Summer 2006 Newsletter

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Annual General Meeting
54 members attended the AGM in St Barnabas Church Hall on 19 April 2006, at which the existing committee members 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 2005 was £6,089.08. The main expenditure during the year had been in providing a sound system for meetings such as the AGM, and although there were a number of possible community projects in the offing there was not any known future expenditure. 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 followed by a talk and slide presentation by local artist Jenny Leach, who gave an overview of her portfolio of paintings plus an action event she had held in London’s Tate Modern. A lot of Jenny’s work and thoughts are devoted to environmental issues and the concern of the impact of local development. She is currently engaging with the local Council and the Southern Arts Council to obtain support and funding to display pictures depicting a desecrated landscape on a billboard probably at Clayfield Copse fields for a period of nine weeks. So look out for this later in the year.

The meeting concluded with a most enjoyable half-an-hour socialising with wine & nibbles.

Emmer Green Post Office
Although Emmer Green Post Office is now closed and boarded up, discussions are still on going, especially between Reading Borough ward councillors and the Post Office, about alternative premises and funding for the installation of the counter and the franchise licence. The Post Office quotes the cost at £30,000. Two possible sites have been considered but one, Tootsies’ florists and picture framing shop on the precinct, has now withdrawn its interest. The other is the existing site if an amenable new owner took over the shop. In either case a new post holder will be required to run a future facility, and the Post Office are still keen to talk with anyone interested in this position. They can ring the Post Office’s agency recruitment line on 0845 601 6260 for details of what is involved in the role.


St Barnabas Church Garden Party
We again participated in the St Barnabas Garden Party (in aid of the Daynes Education Trust) on Saturday, 8 July when the weather kindly stayed fine. With the World Cup in progress the organisers had chosen football as this year’s theme. The Association hosted an ‘identify the celebrity’ game, with plenty of prizes for successful identifications. The celebrities were a mix of film stars, royalty, cartoon characters, footballers (of course) and politicians. We managed to give nearly all the prizes away and at the end of the afternoon were able to make a contribution to the charity of just over £20. We also recruited seven new members at the stall, which was very encouraging.

Tradesmen’s List
The Association’s list of useful trades-people has now been updated. Members on email should already have received their copy from the Membership Secretary, Jill Verran. Members receiving this newsletter in the mail will find a copy of the new list enclosed. Remember, if you use a tradesman who you find satisfactory do let us know and we will add them to the next update.

Telephone Cold Calling
One of our members, Mr M Hicks, has circulated some very useful information to his local Neighbourhood Watch members as follows. If you are bothered by ‘silent telephone calls’ (generated by automatic dialling equipment that dials more numbers than there are operators available to take them) you can register your number on the Silent Callgard Service on 0870 4443969. Although not a full guarantee of blocking all calls it will certainly prevent your number being dialled by the bigger companies. If you wish to reduce unsolicited sales and marketing calls you can register with the Telephone Preference Service on 0845 070 0707 or visit www.tpsonline.org.uk.

Caversham Safer Community Forum (CSCF)
We continue to participate in this Forum although the major items under discussion tend to concern the lower parts of our area particularly around Amersham Road. The Community Centre there has had CCTV cameras installed around the building and at the car park and they are continually monitored, and disruption has almost disappeared.

We continue to press for CCTV cameras at the Emmer Green and Caversham shops, and whilst funds for the capital expenditure could be found, the operating costs would be large and there is no budget for that at present. There is a chance of the traffic camera at the junction of Church St and Prospect St being linked up with the Police Monitoring unit, and it is hoped the incoming Marks and Spencer shop at St Martin’s Precinct will install cameras. Budgens has a camera but it does not cover the whole shopping precinct, and agreement to meet the shared cost of extending facility with the other shop owners has proved unsuccessful.

Graffiti remains under control but if you are aware of any in public areas please let a member of the committee know and we will have it dealt with if possible.

The youth shelter at Clayfield Copse now has lights and has been well received by the local youngsters. A further £13,000 of expenditure has been allocated to extend facilities at the site, which will include a basketball net and goalposts. Discussions with the youngsters and with The Friends of Clayfield Copse and local residents are under way.

Under the supervision of the Police, 44 young people took part over three days in an Emmer Green MINI MOTO day, which focused on a road safety test from DVLA, the legal and illegal aspects of mini bikes and experience of “BEER GOGGLES” to highlight the dangers of drinking and driving,

We have not been provided with Police statistics for the last two meetings but it was reported that there was no major deterioration in any aspect of the figures and that criminal damage; vehicle crime and burglaries were down. Over 1000 houses, mainly in lower Caversham, were visited recently as part of a crime reduction survey. The police have recently targeted a small number of persistent offenders in the area, and this has resulted in a significant reduction in burglary.

A Pub Watch scheme has been introduced following the introduction of the new Licensing Hours but fortunately no marked deterioration in behaviour has be seen.

The Police surgery continues at Church House in Caversham on the first Monday of each month from 5pm to 8pm.

There are a few thousand pounds in the capital expenditure budget and the CSCF has no projects in hand at the present time. If any of our members can see where something in our area can be made safer, perhaps by way of additional lighting, kerb or pavement improvements, community seating or bus shelters or anything else please let us know.

