You’ve probably heard – especially if you read the local blogs – of the amenity societies that play a big part in the way this part of south-east London is run. Personally speaking, they’ve a pretty patchy record of late and I don’t think the wider glare of publicity has done them any good.
At worst, they’re closed and suspicious of outsiders, and used by councils and other bodies instead of actually talking to people. The Westcombe Society‘s chairman once threw me out of a “public” meeting with LOCOG because I wasn’t a member, but wielded a press card instead.
The Blackheath Society‘s been left in a bit of a tizz after blowing a huge sum of money on a court case against a music festival on the heath, while the Greenwich Society shot itself in the foot by backing the almost-universally unpopular Greenwich market hotel.
At best, though, they can be a uniting force for good. The Brockley Society, for example, automatically includes anyone who lives in its patch as a member.
But did you know there’s a Charlton Society? It has no website, and the only wider publicity is a small sign on the notice board at St Luke’s Church. But yes, there certainly is a Charlton Society, it’s been around since the 1960s, and it has a role in every planning application in SE7. If you want to a build an extension, they’ll know about it.
That is, alas, about all I know about it.
Perhaps considering the blunders made by other societies, it’s probably a good thing that the Charlton Society has a profile lower than the average MI5 operative. But it’s getting a website soon, and it’s holding an AGM on Saturday at Charlton House. And you, yes you, are welcome to come along.
Here’s chair David Gardner to tell you more:
The Charlton Society has its 42nd. AGM next Saturday 15 October, in the Grand Salon at Charlton House. The Society has been flying the flag for the conservation and improvement for Charlton – with some great achievements under our belts and many more challenges ahead.
We have had an active year on planning, transport, heritage and environmental fronts – and we have started to build relationships with new partners as Charlton’s civic society gains strength. Next year we have the Olympics, the 200th. anniversary of the assassination of PM Sir Spencer Perceval, buried in St. Luke’s and Greenwich becoming a Royal Borough. We also have the Charlton House estate probably being transferred to the management of a new Trust and the future of the animals in Maryon Wilson Park remains in the balance. Two tremendous assets that really make Charlton distinctive. We will have our first hotel under way and (probably) an application for a new Sainsbury’s supermarket both in Charlton Riverside. We should also, after four long years waiting, have the outcome of the Conservation area review so vital to our heritage in Charlton village.
We have also had an active social and lecture programme as well as our first Annual Dinner. But we do need more support and, therefore, I hope that you might consider joining the society if you are not already a member (£10 or £7 for concessions), or attending the AGM next Saturday where we will be joined by our local councillors, the Deputy Mayor and Lord Gough, our President. Refreshments will be served. If you are able to be involved more during the year then do contact me or our secretary, Roden Richardson.
There’s been a revival of community activism in SE7 over recent years, with the establishment of the Charlton Central Residents Association and the birth in recent months of the Charlton Riverside Action Group, while the Charlton Rail Users Group has already headed off plans to cut train services during the Olympics.
But if these energies can be ploughed into the Charlton Society too, then we can have a group that represents the broader community instead of a small sub-section. It’s easy to carp at these groups – and sometimes they can make it very easy to carp – but here’s an opportunity to get involved and make Charlton a place to be proud of.
So, what are you waiting for? Charlton House, Saturday, 2.30pm.
(If you want to find out more now, here’s the latest Charlton Society newsletter.)