Missed the AGM? Then you missed something special…
The busy world of CPRE Essex was brought into focus at the weekend during the county branch’s AGM.
Marks Tey village hall was the setting on Saturday afternoon (October 6) as the necessary details of the previous year’s business were gone through in the professional manner we have come to expect from the group.
Vice-chairman Tricia Moxey gave a positive report on branch activities before treasurer John Bloxsome reported that the accounts were showing a break-even position rather than the modest surplus of recent years.
This was through CPRE Essex focusing on its wider remit of countryside protection rather than fundraising.
The accounts were approved.
The committee was re-elected en bloc, with the addition of Jill Hinds.
CPRE Essex is in the happy position of having David Knight as chairman. Still relatively new in his role, he is relishing the tasks ahead.
His address covered subjects as varied as his personal background to the 30 per cent margin on house-building, the use of unmanned aircraft in tackling the scourge of hare-coursing, the poor business case for the huge urban growth proposed for the Thames estuary and the menace of excessive street-lighting.
He highlighted his belief (surely shared by all) that CPRE needs “youngsters”. We should start the process of engagement in schools, he said, emphasising the joy of wildlife. Hear hear!
Sam Harding, director of CPRE’s national litter programme, gave a talk on the Litter Picking Programme that, although a little rushed (she had a train to catch), gave food for thought.
She spoke about CPRE’s recent Green Clean litter-picks, highlighting the most shocking example of 2,000 cans and bottles being collected in an hour at one site.
“Litter’s a really great issue to focus on as in 10 years of doing this job I’ve never heard anyone say there should be more litter,” said Sam.
There was also the Essex pilot project tackling litter, which could provide a template for other counties and ultimately contribute to government strategy.
A member of the audience suggested that CPRE could have pushed for a complete ban on plastic bags rather than the five-pence charge eventually agreed.
Sam replied that such an approach would have gained no political traction, while now the Treasury itself was calling for a further consultation relating to the taxing or banning of some types of plastic.
Next up was graduate researcher Ben Nourse, who works with the Cambridge Design Research Studio and is studying to become a Master of Architecture in Urban Design.
He gave a short talk entitled Towards a New Rural in which he confronted the issue of the huge numbers of new homes being foisted on parts of the country by central government (Essex alone is being told to build 136,000 houses in 10 years).
Such development can only lead to habitat shrinkage and fragmentation, along with loss of wildlife, so we need to approach the matter differently, said Ben, who favours large-scale holistic developments led by local authorities – but not the current low-density method of development.
Garden cities, he said, were built at an average rate of 25 dwellings per hectare (DpH), while London’s Barbican had a figure of 126 DpH. If the latter density were applied to developments in rural areas, we would be sparing far more of our countryside.
Such an approach would have chimed with Rosie Pearson, secretary of CAUSE (Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex), who asked specifically about West Hay, a 24,000-home new town planned for close to where we were all sitting.
Revised figures suggested that population growth would not be as great as formerly anticipated, she said, but the government would still try to keep its target of 300,000 new homes a year alive, perhaps by going to the Office for National Statistics for yet another set of numbers.
CPRE Essex partners a range of organisations, and CAUSE was not the only one represented at Marks Tey on Saturday. This collaboration is likely to increase in the years ahead as the challenges increase… as do the opportunities for new friendships. It had been quite an afternoon.