Annual Report 2005

Backdated from previous BA website

We have published our Annual Report 2005 which can be read here or you can downloaded a copy by navigating to ‘Our Files’ then open the file titled ‘Constitution, Membership & Annual Reports’ to find the document.

The Bloomsbury Association
Annual Report
2004-2005


Introduction

2005 was a year of consolidation for the Bloomsbury Association (BA) and we have been able to strengthen our revival that started 4 years ago. During the past year your committee has concentrated on networking and strengthening links to our local community, Camden Council, the police, and our neighbouring community organisations in the West End.


Considerable time and effort has been spent on the building and maintenance of our web site and this has empowered our association as never before. We believe the Bloomsbury Association is now recognised as a respected and genuine voice for the community. A key empowerment factor has been the use of CASweb, the government (ODPM) free internet portal for advice communities. This fantastic free resource has allowed us to place all our news, statements and documents into the public domain and get our message across, not only to Bloomsbury, but to the wider world.


We are aware that not everyone has access to the internet, and that our organisation has not managed to engage with some of our community and we apologise for this. However, we hope this will be rectified in the coming year by the production of a newsletter and we recommend the 2006 committee to make this a priority.


Drugs and Needle Exchange

The abhorrence of street based drug dealing, the chaos caused by addicts roaming our streets, injecting and smoking of heroin and crack in public spaces, and the acquisitive crime that is fuelled by these activities continued to be our major concern over the past year.  These activities continue to degrade our quality of life.
Unfortunately, due to what we see as misguided policy by Camden Council, Camden Drugs Action Team and the Primary Care Trust – to concentrate large drug hostels south of Euston Road – this is now the 7th year that we have had to live with and suffer the consequences of drug dealers and large numbers of problematic drug addicts roaming around our streets.
We will remain very forceful in our objections to any drug policy that we consider adverse to our quality of life and will continue to work closely with our neighbouring community associations, the West End Drugs Partnership and other organisations to press for the dispersal of these facilities and services. We support the consensus agreed by the West End Drugs Partnership, for the ‘mixed economy’ of support for drug users (i.e. dispersal of services rather than concentration).


It is a sad reflection on Camden Council that their Drugs Action Team, and their Executive have NOT listened to the community and insist on pressing ahead with their proposals to open a ‘dedicated fixed site needle exchange’ in the disused toilet at Tottenham Court Road underpass (infamous as the worst underpass in the country), which in our view, will further entrench the open-air drugs market in Bloomsbury, Covent Garden and Soho.


This month, (Jan 2006) Camden Council Drugs Action Team have submitted a planning application to turn the underpass toilet at Tottenham Court Road into a dedicated fixed site needle exchange and we, in partnership with our friends in Covent garden, Fitzrovia and Soho intend to vigorously fight this proposal. We are at a loss to understand how a responsible borough council could even contemplate such as proposal. We are told that London is a World Class City – unfortunately for us we live in a part of it that local government seems willing to sacrifice to drug dealers and drug addicts that have no regard for public decency or respect for others.


In our 2005 annual report we stated:
West End Drugs Partnership (WEDP) – http://www.wedp.org

“ We continue to work with the WEDP and will continue to do so for as long as necessary.  After 3 years on this forum we are now seeing positive progress.  We are satisfied with the outcome of the Health Impact Assessment and subsequent decision by the West End Drugs Partnership NOT to open a dedicated fixed site needle exchange near Charing X Road.  We hope this will be the end of that proposal for good”.


How wrong we were!  No one could have anticipated that Camden Drugs Action Team would renege on their agreement with the WEDP and the West End community.  We have been betrayed!


ASBO’s – Comment
In answer to recent adverse articles in the media concerning the efficiency of using ASBO’s, the BA has strongly supported their use in connection with drug enforcement. The reason we have supported this action is that street based drug dealing is the last link in the chain between illegal drugs supply and the user, and this relationship is a grey area in terms of the burden of proof in gaining a conviction.  Therefore ASBO’s are available and used as the last resort, where the police are unable to arrest a suspect or secure a criminal conviction for drug possession or anti social behaviour due to lack of evidence. This process, although perhaps not perfect is the only course of action available to deal with these problems at present.


