Minutes of the Hanover and Elm Grove LAT held on Thursday 17th March 2011 at the Thorndale Community Rooms, Albion Hill.
Present: Georgia Wrighton (Chair), Liz Hobden (Local Development Team Manager), Martin Reid (Head of housing Strategy and Development), Christina Pepper, Vaughn Burtenshaw, Connie Wille, Julia Pilgrim, Mark Woolford (University of Brighton), PCSO Dawn Kitson, PCSO Karen Hopewell, Brian Ravenett, Andrew and Patricia Smith, Tony Baker (Environment Improvements).
Apologies: Ann Montgomery and Angela Sains.
- Planning update
Liz Hobden from Planning described the new localism bill, which has a long way to go through Parliament and will be amended before it is agreed, probably next Spring. She recommended that people look at the Council’s governance committee website which includes a good summary of the bill and proposed changes to the planning system. She outlined a number of the proposals, including the increased use of referenda, which would need over 50% to be successful. One of the areas she dwelt on was Neighbourhood Plans which could allow a “Neighbourhood Forum” to develop policies on local priorities, local facilities, local design statements, providing they were voted for by 50% of the people in the forum’s area. Of course, the plans would have to conform to some overall planning rules and they would have to be pro-development; they could not set up to achieve less development. Groups in the area would have to apply to the local planning authority to be identified as the ‘Neighbourhood Forum’ for planning purposes. Only one group per area would be allowed. The neighbourhood forums would have to be approved by the local authority; for example, the LAT’s might be chosen as the most appropriate sort of community organisation to take on this role. It is unlikely that just a few streets would be allowed to become a neighbourhood forum, for this purpose, because that would make it unworkable for the local authority. Liz explained that local criteria is being worked up for approval regarding the support to be given to local Neighbourhood Forums to produce Neighbourhood Plans. This is likely to be technical support and advice from the planning team.
There were interesting questions raised at the meeting including: Is it 50% of the local households or 50% of those that vote? – yet to be clarified. Surely there would be a strategic overview or else one area could introduce things on their boundaries which affected another area? – yes there must be co-operation between areas. Who could vote? – people on the electoral role. Members of the LAT commented that in terms of infrastructure for the area, they would like to see more bike racks.
Liz went on to describe Neighbourhood Development Orders which might allow a community to remove the need for planning permission for certain types of development it wanted to encourage, say solar panels or new schools.
Then she talked about Article 4 Directions which might in future allow the Council to require planning permission to change from family houses into small houses of multiple occupation (HMO). The consultation period will be undertaken later in the year, probably in the Summer. Officers are currently gathering evidence in preparation for this consultation. There followed a number of questions mainly about the difference between the definition of an HMO in Planning law and the definition which the council uses in terms of housing strategy. One resident thought that the strict planning law definition (such as that each resident of a HMO usually has separate accommodation with a lock on each bedroom door) is not relevant to most of the “HMO’s” inHanover.
2. HMO licensing consultation
Martin Reidthen outlined the student housing strategy and the idea of additional licensing of HMO’s in five wards including Hanoverand Elm Grove, so as to try to produce more balanced communities. This would not prevent new HMO’s but it would improve the standard of management. The consultation is open for comment at present and Martin asked people to comment by 30th March. He confirmed that this issue is about HMO’s and students are only one type of person who lives in HMO’s. Questions and comments raised included:
Will it cause landlords to sell up rather that endure costly changes to their properties? Martin felt that the previous evidence of HMO’s was that this would not happen but the questioner said that the old HMO’s were larger and therefore more profit could be made, whereas these smaller HMO’s might not make the rent cover the costs.
Would licensing really improve neighbourliness, for example, one of the biggest problems suffered by neighbours was the sound of self closing fire doors slamming.
Trying to spread student accommodation to areas such as Patcham or Hollingdean is unlikely to work, as they will just move back to places where they can more easily travel to the Universities.
Even if new student halls are developed, they would probably be on the Lewes Road, which is already a dense area for student housing. Mark Woolford said that many students commute from Worthing and Chichester because there is too little accommodation in Brighton.
