|RICKMANSWORTH LOCAL AREA FORUM
THREE RIVERS DISTRICT COUNCIL
Notes of a meeting of the Rickmansworth Local Area Forum held on Thursday 28 November 2013 at St Johns JMI School, Berry Lane, Rickmansworth from 7.30pm to 9.20pm.
Present:- Councillor Ann Shaw OBE (Chairman)
Ward Councillors:- Kemal Butt
County Councillors: Frances Button and Ralph Sangster
In attendance: Sergeant Ryan Hemmings
Amy Thompson and Samantha Thrupp, National; Grid
Andrew Scarth, Neighbourhood Watch
Renato Messere, Head of Economic & Sustainable Development
Fred Alnutt, Elections Manager, Three Rivers District Council
Janet Ide, Committee Manager, Three Rivers District Council.
Apologies were received from Councillors Barbara Lamb MBE and Chris Lucas,
In attendance: 16 members of the public.
The Chairman welcomed those present to the Forum.
2. COMMUNITY SAFETY
The Chairman welcomed Sergeant Ryan Hemmings to the meeting, from the Rickmansworth Safer Neighbourhood Team, who gave an update on crime issues in the area.
As a result of initiatives by the Police crime was down by 14%. Burglary had also fallen by 19% which represented 23 fewer incidents. The initiatives used to reduce burglary included detering travelling criminals. The Police were obtaining intelligence on burglary hot spots and people travelling over the border by talking to the Metropolitan/Thames Valley forces and checking border number plates that came into Three Rivers.
Partnership initiatives were being undertaken including crime prevention in Mill End. The Police together with the Fire Service and Community Safety staff from Three Rivers had called at 360 houses offering crime prevention advice regarding burglaries. The latest initiative would start on 4 December with the Police visiting Rickmansworth and Croxley Green stations handing out leaflets on how to secure your home.
Halloween and Bonfire Night had passed without serious incident
A scam had been published on the OWL system where a fraudster would phone you claiming to be your bank or the Police. They would tell you that your bank card had been used fraudulently. They suggest that you hang up and ring the bank/Police to ensure the call was genuine but then stay on the line and tell the victim to read out/or key in their PIN number. They then send a taxi/courier to collect the bank card. The bank/Police would never ask for your PIN number.
People were reminded not to leave valuables in their cars.
Priorities had been selected by the Police for the neighbourhood which included speeding in Harefield Road and parking issues in Mill End and Croxley Green. An on-line OWL survey had been initiated with the replies received to be assessed. Police surgeries were being held to enable residents to talk to the Police/PCSOs. The Police now used twitter in advising residents on what was happening on a day to day basis.
Oxhey Police had been contacted regarding speeding and parking in Moor Park and Eastbury and were carrying out a number of traffic operations.
Q. Would the Police enforce 20 mph limits under the speed enforcement policy guidelines 2011-2015?
A. Police would enforce all speed limits in a proportionate manner including 20 mph limits. Speed limits should be made clear to all drivers through appropriate signage/markings. If it was apparent that there was a proportionally high volume of traffic that exceeded these limits then the Police would apply targeted enforcement.
A resident reported regular racing in Long Lane and phoned the Police who advised to contact the Highways Authority. The racers met under the bridge on the approach road to Junction 17 of the M25.
The Chairman thanked Sergeant Ryan Hemmings for updating the Forum.
3. NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH
The Chairman welcomed Andrew Scarth, Deputy District Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator. Residents were encouraged to join Neighbourhood Watch and to be aware of people in the area who might be vulnerable. Neighbourhood Watch assisted the Police by helping to make the community safe and secure to live in. If anyone wished to contact Mr Scarth his telephone number was 01923 232921.
Communication was working well through the OWL System. For people without computers, neighbours could pick up messages and print a copy for the neighbour.
Some people did not wish to give out their e-mail address but Mr Scarth advised that the on line watch link operated by Hertfordshire Police had a secure link and email addresses would not be given out. If people change their e-mail addresses, a red flag appeared with a message from the Police saying a message was unsent. If a phone number had been provided they would phone and get the correct e-mail address.
Three Rivers was a leading District in the County with low crime rates which was recognised by Herts Constabulary despite the reduction in Police Officers. This brought into focus the importance of Neighbourhood Watch.
Neighbourhood Watch required Co-ordinators in Rickmansworth.
