Minutes of the ANTAS meeting held at St. Michael's Church Rooms, St. Albans 13th April 2002.
PRESENT: Mrs Jennifer Moss, President, Dr Peter Diplock, Chairman, Mr John Davies Vice-Chairman, Mr Peter Trevlyan, Vice-Chairman, Mr Anthony Wethered, Hon. Secretary, Mrs Merrin Molesworth and Dr Chris Woodman.
Also present were: representing the Civic Trust, Mr Martin Bacon, Chief Executive, Ms Saskia Hallam, Registrar, and Ms Alexandra Thompson, Comunications Officer; representatives of the Amersham, Aylesbury, Beaconsfield, Buckingham, Chesham, Hertford, High Wycombe, Hitcham & Taplow, Hitchin, Marlow, Potters Bar, Radlett, St. Albans, and Wendover Societies, and Mr Peter Eversden, Chairman of the London Forum. Attending as observers were Mr Tony Joyce (Chairman) and Mr Frank Dann, of the Oxford Society.
WELCOME. Mrs Pam Martin, Chairman of the St. Albans Society, extended a warm welcome to the delegates and gave a brief description of St. Albans, including the nearby Roman Museum, and the recent extension to the front of the building. She then explained that the local council was now putting planning procedures on their webpage, and this would make it easier for the Society to obtain information rapidly. This rapid accessibility of information would become increasingly important, and would enable Societies to communicate with each other on given issues so that a collective response could be given.
APOLOGIES for absence were received from Mr R. Sims, Hon. Treasurer and the Ware, Holmer Green and Long Crendon Societies.
MINUTES of the 21st April 2001 were approved and signed by the Chairman as a true and correct record.
MATTERS ARISING. There were none.
CHAIRMAN'S REPORT. The Chairman welcomed the representatives of the Civic Trust, the observers from the Oxford Society and Mr Peter Eversden from the London Forum.
He then thanked the St. Albans Society for hosting the meeting and apologised to Marlow who were to have been the host society on this occasion. He explained that the venue had been changed as several non-ANTAS Societies had been invited to the meeting and St.Albans was the most central location.
The Chairman then announced that Mrs Merrin Molesworth and Dr Chris Woodman had been co-opted onto the Executive Committee, as they were very involved with the communications project, which had become a regular part of the Executive Committee business. He thanked all those who had worked for ANTAS, in particular Anthony Wethered for his work on the response to the Green Paper on planning. He asked that Societies send in reports on issues as and when they happened, rather than every six months. Information sharing by Societies is becoming ever more important, as strength in numbers is only beneficial if everyone knows what each Society is doing. Although electronic communication is seen as the way forward, it is vital that Societies that do not use it do not feel sidelined.
Anthony Wethered gave the Interim Report on behalf of the Hon.Treasurer. He reported that expenditure in April was £217.00 whilst income was £217.17. There is a balance of £319.01.
Speed regulation in towns.
There have been problems in Chesham with fast moving traffic in pedestrian dominated areas. It is not possible to have a totally pedestrianised High Street in Chesham. Instead the area is called pedestrian dominated. In reality, traffic moving at 30-mph through the High Street is a real danger to pedestrians and so the Chesham Society is proposing a 10-mph limit, which they are hoping will become the national speed limit in pedestrian dominated areas. This initiative is supported by the Civic Trust.
Anthony del Tufo.
A private finance initiative has allowed flats to be proposed for a site at Amersham hospital. These consist of 300ft-wide blocks, 5 storeys high. Officers recommended the development for approval, but the Council rejected it unanimously. The developers appealed, but this has now been withdrawn and a more sensible plan is being considered.
Members of the Aylesbury Society had attended a seminar on town centre planning. Eighty people were present, mostly representatives from commerce. The aim of the meeting was to discuss various issues and ultimately realise a "common vision". There had been similar initiatives before, but they had not been very successful. One of the Society's main aims has been to keep a watching brief on retail development, as the Society is concerned with the possibility of shed-like retail units being introduced.
Bucks County Council has commissioned a transport study and the Beaconsfield Society has sent in comments, which it is to be hoped will be reflected in the final report.
The Buckingham Society were pleased to note that the District Council was prepared to take Buckingham's Vision and Design Statement into account when deciding on new developments. This was the case recently when it was decided that a hotel design was unsuitable because it did not meet the criteria set out in the Statement.
Hertford District Council has recently decided to employ a consultant to review car parking arrangements. When the Society spoke to the consultant it was discovered that he had not been given a report on a traffic survey which had been carried out some eight years before.
Rapid turnover of Council staff means that many of them are not aware of the existence of such items and this situation is exacerbated by a shortage of council staff.
