So what did we hear .... our AGM a couple of weeks ago?  As promised business was kept brief and then many interesting and stimulating ideas were shared afterwards.  Read on for a full report:-

2019 Annual General Meeting

The AGM took place on a lovely autumn afternoon at the beautifully sited Bishopwood village hall near Ross on Wye.  The number of people passing the hall along the Wye Valley Walk demonstrated very clearly what CPRE stands for.

The official business was dealt with quickly; the accounts were approved and the existing Committee was re-elected.  Patrick Goode has taken up a new role as Branch Secretary.

There were three particularly important items on the Agenda.

First,  Professor John Whitelegg was elected as our Branch President.  This post has been vacant for a number of years and the Committee was delighted when he agreed to stand.  Professor Whitelegg is an international academic specialising in transport.  He lives in Shrewsbury.  He spoke briefly about arresting rural decline, climate emergency, and his various campaigning roles.  He gave us all cause to be optimistic that changes which CPRE and other groups had been arguing for over many years might now, at last, be being taken seriously.

Second, Tony Geeson gave the Annual Report.  There was a lot to be proud of, not least the work of our planning volunteers (the PLAN team) in opposing inappropriate development and supporting local groups, particularly where poly-tunnels and intensive livestock units were likely to adversely affect the countryside. 

Herefordshire CPRE continues to punch above its weight given its small size and budget however this hides a basic problem.  The Branch is actually in serious trouble.   There are not enough Committee members to continue beyond next year unless new recruits who wish to be Trustees of the charity come forward.  More generally there are insufficient volunteers actively involved in planning matters, fundraising, membership recruitment, organising events and producing press releases.  Without more Trustees in the next twelve months, the existing Committee will have to talk with the Charity Commission about closing the Branch down in an orderly fashion.

Finally, our guest speaker was Andy Johnson co-founder of Logaston Press and holder of many senior positions in Housing Associations locally and in the West Midlands.  He gave a personal view of Housing in Herefordshire including his most recent involvement in Community Land Trusts (CLT’s).  The fuller notes for Andy’s talk are here but his wide-ranging talk included;-

  • Questions like ‘who are we building homes for in rural areas?’
  • Affordability, the current planning framework in Herefordshire and national housing policy 
  • Suggestions like a development land tax, controlling rogue landlords, revisiting the right to/help to buy policies, using space above shops, housing densities in urban areas and long-term sustainable design standards

Andy concluded by saying that it would be great if CPRE could link with local CLT projects to improve and aim for the right type and style of housing provision but so much of preserving the countryside and rural housing is about landscape and structures. 

Andy was asked many questions and these continued during the buffet tea that followed the AGM.