Meeting minutes of our AGM held on 5th March 2019:

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF
THORNTON HEATH COMMUNITY ACTION TEAM
HELD AT THORNTON HEATH LIBRARY, 7-8.30PM, 5.3.2019
 
MINUTES
 
1. Welcome, Apologies, Health and Safety
Linda welcomed everyone to the meeting, especially members attending for the first time.  Chris gave a Health and Safety briefing.
Apologies: Barbara Benjamin, Jackie Cross, Anna D'Agostino, Jorn Cooper, Steve Phaure, Rev Nadine Wilkinson, Pat Clouder, Humayun Kabir.
 
2. Election of Committee Members and Annual Report
Linda thanked the outgoing Committee for their work throughout the year, pointing out that they were, like other THCAT members, volunteers offering their time and skills free of charge.
 
Only one nomination had been received for each office (for the current incumbents) so the Committee members were re-elected as follows:
 
Secretary                                       Chris Milton
Vice Chairs x 2                             Mohammed Mir and Andrea Perry
Treasurer                                      David Fell
Web Manager                               Vân Dang
Street Action Leader                   Gaëtane Jones
Members without Portfolio x 3   Barbara Benjamin, Marley King and
                                                        Graham Mitchell
Project Manager                           Peter Lawrence
Chair                                             Linda Watson
 
Pete suggested that Graham be given the portfolio for Thornton Heath Rec and Norbury Brook where he does a great deal of work and liaison.
 
Annual Report: Copies of the annual report can be downloaded from our website  https://thorntonheath.net/thornton-heath-community-action-team-annual-report-2018/
 
The report contains the following sections: Chair's Introduction; Objectives of THCAT; Accounts Summary; People's Health Trust Street Action Project; The Pond and Our Green Mile; Pallets to planters; New Trumble Gardens Group; Good Growth Fund Bid; In Bloom Competition; Petition Against the Adult Gaming Centre; Re-imagining Thornton Heath - Architectural Competition; Croydon Civic Awards; Local Clear-Ups; Brigstock House and the Christmas Tree Event.
 
Accounts: David spoke briefly about the accounts.  The income we receive is generally ring-fenced for specific projects.  It comes from various sources eg. Councillors' Ward Budgets, The People's Health Trust, Paddy Power and Wetherspoons.  We have a cheque book with 3 signatories and all expenditure must be receipted. 
 
The current balance is approx £21,000.  Last year total income was £20,387 and total expenditure £20,916.
 
We are a Constituted Community Group and not a Charity.
 
3. Vulnerable Persons Policy
We are in the process of formulating a Vulnerable Persons Policy and this will be posted on our website once it is finished.  It includes a reporting form for people to use if they are concerned and guidelines on what to look out for.  It is not a legal requirement for us to have this policy in place but it is good practice and is sometimes requested as part of funding applications.
 
4. Article 4 - Alison Butler
Alison introduced herself as a Councillor for Bensham Manor and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Homes and Gateway Services.
 
Alison explained that HMO's (houses of multiple occupation) are generally bedsits with shared facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms.  They can be purpose built or converted and can be used, for example, for supported living or just for renting.  The Council are not against them but how well maintained they are is down to management.
 
If developers are converting houses for 6 letting rooms or less, they do not currently need planning permission as this comes under permitted development.  They do have to be licensed as HMO's but if they fit the criteria like room sizes and fire safety, this cannot be refused. Croydon is a Landlord Licensing borough.  Some extensions can be done without planning permission under permitted development, depending on the scale.
 
Concern has been raised about how many HMO's there are.  They occur throughout the borough but there is a predominance in the north and centre.  The local authority can raise an article 4, if the Secretary of State accepts it, which stops permitted development so that planning permission would be necessary for all HMO'S.
 
Croydon has less HMO's than some areas.  Article 4's have been used, for example, in University towns.  The council is seeking Article 4 on the grounds of loss of family homes, based on the Local Plan.  An Article 4 can be immediate or non-immediate (with 12 months notice).  If it is immediate, the Council is liable to pay compensation for the following 12 months.  The Council has been advised by lawyers that it would need to put aside a large budget to cover this risk.  They have therefore informed the Secretary of State that they wish to put in a non-immediate Article 4 for the whole borough to begin in January 2020.  It can be refused. Alison then took questions.
 
Mohammed - On roads like Melfort, if there is no parking and insufficient bin space, will permission be refused?
 
Alison - Parking is not usually expected for this type of property.  People who live in them are generally on lower incomes so not expected to own cars.  Melfort Road, which is on a bus route and near the station, would be considered to have a good transport offer.  Although the borough-wide application is non-immediate, they hope to pick out some high incidence streets for an immediate Article 4.  Melfort Road and London Road have the most HMO's.  If there are other roads you wish to suggest, please e-mail alison.butler@croydon.gov.uk.  Applications must be evidence based and the Council have only a small team to do the work.
 
