The following is the text of the report delivered by the committee at the Annual General Meeting of the Emmbrook Residents Association held at the Emmbrook Village Hall in May 2022.
Welcome – Pierre Featherbe
I would like to welcome and thank those attending our 2022 AGM.
A bit of housekeeping. The toilets are left for ladies and right for gents. Should the fire alarm sound then please make your way outside to Corfield Green.
Before we start with our report I would like to ask Peter to say a few words about our past Chairman Paul.
Tribute to Paul – Peter Shilham.
It was not long before we realised the reality of Paul’s absence as Chairman. His strong guidance and purpose, not only at Committee Meetings but at confronting those who should be working for a pleasant and safe Emmbrook, inspired us to follow. The complacency and inaction of those whose job it was to make and execute actions for the benefit of the community only fired him to be even more vociferous in his attack on them. It has been said that attending meetings he had with them never failed to be eventful as a spectator sport.
ERA Committee Meetings were sharp and invariably prefaced with a discourse on Liverpool Football Club. He will be missed by us but not half as much as by his family, to whom he was devoted and of whom he was so proud.
It is a cruel irony that his predecessor as Chairman, Colin Livingstone, also handed in the dinner pail last year. With that same spirit of caring, they entertained local groups with musical recitals. The “hereafter” has gained from our loss.
Memorial Bench – Peter Shilham
A lasting local memorial needed to be chosen. It was decided to provide a bench here, not opposite the Village Hall in Corfield Green where the ERA put one some time ago, but in the SANG (sorry, Old Forest Road Meadows, a fanciful title). The location was the choice of his widow, Liz. (Some of us thought that opposite the location of WBC meetings would remind them of their duties). It has been bought, with a suitably worded plate added.
It awaits installation in a place as far distant (and out of sight) from both the NWDR and M4 as could be found.
How the committee has changed – Pierre Featherbe
With the absence of such a strong figurehead but the determination to continue with the important work we do, it was decided to continue with each member of the Committee looking after subjects and to report progress on them at our regular monthly meetings held at our village hall.
This change in the way we work requires an update to our constitution. The amended constitution has been available on our web site. Proposed, seconded and approved.
Apologies for absence:
Rodney Needs – One of our committee members
Martin and Ann Battersby
Approval of our previous AGM report held on May 2019 which is available on our web site. Proposed, seconded and approved.
This AGM report will be presented by the committee on the areas they cover.
Planning – Bob Millen.
New Development and Local Plan
With regard to planning applications for new development in our area things have been very quiet, with only one of any significance in the period since our last AGM. This was for 130 dwellings plus a 70 bed care home on Council owned land to the east of Toutley Depot. It appears that this application has been held back to be included in a new Local Plan that the Council has been working on to replace the current one, although I see that it is up for approval at tomorrow night’s Planning Committee Meeting. In early 2020 the Council ran a public consultation on this new plan which concentrated the bulk of the development in a “garden town” at Grazeley. This would have allowed the Council to provide all the dwellings required by allocating only a few other sites for development around the Borough.
Unfortunately, The Council had to abandon plans for this new town as it fell foul of an extension of the emergency planning zone around AWE Burghfield. Consequently the Council are now proposing an update to the Plan which substitutes a ”garden village” to the south of the M4 (between Shinfield, Aborfield and Sindlesham) for the defunct Grazeley proposal. Unfortunately, this “village” will only provide 2200 homes within the Plan period to 2038 against the up to 4000 or so that Grazeley could have done. This means that the Council has had to double the number of smaller sites of various sizes across the Borough in order to meet housing targets. The Council ran an eight week consultation on this revised plan starting in November 2021. We responded to this, confining our comments mainly to the developments that will most affect Emmbrook.
Once the Council have completed their consultations and refined and finalised the Plan it has to be submitted to Central Government. They then normally appoint a Planning Inspector to carry out a public examination of it, and hopefully approve it. All this needs to be done before the current Plan expires in 2026.
What this all means for our patch of Emmbrook is given in this presentation where the proposed developments are shown. There are 5 new sites plus the Ashridge Farm site to the East which is already under construction. This amounts to an extra 493 new dwellings plus the care home on top of what is already being built under the current Local Plan.
Rear of Bulldog Garage
Rear of Toutley Hall
North West of Old Forest Road
Winnersh Fuel Allotment
East of Toutley Depot
+ 70 bed care home. Planning App 211777. WBC
Under construction. Planning App 201515
We have areas designated as Local Green Spaces. This designation gives sites a higher level of protection against development somewhat similar to Green Belt status. We are glad to see that the three in our area that we submitted as suitable have been accepted (that is – Emmbrook Walk, Lowther Road Sports Ground and Forest Road Meadows and park land).
