Winter 2008-09 Newsletter

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First, at the end of another busy year, I would like to thank all our members for continued interest and feedback and wish them a joyful and peaceful Christmas season and good wishes for 2009.


DATES FOR 2009
As previously announced, EGRA’s 25th Anniversary celebrations are scheduled to take place on Saturday 9th May 2009 from 2-5pm at Emmer Green Primary School. Barry Prior has now taken over the running of things, so if you can offer any help, or have photos or memories you wish to have included do get in touch with him barry@backhouses.co.uk , or Tel: 0118 9461150. A detailed EGRA history section has been set up on the website (click on the 'History' button).

We have a new venue and date for our 2009 AGM. The Grace Church, 119 Peppard Road on Tuesday 28th April. This may be more familiar to you as the Caversham Hill Chapel, not far from the entrance to The Hill School. Our speaker will be Richard Bennett from Reading Civic Society. We have appreciated holding 24 consecutive AGMs at St Barnabas Hall, but its increasing popularity meant it was becoming very difficult to book a suitable timeslot. We are really grateful the offer of excellent facilities at The Grace Church.



OUTINGS

Houses of Parliament Tour
Two EGRA members who came on the tour have submitted reports:

From Doffi Parkinson:
Tuesday September 9th was the date of the eagerly awaited visit to the Houses of Parliament by 17 members of EGRA. Meeting at Reading Station in the morning, just in time for the first ‘Cheap Day Return’ train, there were many greetings exchanged between old friends and acquaintances and new friendships were quickly forged. A smooth journey to London, and round the Circle Line took us to St Stephens’ Entrance nicely in time for our appointed entry slot. After the usual security checks we moved into Westminster Hall to meet Elizabeth, our very knowledgeable Blue Badge Guide for the visit.
The first part of the tour found us following in the steps of the Queen as she opens Parliament each year. With Elizabeth’s vivid descriptions, we were able to picture her namesake donning the robes of state and crown and processing to The House of Lords to sit upon the Throne and formally open the new Parliamentary session. After passing through the ‘Noes’ voting lobby we too entered the House of Lords, and paused to admire the thrones and red benches before moving on via the lobbies, past statues of many prime ministers of recent times and the Central Lobby. The House of Commons was also described to us in great detail and we learnt much of the history of Parliament whilst admiring the architecture and decor.
There is much to see and admire in the Houses, not just the traditional red and green chambers but also the many paintings and frescoes which adorn the corridors, and our guide was able to weave many stories of modern day happenings in ‘The House’ as we kept up with her brisk pace. Our tour over-ran its expected length thanks to the enthusiasm of our guide, but no-one complained! After having so many facts and sights to take in, we all adjourned to the Houses of Parliament Café, where we refreshed ourselves.

From Carol Gibson:
In the afternoon, we crossed the road to the Jewel Tower, once part of the original Palace of Westminster and a survivor of the fire of 1834, which destroyed almost all of the palace. Remains of a moat and quay can still be seen: in medieval times, the Thames lapped its walls. The Jewel Tower was built in about 1365 for Edward the Third; then known as the King's Privy Wardrobe, it was a store for his jewellery and other valuable possessions. It now houses an interesting exhibition on the history of Parliament, on two upper floors reached by steep, narrow spiral stairs: a satisfying end to a fascinating day.

Reading Recycling Plant
EGRA has been promised a group tour of the new facilities early in the New Year (no date as of yet). If you are interested please contact Margaret Ormonde on egramargaret@googlemail.com Tel: 0118 9470922.



PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE

Please refer to EGRA’s website for guidance on local planning issues. For anyone in need and unable to access this we may consider printing out a copy. Very often it is local democracy that works best and EGRA will support and encourage this. There is no guarantee of the desired outcome, but recently we have had a case where the developers appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, after RBC’s Planning Committee had rejected their planning application to build flats on land behind Chalgrove Way. The Planning Inspector listened to the concerns of neighbours and dismissed the case on the grounds of the biodiversity on the target plot of land.

DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT DOCUMENT (design, infrastructure, climate change, planning decisions)
SITE ALLOCATIONS (future usage – employment, housing and protection of open spaces)
Last year EGRA worked with CADRA and GLOBE in checking and adding sites for the Site Allocations document, primarily to ensure our open spaces were protected.
Reading Borough Council has recently launched a consultation on important decisions affecting Caversham and Emmer Green over the next 15 to 20 years. Exhibitions have been held locally and comments are required either online (visit the CADRA website) or on paper forms (limited numbers distributed with EGRA paper newsletters, or collect from library or Civic Centre) by 12th December. EGRA will be joining with CADRA and GLOBE to discuss our collective views, but we urge people to respond as individuals too.
In particular, land adjacent to 54 Highdown Hill Road (SA12) has been suggested by a developer as potential for building. This is a woodland copse, already under a tree protection order. It’s possibly ancient woodland and we would urge as many people as possible to write objecting and asking for this site to be withdrawn form the development list.

