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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 CHAIRMAN’S ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2021-2022                                         

Covid-19, TNRA members and the Committee

Although the Covid virus is still with us - and will probably continue to be so for ever – life has begun to return to normal. A matter of huge relief was our ability to recommence face-to-face Committee meetings in March 2021 after having had to hold them via Zoom for all of the previous year. Albeit during the long period of lockdown we managed to keep well on top of key issues, to pursue requests from our members for action and advice and to maintain good contact by email and phone with the Knight Frank estate office, handling all such matters have been hugely eased by the gradual lifting of restrictions.

It should be noted that medical-social-political opinion continues to be significantly divided on how best to deal with the risks involved. The same also applies in the case of individuals. In this respect Meera Rajan decided to resign from the Committee in March because of her strong conviction that TNRA - and the Chair in particular - had failed to take a lead in recognising the need to adequately protect the interests of those with severely diminished immunity like her. We will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate precautions to safeguard everyone, especially for those attending all TNRA indoor events. In the meantime we much regret though well understand Meera’s decision – and at the same time we warmly thank her for all her work while a Committee member.

Two other members have also left the Committee during the course of the year. Penny Hinves resigned following her appointment by Knight Frank as the gardening contractor for the estate (see Gardens below), and following her move to York in February Tanja Jost also resigned. Nevertheless we are delighted that Tanja continues to manage the TNRA Facebook group. We also warmly thank both of them for all that they have contributed – and also continue to contribute as non-Committee members.

Knight Frank estate office

Despite the many challenges posed by remote working during various periods of lockdown and other measures required by the government to avoid risk Louie-Mae Gibson and her team managed to maintain a good level of service.  Louie-Mae is certainly not to everyone’s taste, she and her staff make mistakes or get things wrong from time to time, but in general her energy and commitment allied to the introduction of new staff, new systems and new procedures has resulted in far better service levels for most people than were ever provided by any of the previous regimes.  

Estate management issues

Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)

Rent and rent review issues continue to exercise many residents in Merrick Square and now, increasingly, those living elsewhere on the estate. A year ago and more we were told that proposed swingeing increases for five households in Merrick Square related to anomalies. However, over the course of the last six months we have been contacted by sixteen non-Merrick Square residents who have been presented with in most cases rent increases of 9.9%. Of even more concern has been the case of some tenants arriving in 2021 who have been told, just ten months later, that the current market rate for their properties is now up to 20% more than it was when they commenced their tenancies.

For these and all other members who contact us we have provided advice on ways to push back which in some cases have resulted in a reduction of the initial proposal. In the meantime our AST Sub-Committee (Simon Webster, Ali Walker, John Moore and Ed Heckels) has continued to research, discuss and pursue rent and contract issues, and along with the matters mentioned above has focused on the following key issues:

  • ·       The size of such increases and the way in which they have been announced has been both unexpected and distressing. It also looks as though some tenants have been enticed in with an attractive rent only to be hit with a big increase later on. All in all these elements make for bad PR for Trinity House and Knight Frank.
  • ·       Tenants push back, resulting in more work for Knight Frank in negotiating and in sending in appraisers etc.
  • ·       It may also lead to tenants leaving early, thereby resulting in increased turnover, voids and the need for Knight Frank to find and vet new tenants.
  • ·       There is a lack of clarity concerning how market rates are assessed and justified. The actual condition of properties and the size of individual rooms can also vary considerably between seemingly identical properties: it is not clear whether such factors are always taken into account.
  • ·       Security of tenure is essential, especially for family tenants in Merrick Square and elsewhere whose continuing presence on the estate contributes so much to the special ‘feel,’ the stability and the well-being of all who live in Trinity Village.
  • ·       If AST contracts clearly set out from the outset the rents to apply in the second and third year of each tenancy this will remove a large element of uncertainty.

These and other matters were discussed with Martin Atherton of Trinity House and Louie-Mae Gibson of Knight Frank during our 5 April Committee meeting - see below.

Property repairs, maintenance and service levels

Though the second Service Quality Survey we carried out in late November 2020 revealed a mixed bag of responses, nevertheless the overall view of those who responded appeared to be generally positive. In retrospect it could have been useful to repeat the exercise in November 2021. However, it remains true that only a very small number of complaints have been drawn to our attention over the last year. This continues to compare favourably with the situation prior to late 2019 when members were contacting us every week (and at times almost every day) to seek our advice and help in resolving their issues.

