02 June 2020 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Virtual Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 2 June 2020 at 6.30pm by Zoom Conference Call.
Cllrs B Austin, D Bretherton, N Champken-Woods, P Cowell (Deputy Mayor), A Dite, D Dodds, M Dyer, L Emery, H Fickling, S Francis, K Gregory, C Jones, A Midwinter (Town Mayor), J Tipping and T Wyse
J Cole, Town Clerk
C Pinnells, Community Services Manager
G Markland, Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Cllr Deacock (Personal). All Members who were present were able to be seen and be heard.
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
There were no declarations of interest.
3 Civic Announcements
Cllr Midwinter congratulated and thanked the Maintenance Team on their work at St Mary’s Churchyard. The Mayor also thanked all the Town Council staff involved in ensuring the full market could safely return earlier today. Members of the public appreciated the safety measures that had been put in place.
4 Public Participation and Public Questions
Mr Andy Jinman spoke to the Council in support of some of the measures discussed during Agenda Item 5 of the previous meeting. Mr Jinman had been a long supporter of the introduction of 20mph speed limits and cycle lanes, and would support the Council in pursuing this in the town centre. Research and evidence has shown that 20mph speed limits lead to a reduction in accidents, the likelihood of dying in an accident, and pollution as a result of less braking and accelerating. It would also encourage people to use the town centre and make it a safer and cleaner place to be.
The Chairman advised that this was work in progress and his comments were noted, and thanked Mr Jinman for speaking to the Council.
Three other speakers were registered to speak at the meeting. It was agreed that as these related to the planning applications, they would speak when the meeting reached Agenda Items 7 and 8.
5 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)
Cllr Wyse had visited the market earlier which covered the whole car park to allow all stallholders to safely trade. Cllr Wyse asked whether this could become a permanent arrangement? The Town Clerk advised that the Community Services Manager had been trying to obtain a road closure on the side road with South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC), who responded at short notice that they would not support this. Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) had permitted the closure but only for this week. The Town Council was working to keep this in place for the duration of social distancing, as the extra space made a tangible difference for traders and the public today.
The minutes of the meeting held on 19 May 2020 were approved.
7 1253 – P20/S0928/FUL – Land at The Elms, Upper High Street
Mr Mark Sitch, of Barton Willmore, spoke in support of the application as the agent. Following the appeal decision in October 2019, this application has carefully considered the issues raised by the Inspector. The proposed development is for 66 extra care units (C2 class) and a residents centre. The extra care use is the same as has been considered acceptable at a site in Shiplake. All care services would be managed from the resident’s centre and coordinated by the appointed care quality commissioned provider. There is an identified need for C2 market provision, as outlined in the application’s supporting documents. This application seeks a reduction in the footprint of the 2015 application and appeal scheme, but with a similar design and materials. Mr Sitch disagreed with the Heritage Officer’s view that the development would be harmful to the Conservation Area, adding that the Inspector was of the opinion that any harm to the heritage would be balanced by the public benefits of the scheme. The scheme will free-up family homes for those looking to downsize through the provision of 66 specialist accommodation units. The scheme would not deliver affordable housing, but would offer £1.855m as a contribution to off-site affordable housing. The scheme would offer various community benefits such as 1.2 hectares of public open space, £560,000 for improvements to Elms Park and a reduced demand on local primary health care services due to the on-site care provision. Mr Sitch reported that OCC Highways had no objection to this application, which would see 12 fewer units that the previous application and a reduction in parking spaces. A new outline planning application had been submitted for improvements to Elms Park as required by the Thame Neighbourhood Plan (TNP).
Members questioned how the need had been calculated locally and how it could be guaranteed the scheme would provide and be suitable for local people? Mr Sitch advised that the need had been calculated with the findings of two reports that modelled data across the district and more specifically for Thame – the first from Contact Consulting and secondly Barton Willmore’s own Development Economics Research Team. Both of the findings of these reports were considered acceptable by the Inspector during the appeal, and the figures have been updated since as part of this current application. The scheme had been designed based on the identified need for extra care provision in Thame, with a range of unit sizes and types which would have varying price points, although these figures were not available and it was noted that it would be impossible to guarantee that Thame people would occupy them.