Licensing.
On November 1st 2005 the changes to the Licensing Act became law.  These changes – whereby owners and operators of licensed premises could apply to borough councils for late night licenses up to 24 hours – have created a massive amount of work for borough councils and community organisations.  We have been vigorous in our opposition to public house late night applications and generally speaking have been satisfied with the outcomes. We have attended the hearings of most Bloomsbury pubs and are pleased to report that no extensions after midnight have been granted to our knowledge. In addition we have supported Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association opposition where we feel that may impact on us.

Unfortunately our work is not over, as we are now seeing test case appeals being lodged by some of the major operators.  This will mean that we now have to submit further witness statements and attend magistrate’s courts as witnesses to support the Councils previous decisions and fight these appeals.  We have no way of knowing at this stage whether or not these appeals will succeed or not.


Planning
Special thanks to Stephen Heath, for his sterling contribution in representing the Bloomsbury Association in the planning process. If anyone out there has Planning knowledge and is interested in contributing to this process, please contact us as we hope to find a way to reduce Stephen’s workload.

The BA has specifically commented on:
•    21 planning applications and sought enforcement action from the Council on a number of occasions where there have blatant breeches of planning control
•    Lack of enforcement on estate agents boards which should not be hung onto buildings within the conservation area
•    Removal of a number of BT telephone boxes (via the West End Drugs Partnership / Camden protocol with BT) where these have been used and abused by drug addicts
•    ATM phone box proposals on the basis of their location and design making it likely  to increase anti social behaviour
•    Refurbishment of Bedford Square
•    The Bloomsbury Urban Realm study
•    The St Giles Renaissance development and forum
•    Gordon and Woburn Squares refurbishment


CommunityAlert Bloomsbury
This unique system is now a permanent part of the Bloomsbury infrastructure. It was developed for Bloomsbury by CASA at UCL with funding from LB Camden, Camden /Met Police.  The system went public in October 2005.
The system has been operating for just over a year and has processed 1130 incident reports from the community, 90% of which were drug related. This system provides valuable real time intelligence of drug activity around the Ward and is passed to Camden police community intelligence unit.


Environment
We have been working closely with LB Camden to encourage environmental improvements. We have voiced our opinion on the proliferation of street clutter: whilst trying to get improvements to the consultation process in relation to activities south of Euston Road.  We are currently monitoring commencement of works to Bedford Square, Gordon Square and Woburn Square with Bedford Estates, University of London and Camden Council.
We have lobbied for improved CCTV street coverage, pavement maintenance and lighting improvements particularly in areas that have suffered unacceptable levels of street drug activity such as Bedford Avenue, Adeline Place, Bedford Square, Montague Place and Malet Street.


Finance
Our financial situation is stable and we have a small surplus to carry us forward.
The BA has a policy of free membership, in relation to our constitution, so that no member of our community is excluded from joining and participating within our organisation and we receive no annual government funding. This allows us to act independently, free from any political constraints or allegiances and within the remit of our obligations to our membership and community.


Bloomsbury Car Sharing Club
City Car Club is now a permanent part of the Bloomsbury infrastructure and we have our car parked in Malet Street with others a short walk away. Details are available at http://www.citycarclub.co.uk  There is an annual membership fee and cars can be rented by the hour and cost from £2.80 per hour and 18p per mile.  Fuel, servicing, insurance and parking are all included plus the benefit of no congestion charge where the car is on dual fuel.  If you are interested in serious financial savings on running a vehicle and a no-hassle service then this is for you.


University of London Students
Over 2000 students live in the Bloomsbury Ward. We have close working relations with the University of London Union (ULU) and ULU have taken up their permanent seat on the BA committee. This is the 2nd year they have been involved in the BA and this seat is taken by the Vice president of ULU.


George Wagner Memorial – Bloomsbury Square – June 2005
Frank Dobson MP and Irene Wagner unveiled a plaque in Bloomsbury Square to commemorate George Wagner as the founder of the Bloomsbury Association.
Bloomsbury Ward Police Consultative Group (BWPCG)
This forum was formed a year ago and meets bi-monthly. We take an active role on this group and are satisfied that it has finally been set up democratically. It has been chaired successfully by Ralph Cutting for the past year. Ralph handed over the Chairmanship to Cllr. Peter Brayshaw in December 2005.


