Haringey Federation of Residents Associations - Annual Report 2007-8

Over the last year the Federation has continued to consolidate our activities and issues taken up. This is reflected in the growing number of associations on our mailing list; the steady numbers 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. All this has been achieved in a year when we’ve had to raise every penny of our own finances ourselves.

Supporting local RAs We’ve continued to do our best to support the work of local associations, & to support the principle that residents in every street, block or neighbourhood can organise ourselves, speak out & take action for ourselves and our communities. And as always we've helped a number of new RAs to get going.

Promoting the concerns of local RAs At our monthly meetings we’ve continued to exchange a wide range of local reports, to discuss & identify some of the key concerns, and to develop ways in which the Federation and the borough’s residents’ movement can support and take these concerns forward effectively. These include issues relating to Planning and Development, Green Spaces, Street Scene and Road Safety, Local Services (including campaigns around health services and post offices), Housing, Heritage & Conservation, Long-term Sustainability, Licensing, opposing Anti-Social Behaviour and promoting Community Spirit. Our May 2008 Community Action bulletin is a topical overview of many of these issues.

Planning and Development Planning controversies continue all around the borough. Throughout the year we’ve continued to inform local RAs on these issues, and to organise and support lobbying, protests and networking over planning issues and policies - including supporting heritage & conservation, opposing over-development, high-density housing and loss of facilities, and supporting efforts to save backlands. We have been pleased to see local RAs’ alliances form around major local planning issues, eg in Tottenham Hale (ex-GLS depot), Seven Sisters (Wards Corner), Muswell Hill (various), Crouch End (open spaces), Wood Green (Heartlands and Town Centre), Harringay (betting shops) and Central Tottenham (Lawrence Rd). Of particular note is the formation of the Wards Corner Community Coalition, backed by the HFRA. The WCCC has united local RAs and market traders, developed their own Community Plan for the site, and organised Tottenham’s largest resident-run public meeting for decades.

We’ve responded to a range of Haringey planning policy consultations (licensing, open space standards, extended use of school buildings, community involvement, housing policies, local development framework etc). We also joined with other concerned organisations around London to lobby for changes to planning policies in 'The London Plan', taking an active and influential part (through the London Tenants Federation) in the City Hall public enquiry.

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 and minimum standards of provision. The joint campaign for park-keepers in 2006-7 resulted in an official Parkforce Review and current proposals to increase on-site staffing. We’ve been happy to support Friends groups and the Friends Forum as the specialists on open space.

Street Scene and Living Streets As always, we support RAs seeking traffic calming, safer streets and ‘living streets’. For 4 years we’ve been calling for a 20mph default speed limit for all residential streets - over the last year this has become an increasingly popular view within the Council and GLA. We have supported the Living Streets ‘Green Man crossings’ campaign, and the growing borough-wide campaign to save front gardens from being turned into parking spaces. Our efforts to get illegal billboards removed have stalled and need to be revived. Last but not least we linked up with the Haringey Forum for Older People to call for a new public toilets scheme involving access to pubs, clubs, cafes and public buildings – the Council has agreed to investigate such a scheme.

Local services 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. Throughout the last year we have backed the Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition’s efforts to defend health services, particularly local GP surgeries (threatened by plans for ‘polyclinics’). The HFRA Vulnerable Groups officer worked hard all year contacting day centres and specialist groups to support the users of facilities and services facing cuts. Unfortunately the Council has been making cuts across all departments. In order to try to protect public services we agreed to work more closely with staff unions. After it was announced that 7 Post Office branches faced closure (as part of over 2000 UK branches under threat) there were a series of immediate and strong local campaigns and widespread protests mainly co-ordinated by RAs. The HFRA organised a borough-wide rally. Despite this, only one branch was saved.

Housing We continued to support tenants’ & leaseholders’ issues (regarding Council and Housing Associations) when asked to, and support them in taking up these matters through the various official channels. We held a special housing discussion at our meeting in March 2008, attended by 19 RAs (our best ever turnout). We welcome the release of £200m of government funding to make urgently-needed improvements to Council housing. But repairs, rent increases and service charges continue to be widespread causes of concern. There are also concerns about RAs’ access to meeting rooms and centres on estates (and in neighbourhoods generally), an issue which we have recently taken up with the Council. Regarding planning policies, we have continually expressed concern at new high-density and poor quality schemes, the low % of affordable and social housing, and the dearth of family-sized accommodation.

Heritage & Conservation There have been a number of local and Haringey-wide planning issues with a ‘heritage’ significance, including relating to key buildings and also the continuing public appraisals of all of Haringey's Conservation Areas. 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 last summer and this for the 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 and long-term protection of our environment. In early 2007 we linked up with a number of other community organisations to launch the Sustainable Haringey network. Over the last 12 months this network has grown and promoted a range of practical measures and policies which are needed to make our society sustainable and prevent dangerous climate change. Encouraged by the Federation an increasing number of RAs are now developing their own initiatives (eg encouraging energy saving, promoting walking and cycling, local food growing, recycling etc).

Other issues Other concerns and activities which have cropped up during the past year include:
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- anti-social behaviour We have discussed what RAs can do ourselves to respond to anti-social behaviour and strengthen local neighbourliness, and have contributed our views about pubs and clubs late-night licensing policies.

- 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. We encouraged groups to hold local street parties last summer.

- consultation processes We’ve also continued to promote effective consultation, engagement and empowerment of residents generally. We have circulated relevant consultation material to all RAs in our mailings to ensure every RA is informed. We've continued to engage with relevant Council departments, including as an active member of the Better Places Partnership and the Wellbeing Partnership.

- partnership-working We’ve actively promoted partnership-working among Haringey’s community organisations. Examples include the Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition, the Sustainable Haringey network, the new Haringey Community Link Forum, Haringey Friends of Parks Forum, Haringey UNISON branch and the Wards Corner Community Coalition. We’ve also worked with other borough-wide residents/tenants organisations through the London Tenants Federation.

Finances We’ve received no grants or funding at all, relying entirely on minimal savings and subs / affiliations / donations from RAs. We’ve had to cut down our postal mailings and publicity, and urgently need greater income.

Participation and support There are now 162 [150 last year] local residents associations on our mailing list, and over 140 [131 last year] RAs have now either attended Federation meetings or sent in apologies since 2001 – over 75 in the last year. Monthly attendance has slightly dipped but remained good, averaging around 10 [11] RAs attending and 18 [21] 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 116 [102 last year] RAs on our internal e-mail info-list - a very positive achievement. We’re increasingly using this instead of postal mailings, and have conducted a couple of e-surveys of RAs. Our website has been overhauled, and the aim is for a number of HFRA reps to take on updating the pages on key issues. There is now a very useful ‘What’s New’ page of rolling news.

Publicity Our documentary ‘Community Action – Residents United’ about the work of local RAs was completed, posted out to all RAs, and shown around the borough. It was also broadcast on the TV Community Channel. This year we have not promoted the Federation itself as much as previously. This is partly due to lack of funds, partly through relying more on our involvement in certain campaigns and activities, and also partly due to RAs in various parts of the borough forming their own joint networks and campaigns (eg re Post Office closures, Wards Corner…). However we have continued to produce our Community Action news bulletin as an occasional A4 sheet. We shouldn’t get complacent, and should endeavor to keep up a high public profile in order to encourage RAs to link up - and to encourage everyone in Haringey to support RAs, get actively involved or set up their own.

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.