As previously reported the recent meeting of the St. James Residents Association was very well attended with over 50 people present. Those gathered listened to all the latest news within the area and were asked whether they would be interested in a parish council for the area. A straw poll taken at the meeting indicated that initially they were not in favour the idea.The main topic of conversation however, was the subject of permit parking in the area and Jim Whiting, Senior Traffic Engineer for the County Council was on hand to address the meeting and outlined the improvements to the scheme that were needed but stressed the importance of residents giving their views to the consultation that ends on 2nd March. Jim outlined the importance of returning the questionnaires to tell the council what they want from the scheme. Many questions were asked and they were dealt with in a refreshingly honest but professional manner. The consultation has now closed and the responses are now being sifted. The SJRA will meet with the County Council this week to discuss the findings.
The subject of a parish council is something the council will be asking residents about. They are holding a community governance review and this is the time for any area looking to set up a parish council to ask the council to hold a referendum. However, the council are going a step further and will be asking you if you think a parish council or a community council is right for your area. The present administration are very keen on this idea and are pushing it. Whilst it seems a good idea in principle there are drawbacks to it and the first thing that people will be concerned about is the extra you will pay on your council tax for the precept. The precept is the amount of money given to a parish council to manage its own affairs and this is taken from the tax collected. There is also a concern that people would be paying twice for certain things if the parish council voted to pay for things like Libraries and PCSO’s for example. The parish council can have a big say in what happens in the area and can pay for things like events etc. The difference in this proposal though is that it will not be just on a ward basis, it could be that an estate wishes to become a council rather than a whole area, this estate would then be responsible for managing its own affairs and would have money to pay for certain things, where as its neighbours would not. The question the council will be asking however, is just an expression of interest. If enough people in an area requested it then everyone in the relevant area would then have to vote to decide if they wish to have their own council. More information is available at www.northampton.gov.uk
Another question that the council will be asking tenants, is whether they wish to transfer to a new landlord. The council has made no secret of its desire to dispose of the housing stock but it will cost £2 million to ask the question. Apparently the reason given for wanting the transfer is that a change in government rules regarding council housing stock means that the council can keep all the rent it collects instead of it going to central government. However, there is also £194 million debt that goes with it and the council say they cannot afford this, so their answer is to transfer council houses to housing associations. You the council tenant will have the ultimate say!
The recent consultation on the St. James Local development order has now closed and the Borough Council are recommending the adoption of it with some minor changes as a result of people giving their views. One point has been taken on board as a direct result of the residents association having an input; where houses immediately adjoin an industrial site, the SJRA called for protection for householders. The have decided that the order already gives protection against, noise, fumes etc but have agreed that where new windows are installed on industrial buildings that are adjacent to houses, that they be obscured on upper floors, thus giving a degree of privacy to residents. A small concession, but a welcome one.
Councillor Wire has been making enquiries and complaints to the Planning department regarding the old St James School site and the building which was earmarked for Community use. He has been told they don't need planning permission to do any remedial work or store materials but the Council have received no plans for a Nursery which is being built in the building on the front of St. James Road. He has asked Planning go back to the developer and ask just what is going on and what are their plans. This they have agreed to do. Terry also tells us that Housing portfolio holder, Cllr Markham tells him there is a review of all Council Garages, and the issues relating to some residents wishing to rent has been resolved. Councillor Wire is also dealing with a lot of residents personal concerns which they raised to him at the last residents meeting.
Despite both councils voting not to continue funding Community support officers, they do at the moment remain in situ. However, it seems where they are being funded they will be moved to wherever they are needed and not be specifically assigned to one area. We await more information on this subject.
Councillor Patel, despite voting against keeping the funding for PCSO’s, has donated £750.00 to the SJRA from his Empowering Councillors Funds. This money will help with running costs and other smaller projects like planting up of the flowerbeds etc.
Parents or grandparents with babies or toddlers, who are looking for groups to take their little ones to can go along to the playgroup held on Mondays at the St. James Community Centre. It runs from 10.00 until 12.00 midday and cost £1.00. Also Tuesday’s at the Library, there is Rhymetime from 10.00 – 11.00 and on Wednesdays, at the Gospel Hall on Spencer Bridge Road there is a playgroup that runs from 9.30 -11.00. On Saturday’s at the Library there is a craft making group for children from 12.00. So, plenty for the young ones to be involved with.
The St. James Community Centre is now under the management of the Doddridge Centre and transferred from the council on March 1st. For booking and more information telephone the Doddridge Centre on 01604 586384.