Three particular issues have, however, been of concern for the Committee:

  • ·       A lack of clarity concerning the existence or not of an annual rolling Preventive Property Maintenance (PPM) programme – of the type in place during Capita’s tenure - to handle exterior repairs and to avoid the ad hoc and sudden erection of scaffolding.
  • ·       The need for Trinity House to be more diligent in preserving the architectural and heritage features of its properties – a matter that was notably not taken into account when 20 Merrick Square was stripped of its important fittings and modernised in a most insensitive fashion in the summer of 2021.
  • ·       A similar need for Trinity House to improve its properties, particularly bearing in mind the need to pay due respect to important environmental and energy issues.

These matters were also discussed with Trinity House and Knight Frank during the 5 April Committee meeting – see below.

Meeting with Trinity House and Knight Frank

The following summarises key matters arising during our meeting:

 AST contracts

  • ·       Martin Atherton noted that the Charity has no wish to be saddled with the reputation of being a poor landlord; he well recognises the benefits that derive from maintaining and encouraging a thriving community within Trinity Village; no plans or intentions exist whereby potential tenants are or will be lured into taking up a tenancy on the basis of an artificially depressed initial rent. Nevertheless he has a fiduciary duty to optimise income - concerning which some members of his executive take a hard line approach by pressing him to maximise income. In short, he has to balance significantly differing views and needs.
  • ·       The current contract – which had done away with the previous 3%-5% collar and cap clause – had come about at TNRA’s specific request.
  • ·       Simon Webster noted that the cap-and-collar lease TNRA had objected to had been one that had been introduced by Knight Frank probably just before L-MG had joined the company. The previous, older lease had worked for residents and for Trinity House for many years. It was not just the content of the old lease that had changed but also the way in which rent increases were implemented that had become a matter of concern.
  • ·       Ed Heckels said that in retrospect the introduction of the new terms had been a clear mistake on TNRA’s part, its approach at that time being based on a period during which inflation had been minimal for many years: circumstances have now significantly changed. 
  • ·       During these and related exchanges Martin Atherton said that in principle he was prepared to re-visit and re-examine the basis of AST contracts in the light of recent changes in economic circumstances, including consideration of the use of appropriate indices such as CPI/CPIH in place of RPI. If some sort of hybrid rent metric could be found that recognises inflation as well as the market and so meets the Charity’s need to optimise income whilst providing some sort of clarity concerning future rent increases for tenants (thereby also encouraging a greater sense of security), then these elements combined can continue to protect the special sense of character and community that exists in Trinity Village.

TNRA intends to request a follow-up meeting as soon as possible to pursue a resolution to our members’ concerns.

Property management, preservation and restoration work

  • ·       As a result of the volume of required work Knight Frank has concentrated on the communal areas - where upgrading/decorating has been completed or will be completed within a two year period; and external areas - where works commenced c. December 2020, prioritising urgently required action. This latter programme will take three years to complete.
  • ·       Knight Frank recognises the need to introduce a rolling PPM programme: this will be implemented in due course.
  • ·       In the meantime Knight Frank will provide residents with provisional work plans to give them some form of advance notification of scheduled works and the erection of scaffolding.
  • ·       Martin Atherton noted that mistakes had been made and lessons learned regarding the need to preserve important heritage features and fittings. The repair and redecoration of 39 Trinity Church Square will therefore be carried out with the involvement of appropriate architectural consultants and other experts. 
  • ·       Ali Walker suggested that consideration should be given to refitting shutters to the front windows of those properties where they had been removed, thus restoring the properties concerned to their original appearance as well as improving sound and heat insulation.
  • ·       Knight Frank also noted her proposal that care should be taken to ensure uniformity of design, appearance and materials when fitting or replacing door furniture and fittings.
  • ·       Knight Frank will maintain close liaison with TNRA in the pursuit of environmentally friendly initiatives and policies, regarding which Martin Atherton noted that he is now obliged to formally report on such matters each quarter.

