Minutes of Committee Meeting
Spring 2003

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Wednesday 13th March 2003

Present: Mr Paul Gallagher, Mrs Margaret Ormonde Mr David Miles Mrs Anne Ayres
Mrs Jill Verran Mr Geoff Goldsmith Mrs Sue Ballard Mrs Vera Bodman

1.Apologies
Mr Brian Warren Mr Bill Harper Mr Bob Cruickshank

2.Minutes of the last meeting (4th December 2002) were approved.

3.Matters arising

Kidmore End Road Parking
There was a feeling of despondency that it was over a year since EGRA voluntarily undertook a survey of the parking situation along Kidmore End Road. No acknowledgement or response from the Council had ever been received and the situation remained unchanged.

Village Sign
Work for the sign was well underway and the carvers were asking for suggestions for the smaller panels to go on the post. The chairman, Paul Gallagher had written a report and taken some photographs which were displayed on the association’s website. It was hoped that some of the carved pieces that will make up the sign could be brought along to the AGM on April 10th

Litter
Litter was still an on-going problem, especially around the periphery of Highdown School. Local residents not only had to contend with looking at the mess on the playing fields, but suffer the consequences of it blowing on to their land. As very little response had come from the school itself, Paul Gallagher had written to Andrew Daykin from the Education Authority to find out who was responsible.

Clayfield Copse
The pavilion was still subjected to repeated graffiti and the perpetrators had even painted one wall white, so they had a blank canvas to work on. Andy Gillespie from the Council stated considerable effort had been made cleaning up in the Kings Meadows area. The buildings were being monitored to see how long it took to come back and the effectiveness of the anti-graffiti coating. He gave assurances that Clayfield Copse was on his list. The Clayfield Copse Interpretation board had also been affected. There was some hope that the surface of the car park would be treated in the coming months, but this was likely to be on a volunteer basis and not a permanent solution. There had also been an abandoned car left on the football pitch. The contractors who moved it did not clear the remaining debris which meant a football match had to be abandoned on grounds of safety. Astonishingly the groundsmen marking the white lines had not appeared to notice the broken glass.

Bus Stop
Reading Buses response to the request to temporarily move the bus stop was negative, on the grounds of potential traffic congestion. They had contacted the Thames Valley Police over the issue and they had advised against it.

Dead / Replacement Trees
The committee had been assured that the tree recently cut down in Courtenay Drive and the two on Peppard Road that were scheduled for cutting would all be replaced with saplings.

White Horse Pub
Although the Council had agreed to paint a white line along the inside edge of the path outside the pub to make it safe, no such action had yet been taken. More recently a resident had complained that recently laid paving outside the pub had become cracked and dangerous. Greene King had been contacted about this issue, but no response had been received to the letter and no repairs had been carried out.

Emmer Green Book
It had been decided that the forthcoming re-print of the book would be taken over by MAP READING. The reprint was scheduled for late spring 2003. The copyright would remain with EGRA and a royalty fee of 50p for each book sold was to be paid to the Association.

Planning Consents
Applications for development in Autumn Close were halted because of legal restraints on the land. It was noted that the house and land had been for sale separately and things were currently in the hands of solicitors.

Plans for flats and houses on the Heathcroft site in Marshlands Square had been refused because of the density of dwellings. It was still hoped that the new submission would be aimed at the socially affordable housing market.

Leaves and Verges
Although some areas of Emmer Green were efficiently cleared when the Council were reminded, several black spots seemed to have been missed, particularly in the Peppard Road/Rosehill Park area. Transco were usually very efficient at clearing up after working in an area, but the verges in Surley Row had been left in a bad state and they would need reminding through the Council.

The Council had reminded the owner of a property along Grove Road that his hedges needed trimming back. Things were better, but there was still room for improvement.

4.Treasurer’s Report
The balance at 31st December was £3,862, and the accounts are currently being audited. Since January 1st the only transaction are receipts of subscriptions of £221. Of all the subs still due 58 had paid up, 42 were still due (14 of those from the previous year). In some cases it was because the original occupant had moved away. New householders were often happy to continue membership. It was felt a welcome pack could be provided for folk moving into the area.

5.Feedback from Committees

North Reading Youth Project
Sue Ballard attended the most recent meeting and reported that a new senior youth worker was due to start at Emmer Green on the 1st May. It was Lee Middleton who was currently working in the Wokingham area.
The trainee, Liz Heading meanwhile had been coping really well, holding the fort in an impressive way whilst her new boss was being recruited. Although there was still no funding for improvements to the skateboard facilities (apart from safety maintenance), a petition had been sent round to the local schools asking for ideas for the future. There was to be general review of all Youth and Community Services.

