05 November 2016

Forest Hill Society AGM Minutes

Held in Louise House on 20 October 2016

The Chairman, Michael Abrahams, welcomed everyone to the Society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).  Michael began by inviting Tara Cranswick, CEO of V22 to brief the meeting on Louise House developments.

Louise House
Tara described the many improvements during the past year including the new landscape at the front connecting Louise House to the library, and planting in the garden to the rear.  Feedback from the public was important in guiding this work e.g. the need for wider pavements.  A grant had been obtained for the next big project, which is renovating the basement, and the improvements to Dartmouth Road scheduled to commence in 2017 would link Louise House, the library and Forest Hill Pools.  A highlight had been the Holiday Summer Club and this would continue next year.  The Society newsletter will keep everyone up to date on what’s happening in Louise House.

Forest Hill Library
The new Library Manager, Simon Higgs briefed the AGM on our community library which re-opens on 24 October run by a consortium comprising V22, the Forest Hill Society and the Trader’s Association.  The consortium really cares about the future of the library and literacy in Forest Hill.  There had been a fantastic response from the community.  A crowd funder target of £6000 had been reached in just two weeks.  Already 110 volunteers had signed up.  100% of the studios for rent had been let on day one.  A Friends Membership scheme was up and running and a web site, Facebook and Twitter accounts.  But more volunteers are needed. 

A Management Board is in place and Advisory Boards will be formed including one for young people.  Feedback from the public is critical if the community library is to be success.  Donations of books are welcome.  If they are not quite right for the library, books can be sold to raise funds. 

Forest Hill Society DevelopmentsMichael Abrahams summed up the year (a copy of his report was shared at the meeting). The library had been the focus – first the fight to keep it under council control and then working to make sure the library had the best possible future. 

The two big events had been a great success – the Burn’s Night supper, which would be repeated and the Society’s 10th anniversary celebration when Shakespeare “visited” Forest Hill in the shape of Teatro Vivo theatre group. 

Work on Dartmouth Road was set to begin in 2017 and now the Society had plans to improve Perry Vale for pedestrians and cyclists. 

The improvements at London Bridge station were now having a positive effect on train services but the latest consultation with Southern Rail indicated a reduction in peak hour services and no trains to East Croydon in 2018.  While Overground plan to run extra services these should not be seen as an offset for reduced Southern services, which have longer trains. The Society will submit a response to the consultation and individuals are encouraged to do so too.

The most visible part of the Forest Hill Society’s work in 2015-16 was its planting at the station and in the town centre; for the fourth year running Forest Hill was judged to be “outstanding” in the RHS awards. The new ‘Tyre Towers’ in Perry Vale were innovative and the Edible High Road tubs had been revived.  More volunteers are needed to help with planting.  Another session is planned for 29 October and there is a litter pick up on 12 November.  A workshop supported by local architects and planners had produced a design for a new building for the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve. Quetta Kaye’s Environment Committee Report was shared at the meeting.

In discussion, the following main points were made:
•    Trains – would direct services run again to Charing Cross?  Probably not, though the Society is keen to see late running services; a 24 hour Thameslink Service was relevant in this respect. 
•    The Tewkesbury Lodge Resident’s Association is concerned that tarmac laid up to trees leads to roots breaking up pavements.  This is unnecessary.  There are good examples elsewhere e.g. Court Lane where drainage is better and this should be the approach adopted elsewhere.
•    Cycling – a strategy being developed with the Sydenham Society will describe improvements for cyclists and pedestrians in the Forest Hill – Sydenham – Perry Vale area.  The strategy is to be discussed with local councillors. 

Perry Vale Proposed Improvements
Rob Owen described a proposal to make the north end of Perry Vale one way as a means to re-generate the area to the east of the station (a draft opportunity statement was shared at the meeting showing the proposed new configuration).
There was lots of support for the proposals at the meeting.  The area for development could be extended to the car park.  One way north was probably the best direction of travel.  The proposals might include improvements to shop fronts too.  Could the bus stop be nearer the station?
Councillor John Paschoud supported the proposals.  He was happy to discuss them with fellow ward councillors and with the Lewisham Highways Department.  This work was probably suitable for the “Minor Works” Programme, which made it a realistic proposition. 

Treasurer’s ReportMichael Abrahams presented the report.  Accounts were shared at the meeting.  While spending had exceeded income during the past year the Society had a healthy bank balance.  Income from membership fees was constant.  Significant items of expenditure were on the Shakespeare on the High Street (also supported by a Ward Assembly grant) and a financial contribution to Forest Hill Fashion Week.

ElectionsThe following were re-elected:
•    Michael Abrahams as Chair
•    Alisa Owens as Treasurer
•    John Firmin as Secretary
•    Belinda Evans as Membership Officer

An additional 14 members were elected as ordinary members of the executive committee.

Other Business
Street Lighting – To save £165,000 Lewisham is to reduce street lighting in residential areas it seems without consultation (councillors have not been consulted either).  Apparently, there was a pilot in 2015 when three streets in each ward were chosen.  The lack of consultation is regrettable given the concern about the risk of rising crime and road accidents resulting from less street lighting overnight.  Will this be extended to walkways like the one beside the railway?  Might businesses be persuaded to sponsor lighting in certain roads?  Maybe they would consider reducing the lighting for fewer hours?  If the system is such that individual lights can be controlled this may provide scope for a compromise.

Do we have an update on the plans for the old police station?  An application to convert the site into housing including social housing has been accepted.

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