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AGMs, reports and accounts

The TNRA AGM is held in April each year. At each AGM an Annual Report of TNRA's activities in the previous year and the Audited Accounts for that year are presented to members.

TNRA annual report for 2018/19

1.    Introduction
TNRA has been working since 1976 to improve life for the residents of the Newington Trust Estate (now Trinity Village) in their dealings with their managing agents and Southwark Council and to foster a sense of community by organising events for local people.

2.    Tenants
On 1 April 2018, Knight Frank replaced Capita as the managing agent of Trinity Village for Trinity House. On 10 April 2018, TNRA had an introductory meeting with Lucy Jones, the Partner at Knight Frank with responsibility for the Trinity House relationship. Little changed for the next six months but then in early December we learned of a new approach to leases for assured shorthold tenancies (“ASTs”).

Knight Frank’s new proposal is for a standard lease of three years with a two month break clause option from month 10 with rents “reviewed in accordance with the retail price index. The Landlord and the tenant must agree that the rent is to be increased a minimum 3% and a maximum of 5% in years two and three in line with RPI and your renewal date.”

We have asked Graham Hockley to delay the implementation of the new policy so that a more reasonable approach can be adopted for setting rents in years two and three. Cdr Hockley has written back to say that they are implementing the new approach without change. We have responded, arguing that RPI is a discredited measure of inflation.  Also, CPI is a more relevant measure in the context of rent setting – it uses rent as a proxy for housing costs while RPI includes mortgage interest costs (renters don’t have mortgages). We have also argued that the new AST contracts are neither clear nor transparent. They are made out to be three year contracts. However, with a landlord’s two month break clause from month 10, the new leases are in practice 12 month agreements with a provision to roll on. Rent increases in years two and three are made out to be RPI linked. However, a minimum increase of 3% in each year means that the RPI link only applies if RPI is above 3% (it has been below 3% for most of the last five years).

The approach Knight Frank has adopted – rents “linked” to RPI not CPI, a floor of 3%, a disingenuous approach to drafting - will maximise revenue in the short term but has risks for Trinity House thereafter. Rent increases of between 3% and 5% a year are above the typical increases of the last few years and will be unaffordable for many tenants. As unhappy tenants depart, there will be greater turnover in properties, more void periods, increased refurbishment costs and more costs incurred in finding new tenants.  There is a balance to be struck between maximising income over the short and long term. Our view is that the new policy is one for the short term. Trinity House’s revenue will be maximised over the long term by encouraging reliable long-term tenants through a less aggressive approach to setting rents.

TNRA has taken legal advice on behalf of members and feels strongly that these terms are unfair. We have sent AST members a summary by email to solicit views which is also displayed on the TNRA notice board. In the meantime our advice to all tenants under pressure to sign a new AST lease is to urgently contact TNRA in confidence so that we can advise them as we campaign for a fairer policy.

TNRA received several queries towards the end of 2018 on what happens when one ten-ant leaves a shared tenancy.  When there are several tenants under a joint and several tenancy and one wants to move out, it has been standard for the managing agent to charge an administration fee to find a new tenant and a fee to conduct reference checks on the new tenant. However, Knight Frank had started charg-ing the remaining tenants a fee for undertaking new reference checks on them as well. We contacted Lucy Jones at Knight Frank and she agreed to only reference the incoming tenant when there is a change of sharers, unless existing tenants are taking on a higher financial commitment.

Lucy Jones has told us that Knight Frank’s policy is to undertake new Right to Rent checks on existing as well as new tenants when a sharer changes. However, the law states that Right to Rent checks are only needed if a tenancy started after 1 February 2016. For tenancies entered into after 1 February 2016, for which a Right to Rent check was required by law, a landlord must do a follow-up check (within 12 months) only if a Right to Rent check shows there’s a time limit on permission to stay in the UK.