The consultation on the borough wide Article 4 ends this week.  It will then take 5 weeks to pull together  and give notice of the Article 4.  If they do not hear from the Secretary of State, they will be more confident of being able to go ahead.
 
David - What will planning policy be in February 2020?
 
Alison - Planning Committee decisions will probably be refused because of loss of family homes.  There are 925 licensed HMO's in the borough with a further estimated 2130 which are not licensed.  The Article 4 will only apply to new conversions
 
Jeff - Would precedent take effect?
 
Alison - No.
 
Andrea - There are a significant number of fires in HMO's eg. last week fire which damaged one floor of an HMO in Melfort Road was caused by a hotplate.  Are there HMO's without proper kitchen facilities?  Would the fire be referred to the Council?
 
Alison - The Fire Brigade would be involved and the Council team would go in if it was referred to them.  Usually there are kitchen facilities but some tenants choose to cook in their rooms.  HMO's must have fire doors etc.  The Council can take action to shut them down if necessary.
 
Andrea - Do the Council have the resources to do this?
 
Alison - We do have resources from the Council's Landlord Licensing Scheme.  They have enforcement officers but they cannot recruit enough.  There is a shortage across London.
 
Improvement notices have been issued.  There are good and bad landlords.  Many have only one property they rent out and do not view it as a business or take their responsibilities as landlords seriously.  There is a list of licensed HMO's on the Council website.  You can put in a postcode and see who is licensed.  Licences last for 5 years and they will be inspected at some time during this period.  More time will be spent on those where concerns have been reported.
 
Graham - I have looked at the register and it seems to be very poorly maintained.  Properties are allocated to the wrong wards or to two different wards within the same road. If the Council wishes to maintain family homes, what can be done to make the area so that families see it as a place to live and outbid developers.
 
Alison - It is an issue across the borough and is down to market forces.  The local plan says to keep family homes.  Most landlords only rent one property.  If developers are going to build not convert they may get planning permission.
 
Linda - What is usually the minimum size of property to be converted?
 
Alison - They usually want to achieve 6 bedrooms plus kitchen and bathroom.  There is often no living room.  Streets with larger properties are more likely to become HMO's.
 
Linda - What is to stop developers getting in quickly to convert HMO's before the Article 4 comes into force?  How will developers know about it?
 
Alison - Notices of the Article 4 went out and it will go back to the Planning Committee.  Those wanted to convert to HMO's are usually looking for a specific type of clients.
 
Andrea - Doesn't the Council work with them anyway?
 
Alison - The Council doesn't recruit but they would give advice on what is needed.
 
Andrea - Do they have to apply before the Article 4 comes in?
 
Alison - I will check.  They have to apply before converting.  One anomaly is that the Council cannot refuse a Landlord Licence on the grounds of no planning permission.  Some boroughs have applied for Article 4 to stop permitted development rights.  Croydon is now reviewing the rest of the borough re offices being converted to residential.  However, permitted development is being extended so more Article 4's may become necessary.
 
Pete - What is the percentage of HMO's North to South?
 
Alison - The North and Addiscombe have the highest density.
 
David - Will the standard licensing scheme be renewed?
 
Alison - Yes.  The Council is setting up a consultation to do that.  The current scheme expires in 2020 and has to be renewed every 5 years.  The current scheme came in one week before the government changed the criteria but they hope to get a new borough-wide scheme.
 
Mohammed - Thornton Heath is very over-populated.  What is the long-term solution from the Council to reduce this?
 
Alison - We are one of the largest boroughs in London.  The population is much denser in the N.  Under the local plan and even more under the London plan we must build more homes.  In the Borough plan there are no areas in the North designated for intensification.  Planning legislation will be used where we are still able to but there is concern over permitted development as the government is going to extend it to allow 2 story extensions and conversion of shops and launderettes to houses without planning permission.
 
The green belt and metropolitan open land have to be respected. This affects some areas in the South of the Borough. In Croydon there are 2,000 in temporary accommodation and 5,000 on the Council waiting list.  We do not house adult refugees (those in eg Brigstock House are there temporarily and dispersed throughout the country).  We do have an issue with unaccompanied young refugees who are put into foster care.
 
Q - Does S. Norwood have many HMO's?
 
Alison - Yes but not as many as here.  More younger people are buying in S. Norwood.  House prices here are quite high.
 
Pete - There seems to be insufficient infrastructure to deal with the extra people.  Changing tenants at HMO's lead to flytipping of mattresses etc.  HMO's do not have enough bins for the number of people.  How will the Council support this?
 
Alison - The Council can take action.  Landlords must ensure there are enough bins.  The Council officers do visit, often again and again.  Some Landlords give up as they cannot get tenants to do recycling etc properly.  The turnover of tenants makes it harder to create communities.  There needs to be resources to keep on top of the situation and change behaviour.
 
Graham - One 6 bedroom HMO on Melfort Road has applied to become 8 bedrooms.  Environmental services say they need only the standard issue of bins, the same as Graham has for 2 people.  Surely this cannot be enough.  Also the planning permission says there must be a bin storage facility built but there is none.
 