Wokingham Brough Council and the North West Distribution Road NDR – Rod Needs.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen and members, sorry I cannot be with you tonight as I have a holiday commitment. My roll is to look at issues with Wokingham Brough Council and currently the North West Distribution Road NDR that runs through our patch. For this I get help from other members of the committee and local councillors and council officers and using the app Fix my Street.
Here are some of the successfully resolved items:
- Flooding was occurring behind the flood protection bund that backed onto Summerfield. This is now fixed following the installation of an extra drain.
- Broken rail on the bridge in Emmbrook walk has been repaired.
- The repositioned gate at the Old Forest Road end of Emmbrook walk safety concerns have been addressed.
- Gates and security of area by Ashton road with access for Electrical sub station.
- Broken Toutley road sign on the corner by Queens road junction. At the time of writing this report the rail has been repaired and a replacement sign ordered.
Items still ongoing are:
- Ongoing discussion with Wokingham Brough Council about the reduction of weed build up and stagnation in new flood area.
- Seeding and planting to make sure we get what is specified
- Access issues to rear of stream behind housing on Summerfield
- Finishes to the kissing gates.
- Road side soft verges on the new NDR. Which was opened yesterday.
- These are just the basic points on a few of the items covered, a full explanation of each point will be placed on our web site following this meeting.
Schools liaison – Chris Mallett
We are very fortunate to have three good and outstanding schools embedded in our community here in Emmbrook and working closely with these schools is an important part of our work in the ERA. Since the last AGM our engagement with the schools has been somewhat placed on the back-burner by COVID, but over the coming months we are aiming to reinvigorate this.
Firstly, we are looking to refresh the planting project on Corfield Green, which was started with the infant and junior schools a few years back. The area became a popular communal area for parents and children gathering after school but the beds became neglected during the COVID lock-downs and were subsequently mowed by the council.
We are hoping to re-plant later this month, with a small amount of funding from the ERA, and with the assistance of the school children. We would also like to get a small group of volunteers together to help maintain the beds, so if anyone here would like to help out (or knows anyone who would) then please do speak to us afterwards.
You will no doubt have noticed the double-yellow lines enclosing Corfield Green, which were finally introduced after much lobbying by the ERA. We are pleased to report that this now appears to have stopped routine parking on the green helping to preserve this as valuable community area.
Over the years we have attempted to increase our engagement with the secondary school. We have recently started discussions about a project to introduce artwork (probably in the form of sculptures or similar) to various open spaces within Emmbrook. This is likely to be a joint-venture with students at the school and external artists, possibly with some funding provided by the ERA.
We have been inspired by projects in other areas around the country, where artwork has been used to create cultural trails in open spaces.
We will update residents as those discussions progress to something more tangible.
Other Residents committees – Chris Mallett
For many years now the ERA has closely cooperated with Joel Park Residents Association on a number of matters jointly affecting our residents, and this of course continues, most notably with their leader Steve Sansom.
We have also, over recent years, increased our liaison with Joanne Parker who represents residents for the growing Emmbrook Place development. Initially that liaison was around development matters, but as the development has been increasingly populated the residents’ needs have shifted more closely to those affecting both the ERA and JPRA residents.
We have recently had discussions about whether the ERA would consider expanding its coverage to include the Emmbrook Place area. Whilst this might initially seem appealing from a membership perspective, it would in effect double the number of properties in the ERA catchment. Over the years the ERA and JPRA have also considered the pros/cons of combining and have in the end concluded that our activities more effectively complement each other and cooperation is better than combining. The ERA committee has for the time being concluded that this is also the best approach with Emmbrook Place residents, although that of course is always open for review at a later date.
We have developed a good working relationship between the three groups, meeting informally every couple of months, and intend to continue this for the time being; although we are considering whether to get local councillors more involved in those discussions, especially as the council appear to be reluctant to re-start the community forums. We will however consider the need to push for re-starting the forums if there are any specific local issues which would benefit from this or there is a clear demand from residents.
The history of Emmbrook – Peter Shilham
It was Paul’s initiative to provide a record of the history of the area as part of what the ERA could contribute to the community.
Now the seventh booklet in my series of Unfinished Histories has been published and distributed to ERA members as part of their membership benefits. Those who join are provided with a copy of the latest booklet as an introductory gift!
