The Kingston Society Annual General Meeting
Wednesday 17th January 7.30pm at the Judge lecture Hall, Tiffins School


Good evening and welcome Deputy Mayor Richard Thorpe, and members of the Kingston Society to this our 62 Annual general meeting.

We have had a most exciting and productive year and I am very proud of the work of the Society. Our activities fell in to four areas:

Urban Room – Here, with the lead taken by Peter Karpinski and Mediha Boran, we worked to promote the Local Plan (LP) with RBK planning officers, North Kingston Forum, New Malden RA and Chessington District RA. We had worked at the back end of 2022 with students from the University to design a modular exhibition stand which was used in the Market House, in Kingston town centre to display LP boards and our own 60 years anniversary exhibition panels.

Through a series of lunchtime talks we attracted a range of visitors where with refreshments provided by the Coop we listened to very interesting presentations on:

  • Heritage at the heart of placemaking and The Local Plan
  • Housing and the draft Local Plan
  • Beauty in the built environment – can it even exist?
  • Infrastructure, Biodiversity and Sustainability in the Local Plan.

Townscape Awards – After a covid-induced hiatus we were delighted to again stage the Townscape Awards (TA). Here Bob Phillips and Mediha created a very fine competition which attracted 34 nominations across the built and green environment. For the first time we introduced a People’s Choice where, from the shortlisted nominations, we received hundreds of votes. The TA jury comprised society members, RBK officers and architects and a member of the Conservation Area Advisory Committee. The winners were:

  • New Build – Siden Mews Surbiton
  • Refurbishment – St Mathew’s Parish School
  • Greenscape – Berrylands Nature Reserve
  • People’s Choice – Queens Promenade Friends

Additionally, we worked with the Ramblers Association to create an architectural walk to look at some of the nominations. What was of particular interest is that all the winners reflected a regard for human scale developments. Despite the large and tall buildings, the jury chose a modest well designed mews development for the new build, and St Matthews Parish School designed by Charles Lock Luck, as the refurbishment winner. Even more striking was that the People’s Choice, the garden project to improve and restore Queen’s Promenade clearly indicating that what the community values are green initiatives taken by volunteers who literally grow beauty to benefit us all, and gentle development is required.

Public meeting speakers – We had some very fine speakers, and in fact our own Bob Philipps spoke twice about Tolworth about which he is both passionate and knowledgeable. In one talk about the Future of Tolworth he unveiled a plan for a giant deck over the A3 to create Tolworth as a major satellite to Kingston. It perhaps sounds a little fanciful expressed so simply but it was inspired and original thinking.

Similarly inspired was the talk by Stephen Coats an architect of enormously relevant experience of building large scale projects about the possibility of combining the RBK owned asset of the Cattle Market with the new leisure centre project and making the development of the former pay for the latter. It is a great disappointment to the Society that we were not able to influence or even engage with the Council.

Our talks for the year, excluding our 4 Urban Room talks were:

  • A Future for Tolworth – Bob Philips
  • Kingston Town Area Consultation – Tava Walton
  • Better Places Through Participation – (Was the TOPO co-design a success?) Steve McAdam
  • What next for Our Swimming Pool – Stephen Coates
  • Kingston’s Conservation Areas – Rebecca Eng
  • Developing the South of the Borough – a Street in Tolworth – Bob Phillips

The main applications and consultations we have responded to are:

  • The Local Plan and the Emerging tall buildings Strategy
  • Kingston School of Art – 13 storey tower
  • The Rex / Greencoat House
  • Former Surrey County Hall
  • Tolworth Tower
  • Regal Cinema
  • Kingfisher Leisure Centre
  • Seething Wells
  • Swan House High Street Kingston
  • Canbury Place, Kingston Gate
    Eagle Brewery Wharf and Memorial Gardens
  • Surbiton Station Car park
  • Signal Park Tolworth
  • Rex demolition
  • RHACC Hillcroft (Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community CollegeWe are still waiting to hear why the Rex/ Greencoat House development that was surely partly approved because of its ambitious eco-credentials of only knocking down what was absolutely necessary. Subsequently it has been entirely demolished. This will be inconsequential, in a planning sense because the end result will appear to be the same and so it is unlikely the developers will be held to account.

Our year to come – In fact, our year has already started and Mediha has mounted a fascinating display of works written by members of the Society. And what an erudite lot you are writing across a wide range of subjects. We also have an author here this evening, Martin, whose business book will be published later in the year.

  • Kingston Museum Community Case – the Tower of Books
  • Urban Room based townscape event (Possible representation at the London Design Festival or London Festival of Architecture)
  • The plaques – a special project Bob Phillips is working on, so secret that even I don’t know what it is!

