Another busy year has flown by and it’s QWAG’s AGM again.
It’s become a familiar scene in mid-January. Chairs set in rows in the Lewisham Methodist Church Hall. A fine spread of refreshments. And a prominent ‘river-based’ display. Another busy year has flown by, it’s QWAG’s AGM again. And Chair, Ray Manchester, is about to report on what’s been happening these last 12 months.
Ray welcomed attendees, introduced the other members of the management committee and declared the meeting open. The first two items on the agenda, apologies for absence and approval of the 2007 AGM minutes, were duly dealt with.
The third agenda item was the Annual Report for 2007. Ray started with QWAG’s disappointments. In October, the huge Lewisham Gateway development received approval. It will have a major negative impact on both the Quaggy and Ravensbourne and at a stroke removes the opportunity of making the two rivers, with associated green spaces, outstanding attractions for Lewisham’s residents and visitors. Disappointing too was the go-ahead for the development for 36-56 Lee High Road. On a narrow site, a 5-storey building will arise hard against the River Quaggy. QWAG was further dismayed at the way the planning process had been carried out and at the Environment Agency’s acceptance of the scheme despite expressing severe reservations.
But there were causes for celebration. QWAG’s proposal to restore some 80 metres of river bankside to the rear of 104-120 Lee High Road was accepted by Lidl’s, the developers, in its entirety. The year also saw the official opening of the River Quaggy Flood Alleviation Scheme after 17 years of effort. And two prestigious awards were won by the Environment Agency for QWAG-inspired restorations.
As usual, we took part in Lewisham Council’s People’s Day, additionally setting up our stall at the official opening of newly-restored Manor Park. We led successful walks at all three local walking festivals and those who took part in the Annual QWAG river walk will for ever remember the close encounter with one of our own Quaggy kingfishers.
On the information front, the website attracted over 40% more visitors and our 12-page newsletter – in content and layout judged our best so far – was more widely distributed than ever before. And at last we have all nine of our A1-sized educational displays printed, laminated and ready for borrowing.
The Treasurer’s Report for 2007 was presented by James MacGregor. Despite additional expenses opposing the Gateway Scheme and in creating the educational display boards, QWAG still maintained a healthy balance. In view of this, and to encourage wider membership, individual subscriptions will be reduced from £5 to £4 for the year 2008/2009, with proportional cuts to other categories.
For the second year, no nominations for election to the management committee had been received. So, again the current committee members were re-elected unopposed. Before closing the AGM, the Chair used the final item on the agenda (Any Other Business) to thank all those who had helped QWAG over the course of the previous year.
Following refreshments, the meeting settled to hear a talk on the Restoration of the River Quaggy by Matthew Graham, assisted by Trevor Odell, both engineers employed by the Environment Agency. In his talk, Matthew referred to the catastrophic floods in July 2007 – 48,000 homes and 7,000 businesses had been affected across the country. In consequence, Sir Michael Pitt (Chair of the SW Strategic Health Authority) had been requested to conduct an immediate independent review. His full report is not due until the summer but, given the urgency of the situation, interim recommendations have already been issued. Amongst other matters, the better management of surface water flooding has to be addressed with the wider use of sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) – up to now, no authority has overall responsibility. QWAG members were aware of this danger – some past local flooding had nothing to do with rivers overflowing.
Environment Agency money could now only be used where flood risk existed. So for future restoration along the Quaggy, other funding would need to be found. European money was probably the most promising source – to date, the UK has been under-represented in this field. Intriguingly, Matthew also mentioned ‘climate change parks’. It seems for the present, their existence is purely ‘conceptual’ but apparently they could be made ‘real’ if enlightened businesses agreed to sponsor them. One such ‘park’ could be the Quaggy in the vicinity of Lewisham Police Station and another immediately downstream of the Confluence.
A lively question and answer session followed the talk. With time running out, Matthew and Trevor were thanked by the Chair and warmly applauded by the audience.
Ray closed the meeting by thanking those who had helped in its preparation and execution, and thanking the attendees for their participation. He hoped to see many of them at QWAG events over the coming year.