Winter 2005-06 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.

Waiting Restrictions : Editor
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 were proposed in Emmer Green, namely at:

· 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 considered these proposed waiting restrictions and fully support the schemes. The Council’s Traffic Management Department confirmed these schemes except for that part of Kidmore End Road opposite the recreation ground and are to instead look at providing parking permits to the local residents. 

Parking/driving on grass verges : Editor
A number of grass verges are continually being destroyed by parked cars, which occurs in many cases where there is room in the drive of each property alongside the verge where these cars are parked. The Association has asked the Council if they would send a letter to all residents along roads with grass verges asking householders not to park on them and to look into reseeding the verges where vehicles have killed off the grass.

Cutting of the grass verges : Editor
The Council’s target for the cutting of the grass verges is that they will complete 10 cuts in the growing season. This year they only made 5 cuts to the verges. The Association’s chairman met with one of the Council’s Environment Managers, Kevin Wigginton, in September to discuss the Council’s difficulties in regularly cutting the verges.
It was explained that when the previous sub-contractor (Brophy Limited) did not renew the grass-cutting contract, the Council entered into a three-year contract hire of four grass-cutting machines and employed two cutting teams each of 4 workers. However, the machines have turned out to require a large amount of maintenance, resulting in a lot of ‘down-time’, and are also not very efficient if the grass is wet. One year of the contract remains and it is understood that the Council will then look at more useful cutting machines. In addition to these problems, the Council’s budget constraints have reduced the work force to 6 members. The Council’s Environment Department, which is responsible for verge cutting, is also responsible for grass-cutting for schools, open spaces, OAP lawns, the trimming of some hedges, tree maintenance and the general street environment. Separately the Council’s Parks Department is responsible for grass cutting of parks and playing fields, some other open spaces and any surrounding hedges. Recent staff changes within the Council have resulted in these split responsibilities being reviewed and, to make better use of both equipment and manpower, the merger of these two departments is being considered.

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 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. Two logs had already been put in place and we had intended that a further log be added to the group, however, the local vandals have recently set fire to the logs and we are reconsidering whether to proceed with the project.

Primary School Places : Editor
Many readers will have heard about the situation that developed in the summer when Emmer Green primary school could not take in14 children in its catchment area and 7 children with siblings already at the school. The Association supported the parents (many also members) by making representation to both the LEA and the DfES, but without success and with no offer to review the situation now or in the future. The unfortunate outcome has resulted in some parents having to take current pupils away from the school and to send them and their siblings to schools in South Oxfordshire. In consequence, Reading LEA will have lost funding from the DfES for these children. 

Safer Routes to School : Editor
Under the Safer Routes to School initiative, the Council has published proposals to impose a 20mph speed limit in the vicinity of Highdown School plus the installation of 75mm speed cushions in Grove Road and Surley Row. The Association has supported the proposals in principle, but considers the cushion design [if similar to that in Grove Road and Evesham Road as part of a similar scheme for Emmer Green primary school] will be inadequate in slowing down speeding drivers.

Graffiti, littering, fly-tipping and fly-posting : Editor
These topics were recently covered at one of the Joint Environment Committee meetings of RFTRA.
Currently in Emmer Green the problems we encounter are mainly graffiti, although there are some problems of litter at places like Highdown School and around the north side of the village pond. Fly-tipping occasionally takes place near Marshland Square and at the northerly end of Kiln Road near Clayfield Copse. The Association has cleaning kits supplied by Reading Borough Council to remove graffiti and this is currently proving quite successful in keeping down the amount of graffiti in the village area. The Council will remove some graffiti free of charge depending upon its size and nature. Young offenders are often recruited to help, and although they are not paid they can have their sentences reduced. With regard to littering, the Council have an on-going education programme with schools, businesses and the public, but in serious cases they have powers under the S.87 Environmental Protection Act (1990) to issue formal warnings and £50 fixed penalty notices. For fly-tipping the Council operate surveillance equipment in conjunction with the Police and with the Environment Agency and have powers to impose even larger fines. Any member who notices such anti-social activity is encouraged to notify the Council (via the Association if preferred) who will inform the relevant bodies.

Pub licensing hours : Editor
The Association and local residents were notified of applications from The White Horse, The Black Horse and the Gardeners Arms to extend their licensing hours. Objections were submitted, including those from the Association, on the grounds that the longer licensing times and live music requested were excessive and inappropriate for a suburban residential environment. The local authority’s licensing panel agreed with the objections against the longer hours but allowed smaller extensions, particularly to allow hours on different days to be consistent. Many thanks are due to Cllr Hendry for her support and advice with these applications and during the hearings.

Safer Caversham Community Forum : Bob Cruickshank
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. The most noticeable impact the Forum has made in the area recently is to see the removal of the vast amount of graffiti from the Milestone Centre and its surrounds. The Police say that it has resulted in a reduction in anti-social behaviour in the area and they are to keep an eye on it. This builds on the initiative we took last year, and are continuing to take, in keeping graffiti off our road signs and other street furniture. We still have to persuade NTL and the Electricity Suppliers and other Utilities to co-operate with us in cleaning up their installations.

The Police Surgeries are now in operation at Church House, Caversham. On the first Monday of every month between 5pm and 8pm there will be someone there to answer any enquires or complaints you may have.