We have complained to Graham Hockley about the treatment of the three tenants in Gloucester Court with Rent Act protected leases (pre-1989). In January 2018, the Rent Officer registered figures lower than the rents then being paid. Capita (and subsequently Knight Frank) appealed to the First-tier Tribunal Property Chamber (formerly the Rent Assessment Committee). They employed lawyers and a surveyor to produce evidence for the Tribunal. The Tribunal eventually met in July and registered rents that were in two cases at or below the Rent Officer figure. By taking the Rent Officer’s decision for three protected tenants in Gloucester Court to the Tribunal, Trinity House caused distress for elderly tenants and wasted legal and surveyors fees. We hope that the Tribunal’s recommendation of lower rents than in 2015 for properties not “in the condition that is considered usual for an open market letting” will be reflected in future rent increases for protected or assured tenants, whose properties could be described similarly.

Graham Hockley has told TNRA that he is finalising a proposal to the 46 protected (Rent Act and ATs) tenants which will help tenants who want to down-size but stay in Trinity Village. Trinity House has said it will share the details of this new initiatives with TNRA when it is agreed.

3.    Long leaseholders
Tim Horsler has continued to represent long leaseholders with Mainstay, who manage their properties on behalf of Trinity House. He arranged a meeting for long leaseholders with Jacob Saddington of Mainstay on 7 August 2018 at which they were able to discuss accounts for the year ended 31 December 2017, service charges, repair and maintenance needs and other property management matters. The collective enfranchisement of 4-6 Trinity Church Square completed on 31 August. The long leaseholders now own the freehold of their building and have full control over the way in which their building is managed and maintained. TNRA has provided support and financial assistance to the long leaseholders in the collective enfranchisement process. During the year, Mainstay circulated the first edition of a long leaseholders’ newsletter, with input from TNRA.  The next meeting between long leaseholders and Mainstay will be arranged once draft accounts are available for the year ended 31 December 2018.

4.    Gardens
TNRA had two meetings in the year with Knight Frank and Greenmantle, their gardening contractor – on 13 September 2018 and 21 March 2019.  In TCS, we discussed planting in the four central beds, more bulbs in the side beds and improved paving at the entrance. In Merrick Square, our focus was on maintaining and spraying to protect the central box parterre and planting bulbs within the parterre to provide height. In both gardens, we asked for the re-seeding of “bald patches” in lawns and treatments for the grass. Greenmantle is undertaking a survey of the communal back gardens in Trinity Village, identifying those where work is required, considering options and making recommendations on which should get priority treatment. When it is agreed that action is required, we have suggested that a hard landscaping plan and a planting plan is produced for agreement, including with the tenants. Greenmantle is quoting to replant the beds running along the pavement on the south east end of Swan Street now that the Swan Street/Harper Road development is nearing completion. There were more cases of noisy parties, littering etc in the two square gardens in 2018 than in previous years. At our suggestion, Knight Frank’s policy on the use of the gardens is being uploaded onto the Trinity Village web-site (only the access policy has been on the web-site to date). There were two garden action days in 2018 – on 19 May and 10 November – when local volunteers spread manure and weeded beds in the two gardens. The Roebuck Action Group gathered on 31 March in the piazza outside the Roebuck for weeding and planting, funded by TNRA.

5.    Planning & development in Trinity Village and its area
TNRA attended two consultation meetings on the development of the Dickens Square park on 30 October 2018 and 28 March 2019. We are generally supportive of the Council’s plans. The existing REPA building and playground will be removed and replaced with a modern play area, open to all, occupying the current footprint (ie well away from the wall with Bedford Row and Merrick Square). Gym equipment and a “trim trail” will be installed. The Brockham Street entrance will be opened up, with the wall replaced with railings, to discourage anti-social behaviour. The redesign of the park will be more coordinated with schemes to improve Harper Road in relation to the park’s entrance on Harper Road. There will be a planning submission in June followed by a 12 week formal consultation period. Work will begin in October 2019 with the new park opening some time in 2020.

