Minutes of Committee Meeting
Autumn 2006

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Tuesday 17th January 2007

* An interim event had taken place between meetings, which generated much discussion. A consultation exercise was set up by the Council over the future of Mapledurham pavilion. The reason Emmer Green had a direct interest was because of the potential involvement of compensatory land at Clayfield Copse. The EGRA Chairman recommended the option, which would not involve the selling of any land to raise funds, and in fact that was the one chosen by 79% of the 3000 people who took part. The Council will be taking that forward and looking into alternative ways of funding.

Present: Paul Gallagher, Margaret Ormonde, Vera Bodman, Brenda Deller, Jill Verran, Diana Hartrup, Bob Cruickshank.

1. Apologies : Bill Harper, Brian Warren, Tara Taylor

2. Minutes of the last meeting : (Wednesday 27th September 2006) were approved.

3. Matters arising :

Woodland Carvings :
Andrew Noyes was still happy to undertake the carving, and was waiting until the weather improved. He hoped to have a number of young people involved in parts of the detailed carving, or finishing off, as part of an educational project. EGRA were more than happy to fund the project, but there was a possibility of money coming from another source too. One design put forward from an EGRA member was that of a red kite. Interest was expressed in the old oak tree, which had split and fallen. Suggestions were that it was up to 600 years old. (PG)

Village Sign :
Two EGRA members had come forward as a response to our request for help maintaining both the sign and community notice board. Brian Bernard and Chris Balmont have now teamed up with Paul Gallagher to make regular cleaning and restoration visits. (PG)

Coral Betting Office, Junction of Peppard Road/Kidmore End Road :
A letter had been sent to Coral's agents last year, reminding them the seat overlooking the pond, was donated by EGRA and that we wanted it relocated by them to the other side of the pond. Electronic copies were sent to various other interested parties. Coral never replied, but Kirsten Smith from the planning department acknowledged and agreed with the letter. No development has yet begun, but the adjacent shop which, like the Coral premises, belongs to the Co-op, remains empty, with a prominent 'TO LET' sign on its frontage. (MO)

Post Office Closure :
There was still a glimmer of hope that the Post Office would re-locate within one of the shops on the precinct, but negotiations, if indeed there were any, were proceeding a snail's pace. Most Emmer Green residents would find it difficult to walk to a Post Office now. The nearest, at Hemdean Road, not far from the junction of Oakley Road, has good parking and is not too far from a bus stop. However, occasionally, it was apt to close at random hours without warning. (MO)

Footpath/New Housing in Jefferson Close :
As a result of local consultation, there had been a few objections, one concerning a piece of land which would give access to the housing development. Things were still uncertain about the future of the long established footpath between Jefferson Close and Russet Glade. Pat Bishop from the Council was responding to the objections, and would then send the file to the Secretary of State. (PG)

Welcome Packs :
We now had up to 50 spare newsletters, which could either be distributed to potential members (targeting the new developments) or used to accompany some welcome packs. (JV)

Grove Road Planters :
Despite assurances that there was funding to remove and replant at ground level alternate oversized trees from the Grove Road planters (between St Barnabas and Surley Row), nothing had yet been carried out. Kevin Wigginton (RBC) who was responsible for the undertaking was to be contacted to explain the delay. (MO)

The Queen :
The tree to commemorate the Queen's 80th birthday had been ordered, and was due to arrive in a couple of weeks. EGRA needed to decide the exact location to make sure the Council dug the hole in the right place. - Dave Moore (RBC) was very good with the logistics of it all. A substantial tree guard had already been delivered to Diana Hartrup, who was looking after the project. We needed a suitable seat to place near it and the Council was to be contacted to see if we could purchase one from them. The committee were still trying to find a local 'worthy' to officially plant the tree. Margaret Ormonde was asked to inform the Palace of the event. (DH)

Bench for bus stop
In addition to the Queen's seat, Brenda Deller was still keen we have a separate bench (no back) near the bus stop for any elderly people waiting for the bus. The practicalities of this needed to be looked into, such as having enough time to move into a position to be seen by the driver. It was thought the Safer Caversham Forum might be able to support this (VB)

Duck signs :
One resident, Mrs Jackie Williams who lived near the pond was concerned that we had not for the time being decided to proceed with the duck warning signs. However events had rather overtaken us since the last meeting. Major road changes in the area had been suggested and locally approved. This would involve two mini-roundabouts at the junctions of Kidmore End Road and Lowfield Road with the Peppard Road, and controlled pedestrian crossing between them. If nothing else this would undoubtedly slow traffic down. In any case we would need to wait and see the impact it has before making a decision on the duck signs.

Advertising Posters on White Horse Public House :
The temporary poster promoting a then current TV programme was eventually removed, after the Council intervened, but by the time it was the TV series had more or less finished. Retrospective planning order was also sought for various other notices spread about the property. This resulted in a split decision from the planning department and as a result several of the free-standing boards have been moved across to a corner, opening up the paved area and making it safer.

Resignation of Chairman :
A special committee meeting was held Friday 10th November 2006 and various jobs delegated in the hope this would pave the way for a fairer workload in the future. It is also hoped to attract new blood on to the committee.

