SCCPS AGM 21 June 2023 – CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2023
At the AGM last October I said that, following on from a review of the Society’s objects, your Trustees were developing a refreshed programme of work and activities. I noted the importance of the relationship with our most important interlocutor, the Chapter.
I am pleased to report that the society is in good heart after a productive year. We have continued to hold bi-monthly meetings with the Chapter and are making good progress in discussing a growing number of issues together in an amicable and constructive manner. The Close Condition Report has now been welcomed by the Canon Treasurer, Kenneth Padley, and we look forward to continuing to work with him and the Chapter Clerk, Jackie Molnar, as the Chapter look to commission a Quinquennial Inspection of The Close.
We continue to raise our concerns about items of routine maintenance around The Close. But of far greater importance, consideration is now ongoing about a long-term strategy for The Close, not least to help ensure the timely repair and maintenance of the increasing number of empty buildings.
The Trustees have also invested a significant amount of time and money in continuing development of the new website as a precursor for an increased level of activity and the recruitment of new members. Particular thanks are due to Dieter Schulz for his continued work on the website.
We have embarked upon an expanded programme of lectures and presentations on topics relating to the history and upkeep of listed buildings both here in The Close and across the country. Following the very well received talk after the last AGM by Antony Feltham-King on recent work at Gloucester Cathedral, over fifty members and guests attended the landscape lecture by Emily Naish, the Cathedral Archivist, in February.
I am pleased to announce that we look forward next to welcoming Alex McCallion, Director of Estates at York Minster, to present our autumn lecture on 20 September in the Mediaeval Hall. He will be telling us of his work over the last thirteen years to develop a Neighbourhood Plan for the York Precinct and the current £52 million programme of maintenance and restoration works that is underway. More details will follow, but please book the date now.
It is against this background of an increased workload and expenditure, and with exciting plans for the future, that the Trustees have decided some matters related to the governance of the society.
First, while continuing to look to recruit one or two more Trustees, we have decided to have one of our number to act, as occasion arises, as deputy to the chairman. To that end I am pleased to say that Jeremy Edwards has agreed to be the Board’s deputy chairman. I should also mention that we are pleased to have already recruited this year one new Trustee – Sir Edward Smyth-Osbourne.
Secondly, we are also having to consider the level of membership fees to ensure that our income meets the on-going running costs of the charity. You may be surprised to hear that our fees have not increased since the formation of the society thirty-two years ago. During this time the retail price index has increased by more than 250%. This has been forcing your Trustees to cover some expenses from reserves; clearly, an undesirable state of affairs. In addition, various anomalies have arisen over the period including, for example, the fact that joint members pay the same amount as individual members.
The Board has carefully reviewed these matters and concluded that the membership fees need to be set at a more realistic and sensible level. It will therefore decide shortly what increases may be necessary and will notify the membership accordingly. We know changes of this sort are never welcome. However, we believe new rates will ensure the Society is in the best possible position to meet the future with confidence.
Before closing I should report that the Board has continued with its regular activities, that is, monitoring relevant planning applications and maintaining its interactions with relevant organisations. There have been no new significant planning applications since the last AGM. However there have been some applications in relation to work proposed on trees, whether pruning or felling, and we have commented on several of them. During the year we have maintained relations with organisations relevant to our objectives, including:
- the Close Partnership (a quarterly forum for exchanges between the Chapter and the ten or so Close stakeholders), in which Julian Hepplewhite, as chairman of the Resident’s Association, and I are participants
- the working group on the Salisbury Neighbourhood Development Plan, on which Dieter Scholz has continued to work tirelessly
- informally with the Salisbury Civic Society, planning and conservation officers and English Heritage.
I should also take this opportunity of thanking our Patron, Dr Phil Harding, for his enthusiastic support for our activities. Unfortunately Phil could not be with us tonight, as he is attending, as Deputy Lieutenant, a charitable function this evening.
Finally, turning to our intentions for the forthcoming year we aim to continue efforts to raise the society’s profile, to improve the Board’s links with our membership and grow our membership base, to strengthen the Board, to develop our expertise in key areas and to work with others to promote the importance of the landscape and ecology of The Close. Incidentally, while on the question of membership may I ask you all to make a special effort to recruit new members.