Long leasehold - Mainstay (for all but Trilogy residents)

Following a November meeting attended by Trinity House’s Martin Atherton, Knight Frank’s Louie-Mae Gibson and her line manager Peter Devere-Catt, Tim Horsler and Mainstay’s John James a set of key performance indicators was established with the aim of monitoring and improving Mainstay’s service performance for the c. 50 apartments concerned over the period January-June 2022. This will be followed by a formal mid-year review in July. So far John James’s/Mainstay’s performance has progressed in the right direction.

In the meantime a long-running issue concerning inadequate, hugely expensive and unnecessary works carried out over a period of six years on the roof of 18 Trinity Street prior to the appointment of John James remains to be further pursued and resolved.

Long leasehold properties – Knight Frank (for Trilogy residents only)

Tim Horsler made a formal complaint to Peter Devere-Catt in February 2022 concerning the totally inadequate service provided by Knight Frank since their takeover of responsibilities from the developer’s agents in October 2021. Peter Devere-Catt immediately accepted that Knight Frank had failed to perform. A formal meeting with him, Sophie Leefe the Property Manager concerned, Raff Manfellotto, Jane Salveson and Tim Horsler then took place on 13 April, as a result of which key issues were addressed and appropriate key performance indicators were agreed. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating…

It should be noted that the 27 Trilogy long leasehold apartments concerned are not managed by Louie-Mae Gibson and the Trinity Street estate office but by a separate off-site Knight Frank team. 23 ASTs and 14 Housing Association residences complete the 64 individual properties comprising the complete Trilogy block.

NB Tim Horsler takes the lead in key discussions with Mainstay, Knight Frank and Trinity House.

Gardens

Former Committee member Penny Hinves was appointed as Knight Frank’s gardening contractor during the course of the year. This has enabled her to begin to build in earnest on the good work she had already been providing in her previous advisory role for the company employed to do the job prior to her appointment. Aided by a much improved budget her appointment has enabled her to make excellent and evident progress in improving the design, planting, maintenance and overall appearance of the gardens in the two squares, in Gloucester Court and elsewhere. As well as doing similar work for long leasehold gardens managed by Mainstay (e.g. in front of and behind Shaftesbury House) it is now almost certain that Penny will be awarded the contract to look after the roof garden and the gardens in Trio Place, all part of the new Trilogy block in Swan Street/Harper Road managed by Knight Frank. All in all this will help to ensure a coherent and consistent approach to garden design and planting throughout the estate.

Penny also provides advice and help for the volunteer Roebuck Action Group (the RAG) which continues its good work in looking after the plants and shrubs on the piazza alongside the Roebuck pub. It is gratifying to report that the RAG has recently been awarded a new Council grant to fund the purchase of two additional large steel planters. These will be appropriately sited alongside those installed on the piazza a year ago, also funded by a successful RAG grant application.

Planning applications and developments

Committee Vice-Chair Ed Heckels continues to monitor and report on our submissions and representations to the Council concerning planning proposals. Currently we await news of the likely start date for the development of the Falmouth Road surgery site, regarding which TNRA responded positively when assessing the relevant planning application. In complete contrast, however, we remain highly critical of the proposed plans for the so-called King’s Place site on the corner of Borough High Street and Harper Road. We have also submitted strong and well reasoned objections to Berkeley Homes’ plans for a high multi-storey block they wish to build on the large Borough Triangle site that lies between Newington Causeway and Borough Road. In the meantime, however, everyone is delighted with the radical improvements made to the nearby Dickens Fields Park.

Grant applications

We continue to monitor all information concerning the possible provision of funds for improvements to the built environment. In the meantime the cycle rack for which we won a Council grant was finally installed in Falmouth Road in the late summer of 2021.

Green and environmental issues

The Chair has for some time wished to actively pursue such matters with the Council (who have recently announced a series of initiatives to minimise energy consumption and to protect the environment) and others. As yet, however, he has lacked sufficient time to do so. However, one of our members has recently volunteered to help TNRA in this task. In addition the recent meeting with Trinity House and Knight Frank (see above) also suggests that TNRA can work with them to pursue mutually beneficial initiatives e.g. improved insulation, more and better cycle storage facilities, the installation of EV charging points, the replacement of gas cooking and heating systems, and so on.

Refuse collection and street cleaning

Ed Heckels continues to maintain close contact with the Council’s cleaning team to ensure that household waste, leaf-fall and refuse left by fly-tippers is collected and removed speedily. He also liaises with the estate office on all such matters.

