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Annual report 2014-15

1.            Introduction

For nearly 40 years, TNRA has worked 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 to foster a sense of community by organising events for local people.

2.            Assured Shorthold Tenancies (“ASTs”)

TNRA’s priority continues to be greater security for residents on shorthold tenancies. We sent a letter and a copy of an article by former Cllr Tim McNally in the TNRA Spring 2014 Newsletter to each member of The Court and The Board of the Corporation of Trinity House. The response from Trinity House was disappointing: they repeated earlier statements that they are required to manage the Trinity Village estate on a commercial basis. In January 2015, Civitas published a report entitled “The Future of Private Renting: Shaping a fairer market for tenants and taxpayers”. We sent the report to Trinity House, asking them to consider applying its recommendations in Trinity Village. We accompanied the report with the findings of a survey undertaken by TNRA among ASTs in Merrick Square (“MS”) which shows that the majority of tenants are worried their lease may not be renewed or their rent increased to an unaffordable level. In his preliminary response, Graham Hockley, the Secretary of Trinity House, stated that this is a “serious matter and one neither I nor the trustees have ever taken lightly” and agreed to revert after he has “consulted the trustees”. We met with Mr Hockley on 5 March. There was again little movement from Trinity House. In an attempt to give certain tenants some greater security, we have agreed to work with them to develop the concept of “property maintenance plans”. A family in MS will be the first “test case”. We are arranging a meeting for Mr Hockley & Capita with the family which TNRA will also attend.

3.         Long leasehold properties

On 1 May 2014, Mainstay started work as the fourth managing agent in two years for the six long leasehold blocks in Trinity Village. TNRA attended an introductory meeting between representatives of the long leasehold blocks, Capita and Mainstay. Within the first two months of their appointment, Mainstay had produced a detailed summary sheet of required repair, redecoration and renewal work for each of the separate blocks; produced two revised updates; and had begun to initiate appropriate works on a prioritised basis. There was a further meeting of block representatives with Mainstay on 5 September and a report written by Tim Horsler was emailed by TNRA to all long leaseholders. PPM work continued during the Autumn and into the Winter. Most long leaseholders would seem to regard Mainstay as a significant improvement on previous managing agents. There was, however, a fire in a long leasehold property caused by contractors which Mainstay should have handled better. The fire highlighted a lack of clarity between Capita & Mainstay on who is responsible for handling insurance claims for the long leasehold blocks. Mainstay are now aware of their responsibility concerning the insurance policies Capita have set up for all the properties on the Estate, whether they’re held on short or long leases.

4.            Gardens

Trinity House again provided limited ad hoc funding for improvements to the TCS garden in 2014. The work and on-going maintenance was undertaken by TNRA members, led by Penny Hinves, with more than a dozen volunteers turning out to help on four Garden Action Days during the year.

TNRA has argued that the increased revenue generated from Trinity Village in recent years justifies more investment and the engagement of a qualified gardener by Trinity House. A process is underway to appoint a professional gardening contractor to manage the communal gardens to 21-27 Swan Street, Gloucester Court on Swan Street, TCS and MS. There are also suggestions that Capita may be planning a rolling program of upgrading six rear gardens a year for the next few years, with input from a professional gardening contractor.

TNRA has been lobbying for several years for a clear process for everyone in Trinity Village to get access to the two square gardens. We objected to an initial proposal that would have restricted access to residents of the squares only - excluding people living in Falmouth Road, Trinity Street, Bedford Row, Swan Street and Cole Street. Capita responded with a policy which will give everyone in Trinity Village access to both square gardens. Access will be free for assured shorthold, assured and regulated tenants of Trinity House. Long leaseholders, freeholders and residents of Bedford Row will have access at a cost of £100 a year. It is hoped that the new system will be introduced during the second half of 2015, as key pads and electric cabling need to be installed at the entry gates.

4.            Planning & development in Trinity Village and its area

The majority of TNRA’s time in 2014/15 has been spent on planning and development issues in our area.