The District Council has recently discussed the Hitchin town centre strategy, and the Hitchin Society was pleased and surprised to find that the Council did not force the issue through, but agreed to undertake more consultation. The issue of what should replace a 1960's shopping precinct concerns the Society. It is not clear whether a modern design would be more suitable than a period design, or whether a reconstruction of the original frontage should be used. Martin Bacon commented that in his view it was better not to mimic the past, but to choose a contemporary design. He suggested that a townscape analysis could be undertaken.
The Marlow Society has attended consultations for the development of a Green Belt site (the Marlow gravel pits). These have been successful and the site is to be devoted to quiet country leisure pursuits. This will limit the development, but there is still a threat to the green belt area. There are also problems with motorway noise and the Society is to have a meeting with the Under-secretary of State to campaign for quiet road surfacing.
John Lewis (Waitrose) is attempting to change the status of a large area in the town centre. It is currently classed as residential land. There is a split in opinion about this within the populace. Some see it as an asset to the town, whilst others feel it will generate traffic problems, and some think the store will bring trade into the town whilst others feel local traders will suffer.
The Society is concerned about a planning application to redevelop a former RAF hospital. If the development goes ahead, it will result in 630 new dwellings, which would mean an increase in the population of Wendover of 24%. It is feared the development will destroy the character and scale of Wendover if the development proceeds.
Civic Trust Regional Groups.
Carolyn Cumming explained that there are nine Regional Committees consisting of representatives from each county. A representative from each region sits on the National Regional Committee, with a total of nine members.
She reported that constitutional changes were causing difficulties. It is not clear how these will be resolved but it is important that the range of different opinions are heard. The strengths of the Civic Societies and the Civic Trust complement each other. The Civic Societies have local expertise and the Civic Trust has an important role in decision making. A shared voice is needed via the Regional Committee structures and we need to make them work. We require communications and resources (money and time) to address these issues.
Martin Bacon commented that the Regional Committees are very important. However, there were occasions when it was necessary to speak to the Government quickly and consideration of how this was to be done was essential.
Any Other Business.
The Chairman, Peter Diplock, reminded members that at the last AGM Anthony Wethered had said that he would not be standing as Hon. Secretary again. He appealed for volunteers to consider taking over this very important role within ANTAS.
Date of Next Meeting.
The date of the next meeting, which is the AGM, is Saturday 19th October at Marlow.
Communicating in Today's World - Making Progress or Making Do?
Introduction by ANTAS Chairman.
Peter Diplock stressed the importance of getting Societies to communicate with each other, as groups of Societies acting in a co-ordinated way would have a much greater impact than the same Societies acting alone. At the last ANTAS meeting, Martin Bacon, as the new Chief Executive of the Civic Trust, spoke of the importance of communication. As a result of the meeting, ANTAS and the Civic Trust began the Communication Project. It was now necessary to bring members up to date on what had been achieved and to identify the key aspects of communication, which it would be necessary to address in order to move the project forward. It is important that the project is not seen to be promoting communication by electronic means only. All forms of communication are important.
Where are we now? A report on survey findings.
Anthony Wethered presented the results of a survey that was carried out in February 2002, to assess to what extent electronic communication is used by Societies. It was found that responses were mixed. Some Societies were using it a great deal whilst others had minimal use. He commented that this was not meant to imply that those Societies not using electronic communication were less efficient or communicated less, than those that did. However, in the future these Societies would begin to feel some disadvantage and electronic communication is considered to be the way of the future.
Twelve of the sixteen Societies, (75%) of Chairman, and Hon. Secretaries used E-mail.
Approximately 55% of Executive Committee Officers used E-mail. 75% of these used E-mail to communicate with other officers.
Communication between Officers and members of the Society was lower, six of sixteen societies (37%).
One Society used E-mail for newsletters. This may have been partly due to Societies being aware that large or complicated documents would take a long time to download to the recipient's computer.
Four Societies used E-mail to communicate with the media, five responded to local or national government via E-mail and one Society responded to consultation documents.
Ten Societies (62%) communicated with ANTAS via E-mail.
Three Societies (19%) currently have a web site and four (25%) are planning to produce one.
Anthony Wethered then thanked the respondents for their help and said that he had gained a lot of information about the Societies by doing the survey.
A Communications Strategy.
Mr Bacon stated that changes were necessary in the way that Societies did things in order for them to become more influential. This involved a process of thinking and this might be more necessary than monetary resources. The Civic Trust needed to expand, perhaps doubling its membership. He envisaged that the Trust would grow its income by one-third over the next ten years. The key tool is communication and Societies must get better at it if we are to influence decision-makers.
Increased communication will bring many benefits: -
■ Greater respect from outside agencies.
■ Emphasise that Societies are forward looking in their approach, rather than being seen as rooted in the past.
■ Give a more professional image.
