THE FARNHAM SOCIETY
Minutes of the 69th Annual General Meeting held on
Tuesday 3 May 2016
at South Farnham School, Menin Way, Farnham
Alan Gavaghan Chairman
Michael Blower Vice-President
John Cattell Treasurer
Janet Radley Secretary
Approximately 76 members of the Society attended.
The Chairman opened the meeting by welcoming members to the Society’s 69th AGM and thanked them for attending in such numbers.
As the Treasurer had another commitment the agenda order was changed to accommodate his report.
1. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Committee member: Krish Kakkar
Members: Mike & Ann Thurston, Mr & Mrs Norman Nichols, Jeffrey Powell,
John Hurst, Noel Moss, Robert & Tempe Mansfield, Sam Osmond, Roger & Jan Bradley, Sanchia Vinall, Stephen Smith, Richard and Rosemary Thomas, Michael and Tandy Murphy.
2. MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING held on 12 May 2015
The Minutes had been circulated and were approved and signed.
No matters arising.
3. ADOPTION OF DRAFT ACCOUNTS for financial year ending 31 March 2016
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.
- INCOME. Overall income had increased due to receipt of a covenant from a past member, Mrs Beryl Mackay. However, membership subscription income was slightly reduced as a result of continued refinement of the members’ database. He asked members to check Standing Orders to ensure they were for the correct amount, as several had not been updated.
Current membership is 494 households (678 members)
£763 had been reclaimed from HMRC under the Gift Aid scheme. The Treasurer urged members to sign up for the scheme if they were tax payers and had not already done so.
- EXPENDITURE. Expenditure was down, major items being share of legal fees with The Farnham Trust for the ongoing East Street enquiry, and for printing/ stationery.
A donation of £250 had been made to Waverley Borough Council for their Design Awards
- Membership fees would remain unaltered.
- The Treasurer confirmed that the Society’s accounts were in a healthy state with a strong balance for any future emergency.
Adoption of accounts. proposed: Simon Bradbury, seconded: Charles Stuart.
CONFIRMATION OF INSPECTOR OF ACCOUNTS
Roger Smith had agreed to continue as Inspector of Accounts for the current financial year.
4. CHAIRMAN’S REPORT
The Chairman’s report had been published on the website and distributed at the meeting.
- The report centred on serious concerns about the proposed East Street / Brightwells development, with major planning changes forced through as Non- Material Amendments to the original contract, benefitting the contractor and in breach of public works contract regulations. An additional concern was the provision of tax payers’ money by Surrey County Council to fill the gap created by Crest Nicholson’s failure to secure commercial finance.
Parallels were drawn with Winchester’s Silver Hill development, the Council having withdrawn from the contract after a Councillor defied the party whip and personally financed a successful judicial review. The Farnham Society, together with Farnham Building Preservation Trust and East Street Action Group, formed The Farnham Interest Group (FIG), whose solicitor was engaged in frequent and ongoing legal exchanges with Waverley Borough Council, and now Surrey County Council.
On the subject of public fundraising to finance a judicial review, the Chairman expressed his concern at the sums involved, an estimated £50,000 – £100,000 to initiate it, but much more if the case went to appeal. It required a legal structure representing the whole of Farnham, adequately funded in all stages of the process, and he felt that realistically The Farnham Society, while fully supportive of the aims, should not be expected to shoulder responsibility for the campaign.
The Chairman referred to a development since writing his report. At the annual Farnham Town Council electors’ meeting a question was put as to whether FTC would provide financial support for a judicial review. Subsequently FTC had stated the intention to seek independent legal advice to protect their own position, for which £20,000 would be allocated. The Chairman welcomed the decision
which indicated the two organisations had a common cause.
- Zofia Lovell voiced total support for the Chairman’s view and urged The Society and FTC to work closer together on this.
- Abigail McKern suggested the Councillor in the Silver Hill case be asked to talk to Society members
- David Seal suggested a Vote of No Confidence in Waverley Borough Council. The Chairman doubted its impact.
- Celia Sandars suggested a show of hands for approval of the proposal to work more closely with FTC on this issue
- Jackie Stinton urged that Farnham people fought hard against the unacceptable and uncaringbehaviour of Waverley. It was hoped that the genuine anger of residents in continual contact with events would generate substantial funds.
- Mike Cubitt referred to the public subscription which had saved The Maltings and expressed optimism about a similar result
- In reply to a request by Zofia Lovell for one of the FTC Councillors present to speak, Andy MacLeod said that it should be borne in mind that the East Street project would not necessarily go ahead. Crest Nicholson were now desperately trying to reduce costs, for example not now building the bridge to the bypass, and there was a time limit of August/September for the compulsory purchase of The Marlborough Head. If funding was not in place by then the scheme could not proceed. Planning permission to move the Gostrey Centre would also be needed.
- Carole Cockburn backed the Chairman’s call for unity and felt that the Society and FTC working together was the only chance, given the crucial importance of the issue. Fragmentation had a negative effect on Waverley and the whole town needed to work together. She confirmed that the Council is seeking legal advice on the feasibility of a judicial review.
5. COMMITTEE REPORTS
All Committee reports had been published on the website and circulated at the meeting
The Chairman thanked Peter Bridgeman for the enormous amount of work he
had done as Chairman of the Planning Committee, and wished him well now that he was retiring.
- The main role of the Planning Committee is to look at plans/details of all significant applications in Farnham which, increasingly, were from 10 – 150 dwellings or more. Government encouragement to build new homes and the failure of Waverley Borough Council to produce a new Local Plan and a 5 year housing supply figure, had resulted in an unprecedented increase in planning applications. The previously reported 2000 new dwellings on greenfield sites in and around Farnham, and a further 262 on brownfield sites had been superseded by proposals for two new schemes for nearly 300 more.