We lobbied Southwark Council to preserve the Trinity Street gate in its current form and to prevent the partial re-opening of Trinity Street to two wheeled motor vehicles. The Council has decided to keep the gate but to extend the gap between the barriers and the Trinity Street gates from 1.2m to 1.5m on a trial basis. They will also install an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (“ANPR”) Camera that will issue Fixed Penalty Notices to any motorised vehicle that passes through the gates. The ANPR camera will be installed prior to or at the same time as the widening of the gap between the barriers and the gates rather than subsequently. The Council’s response suggests that this represents a temporary reprieve only and that "there will be a review of the new arrangements after 12 months”.

There have been four community meetings on the proposed development on Swan Street/Harper Road. We are very pleased that TNRA's substantive concerns have been addressed. The height of the tower block on the corner of Swan Street and Harper Road has been reduced from a possible nine storeys to seven and the tower block now includes provisions for significant community/event space on the ground floor and basement. We are also pleased that the developers and our councillors are supporting TNRA's proposal that Section 106 money from the development should be used to enhance the appearance of the TCS conservation area.

Plans have been published on the development of the Borough Triangle. TNRA has objected to proposals for two 38 storey towers by the junction of Harper Road and Borough High Street.

Annie Wingfield has worked tirelessly for the completion of the community mural in Avon Place, funded by the Council at TNRA’s request, after a delay to allow for more consultation with local residents. 

The road in much of TCS has been re-surfaced with the re-surfacing of the north of the square and Trinity Street from Borough High Street planned for later this year.

We liaised with residents in Brockham Street, led by Justin Hewelt, to confirm that work behind the Harper Road mosque is compliant with drawings and written applications from the initial 1995/1996 planning request.

Meera Rajan has represented TNRA at meetings with the Council and other community groups regarding the inclusion of Trinity Village in a Neighbourhood Forum.

The £1.5 million upgrade of the park at Dickens Square has been delayed to 2016 or 2017.

5.            Community safety issues

Trixie Cartwright and/or Annie Wingfield have represented TNRA’s interests at meetings of the Chaucer Safer Neighbourhood Panel. In 2012 and 2013, there were more than 30 incidents of car brake cables being cut in our area. In the last year, there have been no reported brake cutting incidents and no other significant local crime “themes” – just occasional, unrelated issues including occasional vandalism/theft from cars, several scams by confidence tricksters, drunken behaviour by students, a recent burglary and a nasty mugging in Harper Road.

6.            Events

Our events have comprised: Council election hustings (8 May 2014); Open Squares Weekend (15 June); a Walk Around Roman Southwark led by John Constable (Tuesday 24 June); Porch Sales (6 September 2014 and 28 March 2015); an Autumn Concert (24 October); Christmas Craft Fair (26 November); Carol Singing in TCS (17 December); an Italian Wine Tasting and Supper (19 March 2015). Lesley Exton has organised pop-up bookstalls on Saturday mornings during the year. Porch sales and bookstalls made a profit of £1,592.81 for TNRA funds. TNRA thanks Henry Wood Hall for providing the venue for several of these events.

7.            Membership

TNRA’s membership stands at 204 households at the end of the 2014/15 membership year (210 in 2014; 201 in 2013; 173 in 2012; 139 in 2011). The majority of households in Trinity Village are now TNRA members. 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.

8.            Finances

Draft accounts confirm TNRA’s income in 2014/15 was £19,742 against £8,880 in 2013/14, the increase being due to higher income from filming (£9,000 in 2014/15 vs £3,100 in 2013/14), the accounting treatment for a grant to purchase new gazebos and ticket sales for the wine tasting (which did not take place last year). Total expenses increased to £13,436 from £6,982, again reflecting the gazebo purchase and costs of the wine tasting. TNRA’s total funds ended the year at £20,995, higher than £14,322 in 2013/14.

9.            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. Residents have been able to contact TNRA via email and answerphone and Committee members have dealt with queries about many matters, from rents to dustbins. TNRA's stock of equipment for hire has provided a service for both members and other local people and groups. During the course of the year, we acquired six magnificent new gazebos, funded by the St Saviour’s Charity, now available for hire.