Summer 2005 Newsletter

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Annual General Meeting
60 members attended the AGM in St Barnabas Church Hall on 20 April 2005 and a fond farewell was said to David Miles and Anne Ayres, who had decided to retire from the committee. David, who had been a founding committee member and for eleven years chairman of the Association, was presented with an engraved pewter tankard to wish him well for the future. Anne, who had recently moved out of Emmer Green, was presented with a clematis for her new garden.

The remaining committee members had agreed to continue in office and this was supported from the floor. The composition of the committee for the current year is thus:

Chairman
Paul Gallagher, Tredegar Road
Vice Chairman
Bob Cruickshank, St Barnabas Road
Secretary
Margaret Ormonde, Kidmore End Road
Treasurer
Bill Harper, Kidmore End Road
Membership Secretary
Jill Verran, Kidmore End Road
Committee
Tara Taylor, Tredegar Road
Vera Bodman, The Ridings
Brian Warren, Highdown Hill Road
Brenda Deller, Surley Row
Diana Hartrup, Kiln Road
Mark Hutchings, Penn Close

The Treasurer presented a statement of the audited accounts, which showed that the balance in the Portman Building Society at 31 December 2004 was £5,543.16. The main expenditure in the year had been in providing a new community notice board, and the only known future expenditure was a contribution of about £150 towards the Woodlands Day. In consequence, there was no proposal to alter the subscription rate, which would continue at £1 per annum. Mr Julian Pearce was thanked for auditing the Association's accounts.

The meeting was concluded by an amusing and interesting talk on behalf of the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust and followed by about half-an-hour socialising with wine & nibbles.

North Area Access study Editor
In April RBC conducted a consultation exercise on transport issues north of the river, which, from the comments made at the AGM, was considered very superficial. In consequence, the Association wrote on behalf of members expressing their concern about how simplistic and inadequate the consultation study had been. Eventually, on 22 May, a response was received from the Council, which said:

‘Thank you for your letter of 24 April. The first newsletter was a means of introducing the study and asking people for their comments and experiences of travel in the area. Once consultation responses have been evaluated we will have a clearer picture of the most important issues and we will then look at more specific proposals to address these concerns. It is not appropriate at this stage in the study to release survey information, but this may be considered as part of the subsequent consultations on more specific measures.’

This does not answer the very specific concerns raised in the Association’s letter and the last sentence regarding not releasing the survey results smacks of manipulating of the, supposedly, open consultation. The Association will be pressing its local ward councillors to ensure this study is fully transparent and meaningful. To date no further communication on these matters has been received.


Woodlands Day Paul Gallagher
The Woodlands Day on Saturday 4 June was very successful and blessed with good weather. There was a big turn out of visitors and the Friends of Clayfield Copse are to be congratulated on their smooth organisation of the event. Members may have wondered what happened to the chainsaw sculpting of animal shapes that our Association had agreed to fund. Unfortunately, the sculptor, Jason Trewinnard, had suffered a foot injury whilst in Cornwall during the previous week and was unable to travel back to Reading in time for the Saturday event. The two logs had already been put in place and it is possible that the carving might be completed at some future date.

St Barnabas Church Garden Party Editor
We again participated in the St Barnabas Garden Party on a glorious sunny Saturday, 9 July. This time we had a little picture quiz where we displayed 10 photographs taken of various ‘landmarks’ around the village and visitors were asked to identify the locations on an adjacent map of Emmer Green. Many people were surprised at the interesting items around the village that they had previously not noticed. For the younger visitors we again had the large-scale jigsaw of the superheroes The Fantastic Four. This was quite topical as the film of these comic book characters was due for release at the end of July. In all we made a contribution to the charitable Daynes (formerly Amajuba) Education Trust of £22.40. We also recruited three new members at the stall and three other people took away a joining form to post onto the Membership Secretary, which was very encouraging.


Waiting restrictions Paul Gallagher
Members will remember that at the last couple of the Association’s AGMs it had been agreed to press the Council to consider some form of parking controls near the post box on Evesham Road next to St Barnabas church. This is a particular problem at school drop off and collection times, which has been made more dangerous with the ‘new’ crossing refuge in the middle of the road. We were notified in July that, as part of a review of 50 waiting restriction schemes being considered around the town, three are proposed in Emmer Green. These are:

· Kidmore End Road between Grove Road & Lyefield Court
· Southdown Road junction with Evesham Road
· St Barnabas Road/Grove Road/Evesham Road area.

The Association’s committee has considered these proposed waiting restrictions and fully support the proposals. However, any member who wishes to express an opinion about these proposals should write to the Traffic Management Department at RBC care of the Traffic Manager, Mr V Norris.

