Winter 2006-07 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.

RBC Local Area Enhancement Questionnaire
RBC is consulting on road safety initiatives in Emmer Green and around the Milestone Centre. The proposal includes new roundabouts being built at the junction of Kidmore End Road and Buckingham Drive (i.e. near the bookies) and at the junction of Lowfield Road and Buckingham Drive (i.e. opposite the pond). It is also proposed to make the pedestrian crossing a controlled Pelican crossing. Public exhibitions of the proposals were hosted at the Milestone Centre on 29 November and 11 December and we now await the outcome.

Village Sign & Community Notice Board
Following an appeal by the Association’s Membership Secretary for help with the maintenance of the village sign and the community notice board, two members, Brian Bernard and Chris Balmont, have offered their services. This is greatly appreciated and together with the chairman’s input the task should not be very onerous when tackled by three people. Maintenance should only be needed infrequently and we will publicise when this will take place so that anyone else interested in joining the ‘gang of three’ on the day would be very welcome.

Emmer Green Post Office
Reopening of the Emmer Green Post Office still appears remote and, with the Post Office asking £30,000 for the installation of the counter and the franchise licence, seems unlikely. The Post Office did reply to the Association in October saying they were in the very early stages of negotiations on a possible new site in Emmer Green, however with the announcement that they propose to close several hundred post offices nationally this is probably an empty statement. The future of the shop, vacated by Balfours, also remains a mystery, with no indication of possible new tenants at present.

Smoke Alarms
We have been informed that the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service can provide a free home fire safety check, fit free smoke alarms (including replacing old ones where necessary) and give general safety advice. Any member wishing to take up this offer can use Freephone 0800 5876679 or e-mail communitysafety@rbfrs.co.uk

Age Concern Handyman Scheme
The ‘Age Concern Handyman Scheme’ will carry out small jobs inside and outside the home (although not gardening). Labour and small items are free of charge. The scheme is sponsored by Sovereign Housing and local councils, including Reading Borough Council. Members can find out more by calling: 0118 959 4242

Animal carvings
The Association is still pursuing the idea of carving animal shapes into logs at Clayfield Copse. A very large oak tree in the field bordering Caversham Park Road was recently partially felled as it had split down the middle and was unsafe. Several extremely large logs resulted and the Association has obtained the support of the Council to have these carved into animal shapes. A local craftsman, Andrew Noyes, whom the Association retained to remake the Community Notice Board, has agreed to undertake this project. He is currently looking to involve some young people in the animal designs and possibly in the carving of some of the finer detail and maybe painting areas such as eyes. Members suggestions for appropriate animals would be very welcome.

Art work at Clayfield Copse
Local artist Jenny Leach, who spoke at our last AGM, informs the Association that the art work for Clayfield Copse is making good progress and now has the involvement of Highdown School. RBC Parks Department have also agreed their support. At present Jenny is putting together a bid for a grant of about £5K from the Arts Council, so we wish her well.

Mapledurham Playing Fields
Reading Borough Council consulted on proposals for development at the Mapledurham Playing Fields, funded by the sale of part of the playing fields, in order to build a replacement Pavilion. Some of the options required compensatory public open space to be made available and land at Clayfield Copse was identified. The Association’s chairman recommended that the option C involving the loss of the smallest parcel of land at the playing fields be chosen, as this would not necessitate compensatory land being taken at Clayfield Copse.
All options had to satisfy the Charity Commission and the National Playing Fields Association. As there were a number of dubious aspects in the consultation document, it was recommended that people also notified these two bodies of their preferred option. The outcome of the RBC consultation is still awaited. The outcome of the consultation has just been published and 73% (2,097) of respondents voted for option C, which RBC will now take forward.

Footpath
Progress is still being made on securing the footpath between Jefferson Close and Russet Glade by having it formally added it to the definitive map and statement. Several local residents have submitted written evidence, and this has been supplemented by interviews conducted by the legal representative at Reading Borough Council. Notice of a Modification Order was published in the local press in early November, and notices were posted at the ends of the footpath. Representation or objections relating to the Order must be submitted to the Council stating the grounds upon which they are made.

Queen’s 80th Birthday commemoration
The Association’s proposal to commemorate the Queen’s 80th birthday has moved a step forward with the ordering of a Turner’s Oak from Reading Borough Council. When delivered this will be planted on the edge of the recreation ground. It has also been decided to donate a seat nearby, which will carry a small commemorative plaque.

Caversham Safer Community Forum (CSCF)
The Forum held a Community Safety Fair in Westfield Road Recreation Park on 22 June, which provided children’s entertainments, competitions, crime reduction freebies and refreshments. The event was also designed to give visitors a chance to have their say on a SAFER READING, and over 500 questionnaires were completed from which the top 4 concerns were:-

1. Not enough activities for the 10`s to 15`s.
2. More Beat Police Officers required.
3. Not enough activities for the 15`s to 17`s.
4. More Street Wardens required.

One disappointment was that the lighting that had been provided along with the Youth Shelter and the Skateboard Ramp at Clayfield Copse was vandalised very shortly after it was installed. Means are being sought to raise the height of the lights consistent with not allowing light leakage to the nearby residents and with providing stronger reinforcement of the breakable parts.

