Please take the time to read the minutes of our latest meeting held on 12th November to catch up on THCAT's events and actions.
Chris Milton (THCT Secretary)
THORNTON HEATH COMMUNITY ACTION MEETING HELD ON 12THNOVEMBER 2019, 7-8.30PM AT ST PAUL’S CHURCH HALL
1. Welcome, Health & Safety and Apologies
Andrea, who chaired the meeting in Linda’s absence, welcomed members to the meeting. Gill from St. Paul’s gave the Health & Safety briefing.
Apologies: Linda Watson, Peter Lawrence, Mohammed Mir, Jamie Audsley, Thornton Heath SNT, Deidre Hynes, Rev. Nadine Wilkinson, Mark Huggett, Sarah Hayward.
Graham informed us that Mohammed is recovering from an operation and suggested we send him a gift.
2. Reducing Our Plastic Purchases
Ian Morris addressed our last meeting on this topic but no definite steps have been taken as a group. Mary told the group about using Lush bars instead of plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner.
Chris mentioned that Ian is holding an initial meeting this weekend with a few people to discuss a way forward and hopes to find a larger venue for regular meetings thereafter. Details of these can be circulated via the THCAT mailing list and FB page.
3. Domestic Violence
Sarah Hayward who was to address us on this topic was unable to attend. She hopes to come to our next meeting in January.
4. Local Plan
Andrea invited Alison to speak to us about the Local Plan.
- The new application for a development behind Iceland goes to the Planning Committee on 21st November and Alison thinks it might be recommended to pass.The revised plans can be seen online.The owners will probably want to get planning permission and then to sell the site on.BXB are not involved.The Iceland car park is not included.Iceland does not want to move away and are planning to refurbish their store.The plan for the site is for 50 units including more 3 bedroomed flats, plus two commercial unite and parking.It is sited more centrally on the plot than in the original plans.
- Alison informed us that there are 3 sets of legislation affecting planning: National, London and Borough.This includes transport, schools, green space etc as well as housing. In reviewing the Local Plan and asking the public what they want, the number of new houses could go up or down.The master plan for the borough is for more housing along the Purley Way combined with the current industrial areas.The National plan says not building on the green belt but this is up for discussion.People can read more about the local plan and comment on the Council website.
- Ambassador House: Andrea said the building appears to be being stripped out. Alison explained that conversion from office space to residential accommodation is permitted development which does not need planning permission. It can be problematic as they do not have to meet usual standards on space, affordability and community benefit. Some are good but others are awful. Currently the Council are having meetings with Network Rail who own much but not all of the building to see if a master plan can be made for it. Business rates are owed on the building.
- Grangewood Park Lodge: Andrea asked why there had been no consultation over the sale of the Lodge together with a portion of land which was being sold with it. Could it be demolished and new planning permission sought? What was part of the park is now moved to housing.
- Alison did not have the information but said she would get an answer and send it the Andrea to share with the group.There had been an attempt to turn the Lodge into a home for people with autism but there was insufficient funding and thereafter it was looked on as an asset.
- Andrea asked if something could be done with the income for the park.She had heard that only 25% would go to the park and the rest would go elsewhere.
- Alison said there are budgetary problems with statutory services which the Council must provide eg social, children’s and homeless services.
- Andrea reported that the Lodge building is not secure and there is flytipping.
- Could it be run as a public building? There has to be an organisation to run it and make it pay.
- Article 4: This should be agreed at the December Council meeting to start in January.
5. Christmas Tree Event
Setting up and decorating the Christmas tree will take place on Saturday 7thDecember from 2pm outside the former Doris the Florist shop.
- Andrea will source the tree.
- Graham to secure and stabilise the tree.
- David has decorations
- Linda to arrange barriers
- Van will request donations of cake
- A volunteer is coming with an electric keyboard to play for Carol singing from 2-2.30pm.Some can sing while others work and then swap over.
6. Safe Zone Initiative
Renee from Croydon Community Leaders explained to us that they support various local charities which work on ASB, hate crime and homelessness. They run the Safe Zone project in partnership with Unity to give people the tools to help young people and vulnerable adults. They provide training and focus on the Thornton Heath, S. Norwood, Crystal Palace and Croydon areas. They aim to empower people to act to help when incidents occur instead if standing around filming them. Adults have a responsibility to input to the community so that this filters down to the young people.
The scheme provides a safe space as a refuge (in local shops) for people to go if an incident occurs. The shops have a Safe Zone badge in the window with several on one street. The shopkeepers taking part have First Aid training. There is an outreach team to give aftercare. Response from businesses has been positive but they also have questions because of fears of the unknown. The scheme aims to target hot spots.
Teams also go into schools to raise awareness and there is an app for young people to use. They also hold outreach days and will keep THCAT informed when these occur.
