AGM 2024 DRAFT Minutes


Minutes of the Spring Park Residents’ Association

91st Annual General Meeting

 held on Wednesday, 29th May 2024

at West Wickham and Shirley Baptist Church


SPRA Executive Committee: Trevor Ashby, Andy Bebington, Geoff Flook,

Mandy Hopkins, Milton Moore, Lawrie Rendle, Mike Roberts, Kirti Thakrar,

Bev Tanner and Winsome Thomas.

Sarah Jones MP, Neil Garratt (London Assembly Member), Cllr. Jason Cummings, Cllr. Sue Bennett, Cllr. Richard Chatterjee, Caroline Dawson (Senior Fair Trading Officer), Lee Ede (Trading Standards Officer), Beverly Warner (Shrublands Residents’ Association), Sony Nair (Monks Orchard RA), Paul Newton (Addington Village RA), Alan Burn (Shrublands Christian Fellowship), Rev. Jon Hills (West Wickham and Shirley Baptist Church), Jonathan Baxter (SPRA Auditor),

Steve Murray (SPRA Auditor), Sergeant Nathan Saville and PCSO Kieran Green.

Total Attendance: 78 made up of 58 SPRA Members (including Committee Members and Trustees),16 invited guests and 4 Non-members.


Cllr. Scott Roche, Alderman Janet Marshall, Alasdair Kennedy (Headmaster, Trinity School), Mrs. D. Bumford Sinclair (Head of School, Coloma Convent), Mark Maguire (Head of Academy, Harris Benson), Charles Marriott (Addington Village RA),

Derek Ritson (MORA) and Wendy Nash.

1.  Welcome

The Chair, Geoff Flook, welcomed everyone to SPRA’s 91st AGM and in particular, the guest speakers and visitors from other residents’ associations.  He thanked Rev. Hills for allowing SPRA to use the West Wickham and Shirley Baptist Church for the meeting.

2.  Presentation by Caroline Dawson, Senior Fair Trading Officer and Lee Ede, Trading Standards Officer, LBC

The Chair welcomed Caroline Dawson and Lee Ede.

Caroline and Lee explained that they are part of the Criminal Investigation Unit, which investigates and prosecute its own cases.

They highlighted the following items which Trading Standards handle:

  • Ensures that businesses across Croydon trade fairly, meet legal requirements and avoid selling items such as alcohol and vapes to under-age individuals.
  • Test purchasing is carried out to ensure those under-age are not buying alcohol.
  • Encourages shops to lock knives behind the counter.  There has also been a three-year campaign regarding the online selling of knives.
  • The sale of counterfeit goods.
  • Doorstep crime.
  • Latest scams and frauds, e.g. HMRC, etc.

The Citizens Consumer Advice Service is available to help with queries on trading standards.

On fraud:

  • Stop and think about a letter, e-mail or ‘phone call.  Take five minutes to look at the letter – is it correctly addressed or is the caller trying to rush you into a decision?
  • Do not click on a link in an e-mail or text message.
  • Most banks do not contact you via text – it is usually via their app or you are referred to their website.  Look at the font in any communication as this will be unique to the bank.  The police or the bank will never ask you for your PIN number.
  • Hover the computer mouse over the link to see if the destination is correct.
  • Use a ‘phone number for the bank that you can trust – this is shown on the back of your credit or debit card.  Do not use a number given to you over the ‘phone.
  • Never buy vouchers or cards for someone you do not know.
  • If you are the victim of fraud, consider changing your logins and check for viruses on your computer.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to report fraud.

Friends Against Scam will be coming soon.

Scam Champions can be trained and go on to deliver information in their area.

Mail Marshalls are people who have received scam mail.  They collect their post and send it into National Trading Standards so it can see what scams are being perpetrated and in which areas.

Geoff thanked Caroline and Lee for their interesting talk.  Their presentation will be made available through SPRA, either via SPAN or other means.