Landlords are willing to take students to court for rent arrears but not for causing noise to neighbours.
Councils can already take action about rubbish problems for example and they should take tougher action.
Universities should take tougher action. Martin Reid and Mark Woolford both said that the Universities are already working hard to reduce problems.
Are the Universities concerned by more licensing which could reduce the number of HMO’s? Martin said the Universities are signed up to such proposals.
The homes in Hanover are so close together that even people talking can disturb neighbours.
The meeting thanked both speakers for their helpful contributions.
Action:Georgia agreed to submit LAT response to the HMO consultation based on comments made.
- Matters arising from the last meeting
a) Georgiareported that Planning Enforcement had contacted the owner of the overgrown site on Southover Street, below the Greys, and received the response that the owner does not wish to allow bike racks to be installed on the site as they may want to develop it in the future. In response to LAT complaints about the untidy state of the site, currently used for fly-tipping, a Planning Application has been submitted to fence off the site and is under currently being considered by the Council.
Action: Georgia will contact the owners to see if they will allow a temporary use of the site.
b) Georgiareported that Cityclean has had some set-backs in starting the binvelopes campaign (to get residents to be more responsible and either take in binvelopes or fold them). She was told that the campaign will be underway next week. There was some discussion about what action Cityclean would take andGeorgiasaid they would put letters through people’s doors if residents were leaving binvelopes out in a mess or obstructing the pavement and would follow up by knocking on those residents’ doors. As a a final step, Cityclean would take binvelopes away if it persisted and only give them back on reaching agreement about better behaviour.
c) Cally Sykes was not attending the meeting because lots of publicity has gone out about the Level consultation and residents still have opportunities to comment including on 24th March at the Co-op ands 29th march at Phoenix Gallery.
d) Tony had circulated details of the open market meeting.
- Student terms of reference and action plan
The draft was circulated at the meeting andGeorgiaexplained what the students in the community sub group was doing and went through many of the achievements and the ongoing issues. The achievements included the initiatives around licensing of HMO’s’ which this LAT (and Moulescoomb and Bevendean) had argued for. Issues arising from the discussion included Julia talking about a call on theUniversityofBrighton(UoB) to do something about noise echoing off thePhoenixbuilding and students wanting less lights to be left on at night, which would also benefit people living opposite the halls. The meeting welcomed the choice of one taxi firm and instructions to only collect and drop-off at C block reception, to prevent noise and disturbance resulting from an ‘unofficial’ taxi rank outside the Halls.
It was felt that the UoB should do more about drunkenness. Dawn believes signs on Southover Streetwill help, similar to those identifying the ‘No Alcohol Zone’ in the town centre and St James’ Street. Another issue raised was noise from people walking along the streets at night and the Noise Abatement Society conference planned for 7th April was mentioned as an opportunity for residents to work on these issues with experts.
- Police update
Dawn and Karen described the police action day inHanoverwhere the neighbourhood team were concentrating onHanoverin terms of noise and parking. Dawn described how she is willing to visit houses that have held one-off parties to tell them what concern they have cause and to try to prevent them re-occurring and Georgia confirmed how useful this could be. Karen said there were now few burglaries.Christina said her car had been scratched again and residents felt that sometimes this was deliberate vandalism as well as occasionally being the result of narrow roads. There was a discussion about requesting one-way streets and streets with yellow lines down one side and Georgia said that Highways were generally opposed to these because they believed they caused higher traffic speeds (which residents denied) and knock-on effects to other streets.
Action: Tony agreed to pass these comments onto the transport group.
- Election of Chair
Georgia said that she was standing down as councillor and that at the next meeting she would handover to a new chair. Tony will send out nomination forms a month before the next meeting to encourage people to stand for election. The meeting thankedGeorgia for her hard work and dedication.
Christina said that not everyone can or likes to attend meetings but they might want to keep in the loop by receiving minutes and we should put this on the flyers.
Action: Tony will do this and Georgia will follow-up re: another article in the Hanover Directory.
- Next meeting: Thursday 9th June 6.45 for 7pm at TheHanover pub,Queens Park Road (to be confirmed)