02 August 2022 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 2 August 2022 at 6:30pm in the Upper Chamber, Town Hall, Thame.
Cllrs B Austin, D Bretherton, M Deacock, A Dite (Deputy Mayor), D Dodds, M Dyer, H Fickling, A Gilbert, K Gregory, C Jones, H Richards, and T Wyse
M Sturdy, Town Clerk
G Markland, Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Champken-Woods (personal), Cowell (personal), Emery (personal), and Midwinter (personal).
In the absence of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor Cllr Dite chaired the meeting.
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
Cllr Wyse declared an interest in Item 15 as an allotment holder at Stones Close Allotments. This was not a pecuniary interest and did not preclude Cllr Wyse from debating or voting on this item.
3 Civic Announcements
The civic attendances were noted. The Chairman highlighted that he and the Mayor had gone in the stocks at John Hampden School Fete.
4 Public Participation and Public Questions
There were no applications to address the Council.
There were no questions put to the Council.
5 Reports from County Councillors
The report was noted, within which there was a link to the county’s 20mph delivery schedule with Thame due for phase 2 (2023-24).
Was there an update on the Wellington Street crossing? Cllr Gregory understood that it had been approved but would follow this up, find out a timeline and report back.
What was the history on Nelson Street regarding the traffic surveys? Cllr Gregory advised that this had been a long-standing issue, which related to the junction at Nelson Street / Southern Road where the right of way appeared to be the wrong way round. In addition to commissioning a survey for this, Officers would be exploring introducing a one-way system on Nelson Street / Rooks Lane, although it was noted that there had been objections from residents when this was previously explored.
6 Reports from South Oxfordshire District Councillors
The report was noted. District Councillor Barker highlighted various grant updates within the report. Cllr Barker advised that he had spoken to the housing team regarding the social housing waiting list in Thame, which had shown that the biggest unmet need was for 1-bed properties, and the need for 3-bed properties was much smaller. Cllr Barker advised he could put this data into a spreadsheet and circulate, as it may be useful for the Thame Neighbourhood Plan review.
Cllr Bretherton was pleased to report that South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) can now demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply, thanks to the hard work of their Officers. This would help prevent speculative development.
Regarding the declaration of a Cost of Living emergency, whilst Members agreed there was a problem, it was questioned whether declaring it as an emergency was an appropriate choice of wording. Cllr Barker advised that it was intended to put pressure on the Government to take the action that is required now to support SODC to help its residents. It was noted that the Thame Foodbank had seen a 21% increase in users from May to June, which would not be expected at this time of year.
Members were pleased to see that the District Council had awarded a grant to Citizens Advice Thame, as this service would be invaluable during an emergency.
7 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)
Cllr Deacock questioned what the Town Council was doing about the weeds in the town? The Chairman advised that this was a matter for the County Council, but agreed there was a problem and the Town Council would put the case to the relevant authorities. It was noted that Thame Wombles continue to do a fantastic job on a voluntary basis in clearing the town of weeds and rubbish.
The Minutes of the Committee Meeting held on 21 June 2022 were confirmed as a correct record, and were signed by the Chairman.
9 Policy & Resources Committee
It was noted that the meeting on 19 July 2022 was cancelled and has been rescheduled to 30 August 2022.
10 Community, Leisure & Recreation Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 12 July 2022 were noted.
11 Planning & Environment Committee
The minutes of the meetings held on 5 July 2022 and 26 July 2022 were noted. Cllr Dodds apologised for not giving his apologies at the meeting on 5 July 2022.
12 Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 26 July 2022 were noted.
13 Schedule of Meetings
The Committee Services Officer advised that there had been some further changes to the Schedule of Meetings as listed on the agenda. The Personnel meeting would be held on 16th August (3pm) not 9th August, and the Planning & Environment committee on 16th August was cancelled due to a low number of applications for consideration. The Committee Services Officer would circulate the updated Schedule of Meetings via email.
14 Thame Fair
Members were asked to approve and sign the 2022 one-year September and October Fairs Agreement with The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, London & Home Counties Section. It was confirmed that this was a one-year agreement with the same arrangements as previous years, and that The Showmen’s Guild had signed the agreement.
It was noted that negotiations for the 2023 September and October Fairs Agreement will take place on Friday 16 September 2022 with the Showmen’s Guild delegation and Town Council. It was suggested that the invitation be extended to other Councillors to support Officers, as several members of the Fair Working Group could not attend.
- The Council approves and signs the 2022 one-year September and October Fairs Agreement with The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, London & Home Counties Section.
