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Minutes of AGM 14th March, 2019

Annual General Meeting

Thursday 14th March, 2019, starting 6.0 pm
Elephant & Castle, Newtown


Peter Harris, Rex Shayler, Chris Kinsey, Liz Hinkley, Paula Scott, Mike Davies

Introduction and welcome
Mike welcomed the group, Peter the group Chair was not told about the earlier start time and arrived shortly after.  Mike apologized for the confusion. 

Apologies for absence

Geoff Beilby, Lisa Barlow, Sally Rackham, Janet Lewis, Kath Wigley, John Wigley, Huw Davies, Judi Deakin, Gary Mitchell, Stuart Owen, Peter Thomas

Minutes of previous AGM

These were approved unanimously without review.

Presentation of accounts                                               Rex Shayler

The accounts were presented by Rex and are Appendix 1.  The item identified as Newtown Walks Cheque No 0032, was in fact the subscription for our membership in Open Newtown.
Approval of the accounts was proposed by Paula, seconded by Chris and approved unanimously. 

Rex is planning to explore other sources of funding, notably Tesco and Pavo.  Mike and Paula are to provide information about items needed to continue our work.  Rex also reported that he has been in touch with Invertek who wish to help with such activities as litter picking.  They might also be willing to help with funds.  Rex will explore further.

Annual report                                      Mike Davies and Paula Scott

Our current membership is 37, which is down from last year since we have removed members who have not expressed interest in continued involvement.            

Russ Edwards reported that our Facebook page had 239 Likes this week (which isn't too bad) but only 21 Page Views.  It seems that the few visitors that we have, like what they see. We currently have 18 Friends of our Facebook page. Our Facebook presence has become a little messed up with Walking Newtown visitors leaving comments and messages so perhaps we should look at constructing a new Facebook page altogether. Russ prefers the presentation in the official RSC Blog via Wordpress.  Perhaps if we could encourage people to email stories and photographs to us, he would be happy to post them onto the blog.  The meeting discussed this issue and agreed that if it is feasible we should start a new Facebook page, independent from the Walking Newtown page.  If using the same name River Severn Custodians is a


problem, Newtown River Severn Custodians was suggested.  Russ will be asked to investigate this.  

River protection and clean up.  We have continued in-river and river bank clean ups as required. Members should report any objects in the river that need removal.  Phil Stallard is organizing a major Newtown litter pick on April 6th and 7th and would like RSC members support and participation. He is also suggesting in-river clean up using canoes.  Liz confirmed that this is feasible to pick up smaller items along the banks but not things like bikes or shopping trolleys. She suggests covering the length of river from Dolerw down to Bumfords building.  Bikes etc will need the usual in river collection only possible with low water levels. Phil will be asked for details.

Invasive species monitor and control.  We continue to control Giant Hogweed along the river bank, particularly in the area where the Mochdre Brook enters the river.  Areas of Japanese Knotweed are reported to Natural Resources Wales who chemically treat it to protect flood defenses.  We encourage people to eat Himalayan Balsam and we only remove it to provide access to the river.  Crayfish monitoring continues but all we find are the invasive American Signal crayfish, never the native variety.  This invasive crayfish is widespread in our stretch of the river and the only good news is that the otters love them. 

Bird and Bat boxes.  These are installed in Dolerw Park and the bird boxes are well used. It was suggested that more bird boxes could be purchased and installed near the river.  The existing ones were purchased from Pont Hafren.   

Parson’s Bridge replacement.  This has now been funded and will be built by next year.  It is not, however, near the original site and will cross the river roughly from the Bumford facility to the rugby ground. We are discussing the provision of PROW on the rugby ground side of the river. 

The Canal Basin project is currently inactive and there seems little prospect of it proceeding. Sue reported that the Town Council are still hoping to extend the canal to Newtown perhaps under the Mid-Wales Growth Deal initiative.

RSC presentations.  Mike and Paula are to make presentations about the River Severn and the Custodians to the Newtown Civic Society on 9th May and to the Ladies Friendship Club, Methodists on 16ht May.  Any remunerations received will go into the RSC bank account.

Fly Larvae monitoring.  This survey is continuing at a location downstream of the Halfpenny Bridge.  Results are updated regularly on the web site and on the national monitoring web site. Recent results have been near or below trigger levels.  Training courses are still occasionally available for anyone wishing to participate in other locations, details will be emailed to members.

