Community forum is axed after drop in membership

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FOR almost 20 years it gave people in North End the chance to voice concerns about problems in their community.

Now North End Neighbourhood Forum has been axed by Portsmouth City Council following a drop in numbers and a breakdown in organisation.

The forum, which was set up in 1993 for residents in North End and those living in parts of Copnor and Hilsea, held its last meeting at North End Bowling Club, in Beresford Road, North End, on November 14.

It was there that councillors and remaining members agreed it shouldn’t continue. For the last three years the forum hadn’t been able to hold a proper AGM meeting because it didn’t attract 20 people, the minimum needed for one to take place. And because of low attendance there was no formally-elected chairman or committee.

Councillor Jason Fazackarley, who represents Nelson, which covers North, End, Stamshaw and Tipner, said: ‘The forum had to close because for the last three years there hadn’t been enough people there.

‘Only two or three people from the Nelson ward and only a handful from Hilsea and Copnor ever turned up.

‘I don’t know whether it was just general apathy about going out in the evenings or whether the issues discussed, like residents’ parking and anti-social behaviour, weren’t interesting enough. I have found that other neighbourhood forums, such as Southsea, Drayton and Farlington and Old Portsmouth, are extremely popular with residents living in those areas.’

Successful North End Neighbourhood forum meetings in the past included a discussion between people and residents about cyclists riding on pavements in 2009.

The meeting led to 20 fines being handed out and police educated cyclists about the importance of using lights and helmets. James Sandy, the council’s communities engagement manager, said the closure wouldn’t mean an end to community activity in North End.

‘The council will hold public meetings, roadshows and drop-in sessions when appropriate, and other means of sharing issues and concerns are open to residents, for example by contacting their councillor,’ he said.

Cllr Donna Jones, who represents Hilsea, has now formed one large neighbourhood forum which will cover all of the Hilsea, Copnor and Nelson wards.

Its first meeting will be held at Blue Lagoon, Hilsea Lido, Hilsea, on January 28 at 7pm.