There is also a document review of local centres including Emmer Green. Some of the descriptions in it are not exactly accurate – for years we have been campaigning for the lighting in the car park to be repaired, only for this to be overlooked. There are also some rather surprising results from a 2003 survey! EGRA would love to fund seating near the shops, but has been discouraged because of trouble that sometimes arises from crowds gathering in the evenings. It is always open for review and discussion. Please read this document and respond to the suggestions in it. The hint that the green could be developed is unthinkable.

PLEASE LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD



SCHOOL REPORTS AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Books for Schools
Two books were presented to The Hill one on the History of Reading and the other on Reading Football Club. This was to celebrate the school’s new library. Two pupils from Highdown School received a book token each from EGRA’s Treasurer Bill Harper, in recognition of community work. The latter presentation from EGRA will continue for a number of years.

School Safety
EGRA’s Cathi Edwards has worked closely with Emmer Green School, Reading Borough Council and Cllr Mark Ralph to improve safety. Things are now in place for recruitment of a School Crossing Patrol Person through school channels. A similar scheme operated in Tilehurst has been very successful and it is hoped there will be a good response, so training and the necessary checks can take place soon. Extra care is needed at the moment with building work across the road.

North Reading Youth Project
The second NRYP AGM, chaired by Dr Simon Bradford was held on 16th July. EGRA’s Tara Taylor provided an excellent slide presentation of the activities of the youngsters. Presentations were made during the evening. Adjacent to the Amersham Road Community Centre, an ambitious new Children’s Centre is being built (due for completion, spring 2009). Information particularly relevant to Emmer Green includes new funds to be spent on the skate park facilities at Clayfield Copse, and CATs. Children’s Action Teams, managed by Katy Bartlett, based at Emmer Green Youth and Community Centre, will be headed by teams of professionals, who will provide help for children with additional needs.
There is now a Youth Forum In Emmer Green. Each forum has part of the main budget so that the young people have a sense of ownership and can vote on decisions affecting them.
Tina Heaford is still willing to talk to any young people that may be causing concern on the streets and is always happy to hear of any “hot spots” so that she and her team can have a chat with them.



POLICE MATTERS

Neighbourhood Police Officers
There has been a change in local police personnel, and our officers are now Inspector Penny Mackenzie, Sgt Rob Pitman, PC Stuart Murdoch (Neighbourhood Specialist Officer) and PCSO John Hendy.
In an emergency phone 999. To report a crime that has happened ring 0845 8505505. It may not necessarily be followed up, but the police are keen that all crime is reported to accurately reflect their statistics.
As usual, members of the public have the opportunity to meet the neighbourhood police team at Church House, Caversham on the first Monday of each month between 5pm and 8.00pm.
Telephone no. for the office answerphone is 0118 947426

Upper Caversham Neighbourhood Action Group
EGRA continues to be represented at all NAG meetings. The next one is on 8th December, with the most likely venue being Church House, Caversham. At the last meeting EGRA’s Cathi Edwards was able to update the meeting on the School Crossing Patrol scenario and also with quotes for NAG publicity material. A dedicated Upper Caversham NAG website is also in the process of being set up.



TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS

Safety Issues
As a result of a speed survey along Rotherfield Way and Southdown Road, particularly the junction with Surley Row, where schoolchildren cross, traffic-calming measures have been implemented. Unfortunately because of the nature of surrounding features, it was not possible to install a refuge actually at the crossroads, but the effectiveness of the new facilities would be monitored. A new footpath has also been completed from Evesham Road to the bus stop on Southdown Road. EGRA has also requested a refuge on the Peppard Road at the junction with Surley Row.

Local Area Enhancement (LAE) Questionnaire
Phase 1 of the Local Area Enhancement scheme has been operational for over a year now. As part of the North Area Access Study local residents were given the opportunity in September to comment on the Phase 2 proposals, mainly affecting the perimeter roads in Caversham Park.

Waiting Restrictions
Notices were posted in three localities detailing changes to waiting restrictions:
Extensions to restrictions in St Barnabas Road, and Southdown Road/ Evesham Road/ Knights Way – and restrictions are to be eased between 4 and 12 Kidmore End Road

Bus Services
Reading Buses are undergoing a review of rural bus services including the 137/138 routes. The feedback to EGRA indicates the current arrangements are fine.

