20 July 2021 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of a Meeting of the Community, Leisure & Recreation Committee held on 20 July 2021 at 6:30pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall.
Cllrs N Champken-Woods (Deputy Mayor), P Cowell (Town Mayor), A Dite (Chairman), M Dyer, K Gregory, C Jones, L Emery (Deputy Chairman), H Richards, and T Wyse
C Pinnells, Acting Town Clerk
A Oughton, Asset Manager
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
C Boundy, Thame Green Living
1 Deputy Chairman
Following the replacement of Cllr Midwinter with Cllr Emery on this committee, as agreed at Full Council on 22 June 2021, there was a vacancy for the Deputy Chairman.
The Chairman called for nominations for the position of Deputy Chairman of the Community, Leisure & Recreation Committee for the 2021-2022 municipal year. It was moved and duly seconded that Cllr Emery be appointed Deputy Chairman. There being no other nominations, it was:
- Cllr Emery be appointed Deputy Chairman of the Community, Leisure & Recreation Committee for the 2021-2022 municipal year.
2 Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Deacock (personal) and Tipping (personal).
3 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
Cllr Emery declared an interest in Item 12 as a volunteer with Thame Youth Projects. Cllr Cowell declared an interest in Item 10 as a resident adjoining Queen Elizabeth Circle. These were not pecuniary interests and did not preclude either Councillor from debating or voting on these items.
4 Public Participation and Public Questions
There were no applications to address the Committee.
There were no questions put to the Committee.
The minutes of the meetings held on 13 April 2021 and 18 May 2021 were approved and signed by the Chairman.
6 Budget Summary
Members received the Budget Summary up to 31 May 2021.
It was clarified that with regards to the relatively large budget for Outside Services, this covered a wide range of expenditure such as vehicles, staffing costs, depot maintenance and servicing and was showing 20% expenditure at the end of the first quarter against an expected 16.6%.
7 Reports from Representatives on External Organisations
The reports were noted. Cllr Dite suggested that representatives ask their organisations if they had a 5-year / corporate plan. The Town Council would be working to create one for itself and it would be helpful to be aware of the longer-term ambitions of the organisations, particularly when awarding grants for example.
Friends of Elms Park:-
Cllr Champken-Woods highlighted that Thame Concert Band would be performing in Elms Park on 1 August 2021, and that the link to the article on the Twelfth Night had been erroneously placed under this report rather than for Thame Town Cricket Club.
8 Open Spaces Working Group
Cllr Dite advised that the Open Spaces Working Group (OSWG) had amended its Terms of Reference so that the Chair of the Community, Leisure & Recreation Committee was by default the Chair of the OSWG. This had been the arrangement for some time however it was never formally within the Terms of Reference.
Following the meeting of the OSWG, the Asset Manager advised that the street collection license for the event in Elms Park on 1 August had been approved today. With regards to dog bins, the Council was aware of the broken bin at Chinnor Rugby Club and it would be replaced with the spare bin the Town Council had. The Asset Manager reported that there had been a small number of complaints in relation to the wilding areas, however some of those who had complained were now volunteering to help with monitoring their areas. Overall, the response had been largely positive, and, through social media, the Town Council had been made aware of an orchid that had appeared in one of the wilding areas. Cllr Jones reported that a resident on Towersey Road appeared to be cutting one of the areas back. The Asset Manager advised that she was not aware of this and would investigate and contact the resident. Mr. Boundy, Chairman of Thame Green Living, added that people had a tendency for neatness and tidiness but there were powerful reasons for letting areas grow. Firstly, grass cutting destroys biodiversity and prevents wildlife from prospering, and secondly longer grass captures carbon. Mr. Boundy added that he was looking forward to working more with the OSWG.
- The amended Terms of Reference for the Open Spaces Working Group be approved.
