THE FARNHAM SOCIETY
Minutes of the 70th Annual General Meeting held on
Tuesday 9 May 2017
at South Farnham School, Menin Way, Farnham
Alan Gavaghan Chairman
Michael Blower Vice-President
John Cattell Treasurer
Janet Radley Vice-Chairman/Secretary
Simon Bradbury Krish Kakkar
Michael Clements John Slater
Gloria Dyche Ian Soden
David Howell Roger Steel
Approximately 75 members of the Society attended.
A scale model of the proposed East Street/Brightwells scheme was on display.
The Chairman opened the meeting by welcoming members to the Society’s 70th AGM and thanked them for attending. Mayor John Ward, attending with his wife Gillian, was invited to speak.
Cllr. Ward said he was delighted to be at the AGM and expressed personal appreciation, and that of the Council, for the huge support the Society had provided during the past year, particularly for its role in publicising the Neighbourhood Plan. Society members and Resident Association representatives had been instrumental in achieving the referendum’s 88% majority, and such a massive vote in favour of the Plan would reflect on the Inspector’s consideration of Waverley’s Local Plan.
Mr Ward looked forward to being an ordinary member of the Society after an enjoyable mayoral year.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
The Chairman announced that Sir Ray Tindle, the Society’s President, was unable to attend. Other apologies received:
Committee members: David Berry, Erica Wilkinson
Members: Diane Bradbury, Jeff Powell, Zofia Lovell, Jon Curtis, Ron & Rosemary Mansfield, Peter Bridgeman, Sam Osmond, Brian & Janet Martin, Roger & Jan Bradley, Sue Farrow, Tempe & Robert Mansfield, Brian & Judith Hunt, Penny & David Seal, Hans du Moulin, David Beaman
MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING held on 3 May 2016
The Minutes had been circulated and were approved and signed.
No matters arising.
The Chairman’s report had been published on the website and distributed at the meeting.
Referring to the model of the proposed East Street development on display the Chairman said it indicated the problems facing Farnham, and expressed gratitude to the five claimants in the bid for a judicial review – David Wylde, Celia and Richard Sandars, Andy MacLeod and John Williamson – the latter two Farnham and Waverley Councillors. They had ventured into unknown territory, vindicated by the generous response from Farnham residents to an appeal for funds. David Wylde was asked to convey renewed thanks to the anonymous donor who gave £50,000
In turn, Celia Sandars said The Farnham Society and the whole community were owed a great debt of thanks for their wonderful support.
The Chairman then outlined what had led to the current situation. Because of Waverley’s challenge re the legal status of the claimants it was decided to opt for a one day preliminary hearing before proceeding to a judicial review. Given that in the Silver Hill, Winchester case a single self-financed Councillor was successful it seemed that with five ratepayers, two of them local councillors, it was safe ground.
Following the disappointing judgment, ruling against the claimants and precluding an opportunity to raise the substantive issues, legal advice on further action was sought, which was that an appeal was unlikely to succeed. The inevitability of accepting the situation and paying Waverley’s costs resulted in reluctant agreement to settle for £58,000.
The Judicial Review Group (formerly Farnham Interest Group) felt they had done their best in difficult circumstances. Advice had been given free by a professional fundraiser, and a great deal of effort was involved in printing and distributing brochures. £139,116 was raised (plus interest) – sufficient to fight the initial legal battle. Total expenditure was £98,534 including the £58,000 for Waverley’s costs. Crest Nicholson stated they would not pursue costs
After exploring other options It was considered from the outset that to work most effectively the Society should act as bankers and subsequently, following the judgement, as trustees for the residual funds of £40,616. This was ring-fenced and managed totally separately from the Society’s other accounts. Once it is established that all financial liabilities are discharged fully refunds would be made pro rata to those who subscribed, as stated initially in the campaign.
Referring to Surrey County Council’s proposed investment of £30 million in the commercial element of East Street the Chairman expressed grave concern that, given their dismal track record of commercial investment, this would be a financial and social disaster
One positive outcome was that the recent election of two independent Councillors had effectively demonstrated a vote against East Street. Reviewing the past year the Chairman felt that the Society had made every possible effort to preserve the quality of life in Farnham and gave his assurance that the fight would continue.
In his written report the Chairman expressed thanks to the Committee for their efforts in achieving the Society’s many targets. Gloria Dyche would not be seeking re-election and was commended for her support to innumerable Chairmen, past and present. Good wishes and thanks were also offered to David Berry, standing down as Membership Secretary.