3.  Presentation by Sarah Jones MP

The Chair thanked Sarah Jones for everything she had done for our community over a number of years.  Sarah thanked him for his kind words and said that it had been a privilege and honour to serve as our MP.

Sarah gave the following answers to pre-submitted questions.

3.1 Can you update us on the trials in Croydon of Facial Recognition software and the results it has provided for reducing crime?

There were concerns originally about whether the Facial Recognition software would correctly identify people but the technology has moved on.  It now looks for specific known criminals.  The Croydon police has used the software, mainly in central Croydon, and arrested a number of criminals.  However, there is not much kit available across London.

3.2 What reassurances can you provide to people who have privacy concerns about the use of this technology?

On the issue of privacy and accuracy, there had only been one error with someone who had an identical twin.  The Met Police are careful about how they use it, and Parliament has a role in how technology is used.

3.3. As the Shadow Labour Front bench spokesperson for Policing, can you comment on the continuing incidence of murder and violent crime in the borough and what a possible Labour government would do to halt the trend?

Sarah is not involved with Policing anymore and now has an Industry and Decarbonisation role.

Ever since becoming an MP, she had been concerned about crime in Croydon and across the rest of the country. There is a trend for children robbing children in transport hubs.  More police are needed on the streets but are being extracted for other duties, such as demonstrations in London.  Although PCSOs do not have the same powers of arrest as police officers, they have an important role in de-escalating problems. The question is how we stop young people from becoming involved in crime and we need to look at trends to identify who commits crime.  Mental health support and careers advice are important.

4. Questions directed to SPRA

4.1 The reason I have been a Road Steward for over ten years is because I believed in SPAN as a useful communication tool for the community, to be used to strengthen the power of community when necessary to fight threats. That time is now. We may lose our much-loved library and our only public building. Why has SPRA not been more supportive? Back in February 2021, SPRA was, and the front cover of SPAN was used to highlight the threat. What changed?

Chair’s response:

The Council has had plans which included the possible closure of the Library for at least 12 years.  As long ago as 2012, SPRA was involved in a campaign to save Shirley Library.  At the time, as many of you will remember, SPRA together with its neighbour MORA was at the forefront of opposing closure, organising a protest outside the Library which had local media coverage.

Later, in 2021, its existence was under threat again, as the Council sought to reorganise its Library services by potentially reducing the number of branch libraries, as one option for reducing costs.  SPRA’s response then was to initiate a member survey to discover views about the available options, providing the results in its submission to the Council consultation.  It also assisted in bringing together a Friends of Shirley Library group, to explore possible ideas for a community-run library.

Between 2012 and 2024 the situation regarding the library has changed, and SPRA’s position likewise, in the light of information which has emerged in the intervening years. 

First, footfall and usage statistics for the library have been made available, both in 2021 and in 2023, showing low numbers across a range of measures.  For example, the 2023 figures show the number of annual visits to Shirley library represented 1.9% of the Croydon total, and PC usage 1.69% of the borough total.  When compared with the other branch libraries, Shirley’s statistics were consistently in the bottom three.  This report is still available to view on the Council’s website.

Second, at SPRA’s request, an independent condition survey on the library building done in 2020 was made available to us.  It demonstrated that the 90-year-old building was in a generally poor state of repair.  The report showed a sum of £196K excluding VAT would need to be spent to bring it to a reasonable standard.  Its unusual construction meant that further large sums for repair might berequired dependent on invasive investigation.

Bearing these two factors in mind, and mindful of the Council’s current financial position, the SPRA Committee came to a view that it would not oppose plans to close the Library.  At the same time the Association acknowledges that there are some in our community who take a different view.  We therefore urged all members to express their views to the Council through the consultation and encouraged those committed to do so, to form a Friends of Shirley Library Group.

4.2 There are rumours of possible plans for a 20 metre-high telecommunication tower to be positioned on the corner of Links View Road and Bridle Road, very close to Forest Academy School.  Can you indicate whether SPRA will support local objections to this and other similar masts close to residential dwellings and schools, due to their unsightly appearance and the possible health risks.

