On the 17th May, the Molewood Residents’ Association held it’s 48th AGM. There was a large turnout, and the Bengeo School hall was packed as residents came to hear Mark Prisk MP, Minister for Housing & Local Government, as well as being able to ask questions to Councillors Sally Newton, Paul Phillips, Linda Radford, Peter Ruffles and Andrew Stevenson. And of course not forgetting the odd glass of bubbly.
Committee members present Amanda Dial, John Edwards, Nick Gough (Chair), Joan Murrell, Rachel Ogier, Ben Penrose, Alan Sewell and Liz Walton
Committee apologies Peter Doughty
Resident apologies Dominic and Jo Black
Guests Mark Prisk MP, Minister for Housing & Local Government; Councillors Sally Newton, Paul Phillips, Linda Radford, Peter Ruffles and Andrew Stevenson
MINUTES OF 2012 AGM
The Minutes of the 47th AGM were presented and agreed.
Can be viewed at the bottom of this story
Residents mentioned the recovery lorry which is parked on Sacombe Road between Buckwells Field and The Wick. Evidence from a resident suggests that it is illegally parked and in contravention of Rule 250 of the Highway Code. Nick will write to the police to see if any action can be taken.
The issue of traffic using the rat run came up with residents suggesting various ways of combating the problem, including double yellow lines in Byde Street and making changes to the “Access only” rules. It was suggested that Lower Bengeo residents should ask their councillors to act for them in finding a resolution. Cllr Ruffles said that removing The Avenue from the “Access only” area would remove the excuse of being allowed to enter the area for shops and school and might, therefore, make the convince the police to begin enforcing the restriction. Cllr Stevenson said that he is involved in trying to formulate a longer term plan to overcome the problem of our infrastructure which is being overstressed. He suggested that if LoBRA and MRA could formulate a joint plan then funding a resolution would be greatly enhanced.
A resident suggested a 20 mph speed limit on the estate. Nick said this would need police approval, and would require the installation of traffic calming measures. Another resident said that the local buses often drive too fast and Nick will write to the Passenger Transport Unit about this.
Alan Sewell said that the Accounts appeared to show a weaker position than previous years but that was because of funds spent on Jubilee events, including the bench in the playing field, and a tree in memory of Pam Lutner. £715 was raised from subscriptions but the Association needs to continue to raise more money in case it is needed to fight any future development threats from Bovis or others. Committee members will therefore be making every effort to collect subs from residents in future. It is hoped that a quiz later in the year (postponed from spring) will raise funds.
In conclusion, Alan thanked Colin Crannis and David Brooks, the Examiners of the Accounts, for their continued support.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS
All current members of the committee were re-elected by a show of hands. Emily White from The Drive will join the committee at the next meeting.
Residents were asked to consider joining the MRA and were invited to the next committee meeting in July.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Nick asked the local councillors what the current status is of the East Herts DC Local Plan.
Peter Ruffles said it was delayed again and would be published in late autumn at the earliest. One of the reasons for the delay is that school places provision information is not yet available from HCC. He paid tribute to the Civic Society as the most valuable single group of people able to get involved in planning. With regard to town parking, Cllr Paul Philips is to consider parking issues and town vitality across East Herts. Consultants will assess parking issues and the use of technology such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR).
Sally Newton said this would not be looked at or implemented before 2016.
Ben Penrose asked for councillors’ thoughts on the impact Sainsbury’s has had on residents. It appears that the store is not trading as well as was hoped so has not greatly impacted on traffic flow, although it makes Hartham Lane a more dangerous crossing for pedestrians now. Sainsbury’s wanted to offer free parking but the District Council would not allow that.
Residents said that the parking outside Bengeo Co-op was dangerous for drivers and pedestrians. The Bengeo Club was asked if they would allow their car park to be used but they declined since it would compromise the parking that need for home bowls matches.
A resident asked if there was any information regarding the future of the gallery/ museum space in the old McMullen’s brewery. This was bought and restored by Sainsbury’s but is now up for sale. To date there has been no interest.
