Matters discussed by the Trustee Directors in February 2012

1. A meeting was expected shortly in which Kimberley Developments will explain to the Society’s Planning committee representatives what steps it is taking in response to the objections raised by the Society to its latest planning application for a Waitrose store

2. Yorkshire Tea was reported to have made a generous donation of teabags and decorative paraphernalia for use in the Village Tea Party to be held in celebration of the Society’s Golden Jubilee on 5th May.

3. Any Questions? – This event has been oversubscribed, the name of the fourth panellist has yet to be announced. All arrangements with Arden Academy are now in hand for this prestigious event.

4. AGM – Gary Masters announced that he will be retiring at this AGM and therefore there will be a further vacancy for a Trustee Director. The name of a possible new nominee was discussed. It was agreed to continue with previous practice and have a tea/coffee break after the formal business.

5. The two councillors present provided updates on the Solihull Local Plan (the final version to be submitted for approval by the Secretary of State is out for discussion – the Society will be making a submission on the intended advancing of plans to build housing in Four Ashes, Hampton Road and Grove Road); the removal of protection of the Relief Road Line (aka the by-pass land) [*see further detail below]; the Royal British Legion building will be used again for a polling station instead of Arden School; an area of the Borough (not Knowle) will try reducing street lighting hours on an experimental basis; the Conservation Advisory Committee (CAC) will be brought out of mothballs for consideration of the Kimberley/Waitrose planning application – SMBC decision on this application is expected in late March; a free parking period in Borough car parks will continue – the hours are subject to further discussion; Tilehouse Green Lane is due to be resurfaced in the Spring.

6. No 8 Wilsons Road (the last one in residential use in that block) has been approved for conversion to office use.

7. Copies of a report on an aircraft noise monitoring exercise in Knowle were circulated; the Society is pressing for further clarification on the data about flights made at the extreme edge of the allowed corridor where these pass closest to Knowle.

8. Planting of a tree, possibly in Jobs Close (Knowle) Park in commemoration of the Society’s Jubilee was discussed. Details of the Streamside Trust (land by Wychwood Avenue) were explained by one of the local councillors and the Society expressed its continued interest in being able to contribute to the future trusteeship/management of that land.

9, A very successful guided tour of Knowle for a local cub pack was reported. It was recognised that this sort of activity was important if youngsters were to be encouraged to take a future interest in civic matters; the Society being keen to develop a youth interest within its structure.

10. A new committee of the Trustee board was under consideration that would combine the current one-man-bands of publicity, membership, newsletter, distribution and the website.

11. A member had expressed an interest in moving forward the Knowle Green Community Project (the old toilet block) and the Society would be meeting with him to explore his interest.

[* Reasons given for removal of protection on Relief Road Line were: a) The Highways Agency says that it is no longer needed as the M40/M42 have proved to be effective in carrying traffic away from Knowle, b) a by-pass might prevent people from coming into Knowle to shop, c) the route would cut right between residential areas and cut them off from the village centre and d) a by-pass wouldn’t actually be put on that line today anyway.]

Matters discussed by the Trustee Directors in January 2012

1. No further developments were reported in the Kimberley/Waitrose planning application which is expected to be heard by Solihull Council in February. In the meantime the Society will be meeting with the Council to discuss Conservation Area concerns in respect of the application.

2. Arrangements were tabled for the four events celebrating the Society’s Jubilee year. It was agreed in particular that the ‘Tea Party’ with birthday cake to be held in the Village Hall would be thrown open to the whole community, whether members of the Society or not. It was noted that the Any Question? broadcast was likely to be over-subscribed.

3. It was agreed to continue exploring the possibility of a full-colour newsletter – perhaps using a design and print service, though there were reservations about taking that route. The change could be made coincident with appointing a new editor, for which volunteers would be sought.

4. It was agreed to form a new committee (possibly to be named ‘Membership Services’) which would pull together the five member-related activities of Membership, Newsletter, Distribution, Website and Publicity. The need for greater coordination of these activities was recognised as the Society continues to respond to changes in communication and technology.

5. Although the Society has adequate funds at present it is recognised that is growing role in community events (such as the Christmas lights) and developments in the newsletter may cause regular expenditure to exceed income and that the subscriptions which have remained unchanged for many years, could require review.

6. Knowle Green Community Project – It was reported that there was possible private interest being expressed in developing this block. The Society would look further into this report but also noted that the block was actually owned by the Council.

7. Diana Holl-Allen representing the Knowle Councillors assured the meeting that the Local Development Framework would be seeking a lot of input from the community; she also stressed that if the community does not respond then decisions will be imposed upon it. She also reported that Council Tax is to be frozen for the next year and that the cemetery at Widney Manor is to be expanded.

8. Knowle Library – it was reported that the relationship with the library service over our Saturday afternoon opening arrangements is becoming increasingly positive and further developments are anticipated. Some 700 people have used this facility in which a 70% were children.

