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24 February 2014

February Newsletter: Four Cheers for Four Years with Richard Hibbert

Richard Hibbert stepped down from chairing the Forest Hill Society at our AGM in December 2013 after four years in office. Richard brought a huge amount of energy and dedication to the role, inspiring all of those around him; from committee members to market traders and even some who didn't realise they were shop owners until he persuaded them to open shops!

From October 2009 to December 2013, Forest Hill has changed significantly. Not all of this was down to Richard or to the Forest Hill Society but he ensured that our contribution made a decisive difference to the area. Richard formed a great relationship with local traders and shop landlords which enabled new shops to open and created an environment where the Traders' Association could be re-formed. Indeed, were it not for a bit of gentle arm-twisting by Richard some the new shops may never have opened.

One of the great initiatives of the Society in 2012 was the introduction of a monthly ‘Food Fair’ in the Forest Hill station car park. The market was designed to bring people back to the town centre and to encourage traders to set up a permanent business in the empty shops that were still prevalent at the time. We also had the aim of providing good food to local residents. Over the next 18 months, the ‘Food Fair’ grew in size and achieved all its aims. Eventually in December 2013, we ran our last ‘Food Fair’ and handed the baton to Lee Griffin with the current ‘Horniman Farmers' Market’.

Richard generated enormous commitment in Society members and over the last four years we have all worked together to get new swings in the Horniman Triangle, run a local market and plant flowers around the town centre. We also participated in the Chelsea Fringe’s city-wide ‘Edible High Road’ project which saw seventy trees across the high streets of SE23 and for which the area won an outstanding award.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning the vital role Richard has played in the SEE3 initiative, (the government funded national high street regeneration scheme). This started with finding people to put the bid together for the ‘Portas Pilot’ and then later becoming a director of the SEE3 group (not to mention getting his screwdriver out to unlock shutters so that new shops could open!)

Richard's work commitments have now increased to the extent that he doesn't have the same time to dedicate to the Society as previously, but we are delighted that he remains on the Executive Committee.

When Richard took over the Society in 2009 some questioned its ongoing role. The battle for the pools had been won and the East London Line was due to open - what more could be achieved by a civic society? After four years led by Richard, there can be no doubting the value of the Society in shaping the future of Forest Hill and Honor Oak.

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