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TNRA Annual Report 2000–01

This year TNRA membership reached 172, an improvement on last year’s total of 134. With the addition of the new development in Cole Street, there are now just over 300 households on the estate. TNRA thus represents more than half of the households, which gives us some status in dealing with the landlords and other bodies. Three reminders for subscription renewal were sent out and committee members tried to call at every household, though we did not catch everyone in. This year we introduced a membership card, which was sent out as a receipt.

Quarterly meetings
Including last year’s AGM, we have held four quarterly meetings for members. At three of these we had guest speakers: Tim Renwick on the London Eye, Ros Bedlow from Southwark Energy Agency on energy conservation and keeping warm, and Clare Graham from the Rose Theatre. Attendance at these meetings has ranged from poor to not bad (15 to 25). We are grateful to the British School of Osteopathy for accommodating us for three of these meetings but hope that the more convivial atmosphere of the Blue Eyed Maid will encourage more members to attend.

This year we have sent out more information to members. In addition to the two newsletter booklets in summer 2000 and spring 2001, we circulated eight four-page news sheets to all members through the year. This meant that we reported to you quickly on matters such as meetings with Cluttons and traffic plans. Other news sheets with limited circulation were produced for long leaseholders and for Trinity Church Square residents about Cluttons’ proposal to change the colour of the window paint.
  We produced greetings cards with a picture of Merrick Square, which were sold at the Garden Fete and Christmas cards picturing Trinity Church Square, which proved very popular, selling 270. Thanks to Simon Morris for organising the printing.
  In September we learned that we had been awarded a lottery grant from the Millennium Awards Committee of £3,525 to produce a residents’ information pack. This is being worked on and should be launched in the summer. Research by Penny Dearsley of the services and facilities in the area for the pack has already produced ideas for speakers at meetings and organisations to invite to the garden fête in June.

Committee and subgroups
This year the committee has tried to take a more strategic role, passing some of the work to subgroups. This is an attempt to have fewer, shorter committee meetings, to involve more residents in TNRA’s work, and to report more to the membership through news sheets. This has worked well in some areas, for instance, dealt with housing policy, events planning, and the information pack.

As usual a lot of TNRA’s dealings have been with Cluttons, the managing agents. Alison Walker and Helen Holden have had four meetings with Julian Briant of Cluttons, discussing for example external and internal redecoration, the gardens, the Trinity Arms, the shop, rent arrears and housing benefit, bike sheds. We are very pleased that Derek Brown is now installed in the Trinity Street office full time as property manager for the estate, dealing with repairs. We have had meetings with Derek and are liaising with him over the possible provision of communal bike sheds.
  Other staffing at Cluttons seems more problematical, with a number of different people dealing with different aspects of management: rent payments, rent arrears, registered rents, market rent negotiations etc. We have published contact numbers in newsletters as far as possible and discussed with Julian Briant cases of lack of response from Cluttons reported by several tenants. Julian Briant appears to be relying on TNRA to convey management information to tenants, rather than contacting them directly. In particular, he has asked us to tell Trinity Church Square tenants to report any repairs that need doing with the external painting.

Long leaseholders
We organised two meetings for the long leaseholders on the estate whose properties are managed by Cluttons Tower Bridge office. These meetings were well attended by leaseholders from all the blocks. At the first it became apparent that there was dissatisfaction with the level of service, so we invited Cluttons partner Janie Strange to the second meeting. She seemed to take on board residents’ comments and promised to improve the service and come back to another meeting this autumn. Leaseholders are also concerned about extending their leases and/or buying their freeholds.

Housing policy
In July 2000 we responded to the government’s green paper on housing and sent copies of our response to Simon Hughes, our MP, and Steve Lancashire, one of our ward councillors. We were asked to comment on a housing motion being prepared by Simon Hughes’ office for the Liberal party conference. Steve Lancashire attended a recent committee meeting and discussed Southwark Council’s housing policy and housing benefit problems.

