Trust Annual Report 1998
It hardly seems possible that I have now been your Chairman for a year. It has been a fascinating time and my eyes have been well and truly opened to the many real and potential threats to our historic City and its perimeter. The year ahead is going to be a busy one. The proposed development at Morn Hill, rejected by the City Council's Planning Committee, is to be re-submitted. The proposals for a Park & Ride car park and a Leisure Centre at Bushfield have yet to be submitted, and the Barton Farm issue is unresolved. And now we hear that a renewed application for a development at Sarum Farm has been submitted: a similar application was rejected after a Public Inquiry in 1988. And no doubt fresh issues will arise as the days go by. We will need to be vigilant and to counter each threat as it occurs.
To this end I reiterate some remarks made by my predecessor. He said that the Trust's core activity must be that of influencing, on a basis of mutual respect, the elected members and officers of the City Council whose duty it is to preserve the character of our City. We are very fortunate to be so well served by the highly skilled, experienced and dedicated people who make up the Trust's Council and by the numerous activists who assist them in their various tasks. None more so than the members of the Development Control Panels, most of whom have busy jobs, yet find the time to scrutinise the many planning applications, relevant to the City and its perimeter, which are submitted to the City Council Planning Department. The Panels comment, where comment is needed, to applaud, advise, suggest and, where necessary, object to the substance or detail of each application.
There are some gaps in the ranks which I seek to fill. We sorely need a Press and Public Relations officer. Someone has come forward who is interested in the post. I hope that he will volunteer to fill the gap once he has seen the Trust at work and been able to assess the amount of time he will need to give to the Trust to be effective.
One way we can influence people is to help them to become aware of the unique surroundings in which they live, through a programme of education in subjects which can be broadly classified as 'Urban Studies'. This will enable them to realise the effect that planning applications could have on their environment and allow them to conduct informed debate with their elected representative. But if it is to be done it must be done properly. That means finding people who can spare the time to devise and run the programme. From the outset we need an Education Officer to mastermind the whole project. He in turn will need a team of assistants to run the programme and implement the syllabus. So far I have not found the right person to approach. If you are interested, or know someone who might fill the post, please get in touch with me.
This leads me on to another related subject. Your officers already give much time to the Trust and it would be unreasonable to ask them to take on any more tasks. You may remember that I recently asked for volunteers to assist with some research into the matters that, over the years, have been aired in the correspondence columns of the Hampshire Chronicle. The response, to say the least, was disappointing. Out of a Membership of a thousand only one person turned up for the briefing and he was your President. If you are interested in this kind of research do please get in touch with me by telephone or in writing. You would find the work rewarding.
One matter which has caused us much worry is the future of the Heritage Centre. Work was supposed to have started in the autumn of last year but at the time of writing we still have not received the lease for signature. This in spite of repeated letters and calls to the City Council's Estates Department. At the outset the original draft was unacceptable to the Trust and that took much argument to reduce it to a document we could sign. The main problem was to make sure that if, at some time in the future, the Trust wished to dispose of the lease we would have a commodity that was readily marketable. I hope that at the Annual General Meeting I will be able to tell you that the lease has been signed.
And lastly, my thanks to all those who have assisted the Trust (and indeed myself) over the last year. Without them the Trust could not function.
Robin Merton, Chairman