Winter 2003-04 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. As usual, since the summer newsletter the Association has been busy on a number of issues.


Village Sign

What a successful unveiling on 6 September! Nearly 200 residents turned out in intermittent rain to see the Mayor, Councillor Jeanette Skeats, ably assisted by local resident, 87 year old Esme Ellingham, who supplied much historical material for our book, perform the unveiling ceremony.

The event went very well, although making oneself heard above the traffic noise was a little difficult. The Henley Standard carried a very good piece plus a colour picture of the actual unveiling and many people have been very complimentary of the sign. The following is a typical example taken from letter sent by local residents, Mr & Mrs Chadwick:

We write to express congratulations on the installation of a superb village sign. It was rewarding to have such a good turn out for the unveiling. We think the sign is excellent – the carving is first class and the inclusion of so many facets of Emmer Green in a restricted space is a tribute to both designer and woodcarvers. The site is good and the balance between the vertical and horizontal aspects is just right. So what more can we say but many congratulations on your very worthwhile achievement. Well done!

We also made the front page of the Caversham Bridge newspaper and what an informative and complimentary article it was, plus two very clear pictures! Members are recommended to see the article and if you do not take the Bridge newspaper just ask a committee member. Most of us subscribe to this very worthy monthly paper.

Members may have watched the installation of the sign during the last week of August and have wondered about its positioning. When the Council undertook their survey of the original location close to the corner of the pond, they discovered that water pipes lay beneath the site. It was agreed to move the position to just north of the nearby seat. However, when it came to install the sign in this location it was found that both gas mains and BT cables were in the way (why these were not discovered in the original survey is not known). Consequently, the final position of the sign is just south of the nearby seat.

Some members have asked what the various inset plaques represent. These commemorate local groups and comprise the school logos from Emmer Green Primary (oak sprigs), The Hill School (shield with sun rising over mountain shoulder) and Highdown School (H and S overlaid). The other logos represent Reading Golf Club (RGC & stag), the Scouts (fleur de lis), the Guides (star & leaf), BBC Monitoring (antenna), the two village pubs (horses in relief) and that of the Berkshire Woodcarvers (chisel in hand). There is also a plaque recording that landmark, the Water Tower, albeit without antenna but showing the recently introduced Red Kite soaring overhead.

The Association has recently been approached by Emmer Green Townswomen’s Guild and Women’s Institute with an enquiry as to whether an additional plaque could be added to the post to record their local presence. The committee have concluded that this would be quite in order and have asked the Berkshire Woodcarvers if they would accept this additional commission. The Emmer Green TG & WI have agreed to bear the cost of this additional work.

At the time of writing we have not yet received any financial contribution from the Council’s discontinued Area Consultative Committees’ capital fund towards the cost of the Emmer Green sign.

Friends of Clayfield Copse

Many of you will have attended the Woodlands Day at the end of May organised by The Friends of Clayfield Copse. The group were unsuccessful this time around in securing a grant from the Millennium Fund and incurred considerable costs. The committee unanimously agreed to make a donation to the group of £100 to help them become solvent again.


Berkshire Woodcarvers

Having lost their workshop facility at Newtown School it is pleasing to report that the Berkshire Woodcarvers have recently been granted the use of a room in Highdown School in which to set up their workshop. There are eight woodcarvers but the new workshop can accommodate as many as 12 people. The Woodcarvers are keen for new blood to join their group. They meet each Friday from 11:00 until 15:00 and if anyone (experienced or wanting to learn, male or female) is interested in joining the Woodcarvers just go along on any Friday or give their leader, Bill Mander, a call on 0118 947 8425 for more information.

Highdown School

It has been reported in the Reading Chronicle recently that Highdown School are proposing to sell off an unused area of land near the entrance to the school. This is to raise enough money to provide 20% of the cost of a new Hall for the school. More details as they become available.

Clayfield Copse Pavilion

The Association has continued their dialogue with RBC regarding the graffiti covering almost every square inch of the Pavilion. The Parks Department of RBC has trained and equipped a number of its staff to carry out graffiti removal. This is to help them cope better with the problem whilst reducing the cost of using a contractor.

In October the Parks Manager said that he ‘considered Clayfield Copse Pavilion to be a priority site for a clean up and, given its current condition, we intend to paint over the existing graffiti rather than spend days removing it with cleaning solutions’.

He was unable to give a precise timing for this repainting but promised to keep the Association informed of the expected timetable. Hopefully this will have been completed by the time this newsletter is being read.

Planning Issues

The Association was concerned to hear a rumour in late Summer that Reading Borough Council were set to impose a fee of £200 pa for the supply of their monthly planning applications list. This proved unfounded and in fact the Council have offered to send the list by email to save all the wasted paper relating to issues of little concern to Emmer Green. This is proving to work very well as the Association’s planning officer, Brian Warren, has been able to immediately share the list with other members of the committee. However, we would still encourage all members to continue to bring to the attention of committee members any planning application notice for major development which they happen to see.

Heathcroft site

Earlier in the year plans were submitted to the Council for a development of 35 flats/maisonettes on the former Heathcroft care home site in Marshland Square. The developer appealed against the Council’s refusal for planning permission and the outcome of the inquiry held on 10 June was that the Inspectorate has allowed the development to go ahead. Obviously this is most unfortunate for local residents as such a high density of development is almost certainly going to bring increased noise and traffic congestion. It is understood that the developer, Fairview New Homes Limited, has also made an application for costs against Reading Council.

