Minutes of the ANTAS AGM, held at Fair Field Junior School, Radlett
On Saturday 11th October 2003
PRESENT: Mrs Jennifer Moss President, Mr Anthony Wethered, Vice President, Dr Peter Diplock, Chairman, Mr John Davies, Vice Chairman, Mr Andrew Sangster, Hon. Secretary, Mr Ronald Sims, Treasurer, Mrs Merrin Molesworth (Newsletter editor), and Dr Chris Woodman (Web Master).
Also present were Mr Brian Horsley, representing the South East Association of Civic Trust Societies and representatives of the Aylesbury, Beaconsfield, Buckingham, Chesham, Chiltern, Harpenden, Hertford, High Wycombe, Hitcham and Taplow, Marlow, Potters Bar, Radlett, St. Albans and Wendover Societies.
1. WELCOME: Graham Taylor, chairman of the Radlett Society welcomed members to Radlett, which is situated in south-west Hertfordshire. Radlett has a population of 9,942 of which 12% are retired. It is a small town which some residents still call “the Village”. Property values in the area are high, making it an expensive place to live. It enjoys a lower than average crime rate, although car crime is above average.
2. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE: These were received from Mr Peter Trevelyan, Vice-Chairman and from Amersham, Bishop’s Stortford, Hoddesdon and Stony Stratford Societies, and Hughenden Valley Resident’s Association.
3. MINUTES OF THE 8th ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING: The minutes were approved and signed by the Chairman as a true and correct record.
4. MATTERS ARISING: There were none.
5. ELECTION OF OFFICERS: (The President, Jennifer Moss, took the Chair for this part of the meeting and then handed back to Peter Diplock). The following officers were proposed by Graham Taylor and seconded by Carolyn Cumming and were elected en bloc: Chairman Peter Diplock, Vice Chairmen John Davis and Peter Trevelyan, Hon. Secretary Andrew Sangster and Hon. Treasurer Ronald Sims. Chris Woodman and Merrin Molesworth were co-opted onto the Committee.
6. CHAIRMAN’S REPORT: The Chairman welcomed three new members of ANTAS, Bishop’s Stortford, Harpenden and the Hughenden Valley Resident’s Association. He commented that ANTAS members were looking for information on the work of the Civic Trust Regional Associations, and what individual Societies could do to help their work. The Civic Trust communications project will not be able to progress until funding can be obtained and it is possible that the project proposal may need to be adjusted.
Dr Diplock noted that it was now his third year as chairman and that the time had passed very rapidly. He did not intend to stand for re-election next year unless there was difficulty in finding a new candidate for the position, as he felt that allowing new faces to come to the fore was important.
Anthony Wethered had asked the Chairman to remind member Societies to help to raise the profile of ANTAS as much as possible, and thought that member Societies might consider putting the ANTAS logo onto all of their Society stationery and newsletters. It was proposed to place the ANTAS logo on the website for use by member societies.
7. THE TREASURER’S REPORT: The Hon. Treasurer Ronald Sims was pleased to see that ANTAS had gained three new member Societies, but also noted that Hoddesdon had resigned its membership and that one other Society had not as yet renewed its membership. ANTAS is fortunate that it receive donations on top of subscription fees from some of its members and that Societies hosting ANTAS meetings bear the costs themselves. The acceptance of the accounts was proposed by Graham Taylor and seconded by Derek Upcott, and approved by the members. Retention of Jane Clerk as accounts auditor was proposed by Anthony Wethered and seconded by Bob Savage, and approved by the members.
It was suggested that subscriptions should be raised in order to reduce dependence on donations, but Peter Diplock said ANTAS did not want to put up its fees because it is a networking group, not needing substantial funds, and it recognises that member societies are having to pay an increasing registration fee to the Civic Trust, partly to fund regional activity. However, this would be kept under review by the Executive Committee.
8. REPORT ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE REGIONAL ASSOCIATIONS: Andrew Sangster and Brian Horsley updated members on the progress of the Civic Trust Regional Associations. Andrew began by describing how the increase in the Civic Trust registration fee was instituted to enable the Civic Trust to provide an income of £2000 per annum for the operating costs of each of the Regional Associations.
On the initiative of ANTAS, representatives of the East of England and South East England Regional Associations recently met with representatives from the South East Regional Assembly (SERA) and the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) to discuss ways in which the Civic Society movement might make its voice heard. Umbrella organisations COVER (Community and Voluntary forum Eastern Region) and RAISE (Regional Action and Involvement in the South East), represent the voluntary sector and EEEF (East of England Environmental Forum) and SEFS (South East Forum for Sustainability) represent the environment sector, but the possibility of representing these bodies on the Regional Assemblies is unlikely and is not being sought. Currently the Civic Society movement is at a disadvantage compared with the CPRE, FOE and the RSPB because it does not have paid representatives.