Chair’s response:

SPRA can report that no planning applications have been submitted for such a tower. If an application is entered, then we will consider it and report accordingly.

Members may like to be reminded that SPRA has two planning officers designated to view all planning applications in our area and bring those of concern to the Committee and to the membership.  SPRA pays an annual fee to receive a weekly online bulletin of all planning information tailored to our area.  This is also available for members to interrogate and details of how to access this are in SPAN.

5. Minutes of the Last Annual General Meeting held on Wednesday, 31st May 2023 and Matters Arising

The minutes of the last AGM, approved by the Executive Committee, had been published in SPAN and on the website.  The EC had not received any objections and there were no objections or amendments at the meeting.  The vote to adopt the minutes was passed unanimously (Proposer: Liz Bebington, Seconder: Karen Crouch).

6. Treasurer’s Report and Matters Arising from the Report

The Chair thanked Kirti for all her hard work over the past year.

Kirti reported that in total SPRA received £37,784.00 income made up of subscriptions (£10,450.00) and through advertisements placed in the monthly SPAN magazine (£26,849.00) and bank interest of £485.00.

SPRA spent £31,628.00 towards the printing costs of the SPAN magazine.

Through close budget monitoring, SPRA were also able to meet the cost of attending local fairs at West Wickham and Millers Pond and provide donations totalling £3,735.00 to support activities at the following local organisations:

  • The Shrublands Trust Food Bank
  • Forest Academy
  • Harris Benson Academy
  • Friends of Millers Pond.

Milton Moore explained that the donations to the two schools had been given for training to provide support for children with Special Education Needs & Disability and children with Social Emotional Mental Health issues.

SPRA ended the financial year with a small profit of £1,453.00, and cash balances totalling approx. £43,800.00

The Chair moved to approve the accounts (Proposer: Jonathan Baxter, Seconder: Jennie Rutter).  The vote was carried.  He thanked the auditors, Jonathan Baxter and Steve Murray, for their work on the accounts.

7.  Presentation by Cllr. Jason Cummings

The Chair welcomed Cllr. Cummings, who is a Ward Councillor and has Cabinet responsibility for Finance.

7.1 Can you comment briefly on current progress towards meeting the long-term financial survival plan for Croydon.

Over the last year the Council has met its budget and it is likely it will reach the year end without overspending.  Many neighbouring councils are over-spending.

The Mayor was clear that the increase in Council Tax in 2023 was for one year only and the tax had not risen above the recommendation for this year.

The financial position is not completely resolved and there is still a gap in the finances.  The Council may be undertaking negotiations with a different set of Ministers following the General Election.  Government intervention should cease in the summer of 2025 and it was hoped the Council could adhere to this time-frame.

7.2 In your role as Cabinet member for Finance you have been a leading player in delivering a financial recovery plan for the borough.  If you leave your role as a Councillor, can you provide reassurance that the plan will continue to be followed robustly in years to come?

No-one in any organisation is indispensable and if he moves on, someone will be able to take on his role.  However, he will maintain an interest in the recovery plan. 

7.3 In the light of extraordinary increases in council tax and no improvement to council services, including a threat to the local Library, why is the Council not focusing on reducing its costs.  A simple solution to reduce energy costs would be taking advantage of Croydon Community Energy’s offer of community-owned solar panels.  Developing rooftop solar sites across the council’s estate would also cut carbon emissions and contribute to its commitment to carbon neutrality by 2030.  Can you explain why the council sees fit to charge rent, service charge and demand a share of the site’s bill savings to Croydon Community Energy when no other Council in the country is asking for this?

The Council is focusing on reducing costs through necessity because of its financial problems.

At present proposals for solar panels by Croydon Community Energy have not been backed by its business case.  Rent is charged or a share of the benefit to mitigate costs if damage is incurred.  However, the Council is happy to continue to listen to its proposals.