Members asked Mr Sitch for more details on the entry requirements of the extra care units. Mr Sitch advised that people would be assessed and would need to require at least 2 hours of specialist care and be aged 65 or over at the time of joining. The scheme would provide specialist care on-site, unlike residential care homes, and could include dementia care.
The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) added that the absence of affordable housing was important given the shortfall of it in Thame and that other developments nearby had been overturned by the Secretary of State due to not meeting affordable housing needs across the district, even though housing needs had been met. With reference to TNP policy HA4, the applicant decided this was out of date as a housing policy, however it is as much a conservation policy as a housing one and therefore remains valid.
i) Thame Town Council Objects to the application as it is not in conformance with Thame Neighbourhood Plan Policies as set out in the Officer’s report.
8 1262 – P20/S1355/FUL – Goodson Industrial Mews, Unit 8 Wellington Street
Mr Alex Edge, of Edgars Limited, spoke in support of the application as the agent. The proposals at Unit 8 Goodson Industrial Mews represent part of a wider regeneration scheme on the site. Unit 5 was recently granted permission for 8 apartments, and Units 6-7 have extant permission for residential conversion. Units 1-4 would be safeguarded from residential conversion through the removal of permitted development rights to be secured via condition. Unit 8 is a blank and unattractive warehouse and it is considered that the proposed 8 apartments would revitalise the site and complement the design of the approved apartments at Unit 5. The proposed development would sit 25m from the rear elevation of East Street dwellings and 40m from the Wellington Street dwellings. The proposal seeks to address privacy and amenity concerns through timber panelling on the southern terraces and fenestration sitings. The new building will be a modest height increase of 1.8m from the existing building but this would not facilitate direct overlooking of neighbouring gardens. The parking arrangements are compliant with OCC standards, with access control measures and visitor parking proposed. The scheme is also committed to delivering electric vehicle charging points. In conclusion, the application seeks to revitalise the site with active frontage and greenery, provide a mix of high quality apartments with good residential amenity and safeguarding employment at Units 1-4.
There were no questions for Mr. Edge.
Mr Stuart Blayney, a resident of East Street, spoke against the application on behalf of East Street residents. Mr Blayney explained that the residents felt SODC had not given them sufficient notification or time to review the complex plans and they had only been made aware that the meeting this evening was taking place by a chance phone call with the case officer. Mr Blayney advised that Unit 8 was not unoccupied as Silent View Windows had been occupying it for the last year, with other businesses also occupying it over the last few years. Therefore as the building is in commercial use, the application was contrary to the TNP policies on employment land retention. The application, compared to the previous application in 2015, is for higher density and greater scale, height and footprint. The residents of East Street felt the plans represented overdevelopment, and would be overbearing and invasive. It was noted that the new dwelling at 4 East Street, which sits on the boundary of the proposed development, was not included on the plans. The development was also out of character given it borders the Conservation Area, and parking was insufficient given the existing parking issues on Wellington Street and East Street which have been exacerbated by other new development in the area.
Mr Blayney clarified that Silent View Windows were currently occupying Units 2 and 8 at Goodson Industrial Mews. Mr Reaston-Brown, the property agent for the site, further clarified that this was a non-commercial arrangement for short-term storage whilst renovation works were carried out at Unit 2.
The NPCO reminded Members of the meeting in February 2020 with the developers, where Members were generally supportive of the design, gradual redevelopment of the site and retention of some employment on the site. The NPCO addressed the concerns raised by East Street residents, as the site would be close to their boundaries. However it was considered that SODC would be likely to consider the back-to-back distance between East Street dwellings and the proposed development as a town centre site, as acceptable. It was considered that the terraces and modest height increase would still offer sufficient privacy. The development would offer a visual improvement to the site, particularly on the front elevation with careful consideration of building materials.
