20 January 2016

My final act as Chairman of the Kingston upon Thames Society

It was not an easy decision to make but after a year as Chairman of the Kingston upon Thames Society I descided to resign.

The reason was simple, there were many things that I wanted to do as Chairman but I had not found the time to do them and had, on more occasions than I would have liked, had not even found the time to do some of the basic things like setting agendas and reviewing minutes.

My final act was my report to the AGM and that was another symptom of the lack of time (and/or my ability to manage it) in that instead of reading a typed report I made some quick notes in the pub immediately before the meeting.

These were only a guide and I said a lot more than is written there. One of my colleagues in the audience took notes and from these wrote up the report that I should have written. Thanks, David.

I am pleased to say that it was well received.

I have since done a grant application (it is mentioned in the report) and that asked for a copy of our last annual report and this was the closest thing that we had to it so I took David's notes and added to them slightly. This is the final report, my final act as Chairman of the Kingston upon Thames Society.

Chairman's Report for 2015

Matthew Rees opened his report by saying that was not standing for re-election because of pressure of his full-time work which meant that he had not been able to devote as much time to the role as he had hoped and the role deserved.

He intended to still actively support the Society as manager of its website and would be involved with Julia Rees in the running of Heritage Open Days.

Planning Applications

In his review of the Committee’s scrutiny of planning applications, Matthew thanked Howard Shepherd for his timely and professional contributions.

While mixed views had been expressed on some of the applications, a consensus whether or not to give support generally had been obtained, sometimes after lengthy discussions. There had been several major schemes to consider during the year.

The Old Post Office (TOPO) application had taken up much of the Committee’s time and in Matthew’s view, while the latest revision of the plans was an improvement, the 16-storey tower block was still too tall.

The Eden Walk proposals were good in many respects, and the developers had put a lot of skill and effort in producing the proposals, but he felt that the buildings also were too tall and too massive for the site.

The Committee generally had supported Tesco’s proposals for the old government buildings site at Tolworth as housing was an appropriate use for the disused site but now that a new owner was involved, its future was unclear.

While the proposals for the Tolworth Tower area generally had gained the support of the Committee on architectural grounds, it was steadfast in its opinion that RBK needed to address the very real concerns of local residents.

Mixed views had been expressed on RBK’s ongoing Mini-Holland proposals, especially on the Boardwalk project, and it remained to be seen what the final scheme would be like.

Members

A wide range of public meetings had been organized in 2015, and Jennifer Butterworth’s efforts on this were much appreciated.

He felt that the modification to the format to allow more time for discussion with members had been a success though that did not mean agreement was always reached and there had been some robust debates, particularly over the Tolworth sites. Matthew welcomed this as he wanted more people to be more engaged with what was happening in Kingston.

He also welcomed the emails that he had got from members during the year either to comment on applications or to make suggestions for the Society.

The website had got better with more information but it had been a struggle to keep this up to date. Matthew hoped that he would have more time to do this in the coming year.

Heritage Open Days

He regretted that, because funding from RBK was not available in time, it had been impossible to produce a printed brochure for the 2015 event. Despite this, the number of people visiting the various sites was about the same as in previous years and the feedback was encouraging. Matthew hoped that a leaflet would be available for the 2016 event.

Matthew also hoped to be able to expand on HODs next year though he was not yet able to confirm what these might be.

Townscape Awards

It had been worth running the Townscape Awards again this year and six awards had been presented, following nineteen nominations from the membership. Brian Godding and George Rome Innes were to be congratulated for the great deal of effort they had put into the selection process and presentation event.

Matthew said that with the Society spending much of the year opposing large schemes that would change the character of Kingston it was good to be able to celebrate some of the good things.

Closing Remarks

Matthew thanked all the outgoing members of the Committee for their work in the past year and wished them well for the challenges they faced in trying to protect the Borough from inappropriate developments.

He said that his main concern was that lots of extra housing and shopping was proposed which would bring more people in to the main centres but no new  infrastructure was proposed to accommodate this. A lot of hope was being put in Crossrail2 but that had limited scope and was many years away. There were also things like schools and hospitals to consider.

These major developments did little to accommodate the needs of existing residents. They provided no new facilities for them and were changing the character of the Royal Borough, which is the reason most of us moved here in the first place. 

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