2012 CHAIRMAN’S REPORT
The Society has commenced this year with a structural amendment converting it from a Charity to that of a “Charitable Company limited by Guarantee”. It makes no difference as to what or how we do things, except more reporting to the Commission and HMRC, but it allows the Trustees and Members to be limited in their personal financial liability in running the Society. All members are unaffected other than be liable to the vast sum of £1.0 in the unlikely event there are liabilities owing upon winding up the Society. I’m sure it will never happen.
However, the process in dealing with the change over, which was approved by the Members in an Special General Meeting last year, revealed that the Charity Commission followed a very literal interpretation of the new requirement for the provision of a ‘Public Benefit’. Fortunately they approved the change with the Society’s demonstrable principal activity this year being to assist the funding of the proposed new railings along the seafront being of public benefit. We pointed also to the Thomas Kemp Day as an example of exemplary educational merit. We will be seeking more ways to meet this test on an annual basis.
Our Society’s primary task is to aid the local community gain knowledge of what to do in making the changes within their property in conformity to the limitations governed by the houses being Grade 1 listed. So communicating with property owners will be a cornerstone of our activity in the coming months
The Brighton Council is the arbiter of such decisions where planning is concerned, as we know, but equally, the Society is engaging with the Council regularly when circumstances come to a head. We now have a new Conservation officer at BHCC. So the process of communications with BHCC has to be maintained and increased.
Most of the recent activity last year involved
1) Attending and influencing beneficial changes to The Royal Sussex Hospital plans
2) Attending the regular monthly meetings of the Conservation Area Groups
3) The change of the legal status of the Society as referred to above
4) Specifically resisting the planning application for a house in lieu of the garage at the back of Bristol Mansions and 18 Sussex Sq. being within the curtilage of the Conservation Area.
5) Undertaking co-operative efforts with Kemp Town Enclosures Ltd to launch the railings project.
6) Bring more information and keeping current with it on our Website.
7) Gaining a notional grasp of The National Planning Framework and its impact on planning in historic areas.
8) The Localism Bill and how the local community might engage with local issues and planning.
9) Organising another successful Garden Party.
10) Outings to Chichester Theatres and Glyndebourne and historic houses.
11) Local Dinners and Quiz nights
It is noted that our activities have not expanded this last year. As Chairman, I confess to some frustrations we do not have sufficient “hands on” members to penetrate more deeply into the psyche of the local owners and occupiers of the residences around the Estate. I am very open to have suggestions as to how better we might engage with our neighbours.
Our membership figures have remained static, which I consider a favourable fact, given the current state of the nation. However, I remain anxious to grow the membership, not by just adding numbers, but by increasing and enthusing membership who will assist the Society in our influence as responsible champions of our heritage locally and nationally. We are always in need of all sorts of talent!
It is a burden sometimes to be living on the Estate, with the altruistic goal of passing on the condition of the Estate and its houses to be entrusted to future generations as an architectural landmark of national importance. I find it troubling that so many are content to enjoy the benefits of this beautiful area and yet expect others to commit their time freely in a labour of love, whilst not lifting a finger. Who will assist us to change this?
I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the AGM. Equally, if you wish to advise me of useful thoughts and ideas to benefit the Society, I welcome you emailed thoughts.
Much thought and effort is going into the plans for the Diamond Jubilee Garden Party to be held on Saturday June 2nd. It will be a memorable event, so please put the date in the diary and come along!
Paul Phillips, Chairman