For protected tenants, this year has seen the Rent Officer Service move to Bromley, making it less accessible for us. However, Cluttons have declared that they will not go to Bromley for consultations and the rent officer has promised to come to the estate if tenants are unable to travel. Good news is that the courts have finally declared that the rent capping legislation is lawful. This means that some tenants whose rents have been registered since February 1999 may be due for a rebate. In future, registered rents of properties that have previously been registered at any time will be capped in relation to the retail price index. Increases this year have been modest, with the rent officer deducting about 20% for scarcity from equivalent market rents.
  Market rents for assured and assured shorthold tenants have increased at about 5% per year. Nine-year assured leases are beginning to run out and so far no new leases have been offered (although tenants have the right to remain). Assured shorthold tenants are the most vulnerable on the estate because they have no security at the end of their leases. It would not be unreasonable to assume that a landlord like Trinity House would renew ASTs as long as tenants could agree a new rent. Indeed, incoming tenants have been given the impression that this would happen by some Cluttons staff. However, Julian Briant emphasized recently that there are no guarantees – TH/Cluttons reserve the right to repossess at the end of an AST.

Social events
The year began with two Saturday secondhand book sales at 57 Trinity Church Square, which raised some money and encouraged residents to pay their subscriptions. In June we took part in the London Garden Squares Day again, with a Sunday afternoon garden fête in Merrick Square. Stalls sold food, books, toys, bric-à-brac and plants, which were especially popular. The Parks Rangers demonstrated planting and entertained young people and Graham Hughes and other musicians from Merrick Square played. The square garden had not been planted but we brightened it with flowers painted by children throughout the afternoon. Attendance from residents and other visitors was good.
  A late summer entertainment, also in Merrick Square, was less well attended, although a small number of residents enjoyed an evening supper there.
  In November we held ‘A Night at the Opera’ in Henry Wood Hall, where a trio, ‘Sounds Lyrical’, entertained us with a variety of opera excerpts. About 50 people attended and enjoyed food and wine in the crypt afterwards.
  Simon Morris designed and printed posters for all these events.
  Adèle Morris and Georgina Infield devised a questionnaire which was sent out in March to assess what type of entertainments residents would like us to organise.

Traffic and parking
This year we have finally seen the long awaited pedestrian lights installed at Borough Station. These are welcome not only so that we can cross the road more safely but also because the next scheme is the closure of Trinity Street, which is supported by most residents. We publicised and attended a meeting in June at which the council plans for closure were discussed with a large audience in Henry Wood Hall. We continue to press the Council to proceed with these plans.
  We also responded to consultants who were surveying parking in the area, and asked for more residents parking spaces. We were dismayed to find that the consultants knew nothing about the planned street closure and to learn later that there is no money for changing the parking in this zone anyway. Letters of protest to the council have met with little helpful response.
  We replied to the initial consultation from the Greater London Authority about congestion charging.

E&C regeneration
Jim Greenwood has provided us with regular bulletins about progress with the large redevelopment scheme at the Elephant and Castle. Of particular concern are council plans to build more homes on sites close to the estate. Jim and Adèle Morris have attended numerous meetings and forums. We are investigating whether we qualify for any grants or assistance from the E&C scheme.

Rubbish collections
Alison Walker has continued to battle to ensure that rubbish is collected from the whole estate, liaising with Derek Brown of Cluttons and the council to work out the best ways of achieving this.

Adèle Morris arranged for representatives from CRISP (Community Recycling in Southwark Project) to come to a committee meeting to discuss recycling. We plan to try two small composting schemes in Gloucester Court and Swan Street and hope to work with CRISP in the summer to set up a paper doorstep collection scheme for the whole estate.

Wildlife survey
Pat Drake has carried out a survey of wildlife on the estate, with the help of residents, which will be published in the summer newsletter.

Lesley Exton, Secretary
April 2001

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