Safer Caversham Forum
Emmer Green Committee member David Miles would complete his year as Chairman of this forum at the end of April. He had been assisted throughout this time by EGRA Chairman Paul Gallagher, who had also lent a hand taking notes when the Council were unable to provide a minute taker. It was hoped one of the other participants would follow on to take the Chair – CADRA, Caversham Globe, Warren and District RA. There had even been a proposal from the Council that the SCF take on other issues, but Derek Bartlett and other groups at the SCF rejected this out of hand if they had no relationship to the crime and safety issues of the forum. Ongoing problems of juvenile and petty crime continue to be discussed. There had been an increase in spates of vandalism including joy-riding along the Peppard Road. Graffiti seemed to be on the increase again. Gangs of youths had been spotted congregating at the junction of Courtenay Drive and Burnham Rise, but there was nothing to suggest they were doing anything untoward. A lot of effort was being put into warning of distraction burglary and a leaflet ‘Beat the Bogus Caller’ had been published. It was still regretted that the Caversham Chat had ceased to be. The subject of the next guest speaker at the SCF was to be domestic violence..

6.CADRA/ERGA Meeting with RBC
On 3rd February CADRA, EGRA, LCCA, Warren & District and Caversham Globe met with Chris Bloomfield and Zoe Hamin of RBC to discuss the Council’s approach to consultation. Concern was expressed about the way in which the NACC had been discontinued without prior notice and the decision not to fund the EGRA village sign. Chris Bloomfield apologised for the poor handling of the matter and agreed to look into progressing the funds for the sign. He also explained the RBC hope to use the SCF in a wider consultation role. However, the community groups present said they were not happy with this if it distracted from the crime and safety remit of the forum and the possibility of disengaging the police input.

7.CADRA Question Time
Derek Bartlett had put in a great deal of time and effort arranging this event to give local people an opportunity to quiz directly Council officers and representatives from leading organisations such as Reading Buses and TV Police. Over 70 questions had been received but because of the constraints on time only a handful were chosen, and topics were quickly moved on. Unfortunately the Council representative from the planning department was absent due to ill health, and answers had to be referred back via a deputy. It was hoped if the event was repeated there would be room for more questions and a more open debate.

8.Proposal to withdraw support from RBC committees and fora
A motion was taken on whether to withdraw from Reading Borough Council's formal consultation committees, fora and events in the light of these processes being perceived as purely cosmetic. There are several examples of the lack of genuine consultation but the matter had been brought to a head by the cancelling by RBC of Area Consultation Committees without warning or discussion and without anything to replacement them, coupled with the withdrawal of ACC funds previously agreed to support the Emmer Green village sign. Other such examples include the recent examination and discussion by EGRA Committee on the Draft Interim Licensing Policy. Valid suggestions made were completely ignored and the document returned with one small amendment and no feedback. Attendance at the meetings by RBC representatives was often very poor.

There appeared to be tentative support for the motion from those present. However, since some committee members were not present, a vote was not taken and instead it was proposed that all committee members be given a few days to decide. The motion would then be put to the membership at the forthcoming AGM.

The chairman had worked tirelessly to ensure contact was maintained and that we made a worthwhile contribution to things, but it was felt in the end our Association and others were not given the respect they deserved either for their time or their points of view. Any withdrawal would be seen as open ended with perhaps an option to resume our role if things improved.

It was also hoped if the decision was finally taken to withdraw, that we would be able to put forward our viewpoints via letters to local newspapers / media, although in reality this had its drawbacks too.

9. Draft Chairman’s Annual Report to the AGM
A comprehensive summary of events over the past year had been put together by the Chairman and this was being prepared together with the minutes from last year’s AGM for circulation to the membership.

10. Committee Membership for 2003-04
Mr Geoff Goldsmith was standing down from the committee after three years service. Mrs Sue Ballard had also decided to step down and thanks goes to Sue for her contribution towards the exhibition and the book and involvement with the North Reading Youth Project committee.

11. Any Other Business
Wolfe Properties who owned the land in front of the shops needed to be contacted about the poor state of the lighting in the car park. Also a couple of trees that had been severely storm damaged last autumn were still either surrounded by debris or looked unsafe.

The on-going programme to restore and improve the Grove Road allotments was sporadic in its execution. The manner in which the work was being undertaken left a lot to be desired, leaving many current allotment holders in a state of despair. It was appreciated things may need to look worse before they get better, but practicalities aside, the character of the site had been bulldozed away together with some prized possessions. Communications between Council / contractors and the allotments on-site representative had been particularly difficult to the frustrations of those involved. It was hoped the work would be completed and new plots distributed as soon as possible.

12. 2003 AGM
The date is Thursday 10th April 2003 at St Barnabas Church Hall. The speaker is Graham Horn on his adventures on Mt Kilimanjaro. It was a fund-raising event and the committee would be offering a contribution from EGRA and it was hoped that members of the audience would donate as well. Invitations to attend were being sent out together with minutes from last year and the Chairman’s report. Free wine and nibbles which proved so popular last year will be on offer again.

Date of next meeting
8:00 pm Wednesday 18th June 2003 at 6 Tredegar Road.