25 September 2013

Ham United Group Meeting: September 2013

I had been paying attention to the activities of Ham United Group (HUG) for some time. There are several community groups locally, including the Ham and Petersham Association and Ham Amenities Group, and HUG seems to be the most active of them. It is involved in several local projects, most of which it initiated, from cycle maintenance classes to a hydroelectric scheme for Teddington Lock.

Eventually circumstances and interest combined to take me to one of their meetings. This was held in a small office in one of the local developments, Ham Close. It was a small informal affair. Everybody else knew everybody else but I had spoke to a couple of them so it took me a while to work out who people were and what they did.

The Neighbourhood Forum was the big topic. This would devolve some planning powers from the Council to a forum run locally. These forums came in through the Localism Act 2011 so they were very new and experimental.

The ext meeting was scheduled for mid-October with planners and architects.

The Forum was trying to ensure that all community groups were represented on the Committee and they hoped to get the organisation approved by the Richmond Council Cabinet in October.

The scope of the forum had been defined as Ham, Petersham and Richmond Riverside Ward, which included the Star and Garter Home and also Teddington Lock.

HUG dad recently attended a useful meeting with DCLG to get advice on guidance on setting up the Forum. Only a handful of Forums were being set up in London but there were many more in rural areas usually based on Parishes.

A grant was available to employ an expert to vet the neighbourhood plan before submission.

Richmond Council had approved the (separate) Ham and Petersham Village Plan in one minute!

It was expected that the draft of Neighbourhood Plan would be out for consultation next April/May with the final referendum expected on the General Election date in May 2015.

I won't get a vote on that as I live just across the road in Kingston.

The Friends of Ham Lands (FOHL) were planning walks and talks in Ham Lands to promote its wildlife credentials. There were some issues with the way that the area was being managed, such as mowing when the orchids where in bloom and allowing cars to park on verges when caterpillars are around.

HUG was looking to start some sort of makers scheme, building on the IT work already done. A local student was building a 3d printer. They were also looking to build an automatic irrigation system, to build a web server and to make use of some of Grey Court's facilities.

The Ham Hydro application was still going through Planning. It had been delayed from September's  meeting as officers requesting extra information. The main problem was objections from Lensbury. I had recently submitted a response in favour of the application.

The HUG Allotment at Grey Court had been covered in rubble by the building works. Looking to move to Walnut Tree Allotments on Riverside Drive.

The gardens at Ham Library and Woodville Day Centre had been recognised in London awards. The plan was to do more in dark part of Ham Library gardens, possibly using a competition to collect ideas.

Concerns were voiced about disconnected green spaces reducing options for wildlife. Individual gardens are not enough on their own.

Cider making was suggested!

Another idea was Green Screen, a club showing environmentally themed films. This could start in January and be run monthly.

A new editor was taking on the Ham and Petersham Magazine. This was distributed to residents in Ham and Petersham but I had never heard of it as I live in Kingston.

Richmond's suggestions for how to spend Boris' cycling money included a bridge over the Thames which would connect Ham to Twickenham. There are four possible crossing points and my favourite would connect to the White Swan.

The proposal for an Olympic Swimming Pool at Grey Court had stalled.

I was not able to contribute much to the meeting but it was good to hear more about the many activities and projects in progress and in the pipeline. It is through groups like HUG that places like Ham become communities.

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