On Friday June 14th The St James Community Action Group held its AGM – a lively event attended by around 30 residents and traders – thanks to St Marys for kindly hosting the event and all those who took part in organising things.
The main business of the AGM was approval of the accounts and election of a new committee for the coming year. Whilst the finances seem in good shape, we were unfortunately not able to find people to step forward and join the committee, which leaves us in the difficult position of …not existing… According to our constitution we need a group of residents to come forward and take on key roles for the year ahead, and without this, we are not a thing…. Awkward!
So why are we here?
OK – so people don’t want to commit to a committee, but just turning up showed commitment, so the next part of the meeting invited everyone to share their reasons for coming – what they liked about the area and what they would like to change…and here are some of the things people said; (summarised)
We like… the diversity, the Pride events, the architectural character, cultural aspects, the uniqueness of our area and sense of place, vibrancy and interest. We want to celebrate our area as a special place
we don’t like…. that many people use the area for buying and taking drugs, and this means that our streets can feel dominated by dangerous criminals and by people under the influence of drugs who can be chaotic, intimidating and unsettling, and that the impact of these things can seem to overshadow everything else about the area. We don’t like that street drinkers also seem a fixture on our streets, because they can be intimidating and make our streets feel unsafe, and we don’t like aggressive begging which also takes place.
We also don’t like… some aspects of the Pride party, lack of cleanliness of our streets, a feel of neglect and being forgotten about by the council, with investments going to other parts of the city, unregulated letting businesses poorly run and undercutting existing companies, the number of isolated elderly people needing support in our area.
What we want to happen….
Our area should have a higher priority. We need to send a deputation to the Police and we need the council to invest in our community. We need cleaner streets and a more attractive ‘gateway’ to the area at the bottom of St James’ Street. We would like to think about pedestrianising St James’ Street and improve the layout.
We would like better CCTV, and more patrols – we are interested in Community Guardian patrols. We are interested in ways to raise money in our community – maybe through a Business Improvement District approach, or through other – to carry out local improvements
So where does this leave us?
Although there was little take-up for the Community Action Group, substantial appetite for Community Action is evident. People spoke of developing a shared manifesto for the area, and there was real enthusiasm for finding ways to tackle problems and bring about improvements.
It was agreed that…
Rather than trying to continue with the Community Action group in a formal sense, we would try to find a different way forward. Instead of a chair and commitee, all members would now become an ad-hoc working group helping to find the future.
Constitutionally however – and mostly because there is money in the bank – something needs to happen to the Community Action group, and it was decided that a general meeting will be held in September with a proposal that the group be dissolved, which will take place according to the constitution, unless any other proposals emerge in the meantime.
Themed meeting events
Regardless of the future of the formal group, the issues raised at the meeting need to be explored. Simon and Tom (from the council) agreed to facilitate a series of open community meetings to look at the various topics and subjects brought up in the meeting. They also told people about the coming ‘Talking About St James’ Street’ community conversation on June 27th, which the Police and Council are putting on to see how they can work better in the area and to think about a Neighbourhood Action Plan, and members were urged to attend.
Thankyou and goodnight
Thankyou to all who attended, to St Mary’s for hosting the event, and especially to Dave Spafford for all of his work keeping the Community Action group afloat and overseeing the accounts and financial matters for the group.
Proposals for future events will be circulated here, on our Facebook group and via our email list.