Dialling 101 would put the call through to Welwyn Police. If residents were suspicious about something please report it as it would be logged. If it related to a vehicle make a note of the vehicle registration number.
The Chairman thanked Andrew Scarth for attending the meeting.
4. THE NATIONAL GRID
The Chairman welcomed Amy Thompson and Sam Thrupp, Land Regeneration Advisor from the National Grid.
The National Grid owned and managed a portfolio of two wards and properties across the UK. Many of these sites, such as the former gas works on Wharf Lane, National Grid was undertaking a programme to ensure the sites had a brighter future.
From Victorian times until the late 1960s and early 1970s, gas was manufactured from oil and coal on a network of sites across the country. Many original gas works, were owned and operated by small private gas companies or local authorities, but were now inherited by National Grid. National Grid’s challenge was to manage and improve these sites; as a major contributor to brownfields reclamation and urban regeneration in the UK.
A programme of environmental improvement works on the Wharf Lane site was to be undertaken. As part of these works the gasholder on the site would be dismantled and removed. Materials underground which were by products from when the site produced gas, would also be removed.
The first phase of work would be the demolition of the gasholder scheduled to begin in November. Once the gasholders had been dismantled a specialist contractor would investigate the site’s condition underground. It was anticipated the works would be completed by spring 2014.
The gasholder roof would be removed and once a safe entrance was created in the gasholder, machinery would be used to take down the outer walls.
Disruption to the local community would be minimised and residents would be kept informed. Attached to the minutes was an outline of how the project would proceed.
The Chairman thanked Amy and Sam for their informative presentation.
5. UPDATE ON THE LOCAL PLAN
The Chairman welcomed Renato Messere, Head of Economic and Sustainable Development.
He stated that the Development Plan for the area sets out long term planning for the future of the area including housing, retail and open space. It also sets the framework for planning applications in the area. The National Planning framework sets out the overarching policy from the Government that the Council had to adhere to. Waste and minerals local plan was produced by Herts County Council. The level below that was called Neighbourhood Plans stemming from the Localism Act.
The Local Plan consists of a number of documents.
Core strategy – sets out the overall strategy for the area and vision for the district. How much housing over a certain period of time, 4500 dwellings were required for the period 2001 – 2026.
Development Management Policies – policies on which planning applications would be assessed.
Site Allocations Policy – allocation sites for housing, employment, retail, open space, education and community uses.
Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling showpeople – allocates sites for gypsies and travellers.
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – a charge on development to contribute to infrastructure, such as schools, open spaces, highways etc.
The Core Strategy was adopted two years ago. The Development Management Policies were adopted recently.
A public examination of the site allocations policy had just been undertaken. An independent inspector had gone through the document and was expected to report shortly.
The initial consultation on gypsy and traveller sites was carried out earlier this year. There would be further consultation next year.
CIL – Document would need to be adopted by 2015.
Having recently had the examination in public on site allocations there were key issues around the housing supply. About 2,900 houses had already been built since 2001. There was a need to find around 1600 up to 2026. 38 sites had been identified across the district to meet that need. Some in the Rickmansworth area. The Inspector will look at those sites to see if they are suitable and deliverable. He will also look at sites put forward by developers that had been rejected by the Council. He will also look at education sites and the proposed allocated three sites for that, including Baldwins Lane, Long Lane and Froghall Farm.
Any changes recommended by the Inspector will have to be carefully considered by the Council. There is a danger that if his recommended changes are not implemented he may find the plan ‘unsound’ and we could be vulnerable to speculative development. . Any changes will be consulted on as proposed modifications before the site allocations are adopted in 2014.
Supplementary planning documents will need to be prepared which were not statutory but would be useful in terms of guidance. Covered affordable housing, design standards etc.
The Council would have to consider coalition government policies. In particular, NPPF had a presumption in favour of sustainable development. The Government was strong on economic aspects and needed to be aware of that. The Regional Plan is no longer with us. Need to rely on a ‘duty to co-operate’ with neighbours to discuss cross boundary issues, highways, schools etc. Opportunity for each authority to look at wider development needs of the area.
Housing targets had not gone away with the Localism Act. The NPPF still required us to look at objectively assessed needs and government population forecasts. This could result in higher housing targets in the future.
A much wider green belt review may be needed in the very long term in Three Rivers
In terms of other planning changes:
Extended permitted development rights. More generous development limits introduced for extensions without need for planning permsission* Similarly more liberal Government approach with respect to:
Solar panels without planning permission*.