Sub groups – As part of our long term project looking at our internal systems and processes we have formed ourselves into subgroups with clear tasks and objectives. We have the following groups, some meeting as the needs arise and others with specific and or ongoing projects:

Futures

  • Local Plan
  • Planning Applications
  • Membership
  • Heritage, and here we are looking at merging with other local groups to save on admin.
  • Public meetings
  • External comms – including website and social media

We are also aware that people with relevant expertise may not have the time or energy to be involved with the Committee but would like to work as ‘consultants’ on matters that interest them. And indeed, some members who are leaving the committee (of which more later) will be doing exactly that.

As well as our own work we continue to work with other groups, the most recent of which is the newly formed (RBK) River Steering group ‘Voice of the River’ group. This group created by RBK’s Roger Hayes has he says ‘no money and no power’ so, familiar territory to us.

We continue our active engagement with the Kingston Biodiversity Action Group, Representation with Urban Room Network and of course CAAC work continues.

The Society ‘Offer’ – We are looking at what we are calling our ‘Offer’ Which is really thinking about what is that attracts you to being members and how might we attract more, particularly younger new members. So, we have a list of things that are benefits and are considering the weight we give to them. For example, the newsletter is available only to members, although much of it appears on the website sooner or later – should we make it freely available and would that make you wonder why you are paying for membership?

The Society used to do regular site visits and walks and even stage social events. Should we do more of that? I should own up though that we did celebrate Anthony Evan’s unbelievable 50 years with the Society with a great deal of cake and wine. And on the social front Peter Karpinski is organising a visit to the Stanley Picker Collection. (information in our January newsletter)

Intranet – We do very much need to improve our internal communications. I was astonished how much time we can spend trying to organise a meeting – a seemingly endless round of emails.

We are working with the Kingston Voluntary Action and hope to create a unified system to handle:

  • Document storage
  • Project management
  • Calendar
  • Messaging systems / Alternatives to email

I am looking at automating some of our processes that are too dependent on my tech skills and therefore susceptible to critical failure if I can not perform them. Explained simply this is using interface software that connect two other pieces of software, using so called triggers. All this means is that ‘if this, then that’ So the idea would be to create a database that has the month’s news in it ain a structured way and then press a ‘button’ which writes the newsletter, puts articles on the website and posts on social media.

Future Speakers – We are busy working on our public meetings and among our fixed and potential speakers we have these:

  • Stephan Gross – Queen’s Promenade Friends
  • Elliot Newton – Kingston Biodiversity Officer
  • DSE – Design Review Panel
  • Hilary Satchwell – National Design Codes
  • Clive Chapman Associates – Passivhaus and sustainable design
  • Bianca Effemy Momentum Children’s Charity

Committee Leavers – We are very sad to report that we have three members leaving the committee. Some after very many years of dedicated service

Peter Karpinski – who has been a great comfort to me and an invaluable ally. His extraordinary instinct for common sense, detail and procedure and his background working with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment CABE) Civic Society matters means that we are losing an asset of the highest value, and I thank him for his efforts. The good news is that he is a sucker for punishment and will return to be a consultant on our Urban Room projects

David Kennedy David has been many things to the Society, perhaps best known as our local historian who has given many interesting talks in this hall, creating magic from what might be dry and dusty local history. He like Peter has a Civil Service background and has always brought a kind of gentle wisdom to the group. An elder statesman if you will and a steady hand I shall very much miss. He has of course also been the custodian of Coombe Conduit opening it up regularly and even on demand. But he too, like Peter, will continue to support us and be back in this room as I know he is working on a talk or two to present to us.

Terry Bowers has served the Committee for a very long while and has always been a steadfast and reliable member, always coming to every meeting and helping with the day to day tasks. He has been treasurer, and recently helped manage our public speakers. The committee unanimously decided that with your approval we would add his name to the short list of Vice Presidents acknowledged for their contributions.

Thank yous – Finally, it remains to give our thanks. We are very pleased that in particular we feel we have increasingly benefitted from a positive and mutually respectful relationships with planning officers and RBK councillors. I am reminded that 60 years ago the Society struggled to be recognised at all.

Thanks to the tireless work of Mediha we have received a contribution from the Coop community fund of £2124.26 – our very grateful thanks for their generosity.

I would like too, to thank my colleagues on the Committee for their hard work and tolerating my foibles and you the Society members for coming out on this very cold night and your ongoing support of the Societies work, Thank you all.

Treasurer’s report

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Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Kingston Society