AGM 2022 Chair’s Report

SPRA Annual report 2021-2022

Campaigning on your behalf

My report last year spoke about the Association’s efforts to monitor the effect of Croydon’s financial crisis and where possible alleviate its adverse effects.  Efforts this year have continued in that vein, focussing in particular on the service changes at Shirley Library.  In the worst analysis, the library was one of the branches ripe for complete closure.  During the initial consultation period, SPRA organised our own member survey, forming part of our submission. It was also instrumental in setting up a Friends of Shirley Library Group as an avenue to support the continuation of the Library. The Council’s second stage consultation offered a number of options, the ‘least worst’ of which, from SPRA’s viewpoint, was duly implemented in January 2022.  All the smaller branch libraries have suffered a budget cut and service closure – with the result for Shirley Library being a 2-day a week pattern of opening hours.

A poor result some may say. To which a reasonable response might be: How much worse might it have been without the lobbying of SPRA? 

Against a difficult financial backdrop and shifting central Government policies, Croydon has been revising and consulting on revisions to its Local Plan. SPRA has been examining proposals carefully and making our views known. The positive headline news is that Croydon seems to have recognized the smaller potential for new housing development in the Shirley area.  But vigilance is required and at the time of writing the revised Plan has not been adopted.

We continue to monitor new building developments.  After a long struggle over several years in which SPRA played an important role, the Council has now enforced a removal notice on an extension to the Helvadere restaurant, built without approval.  Another development at the Sandrock site continues to be opposed by SPRA and is currently with the national Planning Inspectorate. On the Heathfield site (owned by Croydon), we made representations regarding the short notice for the consultation period.

The fact of a newly elected London Assembly member spurred the Committee into yet another attempt to improve the traffic problems at the Bridle Road/Wickham Road junction.  Despite a site meeting with Neil Garratt AM and his intercession with TfL, it seems none of our proposed solutions has been taken up, with financial constraints being cited as the major reason.

We have been active on helping to reduce the nuisance of trail bikes on Shirley Heath and kept a close eye on the bike track in Foxes Wood. On the latter we have liaised with the Council to ensure safety conditions are met. We believe it meets a positive need for activities for young people in the area.

Some of our local bus shelters have been removed this year and we needed to find out why, and when they might be replaced.  We have discovered they are to be replaced with better equipped ones soon, but there are hold-ups due to planning delays.

On all these matters, and many others we acknowledge the help, advice and information provided by our elected representatives and the local police, for which we are very grateful.

Keeping you in the picture

Aside from lobbying on behalf of our members, SPRA’s role is also one of disseminating information of importance and interest to the community through its website, SPAN magazine and through its Twitter feed.

On the ‘political’ front, we have provided a briefing on the National Census, as well as the first-ever elections for an Elected Mayor in Croydon.  We have updated you all on the proposed changes to the parliamentary constituencies. Meanwhile, our Community Safety information service has covered multiple topics ranging from rules on drones to e-scooter updates, with particular emphasis on protection of yourself and your property, especially scams, cyber-security and identity fraud.

Reflecting and supporting the local community

SPRA’s roots 90 years ago were in the tiny but growing community of Spring Park, then mostly fields and farmland.  Since then, as Spring Park has developed into an area with its own identity and character, those roots have grown ever stronger, supporting a rich variety of cultural, recreational, educational and religious activities for all ages with a strong emphasis on charitable giving. Spring Park people look after each, and care for others particularly those less fortunate. SPRA’s desire to reflect this is delivered through its SPAN magazine, growing from a 4-page typed newsletter in the early days to the 64 page full colour offering of today.

This year SPAN has featured community ‘events’ and competitions, some its own and others run by energetic individuals – the Front Garden competition, the Scarecrow Festival, the Sandpits Table top sale, the Jumble and Art Trails and Pinewood Christmas lights have all strengthened our community.  The tremendous work for our older residents by Shirley Neighbourhood Care, especially at Easter and Christmas have warranted extensive coverage.  SPAN has reported on the fine work done at the Shrublands Food Bank (supported financially by SPRA).  Our Poppies and Christmas lights in Shirley, paid for by SPRA, reflect the spirit of our area and receive space in our magazine.

Our area values its green spaces and SPAN celebrates and reports on those who work hard to maintain them – the Friends groups at Spring Park Wood and Miller’s Pond and the Clean-up group are regularly featured.  The Wilderness is an increasing focus for community interest following SPAN’s coverage.  The Editorial team aim to reflect the wide interest in the environment and climate change through a variety of articles on areas such as re-cycling and the work of Friends of the Earth.

How do we do this?

All the activities above are delivered by a group of hardworking committee members and a SPAN team who put the magazine together and the indefatigable distribution network of Zone and Road Stewards delivering SPAN to you.

This year we mourned the passing of two past stalwarts of SPRA and SPAN – Gerry and Joyce Iles. They are fondly remembered and SPRA is greatly indebted for their work.  Mick Gower left us as a Trustee after many years’ service and we welcomed Bev Tanner who took his place. Martin Shute stood down from the Executive Committee though he still continues to offer his assistance on local planning matters.  Suzy Stoyel has resigned from the Committee to devote more of her energies to Shirley Neighbourhood Care. 

The Committee is always looking to improve what we do for our members. Offering you easier ways to pay your subscription is an obvious recent example.  Keeping our rules and constitution up to date for changes like GDPR and in the light of the recent COVID pandemic were necessary.  These are important but largely ‘house-keeping’ issues.  The key objectives of SPRA are to promote community values and safeguard members’ interests while maintaining, and where possible improving, the attractive and green environment that we live in.

If these are worthwhile goals which you believe in please consider helping us to deliver another successful year for SPRA – its 90th.  As the Association gets ever closer to its 100th anniversary, it would be hugely disappointing to see its voice dwindle or worse still be silenced for lack of interested local people to carry on where others have been before.