13 April 2021 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of a Meeting of the Community, Leisure & Recreation Committee held on 13 April 2021 at 6:30pm by Zoom Conference Call.
Cllrs D Bretherton, N Champken-Woods (Chairman), P Cowell (Deputy Mayor), M Deacock. A Dite, M Dyer, K Gregory, A Midwinter (Town Mayor), J Tipping and T Wyse
C Pinnells, Acting Town Clerk
A Oughton, Asset Manager
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
Cllr H Fickling
Following the passing of H R H Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh on 9 April 2021, the Mayor led a minute’s silence to show the Town Council’s respect and condolences. The Mayor would be leading the national minute’s silence on 17 April 2021 outside the Town Hall in line with Covid-19 guidance.
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence received from Cllr Jones (business).
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
There were no declarations of interest or dispensations.
3 Public Participation and Public Questions
Mrs Mary Stiles spoke on behalf of the Cattle Market Action Group (CMAG) and the groups they represent in relation to Item 8 – Thame Youth Projects. CMAG recognise and support the Town Council’s aspirations for a Youth Centre in Thame, particularly following the closure of the facility at Lord Williams’s Lower School in 2010 which was a loss for Thame’s young people. It was noted that the Community Youth Centre Working Group (CYCWG) were proposing a combined Community and Youth Centre. CMAG had previously undertaken nationwide research on community centres on behalf of local community groups. Community facilities sit at the heart of the community. It was therefore disappointing that the Cattle Market site was dismissed. Had there been discussion with South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) since the change in leadership? Are SODC only interested in the site as a considerable financial asset? The Cattle Market would make an ideal site for the community centre given its central location and would make a great contribution to the vitality of the town centre. The proposed site at Southern Road Recreation Ground (SRRG) is within walking distance but is separated from the town centre, which may alienate young people from engagement. Furthermore, as the site is on an open field and away from housing this may present issues at certain times. CMAG had not been involved in discussions so far but had the following questions for the Town Council to give confidence to the community of Thame in the proposals moving forwards.
- What research has been undertaken to understand what does and does not work as a youth centre in a place similar to Thame? Has an appraisal of the Youth Centre at Lord Williams’s School or similar centres been carried out?
- Are financial plans available, that demonstrates how the centre will be funded long term, ensuring that there will be appropriate levels of qualified staff, safeguarding and security?
- How many, and which, groups will use the facility and what will be available to them? What are the proposed hours and activities? Who will manage the centre?
- What size will the building be? Will it be able to accommodate larger groups and a range of activities?
- When will the feasibility studies for each of the proposed locations be published, so that the community and relevant agencies can be consulted?
- How do the proposals support the short-, medium- and long-term community facility needs, highlighted in the Thame Neighbourhood Plan, and wider strategic aspirations for Thame?
Clarity is needed as to whether this will primarily be a community centre with a youth centre, or a youth centre with community facilities available for ad-hoc use. It is important that we work together, and the community are clear on what their money is being spent on and that it will live up to future aspirations for Thame.
Members then discussed and made a recommendation on Item 8 – Thame Youth Projects.
The minutes of the meeting held on 9 February 2021 were approved and signed by the Chairman.
5 Budget Summary
Members received the Budget Summary up to 28 February 2021.
6 Reports from Representatives on External Organisations
The report was noted.
Friends of Elms Park: –
Cllr Champken-Woods advised that Thame Concert Band have agreed to hold a smaller event later in the year.
7 Open Spaces Working Group
The report was noted. The Asset Manager provided an update on various projects that the Open Spaces Working Group (OSWG) were involved with.
Firstly, a useful meeting with Chesham Town Council had been held with regards to greening and wilding the verges. The Asset Manager had undertaken a site visit all the identified areas along with members of Thame Green Living (TGL), who were now recruiting volunteers to monitor the areas. Signage would be displayed over the next few weeks at the areas to explain why they were not being cut. A press release had recently been published in the Town Council’s newsletter, website, and social media. Cllr Champken-Woods added that he had seen a demo of the ‘cut and collect’ mower which would be used and was impressed.
Secondly, opening up Rycote Meadow, which had been a longstanding project for the Town Council, was progressing. A small task group, comprising of members of the TGL and the Asset Manager, were preparing a design brief for the area which would then be circulated to the OSWG for comment. Flooding concerns were raised with regards to having a pond at Rycote Meadow. The Asset Manager advised that the details of this have not been confirmed but would be shared when available and the Environment Agency would be consulted to ensure no adverse effect on the River Thame or Cuttlebrook.
