Winter 2002-03 Newsletter

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Season's Greetings

The committee wishes all members an enjoyable Christmas and a healthy New Year. Again, thank you to all members for your invaluable support over the last year. Since the summer newsletter the Association has been busy on a number of issues.


Village Sign : Paul Gallagher

After much debate the designs for the village sign were finally agreed in September and these will consist of a single image of Emmer Green pond circa 1908 (see p13 of the Emmer Green book) on one side and a montage of the haymaking scene (p85 of the book), St Barnabas Church (rear cover of the book) and the horses leading the wagon with the Mafeking Oak (p75 of the book) on the other side. The top of the sign above the pond image will carry the words Emmer Green around a sheaf of wheat in 'Copperplate Gothic'. The Berkshire Woodcarvers presented their layout drawings for approval in early October. Their ideas greatly enhance the layout of the sign and they were formally given the go-ahead to order the oak to construct the sign. The workshop that the Woodcarvers use is part of Newtown Primary School and they carry out most of their carving on a Friday morning. Anyone wanting to make a visit to see the designs and the work in progress will be most welcome. Members should contact Bill Mander, leader of the group, on 0118 947 8425. If any member when visiting would be kind enough to take some photographs of the activities then we would be happy to publish these on the Association's web site.

In parallel with this activity, a new planning application was submitted and consultation notices were posted in September at the site near the pond. Following the consultation period, in which no adverse concerns were raised to the published notification, the planning application for the sign was approved by Reading Borough Council in late October. Members may have seen the piece by Nomad in the November edition of The Caversham Bridge about the original proposed support from the North Area Consultative Committee (NACC) for the Emmer Green sign. The Association is grateful to Nomad for highlighting this matter and it is hoped that Reading Borough Council indeed 'do the honourable thing' and release some of the NACC funds to support the cost of the sign in a like manner to the Caversham Village sign.


St Barnabas Church Garden Party : Bob Cruickshank

We participated for the first time at the third St Barnabas Church Garden Party in July this year. Our stall ran two quizzes, one for the children with SWEETS as the subject and the other one for all-comers was 'How well do you know EMMER GREEN?' with three prizes for the best answers. This was based on the photographs from our display at the Exhibition at Highdown School and within our Emmer Green book. We made £16 for the Church`s South African fund, which was a commendable effort in view of the short time we had available to put things together and we were very happy to show the flag. Your correspondent was persuaded by the minister's daughter Hannah to enter into the spirit of the occasion by having his face painted and it is hoped that not to many small children were frightened by the a very reasonable facsimile of Munch`s The Scream. Next year's Garden Party has already been set for Saturday 12 July 2003 and we hope to contribute to the event in a similar fashion.


Associations' Liaison : Paul Gallagher

A liaison meeting was held on 23 September attended by Warren and District RA, Caversham Park Village Association, Emmer Green RA, Caversham Globe and Caversham and District RA. Issues discussed included flood plain development and the role of the Environment Agency, vandalism & graffiti, the future of the North Area Consultative Committee and the general concern that RBC were not keeping our associations fully informed on issues affecting their members and local residents. Regarding the latter, it was felt that all associations would benefit from affiliation with RFTRA (Reading Federation of Tenants & Residents' Associations). This body represents Housing, Tenants and Community Association throughout Reading and RBC has committed to keeping this organisation informed and consulted. On 31 October the Association's chairman and membership secretary attended the AGM of RFTRA held in the Council Chambers. Following discussions with the RFTRA chairman, Don Loader, the Emmer Green Residents' Association has formally applied for membership of RFTRA. It is hoped that this will result in better and more inclusive consultation on issues raised by the RBC. However, it is recognised that this is unlikely to cover local issues and members need to continue to be vigilant to any unexpected Council activity within Emmer Green. RFTRA publishes a monthly newsletter and this is displayed on their web site at www.rftra.co.uk.