9. Christmas Lights – the condition and quantity of the remaining tree lights was such that it was agreed that enquiries would be made about the purchase of new LED lights.

10. One much valued committee member resignation was noted and two new ones were approved.

11. The future of the former bypass land and the lack of a potential walking link between Longdon Road and this land; the Society’s continued interest in being willing to assist with the Streamside Trust and the difficulty in selecting a suitable place for planting of a Jubilee tree in the autumn land was discussed. Solihull Council had expressed its willingness to cooperate in the planting a tree.

Matters discussed by the Trustee Directors in December 2011

Committee meetings are sumarised for the website however there has been an unintentional gap of six months but we now hope to resume these regularly and ensure that members who so wish are able to keep abreast of what is being discussed in-between reports in our quarterly newsletter.

1. St Johns Close development – two submissions have been made to SMBC raising concerns about the proposed development. The submissions collated responses from the public meeting and input supplied through feedback forms, the website and other sources. The society had also commissioned professional reports on the Conservation Area and the proposals for trees. Original research has also been done on car parking and access routes. The major objection raised by the Society has been the inadequacy of parking arrangements for the size of store proposed.

2. Jubilee celebrations – plans for the Society’s Jubilee celebrations are now all agreed. Arrangements for handling tickets at the BBC Any Questions event will be finalised by a small working party. Plans for the Queen’s Jubilee were discussed but further work is needed to nail down exactly what will be presented. It was suggested that the Society could also be the focus for an exhibition of Coronation memorabilia on the Bank Holiday and members would be invited in the April newsletter to offer their personal examples for that exhibition.

3. Arden School/Academy – satisfaction was expressed at the positive links that have been developed with the school recently and in particular with the new head. It was expected that new initiatives of mutual benefit will be forthcoming.

4. Christmas lights – the event was deemed successful but in need of a little enhancement, perhaps involving a small amount of hot food and more carols, maybe with a choir; the jokes were thought to have had their day! Numbers seemed slightly down this year but the event was clearly very popular. Distribution of food should be commenced from both ends of the crowd as many people see none of it. The tree is a different variety and extremely heavy, so it may be necessary to reduce the height in future years for safety of erection which was almost a mini disaster this year. The lights do not reach the top this time which was a pity and also they are probably on their final year. Any replacements sought would be coloured (red, yellow, green etc.) rather than just all white or all blue. Once again the Society was sad that so much of the press publicity or reports failed to mention the Knowle Society at all as the Society had actually taken the lead as usual in arranging the event, on top of which the organisations listed were incorrect anyway.

5. Copyright – it was agreed that steps would be taken for key personnel in the Society to sign a form, perhaps annually, which ensured that copyright on materials prepared for the Society was assigned to the Society. It was recognised that this is a subject which has caused difficulties and which has the potential to do so in future if reasonable precautions are not taken.

6. Accounts – The accounts for year ending 2011 are currently being prepared by the accountants for audit. The directors considered the reducing balances, the recent additional expenditure related to the St Johns Close development proposals and the potential increased cost of taking the newsletter up a notch to full colour and adopting a more modern presentation. It was agreed that estimates would be obtained and a more holistic view of the costs, balances and potential need for subscription increases in a year or so would be undertaken and also the pros and cons of taking in advertising which has hitherto not been accepted.

7. Councillors’ Report – The main discussion centred around the Streamside Trust and how, if at all, the Society might be able to contribute to the Trust’s work.

8. Reports from committees – reports had mostly been received earlier of the Society’s committees and these did not lead to any significant discussion on this occasion.

Matters discussed by the Trustee Directors in May 2011

1. It was agreed that the Society’s logo would be redesigned to include the number 50 for use in and from the Society’s Jubilee year in 2012.

2. The proposed agreement with SMBC’s Library Service for The Knowle Society to provide volunteers to extend the Library’s opening hours into Saturday afternoons and by extension the hours of accessibility to the Society’s Local History Centre is now close to being finalised and the first training of volunteers in being planned.

3. The need for volunteers for specific roles in the Society was highlighted, especially to take on the Secretary, Membership Secretary and Treasurer roles (some or all of these, as some chair shuffling is envisaged); they need not all have fresh names but any offers would be welcomed).

4. The Appeal Hearing decision on the Jacobean Lane marina is still awaited as is the date for hearing on the Stripes Hill marina Planning Application. The Society is currently surveying the views of businesses in Knowle as to the potential change in business that they envisage from a marina. This activity was prompted by a question raised by the Inspector at the Appeal Hearing.

5. The future of the regional body that supports local amenity societies like ours (WestMASA) will be discussed at its forthcoming meeting. The view of this Society is that it has been a useful body in the past but that value has been diminishing. Civic Voice which replaces the original umbrella Civic Trust, of which WestMASA was a part, appears to be an effective body and the Society’s needs may well be met adequately through our membership of this new body.

