The Friends’ Annual General Meeting took place at All Saints Church, Prince of Wales Drive on 2 July. Chairman, Philip Wright, welcomed over 30 members present and thanked Councillor John Hallmark and the officials from Wandsworth Council for attending on such a wet evening.

Chairmans Report, Philip Wright OBE

The Chairman’s report covered the period from 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007. A BBQ was held at the Zoo on 22 May. Nearly 100 Friends attended and, despite the pouring rain, had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Organised by Ruth Forrest, there were no outgoings and £2228 was raised for the Winter Garden. This took place on the first day of the Chelsea Flower Show where Philip Nixon won his second Gold medal. The 2006 AGM was held on 3 July at St Saviour’s Church. Sergeant Steve Biggs gave reports to our Committee meetings on a regular basis and on 16 July we sponsored a “Best of the Rest” class at the Police Dog Show. We had a stall at St Mary’s Church Fair on 10 September. This not only raised funds, but, thanks to Secretary, Elizabeth Hood, and Membership Secretary, Claire Elliot, also raised the profile of the Friends among many local residents. During the period of the report 65 new members and 3 corporate members had joined. In October our application to Awards for All for £9,845 to pay for the installation and artwork of three interpretive signs was successful. These signs would be in position shortly and will inform visitors to the Park of the history and significance of three key areas.

In the same month a ceremony was held to mark the gift of 32 maple trees by two Canadian companies to replace the diseased trees in Acacia Avenue. Replacement young trees, Acer Rubrum Red Sunset, have been planted and the avenue renamed Maple Leaf Walk. The Friends continued to have our interests in planning matters affecting the Park represented by Brian Botting and Chris Rice to the Planning and Conservation Committees of Wandsworth Council. This includes the future of Battersea Power Station, which was acquired by yet another developer, Real Estate Opportunities, in November.

We have continued to expand our information about the Friends in print and online. A new leaflet entitled “Do you care about Battersea Park?” has been printed and widely circulated. Full details of our work and finances are included on the website which gives information about every charity in the United Kingdom. Mike Bates was first in this field with the website and two new internet domain names were registered by Mark Cowne exclusively for the Friends in December. After presiding over 4 outstanding editions of the Review, Vicki Barker has handed over to one of our past editors, Jimmy Burns, with production in the hands of Mike Bates. The winter issue was devoted appropriately to the Winter Garden and in December an advisory Appeals Committee was formed to raise funds towards the estimated £48,000 required for phase 2, which will allow all topsoil and landscaping to be finished. We have raised just over £15,000, about half of which is for planting, and will be carrying out a review on how best to bring this ambitious project to a successful conclusion.

In February the Friends’ sculpture award was revived. The 9th winner, selected by the Committee in February, is a first year American student, Maxine Schaffer, from the Royal College of Art Sculpture School with a painted metal cut-out of weeds in the Park, which will be unveiled on Monday 3 September. Secretary, Elizabeth Hood, in her report paid tribute to the dedicated team of helpers who distribute the Review so effectively. She said there had been 10 meetings of the Committee with representatives of the Park management in attendance. The financial statement for the year ending 31 March 2007 was presented by Treasurer, Virginia Darbyshire. Much work had been required to meet changes in Charity Commission requirements, the Winter Garden Fund and the demands of Gift Aid contributions. The accounts had been inspected by Independent Examiner, Alan Buss. The Chairman announced that, having kept subscriptions at the same rate for seven years, the costs of producing the Review and postage have risen to the point where we could no longer continue to absorb the effects of inflation. The Committee had therefore recommended that from 1 April 2008 annual individual subscriptions will be increased to £10, family subscriptions to £15 and business subscriptions to £50.

Other Business and Open Forum

Jimmy Burns was elected and Claire Beasly had agreed to be co-opted as members of the Committee. The formal part of the meeting was then closed.
There was a break for refreshments organised by John Johnson and Chris Davies. Afterwards Jennifer Ullman, Chief Parks Officer, Jack Adam, Head of Security and Inspector John Bannerman, Parks Police, were introduced for the Open Forum. Questions and comments ranged over the following topics:

  • Raanon Guillon commented on the British Genius Site. It was confirmed that the structure requires annual planning permission and has to be dismantled for three months each year to allow for other events.
  • Tom Maxwell enquired if a National Collection of any particular species could be established in the Park. There are a large and varied number of evergreen hollies, Ilex, but they have never been properly catalogued.
  • Brian Botting asked how many old Christmas cards were held. The Chairman said there were 7000 of two designs available at 25p each.
  • William and Sarah Newson pick up litter in the Park and enquired how best to avoid duplication of their effort. They were invited to meet the contract supervisor to discuss how to achieve this.
  • Jimmy Burns suggested that mobile police units could be deployed to educate users of the Park and anticipate anti-social behaviour.
  • Eija May said signs were needed to inform cyclists where they may or may not ride. There is some confusion over signage but 90 cautions have been issued so far this year to dangerous and illegal cyclists.
  • Christopher Cannon asked what criteria were used for the removal of mature trees. There are three tree specialists and Park Manager, Jerry Birtles, who are qualified to assess the condition of trees in the Borough.
  • Annie Whicker commended the Children’s Zoo and asked for clearer information about the 1 O’clock Club.

The Chairman closed the proceedings by reminding everyone that our objective is to maintain and improve Battersea Park as an oasis of green space, natural beauty and recreation. The Friends were formed in 1988, next year will be our twentieth anniversary, and the need for our work is more vital than ever.