UNCONFIRMED MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING held at 7.00 p.m. on Wednesday 5 July 2017 at Widmer End Combined Community School, Estcourt Drive
Present: Linda Derrick (Chairman), Ian Guy (Secretary), Jasia Hatt (Treasurer), Gavin Blundell, Roz Burch, David Carroll, Beryl Guy, Stan Jones, Ann McCarthy, Hugh McCarthy, Paul Nicholls, Carole Odell, Hilda Stearn, Stephen Thorpe, Shona Tucker, Marianne Tyler, Catherine Wetherell, David Winterburn.
1. INTRODUCTION AND WELCOME
The Chairman welcomed all those present to the 2017 AGM of the Widmer End Residents’ Association.
2. PRESENTATION BY JUNIOR ROAD SAFETY OFFICERS
Unfortunately the Junior Road Safety Officers (JRSOs) were unable to be present personally, but had made an enthusiastic video in which they explained what they did. Roz Burch, Head Teacher at Widmer End School, followed this up with further details. The JRSOs are all pupils at the school and their duties include organising 'crocodiles' and looking out for any road safety hazards in the vicinity of the school that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
3. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies had been received, or were tended later, from Daniel Fairless, John Hatt, Nik Keegan, John Marchant, Lyn Marchant, Pauline Smith and Kate Walker.
4. MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS AGM (6 July 2016)
The AGM minutes had been provisionally approved at the WERA meeting of 7 September 2016. Copies had been circulated and the minutes were now confirmed as a true record and were signed by the Chairman.
5. MATTERS ARISING
Hugh McCarthy gave an update on Wycombe District Council's Local Plan, which now covers the years up to 2033. The main feature of the plan is the provision of housing: It is estimated that about 12,500 new homes will have to be provided within Wycombe District by that date. This will inevitably mean the loss of some Green Belt land and possibly AONB as well. WERA had submitted its comments on the Draft Consultation Document in a letter dated 5 August 2016. A briefing on the now modified Local Plan would take place on Wednesday 19 July at the WDC offices, starting at 7.00 pm.
Hugh also summarised WDC's latest position regarding Terriers Farm. WERA had commented on the Development Brief on 2 November 2016, but the present plans envisage a development of 500-600 homes, with virtually no social infrastructure despite our plea for community facilities such as a school, a shop and a doctor's surgery. There would be a big increase of traffic running through Widmer End.
Plans for a Unitary Authority for Bucks are still being debated, but it is likely that the decision will be postponed for a few more years.
Roz Burch asked what effect Terriers Farm would have on local schools if no school were to be built there. Hugh replied that there would indeed be pressure on existing local schools to expand or increase their intake. Linda felt there might be a 'domino effect': if the proposed new school in Gomm Valley provided places over and above what was needed for the Gomm Valley development, which might then create vacancies in schools near to Terriers.
6. CHAIRMAN’S REPORT
Linda Derrick's report is given below:
“I was elected to the chair of WERA last September. I know it’s customary for Chairmen to express their honour in being elected and their pleasure in carrying out the work. But that wouldn’t be true in my case.
I was persuaded to stand and I was elected because no-one else was willing to do the job and had the time. So I regard being the chair as a duty rather than an honour. I would be delighted if someone else were to step forward. Nor has being the chair been an unmitigated pleasure – but I hope we are now on firmer ground.
I would like to thank the members of WERA’s committee for their hard work. I know it is invidious but I would like in particular to thank Ian Guy who has taken on the post of Secretary, Catherine Wetherell, the Deputy Chair, who has taken on the editorial role for Widmer End News and our website, and Ann McCarthy for the work she does, mainly behind the scenes, keeping the show on the road. And not to forget Daniel Fairless, who is not a member of the committee but has put in an enormous amount of work for Widmer End.
I want to give you a very quick idea of the things we have done – some successfully, some less so.
· We and some of the shopkeepers on Georges Hill have contributed to the containers and flowers outside the shops – just to cheer the area up a bit – and we have helped the small supermarket there with some problems.
· There have been a number of incidents at Chiltern Lodge on Primrose Hill run by a company called Chiltern Support and Housing Ltd. We have reported these to the Care Quality Commission and to managers of the company. The Commission has followed these up and we are waiting for a response from the company to the outcome of an investigation into the latest incident in June.