The results of traffic monitoring in September 2017 and 2018 of the trial width restrictions in Harper Road indicate a significant fall in overall traffic flows and HGVs through Trinity Village. However, not every resident has benefitted - there has been a rise of around 30 vehicles a day travelling through Trinity Village along the Cole Street to Falmouth Road route. TNRA has addressed this point in our response to the formal consultation. We have expressed concern that increased flows along Cole Street are causing more vehicles to turn into the Quietway cycle route along Globe Street, often at speed. We have asked for a Stop sign to be installed on Cole Street at the Globe Street junction to encourage drivers to reduce their speed and halt before entering Globe Street. We have also suggested that all residential properties north of Harper Road should have general refuse and recycling collections in the same day to reduce the number of rubbish trucks travelling through the area.

Southwark Homes Ltd has submitted revised plans for a mixed-use scheme at King’s Place, the site on the north east corner of the junction of Newington Causeway and Harper Road, running up to the police station in Borough High Street and the current Swan Street/Harper Road development. TNRA submitted comments in the public consultation that closed on 25 January. While we welcome the reduction in height of the tower at the centre of the development from 13 storeys to 12 storeys, the visual impact assessment shows that the tower will still be clearly visible from the ground within the Trinity Church Square Conservation Area. From upper floors within the square, the impact is much greater. We therefore continue to strongly object to the height of the development which represents a visually obtrusive (and ugly) addition over the slate rooftops of Trinity Church Square. We await confirmation of the date when the Planning Committee will consider the King’s Place planning application.

In Autumn 2018, patients of the Falmouth Road doctors’ surgery were invited to a meeting at the practice where they were told that the site had been “sold” and a planning application had been submitted for a 13 floor tower block. We understand that Southwark Council is the freeholder of the site and has agreed a 127 year lease with a third party which has sold it on to Greyport Ltd, which will be leading the re-development. Patients were told that the surgery will be accommodated on the lower levels of the new building but that in the interim the surgery will be located in temporary cabins over the road in Newington Garden. Our councillors advise that the project is still at a very early stage and will keep us up-to-date with developments.

On 12 December, a delegation from TNRA met with Cllr Johnson Situ, Southwark’s Cabinet Member for Planning, and Simon Bevan, Director of Planning, the top civil servant at Southwark Council with responsibility in this area. We expressed our concern about the harm to views out of the Trinity Church Square Conservation Area caused by the construction of “tall” buildings in the immediate vicinity. We referred to the plans for the tower blocks on both Harper and Falmouth roads. Mr Bevan clarified that, for planning purposes, a building is “tall” if it is over 30 metres (roughly equating to 10 storeys) or significantly taller than the buildings that surround it. Cllr Situ referred to statements about heritage assets and their settings in the New Southwark Plan. We highlighted, however, that these statements are often fairly general and open to wide interpretation. We were pleased to learn that a supplementary planning document (“SPD”) governing heritage assets and conservation areas will be subject to consultation and hopefully finalised during 2019. This will provide essential guidance on how the statements in the New Southwark Plan should be interpreted and applied in practice. TNRA looks forward to seeing the draft heritage SPD and commenting during the consultation.

TNRA has applied for funding under the “Cleaner, Greener, Safer” initiative in 2018/19 to pay for new bike racks in Falmouth Road. At the Community Council meeting on 9 February, we learned that our application was successful.

The repaving of Falmouth Road with York stone has been completed. There has also been repaving on the north east side of Swan Street and in Brockham Street, in both cases joining up with areas of pavement upgraded in recent years.

