Chairman's Report 2000-2001

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The Association has been involved in numerous issues since the last AGM and these are summarised as follows:

EGRA Millennium Exhibition & Book
Although it may seem longer, the highly successful exhibition celebrating Emmer Green ‘Past and Present’ was held in the Ocean Suite at Highdown School at the end of May last year. Many of you will have visited the exhibition which was formally opened by Bob Green, The Mayor of Reading. Large numbers of local residents, school parties and local associations visited the exhibition and the committee was gratified by all the compliments which made all the hard work fully worthwhile.

As many visitors asked if the material from the exhibition could be collected together in book form, the committee applied for a second grant from the Millennium Funds for All and at the end of last November we heard that we had been successful. The award was for the balance of the previous grant and amounts to £3,400. This will not cover the full costs of producing the book but will allow the finished book to be sold at an affordable price and thus recover the Association’s own outlay. Progress is going well, with much additional material to that displayed at the exhibition having been collected. It is intended that the book will be available prior to Christmas.

Chambers Copse footpath
After years of effort by the association’s treasurer, Jill Verran, an Inquiry was held in May of last year regarding the footpath through Chambers Copse. Unfortunately, the Inspector’s decision, published in September, was not to confirm the footpath. The reasons for his decision were published in the Winter 2000 newsletter but in summary, he concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, the footpath did not subsist or was reasonably alleged to subsist over the order route and therefore should not be confirmed.

The ruling was not the one we had hoped for but thanks must go to all those residents who gave their time to completing evidence forms, attending the Inquiry in Crowmarsh to provide testimony and subsequently walking through the copse with the inspector.

St Barnabas Road & Grove Road
St Barnabas Road was eventually resurfaced and the levels improved with kerb stones being installed on the eastern side to channel rain water to the gullies. The run away of surface rain water is now very good.

After consultation with local residents and parents of schoolchildren going to Emmer Green Primary School the traffic island near St Barnabas Church was also installed and now provides a safer crossing point.

Since then some consultation has taken place on the proposals by RBC Traffic Management Committee to introduce various traffic calming measures to these two roads to provide a ‘safe school zone’ for the primary school. These will include a combination of speed cushions, extended pavements, warning signs and dragon’s teeth. The Association’s view was that at the start and end of the school day there were huge traffic problems, but doubted that this particular scheme would make much difference as congestion automatically restricted the speed of traffic. It has also been noted that Emmer Green Primary School is to be extended and this will result in extra vehicles of the construction company and ultimately more parents’ vehicles. It was recognised that the situation will only get worse.

Heathcroft Home
The Association were only made aware in November of the proposed closure of the Heathcroft respite facility in Marshland Square for parents of children with mental and/or physical disabilities. Since the home is within the Emmer Green area and members of the Association are parents of children using the facility the committee agreed to support local parents in asking RBC Social Services & Health to guarantee a suitable alternative before proceeding with any closure. This assurance was supplied in a letter of 18 December 2000 from the Lead Councillor for Social Services & Health and an expected date of October 2001 was given for the transfer of the facility.

RBC Enforcement Scrutiny Panel
In July committee members Bill Goodworth and Margaret Ormonde plus Association member Chris Odell presented evidence to this Scrutiny Panel, which was chaired by Cllr Ian Fenwick. They particularly dwelt on the subject of RBC officers failures to enforce bylaws, agreements and conditions imposed on developers to ensure that traffic to and from their building sites caused the minimum inconvenience to local residents. Their testimony showed RBC planning officers to have been poorly informed, uncaring and unable to enforce regulations on the developers. The panel thanked the attendees for the detail provided and said this would help in their investigation into better enforcement procedures.

Reading Buses
Together with four residents and frequent users of the 24 service, the Associations’ chairman and vice-chair met with Colin Thompson, Managing Director of Reading Buses, on 8 August 2000 to discuss the deterioration in the bus service to Emmer Green. Also attending were Cllr Annette Hendry and Ian Brown of Caversham and District Residents’ Association. The attendees were informed that Reading bus services on all routes were suffering for various reasons but particularly because of a shortage of drivers due to difficulties in recruitment and retention.

Reading Buses undertook to study again the possible re-routing or diverting of buses in Caversham and Emmer Green, to look at re-instating the 9.00 service of the 24 and to improve the reliability of the 24 service. However, as residents know the situation was sufficiently severe that Reading Buses had to cancel a number of services across the town to ensure the remainder of their schedules ran and were more reliable. It must be said that over recent months the service to Emmer Green seems to have improved.

Safer Caversham Forum
Committee members continue to attend this very important Forum which meets every five weeks. Such issues has traffic wardens, police resourcing, Neighbourhood Watch, anti-social behaviour (vandalism, graffiti, intimidation), business community concerns, burglary and car related crimes are addressed. The Forum also promotes various events to raise awareness of the public to prevent crime. The Operation Safeguard meeting in September covered ways and means to combat and deter burglary and theft from cars and was very well attended.