Following consultations with nearly 50 users of the skateboard ramps at Clayfield Copse, it has been agreed to set up a seated youth shelter there, which will be illuminated, but not floodlit. This may also help to move some of the younger people away from the Emmer Green shops in the evenings. 

North Area Youth Project : Bob Cruickshank & Tara Taylor
A new Youth Services officer, Tina Heaford seems to be breathing new life into our local youth clubs. They meet at Emmer Green on Mondays catering for 13-19 year olds and at Milestone on Wednesdays also for 13-19 year olds but with a different programme. They meet again in Emmer Green on Fridays this time for 11-14 year olds. While she was doing a similar job in Southgate last year she was Moderator for the Youth Achievement Awards of the Summer 2005 Community Project. 151 young people in the Reading area took part and 3 Silver and 6 Bronze Portfolios were awarded to participants. The silvers were the first to be awarded to people in the area, two of which live in Emmer Green (Jason Charles and Idris Kamara), and we extend our congratulations to them. Well done.
The skate board area at Clayfield Copse is working out well with the local youths who are using it. At the last meeting it was reported that the dispersal order at the shopping precinct had run out and it was thought that the youths hanging around were probably unaware. The Youth workers have reported that the youths were only there to meet and chat with their friends and that they had nowhere else to go and they certainly weren't intending to be intimidating to the older generation. When the young people’s meeting facility at Clayfield has been installed then this should take some of the pressure away from the precinct.

Public Consultations : Paul Gallagher
There have been a number of consultations to which the Association has responded, and these include:

· Reading Borough Council’s Draft Statement of Community Involvement in Planning Applications.
· South Oxfordshire District Council Statement of Community Involvement in Planning Applications.
· Night Flying Restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports. Stage 2 of consultation on restrictions to apply from 30 October 2005.
· South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) consultation on how the proposed 2,620 new homes per year between 2006 and 2026 (i.e. a total of 52,400 more houses in Berkshire) should be distributed between the six Berkshire authorities.
· Caversham Lock Area, which has various ideas for developing King's Meadow, King's Meadow Swimming Pool, Caversham Lock Island, View Island and Hill's Meadow car park.
· The future of the Inner Distribution Road (IDR), which has a proposal to make the IDR a counter clockwise one-way road, removing the fly-over past the Oracle car park completely.
· Park and Ride facilities on the north side of Caversham.
· Demolition and rebuilding of the Hexagon on Hill’s Meadow as an Arts Centre.

Tradesmen’s List : Editor
In the near future we will be re-issuing our list of local tradesmen that have been used by members. If any member has used a local tradesman and been pleased with the service then please let the Association know and we will add them to the list. Many thanks.

Planning Issues : Paul Gallagher
The following planning applications have taken up the Association’s time since the summer newsletter.

· Proposal to build 9 houses in the rear gardens of 10-18, 22 Highdown Hill Road and 6 Highdown Avenue.
After many objections, rejections by the Council and rejection at Appeal, the Council has felt bound to permit the modified application. Already the developer has contravened the planning consent conditions placed upon the development and attempted to demolish 14 Highdown Hill Road before they had met all the conditions. The Association is very grateful for the vigilance of the Highdown Action Group and speedy intervention by the Council to halt the demolition.

· Proposal to build 8 houses and 6 apartments in the grade II listed Caversham House at 91 Peppard Road.
After a number of resubmissions the Council has given permission for this development and work has already commenced with the demolition of the three dilapidated bungalows.

· Proposal to demolish 9 Buckingham Drive and replace it with a block of 10 flats.
The Council supported the Association’s objection and this application has been refused.

· Proposal to build 5 houses in the rear gardens of 161 ‘Old’ Peppard Road, opposite The Hill School.
The Council upheld objections from the Association, the school governing body and parents of pupils. Disgracefully the developer went to Appeal, but before an Inquiry could be held the developer went into receivership and the proposal has now lapsed.

· Proposal to build 10 terraced houses in the rear gardens of 41-49 Grove Road.
Having been rejected by the Council, this application had gone to Appeal. The Inspector concluded the proposal was not suitable and dismissed the appeal.

· Proposal to demolish 94 Kidmore End Road and replace it with 8 flats in two blocks.
The developer subsequently withdrew this application, and thus no decision was made by the Council.

· Proposal by Hutchinson 3G for a radio base station together with a replacement street lamp to house the antennas, adjacent to the Esso Garage on Buckingham Drive. The Association made a number of comments on this application but did not object. The Council has affirmed the proposal was permitted.

The Association has also been consulted on a number of smaller, single dwelling applications and applications in such as Hemdean Road that impinge on neighbouring householders within Emmer Green. We have also expressed our concern over worrying applications such as the proposal to build three-storey blocks of flats accommodating over 90 units on the site of the Whiteknights Laundry at 72-80 George Street.

The most recent application is for a single storey front extension to the betting shop near the sub-post office. This will displace the Association’s seat, which was paid for by ourselves and the Council, and may also displace the post box. The Association has objected on these grounds and that the extension will be an incongruous and unsightly construction, which will block off the attractive view towards the village pond. We have suggested that Coral Estates Limited, if they need larger premises, should consider the less expensive option of taking over one of the shops on the parade, which often become available, and lease their existing premises to another retailer.

Subscriptions : Jill Verran
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 please 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.