Community safety

Committee member Shaun Stern monitors and takes action concerning incidents of crime, noise, anti-social behaviour and other similar issues by means of regular attendance at meetings of the Chaucer Ward Safer Neighbourhood Panel and in meetings and correspondence with the local police.  He also shares relevant information and pursues action with the Trinity Street estate office when appropriate.

Membership

Committee member Raff Manfellotto manages TNRA’s members’ database and subscription records. Our year end membership was 219 households, just short of our all time record of 223 in 2017/18. These households represent c. 450 individual members. TNRA’s membership remains consistently over 200 as the following statistics show: 206 in 2020-21 (the Covid lockdown year); 211 in 2019/20; 210 in 2018/19; 223 in 2017/18; 206 in 2016/17; 216 in 2015/16; 204 in 2014/1514 – and 139 in 2010/11. 

Events

After more than a year with no events permitted or possible because of Covid restrictions we were finally able to recommence a programme of social events three months into our new year. In view of the large numbers who would otherwise have attended in close proximity in an indoor setting we decided with great regret that we should cancel the popular Christmas Drinks and Canapes evening that was scheduled to take place in the Merrick Square Rectory on 2 December. The following well attended events took place between July 2021 and March 2022:

·       22 July - Meet the Committee - Henry Wood Hall and Porch

·       21 August – Porch Sale – Henry Wood Hall

·       20 September – Annual Pub Quiz – the Roebuck

·       16 December- Christmas Carols – Trinity Church Square

·       1 March - Pancake Day Races – Merrick Square

·       16 March – Meet the Committee for Trilogy residents – the Roebuck

·       29 March – Wine Tasting – Henry Wood Hall

The following events are already planned to take place in May and June, with others to follow more or less once a month thereafter as in the past:

·       7 May – Porch Sale – Henry Wood Hall

·       2 June – Platinum Jubilee Drinks Party – Trinity Church Square

·       12 June – Open Gardens Square Weekend – Merrick Square and Trinity Church Square

Ed Heckels masterminds the organisation and running of all our events: we all owe him a big vote of thanks for the very significant time, energy and enthusiasm he brings to this task.

Filming

Shooting recommenced during the year, including in September three day’s filming on a major production involving many extras, cars, lorries and street furniture, very significant set preparation and the equally time-consuming striking of the substantial, specially constructed sets. As all of this involved a significant disruption to the normal movement of people and vehicles through the estate we decided soon afterwards to request that the Council’s Film Office should not permit any further projects until well into 2022. By mutual agreement filming will recommence with a single day’s shoot in May. In all of this we hugely rely on the skill, experience and time that Committee member Ali Walker brings to the task of liaising and negotiating with the Film Office, location managers and others to minimise disruption.

Website

Considerable work has been carried out by ex-Committee member Meera Rajan to redesign the website to make it more user-friendly. We hope to be able to relaunch the new look website shortly with the help of a TNRA member who has kindly volunteered to provide assistance for us.

Finances

As we reported at last year’s virtual AGM the decisions we took in March 2020 to avoid all expenditure except that which was necessary to fund our basic administration costs and to ensure that we provided a regular and efficient communication and information service served us well during the long periods of lockdown and abnormal conditions in 2020 which also continued into 2021.

Committee member Tania Clark (who took over as Treasurer from Penny Hinves following the latter’s resignation) will report separately on TNRA’s audited accounts for the YE March 2022. The following are a few highlights worth noting when comparing this year’s figures with those for last year:

·       Income increased hugely from £6.413 to £23,613 – essentially because of abnormally high filming income (only £1,750 in the YE 2021, £9,903 in YE 2020).

·       Pop-up book sales increased from £1,244 to £1,911 – a clear sign that people continue to seek books to read when many other diversions are off limits, and another good reason to thank Lesley Exton for running this much appreciated stall.

·       Expenses increased from £4,703 to £8,541 – of which £3,340 related to the resumption of events.

·       Reserves increased significantly from £23,878 to £38,501.

Discount scheme

Most of the firms who were participants before the Covid lockdown remain not only in business but also signed up to our scheme. Committee members Shaun Stern and Mary Jane Kane continue to approach shops, restaurants and outlets to propose that they should consider joining. Full details of all the concerns currently offering discounts to our members are posted on the TNRA notice board and can also always be found on our website.  

