Haringey Federation of Residents Associations - Annual Report 2006-7

Over the last year the Federation has continued to consolidate and positively develop our activities - the range and depth of issues taken up; the number of associations on our mailing list, sending donations, and attending the monthly meetings; the increasing communication and co-operation between associations; and the increasing general publicity and influence we and local residents associations are having in the borough. In particular the Federation has been able to act as a catalyst for new and significant borough-wide residents' initiatives such as the Sustainable Haringey network and the Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition.

Promoting the concerns of local RAs We’ve continued to do our best to support the work of local associations, & to support the principle that people in every street, block or neighbourhood can organise themselves, speak out & take action for themselves and their communities. And we've also helped a number of new RAs to get going. At our monthly meetings we’ve continued to hear a wide range of local reports, to discuss & identify some of the key concerns during the year, and to develop ways in which the Federation and the borough’s residents’ movement can support and take these forward effectively.

Planning and Development Planning controversies continue all around the borough. Throughout the year we’ve continued to organise and support lobbying and protests over planning issues and policies - including heritage & conservation, opposing over-development and high-density housing, efforts to save community pubs (including a strategic planning battle we helped win to save The Fountain in Tottenham) and saving backlands (including a strategic victory for the local RA in Cecile Park which we supported). We have been pleased to see local RAs form alliances in Tottenham Hale and Muswell Hill over major local planning issues.

July 2006 saw the climax of the 3 year-long consultation process over the Council's Unitary Development Plan policies. Throughout, the Federation had been central to the battle to stand up for community interests. True to form it went 'to the wire' with last minute controversies and protests over housing densities and open space deficiencies. As a result we resolved to join with other concerned organisations around London to lobby for changes to 'The London Plan' - and we have since been working with others to contribute to public consultation and lobbying over London-wide planning policies.

All the while we have been encouraging ‘networking’ around these issues and trying to keep local RAs well-informed. We’ve also continued to attend the Planning Stakeholders Forum to argue for improvements to the planning service and its practices.

Green Open Spaces We've continued to work closely with the Haringey Friends of Parks Forum to protect and promote green spaces, and call for improvements. The joint campaign for park-keepers resulted in the Council signing up to the national 'Parkforce' pledge and holding an official Staffing Review (now nearing completion). We’ve been happy to leave this to Friends groups and the Friends Forum as the specialists on this.

Street Scene and Living Streets As always, we support RAs seeking traffic calming, safer streets and living streets. The HFRA Living Streets officer has been busy promoting these issues through the small but active Living Streets group. Wood Green RAs were supported by the Federation in producing a major residents' audit of Wood Green High Rd - the resulting document was launched at a highly successful 120-strong public meeting and a working group is taking the proposals forward. We also backed a borough-wide campaign to save front gardens from being turned into parking spaces, but took a neutral position on controversial CPZ schemes (supporting instead local people's right to decide for their own neighbourhoods). Our efforts to get illegal billboards removed have succeeded in getting the Council to recognise this as a borough-wide problem, but no action has yet been taken. The new LBH ‘Streetscape Manual’, to which we had contributed at the draft stage, is now published.

Local services Following our conference at the end of 2005: ‘Keep It Local! - local facilities and services for local communities’, RAs at our meetings have discussed a range of concerns about public services eg. health facilities, care in the community, libraries, youth facilities and schools. At our last AGM we decided to protest against health cuts, and then helped launch a strong and active Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition. As a result we and other organisations have distributed tens of thousands of leaflets, and held dozens of lobbies, public meetings and protests in defence of health services. Both the HFRA Health & Social Services officer and the HFRA Secretary have been heavily involved throughout. We could take up other similar, important issues if there were more volunteers to co-ordinate the effort.

Housing We continued to support tenants’ & leaseholders’ issues (regarding Council and Housing Associations) when asked to, including discussing estate regeneration projects. We held a major discussion at our meeting in November 2006. Unfortunately our HFRA Council Housing officer had to stand down and we urgently need someone to replace them. We’ve also continued to publicise the Haringey Defend Council Housing campaign's calls for investment in council housing without government strings, ran a stall at the Homes For Haringey Tenants & Leaseholders Conference, and have joined the London Tenants Federation.

