Crossgate Community Partnership: Minutes

Minutes of the General Meeting 7th October 2013

1. Attendance: those present included
  • CCP Trustees Ruth Chambers, Mike Costello, Carole Reeves and Roger Cornwell (in the Chair);
  • Councillors Nigel Martin and Richard Ormerod;
  • John Murphy (Durham AAP);
  • Police: PCSOs Steven Bell and Jean Fletcher
  • plus at least 88 local residents (list with the secretary). It was noted that not everybody present was able to sign the attendance sheet.
2. Roger Cornwell welcomed exceptionally large attendance at the meeting, and reported that he had received apologies for absence from:
Cllr Grenville Holland, Simon Squires (treasurer) and Ann Evans (trustee).
3. PACT (Police And Communities Together) Session, report from PCSO Steve Bell
a) PCSO Steve Bell apologised that given the unexpected attendance at the meeting, he had not prepared sufficient copies of his report: it is available online here. He talked the meeting through its main points:
  • A cycle theft had been reported, and a known perpetrator identified from CCTV footage.
  • Police had already been called to some noisy parties, and noise in the streets at night. A patrolling and monitoring operation will continue over the next four Wednesday evenings. Phil Raine (Police University Liaison Officer) has promised to follow up every complaint about noise, without exception.
  • The police were receiving complaints about back lanes behind Hawthorn Terrace and May Street being blocked by builders vans. They can only act when the lane has been adopted as a highway, which he understood these are not.
  • The Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officers are patrolling along Framwellgate Waterside in the evening, and are having lots of success in catching people fishing without licences and using illegal equipment.
  • It was reported that a National Front leaflet had been pushed through the door of a Black American; this was the only house in the street which had received such a leaflet. Steven undertook to visit.
b) University community liaison patrol As a result of reports that Police Commissioner Ron Hogg was talking to the university about putting an end to the university patrol hotline and making neighbourhood disturbance etc. firmly a police job, Roger had written to Ron Hogg. He received this reply: "The strict fact of the matter is that neither the University, nor their Police have any jurisdiction over students outside of the University precincts. Thus the proper course of action would be to call Durham Constabulary who are empowered to make the necessary interventions. Additionally, in this way the Constabulary are able to collate all information and thus develop a better understanding of anti social behaviour issues."

Roger had also informed Paul Anderson, the Neighbourhood Inspector for Durham City: his reply began "my initial comments are that if we are to solve a problem it is essential everyone works together in partnership. The police, University, students or community will not solve it themselves."

Discussion followed in which it became clear that the majority of those who had reported disturbances valued the university hotline very highly, and were pleased with the rapid and effective response. The exceptions were residents of Parkside, who were told that hotline staff had been specifically instructed not to attend disturbances in the North Road. Nigel Martin offered to raise the misidentification of Parkside as the North Road at the next University Liaison meeting.
Roger was asked to reply to Ron Hogg to say that local residents value the hotline, endorse the remarks of Paul Anderson and regret that Mr Hogg did not consult locally before taking action.
c) Review of Priorities It was agreed to maintain the existing priorities, which are:
  • Antisocial behaviour in the North Road.
  • Encouraging responsible behaviour among students, and
  • the theft of scrap metal (people who see anything suspicious are requested to inform the police - telephone 101).
d) Steven announced that he and his colleague PCSO Jean Fletcher had been involved in seven arrests that day: the meeting gave them a round of applause.
4. The minutes of the previous meeting
were agreed as a correct record.
5. Matters arising
a) County Hospital site: Four of the Partnership's trustees had had a meeting with Planning Officer Peter Herbert. They learned that although Signet Planning informed our July meeting that they had as yet no firm plan for the redevelopment, they had already told the Planning Department that they intended to develop the site as student accommodation. They were claiming community support for their scheme. The trustees were able to inform the Planning Department that the meeting had felt that there were grounds for optimism in the team's understanding of and ambitions for the site, but that the requirement for financial viability could override good intentions. This conditional support was based on a presentation to the meeting of a scheme which was not purely (or even primarily) student accommodation.

Signet's consultation leaflet was also quoted as emphasising future public consultation and community involvement, although it had been issued in July. It had not been distributed to Parkside, the street immediately opposite the site.

The Trustees had been told that if the scheme as displayed to the public during Heritage Open Day was submitted for planning consent, the officers would oppose it. They had no objection to the removal of later additions to the original building, but thought that the proposed new blocks were too big and too obtrusive. This was also the view of English Heritage. The meeting supported this view, as expressed in Roger's letter to the Durham Times on the CCP's behalf.