Communication with members

We continue to keep our members abreast of current issues, developments, events and news by means of the TNRA website, bi-annual Newsletters, the Trinity Street noticeboard, flyers, posters, the TNRA Facebook site and monthly e-Letters. For much of this activity we have to warmly thank Committee member Lesley Exton whose contribution to the overall administration of TNRA and to the work of the Committee is exceptional.

TNRA also arranges occasional meetings to give new and potential members to learn about our activities and to discuss current issues and concerns.

 

Volunteers

We much appreciate those of our members who regularly offer their services to help us during our garden action days, bi-annual porch sales and social events. Setting up, manning and then clearing away after many such activities takes time, on occasion the need to beg/borrow transport and from time to time a bit of physical strength as well. Those who normally bear the brunt of such work (Committee members Lesley Exton, Ed Heckels and Tim Horsler) will always welcome more volunteers to help them.

 

Equipment for hire

Our hire service (run by Committee member Mary Jane Kane) continues to offer members a range of very useful equipment including gazebos, tables, chairs and glasses etc. – at very reasonable rates.  

 

Tim Horsler, TNRA Chair

 

 

TNRA annual report for 2019/20

Covid-19

The lockdown resulting from the arrival of corona virus came just after our very successful wine-tasting event held on 12th March 2020. Since then our ability to do things as we used to do has been seriously compromised, resulting in our having to postpone our April AGM and to cancel or postpone for the time being all planned social events for the year ending March 2021. Further information concerning the way the pandemic has continued to affect our activities since the end of March 2020 is set out below. Meantime we have managed to keep well on top of key issues through our monthly Zoom Committee meetings and by continuing to pursue emailed requests from our members for action and advice. In addition we are also managing to maintain close contact (often daily) by email, phone and a few socially distanced meetings with the Knight Frank estate office staff.

AGM and Committee

In April 2019 Edward Heckels stood down as Chair after having held the post for six years. The entire membership owes him a huge debt of gratitude for his energy, commitment to the cause and all that he has achieved on our behalf. I am exceedingly grateful that he still continues to serve us as Vice-Chair.

Following lockdown in March 2020 we reported in various e-Letters our decision to postpone the end April AGM and to continue operations with the existing Committee members subject to these changes and provisos:

(a) in April 2020 Annie Wingfield decided to stand down after many years of valuable service;

(b) Tanja Jost left Trinity Village during 2019/20 so is no longer eligible to be a Committee member. She is, however, continuing to process membership subscriptions, design and send out monthly e-Letters and administer the TNRA Facebook group. She also attends Committee meetings when required;

(c) having told us in June 2020 that she would like to stand for election we co-opted former Committee member Meera Rajan to serve with us.

If by any chance it will be possible to hold the AGM by the end of October 2020 we will do so, in which case we will then seek the general membership’s formal approval to our emergency measures. Otherwise we will abandon this year’s AGM altogether in the expectation that all decisions can be ratified during the April 2021 AGM.

Important changes at Trinity House and Knight Frank during 2019/20

Very significant and welcome developments took place at Trinity House, where following Graham Hockley’s retirement in November 2019 Martin Atherton took over his duties as Secretary; and also in the Knight Frank estate office, where Louie-Mae Gibson took up the new post of Director, Trinity Village, in October 2019. Relevant details concerning the positive effect of these appointments are high-lighted below.

Estate management

Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)

TNRA set up a sub-Committee to research and propose amendments to the existing unsatisfactory policies and practice pursued by Knight Frank and their predecessors concerning AST contracts. Following much hard work and an unsatisfactory meeting with Graham Hockley and Knight Frank’s Charlotte Last we decided to ask that our case be presented to the Trustees of Trinity House in November 2019. To our considerable gratification and surprise we were pleased to be told at the end of December that the Trustees had agreed to make significant improvements to the AST terms, most especially deciding that:

(a) the standard period for all future contracts should be three years;

(b) annual rent increases should be based on actual local market rates; but that if no agreement could be reached between Knight Frank and the tenant then the fall-back position should be the current Retail Price Index (RPI).

