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Minutes of the 20 February 2007 Community Meeting

1. Police report

No police present.

2. St Nicholas Church Gardens: Issues, Concerns and Opportunities (with Simon Bannister, Council’s Environment Improvement Team, and Ann Baldridge, B & H Food Partnership)

Simon Bannister explained that since the Garden of Rest became a closed cemetery, the Council had taken over certain aspects of the management of all three green spaces attached to St Nicholas, such as litter clearance and grass cutting. They were also responsible for upkeep of tombs and monuments and were working with the PCC and Church House on hit list of what needs doing; the conservation team was also involved with the 12 listed structures; as the oldest building in the city, the church was of course also listed and a vital part of the city’s fabric.

The Environment Improvement Team was particularly concerned with issues of public safety and identifying areas affected by anti-social behaviour. They wanted to work with the community looking at things like surveillance: many complaints about youth disorder and vandalism on these sites; the GoR was used by drug users, drunks and dog walkers, none of whom should be there. . There would be another public meeting in the church in the last week of March with various service providers such as City Parks and neighbourhood police team present to try and form an action team about how people can become involved and turn particularly the GoR into a better used area.

Ann Baldridge explained that the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership was a not-for-profit organisation of 170 members ‘promoting a sustainable, healthy, local food system for all’. Over the next three years the B & HFP would be working on a ‘food strategy in action’ with the Primary Care Trust. The idea of a 1940s’ themed allotment was inspired by Glasgow’s Botanic Garden. The GoR was chosen because it was an underused space, easily accessed by the city’s children (number of local schools) and community groups. Looking to complement the natural flow of the park and biodiversity would be a feature. The space would be used in a positive way, inspiring residents and those who use the park anyway to grow their own food. The show allotment would be maintained by a paid part-time garden worker but there would be opportunities for volunteering; and Pick and Cook sessions with children.

Response: The interest of the Council and the B & H Partnership was welcomed as an opportunity to renew and enhance the Garden of Rest – an extremely valuable but under-used city centre green space likely to be all the more valuable with the housing development planned for the RAH main site.

The main issues raised in discussion were

  • Security and Vandalism –
    • All three sites were adversely affected by anti-social behaviour: dog and human mess in the children’s playground (a popular area for families on the way home from school) and vandalism and drug use in the churchyard (regularly catalogued by Street Rep for Upper Church Street), and any regeneration would require solutions to these problems.
    • Regardless of the future use of the GoR, making it secure at night (locking the gate, preventing the wall being scaled) was of paramount importance. Given that the GoR was only accessible for a short distance along Dyke Road, this should not be impossible goal to achieve.
    • Upper North Street residents were convinced that burglaries had increased since the gate was not locked and an inadequate fence installed between houses and GoR.
    • While increased daytime use on the lines discussed might help reclaim the GoR for the community, there would still be daytime issues of anti-social behaviour that would need addressing too. The merit of park-keepers in building community atmosphere in, for example, London parks (where the problem was much worse) was mentioned.
  • While a few of those present would like to see the GoR remain unchanged as a ‘sanctuary’ the majority felt its tranquil atmosphere – particularly enjoyed by young children - would not necessarily be compromised by increased community use and by the sort of activity proposed by the B & H Food Partnership and indeed could make its delights more accessible to local residents.
  • One way forward might be to turn the GoR into a community garden (see www.farmgarden.org.uk - there are nearly 1000 community gardens in UK involving around 500,000 volunteers) in which projects such as the ‘40s themed allotment might be located. Local schools would be involved and volunteering. It might have a small café (St Ann’s Wells was a good example of the transforming effect of a successful café). Funding would be needed and Cllr Pennington suggested the local community might consider whether ‘Section 106 money’ might be sought from George Wimpey as an ideal community project to help offset their housing development at the RAH.

3. Minutes of previous meeting

These were approved.

4. Update from Management Committee

Issues raised are minuted under items 5 and 7 below

5. Update on RAH re-development

As regards the car-park site, there are now TPOs on 3 trees and Fishersgate were waiting to see if they are diseased before submitting a planning application. The Steering Group had met under Cllr Pennington’s chairmanship and asked him to write to i) Wimpey to re-invite them to meet the community (it is understood that they have appointed agents to represent them and are conducting a survey); ii) to the PCT re the surgery and the petition and iii) to the Council Planners to strengthen the Planning Advice Note to make it more compulsory. Replies awaited.
New owner of the three Powis Villas was a builder from Faversham who is understood to intends living in one house and reinstating the other two to private houses. To be invited to a future meeting.

6. Treasurer’s report

Currently approximately £2500 in the Bank and a steady inflow of advertising revenue for the newsletter, thanks to Philippa Sankey, Corinne Attwood and the team. End of year financial statements almost completed and would be examined by street rep John Warmington.

7. AOB

The EGM to discuss the constitution was postponed, as the meeting was not quorate. Parking signs: Cllr Pennington reported on the local concern about the number of new parking signs and the proliferation of street furniture; CMPCA members had organised a petition from 100 households which would go to the next Environment Committee and the CAG was discussing this morning. The CMPCA Chair had also written re the size and number of new signs. There were confused signals from Westminster about the legal necessity for the signs, and the best way forward might be to go for exemption as a Conservation Area. On the secondary schools’ admissions issue one further vote was to happen.

23 attended

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