(Acting) Chair’s Report

SPRA Annual report 2020-2021

It has been a year like no other in the 78 years since SPRA was formed.  Only during the war years, has there been a similar disruption to the daily lives of SPRA members, where freedoms have been curtailed and sadly, lives lost. The pandemic and lockdown have together claimed a heavy toll. And yet as I write this review of the SPRA year, I feel able to be positive about ‘the pandemic year’ in Spring Park.  Let me explain. There are three key threads which run through what SPRA has achieved in 2020-2021 – Renewal, Innovation, and Community Connection.

Renewal has come about in a number of ways: the Committee welcomed two new members Milton Moore who became our Acting Secretary and Chris Kirwan who looks after Community Safety and both are contributing greatly. The continuity of SPRA over nearly eighty years is only possible by the predecessors who went before.  Sadly this year we mourned the loss of an important SPRA figure from the past, Philip Ditton who was Chairman from 1976-1987 and SPAN Editor from 1976 to 1980.  His successors on the SPAN editorial team took the opportunity of the 2-month publication gap in April and May 2020 to redesign our magazine to improve readability and re-freshen its appearance.

Careful innovation is always important, as new ways to communicate proliferate.  In an ever-changing world SPRA recognizes the need to talk to its members through a variety of channels.  Adding to the already successful SPAN and the SPAN website, we have gone further.  Social media posts are now more common, with new Twitter feeds added, especially to keep you up to date about Community Safety.  We plan to expand these in time, as we know that social media is where so many people get their news, especially those in younger age ranges. We’ve introduced a SPRAComms, a new email link to provide all members who sign up with urgent community news. Our Data Privacy policy has been altered to ensure it meets our revised practices.

The Committee and the SPAN team learnt fast about video-conferencing with Zoom being used for all monthly meetings, and our AGM in June 2021 will also be held via the medium.

We have been working away at making it easier for you to pay your subscription by Bank Transfer (and for the Road Stewards to ‘collect’ it).  We trust this will be a successful innovation.  Finally we have initiated an online platform for information on local planning applications, limited to the SPRA area, and easy to use for all members.

SPRA is only relevant if it is connected to the community through its members. So the Committee is reflecting on the challenges ahead in the wake of the Council’s bankruptcy and the potential cuts to services.  The potential closure of the Library is a major issue which has since late 2020 been the centre of a good deal of work.  What you as members have told us via the member survey, available online and in SPAN, has formed the basis for SPRA’s response, delivered to the Council in early March.  We will continue to work to reflect your views and fight for local services.

Local Planning remains an important element in our efforts both on a borough – wide level and locally with development applications.  Successful outcomes have been achieved with applications for the Sandrock development and the Helvadere extension, both being temporarily halted.  Our experts on the Committee are constantly vigilant to ensure we maintain the character of Spring Park.

The local environment is a connection we all enjoy. It has been essential to us all in lockdown periods for exercise and for mental health.  Our green spaces need to be looked after and treasured, so SPRA is keen to support those in the front line of that support.  SPAN regularly highlights the work of the Friends groups of Millers Pond and Spring Park Woods, the Bowling Club, and the Wilderness.  SPRA and SPAN jointly arranged a Front Garden competition to celebrate the efforts of our gardeners.  The clean-up work of Michael Wilson’s group in our woods, on verges and on our streets, though curtailed in the last year, is irreplaceable. So too the constant monitoring of Mike Roberts on local defects to our highways, verges and pavements. 

Connecting with others happens in so many ways. Community fundraising became a largely outdoor activity with the Scarecrow and Jumble trails showcased in SPAN, though organised by enterprising individuals generous with their time.  Likewise the Shirley Bears, who gave so much pleasure and merited a visit from the Mayor. Shirley Neighbourhood Care continues to do brilliant work, as does the Food Bank at Shrublands to which SPRA made a contribution of £500 in foodstuffs at Christmas. As ever, in November, SPRA continued to help the community remember those lost in war with poppies in Wickham Road and December saw the Christmas lights erected again outside the Library.

The SPAN magazine still remains the principal way of keeping in touch and SPRA is indebted to the hardworking team of people who compile it monthly and of course those indefatigable Zone and Road Stewards who drop the magazine through your door every month. SPAN’s advertisers are an essential element and we applaud their continuing support in difficult times. They (and we on the Committee) are all part of the interconnecting network which unites the SPRA membership.

Geoff Flook

Acting Chair

(on behalf of the SPRA Executive Committee)

Geoff Flook
Acting Chair
(on behalf of the SPRA Executive Committee)