Some Members raised concern about the protection of employment space and that by approving this scheme, it would be contrary to TNP policies on employment loss and inconsistent with the legal action the Town Council was taking on the former DAF site to protect employment land. The NPCO confirmed that, although the whole site had been marketed as part of the 2015 application, Unit 8 had not been marketed as part of the current application as required by TNP policies.
Other Members noted that there was a known shortage of 1 & 2 bedroom apartments in the town that the Town Council should support this application, as per the Officer’s recommendation.
A motion to support the application, as per the Officer’s recommendation, was put forward. Cllr Bretherton requested, under Standing Order 6.1, that this vote was recorded. Members voted as follows:
- In support of the motion (5) – Cllrs Champken-Woods, Dite, Gregory, Midwinter and Wyse
- Against the motion (8) – Cllrs Austin, Bretherton, Cowell, Dyer, Dodds, Emery, Jones and Tipping
- Abstained (2) – Cllrs Fickling and Francis
Therefore on being put to the vote, the motion to support the application fell.
i) Thame Town Council Objects to the application as it is not in conformance with Thame Neighbourhood Plan policy WS12.
9 Football Foundation Grant – Terms of Acceptance
The report was noted. Thame Football Partnership (TFP) have been successful in their grant application, and required the Town Council’s support and agreement in the Terms and Conditions. The Town Clerk spoke through the conditions and requirements as outlined in the report. It was considered that the Town Council would be able to comply with the requirements. It was noted that due to the Covid-19 pandemic there had been delays in awarding the contract and there may be a £25,000 increase in materials as a result, but the Football Foundation grant would cover this increase in construction costs.
Members raised concern about using the Town Council’s investments, particularly given the current situation, to forward-fund S106, and asked whether other options for borrowing could be considered such as from TFP, Rathbones, the bank or Public Works Loan Board (PWLB). The Town Clerk reminded Councillors that they had committed to forward-funding this project prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Borrowing for parish councils is not as straight-forward and may impact the ability to borrow in the future. Borrowing from the PWLB would result in a delay to this project and additional work as a consultation would need to take place, so this would not be possible as the Town Council only had 6 weeks to agree to the terms. The Town Clerk added that whilst the Covid-19 pandemic had resulted in a loss of income, community projects requiring the Town Council’s support had not slowed down. It was acknowledged that a lot of work had gone into getting the project to this stage so it was important the grant was not lost.
It was suggested that the Town Clerk investigate other options for funding under due diligence to mitigate the impact of this project and future projects on the Town Council’s investments.
i) The Terms and Conditions of the Football Foundation Grant be accepted.
10 Returning to Working in the Town Hall
The Town Clerk advised that options would be discussed with the Management Team tomorrow. A risk assessment had been prepared with the Asset Manager and Community Services Manager which considered how many staff could safely work in the office at one time whilst maintaining social distancing given the shared facilities and narrow corridors. This risk assessment would be circulated once agreed by all staff. A Perspex screen for the Information Centre was being investigated to protect staff and customers and the cleaning regime was being reviewed too. One of the three Car Park Attendants was able to return to work so appropriate PPE was being sourced for when they return. All staff would be given the option to continue working at home or in the office.
With the time approaching 8:30pm, it was proposed and agreed to suspend Standing Order 5.0 in order to conclude the remaining business on the agenda.
11 Thame Sports Club – Community Loan
Thame Sports Club had requested a bridging loan of £60,000 for three months as part of their clubhouse rebuild. They have secured the required grants from SODC but need to meet the costs of the contractors before this money can be drawn down. The Town Clerk had discussed this with the Budget Working Group who indicated their support for this. The money would be sourced from the Town Council’s own reserves rather than its Capital Reserves.
i) The request from Thame Sports Club for a Bridging Loan of £60,000 be approved.
The meeting concluded at 8:32pm
Signed ……………………… Date ………………..