Chairman's Annual Report 2015/2016

At this time last year, we were all concerned at the proposals to build a huge number of flats and houses on the Rainbow Estate off Grand Drive. This is a landlocked site, which is surrounded by railway lines, and is designated for mainly industrial and business use. There was also meant to be a facility to park and ride at Raynes Park station, but this was not fully worked through.  Despite our reasoned objections, the proposals were approved by the Planning Committee and not called in by the Mayor of London. 

The anxiety we felt about these proposals remains, but the chances of any major development being progressed in the near or medium term have been much reduced by the impact of the even more devastating possibilities connected with the proposed CrossRail 2. This is the new cross London railway which will pass through Raynes Park and Wimbledon on its way to north London, and for which the Government has pledged funding. 

Many of the proposals for enhancing the rail links in this area will cause planning blight for 10 years or more and would seem to prevent any work being carried out on the Rainbow site. 

We have set out in The Guide our concern at the weakness of the consultation held so far for what is being proposed, and our horror at the suggestions being made. I know that our MP Stephen Hammond is deeply concerned and has held a recent meeting at the House of Commons to find a way forward that does not result in the wholesale destruction of the town centre of Wimbledon. As he will be speaking to us tonight, I will not repeat his views now. The best solution for this area would appear to be a tunnel from Berrylands under Raynes Park and Wimbledon, which would obviate the need to close the two level crossings at Motspur Park and West Barnes. Any other solution would result in traffic being gridlocked on Grand Drive for the whole day and not just at rush hours. 

Speaking of Grand Drive brings me to the lively debate we have been having as to finding a way to ease the movement of traffic. Coming south from the station, approaching the junction with Bushey Road, the junction is controlled by Transport for London, but Merton Council traffic officers are able to have a real input into proposed solutions. 

We will continue to put pressure on the authorities to find a permanent solution to this long term problem. 

One good piece of news is that the gas works intended to be carried out on the bottom part of Grand Drive will not happen this year. Instead, we have been promised a full consultation before the works starts next year. We will hold a public meeting as part of that consultation to try and find a way to keep traffic moving from the Beverley roundabout, without making life intolerable for people living along Cannon Hill Lane, along which the traffic is likely to be diverted.  

I would like to thank the members of the Committee most involved in planning and transport matters for their hard work and expertise. They are David Freeman, Jerry Cuthbert, and Jan Bailey. I particularly tonight want to single out Rachel Skinner, who works as an expert in the field of transport management, for her enormous contribution, but who is moving away from the area. We’re very glad that she promises to keep in touch. 

The focus of attention for the Association has continued to move from being principally concerned with matters of planning and traffic to that of its historic role of being a social organisation. 

Last year was the first full year of operation of the Pavilion which is the centre of the many activities now open to members of the Association and local residents generally. It continues to go from strength to strength, and the Treasurer will shortly be able to confirm this when he reviews our accounts. It houses regular weekly sessions run by various activity and interest groups and bookings are also solid for family parties over the weekends.  

The Pavilion is managed by a dedicated group of members who take the bookings, open and close the building and keep up the improvements. This voluntary work is time consuming and onerous, and I want to thank again Jerry Cuthbert and David Freeman, as well as our Treasurer John Townsend. Linda Fitch has also been a great help in taking care of and improving the gardens.  

We would welcome some more assistance in managing the Pavilion which is now such an important part of our activity. We are grateful that Mrs. Deveson has come forward during the year to assist us, and hope that more members can be found to do the same. 

The Association established the Pavilion Social Club two years ago and is very successful, with growing numbers of men and women at its weekly get-togethers on Thursday afternoons, which have occasional guest speakers. It also organises visits out to places of interest. It has been run from the outset by Jill Truman and Andrea Hannan, and I have seen for myself their extraordinary rapport with the members and the enthusiasm they bring. We thank them. 

We intend to hold a summer party to thank another much larger group of people without whom the Association could not begin to function. These are our dedicated Area Co-Ordinators and Road Stewards who deliver the Guides to all our members in all weathers. The party will be held at the Pavilion on the afternoon of Saturday 11th June during the weekend of celebrations to mark the 90th Birthday of The Queen. The invitations will be going out soon, and we hope that as many of them as possible will come and join us.  I want to thank also Andrew Barwick and Dick Coleman, our Distribution Managers, for their skilful organisation of such a large group of people. 

Our web site is much visited, and is always kept fully up to date with matters of both general and immediate interest. We get an increasing numbers of enquiries in this way. The technical work is managed by our Web Master, Charles Briscoe-Smith and on a day to day basis mainly by Jerry Cuthbert. We thank all those involved. 

The backbone of the Association continues to be the work put in by our Joint Secretaries, Jill Truman and Jan Bailey. They are simply invaluable and are human dynamos.  Jill not only finds time to edit the Guide, but also to act as our Advertising Manager, and we can only continue to afford to publish The Guide if we can obtain ongoing advertising revenue. Jan continues to amaze everyone with her encyclopaedic knowledge of everything that happens here and whom on the Council to approach to get things done she also prepares meticulous minutes of our meetings.   I thank them both. 

We continue to play our full part in the wider Raynes Park Association and on the Raynes Park Forum. We are proud that Raynes Park is now widely heralded to be one of the finest small high street shopping areas in the whole country. I would thank Jerry Cuthbert, Jill Truman, and particularly tonight Pamela Robinson for their contribution to these community discussions. 

I must mention also the vital role that our West Barnes and Raynes Park Councillors play in coming to our meetings, in acting on our concerns and in bringing them to the attention of the powers that be in Merton. 

As our Treasurer will tell you, we are financially in good heart, and John Townsend is that rare person, who is not only excellent with numbers, but can make an explanation of them interesting.  I want to thank him, and would also thank our Honorary Auditor Brian Lewis-Lavender. 

We are sorry that our of our Committee stalwarts, Peter Connellan, passed away recently. He was a perfect gentleman and looked after the Shannon Corner area of the Association for very many years, as well as serving on local schools and in many other voluntary roles. We will miss him. 

Finally, as I said last year, we do need fresh blood at all levels both to manage our affairs, and especially to help with advertising, and with running the Pavilion. If you can spare any time or energy to help, we will welcome you with open arms. Thank you. 

John Elvidge, Chairman

13th April 2016

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