North Area Youth Project (NAYP)
The Youth Team Leader, Tina Heaford, continues to be very positive and proactive. Her work includes going out and talking to young people on the streets, and she would welcome feedback of where youngsters are ‘hanging around’ particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings. The shelter near the skateboard facility in Clayfield Copse has now been installed and it is hoped that lighting would be incorporated soon. The sports field at Clayfield Copse has unfortunately been home to a recent impromptu BBQ. Although much of the debris has been cleared away, there was an unwelcome charred patch of turf. The Association’s committee feel that there could be more for youngsters of all ages in the locality (e.g. a basketball hoop or football net) and Tara Taylor is taking an offer from the Association to the next NAYP meeting with an offer to provide some funds towards suitable ideas. For much younger children the Association is still pursuing the idea of logs carved into animal shapes near to the Clayfield Copse car park.

Batteries recycling
The Association has previously requested RBC to provide a recycling facility for household batteries (e.g. as used in torches, TV remote controls, wrist watches, etc). Whether from our efforts or not, RBC now has two locations where a receptacle for depositing such batteries is available. One is positioned just within the Civic Centre on the right as one enters the outer space before the foyer area and the other out at the Amenity site. See the Association’s web site for more information on recycling generally.

Grove Road planters
The planters at the Highdown School end of Grove Road are crumbling away because of the trees in them. The Association’s Secretary accompanied the three local councillors and for RBC staff to look at the problem. Their proposal is to remove alternate planters (those in the worst state first) and replace them with more suitable tree species at ground level. When those are established (i.e. in about three years) the remaining planters will be replaced. Local residents will be consulted first to ensure this idea is generally acceptable.

Duck signs
No, not signs telling you to duck your head, but signs to warn motorists that ducks living around the pond may be found walking or flying low across the nearby Buckingham Drive. The Association has agreed with RBC to fund two such signs, one near Budgens for south proceeding traffic and the other near the speed camera for north bound traffic. The probable cost is likely to be about £200.

Planning Issues
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 – allowed after an appeal); 161 Peppard Road opposite The Hill School (4 houses – allowed by Council’s Planning Committee after the developers amended their plans following a dismissal at appeal); 72-80 George Street (76 flats in four separate blocks from three to five storeys on the Whiteknights Laundry site – decision awaited); single storey front extension of the betting shop at 1 Kidmore End Road – decision awaited); 9 new dwellings as an extension to Lyefield Court (decision awaited); demolition of 94 Kidmore End Road to build 5 dwellings (bats, which are a protected species, have been seen around this property, and the Association has asked that a full survey be carried out by the local English Nature office before any permission to demolish the premises is granted).

Such continued development is having a cumulative adverse impact on the local infrastructure and amenities without addressing the issue of affordable homes for local people. The Association has raised these concerns with the Department for Communities and Local Government and, following their positive response, we have written to RBC asking about their intentions regarding implementation of Planning Policy Guidance Statement 3 (PPS3), which states that ‘authorities are able to set a different threshold’ (other than 15 dwellings), above which affordable housing can be sought. We have also asked RBC about the number of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) they currently have in progress, and their views on bringing long-term empty office blocks back into use as converted apartment blocks.

Thames Crossing Councils Group
The Association remains in contact with the Thames Crossing Councils Group (TCCG), which is primarily made up of representatives of local Parish Councils in South Oxfordshire and Wokingham, and whose main aim is to encourage Oxfordshire County Council (OCC), Wokingham District Council (WDC) and Reading Borough Council (RBC) to discuss the prospects for a third ‘Reading’ Bridge. OCC and RBC are not very committed to current ideas and WDC is considering making a formal Planning Application for a Major Scheme Crossing, probably linked to the A329M, and are prepared to take this to an Inquiry by HM Planning Inspectorate.

Inner Distribution Road
Reading Borough Council has held several presentations about its plans to make the IDR into a one-way, anti-clockwise system. Wokingham District Council has strongly objected to this proposal as they are not content with the level of consultation between RBC and neighbouring authorities (both WDC and West Berks DC). They have asked for a full Public Enquiry into the plans. WDC are already disturbed by the additional traffic in Wokingham District caused by Henley's new Integrated Traffic Scheme. This has caused increased congestion south of the river. WDC estimate that there will be a 23% increase in traffic trying to cross the Sonning Bridge resulting from a one-way IDR, and in the absence of any positive response from Oxfordshire County Council on cross-Thames congestion, WDC will be studying means of rendering the B489 through Sonning less attractive as a route for through traffic.

Open Gardens Day
We are giving some consideration to arranging a Garden Open Day in the village next year. We are aware that there are a large number of very keen and proud gardeners some of whom are already opening the gardens under other schemes. Things are at a very early stage and we still have to decide whether to concentrate on Spring gardens or just about now when the hanging baskets and the roses are at their best. We propose opening for two hours on both a Saturday and Sunday over one weekend and any proceeds would go to one of the charities which we support. We are trying to gauge how many of our members would be prepared open their gardens under our auspices. Please e-mail Bob Cruickshank at bandot@lineone.net or telephone him at 0118 948 2900 if you would be interested in participating. Any guidance from anyone with experience of showing their gardens would be very welcome.

Queen’s Birthday commemoration
The Association is proposing to commemorate the Queen’s 80th birthday by planting a tree in the village. A Red Oak tree has been suggested and a possible site is in one corner of the recreation ground. The cost of a ten foot tall tree and its planting will cost about £150. It is proposed that a small commemorative plaque also be sited next to the tree. Hopefully this will come to fruition in the late autumn.

Association’s Web Site
Members are 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. New to the site is a page on recycling with details of recycling options. Over 150 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.