AGM 2023: everyone’s a winner!

Petra Ward, left, presented Jill Hinds with a bouquet in recognition of her efforts for CPRE Essex

The beautiful town of Thaxted was the delightful setting for this year’s CPRE Essex AGM – and the 23 members and supporters present enjoyed a day to remember.
To be precise, Pam’s Place was the venue – and what an ideal choice it proved to be, more than catering for our needs, which of course included tea and the most splendid cake.
After the business matters were completed in a commendably succinct fashion, we indulged in a guided tour of the town that took in both the church and the windmill as trustee Richard Haynes shared some of his knowledge of this historic place.
Before that, though, our chairman David Knight gave a talk on what CPRE Essex had been up to during the year. It was only through doing this, he said, that he realised quite how much had been achieved over the past 12 months.
During the winter we had changed our Zoom talks format from a series to just the one. This had been given by Dr Andrew Impey, chief executive of Essex Wildlife Trust, who had presented The Vital Role that Wildlife Trusts play in Nature Conservation.
Of course, like it or not, planning applications will always play a big part in the life of CPRE, and our branch had given practical help and advice on such varied concerns as the so-called East Anglia GREEN pylons scheme, Wethersfield airfield, solar farms and housing proposals for the Dengie peninsula.
We had worked extensively with National Office on a range of matters and actively supported the new(ish) Network Assembly. Meetings were held every six weeks or so with regional branches (Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk) – David had chaired this group for six months.
Of course, there is a world outside CPRE and we had helped promote other key county organisations impacting on the countryside – these included the police, Rural Communities Council Essex and the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley Project.
As with so many other charities and voluntary organisations, we faced challenges regarding recruitment but had put in a lot of work in this regard.
CPRE’s chosen recruitment system had not proved very successful despite our writing job specifications for many roles, so we had decided to go it alone through advertising in local Press outlets and via social media.

The top table: from left, Elizabeth Lucas, Simon Hall, John Bloxsome and David Knight

David told us that the CPRE Essex membership stood at 520 – this was decreasing, with possible factors being the cost-of-living crisis, our age profile and potentially the lack of a USP (Unique Selling Point).
Finally, after paying tribute to those who had helped CPRE Essex over the course of the last year, David said he would like us to set up a competition. He is open to ideas…
Treasurer John Bloxsome then gave his report, noting that from a capital perspective our position remained healthy.
On that happy note, Simon Hall, standing in for the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, took the election of officers, trustees and vice-presidents.
However, all things must end and Jill Hands, after many years of dedicated service to CPRE Essex, had decided to retire from the executive committee. It goes without saying that we all wished her well and thanked her for her wonderful efforts for our charity. As a token of our gratitude, Petra Ward presented Jill with a bouquet.
Then it was time to eat cake and drink tea! But even then we weren’t done as we took to the streets for Richard Haynes’s fascinating tour of Thaxted. He captivated our group with his knowledge of the town’s history and traditions – all the more commendable for his ability to engage despite the near-constant din of planes flying in to Stansted. Surely few places can juxtapose the old and the new quite so strikingly! It had been quite the day.

Pam’s Place proved the perfect setting for the AGM
Richard Haynes shares his extraordinary knowledge of Thaxted with members
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