Hello, and welcome from one of the "New, young and talented team" ; well, that's what was recorded in the March "Guide" ! I assume that Garry was talking about the new ladies who, I am very pleased to say, have come on board. What our President really meant was "I trust you will steer the ship at least as well as the 'old' team". We will try.
Debbie, our new Secretary, was off to a flying start and introduced herself last month. No doubt our new Deputy Chairman, Liz Lesnianski, will do something similar. We should all be grateful that these two busy working mums have come forward, as well as Nikki Waid and Jan Bailey.
I am in the hot seat for twelve months as a link between the "old" and the "new". Some of you will know that I have been helping in the background - mainly on planning issues - in recent years. This experience has brought home to me the certainty that the need for our Association is even greater now than when it was first formed. It seems that the risk from flooding was the main focus of attention back in 1928, and it probably still is. The big difference is that, in the interval, there has been a huge amount of extra development, and we now know much more about climate change. There will be more to say on this topic later.
I should like to pay a tribute. This has been said by others, but it is a privilege to join with them in saying a huge "thank you" to Wendy and Garry Hunt and Jill Truman for their herculean efforts over some thirty years. We all stand in their debt. I should add that Wendy continues in her post, thank goodness, and still wearing two hats. There are of course many others who beaver away in the background. Their names will appear from time to time.
So, what has been happening lately ? There are several issues running at present, and with most of them we are in a "wait and see" game. The key word is vigilance.
You will have seen in the April "Guide" the letter we sent to the Council about the Planning Framework for this site. This framework paper is a guide to a potential developer - as distinct from the owner - on how the Council would like to see the site used. I have had two letters from the Council about this framework paper, both courteous but lacking the assurances we seek. We watch and wait, and are ready to take this further if it appears that Merton Council is disposed towards Wimbledon Football Club beyond the reasonable call of duty and against the interests of the wider public. No specific plans have emerged from the club about their so-called "Academy". However, we have a joint statement - reproduced in slightly edited form in the April "Guide" - to the effect that there are no plans to build a stadium on Prince George's. This is a welcome step forward, and we are grateful to all concerned, including Roger Casale M.P., for making this clear.
We have already reported that Barratt Homes' first outline planning application was rejected, and quite rightly so. More than half of this site is on the functional flood plain. (We will try to explain just what this means later.) This is also in their "wait and see" category. Barratts were intending, we understand, to have discussions with council officials about a possible modified, i.e. smaller, proposal. Meanwhile, I hope that Martin Mitchell is keeping watch from his back garden.
We have learned that this site has been sold to Bryant Homes Southern Counties Ltd.. Jerry Cuthbert has circulated a letter to around 100 residents living around the site to put them in the picture ; thank you, Jerry. This is starting to produce responses, including a donation to a "fighting fund". There is no sign of a planning application yet (it is early days), but, given the history of flooding on this site, we are confident that there is scope to object to any plan for a significant amount of residential development.
In passing, can I say that some of you may feel unease that this Association seems to be anti-everything. It is not because we want to be. It is simply that, in the context of open spaces and taking a longer-term view, we believe that it is essential to preserve the larger "greenfield" sites, not just in Raynes Park but London-wide, to allow them to absorb - in a natural way - the increased rainfall we can now expect. Fortunately, there is evidence that the Government is taking the risk of flooding more seriously, and seems willing to tighten the guidelines for developers.
I ought also to comment about on the article on page 16 of the April "Guide" about PPG25. The latter is a consultation document, now in second draft, issued by the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Prescott's empire). It is intended as guidance to all local authorities on built development within, or close to, areas at risk from flooding. This is a rather complex subject. Perhaps later in the year we will be able to put together some notes on climate change and set out some of the detail from this Policy Planning Guidance document.
We are now in a new Association year, and subscriptions are due. It was agreed at the A.G.M. to increase the subscription to £2.50. This is not asking too much, considering that subscriptions have been held at £2.00 for about ten years. If you are sure you know where your Road Steward lives, it would be greatly appreciated if you could pop the cash in an envelope, with your name and address on the outside, and deliver it. Thank you ; you should get the receipt later on. Do try to encourage your neighbours to join if they are new to the area or not already members. Numbers do count, and the more members we have, the stronger our voice will be.
At the "eleventh hour", or more precisely at 8 p.m. on the very night, we had to change the venue for our annual meeting. I'm sorry if you were inconvenienced (and that includes my wife !) It seems the regular caretaker was on leave, and his replacement failed to deal with our booking. Not good enough, Council ; we would like a letter of apology. Our sincere thanks to the establishment of Holy Cross church, who came to the rescue after frantic use of mobile phones. It was certainly different having the A.G.M. in a church (we did move into the hall after the Brownies had finished tying their knots, or whatever they do). The sight of Garry delivering his "sermon" from below the altar will linger in the memory.
At one of our meetings last year, I reported that I had heard that children at St. John Fisher primary school had been sent home because of flooding, and this was recorded in the December "Guide". It seems this was incorrect. Mary Chesshyre, in the office of the R.C. Diocese of Southwark, and I have exchanged letters on this subject in order to set the record straight. We offer an apology to the Diocese, and send them our best wishes.
It looks as though real progress is being made on the proposal to redevelop Raynes Park Library and Assembly Hall, and, further down the line, a possible redevelopment on the Thames Water site alongside the car park. There will be more details next month, but meanwhile let me say there is no plan to cover the car park with a supermarket. The car park is Thames Water land, and cannot be built over.
The next meeting of the Association will be on Tuesday 8th May, when I am expecting Mr. Karl Murdoch to come and talk to us. He is the Waste Operations Manager at the Garth Road tip. This is a follow-up to the visit from Neil Isaacs, the Waste Services Manager, in February.David Freeman