One member suggested they might seek sponsorship eg. from William Hill.
Hamida asked if there was anything they needed from the Council. She said that this scheme was in line with the Public Health approach to knife crime. Renee asked that Councillors should champion the scheme to give it energy.
7. Neighbourhood Safety Officers
Andrea welcomed Cllr Hamida Ali who had come to speak on this topic. Andrea suggested that ASB be included in this topic.
Hamida is a Councillor for Woodside and cabinet member for Safer Croydon and Communities covering the voluntary sector, regulatory services, ASB, financial inclusion and community safety.
The NSO’s are the Council’s uniformed presence patrolling the streets. They are the first point of contact for security and an approachable presence. Their role is environmental: issuing Community Protection warning letters, monitoring hot spots and parks. They are also part of the flytipping team, enforcing trade waste regulations. There are currently 35 plus 6 vacancies working in mini-teams in the North, Central and South areas of the Borough.
The Council are looking at new configurations to maximise the service. Detailed performance information has been collected leading to instant improvements on deployment and shift patterns. Current shift patterns are 7-1, 12-9 and 2-10. Looking at when most events happen, they are working on changing the shift patterns. They need more technology so that more time can be spent on the streets and less in the office on paperwork. There is a morning tasking meeting and reports are written up at the end of the day which has had an impact. Until recently the teams had been spread but they are now deploying more where they are needed ie more patrols in the North giving time to develop relationships with businesses etc.
They attend SNT ward panel meeting and undertake weapons sweeps (29 August – 5 weapons; 22 Sept – 2 weapons). The want to see closer working with the SNT police teams. There has been operational work in West Croydon and they hope to extend this.
Activity is being mapped. In the last day there were patrols in the town centre, Thornton Heath and Norwood, 9 parks, 4 flytipping hotspots and 4 other hotspots.
Hamida stressed the importance of reporting via apps or email. Things are sometimes posted on social media but not actually reported to the Police or the Council. Chris McAvoy manages the team and there are also supervisors. Dermot Lineham covers the North area. Steve Isles is the Public Realm director.
Q: What would it cost if they were to carry metal detector wands?
Hamida: This is not something they have. Wands were offered to schools but most did not want them. The NSO’s do not have Police powers to search people.
Comment: They could be used to look in the bushes where people discard them.
Hamida: The waste contractors also do sweeps and are trained to deal with weapons.
Barbara: How are the teams split North/South and why are there 6 vacancies?
Andrea: Cited the pledge of 60 NSO’s, 40 plus 20 extra which was made by the council in February 2018. It was approved by the cabinet and a press release featured the announcement on the council web site.
Hamida: The vacancies are just turnover and churn. The challenge of providing 20 more is the cost. 75% of the Council’s revenue support grant has been lost over the last 10 years. 80% of this goes on statutory services which the Council must provide. The Council cannot file an unbalanced budget and the Director of Finance says they must improve efficiency first. In the North there has been a 27% increase in time out on the streets.
The split is between North, Central and South. Timebanding is being looked at so that visible patrolling time is prioritised over numbers of NSO’s. They are trying to make sure they deploy according to need. She could not give numbers for each team but they are looking to change and boost the numbers. Some Councils have not on-street presence at all.
Barbara: Do the officers use apps? Are they tech savvy?
Hamida: Yes to avoid longhand paperwork.
Barbara: The last time I did a walkabout with them they did not have any technology.
Hamida: The review is on-going. She will meet with Cllr Collins again before Xmas and is happy to come back again to update us.
Andrea: How can the NSO’s help with the problem of Street Drinkers in Thornton Heath? The Police say the NSO’s are not allowed to confiscate alcohol even in the no drinking zone (which is where they all drink).
Hamida: I will take this issue back to the Council.
Christina: Raised a different issue of equality and diversity. She had done a walkabout with the Mayor of the High Street shops who did not know about the recent event at Ambassador House.
Andrea: Ruled this was not relevant to the discussion as Hamida had come specifically to talk with us on the topic of NSO’s.
Graham: Has the Council considered outsourcing patrols to raise money through more fines?
Hamida: No. They are in the process of bringing things back in House. The Council is a London Living Wage employer.
Graham: At one stage they were fining people for dropping a cigarette butt.
Hamida: Yes, but their approach was just looking for low level incidents to tick boxes and give fixed penalties. Engagement if important not just enforcement but there are funding problems.
Andrea: We rarely see the NSOs. We have a big ASB problem in Thornton Heath. They need to be out more.
Hamida: That is what we want to see also.
8. Any Other Business
Chetna encouraged members to take part in the Council’s Big Conversation Consultation. You can take part online at: [https://bigconversation.croydon.gov.uk%20] https://bigconversation.croydon.gov.uk
9. Date of Next Meeting
Tuesday 7th January 2020 from 7-8.30pm, venue to be confirmed.