Chairman's Annual Report 2022

CHAIR’S ADDRESS TO THE AGM 26th April 2022 

THE WORK OF THE RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATION SINCE 2019 

In April 2020 I had planned to report on the work of the Association since the previous AGM in 2019. However, events overtook us, the AGM was cancelled, as was that due in 2021. I am pleased that we can at last meet again. 

I am delighted to be able to report that throughout these very difficult years, and despite the various lockdowns and restrictions, the work of the Association has been able to continue, through the enormous efforts of our Committee, the Pavilion Management Group, our Area Co-Ordinators and Road Stewards. They all deserve the highest praise. 

The last edition of The Guide that we were able to publish under the editorship of Jill Truman was in April 2020. Jill, who had planned to resign at the 2020 AGM had also intended to edit her final Guide in May 2020 before handing over the editorship to Clare Townsend for the June 2020 edition. 

However, as soon as the first lockdown occurred, the publishing firm became unavailable to us, as they were producing COVID related resources. 

To overcome the problem, Clare and John Townsend, with input from Michael Marks and Dick Coleman produced a monthly newsletter on their home computer and attempted to reach members by email. Unfortunately, we found we had very few email contacts for members and could not be certain that residents would look on the website. Enterprising road stewards such as Brenda Pickford and Carolyn Longbottom found ways of delivering print versions, so the Townsends arranged for Prontaprint to produce copies. Gradually more and more road stewards (taking careful precautions in accordance with government advice) were able to deliver to their groups – and so, after four months of newsletters, the new Guide was developed.  Clare, who is also our busy Joint Secretary, has continued to edit and create The Guide at home with John. We are grateful to all those contributing articles, news items and images – with a special mention of Garry Hunt for his numerous photographic contributions. 

Meanwhile Prontaprint has become the reliable producer of 2,000 copies of each edition. Therefore, despite the problems we encountered with publishing firms and a temporary dip in revenue from both subscriptions and advertising we have managed to maintain the tradition that Jill Truman and previous editors established! 

Jill first held office in the Association as far back as 1968 and since then had held all the offices at one time or another. Always effervescent and energetic, she was one of the founding members, with Andrea Hannon, of the Pavilion Club which brought together more elderly members every Thursday afternoon for a much-loved social gathering.  Jill intended to carry on running the club after her resignation (and her move to  Surrey) so these were the afternoons she most missed in the lockdown. We were so pleased when she was awarded the British Empire Medal for her services to the community. The Committee marked her unique contributions by inviting her to become our Honorary Lifelong President. We are glad that she accepted and is here tonight. 

I mentioned Andrea Hannon, who sadly died too young. The members of The Pavilion Social Club have planted a rose bush and placed a suitable plaque in the Pavilion grounds in loving memory 

Inevitably, during the past three years there have been some changes. 

Andrew Barwick has retired as our Distribution & Membership Manager after many years’ service.  This involved organising the membership lists, the road steward duties, liaising with John (the treasurer) and distributing batches of Guides each month to Area Coordinators. We thank Andrew and Rosemary Wright (ex-membership secretary) for their considerable efforts. Although no longer on the committee,  Andrew and Mette are continuing to deliver The Guide to local residents. 

John now organises the membership lists, whilstClare coordinates the road steward allocations. We are very pleased to welcome Otto Hoenig who sorts and distributes the batches of Guides to the Coordinators as our new Distribution Manager and Debbie Thornton, who is a new Area Coordinator. 

We could not function as an Association without the huge contribution made by our numerous Area Coordinators and Road Stewards. A big thank you to all of you. I would particularly tonight mention George Holder who has run our Printed Guides by Post service for many years and is now retiring. 

John Townsend is our Treasurer and keeps the most perfectly detailed accounts you can ever see.  He has managed, with the help of our Road Stewards, to collect most of the subscriptions due in these years, and to keep the Association funds in a very healthy position. He will be presenting the accounts to this AGM shortly.  We thank Brian Lewis-Lavender for once more auditing them. 