7.4 What has been any recent progress you can point to in making Croydon a place that local residents feel safe in and want to visit for shopping or eating out?

The Council has received £18.5m in levelling up money and funding from other sources, giving £24m in total.  Plans will be available in the next six months.  There are issues of public safety, transport between Croydon East and Croydon West, and the look of the area.  A Public Protection Order covers the centre of Croydon which gives powers relating to street drinking and other forms of anti-social behaviour.

Croydon Town Centre redevelopment is dependent on Westfield, which is the sole owner as it has bought out Hammerson.  Current and future businesses need security.  It will be a minimum of four years before redevelopment starts.   

7.5 Will you support keeping Shirley Library open?

As an active member of the Save Our Shirley Library campaign, I would like to know what support the local councillors and our MP can give us, as little has been forthcoming so far.

Why are emails from the campaign team being ignored?  Do you realise what a fully staffed, working library means to local people (especially the very young, the elderly, those without internet access or access to a computer)?  This is Shirley’s only public building.  It is an important social hub and a lifeline for many.

Cllr. Cummings would like to see Shirley Library kept open in some way if possible.  The library service has been through reviews a number of times and in 2021 there was a proposal to close five libraries.  However, it was decided to reduce opening hours across all libraries apart from the Central Library.

The proposal is to close the four least used libraries in the borough.  With resultant savings from the maintenance of these buildings, the remaining nine can return to a full library service and open five/six days per week.  The survey conducted by the Council found that residents were not happy with the current service.  Residents may have a longer journey to another branch under the plan but when they get there the library will be open for more days per week.  The borough-wide plan for libraries does not involve a reduction in costs overall.

The Council would like to see an alternative option for the library service on the site in Shirley.  The plan is not about selling the site and realising the capital cost. 

Cllr. Cummings had checked his e-mails and unfortunately had missed one.  He had spoken to the gentleman concerned and apologised.  He had also checked with the Council service and Mayor’s office and no e-mails had been ignored.

7.6 There would seem to be significant issues surrounding the covenants on the Shirley library site. There are many potential covenant beneficiaries among local property-owners who have an interest in the future use of the site.  Can you comment on what legal advice has been received by the Council about these covenants and has this been shared with the Library Action Group?

A covenant had been placed on the land when it was sold to the Council and on properties around the Library.  Cllr. Cummings had received documents from some residents which had been passed on to the Council’s legal team.  They are looking at what covenants exist and if they are still valid.  The process is expected to be completed in the early part of June.  However, the Council is entering a period of purdah and results will not be seen until after the General Election in July.

7.7 In the event that the Council ceases to run a service in Shirley, what steps has the Council taken to provide advice and information about alternative (community) library models to those local residents who are keen to retain a library presence in Shirley?

There is little use of Shirley Library by Shrublands residents.  It is hoped that the outreach library service would visit Shrublands and operate there, so uptake would probably be higher.

8.  Presentation by Cllr. Scott Roche

As Cllr. Roche was indisposed, he had provided written answers to pre-submitted questions, which the Chair read out.

8.1 Re fly tip on slip road of Bridle Road, to left of Apple Tree Pub

This was first reported last October, seven months ago. It includes rotting food waste and dangerous broken glass.  A dumped fridge unit has been there even longer.  Schoolchildren pass by every day. Cllr Roche has visited and also been shown photographs.  Earlier this year, he told SPRA that he had been assured by the appropriate council officer that this mess had been cleared, irrespective of who owns the land. There has been confusion over ownership of this land for at least ten years as far as I know. Meanwhile, the landowner is not being held accountable for this and other road maintenance issues. Why can’t the council trace the owner? When will this fly tip be removed?

Since October Officers have removed rubbish on the slip road.  This was on private land which is not covered by the standard Street Cleaning Contract and fly tipping removal service, which across Croydon is operating at over 98% removal rates within one working day.  This is a dramatic improvement from three years ago, where the removal rate was 80% within 72 hours.