Kerbside Recycling : Paul Gallagher

Some members will have been pleased at the introduction of kerbside collections of recyclable material. However, because the red bins are emptied wholesale into the collection vehicle, questions have been raised as to what happens next. What happens is that all the material is sorted at the re-cycling plant. Plastic bottles are extracted by a mechanical sorter then cans removed by magnets, leaving the paper and cardboard to be screened and sifted manually. Because of the way the re-cycling plant operates it is actually unhelpful to put newspapers etc into plastic bags if they are tightly fastened. If the bags don't come apart easily, the sorters do not have time to untie them and simply treat the whole thing as non-recyclable plastic and let it go to landfill. If additional money is allocated in the Council's 2003/04 budget it is hoped to have Borough-wide kerbside collection by Spring 2003.

Safer Caversham Forum : David Miles

Whilst most of you are familiar with the Forum, our newer members may wish to know that it was created five years ago in order to identify and seek solutions to matters relating to public safety in Caversham and Emmer Green. The Forum is attended by Thames Valley Police, our Ward Councillors, Reading Borough Council, local Residents' Associations, Housing and Community Associations, Neighbourhood Watch and Churches Together in Caversham.

The police present crime statistics at each meeting and for the latest 4-month period 944 cases were recorded (494 in Lower Caversham, 233 in Caversham Heights and 227 in Emmer Green & Caversham Park Village). Unfortunately, Neighbourhood Watch members no longer receive the monthly Caversham Chat publication, which highlighted current crime issues, because the local police have insufficient resources or time to produce it.

Distraction Burglary - older people, particularly those living on their own, are vulnerable and the Forum is currently working with Social Services to try to identify those most at risk. It is hoped that with the help of Neighbourhood Watch and Churches in Caversham a list of people requiring help and advice can be drawn up.

Anti-social behaviour is an ongoing problem, although this has significantly improved on the Amersham Road estate due to the successful 'Operation Electrode' scheme earlier this year. The Forum has recommended that a youth shelter is provided in the park near Amersham Road to keep children away from the flats and shops.


North Area Youth Project : Sue Ballard & David Miles

There is concern about the shortage of youth workers in North Reading and difficulties in filling the posts. Since the departure of Steve Green and his successor Dominic Salter the post in North Reading has remained vacant. The Safer Forum wrote to Reading Borough Council in October in the hope that more effort could be made in attracting suitable candidates to apply. Unfortunately it is a problem over the whole of Reading with currently seven vacancies being advertised and the response to previous job advertisements has been poor. New adverts have been approved recently by the management committee of the North Area Youth Project and these will appear in the local press in January 2003. However, it must be noted that the trainee youth worker, Liz Heading, is doing a marvellous job and is very enthusiastic, with plans for new windows and redecoration of the Emmer Green Youth and Community Centre. (See elsewhere regarding the skateboard facility off Caversham Park Road).

Emmer Green water supply : Paul Gallagher

Over the last few months Thames Water have replaced the water main connecting Emmer Green Reservoir with the Water Tower. This main runs across the farmland north of Phillimore Road, down Peppard Road and across the end of Tower Close to the Water Tower. This resulted in temporary traffic lights for the Peppard Road section for a period but this part of the work was completed during the school holidays. Thames Water have been diligent in notifying local households of the progress of each stage of the work and of any expected inconvenience regarding access through Tower Close. The Association has written to compliment them on keeping residents fully informed of the state of work At the time of writing work continues at the end of Tower Close but appears to be nearing completion with the recent reinstatement of the pavement.

Kidmore End Road Parking : Margaret Ormonde

This is a problem which remains unresolved. The consultation exercise carried out earlier in the year, just served to confirm the acuteness of the situation. The proposed Residents' Parking Permits may introduce a level of fairness, but as there will not be enough spaces to go round, the situation will become even more desperate for some households. The traffic wardens only operate during the day, and although they seemed to disappear for several months, they have made recent returns. Unfortunately an attempt to allow residents to park overnight in the shopping precinct car park was rejected. A recent request to move the Grove Road bus stop back to its original position on Kidmore End Road (where the pavement is wider) has been questioned by Reading Buses because of the car parking situation. Any constructive suggestions would be welcome.

