Annual General Meeting Chairman’s Report

The Chairman’s Report to the Annual General Meeting held on Thursday 6th July 2017 at Welcombe Hills School.

Dear Members,

Thank you

In June we celebrated our second anniversary as a group and I would like to start by thanking everyone for their continued support as members of Friends of Rowley Fields. In particular I would like to thank our Committee for their hard work most of which is unseen. I would also especially like to thank Mike Anderson and Gavin Griffiths, both have offered their time and services to support our group. Mike has planned and provided some excellent nature walks during the last 12 months and Gavin continues to host our website at no cost to our group. Thank you both.

The Future

Some people might assume that having prevented Rowley Fields becoming yet another Stratford building plot that our work is done. Perhaps that is correct however, I would remind members that our aim has always been to ‘Protect Rowley Fields for future generations’. To do that I feel we must maintain our group and remain active and focussed in the years to come. Members will appreciate the huge effort and time it took to get to where we are today, to drop our guard would (in my opinion) be foolhardy. Despite securing the clear support and commitment of the Town Trust it is my view that the fields will always remain attractive to developers. Developers will continue to approach the Trust in the years to come and offer huge financial incentives to future boards of Trustees for the sale of the land. We need to remain ready to respond to any threats the future may hold.

We are also ideally positioned to demonstrate the clear link between Rowley Fields and the Trusts Objects as defined in the Articles of Association. During our negotiations with the Trust we were able to demonstrate how the land ‘provides facilities for recreation and other leisure-time occupation’.

An unexpected benefit of our work has been to unite the community of Rowley Fields and surrounding area. Whilst not everyone is a member of our group there can be no doubt that recent experiences have brought our community together with hitherto strangers becoming friends.

Membership

At last year’s AGM we challenged ourselves to increase the size of our membership which at that time stood at 71 members. I am therefore delighted to report that our new total stands at 159 members.

Benson Road Property

Members may be interested to hear that the Town Trust have sold the property in Benson Road for £1.1 million, in addition they have sold a small section of the fields to the rear of the property to neighbouring houses for use as garden land.

Neighbourhood Plan

We eagerly await the finalisation of the towns Neighbourhood Plan and referendum, this remains an important milestone in securing the status of the land and hopefully deterring future developers. We continue to follow developments and will advise members accordingly, what is important is that we all take the opportunity to vote in support of the plan. Members will be aware that the Trust has made clear its intent not to object any part of the fields being designated as Local Green Space.

The submission plan was submitted to Stratford-on-Avon District Council on 26 April and the start of the statutory six week consultation, prior to examination, commenced on Thursday 25 May, 2017. Although there are still a number administrative stages to go through, it is hoped that the Plan will proceed to referendum in the spring of 2018.

Stratford Town Trust

Engagement with the Trust must continue to be a priority for our group. The Trust have recently undertaken a number of surveys and has held regular monthly member/Trustee surgeries, these will be reducing to two per annum. In addition there is a weekly Friday morning ‘open door’ opportunity to meet with Justin Williams the new Chief Executive. All great opportunities to influence the Trusts future. Some members will no doubt have participated in the Trusts engagement exercises recently held at the Swans Nest Hotel. I would urge our members to continue to engage with the Trust and help the Trustees understand the concerns and priorities of Stratford residents. Following the Trusts recent AGM, the Trusts new strategy will be published in the near future and will shape the Trusts future direction.

Events

Like last year all our events have focussed on the Trusts 4th Objective of providing facilities for recreation and leisure time and they have been designed to complement the wide range of activities that the community already enjoys at Rowley Fields.

Events have included;

Nature Walks hosted by Mike Anderson

A Bat Walk hosted by Warwickshire Bat Group, where we used electronic scanners to detect three different species of bat. This was a really fun evening with adults and children taking part. Thank you to Mike, Giovanni and Sonya for these events.

In 2016 we approached the Shakespeare Hospice with the aim of hosting a charity Dog Walk in the fields, unfortunately this wasn’t possible so we then asked the Dogs Trust if they would like to hold a similar event. After a number of meetings and securing the agreement of both the Town Trust and District Council we then discovered that a change in policy at the Dogs Trust stopped us from proceeding further. This was a disappointment but we understand and are ready to step in should the opportunity present itself in the future.

Our recent work

There can be no doubt that given the heightened publicity of Rowley Fields that we have witnessed an increasing number of users both local and many who travel by car to reach the fields. It is really pleasing to see a wider section of the town’s community benefiting from the land. However, the increasing use has begun to impact on the land particularly in areas of high foot fall. Erosion in gateways has increased with many areas reduced to slippery patches of mud during the winter. The Committee conducted a visual audit of the fields over the winter and subsequently met with the Chief Executive to discuss the issue. We were invited to identify our concerns, we subsequently submitted a written report accompanied with photographic evidence. In addition to issues of erosion we also took the opportunity to highlight the deteriorating seating and boundary fences and gates in some areas. We hope the Trust will respond positively and that improvements will follow, making the land safer for use at all times of the year.

As members we would welcome your ideas for any activities or ideas that you would like to see in the fields. The coming years will see a different role for our group but I hope with your support we can continue to ‘Protect Rowley Fields for future generations’.

Thank you for listening.

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