Monday, 26 July 2010

Greening the back lane

Here is our attempt at greening the back lane . We shall see how long they last.



and the whole lot. A tomato plant, a sweet potato, a melon

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Operation Oak

The report is here for download.

In summary

The Council and the Universities all put up money to fund extra police patrols between 2200 and 0400 friday,saturday and sunday nights.

to quote from the report
" In the period reported on , 12 offenders have been arrested or reported for Public Order offences, 97 ASB suspects have been stop checked or PACE 1 searched, over 110 items of intelligence have been submitted and over 140 incidents of ASB or noise have been attended by Officers.

Follow up enquiries and action in relation to student ASB has again been a partnership
approach. Northumbria Police working with Public Health and Environmental Protection
(PHEPS’s) and Safe Newcastle have issued 234 first warning letters, 40 second warning
letters and 26 acceptable behaviour agreements (ABA’s). This information has been passed to both Universities who have instigated their own graded response on all ASB offenders.
Arrested and reported ASB offenders have been issued with formal cautions, fixed penalty notices, or warning letters."

So where is the money best spent, funding students to go round engaging with their peers, or funding the police who do something ?

Friday, 23 July 2010

Engaging students in jesmond part 1

Living Together, Working Together is a document that has been published by Universities UK and the National Union of Students. it lists from around the country examples where there has been some rapprochement between 'Town and Gown' .
Northumbria University gets a mention. (p 11).

Northumbria University Community Strategy 2009–2012

The community strategy, which is still in its early stages, aims to provide a framework which will raise awareness of the positive impact of students on the wider community; identify opportunities to improve this positive impact; and raise students’ own awareness of their
role in the wider community. Links with stakeholders include Newcastle City Council membership
services, civic councillors, environmental health, the Newcastle Private Rented Accreditation Scheme and local residents’ associations. The project has led to the launch of a Newcastle City Council-sponsored student ‘Community Rep’ scheme and secured funding for a community liaison officer post via the local policing team. Shared projects between the students’ union, university and other groups have increased, and communication between the City Council, the university, and other strategic partnerships has improved.

Hmmm. I dont think that is what the residents would say of the scheme. Ive been through the Minutes of the Ward meetings and will summarise the relevant bits

It first came to Ward meeting in May. This is the grant application. here's the relevant bit of the minutes in South Jesmond where it was discussed

(a) Northumbria Student Union - £485.00
Submitted: Report by Rachael Brannan, Vice President Welfare and Equality,
Northumbria Students Union (copy attached to Official Minutes).

The report was presented by Rachael Brannan. Rachael explained that the Students Union were seeking funding to enable them to deliver a ‘Community Rep’ scheme. The Union and the University had recognised the need for a wider strategy linking the student population with residents who lived in the Jesmond, Heaton and Ouseburn area. The scheme was to allow for student representation in local wards and Residents Associations. The 4 community reps would listen to concerns from residents regarding student activity and feed those concerns back to the Students Union and the University. Likewise, the community reps would be in a position to inform community groups, members and associations of the good work carried out by the student population and present the views of students in the various wards.

During discussion the following points/questions were raised:
• The natural mistrust from residents – due mainly to the problems caused by some of the student population.
• The Chair commented that communication and information had to be shared, creating a proactive environment rather than reactive as was mostly the case.
• One resident referred to the various meetings about students which had been held over the last four years. The students had been invited to attend but had never accepted. Whilst not able to defend the actions of all students Rachael did explain that some students found the meetings quite intimidating as they were not fairly accepted by all residents.
• The Chair reminded those present about the past and current problems caused by some of the student population but this application provided a way forward.
• There were some objections raised with regards to the application. Some residents felt that the application itself was not entirely in keeping with the use of public funds but the Ward coordinator assured members that the application was suitable for public funding.

In summing up the chair made reference to some of the comments made by the residents Associations and acknowledged the problems and concerns caused by some students. He called upon the residents associations to accept the need for change and find a way by which they could work with students.

Whilst the Chair agreed with the principle of the application he felt that there was still a need to address the problems raised by the residents associations. He suggested that members refuse the application but then continue discussions with the students union to find a scheme which was acceptable to everyone.