The introduction of these new terms early in 2020 caused some inevitable teething problems but these were quickly resolved. Nevertheless we are surprised that Knight Frank initially appears to be proposing rent increases round about 3% (the previous contract made provision for a 3%–5% range). However, the advice we provide to TNRA AST tenants by means of regular help and advice surgeries is currently enabling many if not all to negotiate lower rates.

Meantime we continue to research contract law and practice with the aim of pressing for further improvements to AST leases, including the replacement of the fall-back RPI index (recognised by many as being an inappropriate and outmoded measure to use as the basis for annual rent reviews) by the much more relevant CPI or CPI+H indices.

Property repairs, maintenance and service levels

Prior to the appointment of Louie-Mae Gibson in October the service provided by the estate office – responses to requests for action and information and the provision of communication in general – was marked by delays and inefficiency as well as a lack of consistency and clarity. These issues were also clearly confirmed by the survey we carried out during the autumn. However, following an initial meeting in November during which we handed over a detailed schedule of delayed, unfinished and unsatisfactory works, Louie-Mae rapidly carved her way through the backlog. It is gratifying to be able to report that thanks to her hard work and that of her team, coupled with very close and regular communication between TNRA and the estate office, service and response levels are now incomparably better than they have ever been. TNRA will continue to maintain close liaison with Louie-Mae so as to ensure that the new high standards are maintained.

Long leasehold properties

Only a handful of residents have contacted TNRA to bring complaints to our attention concerning their managing agents, Mainstay, who report direct to Trinity House. However, those who have reported their issues to us tell a tale of delayed and poor responses, inaction and failure to provide information. This situation has not been helped by Mainstay’s failure to find a replacement for the previous property manager (who left in March) until July. We have brought the matter to the attention of both Trinity House and Knight Frank, and will continue to press for a significant improvement in service or a change of managing agent.

Trinity House

I was able to have a long and productive meeting with Martin Atherton in late January, when I was impressed by his openness and pragmatism and a declared wish to work with TNRA in a spirit of mutual cooperation, involving inter alia regular (at least quarterly) one-on-one liaison meetings. This impression has been reinforced through subsequent correspondence and a long phone discussion (necessitated by the lockdown) at the end of April. Martin has much to do and has many competing priorities on his time but we remain hopeful that his approach will signal the continuation of a new and better relationship with our ultimate landlord.

Gardens

During our regular bi-annual garden action days many volunteers have cleared, weeded, pruned, mulched and watered the gardens of Trinity Church Square and Merrick Square under the supervision of Penny Hinves. Penny has also taken a leading role in supervising the work carried out by Gould Landscaping’s gardeners, including providing them with regular to do lists and monitoring their work throughout the long lockdown when Gould's management were not available for site visits. Special thanks are also due to Andrew Berton and Mike Chaproniere for their various contributions to the gardens in the squares and elsewhere.

A substantial amount of other work has also been carried out, again under the general direction of Penny. A recovery programme has been initiated to restore the neglected gardens in Gloucester Court, involving inter alia cutting back and pruning overgrown and out of shape shrubs and climbers. In addition the box parterre in Merrick Square has benefited from continuing care, the provision of new plants and the bulking up of the previously planted standard roses. Finally the garden at 21–27 Swan Street has been cleared of dense shrubs to make it lighter and more spacious prior to bedding in new plants.

The result of all this work is already beginning to show, but it will not be until next year that all the benefits will become fully evident. Meantime we need to make sure that the gardens in the two squares – real havens for everyone in recent months – do not suffer from increased usage and footfall. We will also continue to press Knight Frank to significantly increase their gardening budget so as to ensure that all the gardens on the estate can be properly tended and maintained.

Planning applications and developments

Details of the various planning proposals and projects we have worked on and the important concessions and improvements we have won are as follows:

(a) with significant input from Knight Frank in the shape of a specialist report prepared by a firm of traffic consultants we overturned the Council’s plans to ban traffic turning left from Borough High Street into Harper Road and to reroute it via Trinity Street and Trinity Church Square – if carried through it would have turned those streets into a rat run;

(b) we persuaded the Council not to remove the two Automatic Number Plate Recognition (“ANPR”) cameras at the Trinity Street gate, both of which were installed in August 2016 to deter and fine motorbike riders ignoring the no entry signs;

(c) we have closely followed plans to redevelop the Falmouth Road surgery site, concerning which our impressions continue to be positive;