School places Editor
Many members will have heard about the recent situation where Emmer Green primary school could not take in14 children from its catchment area and 7 children with siblings already at the school. Since this situation will worsen with the continuing high level of in-fill housing development in Emmer Green, the Association wrote to both the local education authority and the Department for Education & Skills in support of the parents. In the short term we asked if the current problem could be resolved by funding a porta-classroom at the school as they did in the resent past. In the long-term, we asked about a rethink on their school placement policy and a further review of catchment areas. Although we obtained replies from the LEA and DfES, their responses were only platitudes with no offer to review the situation now or in the future. The unfortunate outcome in some cases, will be that Reading LEA will lose funding from the DfES for these children. Since they will be unable to join their siblings their parents will now look towards South Oxfordshire to provide the desired school places.

Safer Caversham Community Forum Bob Cruickshank
We still regularly attend this forum but the meetings are at around 3 monthly intervals instead of 5 weekly as of a few years ago. Most of the discussion is taken up with consideration of police activity in the area and most of that with the other two wards, Caversham (which includes Amersham Road) and Caversham Heights, where most of the lawlessness takes place. Caversham has twice the reported crime that Emmer Green has.

The crime in our area for the past 9 months shows an overall fall from 543 to 428 with only Violence against the Person increasing from 42 to 62.There was a marked fall in Burglary - Dwelling from 84 to 60 and Theft of Vehicle from 38 to 21. Our hot spot for trouble making and graffiti is the shopping precinct at Buckingham Drive.

It is hoped that we will see a more visible police presence in the area on an ongoing basis in the future. As part of a new initiative, Neighbourhood Policing 2006, a full time Police Office will be established at Church House, Caversham under an Inspector, and at least 3 beat constables. This initiative has already taken place in other parts of the Thames Valley Police region and we should look out for some newspaper, radio and TV publicity when the scheme gets fully underway shortly.

The Forum does have a modest budget for capital expenditure on safety improvements, which would otherwise be low down the Council’s list of priorities (e.g. additional lighting in dangerous spots, bus shelters, kerb and pavement improvements etc). We have nothing in the pipeline just now but if any of our members have suggestions for making Emmer Green a safer place please let any of the committee members know.

North Area Youth Project Tara Taylor
Staffing:
Unfortunately, following the report at the AGM that both the senior youth worker, Lee Middleton, and senior assistant, Denise Bradley, had resigned to take up new positions outside the youth service, one of the two trainees, Josh Bulpin, also left the service at the end of June. This left the remaining trainee, Lisa Harrop, under a lot of pressure until more staff could be appointed. Although a new part-time member of staff, Jenner Holder, has been appointed, staffing in the Youth Service is generally at a difficult level with a 50% vacancy factor. This means that the service is unable to work as productively as needed, and Amersham Road, in particular, may suffer because enough cannot be done to try to keep the youths in check. However, there were some summer activities running for young people throughout the summer based at Christchurch Meadows. RBC has mounted a big recruitment drive and from September it is hoped that NRYP will have a full team of staff, which as been unknown in the past.
Ofsted Report:
Following their inspection this spring, Ofsted reported that the Youth Service was inadequate. The RBC Head of Service, Kirsten Carr, explained to the NRYP management committee that the Ofsted report was based on the previous 3 years, which were difficult years and, as she has only been in post since November 2004, had not given her a chance to make the necessary changes prior to inspection.
She reported that the issues raised by Ofsted are being addressed and improvements will be made.
Skateboard facility:
Although the equipment currently at Clayfield Copse does not meet current Health & Safety Standards and is need of re-vamping, the general consensus of the NRYP has been that this would be the best site.
The concrete pad at Clayfield Copse will need to be increased to accommodate the new equipment and RBC proposed to consult with dog walkers and local residents to get their views. The youths in the area who had already been consulted said they preferred Clayfield Copse rather than the Emmer Green Recreation Ground. Cllr Annette Hendry reported to the last NRYP meeting that local consultation about the location of the new skateboard facility had shown no opposition to it being sited at Clayfield Copse.