Furthermore the Forum receives money through the Safer Reading Campaign to support capital projects that will have a positive impact on community safety. The Association and the ward councillors put forward a number of suggestions and support was agreed for additional lighting for the path between Stuart Close/Surley Row and for the cut-through by the Knights Way flats to the Pond.

North Reading Youth and Community Project
The vice-chair of the Association now attends the meetings of the long standing advisory group for the North Reading Youth and Community Centre. After much debate over the last year the management committee for the Project has recently agreed with RBC a new constitution and it is hoped that the efforts of the group can now be focused on the activities of the Project.

RBC North Area Consultative Committee
Committee members have continued to represent the Association at meetings of this group and recent topics for consultation have been Public Transport Provision in Caversham, Living in Reading & The Future of Housing, the Church Street Improvements, Caversham Bridge Improvements and new guidance for Building on flood plains.

In the last financial year RBC allocated to this committee £2,000 per ward to be spent on local schemes to benefit the community of each area. The Association’s representative suggested that, in the light of the fluctuating bus service to Emmer Green, some of the money should be spent on providing bus shelters with seats at all stops in Emmer Green. Other groups suggested a village sign for the centre of Caversham, improvement works to Prospect Street, pavement lighting on Caversham Bridge, cleaning of the clock and face of Caversham Library and making the Hills Meadow recycling facility more attractive. The committee was informed that bus shelters were too expensive and could not be considered. It was decided that the Caversham village sign and the recycling facility proposals should be supported. The Association asked that if similar funds were available for the next financial year that priority should be given to supporting a village sign in Emmer Green.

Emmer Green village sign
From the survey forms sent out with the winter newsletter 67 responses from 301 issued had been returned. There were 55 for and 12 against. Five responses expressed concern about vandalism. Only two responses were against because of cost. The committee feel that this is an insufficient mandate to proceed. However, as noted above RBC monies through the North Area Consultative Committee may be available in the next financial year to support this project.

Planning Applications
The Association continues to try to monitor planning applications although this is still made very difficult by RBC Planning Department’s haphazard notification of interested parties. The following are planning applications in which the Association has taken an interest over the last year.

Land to rear of 37-49 Grove Road
Erection of 8 detached houses plus an access road by the demolition of 39 Grove Road by Infill Land Consultants. RBC as the local planning authority (LPA) refused permission on this application. However, the developer made an appeal to the secretary of state on 18 September and an Inquiry Hearing was held on 12 December 2000. Bill Goodworth represented the Association at the appeal hearing. Notification of the appeal’s dismissal was received on 31 January 2001 in which the inspector had taken note of highway safety issues, the adverse effect on the character and appearance of the area and the non-compliance with RBC policies relating to comprehensive development. The only remaining course open to the appellants will be to take the matter to the High Court and it is doubtful that they would take such action.

Land at Jefferson Close, Emmer Green
The second proposal, which did not affect the footpath between Jefferson Close and Russett Glade was not opposed by the Association.

Bugs Bottom
Proposal to erect 41 x 2, 3 & 4 bedroom houses and garages. The Association had made written objections to the initial proposal because of the intention to re-route and enclose the definitive footpath and Paul Gallagher made an oral objection at the Planning Applications Committee on 10 January 2001. However, the application has been approved subject to a Legal Agreement. The Open Spaces Society (OSS) had contacted the Association to enquire whether there was sufficient support if the OSS took the matter to appeal but it was thought that the chance of over turning the decision was remote.

Land off Lyefield Court
Application from Annsgate House Investments Limited to build houses off the access road to the residential homes in Lyefield Court. Although the LPA have approved this application, and the land has already been cleared in preparation for building, several restrictions have been imposed in relation to parking and usage.

Land behind 74 & 76 Kidmore End Road
An outline proposal (again from Annsgate) to demolish houses 74 & 76 and build a small estate off Kidmore End Road has been received. Previous concerns have been expressed by adjacent householders about the loss of established trees on this land if such a development was passed. The Association has written to the LPA expressing concern about additional traffic entering Kidmore End Road, which is narrow and already congested, and the increased risk to the safety of both pedestrians and motorists.

Many thanks as usual to all the committee members for their active and substantial support throughout the year and all the time they have unselfishly devoted to pursuing matters brought to their attention by Association members. Unfortunately, the committee is about to lose the invaluable services of long serving member Bill Goodworth. On behalf of the Association we express our heartfelt thanks for his boundless local knowledge and his dedicated hard work and wish him all the best for the future.

Finally, thank you to the ward councillors for their continuing interest and support of the Association in its concerns and activities within Emmer Green. Here also we bid farewell as Ian Fenwick will be retiring as a councillor in order to give credence to his status as retired! Ian’s support and invaluable knowledge of the mystical workings of the Council have been greatly appreciated and we wish him well in his complete retirement.