6. The Trustees noted the quality of the Birmingham Civic Society’s quarterly journal but did not see that direct emulation was immediately possible though it provided an aspiration.

7. A consultation by Birmingham Airport with local stakeholders, such as the Society, would be requested in respect of proposed changes to night flying arrangements.

8. SMBC had approached the Society to discuss a possible footpath from the Wychwood roundabout to Longdon Road.

9. The Local History Centre had received a very appreciative letter of thanks from the Dodwell family following the current exhibition on their ‘Local Wartime Hero’ family member Thomas (currently on display and throughout June).

10. Birmingham Airport had declined to provide a grant towards the Knowle Green Community Project.

11. A possible memorial headstone for local historian Eva Wootton (died 1981) was discussed.

Matters discussed by the Trustee Directors in April 2011

A brief report of matters discussed at the most recent committee meeting. Feedback on Society matters is welcomed on our online ‘Forum’.

1. Representatives from the Society had been invited to meet Kimberley Developments and had been advised, not consulted, about plans that are still under development. There was however a free exchange of information by both parties. The Society was bound to confidentiality, however it notes that many of the broad plans are already circulating widely within the village. It is the intention of Kimberley to hold another two day public meeting in the Village Hall (date TBA) prior to submission of a revised planning application.

2. The Society is pleased to have attended a planning meeting held in the Royal British Legion for the proposed event in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen’s accession to the throne and will be playing a full part in that event. It is planned to close the High Street for a festival on Monday 4th June 2012. This event is being arranged by an ad hoc association of local organisations and as such meets the ultimate objective of the Society in having put out feelers for such an event about a year ago. In having considered the seeding of such an event, the Society also had in mind its own Golden Jubilee in 2012; however now that the Queen’s celebration has a healthy life of its own, The Knowle Society will continue parallel plans for a set of additional events during 2012 in celebration of its own Jubilee and is currently applying for a prestigious BBC radio broadcast (no guarantees!) and a dinner, as starters.

3. Liaison with Arden School/Academy is developing well and it is hoped that the current young people’s photographic competition being run by the Society will lead to more fruit in the Autumn.

4. Two pitches have been booked as usual for the Festival in the Park on Sunday 19th June, though some disappointment was expressed at the choice of a Sunday for this event.

5. Village Plan – the Directors were updated on the government’s plans for the strategic planning process. The Society will have 6-8 weeks to comment on the second draft of the Local Development Framework (LDF) which hopefully will allow further changes to be considered at the Inquiry in the summer of 2012. In the light of this the Society will now put arrangements for a Village Plan on hold until around Summer 2012 and maintain a watching brief in readiness for picking up the baton then.

6. Arrangements for provision of voluntary help on Saturday afternoons at the Library is continuing slowly but progress is being made with an agreement between the Library Service and The Knowle Society and the appropriate documentation for the volunteers. It is expected that the arrangement will commence by early Summer.

7. The Treasurer had reported at the last meeting that he had lost £25 in the accounts but that these had now been found. The collective sigh of relief from the Trustee Directors was ‘like a rushing wind’!

8. The Planning committee reported that a revised application was expected for new housing in place of the former Knowle Building & Decorating Supplies premises. It was also indicated that there was some small hope that the Council’s Conservation Advisory Committee could be spared the chop and continue in some form. This is not known definitely and no response had yet been received to a letter seeking a reprieve sent to the Leader of the Council and followed up by letters from our local councillors. The situation is that the decision to chop the committee had not yet received formal ratification. No outcome of the marina public enquiry had been seen yet either.

9. A meeting is arranged with Freddie Gick on 10th May which will be attended by the directors of the Society and committee members, however any other interested member is also welcome to attend. Mr Gick is the Chairman of Birmingham Civic Society, Chairman of the West Midlands Association of Amenity Societies (of which The Knowle Society is a member) and the Deputy Chairman of the newly formed Civic Voice. The Society belongs to Civic Voice which is the successor to the now defunct Civic Trust.

10. The current Local History exhibition at the library had been visited by the family of it’s subject, Thomas Brierley Dodwell DSO DFC in its Local Wartime Heroes series. The family had expressed its delight with the exhibition.

11. Membership of the Society has recently dipped below 3000 (as often happens when the annual subscription round throws up members who have move away or died). Several new members have been recruited recently and the figure is very close to topping that magic 3000 again! A new membership secretary is being sought as Bryan Smart’s resignation through ill-health will become effective in the autumn.

12. Some discussion took place about the cost of postal subscription in respect of the bulk of the newsletter and whether the desire to reduce this cost would also be benefitted by publishing the newsletter in an A5 format as so many organisations have done in recent times. No decision was taken but the possibility will be explored further.