An opportunity had been identified at Howland Road for rewilding by the entrance to Lucy Electric and other units. Mr. Boundy advised that Lucy Electric were supportive in principle of the proposals and would contribute to the cost. The idea behind the proposal was to allow those entering Thame via the ring road to be met with a sense of nature. It was hoped that businesses would cover the cost and provide volunteers, and therefore there would be no cost to the Town Council. The proposals have been discussed with the Asset Manager and Maintenance Team, and neighbours would be consulted. The next step was to form a group on the ‘Friends of’ principle to manage planting and ongoing maintenance.
- The Town Council supports the greening / rewilding proposal on Howland Road.
Rycote Meadow is an area of land owned and managed by the Town Council. There are various utility pipes that run under the area. A S106 contribution from Bloor Homes, approximately £26,000, will enable a path to be created connecting the Thame Meadows estate and Oxford Road. A grant from the Town Council for signage had been received, and a grant from Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE) was being sought for planting.
Thame Green Living were asked by the Town Council to help with the opening up of Rycote Meadow. The vision was to create a path that did not affect the neighbours, provided a connection to the Thame Meadows estate and was accessible for all users. The proposal was for a new pedestrian gate, which may require planning permission, rather than using the existing farming gate. The path would be 1.5m wide, sit 2m inside the riverbank, and withstand flooding. There would be an open-mesh post and wire enclosure to prevent dogs from entering the meadow, and disturb wildlife. Thame Green Living had met with the Asset Manager, the District Council’s S106 Officer and Bloor Homes who were all supportive. It was expected that there might be some objection, but immediate neighbours would be consulted. The next step would be to contact Bloor Homes, should the Town Council support the proposals.
- The Town Council supports the proposal to open up Rycote Meadow.
The Chairman thanked Mr. Boundy and Thame Green Living for all their work. It was also highlighted that Low Carbon Hub had chosen Thame Green Living as their community group of the month. This was fantastic and highlighted Thame in ways the Town Council had never expected.
9 Thame Town Awards
It was moved and seconded that this item be taken after Item 10, given that Mr Boundy would also be presenting to that item.
Cllr Dite was a member of the Town Awards Panel and explained that at the panel meeting earlier this month, it had been agreed that this year’s awards would remove the Lifetime Achievement Award in order to accommodate a ‘Volunteer Group of the Year’ award without diluting the awards with too many categories. It was noted that there will be an awards ceremony this year with Officers currently investigating options for venues. Sponsorship had been secured from 3 sponsors – Red Kite Radio, Pentangle and Rhubarb Seating. Nominations will open on Thursday.
10 Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
It was noted that the May Bank Holiday Weekend will be moved to Thursday 2 June 2022 and an additional Bank Holiday on Friday 3 June 2022 will see a four-day weekend to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
The Asset Manager advised that Thame Green Living had put a proposal to the Town Council to plant a small grove at Queen Elizabeth Circle. Initially the idea was for a memorial grove, which then evolved to form part of the Queen’s Jubilee and Queen’s Green Canopy project. The Mayor’s tree was recently planted and it was envisaged that this could be the centre of the grove, which would start small and expand over time. There would be a low-level hedge surrounding a series of trees which would provide canopy but not be too large. It would provide a space for people to remember lost ones, as well as serving as a carbon capture and for biodiversity.
Concern was raised regarding the proximity of the proposed trees to the neighbouring properties. The Asset Manager provided reassurance that the Town Council was aware of the implications of planting trees close to neighbouring properties, and these residents would be consulted.
Concern was also raised that the area may attract anti-social behaviour, and therefore create another problem and the Town Council would be responsible for litter-picking too. The Asset Manager advised that it would be a phased project, with the seating likely to be the last aspect, which would allow the Town Council to monitor this. Advice from the police would be sought too.
Whilst Members recognised the concerns raised regarding possible anti-social behaviour, it was recognised that this was part of a wider issue of lack of space for young people in Thame. Overall, it was felt that the possibility of anti-social behaviour should not become a barrier to the Town Council supporting this commendable project. It was also suggested the Town Council and Thame Green Living should engage young people in the project.