ADOPTION OF DRAFT ACCOUNTS for financial year ending 31 March 2017
The draft accounts had been published on the Members’ Area of the Society’s website and distributed at the meeting, and the Treasurer outlined his financial statement, also distributed.
The judicial review campaign figures were included on the main statement for economy of printing but were in fact entirely separate.
The accounts were in draft form and would be inspected within the next few weeks.
Referring to the bequest of £10,000 from a former member, Beryl Mackay, John Cattell said it was the intention to use this for future high profile speakers.
Expenditure was down on last year, the major items being printing and stationery.
Current membership was 464 households, 621 members.
Efforts to promote Gift Aid had resulted in an increased claim from HMRC.
It was confirmed that residual judicial review funds would be returned pro rata to those who gave so generously during the campaign.
Adoption of accounts. proposed: Krish Kakkar seconded: Roger Steel
CONFIRMATION OF INSPECTOR OF ACCOUNTS
Roger Smith of Milne Eldridge had agreed to continue as Inspector of Accounts for the current financial year.
Proposed: David Hillbery, seconded: David Brown
All Committee reports had been published on the website and circulated at the meeting
The Chairman thanked David Howell, Chairman of the Planning Committee, and its members for their continued work on planning issues.
David Howell expressed the hope that reports included in the Spring 2017 Newsletter and within the AGM papers provided a comprehensive if concise statuson planning matters.
Thanks were offered to Resident Association representatives and everyone who helped distribute around 12,000 leaflets about the Neighbourhood Plan in just under two weeks, and to those who voted in favour. There had been a 88.17% majority with a 37.5% turnout.
A consortium of three developers challenging the Neighbourhood Plan had withdrawn their application for an injunction to halt the referendum but were proceeding with a judicial review, likely to start on 15 June
Protect Our Waverley had applied for a judicial review on Waverley’s Dunsfold decision, to be heard as soon after 20 June as possible to allow a decision before the Dunsfold public inquiry.
Dates not included in the report:
6 June – 35 Frensham Vale Inquiry
(former application dismissed on appeal on a technicality)
27 June – Local Plan Inquiry
6 July – Lower Weybourne Lane Decision
6 July – Waverley Lane Decision
18 July – Dunsfold Inquiry
Badshot Lea Village. There are growing rumours that an application will be submitted shortly.
Attention was drawn to the nomination form in the AGM pack, also available on the website, for the Society’s 2017 Amenity Awards, and the criteria outlined:
‘To encourage and stimulate architects, developers and contractors to undertake the highest level of design and workmanship in preserving and improving existing buildings and in new buildings’
Members were encouraged to nominate a completed scheme or building which they thought warranted an award. The deadline for nominations is 25 August.
Images shown on screen were of the 2015 Amenity Award winners, and two schemes the Planning Committee were considering for nomination.
Finally David Howell thanked the Planning Committee for their assistance in the last year
Roger Steel explained that Farnham is the worst polluted area in the whole of Surrey with figures above the EU danger level. A Sub-Committee had been set up early in 2015 to study and report on air pollution in Farnham, given the lack of remedial action by the local authority. Clinical papers were studied on the effects of air pollution on health (largely from diesel vehicles) The government now accepts a figure of 40 – 50k deaths a year, from other causes but directly related to air pollution
Initial suggestions made to Waverley and DEFRA were followed up and data from the town’s monitoring stations released for 2014. Despite persistent requests, Waverley has refused to make public either the 2015 or the 2016 figures for receptor readings placed at strategic points in Farnham. It was Waverley’s responsibility to monitor the figures and Surrey County Council’s to take action
Q: Celia Sandars
On behalf of the PLACE Group called for action to reduce toxic emissions near schools, asking councils to pursue a campaign to reduce the speed limit in those areas to 20mph
A: Roger Steel
While such a speed restriction would improve road safety, the evidence suggested that pollution increased at that level, not decreased.
Q: Charles Stuart
Had Jeremy Hunt been approached and what was the result.
A: Alan Gavaghan
He had written to DEFRA and the Secretary of State with a copy to Jeremy Hunt who had replied that he would take the matter up with DEFRA on our behalf, but as yet there was no positive outcome. Currently there is no central government edict driving policy, making it difficult for councils to take action.
It was appalling that our MP, the Secretary of State for Health, knew that the information which related to health had not been made public and he had not acted for the protection of his constituency residents. It showed an allegiance to the party, not his residents. He disagreed that we should wait until after the election and suggested we confront Jeremy Hunt now.
Q: George Hesse
Could we contact our Waverley Councillors urging them to release information.
A: Roger Steel
We have written to the Executive Director at Waverley to no avail.