Shops can extend further without planning permission*.
Offices can now change to residential with planning permission*.
* (NB ‘prior approval’ may still be required- prospective developers advised to check with the Council before starting any works).
This caused concern with less control over types of smaller developments taking place.
Q. Can residential properties be changed to offices?
A. Not without planning permission.
Q. What is the current position on school sites and which sites will actually come to fruition?
A. Inspector’s report was awaited. He would decide where school goes and whether sites were sound.
Q. Does Council have ability to make community infrastructure levy (CIL) or was it a matter of appeal?
A. At the moment the Council negotiates with developer for contributions on a case by case basis but the CIL would introduce a fixed, non negotiable charge based on the amount of development proposed.
Q. Was it open to negotiation in terms of where the proceeds go?
A. The infrastructure delivery plan would help determine how much goes to Herts County Council and potentially how much to the local area as well.
Q. Zone for future residential use means with regard to Lidl.
A. Certain sites allocated for housing – one is the local police station site with an indicative capacity of 20 dwellings. The preferred use is therefore housing. but an application had recently been received for retail store which will have to be carefully considered by the Council.
Q. Is it set in stone?
A. Not set in stone but strong indication where local authority want that land to go. The need for housing land to meet needs is a very clear national objective.
The Chairman said that the Planning Department had written a sheet explaining what the planning considerations were that would be taken into account with the Lidl application. This would be attached to the minutes. She urged people to write in if they had a view on this. Important to ensure clarity about points you are trying to raise.
The chairman thanked Renato for providing an update on the Local Plan.
6. ELECTORAL REVIEW OF THREE RIVERS – FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS
The Chairman welcomed Fred Alnutt, Elections Manager.
He reported that the District Council had received the final recommendations of the Boundary Commission on 22 October 2013. The recommendations included a draft order to be laid before Parliament. The number of District Councillors would reduce from 48 to 39 and the existing wards would be reconfigured into 13 three-member Wards. All-out elections would be held on 22 May 2014. The Members with the most votes in each ward would serve for a four-year term, those in second place would serve for two years and those in third place would serve for one year.
The new wards would be:
Penn and Mill End
Moor Park and Eastbury
Sarratt and Chorleywood North
Chorleywood South and Maple Cross
Individual Electoral Registration (IER) would be introduced from 2014. All electors register individually and have their application verified before being added to the register. People who registered in the future would be required to provide their name, address, National Insurance number and Date of Birth. These details would be cross checked with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) before names were added to the register.
The implementation of IER would include automatic confirmation of existing electors on the register where details matched those held by the DWP. Electors who did match would be reminded in 2014 and 2015 to provide the relevant information and would have until December 2015 to register under the new system. Electors who did not supply the relevant details would be automatically carried forward on the register published in 2014 to the following year to enable the maximum number of electors to vote in the General Election in May 2015. There would be a further canvass after the General Election.
The Elections Manager advised that a number of details had still to be clarified by the Government and the electoral authorities. However, anyone who had not provided the relevant information they would not be eligible for a postal vote.
The European election and Chorleywood Parish Council election would also take place on 22 May 2014. Votes would be verified on Thursday night and the count for the District and Chorleywood Parish Council on Friday. The European count would take place on Sunday afternoon.
County Councillor Ralph Sangster reported that Herts County Council were going through a County boundary review and by 2015 there may well be new Herts County Council boundaries.
The ballot papers for the European Election would only show the parties and not individual names.
In response to questions, the Elections Manger confirmed that the approximate cost of the changes to Ward boundaries would be established following a review of polling districts and polling stations. Although the District Council wards and County Council electoral divisions were not always co-terminous, the intention of the review was to ensure that each voter was able to vote at the same polling station as they do now.
A Member observed that some elderly people could face a long journey to their polling station. The Chairman commented that in those cases local political groups could offer lifts to less mobile voters.
The Chairman thanked the Elections Manager for the informative information.
7. LOCAL ISSUES
A number of questions had been raised.
The Chairman said Three Rivers was working with Herts County Council on the new Bill to see what had changed. A 500,000 page document had been issued... Three Rivers and Herts County would go through the document to see what changes had occurred.
The Chairman had visited the Minister, Robert Goodwill with other Local Authorities Leaders. Each Leader had been given five minutes to talk about HS2 in their area. Not one authority was supportive of the Scheme. The Chairman’s points had concentrated on the two compounds traffic impact and the dumping of 2m cubic metres of rubbish/soil. She had told the Minister that people were being treated with polite contempt.
