Winter 2004-05 Newsletter

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Season's Greetings
The committee wishes all members an enjoyable Christmas (although this may have passed by the time you receive this newsletter) and a healthy New Year. Again, thank you to all members for your invaluable support over the last year. As usual, the Association has been busy on a number of issues since the summer newsletter and the following may interest members.

Emmer Green Community Notice Board : Editor
The suggestion from the last AGM to use some of the Association's funds towards replacing the community notice board at the shopping precinct was greatly appreciated. Although we initially struggled to get anyone to take on this project, we finally commissioned local woodcraftsman, Andrew Noyes, to make a frame from old oak into which the existing marine-ply board will be assembled after cleaning and staining. The top rail will be carved on both sides with the letters 'Emmer Green Community Notice Board' and the Council have agreed to undertake the work of installing the new assembly. The new notice board will have oak side supports thus making the complete surface of the pinning area available on both sides. The old notice board was removed at the end of October and possibly by the time this newsletter is distributed the new one will have been installed. 

Remember, this is your Association and ideas for other projects are always welcome. 

Friends of Clayfield Copse : Editor
Many of you will have attended one or both of the previous Woodlands Days organised by the Friends of Clayfield Copse. We are happy to report that The Friends have been successful again in securing a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to organise another Woodlands Day in 2005. Our Association had previously been discussing the funding of a play area for small children at the back of the car park at Clayfield Copse. This would simply have taken the form of logs embedded in the ground in a formation to allow children to jump from one to another. However, the Council, who own the land, have forbidden this idea as they consider it too dangerous! In consequence, we have suggested to The Friends that we support the inclusion within the Woodlands Day of getting the chainsaw sculptors, who carved the two pigs from the Lebanon cedars at the first event, to carve several animal shapes from logs placed near the car park. Apart from their artistic appeal, the sculptures might subsequently be used as seats.

Grass cutting : Editor
As mentioned in the summer newsletter, the regularity of grass cutting has, unfortunately, continued to be far from satisfactory. The Association have repeatedly asked the Council throughout the summer and autumn months to cut the verges but with only minor success. Cllr Mark Ralph took up the issue on residents' behalf and met with the cutting team in late September and walked around Emmer Green discussing the issue. It is understood that the Council's target of 17 cuts per year was inherited from the previous sub-contractor's target. This number of cuts per growing season seems to be excessive and in previous years has not been met anyway. We have, therefore, suggested that the target number of cuts be reduced to 10 or 12 if the Council would guarantee that the cutting took place at regular intervals of three-week intervals. Members' views would be welcome.

Graffiti : Editor
Following the meeting in June between Council officers and the Association, the committee undertook an audit of the location and type of graffiti throughout Emmer Green and created a map of this information. Copies of this were then sent to the Council and utilities, particularly the cable television company whose boxes seem to come in for the most defacement. 

Another meeting was then held in early October with the Council officers responsible for cleaning graffiti. The officers informed us that they would be undertaking educational initiatives with local schools to attempt to get the message across that graffiti is not acceptable. It was also agreed that a small group of residents would work with a Council officer to clean the recreation ground pavilion. This took place on 30 October when five Association members gave up their Saturday morning and, under Council supervision for health and safety reasons, cleaned the three visible sides of the pavilion. It is hoped that future graffiti can be cleaned immediately it appears. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, only three weeks after cleaning the pavilion it has again been covered in graffiti. We are discussing with the Council how quickly we can get another cleaning exercise underway.

The Council said that they would also be providing graffiti cleaning kits to local residents' associations and other community groups who would be prepared to use them to clean-off small items of graffiti, such as tags on street signs. If this is done as soon as new graffiti appears it is hoped that the vandals will be deterred from repeating their defacement. The Association would hope that several small kits could be dispersed amongst members near to graffiti 'hot spots' and we would welcome any volunteers to act as either observers of new graffiti who would alert the Association or anyone who would be prepared to keep and use one of the cleaning kits. Please contact any committee member if you would like to help.

Reading Borough Council's Partnership Forum 2020 : Margaret Ormonde
The theme of this year's forum on 9 November 2004 was Children and Young People, although workshops covered a variety of other topics, including transport, environment, local economy etc.
After an informal gathering and refreshments Cllr David Sutton, Chair of the 2020 Partnership Board, welcomed everyone to the event. Cllr Pete Ruhrmann, Chair of the Children and Young People Partnership Board and lead Councillor for Children's Services, then spoke about the needs and aims of this year's theme. This was followed by the audience splitting up into seven themed workshops to discuss the various topics. The EGRA representative joined the main subject group on children and young people. For this there were further divisions into small groups to discuss strategy. The two overwhelming views, which were presented to the Partnership at the final feedback session, were: 
1. Early education of young people in parenting responsibilities
2. Easy local access to 'one stop' co-ordinated centres of support. 