In response to a query about the old library, Peter Ruffles said that it had been sold to the highest bidder, an interior design business from Enfield. The building was designed as a library and school of art, and must be opened to the public twice a year.
Nick Gough reminded the meeting that Hertford Museum is hosting an exhibition entitled Bengeo Stories, which should be of interest to residents and runs to the end of June.
MARK PRISK, MP
Mark commended residents’ associations for binding communities together and thanked the MRA for inviting him to speak.
As a chartered surveyor and Housing Minister he spoke about the housing and development issues facing our area. The question is how many homes and what kind of homes are required? The housing market has been dysfunctional for the past 20-25 years. We are building half the number of houses needed which leads to overcrowding and people being unable to afford to buy locally. The government has to increase the supply of housing and help renters and buyers by building more affordable homes. People are living longer and there has been a 60% increase in the number of households occupied by people aged 60 years plus. Mark said that district council’s Local Plan must be accountable to local people and above all must be sustainable in terms of amenities and infrastructure.
He talked about the Green Belt and how to make better use of existing land and homes. Idle land and office buildings should be brought into use as housing. There are 270,000 buildings empty for six months or more across the county and these could be brought back into use via the New Homes Bonus. Similarly, there are empty flats above shops which would be ideal for first homers and lots of pre-developed redundant land which would provide 50-100,000 new homes.
Mark said that £19 billion would be invested in 170,000 affordable homes. Under the “Help to Buy” scheme a government-funded 5% deposit on a new home would allow people who can afford to pay a mortgage but do not have the deposit to get on the housing ladder. In response to a question, this would only be available once for the first house purchase.
As regards what type of home is needed, Mark said that 60% of the growth in housing need is because people are living longer and need suitable accommodation for later life. He applauded the developments at Calton Court in Sele Farm, and Bircherley Green in Hertford town centre, which provide residential care and are well designed for older residents. He said it was important that residential homes should be in towns and not on the edges far from amenities. He said that there was no private sheltered accommodation in the area apart from Broadoak Manor in Bramfield Road, and that the choices are limited. The costs are high in terms of the buildings and the care and support required by the residents.
John Edwards said that Bovis had wanted to build on Green Belt land and the council threw their application out, partly because Bovis had shown no regard for local needs.
Alan Sewell asked how more housing could be provided without encroaching on the Green Belt.
Mark said that sprawl should be contained by the Green Belt but that pre-used Green Belt land could be available for development. Also there should be better use made of developed land.
Ben Penrose asked how is the government incentivising new buyers to move on given that homes tend to increase in value. Mark said that “Help with Deposit” and focusing on new building would address that along with the supply of affordable homes to prevent people being forced into the rented sector.
Emmett O’Sullivan asked if co-operative housing could be one answer. Mark said that in Germany and France nearly half of all new houses are self-builds and he supports that. East Herts had identified sites for such schemes allowing for 850 plots. The government will provide £30 million to fund families who want to buy land for 12,000 self-build homes.
Residents asked about land bought by big companies who do not then use it, how we reconcile the need for houses over other building usage and how disused shops could be brought into housing use. Mark said that there are various reasons why unused land may not be developed and that new developments must be sustainable in terms of amenities and infrastructure. Town centres need to be kept alive and perhaps bringing provisions such as surgeries into unused shops is a way to do that whilst releasing properties away from town centre into housing use.
In response to a question about Section 106 money (provided by housing developers for local amenities) Mark said that these funds stay in East Herts but the planning authority decides where to spend it. It is up to local people to lobby for where this is most needed. Central government does not get involved in these decisions. He also said that protection of small green areas should be decided at local and not national level.
Finally, Mark said that he is a member of various government committees and he does meet the Prime Minister to discuss housing and local government issues at a national level as Minister for these issues.
He thanked the MRA for inviting him to attend and was warmly applauded by the meeting.