4. Treasurer’s Report
The annual accounts had now been presented, with the balance at the end of 2006 being slightly up on the year before (£6116.82). It included the cost of the Queen's Tree. There were a few more items of expenditure in the pipeline for 2007, but ideas for new community based projects were always welcome. Membership remained in healthy numbers, which is good for the sustainability and strength of the association. (BH)

5. Feedback from Committees

North Reading Youth Project :
A couple of NAYP meetings had taken place since the last committee meeting and the feedback was still very positive, with youth provision increasing 400% north of the river. Good relationships have been forged with Highdown School, and the new minibus is proving very popular. 30 local children attended a successful residential trip to Osmington Bay(TT)

Safer Caversham Community Forum :
Vera Bodman attended the meeting held on 30th November. Feedback was generally positive, with a 17% drop in overall crime in the area. Initiatives included Operation Forage - stop and checking in Caversham, investigating the lighting in Waitrose car park, approving lighting in Burcombe Way; considering (but not instigating) Dispersal Orders for large groups gathering on summer nights eg Christchurch Meadows. The Pubwatch meetings also continued. Sadly new lighting at the Clayfield Copse youth shelter had been vandalised. A taller floodlit column would be considered in the hope it would last longer. Otherwise there was a very positive outlook from youth work in the area (see above) Graffiti was generally down, largely thanks to volunteers who had been cleaning it off. (VB)

Police Signs :
Big yellow printed signs had been affixed to lampposts last October, reminding residents to be more security conscious and letting criminals know that police patrols were active in the area. It was promised these would be removed by the end of 2006. No such action has been taken. (PG)

6. Planning Issues & Consultations
It was still hoped to post a planning policy page on the EGRA website.
In the meantime infill developments and applications continued apace.

Although outside the Emmer Green boundaries, the former Whiteknights Laundry site decision was bound to have an impact on everyone north of the river. The design of the 5 storey development (over 120 dwellings) had been rejected by RBC planning department, but the developers had gone to Central Government on appeal.

The detached house in Kidmore End Road, which had been thought to house a bat colony, has now been demolished.

7. Any Other Business

Highdown School Foundation Status :
Paul Gallagher and Margaret Ormonde went to the very sparsely attended public meeting (17th January) to outline the proposed change in status from Community School to Foundation School (more independent).
As much of the school was already functioning under that remit - some 90% - the Head said initially, 'Why bother?' But with Highdown now the only school in the borough not a Foundation School, he felt for that reason and several others, now was the right time to take the final step. He reassured us that the school was one of only 30 in the country to be recognised for good financial management. And that concerns they might go down the path of selling off land to raise funds in the future, were totally unfounded. Links with the Local Authority would not disappear entirely, as it was appreciated how efficiently they handled admissions. Fuller details of this would eventually be posted via the EGRA website.

Clayfield Copse Artwork :
Artist Jenny Leach was about to submit her bid to the Arts Council, for a grant to support her artwork project at Clayfield Copse. If she was successful, EGRA was happy to help with publicity etc, and suggested RBC may be able to offer advice on the installation.

Reading Caves :
BBC's television programme Inside Out (Southern region) was investigating caves in the area and had already been to Field Road. They also had an opportunity to be taken down some of the Emmer Green shafts into the chalk mines. Committee member Diana Hartrup was interviewed in her back garden by Chris Packham, whilst other members of the crew used a special sonic device to detect if there were shafts or caves under where they were standing. The edited slot is due to last for ten minutes and will be broadcast on 9th February.

The Pond :
Margaret and Clive Ormonde met with Garry Fullbrook and Any Gillespie from RBC in mid December to discuss and agree work to be carried out in the pond surroundings. Unfortunately verbal instructions from the office were given to the maintenance man, who misinterpreted what was said. Enthusiasm got the better of him. But the work was halted until a site visit was made, and the rest of the clearance should be done according to the original agreement.

Budgens Car Park :
The state of the car park and contactability of its owners remains exasperating. If nearby road amendments proceed, they will include a footpath across the grass to the shops. Extra money has been allocated in the budget for RBC to fill in the holes in the car park, as a one off gesture. Although this is good news, it will not provide a long-term solution and other issues like the drainage and poor lighting, still need addressing.

Reservoir :
A while ago, the area near the reservoir off Kiln Road had been vandalised, including daubing of graffiti. Resident Mr Maurice Hicks had been very persistent in badgering the various authorities to put things right, but progress and responses had been painfully slow. We hope things will eventually be resolved.

Al Gore's Environmental Film :
Paul Gallagher now had this film available on DVD for anyone to borrow. It was felt because it had such a powerful impact, that EGRA would also try and arrange to screen it locally for all residents to see.

Annual General Meeting :
8:00 pm Tuesday 24th April 2007, St Barnabas Church Hall.
It was hoped we could get a speaker from the police to come and talk on the new Community Policing Initiative.

8. Date of next meeting
8:00 pm Wednesday 5th April 2007 at 18 St Barnabas Road.