Chairman's Report for the Year 2012/13

We have again been very active over the last 12 months in many areas, and I will detail these in a moment. But a major part of what we have been considering this year has been the future, and, in particular, whether we can use the great opportunity which has been provided by the move of the Raynes Park Lawn Tennis Club to its new premises, at the end of this April, to convert the pavilion at 129 Grand Drive to a meeting hall for the general use of our community.
As I noted in my comments for the March Guide, we have had, ever since our foundation in 1928, the dream of setting up and running a meeting hall of our own, which could be used for a variety of social functions.  In the years between the wars, and in the immediate years after the second world war, the Association set up a number of associated activity groups, of which the Tennis Club was one. It ran children’s parties and even, I am told, arranged dances.  People had, of course, then no television, videos or play stations, and organised their own leisure.
Money was raised to build a meeting hall, and we still have that money in our accounts, as the Treasurer will report. It has never been enough to build a new hall, and never will be, but it may be enough to enable us to convert the existing pavilion for community purposes. We will have a discussion about this later on in the AGM.
What we feel is very important is that the age profile of our members has  changed. The membership now consists largely of those, like my generation, who were the baby boomers brought up after the war, but who are getting on a bit.  We need to attract back into the Association as active members the younger families moving into the area with children.
We believe that if we can convert the pavilion at an affordable cost to a warm and welcoming place to come, then we can use it for a variety of purposes that will suit people of all ages. The more elderly of us can use it to drop in for coffee or tea for a chat, or to listen to a talk. Parents could bring their babies or toddlers for a play group. One of the tennis courts could be converted into a play area. The hall could be used for the scouts, as a practice room for musicians, and for general meetings. The March issue of the Guide sets out other examples of possible use, and asks for expressions of interest.
In the last ten years, which coincides with the period during which I have been privileged to be your Chairman, we have been forced to concentrate our attention on the endless waves of major planning applications.  These have resulted in large new residential developments of flats and town houses near Waitrose in Raynes Park, at the Royal and Sun Alliance site off Fairway, on the Lessa site, and at St Catherine’s. We need to attract into the Association these new residents, many of whom have children, and who will be our future lifeblood.
We are not yet done with planning applications. Over the year we have seen off, through a concerted effort by local residents, councillors, and us, [alternatively use: ‘this Association’] the proposal made by the All England Lawn Tennis Club to build on part of the playing fields surrounded by Grand Drive, Southway, Elm Walk, and Cannon Hill Lane.  This may well come again in a different form.  And we still have to keep an eye on the long term protection of Prince George’s Playing Fields for open recreation.
We have also seen off for the moment the absurd proposal to make a development of multiple flats in the enclosed area this side of the station which is called the Rainbow Industrial Estate. As the name suggests it is zoned for business use, but has apparently been allowed to run down so that now its owners want to build housing there, despite the single road access and its being surrounded by railway tracks. We protested strongly when the planning department produced a planning brief without any reference to the residents which gave away the principle that the site should be retained for business use and that housing should not be permitted. They were forced to retreat, but next year some proposal for housing will again come forward, which we will oppose as strongly as necessary.
One of our objections to this development is that it reduces the chances of getting a dropping and picking up area this side of the station, which would be greatly welcomed by those with luggage or with mobility problems. We are continuing to try to find a way to provide for this need.
On a more positive note, the centre of Raynes Park has been adjudged to be one of the best secondary shopping areas in London. The opening of Waitrose, which we supported, has helped this, but members of our committee [along with representatives of other local Associations] did a lot over a number of years to produce this success story. This included the removal of unsightly advertising hoardings, the clearance of debris on both sides of the railway embankments, more user friendly parking controls, better lighting,  and an improved street scene, including, at last, a tree on the Coombe Lane side of the station. Part of its success is that it has a Crown Post Office which supplies all the services of a main post office. We will fight as hard as we can to stop the proposal of its being franchised out to a retail store, which would mean that the level of service would be much reduced.
On another proposed service reduction, we were pleased to see that our objections, together with those of many others, including Stephen Hammond MP, to the alteration of railway services on the Thameslink loop line were successful.
On Cannon Hill Common we were able in the end, after three incursions of travellers’ cars and caravans, to stop them.  The placing of large logs, which we suggested from the outset, seems to have worked to stop future invasions.
I want, as ever, to thank the members of the Committee for their tireless efforts behind the scenes to protect and improve local amenities, and to mention in particular our Area Co-Ordinators and Road Stewards who deliver our Guides each month. These are such a large part of our ability to keep in touch with our members.
While it is always invidious to single out individuals when so many have helped, I must mention some key names.  Our joint secretaries, Jill Truman and Jan Bailey have continued to work well beyond the call of duty, despite their family commitments.  Jill is also the Editor of the Guide, which has gone from strength to strength, and keeps us up to date on the Coombe Lane area. Jan knows everything that’s happening and whom to approach on the Council and utilities to get things done. She not only knows every watercourse, but gets filthy herself keeping them running freely.  David Freeman continues to act as our planning expert, provides reasoned objections, and makes widely respected oral comments at planning meetings. He is a beacon of common sense. He is now assisted by Jerry Cuthbert who has been a tower of strength this past year in so many ways, not least in assisting us as to the future of the pavilion. Pamela Robinson continues to keep an eye on the planning lists, and to notify us of any design concerns, as well as assiduously attending the local forums. Rachel Skinner gives us her expert advice on transport issues and on the web site, despite her job and her children. The website is now an important part of our ability to keep people informed. I also want to thank our Web Master, Charles Briscoe-Smith for his help.
We were pleased to welcome onto the Committee last year Linda Fitch and Christine Rowe. Linda has successfully taken over the important task of advertising manager for the Guide, and Christine, with her experience, has greatly assisted us with the future of the Pavilion, and with questions of insurance and health and safety.  John Townsend is our Treasurer, and has put our finances on the soundest possible footing. Brian Lavender-Lewis continues to act as our Honorary Auditor, and I thank him too.
Andrew Barwick has been our Distribution Manager which means that he is responsible for getting the Guides to us, and liaising with all our Area Co-Ordinators and Road Stewards. He and David have also been of great help in deciding on the future of the Pavilion. I would also like to mention Peter Connellan, who keeps us in touch with the Shannon Corner area, and John Hughes for organising the postal Guides.
Our area covers 3 wards, Raynes Park, West Barnes, and Cannon Hill, and all of our 9 councillors have helped us greatly. I would like to thank them all.
These are exciting times for us as an Association. I hope to be able to report by next year real progress towards having a meeting hall of our own. The running of this will require new active members, and I am confident that we will be able to find them to make it a success.
John Elvidge, Chairman.
20 March 2013

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