(d) we have similarly made our wishes known regarding the forthcoming redevelopment of Dickens Square. Construction work is now scheduled to start in the autumn, the Council’s aim being to re-open the park during the summer of 2021;

(e) despite our and other’s objections to the plans for the redevelopment of King’s Place on the corner of Harper Road and Borough High Street the Council gave the go-ahead for the construction of a 14 storey tower block comprising 328 room hotel and 20 residential units. A detailed traffic management plan covering the movement of lorries during the construction period is still pending, as are the long term arrangements for vehicles dropping people and deliveries off at the hotel and providing services;

(f) in negotiation with the Council and the School of Osteopathy and with the aim of dissuading miscreants we have arranged for one of the CCTV cameras on the side of the School to be re-directed to point into Avon Place along with signs stating that CCTV operates in the area.

Grant applications

Successful applications to fund improvements to the built environment have comprised:

(a) £790 from the North-West Multi-Award Neighbourhood Funds to pay for our December 2020 Christmas Carols. NB as it is almost certain that government regulations will now not enable us to hold this event we have requested that the grant be held over till December 2021;

(b) funds to install two arc-type bike storage racks in Falmouth Road;

(c) £3,700 won in conjunction with the Roebuck Action Group (aka the RAG) to purchase three large stone former horse troughs. The troughs will be installed during the autumn to create a barrier that will separate the piazza and the pub’s table-benches from a pavement strip alongside Gt. Dover Street and the road itself. Once the troughs are in situ we will fill them with robust plants.

We will continue to apply for grants to fund the replacement of the considerable number of concrete paving slabs, rough concrete infill and sections of tarmac up and down the estate by York stone, objectives that are consistent with Southwark’s Draft Supplementary Planning Document that takes account of the criteria set out in their Planning Obligations and Community Infrastructure Levy as well as their Appraisal for the Trinity Church Square Conservation Area.

Refuse collection and street cleaning

Even before Covid-19 had begun to cause disruptions to normal street-cleaning operations funding cutbacks had caused the Council to reduce litter-picking to just three days a week in place of the former daily visits. Similar financial restrictions plus various unexpected consequences resulting from the introduction of the Ultra High Emission Zone also led to the termination of the highly valued monthly skip. Meantime we continue to maintain close contact with the Council’s cleaning team to press for the speedy removal of refuse left by fly-tippers and the removal of leaf-fall and pollen etc.

Community safety

We continue to monitor and take action concerning incidents of crime, anti-social behaviour and other similar issues by means of regular attendance at meetings of the Chaucer Ward Safer Neighbourhood Panel and in meetings and correspondence with the local police. We also share relevant information and pursue action when appropriate with the Trinity Street estate office and others to e.g. improve security lighting and replace inadequate door and gate locks with stronger and more secure versions.

Events

As in previous years, in 2019/20 TNRA organised a regular programme of well-attended events and activities, as follows:

Pop-up Bookstall – most fine Saturdays

Spring Porch Sale – Saturday 27th April

Garden Action Day – Saturday 11th May

Open Garden Squares Weekend – Sunday 9th June

Trinity House Tour – Monday 8th July

Borough Welsh Choir – Sunday 28th July

Late Summer Porch Sale – Saturday 31st August

John Constable Historical Walk – Thursday 5th September

Pub Quiz – Wednesday 30th October

Garden Action Day – Saturday 9th November

Christmas Drinks in the Rectory – Wednesday 4th December

Carol Singing – Monday 16th December

Antiques Show & Tell – Wednesday 5th February

Pancake Races – Tuesday 25th February

Wine Tasting – Thursday 12th March

Membership

Our continuing programme of activities, lobbying work with Trinity House, Knight Frank, Mainstay, the Council, the Police and others plus the valuable benefits available through our Discount Scheme all contribute to our being able to maintain a strong membership despite a significant number of residents moving elsewhere each year. TNRA’s membership ended the year 2019/2020 with a total of 211 households (cf. 210 in 2018/19; 223 in 2017/18; 206 in 2016/17; 216 in 2015/16; 204 in 2014/15; 210 in 2013/14; and 201 in 2012/13). It is noteworthy that as a result of the Committee’s efforts, initiatives and activities in recent years our membership is significantly greater than it was ten years ago (173 in 2011/12; and 139 in 2010/11).