The previous administration removed the NSO Service (Neighbourhood Safety Officers) and therefore almost completely removed the Council’s ability as a local authority to pursue landowners.

However, there are Contract Monitoring Officers for the waste and street cleaning contract, who are dedicated to working with the contractor and monitor its performance, whilst seeking best value for money for Croydon taxpayers.  He suggested a meeting with the Contract Monitoring Officer for Shirley to look at any issues and invited SPRA to be involved.

A new environment policy is due to go to Cabinet later in the year.  There is currently a small environmental enforcement team of four staff.  With a large borough such as Croydon, this means considering carefully which cases of fly tipping and issues can be investigated.  Currently the Environmental Enforcement Team can take on the following issues:

  • Fly tipping on public land, with supporting evidence from a member of the public.
  • Vehicle Street Trading and Repairs.
  • Illegal encampments.

Unfortunately, the Council is not resourced to undertake inspections and the required investigation regarding private land issues but it is hoped this will change with the creation of a new policy, and be resourced as required.

He urged residents to continue to report issues via the app or website.

8.2 Care and maintenance of our green spaces/parks/woods by Croydon is negligible.  Instead, it relies heavily on the goodwill of small bands of volunteers (Friends Groups and so on) to do the essential jobs of maintenance to keep these spaces useable for all.  Friends of Millers Pond recently crowd -funded repairs to pathways.  For how much longer does the Council intend to rely on this ‘free labour’ and ‘public subscription’?

Cllr. Roche advised that the Council’s Grounds Maintenance Service is able to support the Friends of Millers Pond in capital improvements to the hard landscaping.

The Friends Group is looking for support in funding the material and promoting the work of the group.  He suggested a site meeting with officers and the Friends Group to discuss the capital work.

8.3 Can you explain the rationale for charging for replacement landfill refuse bins and when will this be introduced?

To encourage recycling, the replacement of recycling boxes and bins and food waste caddies will not be impacted by this new policy.  The policy relates to landfill bins.  The number of replacement bins is higher than the average for London, and in Croydon in excess of 3,607 containers per month are being replaced, which represents over 43,000 containers per year.  Under the new contract, replacement bins will cost the householder £5.00, to cover the administrative charge of replacement (the full cost of replacement being £80.00).

The Council is also reviewing what impact excess waste bins have on the street scene, especially for HMO (Houses of Multiple Occupancy) properties, and this will be included in the checks that the Contract Monitoring Officers undertake on their rounds.  They will highlight possible properties where there is a street issue such as obstruction or excess general waste bins at one property.

Cllr. Cummings added that replacement bins will be provided without any charge if Veolia has damaged the bin.  Numbers under the existing replacement bin system in   Croydon is much higher than in other councils and the scheme is being misused.

8.4 Is there any update on progress in replacing missing bus shelters?

Following the termination of the Valo SmartCity UK contract in October of last year, the council has proposed a process to identify a new supplier.  A report will be presented at the June Cabinet recommending a course of action.  It is expected that bus shelters will be replaced before the end of the year.

8.5 The Croydon Council streets maintenance contractor, Veolia, uses pesticides to control street plants. We know pesticides are harmful to human and animal health and damaging to biodiversity.  I hear that Croydon Council have plans to reduce pesticide use by two thirds and associated with this is the proposal to introduce resident managed Green/Garden Streets.  Garden Streets will further reduce the use of glyphosate as spraying will not be allowed in these areas.

Please you tell us more about the Council’s plans for introducing the Garden Streets scheme, whether it will operate in Spring Park, and the likely timeline for introduction.

Under the Council’s existing contract for street cleansing, the service is permitted to undertake up to four borough-wide sprays a year using approved licensed weed killer.  The glyphosate product that the Council applies to the streets and pavements is an amenity specific ‘clean label’ product, meaning it has been specifically formulated for use in public spaces. However, he recognised the importance in reducing reliance on the use of glyphosate in Croydon, and under the new contract proposal he has requested that the Council reduce the use of such products from four times to twice a year.  Application will also be undertaken manually to allow for targeted application using a sprayer from a backpack.  It will be used in hotspot areas for weeds.  No glyphosate is used in parks and green spaces.