The CHURCH HOUSE facility is working well. The Police Office is opened on the first Monday of each month from 5pm to 8pm. They are averaging 18/25 visits per evening and this has led to 2 drug convictions and a lowering of anti-social behaviour. The police undertake to resolve all real issues within 2 weeks.
NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICING will come into force in February 2007, which will mean a different approach to local policing as the priorities will be chosen by the public as well as focusing on national priorities like burglary, drugs and robbery. It will take at least 2 years before it is rolled out across the Force during which time NEIGHBOURHOOD ACTION GROUPS will be set up to include the Police, Local Authority officials, and relevant agencies, Residents` Groups, school, Publicans etc. There will be more newspaper, TV and radio publicity when the scheme gets underway.

Police alert signs
Members will have noticed the yellow police alert signs erected by Thames Valley Police (TVP). Inspector Graham Dix of TVP informed the Association in October that “these were erected locally because there had been a massive increase in Burglary (30+ in less than 4 weeks). These were mainly of a similar modus operandi involving entry via front doors (implement used to open interior handle) and removal of electrical equipment and car keys, and subsequent theft of car. Since then TVP has been very successful in arresting one team of burglars, some of whom are still on remand in custody. The number of burglaries has certainly halved since the signs were erected, but TVP are still seeing some burglaries of a different modus operandi (mainly forcing of rear doors and windows). Covert Officers are focusing on the area, as are all Uniform Officers, and hopefully this will bring the levels burglary down to those enjoyed throughout the rest of the year. The signs are due to come down mid December.”
The Association encourages Neighbourhood Watch schemes and all residents to be vigilant, and to report any suspicious observations to Thames Valley Police on 0845 8 505505.

North Area Youth Project (NAYP)
Tina Heaford, the Youth Leader, and her team are working very hard and the youth provision in the north Reading area has increased by 400%. They have forged a good working relationship with Highdown School and have had very positive results from some of the young people. There is now a much greater diversity of opportunities within the Youth Service for the young people of the area.

The old trailer was replaced by a mini bus a few months ago, which is stationed at Emmer Green. It is very useful for trips and is also proving popular with other local schools who are hiring it on a regular basis.

The Youth Service recently ran a residential course at Osmington Bay, Dorset, which was open to the young people in the area. 30 young people attended and it was very successful with many achieving accredited One Star Awards. The feedback from the young people was very positive, and many of them felt they had really benefited from their experiences apart from clearly enjoying themselves.

Overall, things are very positive in the North Reading Youth Project.

Planning Issues

Coral’s betting shop:
Much to the chairman’s dismay the planning officer dealing with the application permitted this development. This will have a major detrimental impact on the visual aspect of Emmer Green and will also displace the seat donated by the Association to the village that sits outside the bookies. It is proposed that the seat be resited to the opposite side of the pond and we have asked RBC that the developers pay for this relocation.

58 Crawshay Drive:
A proposal to demolish 58 Crawshay Drive and to build either a block of eight two-bedroom flats or three detached houses was contested by local residents and the Association. An interesting turn of events took place at the site following the Council’s Planning Department refusal for either development. Part of the reason for refusal was that the sight line from the proposed access road was inadequate. A neighbour awoke early one morning to find the developer, a Mr. Karl Simmons, cutting down the hedge of 60 Crawshay Drive. This Mr. Simmons refused to stop even though the owner of 60 asked him to desist, and was only stopped when surrounded by other concerned residents and the police were called. The Police define Criminal Damage having occurred when someone ‘without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another’. So it is hoped that charges will be pressed by the police.

49 Grove Road:
An application to demolish 49 Grove Road and build 9 houses behind 41-49 Grove Road was opposed by local residents and the Association. A request was made to Cllr Bob Green that the proposal be called in before the Planning Committee and not left to the planning officer as a delegated decision. At the time of writing the outcome is not known.

Radio mast & base station:
A pre-application consultation notice was received from Hutchinson 3G informing the Association of their intention to submit a proposal for another radio mast and base station in the grass verge near the roundabout at the junction of Buckingham Drive and Evesham Road. The antenna will be housed on top of an existing lamppost so as not to be an eyesore. If any member has a view on this they can call the chairman, who has the letter from Hutchinson, on 9484707 to discuss the details. Formal comments can be sent to RBC when the full application has been notified to the Association, probably in January 2007.

Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO)
With a view to reducing infill development pressures in the area, the chairman has raised the issue of bringing long-term empty dwellings back into use with central government’s Department for Communities and Local Government and with RBC’s Planning Department. The EDMO option is part of the Housing Act 2004 and this law permits local authorities to take over, renovate and rent out long-term empty homes in their boroughs. Apart from improving the local neighbourhood such moves should provide additional accommodation to contribute to local housing needs. Hopefully this would help to offset the need to build over the remaining open spaces within the borough with more bricks and mortar. RBC is quoted as saying that there are 530 such empty properties in Reading presently but admit that currently they have no EDMOs in force. Members are encouraged to phone Cllr Benson on 0118 950 9213 about any long-term derelict house that they know of which could usefully be brought back into use and ask for an EDMO to be raised.

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.

Join our email list:
Over 190 members currently subscribe to our email group and if you wish to receive the current issues updates or newsletters by this means just send an email to the membership secretary at egra.memb@ntlworld.com.

Join the committee:
The current committee are reorganising their responsibilities and there are three vacancies on the committee.
Please consider joining – initially we would like new members to act as deputies to current post holders with a view to taking on a post when they feel comfortable with the commitment. Contact the chairman on 9484707 or by email at paul46gallagher@yahoo.co.uk.