02 March 2021 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 2 March 2021 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
C Pinnells, Acting Town Clerk
K Slater, Acting Responsible Financial Officer
G Markland, Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Cllr Deacock (personal). It was noted that Cllr Fickling would be leaving the meeting at 7:30pm.
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.
It was noted that, in relation to Items 5 and 6, Cllr Gregory and Cllr Bretherton as District Councillors on this Full Council will make their comments and decisions based upon information available at the time of the meeting. It is accepted that District Councillors may come to a different decision in the light of more information being made available at District Planning Committee Meetings.
3 Civic Announcements
Cllr Gregory joined the meeting during this item.
The Mayor acknowledged that John Hampden School had received an International School Award by the British Council; a prestigious award that recognised the school’s awareness and approach to international education. It is wonderful that Thame has teachers who encourage children to be internationally minded. The Mayor congratulated the school’s teachers and pupils on this award.
4 Public Participation and Public Questions
Cllr Bretherton joined the meeting during this item.
Mr Alex Edge spoke in support of Item 5 as the agent for planning application P21/S0056/FUL. Following detailed discussions with the Town Council and South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC), it was agreed that this application should be considered alongside planning application P20/S1355/FUL. The redevelopment of the site now comprised 26 apartments in total, with 8 already approved at Unit 5 (P19/S2720/FUL), containing a mix of 1-bed, 2-bed and executive apartments designed to meet the needs of professionals, young families, and elderly members of the community. The redevelopment seeks to revitalise Goodson Industrial Mews with a bright, contemporary design solution and a green character through trees, gardens, and grass verges. Regarding employment, planning permission had been granted for the conversion of units 1, 1a, 5, 6 and 7 to residential. SODC considered that the conversion of Units 6-8 to residential would be acceptable in principle subject to protecting employment uses at Units 1-4 and safeguarding them from future development. This current application (P21/S0056/FUL) seeks to do that and would retain 320m2 more employment space than the application approved in 2016. In terms of design, the architecture harmonises with the approved scheme at Unit 5 and offers a visual enhancement to the appearance of the site. The footprint of Units 6 & 7 would be reduced in size slightly to accommodate amenity space. The relationship between these units and the adjoining residential and employment use would remain largely unchanged. The proposed rooflights and terraces at Unit 7 would ensure there was no direct overlooking. Units 6 and 7 would have garden spaces of 19-26m2 and terraces of 6-18m2, which SODC had previously considered acceptable in a town centre location. In terms of parking, 54 spaces were proposed in total which provided one per apartment, plus eight visitor spaces which would increase to 18 during out-of-office hours. The scheme would provide 20 allocated spaces for Units 1-4, ten of which would be reserved for the employment use during office hours through a condition. The proposed parking arrangements comply with Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) standards, subject to conditions. Furthermore, the site proposes parking controls in the form of bollards to relieve on street parking concerns. Overall, the scheme offers a variety of benefits including the protection and upgrading of the employment space at Units 1-4, providing a mix of high-quality apartments, enhancing the character and appearance of the site, and delivering low carbon features such as on-site energy production, air source heat pumps, and electric vehicle charging points.
Mr Tom Sherwood and Mr Stuart Blayney spoke against Item 5 as residents of East Street. A collective letter of objection from East Street residents had been circulated to Members and provided further detail. Residents were concerned about the impact of the development on the Conservation Area and the loss of historic reputation, and that the Conservation Officer was not fully consulted on the previous application. Regarding employment, the proposals collectively represent a significant loss of employment land and no new employment land was being offered. It was also noted that the whole planning process had been confusing given the piecemeal approach which had made it challenging for residents to comment and review the various applications within the timeframes. With regards to Unit 8, residents have an overriding concern regarding the back-to-boundary measurements, at 3m in places when 10m is required, and that the windows from the new dwelling at the rear of 4 East Street would look directly at Unit 8. Residents were concerned that these matters were not being followed through in their entirety. Overall, residents felt the scheme did not offer a benefit to Thame and represented insensitive overdevelopment that would harm residential amenity and the Conservation Area and resulted in loss of employment land. The matter of private amenity space was an important matter for the residents of East Street. Mr Blayney showed photographs of the view from East Street properties with a mock-up of the proposed Unit 8 elevations to demonstrate the significance of the proposals. It was also felt that the parking was insignificant as the flats contained up to three bedrooms, but only one parking space was proposed per flat. As part of the consultation, crime prevention had highlighted a number of issues and requested conditions to address these.
Members then discussed and made a recommendation regarding planning application P21/S0056/FUL (Item 5).
Mr Alex Edge spoke in support of Item 6 as the agent for planning application P20/S1355/FUL – Amendment No.1. The built form of Unit 8 had been revised to address the concerns of residents. SODC had advised the impact on residential amenity was ‘borderline acceptable’ as the 25m separation was only just achieved. The built form, as presented in this amendment, now pulled the eastern elevations of Unit 8 away from the East Street dwellings’ boundary. Furthermore, to minimise opportunities for overlooking, alterations had been made to the siting of the rooflights and terrace screens. The amendment was subject to approval from SODC however the separation between Unit 8 and East Street was compliant with the South Oxfordshire Design Guide. The proposal was for a lower scale scheme than that approved in 2016. Although it was positioned slightly closer than the 2016 application, the screening and siting of the fenestration does not allow for direct overlooking. Overall, the amendments represented an improvement to a policy-compliant application, offering larger amenity spaces for future occupants whilst safeguarding the amenity of future occupants at Unit 8 and current occupants on East Street.