Thirdly, it was proposed that the gate be opened to enable access to the triangular-shaped land between the Skate Park and Moorend Lane. This would enable safer pedestrian access from Queen Elizabeth Circle Play Area to the public footpath on Moorend Lane.
Finally, it was noted that there was a vacancy on the OSWG following the resignation of Sonja Francis. This vacancy would be filled at the Annual Meeting next month.
8 Thame Youth Projects
Cllr Cowell thanked Mrs Stiles for her comments and good overview. Over the last 18 months, Thame Youth Projects have reviewed various sites and reached out to the local community. The focus now was to determine the location, so that the type and size of the facility could be decided. The CYCWG had found that Thame had limited site options that could deliver the project in a short timeframe. The Cattle Market site would be an ideal location, but the Town Council had no control over this and there was uncertainty over the lease. It was concluded that SRRG was the most logical location, but the type and size of the building would be decided by the Town Council and community. The building would hold a Community Centre and a Youth Centre and would likely be open 9am to 9pm, but staffing needed to be considered. Thame Youth Projects (TYP) had investigated funding for the Youth Centre, which would be rented out during the day. It was recognised that antisocial behaviour was an issue at SRRG, and this would be taken into account, if chosen as the location for the Community Youth Centre. TYP had recently had discussions with residents who felt the issue was unacceptable, and with the local police who felt that a well-designed building and parking on this site would reduce antisocial behaviour issues.
For the CYCWG to move forward, a decision on the location was needed before the community was consulted on what should be in the building. The report presented three options for the SRRG site, which was particularly attractive given the associated S106 funding. Option 1 proposed a Community Youth Centre, which would be around 500-600sqm in size although it was noted that the football pitch could not be changed as it was protected by the Football Association. Option 2 proposed a combined Community Centre and Town Council offices at SRRG, with the Youth Centre occupying the Town Hall. The current Town Council offices were not ideal, and this option presented an opportunity to redesign and refurbish the Town Hall with the future in mind. Option 3 proposed a Community & Youth Centre and Town Council offices at SRRG, with the Town Hall being sold or leased to raise funds for the new building.
Previous discussions regarding a community centre had included provision to accommodate 300 people, how would this centre compare? Cllr Cowell advised that 300 people would be a considerable size and for comparison the Girl Guide HQ and Town Hall could each take 100 people standing.
With regards to the Cattle Market, it was noted that the lease was due to expire this year but had been extended for 3 years. This made the site unviable from the TYP point of view, particularly with regards to the timebound S106 funding. The Thame Youth Café was a temporary measure and there was an increasing realisation that Thame’s young people needed a place to call their own. It was also noted that there was a need to address Thame’s elderly population, particularly those with dementia.
Regarding the matter of new premises for the Town Council offices, it was felt that the Town Hall may be less unviable for working now Officers can work flexibly from the offices or home. It was felt that the Town Council offices should be located in the town centre, close to businesses, tourism areas and transport connections and therefore SRRG was not a suitable site. The discussion on relocating the Town Council offices should be held separately at a later date, however it was noted that the discussion needed to be had and the opportunity to improve the offices should not be lost.
Overall Members felt that Option 1 was the preferred option, however a feasibility study should be undertaken. The Acting Town Clerk reminded Members that this had not been budgeted for but that she would speak to the Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer to establish whether the Thame Neighbourhood Plan consultants could undertake this work. This could then be approved at the next Full Council meeting to avoid delays to the project. It was felt that as the centre would be using S106 funding, it needed to be part of the Thame Neighbourhood Plan considerations.
RECOMMENDED to Full Council that:
- A feasibility study is approved for the Community Youth Centre to be positioned at Southern Road Recreation Ground or within the town centre.
9 Memorial Gardens
It was noted that the refurbishment of the ponds and fountain, delayed from 2020 because of the pandemic, are due to take place, weather depending, late April / beginning of May. The Asset Manager confirmed that the works would include repairing the Pearce Memorial, which can only be done when the ponds are drained.
The installation of the silhouette figure in the Memorial Gardens was noted. The figure was presented by the Mayor of Thame following the National Day of Reflection on the 23 March to commemorate a year since the start of the first pandemic lockdown. The silhouette is to acknowledge the dedication of the medical profession, NHS Workers, Forces, and all Keyworkers and to remember those who have lost their lives during the pandemic.