Michael Marks is our Joint Secretary and has taken on the considerable task of coping with a very large number of e-mails that come our way. He works assiduously, following up residents’ queries and concerns and is tireless in pursuing matters with the council and with all other organisations affecting residents’ everyday lives. He is also well versed in modern technology and is always ready to assist others. When we required updated coronavirus information to be relayed at the beginning of the pandemic, Michael undertook the marathon task of delivering a leaflet to every single member’s door! Michael is generous with his time and like many of the committee members he assists with Guide distribution. He also represents members on various local committees. 

Dick Coleman is our Advertising Manager and has stabilised and improved this part of our finances by finding new advertisers while keeping the present ones.  The amount of work this takes should not be under-estimated, particularly in the wake of the Covid crisis He liaises with Clare in respect of advertising space in the Guide and with John regarding e-Guides and advertising revenue. 

He has recently added a selection of advertisements to the website to encourage more custom.  He is a skilled user of modern technology, and hosted our committee Zoom meetings when we were unable to meet. He is also the initiator of the RPWBRA Nextdoor site – and a tireless Area Coordinator. 

During the pandemic period we have continued to improve our communication with Members through our Website and through posts on the local NextDoor group.   Apart from the people I have mentioned so far, we have to thank also tonight Jerry Cuthbert who uploads information on to the website and our Webmaster, Charles Briscoe-Smith, who looks after the technical aspects. 

Jerry is also the Chair of the Premises Management Group, which has had the very difficult task in lockdown of compliance with all the regulations, deciding when and how it is safe to open the Pavilion, and of managing the bookings that we can take.

 I would also thank here the other members of the Pavilion Management Group, who are David Freeman, Moira Deveson, Chris and Tina Lorimer, Howard Phillips and John Townsend.   

Jerry and Michael are also our representatives on the umbrella organisations of the Raynes Park Association and the Raynes Park Forum. 

Much of the work of the Association continues to be on planning matters, both big and small. Our planning guru, for very many years, has been our Vice President. David Freeman, who continues to keep us abreast of everything that we need to know. The biggest issue that we have had to deal with in the past three years has, of course, has been the Redrow application to build 456 flats in 7 tower blocks up to 15 stories high next to Tesco’s. We held a public meeting in September 2019 at which all the very many residents present expressed their total opposition. 

David and Jerry were invaluable in preparing for the meeting of Merton’s planning committee which helped in the decision to refuse the application in February 2020. 

Redrow’s planning appeal took place over 11 days in December 2020 and January 2021, and literally there were thousands of pages of planning guidance and submissions to be understood and dealt with. 

I would like to pay a personal tribute to Jerry for his mastery of these documents, which enabled us to present a compelling defence to the appeal.   It was a bitter disappointment when the Inspector finally allowed the appeal in June 2021, prioritising the need to have more homes against the concerns of local residents. 

David, Jerry  and Michael have helped enormously on our other major planning issue, still ongoing, which is the application by Bellway to build 107 flats on the sports ground at Meadowview Close. 

We have been fighting to prevent housing on this sports ground for over 20 years and previously saw off Barratt’s scheme to build 111 flats. 

We have been in close liaison with the two cricket clubs, and a school which have a fully viable scheme to use the ground again for sports. We submitted a very detailed reasoned objection. We expect the planning committee to decide the application some time after the May elections. 

We have also been liaising with residents to try and get the speed and lorry restrictions adhered to on Grand Drive. We held a Zoom meeting with Council officers in January and will keep pursuing the matter. 

Mary-Jane Jeanes agreed to join the committee just over a year ago and her experience and knowledge of planning has also been invaluable on the Bellway application and a number of other difficult issues. We are lucky to have her expert assistance. 

She, Michael, Jerry and David have also become expert in the issues of flooding and the whereabouts of the drains and watercourses, which sometimes overflow in heavy rain. We have had an increasing number of these problems in the past three years. 

Together with other concerned residents we managed in June 2021 to persuade the Council’s licensing committee to refuse a licence application for all-day drinking at the Raynes Park Vale Football Club. 

We also managed to get the council, after a number of reminders, to enforce the planning conditions on Prince George’s Playing Fields. This restricts the number of commercial activities which can take place each year. 

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to you all for joining us at our first general meeting in three years! 

 John Elvidge

 

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