The future of the NLCA

Photo:An NLCA meeting in progress, December 2008

An NLCA meeting in progress, December 2008

Photo by Henry Bruce

Results of a debate

By the Officers of the NLCA

Throughout the Spring and Summer of 2010 there has been a debate over whether the NLCA has a future and what that future might be. We have discussed the topic at a number of meetings, people have commented on the website and the officers have received letters on the subject.

The Association is valued

From these discussions it is quite clear that local residents value the work that the NLCA does and the way it provides a focal point for the community. There has been a strong feeling that North Laine is a community, although the nature of it is sometimes hard to pin down, especially as the population varies from those who are long-term residents to those who are quite transient. There has been a feeling that, even if residents have not attended many (or any) meetings, they have valued knowing what is going on in the community. There is also the view that the North Laine Runner is an excellent community newsletter and that its future sustainability is essential to the future of the NLCA.

A number of achievements

It was pointed out in the debate that in recent years the NLCA has achieved a great deal. Just this year we launched, in the presence of the Mayor, our excellent history trail leaflet ‘Discover North Laine on foot’, which has been highly praised, particularly by Visit Brighton, who cannot get enough of the leaflets for its Visitor Centre.

Each year we put on a Christmas social, which this year 2010 will be held at Komedia on Monday 13th December. We are at present in the early stages of organising a summer fete for the whole community and we have a long established Theatre Group which continues to grow in numbers. At meetings we regularly have speakers, who talk on a wide variety of interesting topics. Our planning and licensing officers do a great deal of work in supporting and representing local residents and helping them to make representations to the Council. Much of this work goes on behind the scenes but nevertheless is vital to maintaining the quality of life for residents. The Police and the Council value the work of the NLCA and are in regular contact to gain advice and information. North Laine also operates as the North Laine LAT (a Local Area Team in which we work with police, the local authority and local agencies to deal with identifiable issues within the area).

Issues to be addressed

Despite all the good work that is done, the community does nevertheless have a number of issues which it is vital to address:

1.      Meetings can be a little dry and intimidating. It has at times been difficult for newcomers to make their voice heard.

2.      Meetings have spent too much time dealing with planning issues, many of which are routine and/or complex.

3.      The NLCA is at present not generating enough funds to ensure its continued existence. Unless it can find a way of generating more funds it will not be able to continue to fund the meetings or the website.

4.      The NLCA does not make its values and goals clear.

5.      A small number of people do most of the work of the Association. This is not sustainable in the long-term and we need to attract more residents to become active within the NLCA.

6.      There is a feeling among residents that the NLCA consists of a small group of people to which they do not belong, despite the fact that every person who lives in North Laine is a part of the Association.

Changes being made

The officers have considered the debate and have already begun to try to make the NLCA more welcoming and all-embracing. A number of suggestions have been put to the monthly meeting and have been accepted. Below is a summary of changes being made:

1.      At every meeting there is now a tea break when residents can socialise and new residents can be made welcome.

2.      The amount of time spent on planning and licensing issues has been reduced by introducing Standing Orders to allow routine decisions to be made outside the monthly meeting. In future a licensing or planning application will only be discussed and voted upon at the monthly meeting if there is no clear precedent to guide the coordinators, if a resident requests a discussion, or if the NLCA officer overseeing licensing and planning applications requests a discussion and a vote.

3.      There is to be a greater focus on speakers, with the speaker being the first item on the agenda.

4.      A Summer Fete will be organised (Saturday 18th June 2011) to try and bring residents, both long-term and short-term, together, to celebrate all that is good about the area.

5.      We have managed to attract a number of volunteers to the Runner team to make the newsletter more sustainable.

6.      We are launching a scheme to enable residents and supporters to make online donations to the NLCA.

7.      The NLCA is organising a series of guided walks around the area, with donations going to the NLCA.

8.      An eco officer has been appointed.

9.      It has been agreed that we should work with other community groups on issues like late night noise that affect us all.

10. We have introduced Standing Orders to clarify what our values and goals are, the main goals being to:

·         Encourage civic pride and a sense of community within the area of benefit.

·         Work to improve the environment with particular regard to traffic, streetscape, parking, signage and street cleaning.

·         Raise understanding of what it means to live in a Conservation Area and seek to maintain the principles of the Conservation Area.

·         Work for the preservation, protection and improvement of features of historic or public interest in the North Laine.

·         Raise levels of knowledge of the history, geography, and architecture of the area.

·         Work with relevant bodies to maintain the mixed use nature of the North Laine.

·         Operate as a Local Action Team (LAT).

11. We need most of all to work to get over the message that the Association is the sum total of all the residents of North Laine and not a separate part of the local community. The more involved that people get with the NLCA, the stronger it is - it is a community association that belongs to us all and if something is not being done, it could be because of a lack of volunteers to do it. We need to persuade residents to volunteer their services. The Summer Fete is going to be a challenge for the area and a barometer of how much of a community we are.

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 207, November/December 2010]

This page was added on 17/12/2010.

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