Tollgate Hall, Stanway. Saturday, 26 March 2011.
Chairman: Chris Jenkinson. About 34 people were present.
We welcomed Howard Davies, Town Centre Project Officer; Robert Meadowcroft, MD Chief Executive; Clayton Beckwith, of Fair Access to Colchester; and Laura Watts, MD regional support officer.
Howard Davies said: I deal with both policy and delivery of regeneration (e.g., the former Keddies building, which is to become a hotel with shops etc. on the ground floor, and the Visual Arts Facility, which will open in September). Today I have been asked to speak about plans for town centre traffic. High St is still being used as a through route, and our aim is to move such traffic (amounting to 400-500 vehicles/hour at peak times) to Southway and Cowdray Avenue. The extra traffic will put strain on roundabouts and intersections, and we are looking for ways of dealing with this. (1) The uphill lane on North Hill will be restricted to buses etc. (2) From 10 am to 6 pm, High St will be similarly restricted. (3) At the War Memorial, general traffic will not be permitted to turn from High St to Queen St. (4) The High St taxi rank will be reduced, and about half its places moved to Head St. (5) There will be no access to the Dutch Quarter from High St.
Concerning parking, Castle Bailey will be unaffected, but the present disabled parking in High St will be closed. We believe that we can make the Vineyard St lift more reliable (the principal problem is vandalism), thereby making the spaces there more useful. We hope to increase the number of spaces in the Culver Square service area (which are at present underused); note that there are no restrictions on where you shop if you use these. In Culver St West there will be no change to the present limited access.
We hope to implement the first stage in the late summer or early autumn.
Concerning the bus station, we are thinking of providing a separate facility for bus layovers and drivers, with passenger boarding elsewhere. There is a proposal for reversing the flow of traffic in Priory St, which is still under consideration. There are at present no plans for changes around the Mercury Theatre but some ideas have been put forward.
Members' remarks included: (a) taxis with wheelchair access are supposed to insist on entry from the left side, which makes both the present High St rank and the proposed Head St rank unsuitable; (b) wheelchair-accessible taxis are mostly used to take children to school, so they work during the day, and very few are available in the evenings; (c) while passengers taking buggies on buses are supposed to fold them up when a wheelchair comes, they won't always do this; (d) in Prague, the bus timetables (on the Web) declare which buses will have wheelchair access, which makes them usable even by tourists.
Minutes of the AGM of 2010 were circulated. No matters were raised for discussion.
Sadly I have to report the deaths of three of our members, Tony Farley, Rob Smith and Jean Moore. All will be greatly missed.
On the positive side, the Tesco Charity of the Year raised £4 million for MD nationally last year, and locally the Colchester Childrens Charity Appeal are helping us with funds for children with MD in the Colchester area. We have had a reduction in income from store collections, and shall need more collectors this year, particularly as Janet and Norman Saunders, and Beryl and Don Leeks, who have done so much for us in the past, are having to cut their efforts back.
A particular problem we are focusing on locally concerns hydrotherapy pools, where changing facilities are inadequate.
Accounts for the year 2010 were circulated. During the year we had to draw on our savings, and for that reason did not send the usual Christmas cheques to sufferers. We are grateful to Maria Fremlin for her contribution in sending kefir cultures in exchange for donations which raised nearly £460 last year, and over £5700 in the last ten years.
The No 2 account, the vehicle for the Colchester Children's Charity Appeal donations, will in future be included in the accounts presented to AGMs.
Beryl Leeks decided not to continue as a committee member. The following officers and committee were elected for the coming year:
Robert Meadowcroft said: It's a pleasure to come here again. The MDC is in good shape overall with a new Chairman and five new trustees elected at the AGM who bring first class expertise and skills. The new government's "Big Society" initiative is being given some financial support, and we might be able to draw on this for improvements to local hydrotherapy provision. We are pleased with the progress our campaigning has secured in improving health services (including Care Advisor posts agreed for the East of England) and we looking for ways to help teenagers who are losing their physiotherapy services after the age of 16. On the research front, we are giving about £1 million to various projects this year, and we have an advisory panel supported by 3 full-time staff who are themselves scientists. Big pharmaceutical companies are beginning to enter the rare-disease market, which is good news in that this underlines the promising new research developments in our field.