"Guide" Editor's Blog - July 2012

Our Chairman is off gallivanting to Russia and points beyond, and so there is room for some Editor’s comment this month, which I hope will provide as good ‘a read’ as usual.

New Mayor of Merton

Congratulations to Cllr. David Tyrie Williams on being elected Mayor of Merton for the year 2012/13.   Like the outgoing Mayor, Cllr. Gilli Lewis-Lavender, David has strong links with West Barnes Ward.   He has honoured his Mother Jill Williams (who lives in Blenheim Road) by nominating her his Mayoress, and has chosen Jill Brewer, a lifelong friend from Greenway, as his Consort.   David – very much a local boy - has of course, been a Councillor for Hillside for many years, and was also Leader of the Conservative Group until Cllr. Debbie Shears took over.


We wish David, his Mayoress and his Consort a most enjoyable year in their respective roles and look forward to meeting with them at some point.

The Outgoing Mayor
 Everyone agrees that Gilli was a superb first citizen of Merton during her year.   She is a dedicated and tireless worker and throughout her year, she (with the help of her husband and consort Brian), fulfilled the role with tremendous enthusiasm and gusto, whilst   still managing to maintain her hard work on behalf of West Barnes Residents, thus ensuring that Cllrs. Iain Dysart and Mary-Jane Jeanes were not too overloaded. 

Although the mayoralty is not per se primarily a fund-raising role we believe that Gilli will have raised more money for her Mayor’s Charities than anyone before her.  The figures haven’t yet been finalised, but it is thought that she has raised a sum in the region of £70,000, £25,000 of which was apparently the result of a hugely successful Mayor’s Charity Ball! 

Gilli has told us how very much she enjoyed her year – even taking tea with the Queen on Her Majesty’s  Jubilee visit to Mitcham – and we hope, now that she has a bit more time, she will be able to write some short articles for The Guide about what she learnt as Mayor;  for, she says, it was very much a learning curve, giving her insight into all the hard work done by huge numbers of volunteers across the borough, a true picture of what the ‘Big Society’ is all about. 

First Open Meeting at West Barnes Library
 In June we held our Open Meeting in West Barnes Library, Motspur Park, for the very first time and it went extremely well.   We have had meetings in the West Barnes part of the Association before, but they have usually been public ones about specific issues.   Because much of our work of late has concerned the protection of our open spaces, we have been criticized recently for being too “Grand Drive” centric.  The Association would strongly dispute this, but it is quite true that the issue of the development of sports grounds off Grand Drive – The Pavilions, St. Catherine’s Square, and Meadview (previously Sun Alliance, LESSA and St. Catherine’s school grounds) has involved the Association in a lot of time and effort. 

Nonetheless, we have taken up and reported on smaller development issues in the Motspur Park area and strongly supported the work of the Friends of the Sir Joseph Hood sports fields and West Barnes Library.  It goes without saying that if a serious issue is brought to our attention - even from beyond our boundaries – but which affects any of our Members, we will of course address it.   We are, however, short of a representative from the Seaforth Avenue area on our Committee.  Peter Connellan who is the co-ordinator for Claremont Avenue is the only Committee member on that side of the ward.   The same can be said for the Coombe Lane area…so volunteers please. 

Matters of concern at the Open Meeting
The latest proposals for the Rainbow Estate (sited between West Barnes Lane, the railway track and Firstway) were much discussed.   The site owners – Workspace Glebe – have come up with a new proposal for mixed use covering both industrial units and residential.  The Association considers that any residential use is inappropriate, and objected strongly at the Raynes Park Area Forum on 21st June:  more on this in our report on the Forum. 

Another matter which we felt should be tackled is that of the perimeter fencing around the Meadview site (ex-LESSA), especially since we learned that the developer, Bellway, was  only undertaking to repair or renew the fencing where individual residents requested it.    A letter was prepared and delivered to all affected households advising them of this and suggesting that they should make their request soon as possible as Bellway have virtually completed their work there, and will soon be leaving.

A sad farewell
 Members were saddened to learn of the death of Jean Ferrier (wife of George, who has been one of the Association’s most faithful supporters over the years having been a Road Representative, Area Co-ordinator, and a Vice- President of the Association.   He was also our local Policeman until he retired and became a Court Usher). 

Whilst the Association was (you might say) George’s hobby, Jean Ferrier’s life centred around her family, her work and Holy Cross Church, where she was Hall Manager for many years.  Jean’s funeral took place on 6th June and Holy Cross Church, was packed – standing room only – with all her friends and family so she will obviously be sorely missed by many.  Our heartfelt condolences go to George and the family on their sad loss.

Randall House, Grand Drive
 Concerns having been raised about the installation of a driveway at the entrance to Randall House, which it was felt might conflict and/or restrict sight lines on the approach to the nearby traffic lights,   Cllr. Gilli Lewis-Lavender took this matter up with the Highways Department and received the following reply: 

“We also had concerns and we have worked with the resident to accommodate his needs. As part of the application, the resident commissioned an independent safety audit which was then forwarded to us for our attention. We have drawn up a number of agreements that the resident has signed in terms of marinating site lines and the use of the crossover and his off street parking. It has also been agreed that in the event of non-compliance the crossover will be removed at full cost to the resident.