As you will see from the Treasurer’s report the Wokingham Society has made a financial contribution to offset the costs of production, for which we are extremely grateful. We continue to sell copies at £4 each to further reduce the loss which is sustained for each edition. (Extra copies for your friends are on sale here afterwards). They feature on the ERA website. Emmbrook Post Office market them for us for which we are very grateful. You may have noticed that in their recent refurbishment they have changed the spelling from a single “M”. This has removed a talking point. Single “M” spelling was the predominant variation of the name of the hamlet in time past (An early name was Turnbrook Ground); double “M” became the norm after the war.
I thank Leslie Dow, a previous secretary of the ERA, for her proof reading and for keeping me up to the mark at producing an intelligible text. In fact the booklet series is a locally based effort – our printer is the brother of an earlier ERA Treasurer.
It is amazing how much can be found about “old Embrook” given persistent hunting and I am only too keen to receive details from “Emmbrookers”. For all the inconvenience that we have suffered from Balfour Beatty’s work (and haven’t we been kept amused by their moving of piles of soil etc. around the site) a benefit has been the revelation of the concrete platforms of the anti-aircraft guns together with the terracotta tiles protecting the electric connecting cables between the six guns. A specimen has been retained – would it not be a good thing if WBC or WTC had a local museum for their display. I could also get rid of a heavy metal shell casing kindly passed on to me by an interested local resident. He had found it in his garden. Paul kept making representation to them for a museum – Peter Must of Wokingham Society too supported this.
As you may remember from Paul’s last Chairman’s Report a list of names of Emmbrookers was submitted to the Council for use in street names in the Matthews Green Farm estate (Emmbrook Place) and it was most pleasing that they were accepted and used. We posted the relative history for the name to each house as they became inhabited so that they were aware of the name’s significance. Now the “potted letterbox histories” have been passed onto Joanne Parker of Emmbrook Place to continue the distribution.
With the prospect that more would be needed for the Ashridge Farm Estate, both I and Peter Must were asked to submit names with local connotations. It was with considerable surprise and disgust that they were ALL rejected by the Planning and Transportation Committee. Why? Because the names involved were of “privileged individuals”. This ‘woke’ attitude seems to reflect the change in the political composition of the Town Council. How could the KNAPP family, for example, be included in such an insulting manner? I regret not having included the name of a convicted habitual poacher from Emmbrook. Did your vote last week support them?
The plaque commemorating the Water Pumping Station at Toutley Road is safe and awaiting its new position once Balfour Beatty have finished their work.
Policing – Richard Dairy
I think you all know that Wokingham is a low crime area and we are fortunate to live in Emmbrook which I think is considered to be a very low crime area.
Consequently, it’s only occasionally that the ERA has any dealings with the police.
In the last couple of years I’ve put in 2 reports on behalf of members. 1 relating to discarded drug paraphernalia and another relating to a suspicious cold-caller”.
But members can report things themselves via the ERA website.
The ERA website features a Policing page with sections on:
- Neighbourhood policing
- Reporting Crime or Problems
- Neighbourhood Watch
- Victim Support, and
- Advice Topics.
The Neighbourhood policing section contains information on the neighbourhood policing team for Emmbrook and Woosehill and the team for Winnersh – and ways to contact them and how to report crimes, suspicion behaviour or other matters.
This includes the Streetsafe service. Streetsafe is a new Police service which allows you to report anonymously a place that makes you feel unsafe for any reason.
The ERA website has a link to the Thames Valley Police website.
We receive regular Neighbourhood Alerts from TVP covering all sorts of subjects – those we think contain information pertinent to Emmbrook we put on the website. 66 were received during 2021 and 13 so far this year.
Subject matters included (but not limited to):
- theft of catalytic convertors from cars
- security advice/keeping your home safe
- thefts from outbuildings, sheds and garages
- frauds and scams
- changes to front counter provision at police stations in Thames Valley
- keyless vehicle thefts
- chip & pin fraudsters targeting shoppers
- bicycle theft & bike security
- helping to protect people suffering from dementia
If you have a few spare minutes have look yourselves to see all that’s on the ERA website relating to policing.
ERA presence online – Chris Mallett
As a committee we feel an online presence is an important part of how we engage with our members, with any residents who haven’t yet been convinced of the benefit of membership and also to communicate more generally on matters affecting Emmbrook.
We do this both through our website and through Facebook.
We of course recognise that not everyone is keen to use Facebook so we make every effort to use the two forms of media in parallel and often use Facebook to link to our website which is a much richer source of information.
It is good to see both platforms are well used and we encourage everyone to explore the website content in particular. We also always welcome feedback on the content and any other aspects residents would like to see included.
Last year we had a problem with malware on the website which took a couple of weeks to address. it has been stable for a few months now, but going forward we will shortly be considering whether to change the organisation which hosts the site to ensure a secure and stable platform at more competitive pricing.
