MINUTES OF HCA AGM – 23 OCTOBER 2017
Present: Chairman, Committee (x 7), Cllr Gerry Ellis, Prospective Cllr Andrew Gardner and 20 other local residents
- Welcome & Introductions. The HCA Chairman, Christopher Moore, introduced himself to the meeting and thanked all those attending, particularly the newcomers, as well as those who had tendered their apologies. On a show of hands, the Notice convening the meeting having been widely promulgated was taken as read.
- Planning & Conservation Issues. Arising from budget cuts and reduced allocations at Wirral Council it was clear that, judging by their lack of responsiveness, conservation and heritage matters were well down the priority list on the Council’s agenda. There was only one conservation officer for the whole of Wirral and the tasks and responsibilities exceeded her capacity. As a result, no updating work on Management Plans and Appraisals had occurred on the Kings Gap CA since 2013 and Meols Drive CA since 2004. In addition, the enforcement team had been cut back severely so that enforcement of Council policies seemed to be close to non-existent. Nevertheless, it was important that residents, through the Conservation Area societies and associations kept monitoring planning applications to measure them against national (National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)) and LPA policies in the out of date but still extant Unitary Development Plan (UDP), particularly Policy CH2. The Council’s draft Core Strategy which would replace the UDP was still some way off implementation. After a successful referendum last December, there was also a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) in force covering most of the KGCA and the top end of Meols Drive.
- Chairman’s Report.
- Mr Moore presented a report on activities since the last AGM. The 2015 AGM minutes had been published on the HCA website (hoylakeconservationarea.org) and it had been assumed that, in the absence of any information to the contrary, that these could be deemed to be approved. Matters arising were covered by the Agenda.
- The meeting was reminded that conservation had two features: preservation AND enhancement and the committee attempted to steer an objective path in pursuit of both aspects. The HCA continued to support the aims and objectives of the Wirral wide Conservation Areas Wirral (CAW) forum which collectively represented all 26 designated conservation areas to achieve a better collective voice. CAW had successfully introduced a Blue Plaque scheme to generate interest and knowledge in deserving people from Wirral and designated Heritage trails. CAW were actively engaged with protection of the green belt, a most welcome initiative to improve the presentation and controls at Hamilton Square (which had 63 Grade 1 Listed Buildings) and on enforcement or the lack of it across the Borough. To improve awareness, CAW continued to issue informative quarterly newsletters, was hoping to introduce a brown sign scheme and had arranged an information event at Birkenhead Town Hall on Thursday 9 November to celebrate 50 years since conservation areas were introduced. The unpaid volunteers at CAW needed modest financial support to arrange their activities and HCA had donated £50 for the each of the past two years as a contribution which it was hoped met with approval.
- Turning to the KGCA and MDCA in particular, the Chairman reported that activity had been mostly about smaller domestic schemes. There seemed to be an inexorable move to convert larger Edwardian properties to flats or nursing homes. Here it was important to preserve the grace, dignity, style and sense of space of the larger properties as these features were so important to the character of our area. The Hoylake NDP helped in this within its designated area. Enforcement or the lack of it was a constant frustration particularly in dealing with the trees lost at The Old Garden, the lack of knowledge of the required landscaping plans at that site and on fly posting at the Hoylake roundabout and on North Parade. The Council had promised to develop a trial of better enforcement procedures in Hoylake but no progress could yet be reported.
- The care and maintenance of the main streets and public realm areas drew criticism. The dominant feature of the roundabout was badly maintained by the Council and thare was an increasing problem of grass/weed invasion of kerbs and cobbles and the grass areas were infested with dandelions. It was agreed that HCA should support the Hoylake & Meols in Bloom in their initiative to hold the Council to account for this important area to accompany their excellent voluntary work up and down Market Street. It was reported that a number of the traditional cast iron road signs had been stolen presumably for their scrap value. Ideally, a replacement programme of similar pattern signs could be arranged.
- The policy of the committee was not to object to every application but to check for compliance with planning policies. In particular, the inclusion of Heritage as well as Design and Access Statements were essential. Particular attention was paid to shape, size, sympathetic style, traditional materials and preservation of space. Completed projects included the extensive extension and changes at 19 Stanley Road, sympathetic renovation of the Edwardian detached house in Valentia Road, the Westhaven Nursing Home (outside the CA but we were able to influence the design and access arrangements). The Old Garden site where a new 40 bed nursing home was at an advanced stage had changed the character and charm of that old building and as previously reported we await knowledge of the tree and landscaping scheme. Ongoing applications included:
- Renovation of 6 Beach Road (approved and underway).
- The old Police Station in Lighthouse Road as a Nursery School (approved)
- Conversion of the Old Lifeboat Station to a first floor apartment, café and outdoor activity centre for summer use (approved and underway).
- Removal of St Hildeburgh’s Church War Memorial to north side of cemetery (approved)
- A new detached house in vacant plot at St Margaret’s Road (approved).
- A new detached house in Morpeth Road (approved)
- The welcome Beacon Project for a cinema, restaurant, art centre and residential flats at the former Town Hall had been submitted but not yet validated.
- Field House, Stanley Road had recently been sold but a major upgrade was anticipated.
- In conclusion, the Chairman indicated that the committee should continue to monitor planning applications, support CAW, Hoylake Vision and the NDP, seek better enforcement from the Council and engage with Hoylake & Meols in Bloom and the Council to improve care and maintenance of the public realm particularly at the Hoylake roundabout. These aims were approved by those present.
- Financial Report. Mrs Whitford as Hon Treasurer presented the financial statement which is attached. Expenditure had been limited to a £50.00 donation to Conservation Areas Wirral and £54.00 on website hosting costs. Income from voluntary subscriptions did not match the outgoings leaving a balance to account of £463.98 as at 30 September 2017. A steady decline in funds was not sustainable and the meeting swiftly volunteered to pay yearly subscriptions on the spot. This welcome move from the floor generated £116 which boosted the account to £579.98. G J McLennan proposed and M Meredith Jones seconded that the Financial Report be accepted and the Hon Treas thanked for her services. Carried unanimously.
- Election of Committee. The meeting approved the re-election of C T Moore as Chairman and Mrs Pam Meredith Jones as Hon Treasurer vice Mrs Kitty Whitford who wished to stand down after many years of loyal service. Mrs Elizabeth Davey, Mrs Gill Norton and Mrs Yvonne Sanne were also standing down but the following elections were approved unanimously:
- Mr Ron Cotton
- Mrs Kitty Whitford
- Mrs Sue Evans
- Mr Graham Stevens (new election)
- Mr Miles Meredith Jones
- Mr Roger Tucknott
- Mr Michael Gittoes (new election)
Cllr Gerry Ellis as a local Ward Councillor was an ex-officio member. The Chairman proposed a sincere vote of thanks to retiring Committee members which was warmly approved. Mrs Davey’s knowledgeable advices would still be available to the committee through her involvement in CAW and the Wirral Society.
- Closure of the Meeting. After renewed thanks for the support of all those who had attended and their interest in conservation matters the Chairman closed the meeting.
C T MOORE 11 November 2017
Chairman, for HCA Committee
- HCA Financial Report for Year Ending 30 September 2017