HS2 did not hold public meetings for more than 20 people, but she would try again to see if a public meeting could be arranged.
Trees in Riverside Drive
Trees had been surveyed last year and were all within a floodplain sitting in water all year round. Filled at the root plate and been overcome due to the lack of friction and conditions.
Poplar trees had not re-sprouted and do not think they will come back. Actions to these trees was difficult and some would be left for conservation purposes but some re-pollarding would be carried out. All of these trees would be felled at the root plate. They cannot manage water-logged conditions all the year round. There were plans to remove these trees in stages and replant with arboreal water loving trees. The tree Department is trying to work out how to best organise.
Parking by Waitrose
The lay-by that commuters were using to park on had been intended to be used by people servicing Waitrose. There were no restrictions at the moment therefore that was no legal ability for parking to be enforced. The Council would consider this matter shortly.
Shops adjacent to Rickmansworth Station
There had been no further response from LUL regarding abandoned shops on the way to station.
The Chairman advised that Industrial waste was being dumped on footpath leading down to the River Colne. Children had been picking up carpets and putting them in the river.
She was unsure whose responsibility it was to clear up the waste but she would speak to the owners of the carpet shop regarding the disposal of carpet pieces and to Herts County Council.
Lion and Eagle
A question had been raised about a project to re-unite the bronze Lion and Eagle statue with the war memorial – as it had been originally – to mark the 100 anniversary of the start of WW1 and what the Council’s view would be.
The Chairman advised that the Lion and Eagle and the War Memorial had been put up in the 1920s on the site of the Ebury roundabout. When Riverside Drive was built in the late 1960s it had to be moved and while St Mary’s Church was happy to have the War Memorial in the churchyard it would not accept the Lion and Eagle. The statue was put in the old coach house for some years and then erected in Northway, but it was used for climbing and riding by teenagers and was getting damaged, so it was moved into the Rose Garden where it still is, safe and accessible.
The Chairman said that the church would have to agree to any change whether it was putting the statue back into the church yard or moving the War Memorial elsewhere. TRDC had not discussed the matter and it was her personal view that TRDC should not get involved in this issue which would possibly prove very divisive in the community.
It had been planned to clean the War Memorial for Remembrance Sunday but this had not yet been carried out because of the state of the structure. Surveyors have now been involved and will be putting these minor repairs and a light clean out to tender after appropriate consultation with the Parochial Church Council.
Q. On the recent annual collection refuse / recycling card June / July it indicated a possible change.
A. There had to be a change because up until now cardboard had been collected but this would no longer be the case as it could not be composted. More information would be supplied.
Q. Was there any information about a German Company which had applied to have a 12 day market in the Aquadrome before next Christmas?
A. No discussion had taken place at Three Rivers yet. The Chamber of Commerce was anxious about it as it might take away trade from local shops.
Zebra crossing/crossing point
Q. It was considered there was a need for a crossing point for people walking to the Aquadrome opposite Hawksford Hall on the Uxbridge Road. Was Three Rivers District Council able to support this?
A. The Council had tried to get a pedestrian refuge but Herts County Council would not agree because the road did not meet the standard size requested. The road was wider nearer the Esso Station.
Crossing Station Road
*Crossing Station Road –it was very dangerous for pedestrians wanting to cross.
The crossing should be signposted more obviously, possibly using the old notice already in Homestead Road on the other side on the walk up to the station.
*Cycle Lane –in the High Street. It was suggested that the cycle lane from Park Road to Church Street would soon have arrows painted to encourage cyclists and electric buggy users not to go against the one way system.
TRDC did not support making the bit of road between the bridge and Cardinal Point (Regus UK Ltd) 2 way because it would mean the loss of 4/5 parking spaces.
Reach Free School
*Reach Free School - it was hoped that a permanent site would be found within the time limits.
* Budget Cutting – All local authorities budgets were restricted and reducing.
TRDC was working to save money without reducing services.
A suggestion had been made that the OAP Forum, the youth Council and the Local Area Forums should be discontinued. The Chairman asked if those present wished these forums to continue – there was a unanimous vote in favour of continuing and trying to improve promotion and increase attendance – any suggestions ?
8. DATE AND PLACE OF NEXT MEETING
Thursday 27 March 2014 at Eastbury Farm JMI, Bishops Avenue, Northwood at 7.30pm.