15 Windmill Road – Stones Close Allotment Site
The report was noted. Windmill Road is managed by Highways, but south of the Phoenix Trail there is no registered owner. The owner of Meadowbrook House was now seeking to take ownership of this section of road. This could impact on the Stones Close Allotments which is accessed from this section of road, as a future owner and/or a change of use or increase in traffic to any of the sites accessed from this section of road could result in access arrangements being changed or restricted if the road was privately owned. Therefore, it was sensible that the Town Council acted, with other interested parties, to take joint or sole ownership of the road in the interests of residents and securing the allotments site.
Members felt this appeared to be an entirely speculative attempt to prevent the Thame Community Land Trust (CLT) development, which would be accessed from this road. Was there any reason as to why one party would have more of a claim than another party? The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) advised that the occupant at Meadowbrook House has successfully claimed ownership of part of this road since 2020, which the Town Council has no record of. However, the Town Council has at least 165 allotment holders, the paddock owner has a commercial interest as they lease their land, and the landowner of the land north of the paddock also owns the land where Windmill Road crosses the Phoenix Trail. All of these parties have a genuine interest in maintaining access and preventing the road being privately owned, which collectively is of greater interest.
Cllr Austin advised that resolving this matter was imperative to the Thame CLT fulfilling 31 affordable homes for Thame people. The project was close to securing full planning permission and signing the heads of agreements with the Housing Association, and an application had recently been made to the Charities Aid Foundation with further funding secured.
Overall Members felt the Town Council should take all actions to resist the claim for private ownership of the road, in the interests of maintaining access for all landowners and allotment holders.
- The Town Council investigates the claim made for ownership of Windmill Road from Meadowbrook House northwards to its junction with the Phoenix Trail and works with similarly affected parties in the area to formalise land ownership arrangements with the Land Registry, to protect the interests of the Town Council and residents.
16 Oxfordshire Code of Conduct
The report was noted. The Oxfordshire Secretaries and Monitoring Officers Group are recommending that all Town and Parish Councils adopt the new countywide Code of Conduct, which SODC had adopted in May 2022. This has been adapted from the Code of Conduct that the Local Government Association had consulted on in 2020.
The Committee Services Officer advised that Officers would be undertaking training by SODC on the new Code of Conduct to ensure it was suitable for the Town Council. Free online training was also being offered to Councillors and it was strongly recommended that Councillors attended this, so they had a good understanding prior to it being brought to Council for adoption.
Adoption of the new Code is not mandatory, but there were benefits to all Councillors in Oxfordshire being covered by the same Code.
17 Community Governance Review
The report was noted. SODC were re-consulting on draft proposals for the community governance review, following a public consultation and committee recommendations. SODC supported the Town Council’s request to alter the warding arrangements in Thame, to address the imbalance between the North and South Wards. However, SODC did not support the request to extend the parish boundary to include current and future employment land to the west of Thame on Rycote Lane, some of which is / would be in the parish of Great Haseley.
It was noted that Great Haseley Parish Council had objected to the change in parish boundary, but it was noted that they had previously been open to the idea of changing the Neighbourhood Plan boundary.
Overall it was felt that the Town Council should maintain its request to extend the parish boundary. It was understood that Thame Cattle Market’s charter limits it to being held within the boundary of Thame, but the site it has permission for is currently within the parish of Great Haseley. It was also felt that there was a lack of joined up thinking within SODC. Cllr Bretherton did not support the District Officer’s report and agreed to raise the matter with other District Councillors.
- The Town Council maintains its original comments regarding the Community Governance Review, adding the possible complications regarding the Thame Cattle Market charter.
18 Exclusion of the Press and Public
- Under Section 1, Paragraph 2 of The Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business because publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest by reason of the confidential nature of the business to be transacted.
The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer and Committee Services Officer left the meeting.
19 Personnel Committee
As part of a wider staffing review, a new Environmental Officer role was considered. This role would take the lead on implementing the Council’s adopted Green Living Plan and all environmental and sustainability issues affecting Thame. It was proposed that this role will be filled by a suitable internal candidate, with a likely starting date for the role to be 1st September 2022. In addition, it was proposed that aspects of the roles and responsibilities of the Market Town Coordinator would be delegated to other staff with an ongoing review to assess the needs of this post.
As a progressive and supportive employer, the Council also considered supporting the Committee Services Officer in completing an apprenticeship for Future Leadership with Henley Business School. It was proposed that the Clerk be given delegated responsibility to ensure the correct processes are followed.
- The Council approve a new Environmental Officer role, to be filled by a suitable internal candidate. Aspects of the roles and responsibilities of the Market Town Coordinator would be delegated to other staff with an ongoing review to assess the needs of this post.
- The Council approve supporting the Committee Services Officer in completing an apprenticeship for Future Leadership with Henley Business School and has delegated responsibility to the Clerk to ensure the correct processes are followed.
The meeting concluded at 7:32pm.
Chairman, 30 August 2022