The bird survey is now effectively completed and results are available on the RSC web site.  Paula reported that 57 species were identified in and around the river. 

We are planning to use camera traps again this year after mixed results on previous use.  We will also use the wildlife footprint traps for the first time. The Pump House owner, Richard

Jones, has given permission to set them up on his land but we have not yet managed to install either traps of cameras.  There is also the problem of getting good images of fauna since the cameras react to waving grasses, branches, etc and birds flying.  Paula is to experiment further.  Battery use is also a problem since each device needs 8 AA batteries.

Open Newtown update.  Gary Mitchell provided a summary of the current position, Appendix 2.

Planned activities for 2019

Recruitment, involvement of young people.  We would like to encourage more young people to get involved in our activities and will continue to offer presentations to schools and community groups.  If any members have contacts in local youth organizations or schools please spread the word.  The Air Cadets would like to help with some of our activities but need at least 2 to 3 weeks’ notice.

Newtown Carnival and Food Festival.  Once again, we decided not to participate in the Carnival but to have a stand at the Food Festival, September 7th and 8th.  This year, instead of sharing with the canoe group, we decided to have our own stand for the two days.  This will need commitment from members to ensure adequate manning.  We will explore sharing our stand with Walking Newtown.  Liz confirmed that their canoe group will also have a stand for both days and we’ll ask the organizers to locate us next to each other so we can cooperate.

The Montgomeryshire FOE group have written a letter to the Town Council suggesting ways that the council can help combat the effects of climate change.  They have asked that RSC support this and write a letter to the council also.  The meeting agreed and Mike will prepare a draft and send it to all members together with a copy of the letter sent be the Montgomeryshire Friends of the Earth and the one sent by Walking Newtown.  Comments and suggestions are requested asap since this issue is to be discussed by the council on March 26th.

Election of committee/trustees

Judi Deakin wishes to remain as a member but not as a trustee so has been removed.   
Kath and John Wigley wish to remain as trustees. The other trustees present wish to continue in their present roles and all were reelected unopposed.  Liz Hinkley wishes to become a trustee and was proposed by Peter, seconded by Rex and elected unanimously.  

Any other business

Rex proposed that we prepare some literature about the Custodians.  This was discussed and it was agreed that Mike and Paula should prepare a draft for consideration.  This will include photos and a write up about the river and the activities of the Custodians.  Peter said that from such an agreed draft he can get print ready files prepared thus reducing the cost of printing.  The idea is to make a double sided, 3-fold leaflet which would also include acknowledgement of the bodies that have supported us financially.  Rex is to request a saving a good quality electron copy of the Elephant and Castle logo and Peter will ask NEO for their logo.

Since the meeting we have learned that Severn Rivers Trust do not have the funding to hold a River Festival this year but hope to be able to hold one next year.

Also since the meeting we have been told that the Montgomersyhire FOE are holding a meeting on Tuesday 30th April at Methodist hall 7pm.  Bleddyn Lakes - campaigns coordinator for Wales is coming to talk about how communities and local business in Mid Wales can respond to the challenges of Climate Change. He is devising a pack for Wales that links with UK one and would like to discuss the wider issues and trial it with as those representing the wider community. All are welcome to attend.

Peter closed the meeting a 7.20 pm with thanks to the participants and to Ian Williams of the Elephant and Castle for the free use of facilities for this meeting.

Mike Davies
15th March, 2019

APPENDIX 1 Financial accounts 2018-2019.



APPENDIX 2. Open Newtown summary – Gary Mitchell

Lease Update:
As you will know the lease for the land was finally signed in January this year (however the whole process of completing this is still rumbling on in the back ground). Since then we have had to complete a couple of externally funded pieces of work, in order to meet March deadlines, otherwise we risked loosing the funding completely.

Staff Update:
Open Newtown has just completed it’s recruitment process and successfully filled the 4 main posts. Project Manager, Enterprise Development Officer, Community Engagement Officer & Financial Administrator.  The team are finding their feet quickly and will soon be doing more and more outside of the confines of our office space.