Reading's Local Strategic Partnership : Bob Cruickshank

Hands up all those of you who have heard of Reading's Local Strategic Partnership (RLSP). I thought so. Very few, possibly none. However, this seems to be a real attempt to widen local democracy and it has been under way in Reading since a year past October. The LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 2000 gave Councils a new duty and powers regarding social, economic and environmental wellbeing to develop a Community Strategy to ensure that these aims were met. To quote the Minister, Hilary Armstrong: - 'Tackling the issues that really matter to people-such as crime, jobs, education, health and housing requires a range of organisations working together. Tackling the biggest challenges, such as social exclusion and the renewal of our most deprived neighbourhoods demands concerted and co-ordinated action across all sectors'.

In October 2001 over 150 partners and stakeholders attended a special Council meeting to debate the key issues impacting on the future of Reading. At the end of the meeting the decision was taken to form the partnership. It has been formed to persuade the people of Reading that they are involved in decision making and will consist of a Board of twenty elected members, seven Delivery Groups and a Forum. The Board members are just being elected now and will be drawn from the Councils, Police, Health Service, Tenants` Associations, Churches and other Faith Groups, Voluntary Agencies, Community Groups and the Business Community. The initial Community Strategy themes will be: Accessible Spaces; Healthy People; Inclusive Society; Learning Community; Quality Environments; Safe Places and Thriving Economy. It was a disappointment that we were not given the names of the recently appointed Chairman of the Board or of the other Directors despite a request that these be announced.

At the Extraordinary Council Meeting in October this year there was very little to report on achievements but plenty of aspirational (and perhaps inspirational) talk of what will be achieved in the future. There was nearly two hours of comprehensive and some very good presentations from:

Cllr Dave Sutton (Leader of RBC Labour Group) on Developing our RLSP.

Rhiannon Williams (Reading Voluntary Action) on Voluntary Sector`s Perspective on Partnership Working.

Janet Fitzgerald (Chief Executive Reading Primary Care Trust) on Tackling Health Inequalities in Partnership.

Cllr Catherine Wilton (Liaison Councillor for Health) on The Council`s Perspective on Health.

Chief Supt Dave Murray (Thames Valley Police) on Policing in Partnership.

Cllr Viki Lloyd (Liaison Councillor for Community) on The Council's Perspective on Community Action.

Bob Cruickshank is holding a considerable amount of information on what is already being done within the various constituents of the Partnership and if any member would like to discus this with him you can contact him on 948 2900 or by e-mail at bandot@lineone.net.

Post Boxes : Paul Gallagher

Following concerns raised at the AGM about the overflowing of the post box in St Barnabas Road, whether there was a sufficiency of alternative boxes, and the issue of cars stopping at this box causing traffic congestion, the Association contacted Royal Mail for advice. However, their reply regarding additional and relocation of post boxes in the western side of Emmer Green was in the negative. The reason for not installing a new post box on the lower part of Tredegar Road was that it "is a no through road and thus would be of little benefit to the majority of customers". Moving the post box at the junction of Gravel Hill and Highdown Hill Road was rejected because "this is in a populated area and the box is suitably located to catch a large amount of customers". Regarding the post box on St Barnabas Road, Royal Mail had "carried out tests to monitor the mailings from this box. The results showed that the box was not over used and on the few occasions where mail was overflowing, this turned out to be the result of A4 envelopes blocking the neck of the pillar box". Royal Mail say they will continue to monitor this box.

