Desmond Evans, Mike Costello, John Hitchman, Grenville Holland, Colin Green, Dick Fong, Odile Fong, Jeff Young, Roger Cornwell, Carole Reeves, Jean Rogers
Ann Evans, Janie Bickersteth, Nigel Martin
Appointment of Chair:
Presentation: Jonathan Elmer on Digital Democracy
outlined how to use the web site www.digitaldemocracy.org.uk in order for individuals to put on public record items that concerned them, together with a proposed action, so that in a fortnightly cycle (from 08/03/2010) other people could register support if they wished. At the end of the 14 day cycle the items most supported in a series of categories, would be forwarded by the programme to an appropriately authorised persons to initiate official actions on the problems raised. There was some discussion on security of the site, retaining confidentiality, abuse by extreme groups. Jonathan agreed there were possible problems but that some, like domination by extreme ideas, would be controlled by the use of the site by a very large number of people. The feeling of the meeting was that the site could be useful and that it was worth supporting the trial. Jonathan pointed out one could use pseudonyms to preserve privacy.
The minutes of the last meeting were approved as a correct record.
On the moving of the equestrian statue in the Market Place, Roger said the City Trust, on legal advice, had decided that the expense of further action was not warranted as it would probably result in reconsideration by the same organisations as before with the same outcome. Dick's call for complaining against the support English Heritage had given to moving the statue, was not supported. Mike pointed out that the current request for extra time to deal with the statue was because it was proving more difficult to mend than expected.
Neighbourhood Warden's report
was not available. There were now only 3 wardens instead of 6, a fact that had been brought up at an AAP meeting with no result.
Letter to Simon Henig, leader of the DCC:
Although sent in an email on 26/02/2010 asking what action was being taken over new legislation on HMOs which comes into force on 06/04/2010, no response had been received; there had not even been an acknowledgement. It was agreed that a letter be sent through the post to the Chief Executive, George Garlick, with a copy to Simon Henig, complaining about this lack of communication with the public. Other examples of no replies to mail from the public e.g. a reply on 22nd Feb 2010 to questions emailed by Desmond on Sep 26th 2009, were to be included to show this is a general feature of the whole unitary authority and is not acceptable.
Seminar on Planning:
Carole said it was very well organised and informative to hear how the planning officers operated. There was general agreement with this assessment but Desmond pointed out that looking in detail at the planning decision for 26 The Avenue showed that it was untrue that the policy statements were always used by the officers in reaching their recommendations, as was claimed in the seminar. In this case there was a clear local policy H9.4 which could have prevented No. 26 being converted to a 9 bedroomed house.
Officers Directory, reply times:
Nigel was absent and Grenville could not comment. It was agreed that Nigel be asked to circulate any information he had on this topic.
Roger gave figures for yearly precepts added to the council tax of a Band D house levied by various Parish councils in the county. Belmont levied £69 (thereby raising £69,000), and some more than £200.
Grenville reported new discussions about the historic treasures in Durham Town Hall after the DCC's claim that all the contents were now the property of the county had been overturned by legal advice. There was all party agreement that the Charter Trust should hold all assets to hand over to a town council and a firm legal document for this purpose was needed. Grenville reckoned that a total of £135,000 a year was the least requirement for the town council and Roger estimated that adding £25 to the council tax of a Band D house would raise a total of £200,000. Grenville argued that it was essential that Newton Hall be included in the region covered by the Town Council in order to have a sufficiently large total population.
It was agreed that matters concerning a Town Council should appear on the Agenda for the next meeting.
AAP/local association discussions:
Mike reported matters about students had been discussed. An offer of using people sentenced to community service to help clean up the environment was a problem for the council which insisted such work had to be done by their own employees.
Jean reported that the email address
had been set up for the receipt of grant applications, which would be automatically forwarded to the Treasurer and Secretary.
Arts Centre Meeting / Wharton Park:
no-one was able to report on these.
Mike drew attention to the case in Whinney Hill of a sold council house which has a covenant preventing any use other than by an owner occupier and the approach that has been made by Hope Estates to have the covenant removed by the DCC. Desmond said he thought the covenant could only be raised in a court of law and not by councillors. Grenville suggested that the relevant councillors write to the County Council Chief Executive expressing their concerns.
Date of Next Meeting:
Monday April 26th
There will be no meeting in May as the last Monday is a Bank Holiday.