In addition, he is looking at introducing a new ‘green street initiative’, in which local communities, residents’ groups and street champions work with the Council to implement and maintain the preferred maintenance regime for their area.  One road may choose to be glyphosate free but volunteer to maintain the weeds themselves.  Officers are currently looking into the feasibility of such a programme in Croydon, and investigating similar policies already implemented around the country.

He would like a policy which will complement the valued work undertaken by the street champions and community volunteers, whilst helping to improve the look and feel of our area, to help improve the ‘broken window’ effect across the borough and in the community.

9. Presentation by our London Assembly Member, Neil Garratt AM

The Chair welcomed Neil Garratt.

9.1 In the wake of the London Mayoral election, can you outline what you think the main outcomes for us, as Shirley residents and Londoners will be?

The Greater London Authority consists of the Mayor of London and London Assembly, which scrutinises the Mayor. Three are three functional bodies, which are TfL, the Met Police and London Fire Brigade.

It is the Mayor of London’s view that 80% of journeys should be by bus, walking or cycling.  Mr Garratt has reminded the relevant official that there is no tube or tram service in some areas and there is the sense that outer London is forgotten by City Hall.

The Fire Brigade have reported a number of fires in small electric vehicles and scooters.

The Commissioner of the Met Police has said that neighbourhood policing is needed and this is not seen enough.  However, there are constant requirements for police in London to deal with demonstrations.  There is a new plan to tackle cultural issues but the Met Police will require funding from City Hall for this.  The Met Police is not able to recruit officers.

The Mayor of London wishes to build more houses and the Croydon Plan will have to conform with his Plan, which will mean an increase in building.

Mr Garratt and Cllrs. Cummings and Roche had attended a meeting recently in Shirley to discuss helping with the reinstatement of Christmas lights on the lamp posts and a safe pedestrian crossing at the Monks Orchard junction for the Superloop buses.

9.2 The Ultra Low Emission Zone is surely here to stay – or is it?

ULEZ is here to stay.

9.3 Can you explain what ‘road pricing’ is?  Is it likely to be introduced?  What will it mean?

As drivers are moving to electric vehicles, revenue is being lost from petrol and diesel cars and road pricing could be a way of replacing this.  During his election campaign Mayor Khan had said that he would not introduce road pricing and

Mr. Garratt did not think it is a good idea.  It London introduced it, road pricing would probably spread to other local counties, such as Kent and Surrey, and residents would have numerous apps on their ‘phones.

9.4 Are we likely to see an extension to the 20mph speed limit to Wickham Road and if so, when?

It is the Mayor’s policy that all roads on TfL red routes, which includes the A232, should be 20mph.  Surrounding roads are controlled by Croydon and Bromley Councils which may choose to make them 20mph.

10. Approval of Nominations for Life Membership of SPRA

The nominees are recognised in this way for their ten years’ service as a Road Steward.  There was a unanimous vote to accept Kim Palmer, Sara Palmer and Brenda Coleman into Life Membership.

11. Resignation and Election of Officers, Trustees, Auditors and Members of the Executive Committee

The election for the position of Chair was conducted by SPRA President, Trevor Ashby, who advised that Geoff Flook was prepared to stand for another year and no other individual had come forward.  Mr Flook was duly re-elected.

The following were also duly elected:

Officers: Trevor Ashby (President), Mandy Hopkins (Zone and Road Stewards’ Secretary), Kirti Thakrar (Treasurer), Mike Roberts (Vice Chair) and Milton Moore (Secretary)

Trustees: Andy Bebington and Bev Tanner

Auditors: Jonathan Baxter and Steve Murray

Executive Committee Members: Lawrie Rendle and Winsome Thomas

The Chair thanked everyone for attending the AGM and invited them to partake in refreshments.