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Chairman's address at CPRE Hertfordshire 2018 Annual General Meeting

Tuesday, 04 September 2018 08:34

“Chairman Richard Bullen spoke to the members of the charity present at the Annual General Meeting that took place at Hitchin Priory of 4 September 2018.  The text of his address follows.  Richard also thanked all of the members of staff and the volunteers who make it possible for CPRE Hertfordshire to keep standing up for Hertfordshire’s countryside.”

 

CPRE Hertfordshire

Chairman’s AGM address

My role involves me attending various meetings within the branch and national charity set up. One of these has been about Project Purpose, an initiative started by Crispin Truman, the national charity’s Chief Executive who took up this position just about a year ago.

Project Purpose is all about making sure that CPRE, both the national charity and the county branches such as us, have values – the reasons why we act as we do, that are shared with and supported by a good percentage of the general public. You can’t please all of the people all of the time but you can please some of the people. We need to make sure that we are doing this in everything we do.

A very interesting series of radio programmes about charities on BBC Radio 4 ended last week (at the end of August 2018). In his closing remarks, the programme’s Mathew Taylor said that the most effective charities do things that governments can’t or won’t do.

The way that I see what we do in our planning work is to seek to ensure that the local authorities in the county adopt and adhere to public policy when they are making housing plans or considering a planning application. The national government can intervene if there are concerns about what a local authority is doing, as happened last year with Stevenage Borough’s housing plan but, on the whole this doesn’t happen.

I know that what we do is supported and respected by many, many people because we have heard about very positive comments made on social media, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Steve Baker, our planning manager, is something of a star turn at planning hearings, and justifiably so. What we do with our Rural Living Awards has attracted a new and large audience and there are signs of a cross over to planning issues from this audience.

I must tell you that I don’t use social media, at least not yet. Mrs Bullen is signed up with Facebook and so sees the family photographs that are put up on this platform and makes sure that I see them too.

But then, I don’t issue press releases either. So, just because I’m not a user doesn’t mean that CPRE Hertfordshire cannot be. Indeed, the deal that we did with Cariad, the market communications business, has demonstrated just how big the interest is in what we do. Social media has opened doors to our message: there are people who are fund raising for us from what they’ve heard and learned about our activities and the number of people at least looking at our messages is measured in the tens of thousands at least.

I know that it’s not very British, or perhaps English, to talk let alone shout about yourself. But we are a campaigning organisation and if we don’t make a noise, we have no effect.

We must keep up our use of social media: we’d be letting down too many people to stop. But we can’t afford to keep up the contract with Cariad when it comes to an end next month.

 We have an advertisement for a social media volunteer with charity recruitment people but nobody has come forward yet. CPRE Bedfordshire is paying someone to do social media for them and I asked unsuccessfully if we could share this person. I have concluded that we must consider carefully employing our own social media person.

2017 saw the closure of the Cowley Fund and the transfer of the assets to the beneficiaries, including about £56,000 to us. Then, in September, we heard from a firm of solicitors that we were named as a beneficiary in the will of a recently deceased member, Malcolm Howe. Our share of his estate is in excess of a quarter of a million pounds.

This magnificent influx of money allows us to do something about our building, 31a Church Street, Welwyn. This is old and there are several signs of damp. It is not fit for purpose as one of our trustees said when we discussed what we should do at our away day back in early February.

We have employed a firm of architects to help us with initial designs and we will go back to a firm of surveyors who we know to help with costings and examining options. If any of you or any other member has skill or experience in such matters, I would be pleased to hear from them.

Let me assure you that we need to spend some money on the building – it’s not a vanity project at all. I hope that we can do all we want and need to do with quite a bit left over and our reserves untouched. I will let you know how this progresses in our newsletters.

I am committed fully to do all that I can so that we can continue into the future celebrating and protecting Hertfordshire’s countryside.

Thank you.

 

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