This year we celebrated our 75th year as an Association, and what a year it has been. It must rank among our most successful and enjoyable ever.
In the spring, we were all focussed on the planning enquiry fixed for June to hear the application by Barratt Homes to build on the LESSA site. The preparatory work required for the enquiry was immense. Although we took advice from a planning consultant, a huge amount of the work fell upon Bob Simpson and his wife Anne, who between them produced a masterly and impressive reasoned objection. I must also mention and pay tribute to the work that Martin Mitchell and David Freeman carried out in preparing material.
When the day of the enquiry dawned, we turned up in force with last-minute submissions, and we were pleased to note that the inspector had mastered the voluminous documentation before him and that we were getting, as a third party, the same consideration as the leading planning silk instructed by the developers. I myself had an interesting half-hour being cross-examined by him when I submitted our oral evidence and the photographs of flooding over the years.
As you know, the inspector ruled in our favour, and in strong terms. He held that the development proposed was excessive and insensitive to the interests of surrounding residents, and that the developers had failed to show that the field was not needed for open sporting purporses. For a residents' association such as ourselves, using largely our own human resources, this was a tremendous achievement, and it is right that we mark it as such at this A.G.M.
However, this is a battle won, and not the whole war. Barratt have recently come back to us, through environmental consultants that they have engaged, to suggest a smaller and (they say) more sensitive development of houses with gardens. We have offered to host a public meeting for them and their architects in the summer once we know the results of the study into Merton's open spaces. So far, this suggestion has met with a deafening silence. We are submitting evidence to this study, and have already had a meeting with the Merton planning officers to emphasize our case that these fields are needed for open sprting purposes both in local and regional terms.
Our victory in respect of the LESSA site has also meant that the planning application for the Royal and Sun Alliance site has been refused under delegated powers. So it was a double victory.
The summer was not all work. The Association sponsored a lovely concert given by the West Barnes Singers in St. Saviour's, which marked Andrew Charity's 30th year as the Singers' conductor. The programme celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Coronation. We were honoured by the presence of the Mayor, and also had a great party afterwards for well over 100 people. My thanks to those who provided the food and drink for this party, and in particular to Jill and Simon Truman.
In August, when we had no committee meeting, the committee decided to try to recruit new members on the Carter's estate. This was not an easy task, since it meant trying to get into blocks of flats through entry-phones. We had great fun, and will try again elsewhere with, I hope, a better rate of success.
In the late summer, residents in Cannon Hill Lane were faced with an assault on their environment when a would-be developer cut down a lovely area of woodland right behind their houses and left it as a rubble-strewn tip. We understand that he is to be prosecuted for the offence of cutting down protected trees, and that the residents will be giving evidence in the case.
By contrast, we are in the business of planting trees, and we were delighted to be able to give some funds to help the Friends of Cannon Hill Common in their project to plant a screen of trees fronting Parkway. Two planting sessions took place in November, both in appalling conditions of driving wind and rain. The trees seem to have survived the winter in good heart. We understand that the Friends may wish to be officially affiliated to the Association, and, if so, we shall welcome them with open arms.
In December, we had another very successful Christmas party following the general meeting, and again my thanks to those who organised it.
The other major project of the year has been the production of the 75th anniversary edition of "The Guide". You have all had a copy, and will agree with me that it is a stunning piece of work, and full of interesting articles. Our thanks go in particular to our editor Martin Eales, to our advertising manager Kate Price, to Tim Miles for his extensive research into the history of the Association, and to Pamela Robinson for her lovely design of the cover, which saw its debut in this edition. I also want to thank them for their contributions throughout the year.
The system we introduced last year of having general meetings every three months and committee meetings in the two months in between has worked very well. Our committee meetings are always well-attended and interesting, and a lot of useful business gets done. I would like to thank all the committee for their help over the year. It is invidious to mention names, since someone will feel left out, but I would pay particular tribute to Jan Bailey for her exemplary minute-taking and bubbly contributions and to John Cock, who always seems to know everything that is going on.
I would also like to thank those of our local councillors who attend our committee meetings, help the residents who come to us with their concerns, and smooth our passage to the council. They are Margaret Brierly, her son William, Angela Caldara, and Gilli Lewis-Lavender.
David Freeman has continued to oversee general planning matters and keep us informed in "The Guide". Among other things, he has tried to ameliorate the council's lack of foresight in knocking down the present Raynes Park Library without making adequate alternative arrangements.
We have dealt with a host of other matters, including proposals made for the Sir Joseph Hood Memorial playing fields, floodlighting at the tennis club and the awful state of both Raynes Park and Motspur Park stations.
Last, but very much not least, I have mentioned Jill Truman in the context of parties; she continues to insist on only being Acting Secretary, but she is the mainspring of the Association. She is my driving force, and her energy continues to amaze me. I hope that she will continue Acting for many years to come.John Elvidge