· We supported residents on Windmill Lane in opposing a retrospective application from their neighbour who had erected substantial buildings on his property. This is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I spoke on behalf of the residents at Wycombe District’s Planning Committee and was supported by one of our district councillors. Wycombe District Council rejected the application, which is really good news, and we are waiting to see if the applicant appeals.
· In the light of our involvement with planning issues, we have reviewed our constitution to ensure we can effectively represent residents, including at inquiries. This is on the agenda later.
· We have asked Bucks County Council about the expansion of school places at local schools and have raised this in our correspondence about the Terriers development with Wycombe District Council.
· We are continuing to pursue action on the field owned by Beeks Ltd (where the bonfire takes place at Four Ashes). Rubbish has been dumped on this field for over 20 years. The situation has improved but dumping continues. The Environment Agency has been very helpful but has in effect said it is not bad enough for it to take action – it deals with major criminal activity. The Agency suggested this is a matter for the local authorities. I am grateful for Hugh McCarthy taking this up with Wycombe District Council and Bucks County Council, but neither is responding or doing anything. We need our district and county councillors to push this for us.
· We have clarified, with the help of the parish council, who is responsible for doing what on grass cutting, overhanging hedges and overgrown paths and pavements. We continue to monitor the new arrangements as well as insisting damaged trees get replaced.
· We have reported the garages on Georges Hill to Wycombe District Council as the lintels look weak. WDC have inspected but say the garages are not sufficiently dangerous for them to take action. It would be helpful if residents keep an eye on these garages and notify us of any deterioration, as small children play near there.
· WERA has also sought clarification of the insurance position on the allotments at Windmill Lane. The Charity Commission advised in January last year that ownership of the allotments had transferred in October 2015 to the Official Custodian, who holds the land on behalf of the Hughenden Community Support Trust.
The Parish Council informed its insurers about this transfer in March. Their insurers said their third party insurance for the allotments remains but we learnt its insurance does not cover the plots themselves.
· We have entered the Best Kept Village competition
· We complained about a road constructed off the bridle path to Grange Farm partly demolishing a large and very old hedge. The road was constructed by a company called Verdant Solutions. It also put some large and unsightly railings up. Because of our complaints, some of the railings have been replaced with range fencing, and hedging has been planted to cover the railings.
· We jointly organised a Christmas carol service and pig roast with the church on Georges Hill.
· We have tried to help with the problems at Grange Farm where dogs have attacked livestock.
· We liaised with the Neighbourhood Action Group and helped with Community Speedwatch.
· We joined the litter pick organised by John Marchant.
· We have brought WERA’s website up to date and linked it to our Facebook. Widmer End News continues.
Finally, just to let you know systems do work – eventually. You might have noticed that the Widmer End sign on North Road has been bent and buckled. In May I used BCC’s online system to report the problem. On Monday I was e-mailed by BCC to say the job was done. A shiny new sign. Success!
That’s the sort of thing we do. We would be delighted if others would join us. All meetings are open so you don’t have to be a member of the committee, just come.”
7. TREASURER’S REPORT
Copies of the income and expenditure account summarising the 12 months to March 2017 in comparison with the figures for March 2016 were available to attendees. Also available were copies of the I&E statement for April, May and June 2017. Total funds available at 31 March 2017 were £6890.73, as against £6565.47 for 31 March 2016.
8. REPORTS FROM COUNTY, DISTRICT AND PARISH COUNCILLORS
David Carroll spoke on behalf of both Bucks County Council and Wycombe District Council. He thanked those who had supported his reelection to BCC. Despite many changes in membership and personnel following the recent election, the Council was pulling together and working very hard to ensure the best outcome for the people of Buckinghamshire.
Asked about school funding, David replied that many uncertainties still remain and he could not be sure what would happen in the future.
Paul Nicholls, Chairman of Hughenden Parish Council, spoke about the responsibilities and challenges faced by the council. Sometimes it proved impossible to please everybody – one person would complain about daffodils being mown down prematurely, while another would object to the dead flowers being allowed to remain cluttering up the verge! However, councillors were very happy with their new Parish Clerk, Shona Hadwen.
