25 April 2006 – Minutes
Minutes of the Annual Town Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 25 April 2006 at 7.30 pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall
Present: 42 Residents and Councillors
There were apologies for absence from Councillor D G Butler and District Councillor M Welply.
The Minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 26 April 2005 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Mayor.
3 Town Mayor’s Report for 2005-06
The Town Mayor, Cllr David Laver, presented his report, adding that at a Strategy Meeting today, Councillors had looked at the many ways it could work with organisations and members of the public to benefit Thame. It was therefore highly appropriate that the representatives of several bodies were going to address the meeting this evening.
Referring to his report, the Mayor acknowledged that Thame benefited enormously from the many voluntary concerns that kept the town going.
He was pleased to report that staff member Pauline Hykin had received an award for her work on the Council’s website. Also, that Thame was voted the winner in the Best Town category for Fox FM’s Best of Oxfordshire competition.
CCTV cameras had been installed and would soon go live following an official ‘switch-on’ in Abingdon.
Asked about the Council’s deliberations regarding a youth shelter earlier in the year, the Mayor said that it had proved impossible to find a suitable place for a shelter. However, the Council enjoyed a good dialogue with young people and if the proposed project at the old football clubhouse came to fruition, there would be opportunities for them there. Further, it was hoped that at least in the short-term there would be arts and community space at the old clubhouse.
The lease would run for at least 18 months and the Council was hopeful that the site could be utilised with a more permanent building in future. The developer had been very co-operative and was fully aware of the importance of the site to the town.
4 District Councillors’ Annual Report
Cllr David Dodds presented his report, highlighting the installation of CCTV, which was about to go live.
The 2011 Local Plan had been adopted in January this year, following a lengthy consultation and inspection procedure. It would be the last Local Plan to be produced because Plans were to be replaced by a Local Development Framework. Although the general policies didn’t have much impact upon Thame, there were specific policies in relation to the Cattle Market, Phoenix Trail, and land adjacent to the Elms and Rycotewood College. Of major significance for the residents of South Oxfordshire was the requirement for 40% provision of affordable housing, both rented and shared ownership.
An issue Cllr Dodds had been particularly involved with was waste management. He stressed that the disposal of waste in Oxfordshire had to change significantly. The Landfill Directive required a reduction in the amount of refuse going to landfill and failure to meet the reducing amount of total landfill meant a fine of £150 per tonne. This sum would no doubt increase. The government was pressing for waste minimisation and greater personal responsibility.
Cllr Ann Midwinter spoke of her work on the Planning, Corporate Improvement Scrutiny and Standards committees, as well as the Thame Leisure Centre Joint Use Committee. She reported that they had been impressed with SOLL Leisure’s achievements at Thame’s Centre, which was doing extremely well. Cllr Midwinter finished by congratulating the Town Council on the maintenance of the Memorial Gardens.
Responding to a question about the cost-effectiveness of CCTV, Cllr Dodds pointed out that within days of CCTV being installed in Didcot, a burglar had been apprehended. It was very difficult to gauge the cost effectiveness of this Government initiative.
5 County Councillor’s Annual Report
Cllr Carter had selected certain issues for his report, instead of reviewing the entire year.
He had been mediating between the Town and County Councils about the notion of converting the Town Hall into a new library for the town. However, the County Council had not been able to offer the sort of funding envisaged by the Town Council for a long lease or freehold purchase of the building. There would now be a delay while the County Council reviewed the other options for a new library and he would keep the Town Council informed of any progress. However, the County’s ‘asset management’ plans also included new libraries at Banbury, Headington and Bicester, and the latter had received the green light for funding. This was likely to delay the plan to replace the library in Thame.
The Health Service review of boundaries was still underway and Cllr Carter had made vigorous representations about the need to maintain the status quo in Thame.
A resident spoke of her disappointment that the Town Council had turned down the opportunity of a 20 mph speed limit in the town centre and that residents hadn’t been consulted.
Answering a query about what contribution the potential developers at the Rycotewood College site would be making to the town, Cllr Carter said that most of the funds they supplied would go towards education.
6 Neighbourhood Policing
Inspector Stewart Dunbar, Section Inspector for Thames Valley Police, said that the government had tasked the police force to reduce the level of robbery. They were currently undertaking a car crime initiative because although in general terms there wasn’t a huge problem with robbery in Thame, vehicle crime had risen dramatically. However, the recent erection of poles ready for CCTV had already produced a positive impact.
They had studied neighbourhood policing methods in America, where members of the public were very involved, and pilot schemes were now being carried out in this country, with Princes Risborough going live tonight. Partnership was the key word, with objectives being discussed and solutions acted upon.
Inspector Dunbar ended by thanking the people of Thame for making his life easier than that experienced by colleagues in other areas.
7 It’s All Here Now
Morag Robinson, Manager of the One Stop Shop, who had been going to give this talk, was unwell and so the meeting moved to the next item on the agenda.
8 Citizens Advice Bureau – there when you need it?
Explaining the reason for the title of his talk, Peter Todd, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Citizens’ Advice Bureau, said that all CAB’s were independent charities, largely reliant upon a voluntary workforce and for funding from district and parish councils. Their
principle aim was to make sure that individuals didn’t suffer because of a lack of information.
Another very important part of their role nationally was to provide evidence on social policy issues. Their service was totally free, confidential, independent and impartial, and vigorous checks were made on the quality of their advice. Major problems in the last two or three years in Thame had meant they had lost volunteers and trustees and a third of the District Council grant. Things had vastly improved but it was still only possible to provide a 3-day a week service. They were keen to expand the service, perhaps to include home visits. Mr Todd was reviewing partnership opportunities and hoped that a Friends of CAB Group could be formed. He asked if anyone present would be prepared to run the new Thame Friends Group, or to become a volunteer or trustee?
The CAB office space at Market House was inadequate, with an uncertain future, and this was a distraction they could do without.
9 Use It or Lose It
Bob Davies, Chairman of the Thame Festival Committee, said that there would be no carnival procession this year because the cost had become prohibitive. A big outgoing during the course of the Festival every year was insurance. This had cost £1,000 last year and about half of that went on the public liability insurance for the carnival.
But his main challenge recently had been finding people willing to get involved with the Festival. He said it was as if the sense of community was now missing in Thame, with new residents being disinterested in taking part. It was a dilemma and he couldn’t think of a subtler way of saying so.
10 How can we put the community back into Thame?
Keith Slater, Chairman of the 21st Century Thame Partnership, said they had formed Strategy, Economy and Transport groups. The Economy Group had produced 28,000 ‘Try Thame First’ leaflets and created a lot of support for Thame. The Transport Group had undertaken a parking survey and discovered that those towns that had free parking did much better than those that didn’t. The Strategy Group had been formed to find out what the town wanted to achieve. The Partnership’s ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ was to introduce a multi-use community space for Thame, including an arts centre and facilities for young people. Such a facility could be sited in a number of places and the big challenge over the next 12 months was to come to a conclusion and pull out all the stops to get the funding.
11 Questions from Electors
A resident asked about the availability of the Fire Station and it was acknowledged that what the fire crew needed were purpose-built premises, slightly out of town.
Another resident posed a question about whether the potential developers of the Rycotewood College site would be building to the Merton Standard? It was confirmed that the developers were explaining the various sustainability standards they’d be incorporating.
The meeting concluded at 9.40 pm
Chairman, Annual Town Meeting 2007