Chairman's Report 2008-2009

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PLEASE NOTE THE NEW VENUE FOR OUR AGM – THE GRACE CHAPEL, PEPPARD ROAD


The focus for 2008/2009 has been very much on seeing outstanding issues to fruition and setting in place arrangements for our 25th Anniversary celebrations. We’ve continued to provide information for our members and encourage them to instigate local democracy where appropriate. Please note that minutes of last years AGM can be viewed through the EGRA website. Hard copies will be available at the AGM, or if anyone would like one before then, please let us know.
All our members will be receiving a paper copy of this year’s Chairman’s Report. For those of you on the EGRA email list, you should be receiving monthly links to web updates, plus two newsletters a year. If you are not, then please inform the Membership Secretary, who will ensure she has your up-to-date contact information. There are still a few subs outstanding for this year. It makes a big difference to us if you pay on time. Alternatively let us know if you do not wish to renew.


25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS

You should find with this report an invite to our event on Saturday 9th May at Emmer Green Primary School. There is also a programme outlining the afternoon’s activities. The focus will be on an informal and relaxed afternoon, with family in mind. Do bring along children and grandchildren (no unaccompanied young children please). The event is free to all and we hope it will be an enjoyable afternoon. Kate Manton supervised the early organisation before handing over to Barry Prior and his team. If you wish to volunteer help on the day or before, please contact Barry on 0118 9461150.


WEBSITE

The website is a valuable resource for EGRA. It was set up by Clive Ormonde in 2001, with committee approval, and apart from the regular monthly updates, it is now packed with useful local information, as well as archive material. For anyone without their own computer the local library can offer internet access. To make things even simpler we are about to instigate a new web address. It came as a bit of a shock to realise we are not the only EGRA in the universe. Apart from East Guildford Residents’ Association there are others worldwide, so we secured the only domain name on offer www.egra.co.uk. Until things are properly settled you can still use www.map-reading.co.uk/egra.


OUTINGS

Our visit to the Houses of Parliament in September 2008 was the first of two outings EGRA organised during the year. Group tours are free if arranged through your MP, so we have Rob Wilson to thank. Our Blue Badge Guide Elizabeth was very knowledgeable and gave us an enlightening excursion round both red and green chambers with many anecdotes along the way. After lunch we crossed the road to explore The Jewel Tower. Members Doffi Parkinson and Carol Gibson wrote reports for the Winter Newsletter.

In March 2009 a large group descended upon the new Visitors Centre of re3, Reading’s innovative Recycling Plant. Amanda Williams spent the morning detailing what items can be recycled and why others can’t, and we peered through a viewing window to watch the activity. The talk also focused on wastage, in particular food – it’s quite shocking that on average a third of perfectly good food in our shopping bags is discarded. Campaigns are afoot to address this problem www.lovefoodhatewaste.com. Even though Emmer Green people are mindful of ‘green’ issues everyone felt they had learnt something from the experience.


PLANNING

We try to encourage local democracy on planning issues and there are plenty of guidelines on the website. We receive weekly planning lists direct from RBC, and CADRA kindly share with us their summaries of development proposals north of the river. EGRA will respond as a body to reflect the wishes of the residents affected if there is sufficient local interest. There is no guarantee of the desired outcome, but in 2008 we had a case where the developers appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, after RBC’s Planning Committee had rejected their planning application to build flats on land behind Chalgrove Way. The Planning Inspector listened to the concerns of neighbours and dismissed the case on the grounds of the biodiversity on the target plot of land. Approval has now also been given for the building of a pavilion for Caversham Park Tennis Club adjacent to the courts. Building work has continued throughout the year on new properties behind Grove Road and Lyefield Court.


DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT DOCUMENT (design, infrastructure, climate change, planning decisions)

SITE ALLOCATIONS (future usage – employment, housing and protection of open spaces)

Reading Borough Council launched a consultation on important decisions affecting Caversham and Emmer Green over the next 15 to 20 years. We urged members to attend the exhibitions and reply in writing or online with their views. EGRA responded and pointed particular concern over land adjacent to 54 Highdown Hill Road. This is a woodland copse, already under a tree protection order, and we requested it be withdrawn from the development list. We also had an opportunity to respond to a document review of local centres and point out some of the anomalies and concerns with regard to the heart of Emmer Green.

We thank Caversham and District RA for their help in keeping abreast of planning issues. Warren and District RA have had a very busy year trying to take the future of Mapledurham Pavilion forward. EGRA is only too happy to support their ambitions and we all hope for a fruitful end result.


TRAFFIC AND TRAVEL

Reading Transport Commission Consultation Results
Barry Prior, EGRA’s representative reported on the 16 recommendations made by the team. The first of these highlighted the fact that Reading’s problems extend far beyond the Borough boundaries, and that there should be a single Local Transport Authority to include Wokingham, West Berkshire and Oxfordshire. They collectively should put a case to Central Government for funding from the Transport Innovation Fund. The Commission recommended abandoning the one-way IDR plans. They were in favour of a third bridge (possibly toll). Improvements needed to be made to public transport, with the bus ticketing system being improved and better use of bus lanes. Walking and cycling to be encouraged and car use actively discouraged, with a possible targeted road pricing scheme. A Park and Ride should be available for each quadrant, with better transport connections in the east. And finally “The Council should make better and more transparent communications with the public, focused around the interests of the citizen, rather than political groups.”