Q: Anne Cooper
Has an attempt been made to get data via the Freedom of Information Act
A: Alan Gavaghan
This had been tried but attempts thwarted.
Roger Steel said that as soon as the figures for 2015 are available the committee’s report will be released. The Chairman thanked him and said the Society would continue to keep up the pressure on this important issue
Heritage Open Days
The Chairman expressed his thanks to Sue Farrow and the HODS team for their dedicated work, and to the people who opened up their properties to the public for the HODS weekend, which had become a major event in the year. This year the purchase of radio headsets would aid the programme of guided walks. Thanks were due to Farnham Town Council for their continued financial support of HODS. Members were invited to submit ideas for future venues or activities.
In Diane Bradbury’s absence the Chairman said the balance between visits which were not too physically challenging and those to attract younger members was not easy to achieve.
Attempts had been made to address this but it was increasingly difficult to get sufficient numbers to make some visits viable. Simon Bradbury outlined the visits arranged for this year, details of which were on the Society’s website
The Chairman said that tours, the programme of evening talks and coffee mornings were important in maintaining community spirit. It was hoped to expand the programme of evening talks with some high profile speakers. Ideas for future speakers would be welcome.
A presentation was made to Gloria Dyche, who was standing down having served on the Executive Committee for 20 years.
ELECTION/RE-ELECTION OF HONORARY OFFICERS
Chairman: Alan Gavaghan
Proposed: Michael Blower Seconded: Krish Kakkar
Vice-Chairman/Secretary: Janet Radley
Proposed: Alan Gavaghan Seconded: Simon Bradbury
Treasurer: John Cattell
Proposed: Simon Bradbury Seconded: Michael Clements
All re-elections carried
ELECTION/RE-ELECTION OF COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Ian Soden – new committee member.
Proposed: David Howell Seconded: Alan Gavaghan
Re-election of committee members, en bloc
Simon Bradbury, Michael Clements, David Howell, Krish Kakkar, John Slater, Roger Steel, Erica Wilkinson
Proposed: Alan Gavaghan Seconded: Janet Radley
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Anne Cooper, Farnham Theatre Association, said that archive material on the Castle and Redgrave Theatres, researched and catalogued by Christopher Reeks and Peter Hunter, was now in temporary storage having formerly been housed at the Museum. Members were asked for suggestions about possible free or low cost permanent storage space.
Q: James Hardy
Did the residual funds from the judicial review campaign necessarily need to be refunded to donors. Many might wish their donation to be retained by the Society
A: Alan Gavaghan
Point taken, but a pro rata refund had been promised in the original request for funding
David Wylde made brief points given a constraint on time:
It was easy to think that the judicial review campaign was now over – it was not.
We need to go on fighting and the recent election result was a statement of opinion on East Street. The scale model will shock people by its sheer scale. There would be four years of construction misery, Waverley could abandon the retail element. Given the values The Farnham Society has, can members be asked to support a continued fight. We would be abrogating our responsibilities to the town if we abandon our efforts now.
John Price made general comments about speeding traffic in Farnham and the relation of planning laws to archaeological considerations.
The Chairman welcomed Jerry Hyman, John Williamson, Andy MacLeod and Stephen Spence who had previously attended a meeting at Waverley
Damian Blower, architect at Stedman Blower gave an on-screen architectural viewpoint on the East Street/Brightwells scheme.
His theme was on how towns are planned – their linear pattern, and how retail development only works if it relates to that linear spine. Streets in English towns need specific destinations and leading people off them is ineffective. Lion & Lamb Yard is a ‘street’, a pivotal building at the end draws the pedestrian in and it leads somewhere. It is a gateway. For all the reasons outlined East Street as a retail space is unworkable.
There is a paradigm shift in technology – this will alter how buildings are used.
Market towns are no longer necessary to provision us, but to excite us, to give a feeling of belonging, of communal life, of our past. They are there to connect us to each other.
Celia Sandars commented on aspects of the scheme and how it mitigated against viability.
The proposed M&S Simply Food Store may prove unviable as there are currently M&S food stores on the A31 bypass, at Alton and on the A287 near Crondall. The cinema will be a second tier supplier/operator owned and operated by a group of entrepreneurs from Leicester with 15 other small cinemas throughout the country. Vue and Odeon pulled out because of the existing provision in the immediate area, Aldershot, Farnborough, Camberley, Guildford and Basingstoke. The view was that the area cannot support another cinema of this size, i.e 700 plus seats, six screens.
Mention was made of Jim Duffy’s letter in the Farnham Herald with observations on how the East Street proposal would affect the town.
The Chairman thanked members for attending and closed the meeting.
Charles Stuart proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman and to the Society