Bloomsbury Neighbourhood Forum
This forum has been running for about a year and is chaired by Cllr. Penny Abrahams.  This has proven to be a very worthwhile link between all sections of the community and the Council, and has provided some lively debates.
During the year we have been able to hear from many of the senior officials of the Council who have been invited to inform us of their role and the functions within their respective departments. The Drill Hall in Chenies Street has kindly hosted these meetings, which are open to all Bloomsbury Ward residents.


Events
West End Community Groups Social, Nov 2004. The BA hosted the first West End Community Groups Social event at Jury’s Hotel in Great Russell Street, which was deemed by all concerned as an outright success. Feedback from all who attended showed that everyone thought it was a marvellous forum for networking and meeting others from the West End who had mutual interests and concerns about quality of life matters and future developments that may affect us all.


General Election Hustings, April 2005.  Partly due to networking at the above event we were able to collaborate with CGCA on their Hustings event at the Connaught Rooms prior to the General Election. This event allowed the community to meet all the prospective candidates for Holborn and St Pancras South constituency and pose questions concerning their ability to represent us in Parliament. Feedback from this event was very successful and showed the importance of this form of collaboration.


BA Summer Garden Party, July 2005.  We hosted a garden party in Malet Street Sunken Garden (thanks to University of London) which was a great success.  Feedback showed that people liked this type of event, they enjoyed the informal atmosphere and would like to see it happen again. The event was attended by guests from Bloomsbury, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia and Soho.
Comment:  The importance of these events cannot be underestimated in providing face to face networking for community groups in London’s West End.  We hope that the BA Committee will give serious consideration to providing more of the same in the future.


Local Council Elections – May 2006
The next local elections should be a bit more interesting than usual – provided you vote! The BA intends to hold a ward Hustings during April 2006 and will announce the date and venue on our web site nearer the time.


We are in the process of writing our Bloomsbury Association Manifesto prior to the hustings event and want to hear from you – what would you like our Councillors to concentrate on? Please email your thoughts to: manifesto@bloomsburyassociation.org.uk or write to:
Bloomsbury Association:  6 Gower Street, London WC1E 6DP


Acknowledgements
The Bloomsbury Association Committee wishes to acknowledge and thank the following for their contribution to community empowerment over the past year:
Cllr. Penny Abrahams;  Cllr. Peter Brayshaw;  Jo Weir, CGCA;  Amanda Rigby, CGCA;  Rita Jones FNA;  Andrew Murray, Soho Society;  Prof John Foreman, UCL and Chair of WEDP, Sean Glynn and John Adams, UCL chair of Bloomsbury Improvement Group.
Camden Police:  We acknowledge and thank Camden Police and the Holborn Sector Team, led by Inspector Peter Hughes, for their pro-active approach in addressing our concerns. Significant improvements have been made in liaison and communication between them and our community.  We welcome and support the introduction of ‘Safer Nighbourhoods’ policing and we will offer our full support to that initiative.


Jury’s Hotel:  We wish to convey our sincere thanks to Jury’s Hotel and Michael Neve, General Manager, for their continued support over the past year.  They have provided us with conference rooms that have given us a superb venue for our meetings.


Camden Boulevard & Camden CCTV Control Room:  Thanks to Martin Reading of Camden Boulevard and to Camden CCTV for their pro active approach.
Everyone that has helped the Bloomsbury Association.


Call for Expertise & Support
To be an efficient, influential and successful voluntary community organisation involves a high degree of dedication and commitment.
Generally, much of this work is undertaken by just a few individuals whose continually increasing work load has become such that it is close to saturation point.
Therefore, we need to draw upon the knowledge, expertise and involvement of our membership if the BA is to continue to be an influential voice in central London.


We need YOU and we need the power of your voice. If you do not speak out others will make decisions on your behalf that you may not like, but we also need your practical skills and involvement.
Do you have expertise in any of the following areas:  Law, Planning, Urban Design, Local / Regional Government, Conservation, Media / New Media, Finance, Education and Social Work / Policy.  If so, and you are willing to offer a little of your time please contact us.
With your participation we can make Bloomsbury a better place to live, work and study.


Annual General Meeting
You are cordially invited to attend our AGM at Jury’s Hotel, Great Russell Street at 7pm on 25th January 2006. Please confirm by email if you wish to attend: rsvp@bloomsburyassociation.org.uk  or, telephone 020 7916 9157



Jim Murray
Chair
Bloomsbury Association
2004-2005
http://www.bloomsburyassociation.org.uk

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