Another concern was raised that the memorial grove may dilute the significance of the War Memorial and Youth Memorial in the Town Centre. It was suggested that the grove could be a sensory garden instead, which was an idea that had been previously suggested for the town centre memorials. Mr. Boundy (Thame Green Living) felt that the proposed memorial grove was not in competition with the Town Centre memorials given its greener setting and would exist in its own right, offering a place of quiet reflection to celebrate the life of lost ones.
- The Town Council supports the proposal to plant a small grove in Queen Elizabeth Circle, subject to consultation with local residents and stakeholders.
The Acting Town Clerk sought ideas from Members to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Buckingham Palace had issued plans for the four-day weekend, as outlined in the report. The Town Council had a beacon which could be used on 2 June 2022. Other options to celebrate the event would be through supporting the small grove, as agreed earlier, and perhaps the Carnival may adopt a theme. Cllr Emery advised she would suggest this at the next Carnival meeting. Other suggestions put forward included incorporating the Music Festival, however the date had already been set for 2022, or inviting Sealed Knot, however they would need to check facilities first.
It was noted that the Town Council was prepared in the event that the Queen passed away prior to the Platinum Jubilee next year.
It was agreed that Members would suggest ideas to the Chairman and Acting Town Clerk after the meeting, and that this item would be brought back to the committee in October to request financial support.
11 Cut & Collect Mower
The Asset Manager advised that as part of the greening / rewilding project the Town Council required a mower that could cut and collect large areas, to enable these areas to flourish. As part of researching the project, the Town Council had met with Chesham Town Council who advised that they had found the Iseki model to be the best, having tested several models. Therefore, the Asset Manager was recommending that the Town Council lease the Iseki model for a period of 48 months. There was no budget allocated for this, so until April costs for leasing would be covered through the Localism Fund.
Members raised concern that the Council would not receive a return on investment as the mower would only be used twice a year. The Asset Manager advised that the mower could cut ‘normal’ grassed areas too, as well as be used for leaf collection, so she was certain that the Town Council would find other uses for it, and it would provide an additional mower for the Maintenance Team. It was noted that the Town Council would need to be mindful that the mower would be limited to 200-250 hours usage per year on a lease contract however it was expected that the Town Council would not exceed this. The servicing would be £300 +VAT and be required twice a year, and a blade change would be £139.
Members discussed various options for acquiring the mower, including hiring as and when needed, purchasing outright using investment funds to retain the residual value after 4 years, or having an agreement with Chesham Town Council (or another local council / landowner undertaking a similar project) for this year only or on a longer-term basis. It was suggested that Helpful Hirings, a local company, be contacted to see if they had a cut and collect mower, however it was considered that as the mower was a specialist piece of kit this was unlikely.
Overall Members felt more information was needed on the alternative options for acquiring the mower, beyond those outlined within the report, as well as information on the expected number of hours required to undertake the cutting. It was also suggested that Officers should find out which other councils use John Deere and Kubota mowers. It was noted that the grass needed to be cut during dry weather in August / September otherwise the efforts of the rewilding project so far will have been wasted.
- The Asset Manager seeks further information as requested by this committee and the item be taken to the next Full Council meeting.
12 Thame Youth Projects
It was noted that Thame Youth Projects, in partnership with the Town Council, have appointed an architect to conduct a feasibility study into the best location for a new Community Youth Centre in Thame.
13 Thame Fairs
It was noted that Officers will be meeting with the Showmen’s Guild at the end of July 2021 to discuss the new agreement, which will be formally authorised at the Full Council meeting on 10 August 2021. Cllr Dite advised that the Council wanted the fair to come however there were some negotiations and discussions to take place first.
14 Maintenance Report
The report was noted. Members were proud of the amazing flowers at the Memorial Gardens this year. The Asset Manager advised that the team had intentionally planned for bright colours. It was also noted that due to jury service, annual leave and self-isolation, the Maintenance Team had been operating with only two staff members and were prioritising workloads.
The meeting concluded at 7:50pm
Chairman, 26 October 2021