The next step is to move on from what the Regional Associations would like to do and set in motion ways of doing it. Members of Societies who have specific areas of expertise were asked to become active members of the Civic Trust Regional Associations by representing the associations at meetings and contributing to the development of responses to consultation documents. The Associations are producing policy statements so that anyone representing them would be briefed. The use of e-mail is seen as the only realistic way of communicating within the regional associations, given the large areas they cover.
Brian Horsley commented that registration fees to the Civic Trust should increase, to enable work to continue. It was to be hoped that CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) would fund secretarial work and the costs of submissions to the Government. He reported that the South East Regional Association had been asked by Mike Gwilliam of the Regional Assembly to join two advisory groups, Urban Regeneration and Housing. This is an important development as working groups do have some influence, but it will also be important to demonstrate to him that the civic society movement wants to be effective in regional matters.
The Chairman commented that Regional Assemblies will be making decisions that will affect everyone and that it was important that member societies made their views known to the regional associations. Also it was important that the Civic Trust and the Regional Associations communicated to their members, as people need to know that their money is being well spent.
9. RECENT PLANNING CONSULTATIONS: Andrew Sangster reported that there had been an additional consultation on airports. As a result of a court hearing on the inclusion of Gatwick in the consultation, the Government had been obliged to consult further. The figures relating to the demand forecast were challenged in the ANTAS submission as they extrapolate recent growth without ant tapering so that by 2030 a new airport the size of Heathrow would have to be built every year.
Consultation on access to land: As a result of provisions in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, footpaths and bridleways can be upgraded to byways if it can be proved that vehicular rights once existed. The Chiltern Society is active on this issue as they believe motorised vehicles are a misuse of the byways. It was agreed that ANTAS will write in support of the submission from the Chiltern Society.
The Buckingham Society has developed a draft response to the Government consultation on the protection of the historic environment. This will form the basis of the ANTAS submission.
The Civic Trust South East Regional Association has produced a survey on affordable housing, which is a key issue. It was suggested that other member societies should also respond on this issue when given the opportunity.
10. SHORT SOCIETY REPORTS:
Two delegates attended the Annual Civic Trust South East Conference in Windsor on 4th October. They found it very inspirational with many ideas that could be adopted by their own Society. The conference was very well organised and the tour of Windsor afterwards was very enjoyable.
The Society has spent most of the last month compiling from members their views on the proposed new development of Aylesbury. This is a ten-acre site covering the Civic Centre, old Granada cinema in the High Street, redundant swimming pool, and the canal basin. The developers Crest Nicholson & Sainsbury's propose demolishing every building on the site and building a new concert hall & theatre, Sainsbury’s supermarket, shopping mall, hotel, department store believed to be Debenham's and flats & restaurants around the canal basin. It is the biggest development ever undertaken in Aylesbury. Called Aylesbury Waterside most members generally welcome the scheme. The main problems are lack of green space, the proposed pedestrian friendly crossing on the A41 and minor detail concerned with design, car parking & frontages. Consultation ends on 3rd November.
The Beaconsfield Society is moving with the times and now has a website which was officially launched on Wednesday 14th May in Beaconsfield Library. You can now find information about TBS and its activities on www.beaconsfieldsociety.org.uk The appearance of our Newsletters has been upgraded. These are now printed in colour and personally addressed to members.
Planning matters: Beaconsfield is a property developers’ paradise at present with many planning applications to knock down one or more houses and replace them with much larger £1Million plus properties or blocks of executive apartments. This has provoked the formation of single-issue protest groups specifically to oppose multi-occupancy developments. The Beaconsfield Society is drawing up criteria to present to its members so that the Society can support or oppose specific applications with the confidence it is speaking on behalf of the membership. However, whether it will be possible to restore a balanced mix of new homes remains to be seen. The Town is plagued with property developer signs regularly adorning lampposts. Almost all of these are erected without the permission of the County Council. With the agreement of the Town and County Councils, the Society has been removing the unauthorised signs (over 500 to date).
Drivers face speeding facts: Electronic smiling or frowning faces in Beaconsfield greeted drivers on Wednesday 12th March as a speed indicator device or SID told them if they were travelling over or under the speed limit. SID is an educational and information device to make drivers aware of their speed. The Beaconsfield Society volunteers used the device on loan from Bucks County Council at five different sites in the Town. Between 30% and 40% of motorists were exceeding the speed limits, with the highest recorded speed being 49 mph. Although SIDs do not have any legal implications, police enforcement officers may be operating in the area. It would be interesting to discover whether a SID on the road for longer would have a permanent effect on drivers’ behaviour.
