quite difficult decanting. Adam Lees urged that the main Victorian structure should be retained and not just the frontage. David pressed for the redevelopment to be sensitive to the fact that some people have lived there for many years and can be very disturbed by decanting and changes and that people are fundamentally more important than the bricks and mortar. Julian Fulbrook undertook to consult the residents during the planning stage.

Prince of Wales Baths Project. The question was raised about the residential units which were supposed to have been built as part of the Prince of Wales baths project (and to have subsidised the work) but seem to have stalled. Meric said he would make enquiries and inform us by the New Year. There was discussion about the fact that they represent a security risk and there had been three recent break-ins to neighbouring properties which were associated with the empty site. The section 106 provision (no right to parking permits) was allegedly taken off to increase the saleability although we were assured that restrictions still remain.

Holmes Road Student Hostel. There was discussion about the Holmes Road student hostel and the noise associated with it. Sarah Trickett from Inkerman had asked for this to be raised in the meeting. Somebody from Cathcart Street had done a survey and estimated that 40% was from the student hostel, 20% was from the Street itself and 40% was other people. People from Prince of Wales road who live opposite have confirmed precisely that a great deal of noise is caused by the students especially coming back late at night.

It was agreed that IARA would work with Sarah to approach the management of the Hostel and raise these concerns.

Georgia Gould referred to the Safer Neighbourhoods Initiative particularly with the planned restrictions on late-night sale of alcohol.

The Magnet Site. The planning application for the Magnet site was discussed. Don Hibbs told the meeting that in July one application was refused for six storeys with 400 students and the application is now for three storeys with 277 students. This is the same developer who has attempted to overdevelop 55 Holmes road and some of his plans have included the use of the basement of number 55 in association with the student hostel.

Unanimous vote to oppose the application on this site.

One reason that applications are being made for student hostels is that it is possible to build large numbers of units without incurring the obligation to provide public housing on any development of more than 15 units. Liz Woodeson said that an impending change in the law would remove their obligation in any event.

Safer Neighbourhoods Team. Sgt Peter Ryan spoke about the Safer Neighbourhoods Team. Crime in the Inkerman Area is in fact at a very low level. He mentioned that the crime prevention team will come to homes and install crime prevention features without charge. This was previously age and means tested and is currently available to all but the money must be spent by March or maybe no longer available. David King is the crime prevention officer at Holmes road.

The Safer Neighbourhoods Scheme is generally likely to be reduced as a result of the cuts and there is a questionnaire form available for us to give feedback on our appreciation and awareness of our local scheme.

In general Camden has crime hotspots around two and three o’clock in the morning at Camden Town, Swiss Cottage Kilburn and Tufnell Park. Independent supermarkets illegally selling alcohol late are being targeted.

Camden Job Train. This has premises in Holmes Road near the police station and Louis Louizou from Monmouth House complained that they had inflicted three years of hell on the estate especially at lunchtime, using the ground floor of Monmouth house as a smoking venue including cannabis and leaving a great deal of mess behind them.

He gave credit to the police who had come over many many times. He said that if the venue had been a pub or a bar it would have been closed down by now. He called for a public meeting with management to discuss this. Richard Jackson is the director of Camden Job Train but Leo Cross from Jobtrain was at the meeting and acknowledged that the young people were causing considerable nuisance. He said that the management does liaise with the police and he patrolled to try and minimise the nuisance. Disciplinary action was taken when necessary. Louis pressed him for a solution possibly including a shelter on the roof of the premises where they could smoke if necessary.

Georgia Gould said that she would take responsibility for pursuing this issue.

Peter Ryan also referred to the fact that some of the litter was caused by McDonald’s some of which is linked to the police station as people tend to eat on the steps while waiting for their friends to be released . He also mentioned in passing that the Section House, which represents a large potential unit of housing, has been mothballed by Balfour Beatty.

Other matters raised for the police – dog dirt and cycling on pavements. Peter Ryan said that the Police Community Support Officers have challenged people on both issues and will do so in the future.

John Nicholson attends the Safer Neighbourhoods regular meetings and said that priorities were discussed and cycling had been a priority but other matters were currently more urgent.

The French school. David explained that IARA has contacted the agent for the French school wishing to make links with the future management and staff in order to initiate the entente cordiale which it is hoped will contribute to the area – including possibly the use of premises on the site and the avoidance of some problems that have been anticipated.

Kentish Town Road Action. David reported on the tireless efforts of Caroline Hill and of the committee in opposing late-night licences, illegal changes of use and many other issues affecting the high street. Unanimous vote of thanks was given to Caroline Hill for her efforts over many years.

Pizza Express site on the Prince of Wales Road. David explained the situation with the pre-existing permission to redevelop which was now five years old and had to be renewed. IARA and several members individually have objected to this and there is a meeting on the 16th December of the planning committee to consider this. [See another posting on the website for more up to date news: Application Refused.]

Summer Event. Diana reported on this saying that it seemed to be at great success and there were no recorded complaints at all this year. There was a profit of £300.

There was a unanimous and enthusiastic vote of appreciation to Diana for her massive work in organising the event. She paid credit to Anne Hearn for organising the stalls, Mary Hill for the raffle and many shopkeepers from the High Street who have been incredibly helpful.

She is prepared to run one next year and the first planning meeting will be in January or February.

Michael’s Guesthouse. Debby reported that they have applied for a certificate of lawfulness which is somewhat strange after so many years. There were no objections to this and we will not comment.

Any Other Business The report about the Defend the NHS campaign and about the cuts generally and there is an area action meeting in late January

McDonald’s again. There was further discussion about McDonald’s and the fact that they discharge oily water onto the pavement in Holmes Road which is usually slippery and in icy weather is particularly dangerous. It should be a condition on their licence not to do so. Meric offered to pursue this matter.

John Nicholson said that Nando’s has also caused litter problems and Georgia Gould offered to pursue this.

Car clubs. There are now four new parking bays for car clubs. In theory they may reduce the actual number of residents’ cars in the area. There is concern that they will generate a lot of coming and going and noise but so far that has not been a problem.

Snow shovels. Debby reported that we obtained 10 from Camden which were available free, preferably to public minded citizens who will undertake to use them to clear the street generally.

Boris Bikes. Liz Woodeson said that we should lobby Boris to have some bikes locally and it was not true that we were on too much of a hill for people to be bothered.

Ticket touts for The Forum. Charles raised the problem of them operating at the station. Sgt Ryan said that this was not technically an offence except for football tickets.

Know any good builders / plumbers etc…? Laura Andreae told us that she had had a very good response to the request put out on the IARA e-mail group for recommended builders and she obtained the name of a very good one and would inform us of this so that we could build up a list of recommended services for the area.

Next meeting: likely to be called in March and it will be a formal Annual Meeting.

Thanks to the school for the use of the premises and to Joe, the school keeper for his help.