Thames Crossing
Following on from the Independent Transport Commission findings, Wokingham Borough Council has bid for £35 million towards a new Thames Crossing from the South East Regional Assembly. A decision is expected in December. This would be part of a comprehensive package of transport improvements for the Reading area. The RBC cabinet was aware of local sensitivities and gave assurances that the emphasis would be on managing local traffic flows and not act as a precursor to extending the national motorway network.



ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Litter / street-cleaning / verges /hedges / graffiti
We regularly monitor grass and hedge cutting, and feedback to the Council anything reported to us. Autumn means a lot of leaf clearance and if you spot any areas near you, which are in need of attention, do let us know. The Council’s resources are limited, but generally things are encouraging. Bob Cruickshank heads our graffiti clean up team and he asks for you to report to him on 0118 9482900 or email deecbee@talktalk.net .

Recycling
The siting of the clothing bank in aid of Cystic Fibrosis outside Reading Golf Club has brought forth a mixed response from nearby residents. EGRA has spoken with the Council representative who monitors the site and he has promised to take all views into account and review things after a given period of time. He would also ask the Golf Club to reconsider housing it within their car park.

Clayfield Copse
Friends of Clayfield Copse continue to meet for active conservation work on the first Sunday of each month. They also arrange guided walks through the woods. Contact Anne Latto email annelatto@cheerful.com .



SUPPORTING PROJECTS

Maintenance of EGRA’s projects
EGRA has funded several projects over the years and they all need maintaining. We now have team of members who regularly monitor the community notice board. We are still considering quotes in to professionally refurbish the seat by the bookmakers and if you know of anyone interested in submitting an estimate do get in touch. We also have to thank EGRA member Bryan Verran for undertaking some emergency repairs to the base of the village sign.

Queen’s Tree Beheaded
Words fail to describe what has happened to our tree in the recreation ground, but we are not going to make a big deal out of it and give credence to the perpetrators. We have spoken with a local tree expert who has advised, now that the tree has established roots, it is better to leave things as they are and nature and time will take their course. Unfortunately Turner’s Oaks are slow growing, so we will just have to be patient.



SNIPPETS

Reading 50 Plus+ Older Person's Forum
EGRA continues to support and promote this joint venture - Age Concern, RBC, and the NHS, and hopes the loan of the wireless speaker has helped with the sound at the back of the hall. These occasional afternoon meetings should resume in 2009. The new Active Retirement Club received lottery funding and theTai Chi classes that have been running every Wednesday morning at St Barnabas Hall are very popular. Anyone wanting information can contact Marvetah Hines at the Reading Age Concern office on 0118 9594242.

St Barnabas Parish Centre
The construction of the new parish centre has now been given the all clear, and the first turf was cut by Rev Derek Chandler, before the diggers moved in. Work is scheduled to be completed by next May, when it is hoped the new centre will offer enhanced facilities to churchgoers and community alike.

DVD
If anyone took part in the Bugs Bottom protest march on a wet summer’s day in 1987, we have a wobbly copy on DVD for borrowing.



BEYOND OUR BOUNDARIES

Warren And District Residents’ Association (AGM 21st October)
In 2006 EGRA was directly affected by the consultation on the future of the Mapledurham Pavilion, because one of the proposals was to divert open space to Clayfield Copse. In the end this idea was firmly rejected, but with the consequence that the current hall (the only secular hall in that area) is likely to be demolished within eighteen months and replaced by enhanced changing facilities. However the eventual replacement of the hall remains open ended. WADRA have been very proactive in trying to research the legal responsibilities of the Mapledurham Playingfields Trustees. EGRA supports these endeavours and hopes in due course the valued hall facility will be reinstated

Caversham Good Neighbours
This is a group of volunteers who serve people in the Caversham, Emmer Green, Mapledurham. If you can spare any time, ring the Caversham Bridge Office on 0118 948 3466.



COMMITTEE

Chairman Margaret Ormonde, Vice Chairman Barry Prior, Secretary Kate Manton, Treasurer Bill Harper,
Membership Secretary Jill Verran, Newsletter Distribution Diana Hartrup, Schools’ Liaison Cathi Edwards, Safer Caversham / Age Concern Vera Bodman, Events Carol Sutton, Youth Work Tara Taylor
Committee Support - Environment/ Tradesmen's List Bob Cruickshank

Thanks go our teams of volunteers who help deliver the newsletters and keep an eye on the notice board.



GEOFFREY GOLDSMITH

EGRA is sad to report the recent death of former committee member Geoff Goldsmith of Rosehill Park. Geoff served on the committee from 2001 –2003. Condolences have been sent to his family.