Proposed Motorway Service Area: Many readers are no doubt aware of the Public Inquiry into possible locations for motorway service areas to serve the south-western quadrant of the M25 and associated motorways, the M4 and M40. The Beaconsfield Society joined other organisations and individuals campaigning against the proposal to site a motorway services area at Burtley Wood, just south of junction two of the M40 on the A355 at a special evening session of the Inquiry in July 2003. The Beaconsfield Society opposes the provision of this off-line motorway service area on the grounds that it will provoke significant increased traffic on the A355 and will have an adverse effect on the commercial viability of Beaconsfield and its environs. There will be loss of green belt and ancient woodland, increased pollution and an increased risk of road traffic accidents. There were many objections to the proposal. The outcome of the Inquiry is awaited. .
Membership: The Beaconsfield Society has developed a high quality promotional leaflet aimed at boosting its membership and more particularly increasing the number of “active members”. Are you wondering about the term 'active member'? An organisation with few active members is vulnerable and has limited clout. If many people do small jobs for maybe agreed time periods it helps to keep the organisation vibrant and bring in new practices and ideas. From a member’s point of view it is a way of meeting new people and developing new skills.
The Buckingham Society is concerned that the Milton Keynes / South Midlands strategy will have implications for the South East as the arc they form could easily be joined up and spill into Hertfordshire. Affordable housing is required, but the infrastructure improvements should be carried out before the housing is built.
Buckingham took part in the Pathfinder courses and recommends that other Societies take part. They are now embarking on a new membership drive and are working to make people aware of the riverside development and have made contact with other concerned organisations in Buckingham.
The Chesham Society is concerned about the Byways Open to All Traffic proposals under the provision of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. The Trail Riders Fellowship have entered numerous applications, which the Chesham Society strongly opposes, as they feel that motorised vehicles, which will include quad bikes and four wheel drive vehicles as well as trail bikes, have no place on country roads.
The Rev Derek Upcott referred to a number of matters raised in the current edition of Chiltern News.
Concern over whole strategic planning process, but in particular the Harlow Options Study
1. Currently there is approval for 12500 new homes for Harlow but no investment in town to attract new jobs and skills.
2. Decision taken (by whom?) to double size of Harlow by building further 38000 dwellings.
3. Report prepared by a consultant (Atkins):
· Brief required massive factual analysis of the area to underpin recommendations – none provided.
· No analysis of what has gone wrong in 50 years since inception of New Town
· Assumes development of Stansted Airport, London/Stansted/Cambridge corridor and adopts pronouncements of new housing requirements.
· Study area expanded to 10km ring around Harlow
· Simple modest growth around Harlow option rejected without proper justification.
· Proposed future development areas – 1km ring around each major settlement + 2km band along each transport corridor (nearly all in Green Belt).
· Cheshunt, Broxbourne/Hoddesdon, Ware and Hertford coalesce along the A10
· Proposal ignores conclusions in RPG9 only three years ago – no case for relaxing protection of the Green Belt, but RPG9 was for South East, not East of England!
· Capital investment: Consultant - £700k Parliamentary Select Committee - £1-2bn
4. Next Steps
High Wycombe Society
Planning: A great deal of Tony Fooks’ time has been taken up with the town centre development proposals, “Project Phoenix”. The old Cabinet entered into an exclusivity agreement with Stannifer, the owners of the adjoining 1960s “Octagon Centre”, but earlier this year there was a “coup” when some councillors and even other cabinet members felt that decisions on this and other matters were being taken without their proper involvement, and the Leader and several of the Cabinet were replaced. On 27 June after periods of informal consultation with the public and the society, Stannifer submitted an outline planning application which our Society opposed, because the buildings were out of scale, the open spaces were inadequate and the historic River Wye was proposed to be left underground. On 17 September, despite a highly adverse report from CABE, Stannifer’s outline planning application was approved subject to certain Secretary of State approvals, but a number of parties are now trying to get it called in. If there is to be a public inquiry, the Society’s aim will be to get proper attention paid to CABE’s criticisms.
This week Wycombe District Council’s Head of Urban Design staged an evening seminar on “Making Quality Count”, with three excellent visiting speakers from CABE, Living Streets and SEEDA. This was a highly informative occasion, but there was great irony in the fact that the chairman had to exclude any discussion of specifics, because the drift of much that was said ran counter to what had been decided on Phoenix.
Transport: The Society has made considerable progress with its campaign for Demand Responsive Transport, and a service linking the station, the hospital and the industrial estate is due to commence shortly. We have had less success with our campaign to restore the old rail link to Bourne End although we feel the new ultra-light (and “ultra-cheap”) railway technology is on our side and it will be interesting to see whether it takes off around the country in a big way in the next few years.
Heritage: The Society has embarked on a programme to log the current occupants and uses of all the buildings in the town centre. The big question for the future is whether we have the resources and commitment to move on from this to a character survey and town design statement.
Hitcham and Taplow Society
The Society continues to play an active role within the local community and has had a very busy year, with several controversial development proposals in the area.