Local Area Enhancement Scheme
Cllr Mark Ralph informs that following completion of Phase 1 on the Peppard Road in 2008, it has been decided to split the schemes of work into two further phases, to match available funding.
Phase 2: This will focus on safety measures to Lowfield Road, including improvements to visibility and lighting.
Phase 3: this will include junction improvements at Caversham Park Road/Kiln Road/Peppard Road, and speed reduction measures on Caversham Park Road.
Meanwhile, speed restrictions are to be introduced at all North Reading access points: Henley Road, Peppard Road and Kidmore End Road (and Woodcote Road).

Bus Route Changes
Reading Buses propose changes to the 137/138 routes. Most of the news is positive, with increased frequency and hours, but the proposals include bypassing the Marchwood Avenue diversion. EGRA invited feedback on useage from affected residents and urged them to respond. We have also expressed concern to Reading Buses about the loss of service and made a few constructive suggestions. The new No 2 route will be operational from 20th April.


POLICE MATTERS

The Upper Caversham Neighbourhood Action Group has been in operation for two years. An EGRA representative (in particular, thanks go to Cathi Edwards for her contribution) has attended every meeting since. We will continue to support this venture, which gives us regular direct contact with our local police force. We hope very soon they will find a more permanent venue for meetings and then EGRA can help directly with publicity.
Vera Bodman attends the Safer Caversham Community Forum meetings whenever possible.

Neighbourhood Police Officers
The current team is headed by Inspector Penny MacKenzie. Personnel within the team were apt to change throughout the year, but the message remains the same. Be vigilant about the security your home and belongings – don’t make it easy for the thieves. Do continue to report crime, because even if nothing materialises, the case will have been logged and if a pattern emerges locally, the issues can be targeted and resources allocated.


YOUNG AND OLD

Schools
We continue to have links with local schools and in the summer of 2008 awarded two books The Hill School library and two book tokens to Highdown pupils for community work. EGRA’s Cathi Edwards has worked hard, with others, including Cllr Mark Ralph, to take forward the setting up of a School Crossing Guard outside the gates of Emmer Green School. EGRA continues to send a representative to North Reading Youth Project meetings.

North Reading Youth Project
The second NRYP AGM, chaired by Dr Simon Bradford was held on 16th July. EGRA’s Tara Taylor provided an excellent slide presentation of the activities of the youngsters. Information particularly relevant to Emmer Green included new funds to be spent on the skate park facilities at Clayfield Copse, and CATs. Children’s Action Teams, managed by Katy Bartlett, based at Emmer Green Youth and Community Centre, and headed by teams of professionals, who will provide help for children with additional needs.

Reading 50 Plus+ Older Person's Forum
EGRA continues to promote this joint venture between Age Concern, RBC and the NHS. The very well attended meetings have been held quarterly in St Barnabas Hall. There has been an Active Retirement Club set up which offers Tai Chi class sessions on Wednesday mornings. Cllr Mark Ralph is hoping to set up a local buddy scheme to connect those who may be living alone.


ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Grass/ Hedge Cutting, Street Cleaning
EGRA continues to monitor and report concerns and has met with RBC staff to discuss realistically what can be achieved. Generally the new equipment the Council purchased in 2007 has meant a more efficient regime.

Recycling
Please visit the recycling page on the EGRA website for the latest information. Reading Borough Council are working hard to encourage recycling. The new Reading recycling plant is now open (see visit details above). The Council are keen to install more collection points throughout the town, but only if that is what local people want. Bottlebanks in Marchwood Avenue were rejected and a clothing bank positioned near the Golf Club was removed after a while. EGRA, along with others, was actively involved in presenting the wishes of members to Council staff.


SUPPORTING PROJECTS

Donating Funds
A community annual book prize has been awarded to two pupils from Highdown School, and two books were presented for the new library at The Hill School.

St Barnabas Church
On Saturday 5th July at the annual St Barnabas Garden Party (in aid of the Daynes Education Trust), the wind played havoc with the game, but the rain stayed away. The Association was represented by Cathi Edwards and Carol Sutton. EGRA also donated £250 towards the extension of St Barnabas Church buildings. Members of the church have made a valiant effort fundraising and the building work is now well underway.

Recommended Tradesman's List
The last overhaul took place in summer 2008, and was distributed to members with the newsletter. For those not receiving paper copies, do remember to save the document. If anyone wishes to help out with this ongoing biannual exercise, please let us know.


THANKS to everyone who keeps EGRA a thriving organisation
We are sorry to lose several committee members this year Thanks to the rest of the committee for continued support; to Julian Pearce is stepping down after 25 years auditing our accounts; and to webmaster Clive Ormonde who looks after www.map-reading.co.uk/egra. Thanks to other non-committee members, such as our team of committee supporters, newsletter delivers, notice board carers and partners/family of committee members, without whose support most of us couldn't manage.


Margaret Ormonde
Tel: 0118 9470922
March 2009