Chairman's Report 2009-10

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We’ve continued to provide information for our members and encouraged local democracy where appropriate. We have been actively consulting this year, including a survey to members on the Gravel Hill closure. Where incidents were of general local importance we notified all residents in an affected area. Follow up news was then given to members.

Obviously our website www.egra.co.uk is open to all, but we hope those who regularly view and use it would join the association.

Please note that minutes of last year’s 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.

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, egra.memb@ntlworld.com,
who will ensure she has your up-to-date contact information.

Subscriptions will still remain £5.00 for five years, but in order to encourage this we propose making the payment for one year £1.50. Approval will be requested at the AGM.

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

The party took place at Emmer Green Primary School on the afternoon of 9th May, and over 250 members, friends and well-wishers came to our family event. These included past and present Councillors and local MP Rob Wilson. Also present was EGRA’s inaugural Chairman Mr David Miles.

The celebrations were opened by the then Mayor of Reading, Councillor Peter Beard, who having studied the photographic history of Emmer Green, joined everyone in a celebratory glass of wine and slice of birthday cake.

During the afternoon we were entertained by the Earley Music Centre Jazz Band. In between the band’s performances, the children of Mo’s Dance & Drama School showcased lively routines. To round off the afternoon’s entertainment, the children were held spellbound by the tricks and dexterity of Uncle Charley.

In particular the committee would like to thank Emmer Green Primary School for making the hall available and Neil Ingram, the school caretaker for his help. Thanks to Budgens supermarket, who donated the snacks, and to cake maker Len Smales.

There is a new EGRA web page under construction which is dedicated to the day. Please enter the history section on the website and scroll down to 2009 for the link. If anyone would like copies of photos taken on the day do let us know. The event would not have been possible without a whole team of dedicated volunteers, in particular Barry Prior who worked very hard on the final arrangements.


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 evidence of sufficient local concern. Recent cases have involved land adjacent to 54 Highdown Hill Road and Autumn Close. Both applications were refused. Thames Ward Councillor Isobel Ballsdon is planning spokesman.

Development Management & Site Allocations Documents
Reading Borough Council launched a consultation on important decisions affecting the borough over the next 15 to 20 years. There were updates to these consultation documents in autumn 2009 and EGRA responded as an organisation. One site of particular relevance was Reading Golf Course. We urged those most affected, to reply in writing or online with their views. There was an opportunity in March to review the outcome at local libraries.

Footpath
We have informed members of a public enquiry on the future of the footpath between Russet Glade and Jefferson Close on Tuesday 20th April at 10.00 am Reading Town Hall.

TRAFFIC AND TRAVEL

Bus Route Changes
In December EGRA mounted a vigorous campaign through affected residents, in the hope of retaining the 24’s anti-clockwise loop, but economics won the day. Most residents have benefited from the new Vitality 2 service, which runs directly down the Peppard Road. (EGRA has requested a review of stops near the Coutenay Drive junction). The subsidised 28 now offers a limited service in Marchwood Avenue and has recently been diverted (Cllr Richard Willis gets a mention here) down Courtenay Drive to alleviate some of the problems caused by the withdrawal of the 24. We have also been encouraging use of the daily Motts Travel bus and ReadiBus service if appropriate.
We encourage the continued use of all bus routes into Reading and Age Concern have set up a meeting at the Civic Offices to discuss specific issues on April 8th 2.00-4.00pm.

Gravel Hill
Following an experimental closure and consultation in 2009, we have now been informed that the closure is permanent.

Speeding
The 30mph restrictions on Peppard Road are to be extended to the borough boundary. There has been a new policy on installing moving warning signs at strategic locations, so they remain as fresh reminders.

Disruption
We have informed members that gas mains are being updated in Kidmore End Road between Chalgrove Way and the Peppard Road. A one-way system will divert southbound traffic from Kidmore End Road up Courtenay Drive. It is anticipated that this work will start early April, and continue for about 8 weeks.

Road safety
As the new school term begins we need be aware of danger spots. The area around Emmer Green Primary is particularly vulnerable and a vacancy still exists for a school crossing patrol person. Unfortunately some drivers have been parking on the green itself at collection/ drop off time. We still remain active on both these safety issues and hope to see a resolution eventually.

Local Area Enhancement Scheme
We still await news on Phases 2 and 3 of the Local Area Enhancement Scheme, which our Councillors have been actively campaigning for.