RESOLVED: That the application as it currently stood be refused and a modified application be submitted.

and in North Jesmond

(b) Northumbria Student Union - £485.00 - student rep scheme

(NB. Councillor Breakey declared an interest as an employee of Northumbria University and took no part in the decision).
A representative was in attendance to speak to the application. A full discussion ensued on the application, during which a number of points were made as follows:-
§ The representative of the organisation advised that an amendment to the amount requested needed to be made in that an application for assistance was being made to five wards, and a fifth of the overall cost of £1,940 (being 45% of the total cost) was being requested, i.e. £388.
§ It was noted that Ward Councillors had received a letter from local residents raising issues concerning the application.
§ A resident having pointed out that approval of such a grant could set a precedent for other universities to make similar applications, the resident also pointed out that persons with community interest in mind attended meetings of the Ward Committee without having to be paid and why, therefore, should students be paid to attend? It was noted that there had been many attempts in the past to involve students in the Ward Committee process. In response, the Students Union Representative advised that the Students Union had a restricted and limited budget, but student representation was valued and a positive and long lasting impact was being sought. It was also pointed out that such a scheme had also worked in other areas such as Liverpool and Leeds.
§ Another resident felt that the application should be considered in a welcoming manner and saw no objection here.
§ A member welcomed the attendance of both residents and students at meetings of the Ward Committee, but queried why this should not be a voluntary activity rather than a paid activity. He was also against the notion of funding a students’ newsletter. Another resident referred the meeting to the third aim in the application; one that he was inclined to support (i.e. “To raise awareness amongst students of their role in the local community”).
§ During discussion, a resident stressed the work of the Quality Life Partnership.
§ The issues raised in a letter from Jesmond Residents Association on this application was reported which included reservations that despite active attempts to involve the student community at North and South Jesmond Ward Committees, this had not resulted in attendance. There were concerns at aspects of expenditure contained within the application including uniforms,
clothing, training and expenses. It was also felt that the proposals did not guarantee any permanence of attendance, that the mission statement included within the application was imprecise and unclear, and that funding should be for permanent residents of the area.
§ Another resident felt that there had been a desire and enthusiasm for involvement of students in the past and suggested that perhaps the application could be agreed for a year on a trial basis. Alternatively, a member suggested that perhaps the application could be submitted to a future meeting after student representatives had attended other residents’ groups in the area and
(at another member’s suggestion) received assistance from residents’ association representatives in submitting a further application. The Secretary of Jesmond Residents’ Association Committee stressed the willingness of his organisation to meet and discuss issues with student representatives and welcomed dialogue with students as part of the community.
§ The student representative present at the meeting stressed that her organisation had received a Best Practice Award.

In conclusion, it was:-
RESOLVED – That the application not be agreed.
(NB. In reaching their decision, the Ward Committee wished to place on record their appreciation to Rachael Brannan (Vice President, Welfare and Equality, Northumbria Students Union) for making the application and attending the meeting).

There were further discussions about this between Councillors and residents and in the end. £395 was approved in July 2009 . the local councillors were seemingly keen to give the students a chance ( Similar amounts came from other Wards.)

I've looked at the Minutes of further meetings, there is no record of Northumbria Student reps attending any S Jesmond Ward meeting after June 2009.

I dont know what the Council and residents have received for their money .Hopefully we will get a report from them before any grant is renewed.

The other way of engagement between students and the community is Operation Oak (more presently)

Monday, 19 July 2010

Calming the back lane

i think back lanes are wonderful places. When your kids are young, they want somewhere to ride a bike, somewhere to meet friends and somewhere to kick a football. Our back lane satisfied all 3 objectives. On a summers' evening or weekend you could your children could join the melee. We would have unknown visitors periodically and I'm sure my kids wandered into other peoples yards as well. There are problems however. They are not really maintained and cars use them as a ratrun. In fact , one near me ( Osborne Avenue/Holly Avenue ) has road humps to slow the traffic . I'll work out how to put a link to Google streetview , but in the interim, here's a screenshot.


I recall in the past that a few years ago the Council put some money was put into 'greening' some back lanes in Heaton

Here's another streetview screenshot of one that was greened .

Some Fern Avenue residents have been discussing 'sleeping policemen'. Our back lane is used as a ratrun for vans, lorries and taxis , as well as residents , who don't want to turn round at the top of the lane. The problem is that its a straight road and we worry about children coming out of back yards into traffic that cannot stop in time. The council have costed road humps for the other back lane (Fern Avenue/Queens Road) at £11000. There is no chance of the Council having the funds to pay for this - I wonder if there are people who would fund it ?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


Its that time of the year - and the students are all leaving. So the back lanes become filled with rubbish as landlords clear out their properties.

And hedges become a problem. Studentification is a recognised problem in areas with high student numbers. Some of the problems are due to the numbers of young people who are temporary residents in an area , with social and economic interests that are different to the local residents, However , some of the problems are due to the behaviour of landlords , who put the minimum effort into maintaining the properties.
Hedges are a problem.