Ladies and gentlemen.
As those of you who have had the patience to listen to my previous Chairman’s addresses will know that I tend to pick up the theme from the previous address and carry it forward.
Last year in asking the question: “What has the Lymington Society done this year which I can share with the members”, I reminded you of three recent headlines in the paper which the Lymington Society was connected with: “Chaos As High Winds Halt New Ferries”;” Landmark Homes Development on Wellworthy Club Site Refused”; “Builders Face Big Bill As Bid to Keep too High Homes Refused”. You can obviously all identify these headlines and how things have developed since then.
The theme that struck me this year at our last monthly committee meeting on 9 March was the amount of dedicated detailed work that the committee members put into the work of the Society.
Here is another list of meetings attended by Members of the Committee in the preceding month:
- 1st of February: Exhibition on Shoreline Management Plan — attended by one committee member
- 1st of February: Friends of Lymington Railway AGM — attended by two committee members
- 25th of February: Local Distinctiveness meeting with council planners — attended by four committee members
- 4th of March: Lymington Parking Study meeting — attended by one committee member
- 8th March: meeting with Natural England regarding ferries and mitigation of their damage — attended by three committee members
- 9th March: presentation by Redrow on their new development attended by five committee members
- Finally 9th of March: our monthly committee meeting attended by all committee members including our president Peter Chitty, although one member could not stay, but came to deliver the envelopes he had stuffed with the notices of this meeting!
Is there any other organisation or any other chairman which is as lucky to have such a dedicated group of committee members always ready, if not vying, to attend meetings on subjects which they have a particular interest in connected with the Lymington Society.
As a result of those meetings one can summarise the Society’s current situation.
On ferries we have responsibly promoted a situation where the ferries issue is going to be resolved with a full intervention of the appropriate authorities and not purely on the basis of a take it or leave approach by Wightlink, and with proper liaison with Natural England as to an assessment of the impact of the larger ferries.
On the linked aspect of the shoreline, so important to Lymington, we are closely involved with that subject.
On the railway line, we support the friends of Lymington Railway and will maintain a useful liaison that will benefit Lymington and potentially affect development in the future
On Local Distinctiveness, this meeting has been one example of our lead role in cooperation with the planners in an analysis which I will mention more on in a moment
On the Redrow Riverside site, as I shall now call it, an extremely useful dialogue with Redrow as to its plans.
Finally I can say that our association with the Pennington Residents Association continues ensuring that our representations on Pennington are co-ordinated, if not always identical, and I paid particular tribute to Chris Howe for his cooperation.
Expanding on the subjects of these meetings can I say that the old Wellworthy Club site, which is going to be such an important building at the gateway to Lymington, is edging towards an agreed development with the cooperation of the developers, who have put forward various schemes. We thought the last scheme was probably as good as it would get but had strong reservations about the lack of parking and the effect on traffic. The planners would like something better and we hope that the eventual scheme will do justice to that sensitive corner.
I say this from the point of view that the other sensitive entrance to the conservation area, the traffic lights, is now in process of development with the assistance of the first crane of that size in the Lymington area. As this can be seen from the Keyhaven marshes there is no escape from being reminded of this planning decision.
The second major issue this year has been the Council’s initiative on Local Distinctiveness in which they have involved the Society from the beginning.
I can remind members of a very useful meeting hosted by the Society with local councillors to ensure that we all got off on the right foot with this.
Local distinctiveness will create a new Supplementary Planning Guidance covering the whole area of the town not covered by conservation areas to identify locally distinctive characteristics, with which new development should be sympathetic and should comply. One can imagine that if that policy had been in place, so that inspectors had to follow it, several of the more prominent new buildings recently would not have been built in the way that they have.
On the subject of what the Society considers planning mistakes in the area of Avenue Road, I suspect the final local distinctiveness document will identify some of these and say that they should not be followed as precedents as they have been built out of character with their particular locations.
That brings me onto the biggest new development which will soon take place on the old Webb Site, now Redrow’s site. I recall this is one of the first issues I dealt with as Chairman, to be involved in the original supplemental planning guidance prior to the original planning permission, which conspicuously was not followed by the Council at that time. The position is that we are now fixed with the original permission that was provided by the Council, against many of the members’ better judgement.
Redrow’s could build on the basis of that permission, but as we learnt at presentation last week they have chosen to dramatically review the plans and come up with a much improved scheme.
Firstly specialist architects have been brought in and we were addressed at our meeting by Sir Richard McCormac of MJP Architects who is a former President of the RIBA.
The previous scheme had allowed for the road access with the condition of a rear pedestrian access somewhere across the railway.
The imaginative difference of the current scheme has been to make the pedestrian access across the railway the central focus of the site and a link with the Town. The bridge over the railway would be part of a graded access from the station car park, described possibly as “Station Square”, onto a high level entrance square of the development. The semicircular development radiates out from there with radial visual lines to and from theRiverside. On the Riverside, buildings will connect with the water and relate to it rather than looking away and inwards from it as the previous development did.
The development will, as presently considered, still be quite dense with up to 300 units but much broken up and protected by trees. The other committee members and councillors and planning officers, who were at the meeting, felt that this was an imaginative way to review the development, given that there is planning permission for a significant scheme at present.
Another feature which has pleased me particularly is how the Council have now involved local organisations such as this Society with the initial concept, rather than the exclusion which took place under earlier regimes. I recall how when we have called the previous developers to a public meeting to explain their plan, councillors said that if they had been put in touch with public feeling, they would have started their plan from a completely different concept.
Perhaps this is what we have now achieved. I hope that in due course the current developers, Redrow, will be able to attend a meeting to explain their plan to our membership as a whole and to take into account any feedback, as indeed happened at this recent meeting.
The climate of dialogue with the planners has really changed dramatically over the last few years, in response, I hope, to the reasonable and objective approach taken by the Society committee members to development matters.
Not least this has occurred in relation to the Town Council, who have been extremely grateful by the frequent presence of Jonathan Hutchinson dealing with planning matters. I think they would not mind me saying that when Jonathan goes to express the Society’s view on important issues which affect the character of the town, they wish he would stay to help them with the more mundane problems that as planning committee councillors they have to face!
On the question of cooperation, can I say that whilst in the past successive Town Councillors took the view that cooperation between the Town Councillors and the Society was incompatible with their public position, again we now have an extremely good working relationship with the current mayor Cllr Jan Hawker, who attended our local distinctiveness meeting.
I am afraid our current cooperation does not extend to the practicalities of ensuring that our AGM and an important Town Council meeting did not clash which is why the Lady Mayoress is not able to be here today, but I can assure our members that that is purely accidental and does not reflect on our relationship and she would be here if she could.
I am only the spokesperson for a Committee whose individual efforts for the Society are on a much more dedicated basis than mine. I tend to guide and encourage the Committee and where necessary pick up the pieces, but it is the other committee members who, all of them in their different ways, form the engine room of this Society.
I have named the committee members specifically previously and I will not embarrass them again but they are here today and can be spoken to informally afterwards. I will mention our thanks to Marion Jakes who joined us a couple of years ago as a committee member and took an interest in marshes and coastal matters but resigned recently.
The remaining members continue to offer themselves for re-election. I appreciate that new blood is always welcome but this committee works extremely well with all existing members having a task to do. I can assure you that it is in no way running out of steam or ideas and you would be well advised to re-elect its members rather than lose any of its wealth of talent.
Ladies and gentlemen I commend the committee to you for re-election in due course.