Throughout its four wards, HPC looks after 255 allotments, with 90% occupancy. Regarding Widmer End, 100% of the street lamps owned by the Council are in our ward; last year's change to LED lamps was generally welcomed and was already saving money. Widmer End also contained about half the dog bins located in the parish. New equipment has been installed in the playground next to the Village Hall, and S106 money has been used to provide bollards in Estcourt Drive to safeguard the schoolchildren. Parish funds have also been used to support the Grange Area Trust and provide grants to all four wards to assist publication of their magazines, including Widmer End News.
Road safety was an ongoing concern and it was apparent that the level of speeding in 30 mph zones was slowly falling as a result of Community Speedwatch and the provision of VASes (vehicle activated signs) at crucial points. Paul paid tribute to John Marchant for managing the changing locations of these machines and publishing their results.
In the discussion following Paul's report, Roz Burch pleaded for better two-way interaction between the school and WERA. Ann McCarthy made a similar plea for interaction between WERA and WEMC. Hilda Stearn commented that the best way to achieve this was to get people of both sides into a room and talk to them.
9. ADOPTION OF REVISED WERA CONSTITUTION
Ian Guy apologised for having to introduce what was bound to be a boring topic. He likened a constitution to the instruction manual for a csr, say, or a washing machine. While the machine is running smoothly the manual can be put aside and almost forgotten about, but as soon as something goes wrong it becomes a very precious document. It is thus essential that it should cover the important features of its subject matter.
Although extensively revised as recently as 2014, the existing WERA constitution was deficient in several respects. It made no mention of the aims of WERA or the reason for its existence. It said plenty about the committee but hardly anything about the membership. Accordingly, the revised version starts with a statement of the main purposes of WERA, and is followed by a definition of membership, namely that “All residents of Widmer End and Four Ashes ... shall be considered to be members of WERA unless they state, in writing, that they do not wish to be so considered.” It was hoped that this wording would help to convince the Inspector at any future public inquiry that the Residents' Association does indeed speak for the residents.
Another, more recent change had been made to the clause concerning the need for an annual audit. Legally, this is not compulsory for any organisation unless its annual turnover is more than £90,000; WERA's turnover is always much less than that. The previous clause said the requirement for an audit could be waived provided a two-thirds majority at an ordinary meeting agreed to do so. The revised clause simplifies the procedure by stating that the audit “shall be deemed unnecessary” unless those present at the meeting in question voted that it should go ahead. Stan Jones informed the meeting that there was a half-way house: an independent examiner who could check the accounts without necessarily being a qualified auditor.
Ian thanked all who had contributed advice and suggestions for the revised constitution, particularly Lyn Marchant and Catherine Wetherell who had helped to draft it.
The new constitution (attached) was accepted by the meeting.
10. ELECTION OF NEW COMMITTEE
A note attached to the agenda for the meeting listed the ten members of the 2016-17 committee, five of whom were entitled to continue their committee membership while the other five were standing down but were eligible for reelection. A proposal was made, and carried, to reelect the latter five en bloc.
According to the new constitution, the maximum number of committee members is fourteen. The meeting decided to coopt four people –Gavin Blundell, Dan Fairless, Carole Odell and Shona Tucker – to achieve this number. (Since Dan Fairless was not present, his committee membership was conditional upon his acceptance, which has now been received.)
The committee for 2017-18 therefore comprises the following members: Gavin Blundell*, Linda Derrick. Dan Fairless*, Beryl Guy, Ian Guy, Jasia Hatt*, John Hatt*, Ann McCarthy, Hugh McCarthy, Carole Odell*, Pauline Smith*, Shona Tucker*, Marianne Tyler* and Catherine Wetherell*. The asterisked names are those who are entitled to continue in office at next year’s AGM, although some adjustment may need to be made before then (involving a lot-drawing process) to conform with the constitutional requirement that only half the committee membership have this entitlement.
Positions on the new committee would be decided at a meeting to follow the AGM.
11. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Hugh McCarthy referred to a suggestion he had made at the June WERA meeting. In Hazlemere, some residents have adopted a tree, in the sense that they are keeping a watch on it and watering it when necessary. Could such a system be adopted for Widmer End? Linda Derrick suggested placing this question at the top of the agenda for the next meeting of WERA in September.
Concluding the meeting, Linda thanked the head teacher for her permission to use the school as a venue, the JSROs for their video, and all members for coming to the meeting.