■ Attract a younger membership.
■ Members will have the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.
■ Enable Societies to help each other.
It has already been emphasised that communication does not just involve electronic means. Meetings, both formal and informal, leaflets and updates, word of mouth and magazines are all very important. Again, it is important to think of the impression that is being given to outside organisations. Societies must acquire a more modern image and avoid the "1950's Parish magazine" look to their publications.
It is easier than ever before to communicate via the Internet and E-mail. 75% of households now have a personal computer. The Civic Trust wishes to learn about the problems and difficulties encountered by the ANTAS Communications Project so that the lessons learned can be applied to other Societies within the Civic Trust. A survey is required to assess what needs to be done at the National, Regional, ANTAS and local Society level. Who do we want to communicate with? How often? What do we want to communicate?
A project brief will need to be produced in which will be set out why the project is necessary, who will run it, what stages there are, what risks are involved and how the end result is to be determined. The project will then be put to a number of funding agencies such as the Learning and Skills Council, the Regional Development Agency and the National Lottery Community Fund. All the organisations involved will need to show their commitment to the project and it will require, vision, drive and energy.
Businesses that provide electronic equipment may also become involved, as a potential 300,000 customers would be an excellent marketing opportunity.
A Short Demonstration of the ANTAS Website.
Chris Woodman began the presentation by looking at the type of computer necessary for trouble-free working. He suggested that for a beginner a new computer or one that was not more than three years old was likely to give the best results.
He then outlined the specific minimum requirements that the computer should have for successful online use. Questions on costs arose and after a discussion, the cost of a standard computer with the required attributes was put at between £650 -700.
Connecting to the Internet and obtaining an e-mail address are done together and it is free. The only cost involved is that of a local telephone call for as long as the connection is maintained. E-mails should be composed and read off line. It is possible to have an Internet account with more than one Internet Service Provider, and this was recommended.
Chris Woodman then gave a demonstration on how to use the ANTAS website and also how to connect to links from it. A discussion then ensued on the best way to produce a website for an individual Society and he went on to explain the various ways of getting a website address and how to set up the site itself.
Most Internet Service Providers (ISP) provide sufficient web space to allow the construction of a web site free of charge. One of the main problems with this was to get a short address as these are appended with the ISP, e.g. Freeserve. It is possible to register a chosen name, but this incurs costs.
Building a web page is done using a programme, Frontpage. The Website is built on the computer hard disk and is then uploaded on to the web space.
A discussion then began on whether or not it was better to have a website made professionally. The general opinion was that it was not really worth the money. Peter Diplock commented that good websites attracted people and made it easier to find information. Anthony del Tufo suggested that when something of importance had been placed on a web-site it would be a good idea to send out an E-mail to say so. Martin Bacon commented that the Civic Trust produced an E-mail letter that mentioned items of interest on the Civic Trust website.
The Benefits of E-Mail.
The presentation began with a demonstration of how E-mail works, and a resume of how to compose and send E-mail messages. To save money, it was recommended that E-mails were composed off-line and then sent. It was important to become familiar with the way E-mail is sent, as the instructions can be slightly ambiguous, which might result in the message being stored without being sent.
The great advantage of E-mail is that the same message can be sent to a great many different people with no more effort and time spent than is required to compose the E-mail. Martin Bacon commented that the Civic Trust use "Media Disk" which contains a list of E-mail addresses which might be relevant to a particular campaign. This enables all relevant organisations and people to be contacted easily, via E-mail. E-mail training is promoted by the People's Network Computer Training organisation and takes place in facilities such as libraries. Peter Diplock commented that training for key members was an important issue that needs to be addressed.
Presentation of Chris Woodman's "Prompt".
The aim of "Prompt" is to encourage the use of electronic communication by regional organisations, local Societies and other contacts. E-mail is a time-saver and has definite benefits for an organisation. Ease of use and low costs are its great advantages.
It would be possible to distribute Newsletters by E-mail, but downloading a large document would take time and tie-up the recipient's telephone line.
E-mail can be used within a Society to circulate meeting agendas, minutes and issues and externally to communicate with Councillors, Council officers, The Civic Trust and government offices. However it was mentioned that care had to be taken with E-mail as it was very easy to get cross. This immediacy of communication did have an advantage, however, as members tend to become more enthusiastic. Members can also be reminded about meetings via E-mail.
A general discussion about the presentations then took place. It was agreed that communications to the Executive Committee was very useful for a Society and gave time for responses to be considered before a meeting. E-mail had also been found to be very useful for giving evidence to Public Inquiries etc. Networking between organisations was considered very useful and should be supported and encouraged. The Communications project was progressing well, the survey information is to be analysed and the project brief will be written by the end of June or early July. It is hoped that the project will be endorsed in the autumn with bids in by October.