Heritage & Conservation There have been a number of local and Haringey-wide planning issues with a ‘heritage’ significance, including the start of a long process of public appraisals of all of Haringey's Conservation Areas - we in the Federation were unhappy with the lack of publicity for this and lobbied for the widest possible public involvement in this process. The Council published their newly-compiled List, which we had helped promote, of Historic Street Furniture and features throughout the borough. We are supporting their efforts to update and expand their List of Locally Listed Buildings of Merit. Our HFRA Heritage and Conservation officer has worked very hard to raise the profile of heritage issues, including organising a series of public walks and talks this summer for the newly-formed Tottenham Civic Society.

Long-term Sustainability In early 2006 we published a 4-page briefing for RAs to encourage debate about what residents can do to help create strong and sustainable local communities. This led us to join the Haringey Agenda 21 sustainability network - but unfortunately it was about to fold after 10 years activity, having run out of steam. Following discussion at our meeting the Federation proposed a Sustainable Haringey conference to try to involve more people and organisations. The event took off and many groups (including many RAs) helped organise what was a very successful conference in March 2007 of 110 people from 44 community groups. The conference launched a Sustainable Haringey network, which we've decided to back fully. The Federation also took part in a special Climate Change seminar organised by the Council to see what measures they and everyone needed to make to deal with this critical issue for the future of our society.

Other issues Other concerns and activities which have cropped up during the past year include:
- anti-social behaviour We have discussed what RAs can do ourselves to respond to anti-social behaviour and strengthen local neighbourliness. We have agreed to publish a 'what we can do' type guide (in preparation).

- waste management We are pleased that recycling services are slowly and surely improving across the whole borough, but disappointed that dumping and litter remain ongoing problems as always.

- community events Organising our own events (socials, quizzes, public meetings, events in parks etc) is a positive strength of local RAs. This year we are again encouraging local summer street parties, encouraged by the successful reports from last summer.

- consultation processes We’ve discussed how to ensure local communities are actively involved in local decision-making, and come up with a set of Guidelines for good practice. We have offered to circulate relevant consultation material to all RAs in our monthly mailings to ensure every RA is informed. The Council has taken up this Federation service, but for reasons best known to itself continues to still mainly use only the partial mailing list of around 50 RAs recognised by Homes For Haringey for most of its consultations. This leads to constant complaints by the majority of RAs that they've not been consulted on key issues.

Thanks to a Federation Questionnaire sent to all candidates during the May 2006 elections, all current Haringey Councillors committed to a resident-led agenda and support for RAs and the Federation. But it is fair to say we have had to remind them of this from time to time, and this commitment has not always been reflected among Council officers. Following the election Federation officers held constructive discussion meetings with 3 key Executive Members. We've continued to engage with relevant Council departments, including as an active member of the Better Places Partnership.

- partnership-working A major development in the past year has been the growth of partnership working, in which the Federation has been able to work with an increasingly wide range of organisations over a number of issues of common concern. Examples include the Better Places Partnership, the Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition, the Sustainable Haringey network, Haringey Community Empowerment Network (now closed down), and Haringey Friends of Parks Forum. We were also invited to discuss common concerns at a Haringey Unison trade union branch meeting.

Participation, information and support There are now 150 [135 last year] local residents associations on our monthly mailing list, and 131 [107 last year] RAs have now either attended Federation meetings or sent in apologies since 2001. Monthly attendance has consolidated, now averaging around 11 [11] RAs attending and 21 [15] RAs sending in apologies. However we need to attract more RAs who've not attended before, more young people, a more diverse mix of ethnic backgrounds, and more RAs from Council and Housing Association blocks.

There are now 102 [82 last year] RAs on our internal e-mail info-list – a very positive achievement. Our website has great potential, but is in dire need of updating and upgrading - there have been offers of help from sympathisers but the HFRA Secretary has so far been too preoccupied with other things to liaise with them properly. This must be a top priority in the coming months.

In the last year, to encourage more local activity and new RAs, we have:
- produced 1 edition of our Community Action newspaper (5000 copies)
- continued to distribute our own special ‘Local community action’ leaflet with ideas for setting up RAs
- produced a 25min documentary film, Community Action, about what residents associations around Haringey do. After a successful public premiere in April, we distributed it as a free DVD to all RAs.
- continued to distribute material about the Federation through Haringey libraries, and a range of press releases

Potential in coming year To make the kind of long-lasting improvements we'd all like to see, RAs need to share information and experiences, to combine forces and to build up our influence across the borough. Over the last year this potential has slowly and surely developed. However, much more could be achieved with greater involvement & focus.

Ratified at the Federation’s AGM, May 2007