Chairman's Report 2004-2005

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The following summarises the numerous issues that the Association has been involved in since the last Annual General Meeting on 14 April 2004.

Local Tradesmen’s list and Information pack:
This was completed by the vice chairman, Bob Cruickshank, in time for posting with the summer 2004 newsletter. There have been a few amendments and additions since then and we will look to include these in a new edition. Likewise with the Information pack; a number of items have changed and we will update this for the web site in the first instance.

St Barnabas Church Garden Party:
Although last year’s event in July was unfortunately wet the Association made £20 towards the charitable Amajuba Education Fund and the event as a whole made in excess of £1,100. Again, we sold ‘treasurer hunt’ maps and new clue sheets full of pictures and questions about interesting features to be seen around Emmer Green. While for the younger visitors we had a very large-scale jigsaw of the superheroes The Fantastic Four, which proved popular.

Street cleaning & grass cutting:
These two issues have been pursued with the Council throughout the year. With regard to the former a map was supplied by the Council, showing how often each road in Emmer Green is scheduled to be cleaned. As this is in colour it was circulated only by email. However, copies can be made available to other residents via any committee member.
The regularity of grass cutting continued to be far from satisfactory. The Association repeatedly asked the Council throughout the summer and autumn months to cut the verges but with only minor success. Cllr Mark Ralph took up the issue on residents’ behalf and met with the cutting team in late September and walked around Emmer Green discussing the issue. The Council’s target of 17 cuts per year has proved difficult for the cutting team to meet. We have suggested that the target number of cuts be reduced to about 12 if the Council will guarantee that the cutting takes place at regular three-week intervals.

Graffiti
A meeting took place in June between Council officers and the Association to discuss ways and means of tackling the problem of graffiti. The committee undertook an audit of the location and type of graffiti throughout Emmer Green and created a map of this information. Copies of this were then sent to the Council and utilities, particularly the cable television company whose boxes seem to come in for the most defacement.

A further meeting was held in October with the Council officers responsible for cleaning graffiti. The officers informed us that they would be undertaking educational initiatives with local schools to attempt to get the message across that graffiti is not acceptable. It was also agreed that a small group of residents would work with a Council officer to clean the recreation ground pavilion. This took place in October when five Association members gave up their Saturday morning and, under Council supervision for health and safety reasons, cleaned the three visible sides of the pavilion. Since then the pavilion has been defaced again on two occasions with subsequent cleaning taking place and the back wall has been painted.

The Association has also supported the Council’s offer of using their mini-cleaning kits for use on small items of graffiti, such as tags on street signs. A number of local residents’ associations and other community groups attended a training session run by the Council in February and were then supplied with several small graffiti cleaning kits. The session was given wide publicity by the Council and was covered by a number of local television companies.
We now need members near to graffiti ‘hot spots’ to act as either observers of new graffiti, who would alert the Association, or anyone who would be prepared to keep and use one of the cleaning kits.

Caversham Safer Community Forum (CSCF)
The local Forum has been re-established under the wider Safer Reading Campaign, the Reading Borough Council’s Crime Reduction Partnership. It consists of around 12 agencies and associations such as Reading Childrens’ Trust, Ealing Family Housing, Toynbee Housing, Churches Together in Caversham and the Residents` Associations in Caversham, Caversham Park Village, the Warren as well as ourselves. The Thames Valley Police also attend and report, as do the Ward Councillors (intermittently), plus Council representatives from Housing, Street Care, Youth Provision and the Safer Communities Unit.

The budget, for small bids, covering the whole Reading area is now only £80,000 with twelve local SCFs bidding for the funds. The bids are for expenditures that are not on the Council’s current budget, and would probably never get on the main budget, but which the residents feel are desirable or necessary to tackle safety issues.

The majority of recent projects have been for additional lighting in black spots, but there are also street patrols, litterbin projects and abandoned cars projects on going or in the pipeline. The Association has proposed the purchase of portable CCTV equipment, to be used in graffiti "hot spots" on Council property, shared across all 12 SCFs. To date the CSCF has been less than supportive of the idea.

North Area Youth Project (NRYP)
Committee member Tara Taylor and the chairman have rejoined the management committee of the NRYP during this last year. The two meetings to date have been well supported by the Council and by young people from Emmer Green who use the service.

Items that have been dealt with include the purchase of auxiliary music equipment to enable the young people to hold band rehearsals, the replacement of five canoes at The Warren Canoe Club, various redecoration requirements at the centres, a covered meeting/gathering point, a graffiti ‘legal-wall’ and the installation of a skateboard facility. The first three of these are to be paid for from NRYP reserve funds. The funding of a meeting point will be sought from the Safer Caversham Forum, which has paid for such facilities in the past. The location has still to be determined. The last two are to be researched further before any firm decisions are made.

Unfortunately, both the senior youth worker, Lee Middleton, and senior assistant, Denise Bradley, have recently tendered their resignations. Lee is moving to a new job with Connexions and Denise is moving to Cyprus where her husband has been posted. Both will be sorely missed since they have being doing a very good job with the service.