Project Updates:
We are now running with a large number of projects under the header of ‘Open Newtown’
The main on being the Lottery’s Community Asset Transfer Program, this is the £1.1m paying for staff and capital elements of the project. This project is to run for 5 years, and was only officially started on the 1st Jan 2019.
Severn Trent Cash For Catchments
This grant is to develop a storm drain ‘SUDS’ scheme and to create some other associated features (dipping pond & new tree planting areas). Thanks to several of your members that assisted with the tree planting on Vaynor during the February half term. The large 20m & 10m pond has been dug, but not lined and over 1,300 trees were planted in just two half days.  There have been a few issues to learn from – we did not do enough clear engagement with the residents around the field in Vaynor and upon investigation in to the storm drain system it is now evident that using the storm drain to fill up the pond is a non starter – we have a plan for an alternative method of filling and retaining water in the pond, but what we will have to do to meet the funders requirement is to find an alternative storm drain in town to work with for a smaller SUDS.

Paddlesport Access Points
We are still struggling to get all the planning conditions lifted, but we are continuing to work on this. Because of the planning delays we had to bring forward some of the other aspects of the project (mainly that of tree planting mitigation works – mostly for Otter shelter and river bank future protection). This started at the end of Feb and is mostly completed. Just over 400 trees have been planted in strategic locations along the river and in the corner of Dolerw. In addition we are formulating a strategy for black popular planting, and now have 50 7ft trees to find a home for along the Severn Valley.

Mountain Biking facility – Trehafren Hill
We have begun the ecological surveys of the site, have outline plans of what the route might look like and we need to start communicating that to the residents and other interested parties. We have successfully found funding from Sports Wales to help fund this project.

Play Park
This has not progressed much yet beyond the initial designs, we still have some more thinking and re-master planning this area before we go out to tender on a full design & costing exercise, but it is very likely that this process will be seen through to completion in the next 12 months.

Walking for Health
We were commissioned by Public Health Wales to run a short research & recommendation project, fronted by Ruth Stafford to look in to barriers to walking in and around the town and to recommend future steps to help overcome these barriers. We had a good response to the survey and Ruth will be completing the evaluation report in the next month.

Green Energy
Jeremy Thorpe has been seconded in from Share Energy to help Open Newtown research and pilot sustainable energy production and reduction technologies. This is an 18 month project and we will be looking to have some workable solutions being tried and tested over the next 18 months. Alongside this we have an opportunity to Co-ordinate a possible Electric Vehicle separate project.

Radio Maldwyn / Hafren Building
We have an exciting opportunity (albeit with extremely tight deadlines) to work up an application to Welsh Government to bid for £1.3m to re-develop the old Radio Hafren Building and our new ‘park hub’ building proposed behind the football club. We have to come up with a fully costed design and be ready to submit to planning by the 1st June this year! It’s a huge task, but one not to be missed. We will be trying to carry out further engagement on this very specific topic in the next few weeks – watch this space and feed in to it where you can. Our ideas are to create a Gateway to our green & blue spaces.

Land Management Update:
We have begun exploring a partnership with Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust (MWT) where the two organisations would combine their resources to provide a 5 day a week ‘Park Ranger’ post to help look after, maintain, enhance the green spaces. This role will be the most public facing role within the organisation and a lot of the rangers work would be to build a volunteer ranger service for Newtown. Obviously considering the already fantastic efforts that happen in this respect with the likes of WN & RSC.  We hope to begin the advertising for this role (which will also administer the MWT future project work in and around the twon) in April / May for a June start date.

As you may be aware we started maintaining the grass (contract cutting) back as far as June last year, there were a few early teething problems (mostly based around inheriting a poor cutting regime) but we are happy with the work Andrew Evans provided and will be commissioning them again this coming season to contract cut the main spaces.
However in the next few months we will be drawing up a more formal management plan for the land, utilising the powers in our Service Level agreement with the Town Council and through our Lease to begin to create more wildlife rich biodiversity areas within the green spaces.  This plan will also talk about dog waste, litter trees and biomass energy production etc.

As well as all of this we continue to support several external projects, looking for money, looking for support for their ideas etc. one of these being the Canal restoration project.

Funding Oversite:
Funding wise we were un-successful in our Sports Wales ‘Healthy Active Fund’ which was for sports development facilities in the town. We have not heard about our ENRaW application (£1m) for health and wellbeing coordination in the town. We pulled out of a Tourism Infrastructure application (could not make the timescales work). We have had the successful Sports Wales Grant confirmed, Public Health Wales – Walking for Health, the NRW Canoe Access Points, The Big Lottery amount and Severn Trent’s Cash for catchments.