Chairman's Report 2002-2003

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The following summarises the numerous issues that the Association has been involved in since the last Annual General Meeting on 18 April 2002.

Queen’s Golden Jubilee
In May Awards for All notified the Association that we were unsuccessful in our application for a grant to support a village picnic in celebration of the Jubilee. Without a grant, coupled with insufficient interest from other organisations, the idea for an Emmer Green get-together was reluctantly abandoned. However, the Association was invited by St Barnabas Church to partake in its Annual Garden Party to celebrate the Golden Jubilee. This took place on Saturday 6 July in glorious weather. We had a small stand displaying some of the historical material from the 2000 Exhibition and sold quiz sheets, which seemed to be enjoyed by all who took part and the small profit that was made went to support a South African student who was being sponsored by the Church.

Grass verges & leaf clearance
Throughout the summer the Association took issue with the Council (directly and via the ward councillors) about the verges in Emmer Green and the rest of Caversham not being cut frequently enough. It took over six weeks of chasing in June & July since the previous cut to get some action and frankly the excuses offered were totally inadequate. The Association subsequently monitored the regularity of cutting to try and ensure that the time between cuts did not exceeds three weeks. Thankfully this was achieved by the Council without further effort on our part. Similar efforts were made in the Autumn to ensure footpaths were cleared of fallen leaves and branches.

Post boxes
Following the issue being raised at the last AGM, Royal Mail were contacted about the lack of posting facilities in the Hemdean Valley / Tredegar Road area and the knock-on effect on the box outside St Barnabas Church that was reported to be often overflowing. Eventually in September Royal Mail replied to say their investigations had revealed that an additional post box on the lower part of Tredegar Road was not justified and the St Barnabas Road post box did not appear to be over used but they would continue to monitor the situation.

Kerb-side recycling
Kerb-side collections of recyclable material were introduced in parts of Emmer Green during last summer. However, because the red bins were seen to be emptied wholesale into the collection vehicle, questions were raised as to what happened next. Upon enquiring the Association were told that all the material is sorted at the recycling plant. Plastic bottles are extracted by a mechanical sorter, then cans are removed by magnets, leaving the paper and cardboard to be screened and sifted manually. Because of the way the re-cycling plant operates it is actually unhelpful to put newspapers etc into plastic bags first: if the bags don't come apart in transit, the sorters will simply treat the whole thing as non-recyclable plastic and it will go to landfill. Further concerns were raised by residents in February regarding plastic items, in particular that only plastic bottles were collected for recycling and that all other plastic items are sent to land fill. Many of these other plastic items are made of the same material as the bottles (polyethylene terephthalate) and are recyclable. We are trying to find out more about the Council’s future intentions in this area.

Emmer Green water supply
Starting in the Autumn of last year Thames Water replaced the water main connecting Emmer Green Reservoir with the Water Tower, which runs across the farmland north of Phillimore Road, down Peppard Road and across the end of Tower Close to the Water Tower. Thames Water were most diligent in notifying local households and the Association of the state of each stage and of any expected inconvenience regarding access through Tower Close. The Association subsequently wrote to compliment them on keeping everyone fully informed of the progress and for the neat state of the completed work.

Skateboard facility at Clayfield Copse
In September a meeting was initiated by the Association between the Council’s Parks Manager and a group of Emmer Green young people to discuss the possibility of up-grading the skateboard facility at Clayfield Copse. Although there was a useful exchange of ideas, the Council did not have the funds to install any new facility, which is estimated to cost about £20,000, and at present there is no known timescale whereby this facility can be upgraded.

The EGRA Seat
Members will have noted that the seat overlooking the pond near the bookies, which was donated by the Association in 1995, was lovingly refurbished in October. Thanks must go to committee member David Miles for his hard work in sanding down and repainting the seat, which now puts to shame many other seats in the area.