Land to rear of 54-74 Kidmore End Road

A member has provided the Association with a copy of his concerns in relation to various aspects of this development, for which a full application has recently been submitted. The Association has similar concerns and wrote to the local planning authority regarding possible damage to trees with preservation orders and the issues of parking provision and road safety matters. The Council’s planning officer has recommended that the development be permitted, hopefully with provisos to protect the trees and address the traffic issues.

Land to rear of 41-49 Grove Road

This planning application proposes to demolish no. 49 Grove Road and build 11 terrace houses in the gardens to the rear of nos. 41-49 Grove Road. The Association has its usual concerns about increasing housing density, the parking of additional motor vehicles, the increased congestion on Grove Road and the safety issues with the access junction being near to Emmer Green Primary School entrance.

Email Group : Jill Verran (Membership Secretary)

We now have email addresses for 80 members and we are able to keep in touch with this group at least once a month. If you would like to join please send an email to jill.verran@ntlworld.com. If you are already a member may I remind you to let us have any change of address – we still get the occasional ‘bounce’!


Safer Caversham Forum : Paul Gallagher (Chairman)

Although the Association is presently not engaged with this Council activity, we were concerned to hear about the changes made to the Forum, which are likely to inhibit its previously successful operation. The number of meetings has been reduced from ten to four per year yet the scope has been broadened to cover issues beyond the original intention of engaging the local community groups in combating crime and the fear of crime. More dubious is the move to automatically appoint a councillor as vice-chair in what is seen as a political move to give the Council greater control of the Forum. Considering the poor past attendance of councillors at this Forum (apart from ex-councillor Sue Stainthorp) it will be interesting to see how often the vice-chair turns up. The Council’s argument for this move is that the Forum, through the subsidiary small bids committee, recommends the expenditure of Council money. This is somewhat disingenuous as 90% of the Forum’s activity is nothing to do with the small bids committee and then it only acts in an advisory capacity. As the small bids committee meets separately, it is this group that should have a councillor as chair or vice-chair and not the Forum.

The chairman of Caversham and District Residents’ Association (CADRA), who is a longstanding member and past chair of the Forum, very eloquently made these points in the recent CADRA newsletter. The chair of the Caversham Branch of the Labour Party took exception to these comments as he viewed them as politically biased and threatened to write to ‘Labour Party members in the north Reading explaining that political activists are now dominant in CADRA and that they may wish to consider joining a less partisan organisation’.

This is a totally false accusation as CADRA, like EGRA, make a point of having no political bias, no party political agenda or political objectives.

Like CADRA, any criticism of the Council is ‘based solely on its failings and we will continue to criticise the Council, whichever party rules it, when, in our view, it is failing our members or the community at large’.
EGRA deplore the slur on CADRA and on the Chairman in particular and trust that any members targeted by this smear campaign will ignore it for the political ranting that it is.

Subscriptions : Jill Verran (Membership Secretary)

Some of you will find a subscription reminder attached to your newsletter. It would be very helpful if you would send us your subscription now while it is fresh in your mind! Thank you. In addition to the 79 members due to renew in 2004 there are 30 members who have not paid for previous years, in spite of numerous reminders. Please help us by responding this time around. (If you do not find a request with your newsletter it simply means that you are fully paid for the coming year).


Emmer Green Book & Video : Paul Gallagher (Chairman)

Copies of the second edition of the book Emmer Green, Past and Present are still available through local outlets or by contacting the secretary, Margaret Ormonde, Tel (0118) 9470922 or by e-mail: margaret@ormondec.fsnet.co.uk. Also still available are copies of the video Emmer Green Remembered from Business Video Solutions, Priors Lodge, 3 Priors Wood, Crowthorne, Berks RG45 6BZ or by email to info@business-video-solutions.co.uk. Or call: 07968 025109. Both good value at £10 each.


Committee Membership : Paul Gallagher (Chairman)

The committee is still two members short and would warmly welcome anyone interested in joining. If you are unsure then why not just attend a committee meeting as an observer prior to offering your services. The committee meets about every 2 or 3 months (about 5 times a year) and the atmosphere is very relaxed and convivial with the meeting lasting about two hours. This newsletter gives a good flavour of what we discuss. Contact any committee member for details of the venue for the next meeting, which will be held on Thursday 12 February 2004. Please come along!

Association Web Site : Margaret Ormonde (Secretary)

This is the third winter for the Association’s very own website www.map-reading.co.uk/egra. It is a very useful source of local information, concerns and activity in the area. There is a useful list of contacts and links for anyone new to the area or just wishing to join the Association. We would like to add a page containing contact details of local tradesmen previously satisfactorily used by members. If you can suggest any plumber, electrician, gardener, builder, etc then please let us know.

A separate Emmer Green Community page www.map-reading.co.uk/egcs gives residents the opportunity to make a contribution either by leaving messages on the forum, or by sending in photographs taken in Emmer Green. Contributions already include some fascinating aerial shots, but any photo is welcome, be it of your pet, family, garden, etc.