Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for coming, and welcome to the Fifth Annual General Meeting of The Kingsdown Conservation Group.

My aim is to complete the formal business by 8.00pm, when I hope you will stay on for a while and enjoy some light refreshments provided for us by Amanda and Alex.

There are apologies from our district councilor, Sue Le Chevalier, from Joe and Jenny Wall, Jane Banks, Julian Dalrymple, Roma Blissenden, Alan and Aleisha McKechnie, Ron Broadley and David Bucknell.

My report this year follows the usual format, and much of it has been recorded in one or more of the ten Bulletins we have published this year.  My thanks, as always, are to you…. for continuing to support the group…. and to my committee colleagues for all their support and hard work. I will say more about them later.

Planning has always been a very important part of KCG’s remit, and we continue to devote an hour or two every week to helping members phoning for advice and guidance. There have been 28 applications since July last year. Eleven have been granted, eight refused and the rest have been withdrawn or are yet to be determined. Notable amongst these is the former car park site in the centre of the village, which continues to attract controversy.  There have also been eight tree applications this year, the biggest by far being the one for the holiday park, which was refused, although we know that a new application is in the pipeline. 

In general, I feel there have been some positive planning outcomes this year.  Although the decision on Clooneavin was perverse, and the officer responsible seemed almost confrontational, there was very good news in February when the Government’s planning Inspector ruled against potential development of the rear gardens of houses in Queensdown Road overlooking Bayview Road and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Other “planning positives” are that we recently welcomed DDC’s head of planning, Mike Ebbs, to a meeting – IN KINGSDOWN AND NOT IN HIS OFFICE - to discuss the conservation area. And the council’s cabinet have been fulsome in their praise of KCG’s work on the Conservation Area Appraisal, which has helped to put Kingsdown’s special appeal -and its vulnerability - in the spotlight. There could even be another, maybe unintentional, aspect to our planning vigilance: One of the broadsheets reported recently that houses in the Deal area have seen 23% price growth in the last five years. Make of that what you will!!

I now turn to KCG’s events, organized so successfully and professionally by Rosie Bolton.  We have, on separate occasions during the year, searched for beavers at Ham fen, spotted bats and enjoyed the dawn chorus around Kingsdown, visited Samphire Hoe and the Old Gardens at Bladbean, learned from a fascinating talk in the village school about the wild flowers of Kent, and supped with smugglers and pirates at the annual members’ party.

For over four years, events have been an immensely enjoyable component of KCG’s activities but, sadly, unless we are able to find one or two Associates - volunteers who are willing to devise and manage at least one event each, our events programme will be in limbo. Rosie has kindly agreed to organize the Marine Conservation Society talk in September but she is looking for some help with this event. Thereafter we are unable to plan anything. The message here is simple:

Please consider how you could contribute a few hours of your time to KCG in the future.

I am pleased to report that our projects continue to be successful and ongoing, although some have imposed great demands on our limited manpower resources. The Conservation Area Appraisal - which has been so skillfully devised and written by Julian Underhill and  my wife Helen,  and designed so brilliantly by Andrew Kemp - is nearing completion after more than a year’s endeavor. We hope to have news in September of the publication date.

Although we have earmarked around £2,000 of our financial reserves to complete the Heritage Trail project, which has been ongoing for some two years, there is now a possibility that we could secure a contribution to the cost via a heritage grant. In the meantime, we are looking at adding one or two additional sites to the Trail before seeking approval  to install the plaques and prior to briefing the map illustrator, the designer and the printer.

 In the past year, we have played an important role in working with the volunteer group responsible for implementing the Community Survey. Some of the things which were identified in the Survey have been taken up by the new Parish Council, and the newly-formed Friends of Kingsdown Play Park are forging ahead with their plans, which were initially identified by the Survey.

In addition to the Garage Safari, we have continued to sponsor bulb planting around the village, hanging baskets for the Kings Head, shops and village hall, and the Christmas lights. Other good news is that the Memories of Kingsdown CD continues to sell well in the shops.

Apart from publishing ten Information Bulletins this year, we have also launched the new KCG website, for which we are deeply indebted to Joe Wall and Jim Clugsden. I understand that there’s still a few teething problems with the site but this is nothing unusual and they will be resolved as the year progresses.

On other project fronts, we have continued to put pressure on KCC to bring superfast broadband to the lower half of the village, and we have represented KCG members at the Deal Neighbourhood Forum meetings to discuss flood risks and defences, and traffic, transport and highway issues.   And there is also ongoing liaison with our MP (about problems like Operation Stack), the Parish Council, Dover District Council, the new owners of the holiday park, the Kent Federation of Amenity Societies, CPRE, The National Trust and the Police.  

And now I would like to report on what has become our biggest problem – KCG’s need to attract volunteers to help with the Group’s work in the future.  We have called these volunteers Associates because anyone that helps in this way will not be bogged down with committee meetings and other procedural stuff.

You already know that David Harding and Rosie Bolton are standing down. Very fortunately, Simon Longland has been nominated to replace David as Treasurer and I hope, very much, that you will support his appointment.  However, what you don’t yet know is that Deborah Longland and Joe Wall are also standing down from the committee but, thank goodness, they have both offered to carry on as Associates – Deborah as organizer of bulb planting and hanging baskets and Joe as our webmaster. So thank you to them both. We still need volunteers to take on future events, as I have already outlined, and it would be so good if we could find an Associate who would look after liaison with the grant funding agencies.

Are there any members in the room this evening willing to offer their services?

I would now like to touch on KCG’s future. I read in the paper yesterday about what has been dubbed Generation Z – youngsters born between 1995 and 2001  I think we all agree that what we are doing in KCG today is not only to conserve and enhance our inheritance for our own benefit but also for the enjoyment of our children and grandchildren. But do we, at the moment, have the right mindset? Is the scope of our work too narrow?

Apart from the built environment and wildlife, should we conservationists be thinking about other very important issues – like the way we are using raw materials, generating energy and wasting water? They are very important subjects, and we could include them in our remit, but we would need your agreement and your offer of help. Please think about it.

Before concluding my report, can I ask you please to join me in welcoming Peter Cross, who, earlier this year, offered to take over from Julian membership secretary …a warm welcome Peter.

In conclusion, I would like you to join me thanking those who have served us so well in recent years. Rather than just saying “thank you” on your behalf, it was decided to give each of them a more tangible token of our appreciation, and I would like you, please, to show your appreciation in the usual way to:

David Harding for looking after our money so assiduously

Rosie Bolton for organizing our events so brilliantly

Joe Wall for devising and continuing to manage our new website

And Julian Dalrymple for being a superb membership secretary and a great bloke

That, fellow members, is the end of my report for the year. Thank you for coming and thank you for listening. Before moving to the next agenda item, I am happy to take brief questions on the report if you have any.

Philip Evemy