Recycling old computer equipment
The Association expended a lot of effort in trying to organise a collection of old computer equipment from local residents by a London-based charitable organisation who refurbish such items for third world countries. However, although they collect free of charge, to minimise their transport costs they need to collect at least 20 computers and unfortunately only about half that number of items were offered by members. We then approached the umbrella residents’ organisation in Reading (RFTRA) to see if they could coordination such an initiative across the whole town but without success. Consequently, we have had to forget the idea for the present.

Emmer Green Community Notice Board
The new notice board was installed and unveiled in December. Thanks are due to local woodcraftsman, Andrew Noyes, for making and carving the board and to Dave Moore of the Council for organising its installation.

Highdown School
On 30 June the School hosted a meeting with concerned residents about their proposal to sell off part of the playing fields (tennis courts) for housing development in order to pay for a school assembly hall. Since then the Reading local education authority has received government approval to take out 25 year preferential loans to build this assembly hall. This will avert the need to sell part of the school playing fields to finance the building. The school has proposed that the hall also provides a community facility and they are open to ideas on such usage and also on possible design features that local residents may like to suggest.

Friends of Clayfield Copse
The Friends have been successful again in securing a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to organise another Woodlands Day, which will be on Saturday 4 June. Our Association has previously discussed the funding of a play area for small children at the back of the car park at Clayfield Copse. This would simply have taken the form of logs embedded in the ground in a formation to allow children to jump from one to another. However, the Council, who own the land, have forbidden this idea as they consider it too dangerous! In consequence, we have suggested to The Friends that on the Woodlands Day we fund the two chainsaw sculptors, who carved the two pigs from the Lebanon cedars at the first event, to carve several animal shapes from logs placed near the car park. Apart from their artistic appeal, the sculptures can subsequently be used as seats. This will cost about £100.

Planning Applications
Major in-fill development is currently underway in Marshlands Square (2 developments), Cavendish Road and Kidmore End Road. The following planning proposals have also concerned the Association over the last year.

Grove Road:
Application for 6 houses in rear gardens of 33-39 Grove Road.

Application to demolish 49 Grove Road and build 10 terrace houses and 1 detached house in the rear gardens of 41-49 Grove Road.

Kidmore End Road:
Application for 6 houses to rear of 54-74 Kidmore End Road.

Rosehill Park:
Application to demolish 1 Rosehill Park and replace it with 2 detached dwellings. Refused and new application to build a block of four flats – also refused. Appeal pending.

Highdown Hill Road:
Various applications to build 11/14 houses in rear gardens of 10-18, 22 Highdown Hill Road and 6 Highdown Avenue. Appeal against refusal. Inspector upheld the refusal in January.
Congratulations must go to the efforts of the Highdown Hill Road ‘Action Group’ in co-ordinating the objections to this development and achieving this most sensible outcome.

Application to build a bungalow in the rear garden of 46 Highdown Hill Road.

Peppard Road
Application to build of 6 x 3 bedroom dwellings in the rear gardens of 161-163 Peppard Road with the access near The Hill School.

Application to demolish 376 and 378 Peppard Road and build 12 dwellings in the rear gardens of 372 – 390 Peppard Road; southward from the perimeter of the Water Tower.

Application at 91 Peppard Road, to convert the grade II listed Caversham House into 6 self-contained 2 bed-roomed apartments; to demolish the flat roof extension and replace it with a terrace of 5 houses and to demolish the three dilapidated bungalows and replace them with 3 town houses is still to go before the Planning Committee.

Buckingham Drive
Application to demolish the bungalow at 9 Buckingham Drive and replace it with an apartment block of 10 flats.


Meeting with RBC Planning Department
The chairman of the Association, together with similar representatives from Warren & District Residents Association, Caversham & District Residents’ Association, Grosvenor Road Residents and Lower Caversham Community Association, met with local ward councillors and the Council’s Planning Officers in January to discuss the apparent excessive amount of infill building taking place north of the Thames.

The meeting was very useful, even if it only confirmed that additional development would continue at about 100 dwellings per year north of the river. This level of building is driven by the government’s economic strategy for the South East and the Council’s concurring policy of attracting and encouraging untrammelled growth in new businesses within Reading. The resultant demand for more houses to accommodate the increased population is only constrained by their type and suitability since planning regulations closely define the powers of local planning authorities in terms of housing density. The Council acknowledged the justifiable concerns about the continuing, and increasing, adverse impact on the volume of traffic on local roads and the pressure on the general environment. We were informed that there is to be another consultation exercise in the wards north of the river about traffic flows.

Association’s web site
The Association’s web site, which can be found at www.map-reading.co.uk/egra, 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. Thanks are due to Clive Ormonde who skillfully maintains the site for us. Members who have access to the internet are encouraged to join the email group by sending a message to egra.memb@ntlworld.com This will enable the membership secretary to provide you with current news items.

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. And thank you to the local (Peppard) ward councillors for their continuing interest and support of the Association’s activities.