Following a great deal of deliberation and given the safety audit, it was concluded that if we had not worked with the resident to improve sightlines the resident would have used his off street parking facility any way without a crossover and believe it not, there is very little we can do in situations such as this. This way we have the appropriate agreements and safe guards in place.

The resident has agreed to remove his gate; lower the shrubs/hedge to no more than 0.5m in height and must drive in and drive out.”

[Comment: I can’t quite get my head around the phrase “marinating site lines”. Will this improve the flavour?]

 Recruitment Leaflet
 It was reported that the Committee has produced a ‘Recruitment’ leaflet to aid the recruitment of new members from residents living in St. Catherine’s Square, Meadow View and The Pavilions.  It welcomes new residents, describes the work of the Association and invites them to join.   This leaflet currently awaiting printing and should be available soon.   We feel it will be useful not only for delivery to residents in the new developments, but also for Road Representatives to drop into households where there  has been a change of ownership or tenant, or where they wish to do a mini-drive on their own patch.   It is interesting to note that some of our Road Reps manage to achieve almost 100% membership.  The leaflet might help one or two others to reach a similar high target.



National Health Service
 We hear such a lot of negative talk about the NHS these days that I would like to tell you about my husband’s current experience which is rather more positive than one might expect from the constant reports in the News.

Simon suffered a stroke in January affecting his right side. He was brilliantly treated by the Ambulance Service, St. George’s Hospital (who were able to give him a clot-busting treatment that has no doubt aided his recovery) by the nursing staff and Therapists at both Kingston and Queen Mary’s Hospital Roehampton (where they have the new Wolfson Unit for neurological rehabilitation) and the wonderful Royal Brompton who fitted a pacemaker.   He was in hospital for three months and is now home, where he has had superlative treatment from the District Nursing service, our local chemist, all the Community therapists and our GPs. 

Wimbledon Rugby Club
The Club which now manages Drax Playing fields in West Wimbledon has recently put drainage in what was once a rain sodden unplayable field and have been feeding, reseeding and treating the pitch.  A first class job has been done after years of neglect by the local authority, and it will now be possible to make the most of the grounds.  Local school such as Willingdon use it regularly, and during the season Wimbledon Rugby Club’s training school for budding youngsters pack the grounds to capacity with boys (and the odd girl) from about 5 years of age.
Our Advertising Manager
Kate Price, who has looked after the advertising in The Guide superbly for a good five years or more despite increasing demands on her time from Newsquest where she does the same thing professionally, has now had an offer from one of our newest Committee Members, Linda Fitch, to take on the chore on a trial basis.  We wish Linda good luck and hope she likes the job, and that Kate will now be able to ‘retire’ happily and spend more time with her family. 

A Personal view
 Finally, a strongly held personal view which I am giving because I am heartily sick of the constant carping from the media about suggestions being put forward for consideration by the Government to try and improve our Education and Welfare systems.  And I stress, these are suggestions for consultation and NOT (yet) done deals. 

Thank God for Gove!  I say.  I simply cannot understand the furore being voiced - I suspect for purely political reasons - at the idea that GCSE and Advanced level exams in certain core subjects should be tightened up.   For years we have been told by employers that young people cannot write proper English, cannot spell, and cannot add up.  Even graduates come into quite highly paid posts unable to communicate properly with clients on the telephone whilst thinking that they ‘know it all’.   A friend told me that the other day she tried to purchase a couple of items the cost of which added up to about £3.50, but because the till system was down, the shop assistant could not complete her purchase because she was unable to total the amount to be paid, and deduct the correct amount of change from a fiver. 

So, why all this fuss about the possible introduction of a “two tiered” exam system?   We all know that some people are more academic and others more practically skilled; and that the country needs really skilled trades-people.  Why can’t WE have a system such as that in Germany and Eastern Europe where practical youngsters are thoroughly trained in ALL aspects of building and associated engineering work?  Many of our friends and acquaintances extol the virtues of the Kiwi’s, South Africans and European workers who are taking over all the much needed skilled building and repair work that we all crave (not the Cowboys we often get).   Workers who work from 8.00 till 5.00 and are not always stopping for tea,  coffee or a fag, and really take a pride in doing a good job. 

What a joy it is when we get good service from a retailer or supplier that it helpful, polite, and efficient and gives us their full attention, rather than being bored and disinterested.  These are all things that can be put right, by the right training.

 What about all the fuss about having to work an extra year or two before retiring?   I had to fight tooth and nail to be allowed to work beyond retirement age.  Keeping busy keeps you young.  Use it or lose it, as they say. 

On another tack, the whole Bankers business has been an eye-opener, hasn’t it?   I wonder if you were aware of the obscene amounts of salary and bonus being paid to bankers and the like, I certainly wasn’t.  They all certainly deserve their come-uppance, but being aware of the appalling situation the commercial world is now facing, it IS necessary for us all to accept the belt-tightening that’s required and not kick-off when it’s our turn to face the thumb screws.  Particularly them. 

There it is a personal view which not every reader will agree with, but for me much more satisfying than shouting at the television.   Now let’s hope we have a bit more summer and a spectacular Olympics.

 Jill Truman
 Editor of the "Guide"

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