Caversham Safer Community Forum : Bob Cruickshank
The local Forum has been re-established under the wider Safer Reading Campaign, the Reading Borough Council's Crime Reduction Partnership. It consists of around 12 agencies and associations such as Reading Children's Trust, Ealing Family Housing, Toynbee Housing, Churches Together in Caversham and the Residents` Associations in Caversham, Caversham Park Village, the Warren as well as ourselves. The Thames Valley Police also attend and report, as do the Ward Councillors (intermittently), plus Council representatives from Housing, Street Care, Youth Provision and the Safer Communities Unit.

The budget, for small bids, covering the whole Reading area is now only £80,000 with twelve local SCFs bidding for the funds. The bids are for expenditures that are not on the Council's current budget, and would probably never get on the main budget, but which the residents feel are desirable or necessary to tackle safety issues.

The majority of recent projects have been for additional lighting in black spots but there are also street patrols, litterbin projects and abandoned cars projects on going or in the pipeline. We hope expenditure will be agreed to buy portable CCTV equipment, which will be used to identify and, we hope, convict the persistent graffiti "artists" currently regularly defacing many of our signs and buildings.

North Area Youth Project : Paul Gallagher & Tara Taylor
Committee member, Tara Taylor and the chairman, Paul Gallagher, attended the management committee meeting of the NRYP on 26 October. This was well attended and included three young people from Emmer Green who use the service.
There was a useful summary presentation by the senior youth worker, Lee Middleton, on the work of the NRYP, where it is active, the numbers of young people engaged, its centres & facilities, the other organisation it liases/works with and its overall strategy. There was also a presentation of the current budget expenditure position of the NRYP, which showed a sound financial position.
There were a number of proposals for funding; these were for auxiliary music equipment to enable the young people to hold band rehearsals, the replacement of five canoes at The Warren Canoe Club, various redecoration requirements at the centres, a covered meeting/gathering point, a graffiti 'legal-wall' and the installation of a skateboard facility. It was agreed to support the first three of these from NRYP reserve funds. The funding of a meeting point will probably be sought from the Safer Caversham Forum, which has paid for such facilities in the past. The location has still to be determined. The last two are to be researched further before any firm decisions are made. With regard to the skateboard facility it was understood from the discussion that the general opinion of the meeting was that this should be located at Clayfield Copse where the previous facility was sited.

Planning Issues : Editor
Responding to planning applications continues to takes up a lot of the Association's time. Many householders with large gardens are being contacted not by one developer but by several developers - the analogy of a 'feeding frenzy' amongst developers comes to mind. Most applications that get refused are simply resubmitted a few weeks later with changes, which the developer hopes will overcome the objections raised. In consequence, the following applications or appeals upon which the Association has commented might seem somewhat familiar.

Three on Highdown Hill Road (appeals on 9 houses and 14 houses plus an unconnected application for 1 bungalow), two on Grove Road (6 and 10 houses), Kidmore End Road (6 houses), Rosehill Park (block of 4 flats), Peppard Road (12 houses and 6 houses), Buckingham Drive (block of 10 flats). 

In the first ten months of 2004, applications for 142 additional dwellings were submitted in the Peppard ward of which 54 have been permitted so far. In Caversham ward applications for 275 additional dwellings were submitted of which 176 have been permitted to date and in Thames ward applications for 73 additional dwellings were submitted of which 9 have been allowed so far. The latter does not include the application to build a 142-bed nursing home at Chazey Farm. Members will also be aware that the Planning Authority has recently received an application to build 108 flats in George Street on the site of the old White Knight laundry.

This level of in-fill development is extremely worrying in terms of the adverse impact on the local environment, infrastructure and services. In consequence, the six residents' associations north of the Thames have written to the Planning Authority asking for a meeting to discuss these concerns and understand how this amount of development fits with the Authority's strategic plan on housing.

Recycling old computer equipment : Editor
As reported last time the Association has contacted a London-based charitable organisation who repair/refurbish old computer equipment for third world countries. However, although they collect free of charge, to minimise their transport costs they need to collect at least 20 computers. Unfortunately, in the seven months during which we have been asking members if they have any old computer equipment to donate, only eight members have contacted the Association. We have, therefore, written to the umbrella organisation in Reading (RFTRA), that has contact with several dozen residents and tenants associations, and asked if they would be prepared to take on the coordination and collection role for this initiative. We will keep you informed. 

Association's Web Site & Book : Margaret Ormonde
The Association's website is at:
www.map-reading.co.uk/egra and is a useful source of local information, concerns and activity in the area plus a current issues forum updated monthly. There is also a useful list of contacts and links for anyone new to the area or wishing to join the Association. 
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.

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. About a third of members subscribe to our email group and if you wish to receive updates of activities by this means contact Jill on egra.memb@ntlworld.com. You may also prefer to receive this newsletter electronically in future; if so just send an email to Jill.