Cllr Midwinter added that a plaque would be added to the figure and that it had the approval of the Royal British Legion.
10 Moreton Pond Repairs
The report was noted. The Asset Manager explained that during the very wet weather earlier in the year, Moreton Pond had overflowed, flooding the road and parts of the green opposite. Residents had made a valiant effort to pump the water out and lowered the water levels, however within days it was overflowing again. It has been established that the overflow pipe, which runs under the road and green, is either blocked or degraded where it runs under the road, therefore a County Council Highways approved contractor must undertake the works. Two contractors had been approached for a quote, and the Asset Manager confirmed that both contractors had quoted for a 150mm diameter pipe and resurfacing the Highway. Approval was required for the emergency expenditure for this work.
- Contractor A is appointed to carry out the work to the overflow pipe at Moreton Pond.
- The cost is met from General Reserves.
11 Play Area Strategy
The Asset Manager presented the Play Area Strategy which included minor updates. A comment was made in relation to Section 7 of the strategy regarding Elms Park play area which was becoming an embarrassment to the Town Council. The play equipment was in poor condition and a disservice to that area of the town. It was agreed that this would be taken as an urgent matter to the Open Spaces Working Group.
- The Play Area Strategy be approved.
12 Thame Town Awards 2021
The report was noted. The Committee Services Officer explained that due to Covid-19, it was unlikely that an awards ceremony would be able to take place this year however it was suggested that the Town Awards could be run in a similar way to the Thame Lockdown Awards that the Market Town Co-Ordinator and Thame Rewards Club ran in 2020. The emphasis would be on online nominations, with awards presented by the Mayor individually. Suggestions for ways to run the Town Awards this year were welcome, prior to the panel meeting in May, after the local elections and Annual Meeting of the Council.
It was suggested that the criteria for the categories should be reviewed for this year given that, due to Covid-19, there have been reduced opportunities for sporting achievements for example, and perhaps the categories should award those who have helped the town through the pandemic. The Committee Services Officer agreed to pass this onto the panel for consideration, although it was noted that the Lockdown Love Awards had done this last year and that there had not been a Town Awards ceremony since March 2019, so there were two years’ worth of achievements to recognise.
The Acting Town Clerk was seeking authorisation to progress an appropriate license with the operator of the Roots for Life Nursery at the Thame Girl Guides HQ Building. Their OFSTED report highlighted that an outdoor fenced off area was required and the Nursery have unofficially done this. The Acting Town Clerk was hoping to formalise this arrangement and have the damage to the grass repaired. The lease would be separate from the Guides as it would only be required for the operational hours of the nursery. The fenced area would be from where the shed was to the corner of the Girl Guides Building. The current area had become a mud bath which was concerning. The operator had suggested AstroTurf but this is high maintenance.
Concern was raised about the state of the area and the ongoing maintenance, whether this is grass, AstroTurf, wood chippings or another surface. It was noted that the fencing would be temporary and removed when the Nursery is not operational, and the area would be public open space. Therefore, it was important that the solution was suitable and sensible.
- The Acting Town Clerk and Asset Manager engage in discussions with the Nursery Operator regarding maintenance of the area and report back to the Community, Leisure and Recreation Committee.
14 Thame Town Music Festival
It was noted that the Thame Town Music Festival organisers have confirmed the event will be taking place on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 July 2021, subject to any Government directive.
In addition to using SRRG for car parking as usual, the organisers were seeking approval from the Town Council to use SRRG as one of the venues. This would be to provide a stage for Music in the Park, who have been unable to hold an event since 2019 due to Covid-19. It was expected that event plans for the rest of the event would be similar to previous years, including the use of pubs as venues, subject to any Covid-19 guidance.
- Thame Town Council approves the request for Thame Town Music Festival to use Southern Road Recreation Ground as one of the venues, subject to Government Covid-19 guidance and music only being played between 1:00pm and 7:00pm.
15 Themed Markets
It was noted that the World Village Market will be visiting Thame on 21-23 May 2021 and the French Market on 8-9 October 2021, subject to any Government directive.
The Acting Town Clerk advised that she and the Market Town Co-Ordinator were experiencing some difficulties with getting the road closure due to changes to the criteria in relation to Covid-19.
16 Maintenance Report
The report was noted.
The meeting concluded at 7:41pm
Chairman, 20 July 2021