Ice and Snow
We have been given assurances by Reading Buses that should there be adverse weather conditions in the future, strategies have been put in place to keep the premier bus routes operational. We note that some additional grit bins have been installed and we have already requested RBC add more to their list for consideration


POLICE MATTERS

The Upper Caversham Neighbourhood Action Group
It has taken a whole year for the issues of the original group to be resolved. During that time a decision has been made to merge the NAGs and Safer Caversham Forum. The impressive response to a re-launch public meeting on 9th February justified the demand that we keep both Upper and Lower Caversham NAGs as two separate enterprises. At the follow up meeting in March priorities such as speeding and burglaries were addressed. Cathi Edwards is one of the EGRA representatives and we encourage all interested residents to support the group.

Neighbourhood Police Officers
The current team is headed by Inspector Penny MacKenzie.
The police ask us to be vigilant about home security and 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. Non-urgent crimes can be reported electronically in a secure way to Thames Valley Police. Still dial 0845 8 505 505 for more serious matters, and 999 for anything urgent.


YOUNG AND OLD


Schools
For the second year running EGRA were able to present a couple of community book awards to pupils of the school. In return EGRA were presented with a 2009 Highdown Achievement Award! We are happy to have good relationships with local schools and it has been particularly rewarding to loan the EGRA history display boards to Highdown School for use in their forthcoming teaching plans.

North Reading Youth Project
Tara Taylor continues to represent EGRA NRYP meetings. The third NRYP AGM, Chaired by Dr Simon Bradford was held on 20th January 2010 at Amersham Road Community Centre. It was very inspirational. A big change for the forthcoming year is going to be the expansion of the Youth and Community Centre in Emmer Green to create a new Surestart Children’s Centre. Nearby residents have been consulted over the plans and implications of the building process. We are also assured that teenagers that use the facility will still be catered for with a chill out area of their own plus upgraded equipment.

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 still working hard to set up a local ‘Buddy Scheme’ to connect those who may be living alone.
EGRA also had a representative at the Reading Older People’ Partnership ‘Big Care Debate’, where we heard about ways to help people to stay independent for longer and possible fair ways of funding the proposals.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Trees
We work very closely with Reading Borough Council staff making suggestions and monitoring the health of recently planted trees, and reporting damaged specimens. We have actively responded to the Draft Tree Strategy of 2010.

Recycling
EGRA continues to make representations at RG3 meetings at Smallmead Waste Management Park. Please visit the recycling page on the EGRA website for the latest information.
We congratulated the Smallmead site on winning the ‘Civic Amenity Site of the Year’ category in the prestigious ‘letsrecycle.com’ Awards for Excellence in Recycling and Waste Management.


OUTINGS
We have been planning outings for 2010. A guided tour of newly restored Caversham Court Gardens is arranged for Friday 14th May at 7.00pm. The tour is free, but numbers are limited so please email egramargaret@googlemail.com or telephone 0118 9470922 to book and say if you need help with transport. Later in the year we hope to visit the Thames Valley Police Museum, Sulhampstead. Details in the Summer Newsletter.


SUPPORTING PROJECTS

Seats
EGRA has sponsored and organised the refurbishment of two dilapidated seats by the pond. It has also canvassed locals about moving a redundant seat abutting a tree at the top of Peppard Hill to the green opposite the shops. Hopefully this will be carried out by the Council in the coming year.

Playground
At the end of last summer Cllr Mark Ralph alerted EGRA, who in turn informed members of a survey on the replacement of play equipment in the recreation ground. More recently EGRA has been involved discussing the detailed proposals resulting from that. We hope that the suggestions made were helpful and look forward to an exciting and imaginative area for our children to play. Once we have clearer picture of what will be installed we may fundraise or sponsor enhancements. We understand the focus will be on a natural environment and that extensive tree planting will be part of the scheme.

St Barnabas Church
Cathi Edwards manned the EGRA stall on Saturday 11th July at the annual St Barnabas Garden Party (for Daynes Education Trust). This was the first year we were able to use and celebrate the newly completed Parish Centre.

Recommended Tradesman's List
The next overhaul will take place in summer 2010, and will be 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.

FINALLY

Jenny Leach joined the committee during the year and we welcome her contribution. Thanks to the rest of the committee for continued dedication; thanks to our new auditor Janette Joyce; 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.

EGRA was saddened to learn of the death of former Cllr Bob Green. For many years Bob worked tirelessly for residents in Peppard Ward. We valued his knowledge and dedication. Condolences go to his wife and family.


Margaret Ormonde
Tel: 0118 9470922
March 2010