The meeting ended with the Chairman thanking everyone for attending another successful AGM.
Next Committee Meeting – Bengeo Club on Thursday 4th July at 8 o’clock (TBC).
We are currently ten including the three named officers of chairman, treasurer and secretary. Thanks to Peter Dougherty we meet every 2-3 months in the very comfortable upstairs room at the Bengeo Club. We are always looking for new members to bring new ideas and energy.
In the early days of the association the social side was a big part of what the association did. However life has changed and we recognise that organising big events for large numbers of residents just isn’t possible. So we have started to support smaller events run by groups of residents, often organised on a street-by-street basis.
Last June saw diamond jubilee parties in Woodhall Close, Lodge Close, The Drive and The Wick. Since then we have also supported the Drive’s quiz. We have run successful quizzes ourselves over the last few years. We set about holding another one on 7 March but unfortunately had to cancel as there seemed to be a glut of them around then. As always we are keen to hear suggestions for events.
I hope you will agree that our recent Outlook newsletters have been informative and attractive. This is thanks to Emmet O’Sullivan from Woodhall Close who kindly offered to take over the editor’s job. I should also say that we are very grateful to Lanes estate agents for continuing to print the newsletter free of charge.
This has been a busy year on the planning front. First of all we had the granting of planning permission for the launderette to be changed into a vet’s consulting room. Just as that was going through we were gearing up to deal with the far more serious threat from Bovis Homes on the Bengeo Nursery site. Thanks to the work of the committee and a number of people around the estate we were pleased when the development control committee at the District Council voting against the application on 20 March.
We are also keeping an eye on planning matters up the Sacombe Road. Lafarge Tarmac have an application in right now with East Herts to demolish the black barns on the heath and will be submitting one soon to build 8 houses on site of their plant storage sheds just past the junction with Vicarage Lane.
The committee has also been involved in the work done to the playing field next to the Fairview Serenity development now called Buckwells Field. We joined our local councillors in bringing pressure to bear on Fairview to complete work on the new play equipment.
The Wick/Sacombe Rd playing field
As I have mentioned, we have been involved in keeping up the pressure on Fairview to get their work in the field completed. We have also worked with East Herts District Council who installed a bench for us commemorating the diamond jubilee last June and more recently paid them to plant a tree in memory of committee stalwart Pam Lutner nearby.
Linking planning matters and the playing field is the working group we have just set up to look into the possibility of getting additional protection against future development for our precious green area. They will be seeing if we can get it Town Green status which would makes it virtually impossible for it to be built on. If you know anything about this or would like to help please talk to a committee member.
Our thoughts this year have mainly been about Sacombe Road although those of us who cross the Avenue will know that the morning rush hour right turn ban to deter drivers from missing out Port Hill has pushed more traffic through our estate and past the school and the shops. However the rat run could be back on the agenda after a boy was knocked down on Byde Street just after 8am on 23 April.
The website http://www.molewood.org.uk has been up-and-running since summer 2011. I’d like to thank Paul Ogier for his hard work in setting it up and managing it for us. I’d also like to thank Amanda Dial for her work keeping the diary section up-to-date. So if you know of a local event please drop us a line and she will post it there. That way we can put it on the back page of the next Outlook too. We always need more content and we are particularly keen to make it relevant but also to use it as a repository of the story of the estate and our part of Hertford.
I have been looking back through the annals of the association working my way through old copies of the newsletter so they can go on the website. We are currently as far back as Spring 1989. I haven’t specifically been looking to find out when subscription went up to £2 but I’m sure it’s at least as long as my time on the estate and we moved up from Fanshawe Street 19 years ago. I hope you agree that that is good value from everything we have done this year.
One of the things the committee has decided recently is that relying on you and your neighbours to bring the money round to the treasurer’s house isn’t as effective as getting a knock on the door from a friendly face who you can talk to about Molewood issues. So you should see us round and about more and be able to ask us questions or make suggestions – just like the way we used to work.