Skateboard facility at Clayfield Copse : Margaret Ormonde & Sue Ballard

Several years ago the Council was regarded as innovative because it provided modern, free skate facilities for youngsters to use. These have been very successful, but things have moved on since then and these have now become dated. The Council have been refurbishing many children's play areas throughout the borough and the skate park facilities are on the list. A couple of local young lads had a constructive meeting with Ben Stanesby, the Parks Manager in August, where they were able to put their views and expectations across. He was able to take on board what they said, and although he was sympathetic, the main problem was funding. It may be possible that there are relevant commercial outlets that would be prepared to sponsor or help with that aspect of things. A Milestone Youth Club member is taking a petition round Chiltern Edge school about the state of the skate park on Caversham Park Road. The Youth Worker, Liz Heading, has found out that funding of up to £6,000 from the Youth Initiatives of the European Youth Programme maybe applied for but extra money will need to be found from other resources for the full repairs and refurbishment that are necessary.

Emmer Green Precinct car park : Paul Gallagher

The Association was notified early in October about notices appearing in the Precinct car park, regarding new parking penalties for long-term parking of vehicles by people not using the shops. An e-mail was circulated to those members who have supplied their e-mail address asking for comments and the overwhelming view was that it was not seen as a major problem, that two hours parking allowance was considered quite adequate for shopping and that the restrictions seemed to apply only whilst the shops were open. This should, therefore, not penalise residents who patronise the Indian Restaurant in the evenings. Consequently, the Association decided it was unnecessary to take the matter up with the precinct owners, Wolfe Property Services Limited.

Emmer Green Book : Margaret Ormonde

The first edition of the Emmer Green Book was published towards the end of 2001 and completely sold out within a month. We already have a long list of potential customers, and are considering a reprint for 2003. If it did go ahead the book would be updated and revised, although much of the original format would be retained. If you are not sure if your name is on the list, would like it to be added, or have information which you would like included in the next edition, please contact Margaret Ormonde, Tel (0118) 9470922, e-mail: margaret@ormondec.fsnet.co.uk

Planning Issues : Paul Gallagher

Although the Association submitted a number of objections to South Oxfordshire Planning Department in regard to the proposal to erect a 25metre radio tower at Emmer Green reservoir, this was granted planning permission in October. A consultation exercise, similar to that regarding additional antenna on the Water Tower, was requested of the developer but they did not even have the courtesy to reply.

In September, plans were submitted to the Council for a development of 35 flats/maisonettes on the former Heathcroft site in Marshland Square. These appear to be low cost housing, which the Association felt were appropriate and much needed in an expensive area. However, not enough car parking spaces seem to have been allocated and a letter of concern was sent to the planning authority about the density of dwellings in relation to the allocated parking spaces.

The Association has pursued the issue of waiting restrictions near the post box on St Barnabas Road, which members raised at the last AGM in April. The Council have informed the Association that they have now scheduled this work for early next year and will inform us of more details later. The proposals will be formally published in the local press in due course to allow residents to express their views.

EGRA e-mail address book : Jill Verran

This year the Association has started to collect e-mail addresses from members as they renew their subscriptions. The objective is to keep you, the members, up-to-date and in touch with Emmer Green issues. We regularly e-mail members to let them know that the current issues have been updated on our website and we have been able to do straw polls of members where an urgent matter arises. Feedback has been very appreciative of this method of keeping in contact and there is a feeling of being more involved with the Association. If you would like to be added to our 'address book' please send an e-mail to Jill Verran: jill.verran@ntlworld.com. with the subject 'EGRA'.

We appreciate that not all members are on-line to the internet and we will continue to keep you informed as we have in the past.

Annual General Meeting 2003
Please note that the AGM has been set for Thursday 10th April 2003 and, as it was so successful last time, will again include wine and nibbles afterwards. The speaker will be Graham Horn on his recent expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro in support of the charity WaterAid for developing countries and the Mayor of Reading's Charity Fund, which this year is focusing on supporting the homeless in Reading.

Woodlands Day 2003 : Contact: Anne Latto 948 4454

Stop Press: We have just heard that the Friends of Clayfield Copse are going to hold another Woodlands Day like the one in June 2000. This time the Woodlands Day will be on Saturday 31st May 2003. Note this for your diaries.