The major current concern is the proposed application by the National Trust for a development of nearly 200 houses in the grounds of the Cliveden Estate. The Society is actively participating in the Cliveden Campaign which also includes the Parish Council and other local bodies. It has no objection to the original application for 135 retirement homes and care facilities but considers the new application inappropriate for the isolated site which would place an intolerable burden on the local infrastructure. The Campaign appeals to National Trust Members to join local people, councils and institutions in deploring this proposal by voting in favour of the Members’ Resolution to be put to The National Trust Annual General meeting in November. For further information see the website www.clivedencampaign.org or contact the Cliveden Campaign Committee at The Village Centre, High Street, Taplow, SL6 0EX
Despite strong local opposition, planning approval was given to the block of flats on the riverside site adjacent to Maidenhead Bridge. The Society is continuing to object to certain aspects including tree surgery and changes in the originally submitted designs. Another development in the river area was also approved in spite of strong local representations. The Society is not objecting to the latest proposals for Dropmore which includes the rebuilding of the main house together with a new wing , to provide 54 apartments. No proposals have yet been put forward for the Skindles site.
The Society has produced two issues of its highly regarded Newsletter since the last ANTAS AGM. It also organised the Annual Village Green Party in June this year which attracted around 500 people from the local community and raised over £1,000 for the Thames Valley Adventure Playground charity.
Two years ago the Council prepared a town centre strategy. The Hitchen Society opposed it and it was withdrawn. When the plan was resubmitted it was worse than before and the Society is fighting the proposals.
The West of Stevenage issue now has two planning applications and a Public Inquiry is to be held next year.
Hughenden Valley Residents Association
Speculative Land Sales: The land at Cryers Hill has now been served with a permanent Article 4 which was authorized by Central Government. During a land registry search to assist in serving the notice, it was discovered that less than half of the 67 plots had changed hands. Add to this the fact that a 10 acre section to the south of the field was sold at auction, followed by another 1.6 acre plot it would be reasonable to conclude that PropertySpy have not been very successful in selling the smaller ‘building’ plots. The adverse publicity together with a warning on the HVRA website to prospective purchasers seems to have had the desired effect.
It is hoped that we will be just as successful in deterring prospective purchasers from buying the 89 ‘paddock plots’ at Bryants Bottom. We have advised those residents whose gardens adjoin the affected fields to put bright posters up outlining planning policies which safeguard the land. In addition to this an Article 4 has now been served on the land by Wycombe District Council. The Article 4 lasts for 6 months until 30th March 2004 during which time permanency is sought from Central Government.
Having lobbied our local MP, Paul Goodman who with Peter Lilley has put pressure on Central Government we have news of a series of meetings to discuss the implementation of legislation to outlaw speculative land sales. Yvette Cooper, the Planning Minister is inviting representatives from those local authorities affected. Wycombe District Council has been notified and it is expected that a representative will attend.
This report will be added when available.
The Society has 300 members and produces an annual newsletter, and has sold a footpath map to local retailers and which is also stocked by the local library. They are currently concerned about the proliferation of retrospective planning applications and the fact that there are no penalties for these applications.
The Society was involved in the consultations for the University of Hertfordshire development. The application was approved by the Borough Council, but the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister required the housing density to be increased.
The Society reported that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has overturned a planning approval for a mobile phone mast, on the grounds of perceived rather an actual risk to health. This has widespread implications if residents only have to show that there is a perception of a risk to health.
The Society is dismayed that notwithstanding the enormous cost and effort which it had put in to being represented at and attending the Public Inquiry in to the Aylesbury Vale District Local Plan, its provisions are already being threatened. The Society would like to make its views heard on a number of the issues appearing in the Deposit Draft of the revisions to the County Structure Plan. WS is minded to join with Wendover Parish Council and other local parish councils that are similarly concerned. However, the Society learns that the Revised Plan will only have a life of some three years after adoption as County Structure Plans are to be replaced by Regional Spatial Strategies. If the Governments revisions to the Planning Processes are enacted Regional Bodies that have only limited and indirect democratic representation would formulate the new strategies leaving County Councils (for so long as they exist) with an advisory role only.
We are concerned that our small and historic town will be increasingly threatened by the encroachment of the massive development which is to be imposed on our county at the direction of the office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Even if the will and funds to continually have to contest these changes can be summoned by voluntary organisations the democratic mechanisms are to be dismembered!
11. ANY OTHER BUSINESS: There was none.
The Chairman thanked the Radlett Society for hosting the meeting.
DATE OF NEXT MEETING: The next meeting will be held on Saturday 24th April 2004 at Beaconsfield.
Following completion of the formal business of the meeting a talk was given by Nicholas Schoon of the Campaign to Protect Rural England on the subject of light pollution and the recent campaigning activity by CPRE.