24 April 2007 – Minutes
Minutes of the Annual Town Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 24 April 2007 at 7.30 pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall
Present: 50 Residents and Councillors
There were apologies for absence from Councillors A J Buckland, D G Butler and Miss J Z Z Paul.
The Minutes of the Meeting held on Tuesday 25 April 2006 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Mayor.
3 Town Mayor’s Report for 2006-2007
The Town Mayor, Cllr Nigel Champken-Woods, presented his report, highlighting what had been achieved, including the reduction of the precept; the official opening of the Memorial Gardens by the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire; the continuing good effects of CCTV; and the opening of the Museum by the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire.
A priority now was the improvement of play areas in the town, starting with Churchill Crescent, for which £25,000 had been allocated. Next would come Southern Road Recreation Ground. A new look for Elms Park was a particular aspiration and Cllr Champken-Woods had persuaded his wife, Alison, to form a Friends of Elms Park group.
The Mayor ended by thanking the Clerk and the Town Council staff for their support during the past year.
4 Neighbourhood Policing Update
Police Constable Russell Hounslow explained the reasoning behind the creation of Neighbourhood Action Groups (NAGs), the local preparation for which had begun in January. Thame fell into a ‘neighbourhood’ with Chinnor and Watlington. Following a selection process, about 18 people would form the group, would look at the three main problems facing each town or village, and would come up with solutions. The three issues that Thame Police would be concentrating on over the coming months were: 1. Lack of amenities for local youths. 2. Criminal damage, and 3. Under age drinking. It was expected that the first NAGs meeting would take place early in June.
The introduction of CCTV in Thame had produced dramatically good results, as confirmed by the crime figures for the same six months the year before. They also had a new Neighbourhood Police team member starting in June, PCSO Megan Dean, and PC Hounslow underlined what a fantastic job PCSO’s were doing in reassuring the public.
He stressed that more youth initiatives were needed and if, for example, they identified that the Youth Centre needed to open five nights a week, then they’d explore all the possibilities.
5 Youth Work in Thame
Nicola Francis, Area Youth Worker, introduced Ryan and Scott, two young people from the Youth Centre, as well as Sylvia Harper, a Youth Worker, all of who had accompanied her to the meeting.
Newly appointed to the role, one of Nicola’s major functions was to run projects with young people, for example with regard to sexual health or drug problems; this was particularly important in rural areas, where advice wasn’t as readily available as in cities.
The Youth Centre had a solid membership and young people worked there as volunteers. This was especially useful because young people were often happier to talk to other young people about their needs and good youth centres were run as much as possible by young people for young people.
The Centre itself, based in an old building on a school site, was run down and depressing and they desperately needed a new Centre. Her aim was to make Thame’s Youth Centre a centre of excellence.
She was grateful for the support she’d received from the Town Council and 21st Century Thame and made a plea to any adults in the audience who would be willing to volunteer, perhaps with computing and media skills. The local Police, too, had been extremely helpful, coming along regularly to the Centre. This helped young people realise that they were part of a community and getting adults involved was tremendously important.
Nicola was questioned about how much work was done out and about, getting to know young people, and she said that Detached Youth Workers went out twice a week.
6 Thame Football Partnership: Hopes & Aspirations
Jake Collinge, Chairman of Thame United FC, and Nigel Hargreaves, Head of Strategic Development, The Football Association, reminded those present that Thame United FC, formed in 1883, was one of the oldest clubs in Oxfordshire. However, it had lost its ground in Thame in July 2005 and was currently having to ground share with AFC Wallingford.
The Thame Football Partnership had been formed in February 2006, bringing together TUFC, Thame Boys and Girls FC and other local footballing interests. Their vision was ‘A high quality hub for football in Thame’. The Partnership had identified Church Farm as a site that offered safety and flexibility and Oxfordshire County Council had agreed in principle to let them acquire the freehold or leasehold. The Partnership had also had favourable pre-planning application discussions with South Oxfordshire District Council. Their negotiations with OCC about the land were crucial, however, because if they were fruitful everything else would fall into place.
The Mayor summed up by endorsing the enthusiasm displayed by Jake and Nigel about the Partnership’s aspirations and emphasized what an incredible opportunity this was for Thame.
7 Open Forum – Questions from Electors
A resident questioned the rationale behind the reduction of Council Tax this year, reasoning that to keep it the same could have meant funds available to improve the town’s play areas. The Mayor explained that the Council had been concerned about the level of its precept and considered it prudent to reduce it, especially since this could be achieved without losing any of the facilities and services offered to residents. Funding had been sourced for the Churchill Crescent play area and the next priority would be the Southern Road Recreation Ground play area, which would be a major and costly project, and which would need to go out to tender.
Another resident questioned the cost of the annual Thame fairs and the Clerk confirmed that it was the Council’s intention to recoup all the costs for the town in future.
The progress of the Mototrack project was queried and it was reported that the Council was trying to push this forward. A difficulty was the condition of the land in question (previously the tip) and discussion was needed with the Environment Agency, SODC and the Health Department. Clearly there was no point in investing time and money on the project if it was unsuitable for health reasons.
Speaking on behalf of Lord Williams’s School, a resident asked how the proposed Rycotewood Fishing Lake was progressing? The Council was in discussion with the nearby developers, Berkeley Homes.
The meeting concluded at 9.10 pm
Chairman, Annual Town Meeting 2008