Apologies were received from Denis Walker, Carole Shorney and Vic Shorney.
The Chairman (Peter Walker) asked if everyone had recieved and read a copy of his report. Spare copies were placed at the rear of the Hall for those who needed one. Most people agreed to accept the report, however there was one question from Chris Ford. The gist of this question was - the first solicitor the Society employed (a Mr Moran) was relatively easy to contact and cost £1,200 - the second solicitor the Society employed (a Mr Buxton) was much harder to contact, and cost £2,000. Why was it that the second solicitor was employed? Is this not misuse of the Society's funds? Mr Ford then partially quoted an email in which Peter Walker had asked Mr Ford why he was so concerned about how much money the Society had spent on a solicitor when he himself had not contributed to those funds. Peter Walker's reply was that the decision to change solicitors was taken after consultation with the membership and that we could not have known at the time that he would be difficult to contact. It was also clear that we could not have afforded Mr Moran to represent us anyway. The job Mr Buxton was doing for us was different from that done by Mr Moran, in that he was to have found and instructed a barrister to represent us at the Public Inquiry. As it was, he passed the task on to a Ms Susan Ring, who discovered that our preferred barrister (a Mr Morrichi) was not available on the dates we required him to attend the Inquiry. She had then to find someone else to represent us. Mr J. Dagg then contacted Peter Walker and a meeting was arranged at short notice (as, by now, there was very little time before the Inquiry was to start). Mr Dagg spent a good four hours with members of the Committee, giving advice on how to present a good case and what the Inspector was likely to accept as "evidence". He said that in view of the lack of time and funds he suggested that the PPPS should be represented by members of the Committee. Mr Dagg was very helpful and attempted to save as much money as he could. Michael Downer told the Meeting that he was now in the process of questioning the bill presented by Buxton and Co. because there were items presented that did not seem to ring true. To date, no proper reply had been recieved. He did not think that would constitute misuse of funds. Mr Ford said that his question had not been answered. Mr Walker said that he failed to see how his question had not been answered. The question was read out again and elaborated on by both parties. At length, Jon Fuller said that as it was obvious that Mr Ford and Mr Walker would not be able to agree, perhaps it would be a good idea to move on to the next item on the agenda. The Chairman's Report was then accepted.
The Treasurer (Michael Downer) checked if everyone had a copy of his Report and whether or not it was necessary to read out the whole thing. Several items were talked through and explained, including the payment of monies to Peter Walker for lost earnings during the Public Inquiry. It was explained that as Mr Walker is self employed and had to lose some work during the Inquiry, he could not have afforded to be present, representing the PPPS, had he not had partial compensation for loss of earnings. Mr Ford said that he gave his time "for free". Mr Walker replied that as Mr Ford was not officially representing the PPPS it was hardly a relevant point and that he was lucky to be able to be in a position to do so. Mrs Ford put forward the point of view that her husband's efforts appeared not to have been noticed.
There was a general hubbub to the effect that Mr Ford did indeed put some relevant and important points at the Inquiry and it had been much appreciated. The Treasurer's Report was then accepted by the Meeting.
Peter Walker asked the Treasurer to take the Chair while the post of Chairman was voted upon.
a) Chairman - nominee Peter Walker - proposed by Val Cook
- seconded by Jon Fuller
Peter Walker resumed the Chair
b) Secretary - nominee Denis Walker (in his absence due to hospital
- proposed by Jon Fuller
- seconded by Alec Bunn
c) Treasurer - nominee Michael Downer - proposed by Jon Fuller
- seconded by Michael Conway
d) Media/Campaign Officer - it was agreed that, since there was nothing for this Officer to do at the moment, the post would be left vacant until such time as it became neccesary to have someone in charge of this aspect of the Society's work.
e) Events Secretary - similarly, the post was not voted on at this Meeting and will be considered at a future date.
f) Membership Secretary - since Mrs Doris Banning moved to Derbyshire, Peter Walker has kept the Membership database. The membership has not changed since Mrs. Banning left (except for one change of address) and so the general consensus was that the post need not be voted upon at this time.
g) Ex-officio Committee members - it was proposed that all the current holders of these posts remain in place and it was agreed . These people are:-
Alec Bunn then proposed that the Society have more General Meetings, so that the membership became more involved in the making of decisions. It was pointed out that, at the moment, there were not a lot of decisions to take. Everything depends on the outcome out Inspectors Report. Jon Fuller said that when the Report comes out a General Meeting should be held either to celebrate a victory or to plan our next moves.The Society will still need Committee meetings to comply with the Constitution.
Peter Walker told the Meeting that the PPPS have to keep the pressure on the Southend Borough Council with regard to their proposals or the large trees in and around the Park. Their idea of using ornamental species to replace the mature trees will do nothing to maintain the current level and diversity of wildlife inhabiting the Park. Our Society must be prepared to keep on asking about the plans for the Council Depot and what the site will be used for once it is removed. We must keep on asking what is going to happen to the artifacts reclaimed from the Shrubbery at the top (North) end of the Park.Are they to come back to Southend or not? If they are, where are they to be housed? The Council made great play of their desire to make Southend a "cultural centre for the East of England". Is the archeological dig to contribute to this ideal? Perhaps we should now be putting our minds to campaigning for a Visitors Centre to house some of the artifacts from the dig and a Wildlife Centre to explain how significant and diverse a resource the Park is for all kinds of animals and plants.
Jon Fuller said that it was very important to keep issues relating to the Park alive by producing occasional Newsletters. We should keep the membership informed of any progress by this means when it would be too expensive to keep calling meetings.
The remaining Society Funds were then discussed. One idea put forward was that the money should be put on long term deposit, for the best interest we can get, until such time as another Inquiry comes up or we need the money towards one of the campaign ideas.
Michael Downer explained about the letter he had written to Buxton &Co about the return of money he believed to be owing from them and the return of the PPPS file. To date there has been no reply to this. It may be that the next stage is write to the Law Society or maybe the Legal Ombudsman. If the system works the same way as the Local Government Ombudsman, we will have to follow the Solicitors' own complaints proceedure first, and this may take some time. It is not proposed that we spend any more money trying to recover what we consider to be "our due". Val Cook said that we may have content ourselves with a note on our website that says "If you use this firm, this may be the sort of bill you might expect".
Alec Bunn put forward the point that maybe it is time for the PPPS to initiate things now rather than "following the news" from the Council and reacting to it. With the local elections coming up, now is the time to ask prospective candidates about their stand on issues relating to the Park.Jon Fuller made the comment that he had recently been to talk to a meeting of Liberal Democrats and had told them that they would greatly increase their chances of being elected if they took more notice of the local issues. Peter Walker said that he had recently had a disappointing experience with a Labour Councillor who would now not discuss the Park issue with him because they had disagreed over a totally different, and national issue. Alec Bunn agreed in that his experience had been Councillors tended not to want to talk to members of the public.
Before the close of the meeting, the names of those who could not be contacted by email were collected so that the Committee can save postage by only posting Newsletters and other neccesary communications to those who cannot read them on their computers.
Twenty six people attended the Meeting, which closed at 9.11pm.
Janet Walker (pp Denis Walker, Secretary)