Our Chairman, Graham Cox, opened the 48th AGM by welcoming the 51 members present.
The minutes of the 47th AGM were adopted without amendment.
There were two changes to the Executive Committee, Esther David was standing down, while John Reed, who had been doing invaluable work in the past few months, would join as a new member. Our Chairman thanked Esther on behalf of the Society for her 22 years of devoted service – and the members present gave her a much deserved round of applause. Our Secretary reminded members that there were places still available for active members on the Committee particularly in the social and secretarial areas.
The Treasurer, John Pettman, presented the year’s accounts which showed a reasonable balance in hand. He mentioned that, unlike certain local authorities, all our money was held in a UK-based bank, though at a pitiful low interest rate. It was asked what the money could be used for and the chairman and treasurer explained that it was basically kept as seed corn for any project that might need kick-starting.
For the Walking Group Rita Collet reported that the Group met at least 10 times a year and currently were attracting more than 20 walkers each time. This year some friends from Stuttgart in Germany had joined the walk around Chilham and Godmersham.
Some members of the Group were not yet members of the Society and she collected some membership application leaflets to pass on to them.
In her first AGM as Membership Secretary, Ann Hill reported that total membership for the year was 322. Subscription rates were unchanged and members were already renewing, especially that evening.
Programme Co-ordinator, Chris Byers, was unable to attend and give a summary of the likely programme for the coming year. An exact timetable had not yet been finalised, but a wide range of varied yet relevant speakers had been lined up.
In his review, our Chairman outlined the various successes and disappointments of the past year with probably more successes than disappointments. He was pleased the Society had managed to help convince the city council’s planning to reject applications for developments in St Anne’s Road and Dempsey’s Yard. Just two occasions where a not insignificant amount of time and effort was invested to ensure the best decision was taken for the nearby residents and wider population of the town.
Planning applications, while down in number, continued to be submitted. Objections were currently being made to a proposed development at 75, Joy Lane which ran contrary to the Joy Lane Development Guideline, produced by the city council only a few years ago.
The Society would continue to monitor any future activities at the Harbour where the current economic climate was not very favourable to plans for its development.
Our Chairman concluded by thanking all the volunteers for the work they had done for the Society throughout the year.
Under Any Other Business, it was asked whether maps could be displayed at future meetings in order to help members who were recent residents to understand the location of places spoken about during discussions. Our Chairman thought that this was a good idea which might also help some members who might not necessarily be newcomers to the town. It was a suggestion well worth some thought.
After the refreshment break, our Chairman introduced our speaker for the evening, Cllr John Gilbey, Leader of Canterbury City Council.
Cllr Gilbey started off with some details of his background and how he came to be involved in local politics though he didn’t see himself as a politician. He gave an insight into how and why decisions are made at the council. He believed that all areas of the district should be treated equally with no unjustified preference given to Canterbury. He conceded that the economic downturn would create some problems for future council budgets but the council
was confident (?) of recovering a significant portion of the £6 million invested with Icelandic banks.
To prove his district-wide credentials he spoke on the many issues concerning Whitstable, traffic-flow, the closure of the Visitor Information Centre, the restoration of the Castle, possible purchase of the beach and redevelopment at the Harbour. He readily answered questions from members on these topics
Our Chairman thanked Cllr Gilbey for attending and answering as many questions as possible, especially as he had to deliver the city council’s budget the following evening and expressed his hope that the Whitstable Society and Canterbury City Council could continue to work together for the benefit of the town in future.