Alison - I will take this back re the bins and the planning.
 
Linda - In the interim, before the Article 4, what will the Council do to support Communities?
 
Alison - Tenants living in an HMO are not necessarily going to behave badly.  The government reduced minimum room sizes but Croydon did not adopt this.  Council action will depend on the issues that arise.  Please report to Alison or the Council.
 
Linda - THCAT is not against HMO's if they are managed properly and non over concentrated - many of us have lived in this type of accommodation at some point.
 
5. Good Growth Fund Bid update
Linda reported that unfortunately Steve Phaure is unwell and this item will, therefore, be carried forward to the next meeting.
 
6. Adult Casino - Licence Application
Many of you may have signed the THCAT petition against this planning application for what used to be the HSBC Bank.  Chris explained that although the planning application has been turned down, Admiral are going ahead with applying for a license to operate, possibly to give them more chance of gaining planning permission on appeal.
You can submit objections by email to licensing@croydon.gov.uk or by post to:
 
Place Department, Licensing Team, 6th Floor, Zone A
Bernard Weatherill House, 8 Mint Walk, Croydon, CR0 1EA
giving the name of the premises etc.  The closing date is midnight on Thursday 14th March.
You have to use the planning objectives to object.  Under the Gambling Act 2005, these are:
(a) preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime,
(b) ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, and
(c) protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling
Application for a Adult Gaming Centre Licence under the Gambling Act 2005
15/02/2019
Admiral, 91 High Street, Thornton Heath, CR7 8RY.
This information has already appeared on our Facebook Page and as the minutes may not be available before the closing date, an email will go out in the next few days.
 
 
7. Leisure Centre Update - Jeff Greaves
Things are getting better at the Leisure Centre.  There is a new timetable with new classes including on a Sunday and also swimming on a Sunday.  The new experienced Manager seems willing to improve and drive things forward and a detailed improvement plan is in place to make things better for staff and users.
 
However, the cleaning has been poor. The cleaners were all sacked and it was planned to bring in new staff at a lower rate but now the pool and centre staff do the cleaning.  The air conditioning also has problems but they have promised to fix this.
 
There are also problems with different tiers of membership.  Over 50's membership is only for off-peak whereas before it was the same.  You can take out a standard membership.  This is currently out of the manager's hands.  Alison will take this back to the Council.
 
8. CR7 Square
Linda introduced Thomas and Jeremy of CR7 Square who won the Council's competition to refashion the forecourt of Ambassador House.  They held a workshop in the old Wetherspoons last Saturday and are listening to local people to see what they would like.  They are working with Zohra on a programme of events and will build on the previous THCAT markets and the TH festivals.
 
They are trying to build a toolkit for multiple scenarios.  There is now a gallery of ideas on the hoardings.  Vân Dang and other artists will be doing murals.  There will be a local hero wall.  They will review with the Council on 18th March and then produce more detailed designs.  There will be workshops and skills sharing.  There is £60k for construction including utilities and lighting to make the area more welcoming.
 
Linda - Do you have any solutions for the weather?  It is a cold and windy site.
 
It is difficult as big trees are not suitable.  They can put anchor points in the floor for market stalls etc.  Work will be done when the weather improves, hopefully in time to start events this summer.  If the square is a success and creates an asset, it may make people reconsider the future of Ambassador House.
 
9. PSPO (Public Spaces Protection Order) Update - Alison
Alison has spoken to the Council lead. Hameda said they can come our next to  meeting to discuss this.  We should think about what we want included and what area it should cover.  It must be evidence based.
 
Graham - The current drinking order is not enforced.  Stuart said there would be more officers.  When will this happen?
 
Alison will find out.  Officers' powers are not as strong as police powers.  Things need to be reported.
 
Andrea - Taking into account the lack of people to enforce, people stop reporting. There needs to be a better approach.
 
Alison - Could you tackle this issue with Hameda and Jess.
 
10.  Next Meeting and Dates for your Diary
Linda thanked Ann and Liz from the Library for hosting the meeting.
 
The date of the next meeting will be Tuesday 16th April from 7-8.30pm.  Venue to be confirmed.
 
Other Dates:
 
Friday 8th March - Classes for women only at the Leisure Centre for International Women's Day.
 
Wednesday 27th March, 6.30pm at STRAND HOUSE, 52 ZION ROAD, Thornton Heath, CR7 8RG - Bensham Manor Police Ward Panel Meeting.
 
Sat 9th-Sun 10th March 10-4 - Pond Mosaic Weekend - postponed due to weather.
 
Ecobriks - Pete needs approx 500 Ecobriks to build a fountain at the Pond.  They are made by stuffing empty plastic bottles with non-recyclable plastics eg. plastic bags, crisp packets etc.  This greatly reduced waste plastic going into landfill by recycling it into building materials.  See further details at:
https://www.ecobricks.org/