Tree replacement
In February, residents brought to our attention the extreme tree surgery that had taken place to oak trees along Peppard Road in one case leaving just the trunk. Upon questioning the Council, we have been informed that there was ‘die back’ and the trunk and another nearby long dead tree will be felled in the near future. The Council Estate Services also informed us that they have raised ‘replacement tree request forms’ for these two oaks and for the tree removed from the bottom of Courtenay Drive.

Emmer Green Precinct car park
The Association was notified in October about notices appearing in the Precinct car park, regarding new parking penalties for long-term parking of vehicles by people not using the shops. The overwhelming view following e-mail canvassing of members was that two hours parking allowance was considered quite adequate for shopping and that the restrictions seemed to apply only whilst the shops were open. In consequence, the Association did not take the matter up with the precinct landlord, Wolfe Property Services Limited. However, in February a member kindly brought to our attention a clamping incident in the precinct car park and users need to be wary!

Waiting restrictions
The Association has pursued the issue regarding waiting restrictions near the post box on St Barnabas Road, which members raised at the last AGM in April. The Council Highways Department has informed the Association that they have scheduled work of this nature for 2003 and will inform us of more details later. The proposals will be formally published in the local press in due course to allow residents to be consulted. A further issue has arisen with drivers parking in front of St Barnabas Church gates, which has caused access difficulties when a funeral service is taking place. The Association has asked the Highways Department to take this matter into consideration when determining the appropriate restrictions.

Allotments
Having spent much discussion last year with the Council Parks Department regarding sensitive cutting of the hedge bounding Grove Road allotments, in December residents were perturbed to see a section of the hedgerow being grubbed out as part of the Council’s work to improve and restructure the allotments. The Association was assured at that time that the hedge would be put back in order when work is complete. Since then concern has been expressed about the lack of progress and the mess that has been created. The Council’s Parks Operations Manager has notified the Association that wet weather had severely hampered the work being done by their heavy plan but they hoped to make good progress now that it was dry.

Clayfield Pavilion
The Association has been inquiring about whether the Pavilion can be cleaned of its long-standing graffiti. The Council’s Parks Operations Manager informs us that this cannot been undertaken in the current financial year. Similar work done at Kings Meadow has been successful but expensive and this site is now being monitoring to see how quickly the graffiti returns. The Clayfield Pavilion should be next on the list, we gather, and hopefully not far into the new financial year.

Transco work in Surley Row
In December the holes dug by Transco’s sub-contractor, Morrison, in Surley row were unattended for four weeks. The Association wrote to Transco expressing concerns for Highdown pupils (and other residents) in having to walk into the road to get around these workings but received no response. Consequently, the regulator was contacted and work was then completed within two weeks. However, the grass verges were left in a poor state and the Council has agreed to ask Transco to reinstate the verges as soon as drier weather permits.

“Question Time”
The Caversham and District Residents’ Association (CADRA) organised a ‘Question Time’ at the Baptist Church in February 2003 with a panel representing RBC Planning, RBC Education, Reading Buses, Ealing Housing Association and Thames Valley Police. This was well supported and the Association’s Chairman and Secretary attended with questions. However, over seventy questions had been received and not all could be put to the panel, the two from EGRA on litter and parking failing to make the cut!

Emmer Green Book
The Association’s book, Emmer Green - Past and Present, which was so successful in 2001, is to be reprinted. With nearly 200 outstanding orders the Secretary has kindly agreed to up-date the book and bear the printing costs. The new edition should be available by the middle of this year.

Village Sign
In September the designs were agreed and will consist of a single image of Emmer Green pond circa 1908 (see p13 of the Emmer green book) on one side and a montage of the haymaking scene (p85 of the book), St Barnabas Church (rear cover of the book) and the horses leading the wagon with the Mafeking Oak (p75 of the book) on the other side. The top of the sign above the pond image will carry the words Emmer Green around a sheaf of wheat in ‘Copperplate Gothic’. Planning approval for the sign to be positioned on the southern corner of the pond was received in October.