Treasurer’s Report- Membership and subscriptions – Andy Goffin
Below are our accounts, which show income and expenditure for the last year and the current financial position of the ERA.
Subscription income was £910 (a decrease of £44 against the previous year).
A donation of £150 was received from the Wokingham Society towards the cost of printing the most recent booklet – ‘So Much More Unfinished History’.
£16 interest was received from a Savings account; and £30 was received from history book sales.
Total expenditure increased significantly against last year by £2,950. Last year there were virtually no costs due to Covid. This year there have been some significant one-off costs. These included:
Printing of the most recent history booklet: £714
Website costs: £583 – this actually covered 2 years of annual costs and an extra payment to resolve malware on the website, as mentioned earlier by Chris.
Having recommenced face to face meetings last Autumn, hall hire costs have been £56.
Donations totalling £300 were made in memory of Paul Gallagher and Colin Livingstone – both past Chairmen of the ERA, who very sadly passed away during the year.
Additionally, the ERA has purchased a bench for £1,260 to be sited in Old Forest Meadows in memory of Paul, as mentioned earlier.
Sadly, HSBC has decided to charge account and money handling fees for voluntary organisations such as us. We are planning to change our bank account as a result.
This shows that we have a balance in hand of £8,940 – a decrease from last year of £1,854. However, the ERA remains in a healthy financial position.
Our current membership stands at 140 households, the same number as last year, out of approximately 800 houses in our area.
We are always looking to increase our membership, so please encourage your friends and neighbours to join us if they’re not already members.
58 subscriptions were paid by standing order, which is the preferred payment method, and most of the others were made by online bank transfer which is also helpful. However, 17 cheques were received which, if repeated this year, will each cost £0.80 to process via HSBC.
I encourage you to set up a standing order if you’ve not already done so.
Thank you all for your support over the year.
INCOME AND EXPENDITURE ACCOUNT FOR THE YEAR ENDED 5 APRIL 2022
INCOME: £ £
Members Subscriptions 910 954
Fund Raising events 30 81
Donations 150 –
Bank interest 16 58
Hall Hire 156 –
Printing, Stationary and Postage 714 –
Subscription 10 10
Donations 200 –
Memorial Bench 1260 –
Website costs 583 –
Book expenses 14 –
AGM Refreshments – –
Bank Charges 23 –
LOSS FOR THE YEAR (1,854) 1,083
BALLANCE SHEET AT 5 April 2022
Bank Accounts 8,940 10,794
Balance at 6th April 2021 10,794 9,711
Loss for the year (1,854) 1,803
Balance at 5th April 2022 8,940 10,784
I certify the accounts of Emmbrook Residents Association for the year ended5 April 2022 presented here, have been accurately prepared from the books and records supplied to me.
Sylvia Geeves FCCA 06/05/2022
Finally, I would like to express my thanks to Sylvia Geeves, who once again has prepared and audited our accounts and has also kindly agreed to do it again next year.
Election of Auditor for the 2022/2023 year – Andy Goffin
Election of auditor.
I’d now like to propose that Sylvia Geeves is elected to serve as the ERA auditor for next year. Proposed, seconded and approved.
Andy Goffin. ERA Treasurer
Election of Committee Members – Pierre Featherbe.
I am pleased to announce that all of the current committee have volunteered to stand for the forthcoming year. All have been proposed and seconded.
The committee for 2022 / 2023 includes a new member Geoff Marsden who is a welcome addition to your committee.
The 2022 / 2023 Committee consists of the following members:
– Pierre Featherbe
– Rodney Needs
– Andy Goffin
– Chris Mallett
– Richard Dairy
– Peter Shilham
– Robert Millen
– Geoffrey Marsden.
Questions – Pierre Featherbe.
On behalf of the committee I thank you all for listening and I am happy to open the meeting up for any any other business, questions or comments.
1). A concern was raised about the height of the planting on the footpath adjacent to Old Forest Rd. If it grows too high this could cause an area of isolation. ERA to investigate.
2). The width of the path on Emmbrook Road near the bridge was raised as a concern. This had been previously reported by the ERA as being slippery and considered dangerous. The path was brushed clean. The path is still considered to be dangerous due to the limited width and the closeness of cars and trucks to the path to miss vehicles waiting at the traffic lights. ERA to investigate.
3). It was commented by members in attendance that within both the SANG and Emmbrook Walk that drug dealers had been observed by members
Close meeting – Pierre Featherbe.
On behalf of the ERA committee volunteers. We thank you.