Planning Issues Editor
Responding to planning applications continues to takes up a lot of the Association’s time. Recently we have commented on, or raised objections to, applications at
9 Buckingham Drive (block of 10 flats - refused by the Council’s Planning Committee); 161 Peppard Road opposite The Hill School (5 houses - refused by the Council’s Planning Committee but the developers have lodged an appeal with the Secretary of State); 10-18, 22 Highdown Hill Road and 6 Highdown Avenue (9 houses - permitted by the Council’s planning committee); 91 Peppard Road (to convert the grade II listed Caversham House into apartments and houses – decision still awaited); rear gardens of 41-49 Grove Road (10 terraced houses - Appeal refused by the Inspector); 72-80 George Street (91 residential units on the Whiteknights Laundry site – decision still awaited).
Such continued development is having a cumulative and adverse impact on the local infrastructure and amenities. Previously mentioned is the impact on school places and the consultation on the North Area Access tacitly acknowledges the worsening traffic congestion. The Council has to abide by Planning law and Government requirements and there have to be good reasons to refuse development proposals, otherwise they will get through on appeal. If the Council loses on appeal it also usually loses what are known as 106 contributions to education, affordable housing and roads that developers have to make. Unfortunately, every refusal by the Council planning authority is now taken to appeal by developers and if the Inspector upholds the refusal the developer simply submits a slightly different plan until it is accepted. Interestingly, several of the new housing units in Emmer Green are remaining unsold, possibly because potential buyers view their location (in back garden sites) as not very attractive at the asking prices of typically £350K+. It can only be hoped that the economic aspect of such over-development will put a brake on the whole process.

Graffiti clean-up in Emmer Green Margaret Ormonde
Since the last newsletter, the Council has held one training day (February) and issued graffiti clean-up kits to those volunteers from Emmer Green who attended.
These are not for the major clean-ups on Council owned property, such as the changing rooms in the recreation ground, but for tags around the street on non-porous surfaces. But we have also undertaken the former and worked in partnership with the Council on three occasions to clean this up.
Unfortunately dialogue with the authorities is sometimes painstakingly slow and not always responsive, but by beavering away on our own it is heartening to see the area so much cleaner than it was. Long may it remain in that state. The summer may result in a sudden return of some graffiti and it is always helpful to have such defacement reported. Please feel free to contact Margaret Ormonde 9470922 or any other committee member.

Thames Crossing Councils Group Brenda Deller
The Association was represented for the first time at the recent July meeting of the Thames Crossing Councils Group (TCCG). This groups is primarily made up of representatives of Parish Councils of Henley, Rotherfield Peppard, Rotherfield Greys, Stoke Row, Bix & Assendon, Shiplake, Sonning Common, Kidmore End, Harpsden, Binfield Heath, Eye & Dunsden, Whitchurch, Mapledurham, Remenham, Wargrave, Charvil, Sonning, Woodley and Earley. The Group is trying to make an input to the question of a third ‘Reading’ (Thames) bridge. A presentation was received from consultants, Peter Brett & Associates, who had carried out a study on behalf of four local public authorities. The study had considered three possible alternatives for a new bridge: East, West and Central. The traffic flows for these three options had been modelled, with the object of achieving an increased traffic flow that would relieve pressure on bridges at Sonning and Whitchurch.

The alternatives had been ranked, taking various aspects – traffic flows, environmental impact, planning aspects, engineering aspects - into consideration. The preferred solution adopted by the study was the Central option, involving a continuation of the A329M via the Thames Business Park and over the lakes at Caversham.

RBC is firmly committed to IDR changes, involving a one-way system intended to reduce through-traffic in Reading centre. RBC hope that increased use of public transport, or a decision to use another route, would result in a reduction in traffic flows across the river. However, the study indicated that the introduction of a Central Bridge negated this possible reduction, and it did not seem to make much difference whether the bridge was dual carriageway or not.

The meeting was useful but, not surprisingly, inconclusive and there were many concerns about the effects of a new road linking a new bridge and the A4074, not least that it would represent a green light for additional infill development, apart from the enormous effect on traffic patterns in the surrounding area.

Association’s Book & Web Site Margaret Ormonde & Jill Verran
The second edition of the Association’s book, Emmer Green, Past and Present, is still available via the Secretary, Margaret Ormonde, Tel (0118) 9470922 or by e-mail: margaret@ormondec.fsnet.co.uk. Members are also reminded about the Association’s website www.map-reading.co.uk/egra and the useful source of local information, concerns and activity in the area that it contains. The current issues forum is updated on a monthly basis, and there is an opportunity to read the minutes of all committee meetings plus a facility to email the Association on any matter. There is also a useful list of contacts and links for anyone new to the area or just wishing to join the Association. Over 100 members currently subscribe to our email group and if you wish to receive the current issues updates or newsletters by this means just contact the membership secretary on egra.memb@ntlworld.com.

STOP PRESS

Skateboard facility:
The new skateboard equipment has now been installed at Clayfield Copse and by the time this newsletter is distributed the facility will be in full use. We hope the young people of Emmer Green and Caversham Park Village enjoy the new equipment for the remainder of the summer and, of course, for many years to come.