Despite continued support of the North Area Consultative Committee (NACC) members over the last two years for the next ward project, supported by NACC funds, to be the Emmer Green village sign, the Council have suspended the ACCs and withdrawn the remaining funds (about £7,000). There has been considerable communication between the Association, various councillors and Council officers on these matters. Although the Association has lost faith in the Council over their ‘consultation’ process the issue of funding for the sign is still being pursued.

Kidmore End Road - Parking
Following last year’s AGM, the Association requested, through the local councillors, that the Council undertake a consultation with residents of Kidmore End Road about parking and safety issues along this road. In September Cllrs Annette Hendry and Bob Green, together with two officers from the Council’s Transport Management Section, visiting Kidmore End Road to review the situation. However, the Council made no progress in arranging for consultation with residents as they estimated it would cost £3500. Margaret Ormonde agreed to conduct the survey on behalf of the Association. There was 80% response and an estimated shortfall of parking spaces of around 14 cars. Cllr Hendry took the results to discuss the outcomes with the Council but without any progress.

Liaison Meeting
A liaison meeting was held on 23 September between the various residents’ associations north of the river. Issues discussed concerned flood plain development, vandalism & graffiti, the future of the North Area Consultative Committee and the general concern that RBC were not keeping residents’ associations fully informed of issues affecting their members and local residents. One outcome has been that the Association took up affiliated membership of RFTRA (Reading Federation of Tenants & Residents Associations) and attended their AGM in October. However, it is not expected this will improve consultation on issues local to Emmer Green.

North Reading Youth Project
Following the loss of the Senior Area Youth & Community Worker over a year ago, the replacement has also left. This currently leaves only a trainee youth worker, Liz Heading, who it must be said is doing sterling work under difficult circumstances. The Council are finding it next to impossible to recruit new youth workers on the salaries they are able to offer. Concern has been expressed about the continuing situation through the chairmanship of the Safer Caversham Forum.

Safer Caversham Forum
The Association undertook the roles of chairman and vice-chairman of this Forum in July of last year and have not only supplied this support but also provided secretarial service on occasions. Apart from addressing issues of safety, crime and the fear of crime, the small capital grants facility has been used in Emmer Green to provide improved lighting at the bus stop on Courtenay Drive near the junction with Kidmore End Road.

Planning Applications
The Association continues to monitor planning applications and to respond to those that have an adverse impact on the local environment or pose traffic safety or congestion issues. The following are those planning applications in which the Association has raised concerns over the last year.

Land behind 70 -76 Kidmore End Road
The proposal to develop this land by demolishing 76 Kidmore End Road to provide a new access road was passed by the RBC Planning on 29 May. The committee was attended by the Association’s chairman and member Jon Barclay, who presented comprehensive objections to the development, supported by a forceful speech by Cllr Bob Green but all to no avail. Cllr Green did elicited from the developer that this would be only phase #1; phase #2 would be an application for eleven more house followed by a phase #3 for a further, as yet undetermined, number of houses.

Marshlands Square /Heathcroft site
In October plans were submitted for a development of 35 flats/maisonettes. Although the Association recognised the need for low cost housing in the area, it expressed concerns about the density of housing and the likely adverse impact of so many additional vehicles in the cul-de-sac. The planning authority had similar concerns and rejected the proposal, which has now been resubmitted but for 18 houses.

25metre radio tower at Emmer Green reservoir
In October despite the concerns of local residents and several objections from the Association, South Oxfordshire Planning Department granted planning permission for the erection of a 25 metre radio tower at Emmer Green reservoir. This is now nearing completion.

Association’s web site
Clive Ormonde kindly continues to maintain the web site for the Association, which contains current and previous newsletters, minutes of committee meetings, a current issues page, AGM minutes and reports plus links to other web sites of interest. The site can be found at www.map-reading.co.uk/egra

Thanks
Many thanks as usual to all the committee members for their active and invaluable support throughout the year and the time they have unselfishly devoted to pursuing matters brought to their attention by members of the Association. Thank you also to Julian Pearce for again auditing the Association’s accounts. Finally, thanks to the local ward councillors for their continuing interest and support of the Association’s activities.