6.    Community safety issues
Trixie Cartwright, Annie Wingfield and Tanja Jost have represented TNRA’s interests at meetings of the Chaucer Safer Neighbourhood Panel. The Panel meets every two months and is part of an initiative aimed at getting residents working with police to identify and tackle crime and safety concerns in their local area. Crime in Trinity Village is usually minimal and limited to minor incidents. However, from time to time, we experience an uptick in crime and this has been the case recently. In the early hours of Saturday 3 November, there was a “very nasty sexual assault” on a woman in Avon Place off Swan Street. This is the second such incident in five years – there was an attempted rape in Avon Place in 2013. We approached our councilors requesting CCTV in the alleyway. They have obtained funding for more limited measures, including improved lighting. There have been three recent burglaries – two in Merrick Square on 11 December and 13 February and one in Falmouth Road on 23 February. A car was stolen outside a house at the north end of Falmouth Road in the early hours of 2 October. A car was broken into on Brockham Street on 24 February. We have been in contact with the local police, who have visited houses in the area to raise awareness and provide advice. We understand that they will be increasing their visits to Merrick Square when on their “beat”.

7.    Events
Our events have comprised: Open Squares Weekend (10 June 2018); John Constable’s annual walk (5 September 2018); Opera in the Square (14 September 2018 after rescheduling due to the weather); porch sales (21 April and 15 September 2018); our Pub Quiz (31 October 2018); TNRA’s Christmas Drinks & Canapes at the Old Rectory (6 December 2018); Carol Singing in TCS (18 December 2018); Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races (5 March 2019); and an Italian Wine Tasting and Supper (18 March 2019). In addition, the Rehearsal Orchestra has kindly invited residents to attend performances of Wagner and Mahler free of charge in the HWH. Lesley Exton has organised pop-up bookstalls on Saturday mornings during the year. Porch sales and bookstalls made a profit of £2,358 for TNRA funds (£1,581 in 2018). TNRA thanks Henry Wood Hall for providing the venue for several of these events.

8.    Membership
TNRA’s membership ended 2018/19 on 210 (compared with 139 in 2010/11; 173 in 2011/12; 201 in 2012/13; 210 in 2013/14;  204 in 2014/15; 216 in 2015/16; 206 in 2016/17; 223 in 2017/18). TNRA members benefit from discounts at local shops, restaurants and other service providers – more than 20 local businesses are now members of TNRA’s discount scheme.

9.     Filming
Trinity Village is a popular location for TV and film production. TNRA receives payments via the Southwark Film Unit as a reflection of the inconvenience caused to local residents. In the year, TNRA received payments totalling £2,500 (£8,075 in 2017/18) for filming which included most recently Duty/Shame on 7 March and Ironbark on 24 March 2019.

10.    Finances
In the year to 31 March 2019, total income was £11,596 (£17,281 in 2018) and total expenses were £12,357 (£11,421 in 2018) giving a deficit of £761 (there was a surplus of £5,860 in 2018). The change from a surplus to a deficit mainly reflects the reduction in revenue from filming in 2019 (£2,500 vs £8,075 in 2018) and a bill for £1,200 incurred when seeking legal advice on behalf of tenants. TNRA’s reserves at the end of the 2018/19 year were £18,362 vs £19,122 at the end of the 2017/18 year. A healthy reserve is necessary to provide a fighting fund when TNRA requires legal representation on behalf of tenants and also allows us to subsidise events on behalf of the community. TNRA’s policy is for subsidised events to be open to and affordable by all residents. Our policy is that events where admission is restricted (such as our annual wine tasting) should ideally break even or make a profit. We are grateful to Michael Whitlam for again auditing TNRA’s account.

11.    Publicity and community involvement
TNRA has enhanced the community by keeping members and all residents informed about issues and events through two newsletter booklets, letterbox flyers, the Trinity Street noticeboard, emails and the TNRA website. A TNRA Facebook site was launched in June 2018 and already has over 100 members. Residents have been able to contact TNRA via email and Committee members have dealt with queries about many matters. TNRA’s stock of equipment for hire has provided a service for both members and other local people and groups.

See the audited accounts for 2018/19 here: /drupal/sites/default/files/TNRA%20ACCOUNTS%202018-2019.pdf