A general discussion followed on the forces which were leading to large parts of Durham City becoming effectively student dormitories:
  • On the one hand, the University continues to expand. The Government places no limit on recruitment for top-class universities. Wikipedia's list of UK Universities in order of size shows that Durham compares to universities based in much larger cities.
  • On the other hand, the Council has no policy to accommodate this ever-growing university. There is a hole in the County Plan: it proposes to regulate HMOs, but has nothing to say about the sort of block development proposed for the County Hospital site.
John Murphy invited everyone to attend Durham Area Action Partnership (Durham AAP)'s forum event at County Hall on Saturday October 26th between 10am - 2pm, which will provide an opportunity to discuss the County Durham Plan, as well as to engage with the AAP and help set priorities. There will also be consultation events around the area.

There was consensus that Durham needs better communication between town and university, and that we need a holistic approach to planning for student accommodation.
b) 51 The Avenue: This house has now been let to students, and what was the front garden is being used for parking. Ruth Chambers had written on behalf of the CCP to the council, asking what progress was being made, and received the reply that the council are "currently liaising with the agent for the application in relation to the front wall and hope to have a revised scheme by the end of this week. From there all residents will be consulted on the revised plans." The meeting asked Ruth to reply that since the demolition of the wall had not been authorised, and was within the Conservation Area, we would expect enforcement rather than liaison.
c) Reinstatement of play area in Allergate Park: Nigel Martin had today received an e-mail from the council saying that the work will now start in two weeks time, and take three weeks, so that, weather permitting, it should be completed by mid-November.
d) Proposed Sainsbury's Local at the Pot & Glass: a revised planning application has now been submitted, but still does not address the traffic issues. Nigel Martin found that most people he spoke to were in favour of this use for the site.
e) The Shell garage site on Newcastle Road is now infested with Japanese knotweed (and the council have confirmed this identification). The owner is proving elusive, but Nigel will write reminding him he is responsible for eradicating this invasive species.
f) A planning application has been submitted for Neville's Cross Social Club, to convert it into student accommodation and licensed premises. Concern was expressed about where extra cars could be accommodated, but one speaker had been assured that it was Council policy that no new developments would qualify for residents' parking permits. People also expressed reservations about the bar: that it was undesirable for students to be living so close to licensed premises, and that the bar would draw in students from neighbouring (proposed) developments. Mike Costello reported that the NPF (Neighbourhood Planning Forum) wanted to resist this development, and Roger suggested that this would be the best way to oppose this scheme.
It was suggested that since the Council's planning guidelines require community involvement, the CCP should ask to be made a formal consultee on planning applications in our area.
6. Voluntary code of practice on letting boards
Carole Reeves reported that a new code of practice to regulate letting boards outside properties to let has been approved, and should be effective from this month. It includes restrictions on the size and number of boards, and the dates when they may be displayed (not before 1st November or after 1st February). There is also a list of streets to which the code applies: the code in full is here. Reports of infringements should be sent to Pam Glaister (Senior Enforcement Officer) on 03000 263 966 or , who will be letting us know what information she needs.
7. Consultation on garden waste collection
Until 28th October, the Council is consulting on proposed changes to the garden waste collection scheme, which include charging for collection and bringing additional households into the scheme: the questionnaire is on the Council's website.
8. Councillors' Reports
a) Richard Ormerod has been asked to comment on the Council's proposal to do away with the loading bay outside the former Anglian Windows premises. Responses were mixed: the justification for the bay had been lost when the premises ceased to be commercial, it provided an convenient drop-off point for pedestrians (though probably not where this would have been sited if that had been the initial purpose), it could be dangerous for pedestrians crossing unawares into a space used by vehicles in a hurry. Richard was invited to e-mail his enquiry to the googlegroup, so that people could give him their opinions direct.
b) Nigel Martin has received complaints about rubbish being dumped in back lanes, and is aware of the problem.
9. Dates of future meetings
The list of dates circulated with the agenda were agreed, with the exception of January 6th 2015, which was felt fall within the Christmas holidays (Twelfth Night). Meeting dates for 2014 will therefore be Tuesday 7 January (already agreed); Monday 3 February, Tuesday 4 March, Monday 7 April, Tuesday 6 May, Monday 2 June, Tuesday 1 July, Monday 4 August, Tuesday 2 September, Monday 6 October, Tuesday 4 November, Monday 1 December.
10. Date of the next meeting
Tuesday 5th November 2013.