Probably a lot of us were thinking that the Covid Pandemic would by now have died down as a result of vaccinations and the roll-out of the booster programme. And then along comes variant Omicron. So instead of looking forward to Christmas and a new year with increasing confidence we are thrust back into self-isolation, uncertainty, and worry about the potential impact upon family and friends. It seems that, quite literally, none of us are immune from this. So I will aim to keep this update brief and light of touch.
Whilst the TARA Committee have been exceptionally busy this last year it has been against a backdrop where being able to have face-to-face meetings with anyone has been at best sporadic. We have tried to maintain our communications with local councillors but of course they have also found it difficult: they are still in a situation where key council meetings such as Exmouth Town Council, East Devon, and Devon County Council have to be virtual. As things stand, there is no early end to that situation. The Committee have had a number of Zoom meetings during the year but even for small groups of attendees they are not as satisfactory as sitting in the same room. For that reason we have resisted trying to hold our usual meetings with representatives of ETC, EDDC, and DCC using Zoom. Larger meetings are difficult to run well and even if actions could be agreed they would be very difficult to implement when so many key managers are working from home themselves. We know that our councillors have found the last year to be very challenging with progress on key objectives either stalled or seeming to move backwards. So we have had to make sure that we continue our dialogue on a more one-to-one basis and to remind our councillors of what our objectives are and that we are still expecting them to deliver on things that have been agreed. The big unknown is just when some of these things will be delivered, and that is very unsatisfactory.
The most obvious items that come to mind are things such as the VAS cameras and the speed & traffic surveys. We have money reserved for a VAS camera, but no means to deliver it: Councillor Channon cannot move forward without a joint working group including ETC and that is held up by continuing Covid restrictions. The surveys continue to be postponed with no understanding on when it will be possible to do them. On a positive note PCSO Sims, who has responsibility for introducing a Community Speedwatch Group in Exmouth, is now able to hold an initial meeting for interested parties. The venue is Exmouth Police Station, 7.30pm, 31st January, he expects the meeting to last no more than 1 hour. We have been previously advised that managing speeding effectively is a combination of devices such as VAS, a Police presence, and Community involvement using Speedwatch. Volunteers, who for various reasons are not asked to monitor their own neighbourhood, receive Police training and the necessary equipment. Many people expressed concern about excessive vehicle speeds and Speedwatch is a way of being part of the solution to the problem, so if you are interested in hearing more about it please come along to the meeting.
Over 350 people responded to our on-line questionnaire about traffic calming and as a result of the responses and ideas received we were able to discuss them with Christine Channon & Bruce de Saram during the summer. It was agreed that, rather than adopt a series of piecemeal measures, it would be better to have a comprehensive review of traffic flows in and around the TARA area including the management of visitor traffic and the whole area around Littleham Cross. We do not yet know when that can be done, but again we will refer the results and recommendations to members once we have them.
That survey led us on to the second questionnaire as in the potential absence of any AGM we could at least canvas views on what TARA does and whether that should change at all. The results were published online and as well as confirming that the majority of you would like us to continue to keep an eye on planning and development there were also many people who felt that we could adopt some more community-focussed actions (Speedwatch could be one of them!). We are also grateful to those of you who expressed an interest in joining the Committee and as soon as we can have a physical meeting again we will invite those potential new representatives along and begin to plan how to deliver some new community projects in 2022.
In general Planning Applications during 2021 were few in number and not contentious – until of course the DevonCourt application! Many of you will have been involved directly in responding to the Application, either as residents covered by the “EX8” group of close neighbours of the site, or simply as concerned individuals. Responding to the Application was quite challenging for TARA but it is, after all, what we were formed to do originally. The Committee thank the many individuals who helped shape our response in terms of style and content and we were all pleased that the Applicants withdrew the initial document following advice from the Planning team at EDDC. We must now wait and see what will follow, but if they follow the guidance that they have been given then they will consult with residents, as they were advised to do from the outset.
During the year we lost three long-serving members of the Committee: Mike Horn, Stephen Hart, and Peter Dobbs. They have all contributed hugely to what TARA does and we thank them for all of their commitment and hard work and wish them the very best for the future. We were joined on the Committee by Julian Short, who lives in Maer Road. As mentioned earlier, we hope that we will be able to attract some other residents to the Committee as and when the Covid situation allows them to come along to meetings.
The postponed AGM for 2021 means that we have been unable to formally present the annual accounts but they are attached as an appendices. We enter 2022 with healthy balances although some money is reserved for the eventual installation of the Vehicle Activated Speed sign. As our Treasurer Peter Dobbs has resigned, Deirdre Jennings has very kindly agreed to cover the role temporarily until we find a permanent replacement. Should you have any questions regarding the accounts, please direct them to Deirdre.
We are also in a good position regarding Membership despite the disruption to routines caused by Covid: Elizabeth Deasy’s report is attached at the end of this report.
Last but not least, Emma has continued to improve our reach and style using social media. We know that the majority of members are happy to receive information via email and that will continue to be used, but we also want to reach the wider community and get others interested in what we are trying to do. The website (www.TARAExmouth.org.uk) which a small sub-group set up in 2019 has become the vehicle to share our news more widely and quickly. All items uploaded are then shared on Twitter (@ExmouthTARA) and Facebook (TARA Exmouth UK). Please feel free to share posts with your contacts.
A new Campaigns page on our website was added in the Summer to detail our TANDEM group report and to share our online survey to gather feedback. This worked very well in conjunction with emails to members. Without these new methods, our committee members would still be battling with hand deliveries, printing costs and our news could be delayed to reach you for a while.
The cancellation of the AGM also means that we have been unable to formally propose members of the Committee or to vote, so all existing members have agreed to continue until we can find a date for an EGM this year.
The Committee thank you for your continued support and input and we wish you and your families a safe and healthy 2022.
Simon Davidson, Chair.
January 6th, 2022