The disruption to normal life caused by Covid-19, however, has had a significant impact on renewals and new subscriptions, as a result of which we are forecasting a reduction in household memberships to 170–180 households for the year 2020/21. Nevertheless, assuming a return to some form of normality over the course of the next twelve months we believe there is a good chance that total household membership during the following year (i.e. 2021/22) will revert to 200 plus.

Discount Programme

Members continue to be able to rapidly recoup the cost of their annual subscriptions by buying goods and services from a wide range of local shops, restaurants and other establishments. Before lockdown 22 such outlets were offering discounts ranging from 10% to 20% to those presenting their TNRA membership cards. We are currently in the process of asking all the firms open for business post-lockdown to confirm their continuing participation in the scheme.

Filming

The estate – and Trinity Church Square in particular – continues to be used by a variety of advertising, TV and film production companies. Although some disruption is inevitable at such times, TNRA’s coffers benefit from valuable income in recompense for such disturbance. Having earned the greater part of our total £6,600 annual filming receipts from the three days devoted to shooting a new HBO feature film in July 2019 we therefore declined further shooting requests for the rest of the year.

Finances

We always aim to maintain a healthy reserve. This is to ensure that if we need to pursue our members’ interests by seeking legal advice or incur exceptional expenditure we have sufficient funds to cover the costs. It is also to safeguard our ability to continue all essential activities on behalf of our membership should there be a significant downturn in our income due to e.g. fewer film shoots or a totally unexpected turn of events such as Covid-19.

The highlights from our audited accounts shown below (full details can be seen on the TNRA website) clearly demonstrate that our finances were in good shape at the end of our financial year in March 2020. It should be noted that following the introduction of the lockdown in late March we immediately adopted emergency measures so as to avoid all but essential expenditure. Since then we have continued to follow the same policy.

A continuing consequence of the baleful effects of Covid-19 has also led us to forecast a significant drop in income (mainly due to a fall in membership, minimal filming receipts and no events), matched by much lower expenditure (most notably no events costs) for the year ending March 2021. Nevertheless we are confident of being able to continue to provide a fully responsive service for our members and to produce our regular bi-annual Newsletters without any need to draw on our reserves.

 

 

Detail

YE 2020

£

YE 2019

£

Diff’ce

£

 

Notes

INCOME

 

 

 

 

General

 

 

 

 

Subscriptions

2,603

2,878

(275)

Slight fall is due to varying size of households

Misc.

700

699

1

-

Filming

6,600

2,500

4,100

Typically varies very significantly from year to year

Total General

9,903

6,077

3,826

Filming accounts for the big increase

Events

5,568

5,500

68

-

Other

37

19

18

-

Total Income

15,508

11,596

3,912

See above re film income

EXPENSES

 

 

 

 

General

749

681

68

-

Events

6,694

7,198

(504)

-

Overheads

4,258

4,478

(220)

-

Total Expenses

11,701

12,357

(656)

-

Surplus/(Deficit)

3,807

(761)

4,568

Significant recovery

Reserves

22,169

18,362

3,807

Significant increase

 

Communication with members

We have kept our members abreast of current issues, developments, events and news by means of the TNRA website, bi-annual Newsletters, the Trinity Street noticeboard, flyers, posters, the TNRA Facebook site and monthly e-Letters.

Equipment for hire

Members continue to benefit from very reasonable rates to hire a wide variety of equipment including gazebos, tables, chairs and glasses.

The Work of the Committee and TNRA Volunteers

None of the above can be achieved without a huge amount of work carried out behind the scenes. Our events programme alone necessitates very significant planning and organisation, following which comes setting up and running each event before clearing up afterwards. In many cases this also involves considerable physical effort in carrying tables, chairs, gazebos, goods and other items to the venues and then back again. I salute the commitment of the Committee to these activities and everything else they do for our members, and I also warmly thank all those volunteers who have helped us throughout the year.

I also urge other members – especially the younger ones! – to provide us with their help, advice and expertise. It will be even better if they will bring new blood and fresh ideas to what we do by standing for election to the Committee.

Tim Horsler, Chair

See the audited accounts for 2019/20 here: TNRA Final Accounts at 31.03.2020.pdf

 

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