The brownfield site of Dunsfold Park could accommodate 5000 homes (the current application was for 1800) which would solve the 5 year housing supply figure and avoid the need to build on greenfield sites.
Farnham’s infrastructure is totally inadequate for such levels of development.
- The Local Plan is due to go before Waverley’s Executive Committee in August at the earliest. An adopted plan is unlikely before late 2017
- Regulation 15 of Farnham Town Council’s Neighbourhood Plan is nearing completion and will be submitted in May, with an eventual referendum sent to all Farnham residents. With 50% or more acceptance it could be adopted before the end of the year.
- The report had been prepared by Mike Murphy who, although not standing for re-election, would act as the Society’s consultant on matters relating to traffic and pedestrianisation
- Without a Local Plan and with the explosion of potential housing, traffic conditions would worsen, and a western relief road was thought to be the only long-term solution.
- Some of the on-street parking obstructing key roads, which prevented free flow of traffic, may be reduced by the expanded parking at Farnham station
- The problem of town centre roads, gridlocked with A-class traffic, would potentially be exacerbated by construction traffic for the Memorial Hall and East Street and its development of housing, cinema, businesses, for which Surrey County Council
are making no extra provision.
- Plans for pedestrianisation were unclear and its implementation uncertain.
- Celia Sandars expressed scepticism about FTC’s attitude to pedestrianisation
- In reply to a question about the Woolmead the Chairman said approval of outline planning permission had been delayed and was still awaited.
- George Hesse raised the subject of the significant number of heavy lorries evident recently through the town via West Street, destination unknown but possibly the M3,as Anne Cooper confirmed that their route was up Castle Street. Mr Hesse also commented on road surfaces in and around the town and their state of complete neglect.
- Andy MacLeod, despite initial scepticism about pedestrianisation, was now of the view that some sort of scheme was paramount. Hehad recently met Jeremy Hunt who is determined for pedestrianisation to go ahead. With no funding for the ultimate solution of a western relief road the traffic problem had to be dealt with now, with a trial scheme. The question was whether people would accept the inconvenience of re-routed traffic, sometimes involving a considerable detour, in order to achieve a more civilised environment in the town centre, and reduced air pollution.
- Carole Cockburn spoke about the possibility of re-classification of roads in Farnham allowing more control of traffic through the town centre.
Roger Steel presented an interim report on the findings of a Farnham Society sub-committee on air pollution, formed under his Chairmanship last autumn.
- The combination of an inadequate road system and the emission of nitrogen dioxide from diesel vehicles has made Farnham one of the most polluted areas in Surrey (Farnham has more than the national average of diesel cars). Waverley’s monitoring of ‘hot spots’ show that pollution levels are approaching danger levels – evidence known to Surrey County Council and to DEFRA but without remedial action.
- The committee had studied the monitoring schedule and its locations in great detail and had researched mounting clinical evidence of the dangers to public health.
- The Local Plan’s major building programme for Farnham will hugely increase the problem
- The committee will publish a full report on this major issue in the near future.
- Diane Bradbury outlined the current year’s one-day visits and the coach tour to Birmingham. Take-up had decreased this year and the point was made that support from members for organised coach trips was needed in order for them to continue.
- The quality of speakers had been very good, and ideas for such speakers were always welcome. The Beryl Mackay bequest would be used to finance a keynote speaker.
Heritage Open Days (HODS)
- The Chairman thanked Sue Farrow and the HODS team for their excellent organisation of this major event each year.
- Erica Wilkinson commended the hard work of the HODS group and the team of volunteers and its very strong community spirit, combining to show Farnham at its best.
- The theme of Hops and Brewing last year had proved a rich seam, effectively tapped. This year (8 – 11 September) the theme is Art & Craft in Farnham.
- Zofia Lovell suggested much more engagement with young people, involving local schools. Although events at Farnham Pottery and the Museum did involve children, Erica Wilkinson was grateful for the idea, which would be pursued.
6. ELECTION/RE-ELECTION OF HONORARY OFFICERS
Alan Gavaghan confirmed he was willing to stand as Chairman for a further year.
Janet Radley would stand down as Secretary when a suitable replacement was found but was prepared to stand as Vice-Chairman
Rosemary Thomas had decided not to stand for re-election and the Chairman expressed his appreciation for her considerable contribution to the Society. He also thanked Michael Murphy for his long association with the Society and his agreement to continue as a consultant on traffic and pedestrian matters.
John Cattell would stand again as Treasurer
Proposed: David Brown, seconded: David Wylde. Carried
7. ELECTION/RE-ELECTION OF COMMITTEE MEMBERS
John Slater – new committee member.
Proposed Alan Gavaghan, seconded Janet Radley
David Howell – new committee member as Chairman, Planning Committee
Proposed: Peter Bridgeman, seconded: Krish Kakkar
Re-election of committee members, en bloc
Proposed: Michael Blower, seconded: Alan Gavaghan
8. CONFIRMATION OF INSPECTOR OF ACCOUNTS
(included in agenda item 3)
8. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Following the AGM – a presentation by Mark Westcott on the Memorial Hall
- This focussed on the recent proposal to overturn the Covenants in connection with the Memorial Sports Ground Deed of Gift, protecting its sports ground for recreational and sporting use, and instead proposing to appropriate it for planning purposes, i.e. housing development, re-locating Farnham Town FC to Weydon Lane
- A straw poll on support for the continued retention of the Memorial Sports Ground for sports, as intended by the original Deed of Gift, showed all in favour.