Ms Kayleigh Stanbury and Mr Stuart Blayney spoke against Item 6 as residents of East Street. Regarding employment land, the proposals represented a loss of employment land and therefore the Town Council should maintain its objection on these grounds. It was felt that there were inconsistencies in the approach taken with the various applications on the site, with some aspects being considered in the context of the wider site, and other aspects being considered in the context of the individual application. It was important that applications were considered separately and as new development on site where the land is not currently built on. Parking concerns were reiterated as the proposed arrangements were considered inadequate for the type and size of the proposed apartments, and the existing parking requirements for Unit 9 had not been considered. The rear gardens of East Street provide important private amenity space and are treasured by the residents. It was disappointing to hear from the agent that he considered that the proposed terraces and rooflights did not present overlooking. It was felt that the proposed terrace screen levels were inadequate and that the rooflights on the second floor were not high level, which resulted in loss of privacy. The proposed development at Unit 8 was a stark contrast to the existing building and would be out of character and overdevelopment. Overall, the development would have a negative impact on the standard of living and private amenity space for the occupants of East Street.
A question was raised as to whether the East Street residents were objecting to overlooking into their gardens or homes, as their gardens are already overlooked by each other’s properties? Mr Blayney clarified the overlooking concerns related to both their gardens and homes, and the back-boundary measurements were inadequate.
Members then discussed and made a recommendation regarding planning application P20/S1355/FUL – Amendment No.1 (Item 6).
5 1359 – P21/S0056/FUL – Units 1-4 and 6-8 Goodson Industrial Mews Wellington Street
The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) advised that this application was put forward to enable the units, and their benefits, to be considered holistically. It was noted that planning permission at Unit 5, permitted development rights at Units 1, 1a, 6 and 7, and the planning application at Unit 8 were all material matters for this application, however the application could stand on its own merits. The proposed changes to Units 6 and 7 were the least harmful aspect on neighbouring amenity given they are relatively obscured. The design had been approved in effect through proposing the same materials as approved for Unit 5, and appeared to offer a suitable approach for a mixed use site. The employment loss was of great concern, as the Town Council had gone to great lengths to defend employment land on other sites. Given that Units 6 and 7 had permitted development rights to convert from office to 10 residential apartments, the matter of employment loss could not be considered for these units regrettably as the units were, in effect, lost already. It was considered that these units could not be subdivided to create 1-bedroom units without increasing the footprint of the building and removing design features. The concerns from East Street residents had been noted and taken into consideration, however in relation to Units 6 and 7 it was felt that they would not result in overlooking or loss of amenity given there would be a 43metre distance between the units and East Street properties. The NPCO felt that the extension of the roofline by 3.5metres, when considered with Unit 8, may create an appearance that the two units were one, however it was considered that the design features along with the positioning of ‘The Cube’ (at the rear of 4 East Street) would mitigate this. Overall, the NPCO recommended that the Town Council supported the application, subject to concerns being addressed regarding lack of information on secure bicycle and bin storage and overlooking from the rooflights on the second floor and within the ground floor of Unit 6. It was also suggested that the Town Council could recommend that if Units 5-8 are all approved the site would generate 26 units and therefore should make an affordable housing contribution.
The NPCO clarified that a site is eligible for providing or contributing to affordable housing if it yields more than 10 dwellings or its footprint is larger than 1000m2. Given that on this site, there will be an increase in floorspace, for example through the addition of second floors and enclosing of stairwells, there may be a collective responsibility for affordable housing which SODC will be responsible for considering in line with Local Plan policy H9.
Members were pleased to see the development was incorporating green characteristics and hoped that the developer would be held accountable to deliver these. The loss of employment was regrettable however it was recognised that Units 6 and 7 were eminently convertible into flats through permitted development. Members felt this was a challenging situation, which had been complicated by the piecemeal approach. It was important to listen to the concerns of neighbouring residents with regards to the impact of the development on their privacy and parking.
- The Town Council supports this application, subject to appropriate detail regarding bin and bicycle storage, the noted rooflight and ground floor overlooking concerns and the site’s collective potential for yielding affordable housing contribution.
6 1262 – P20/S1355/FUL – Unit 8 Goodson Industrial Mews, Wellington Street – Amendment No.1
Cllr Fickling left the meeting during this item.
The NPCO advised that this was an amendment to the application objected to by the Town Council in June 2020, on the grounds of loss of employment. The amendment sought to address concerns raised by the Town Council and residents. It was pleasing to see that the case officer had highlighted that the back-to-back distances were only just compliant. It was regrettable that that back-to-boundary distances were not sufficient however it was expected that SODC would relax this given the town centre location. Due to a change in the Government’s definition of a town centre in February 2019, this site was now considered to be outside of the town centre as far as land use is concerned. The slight movement of the eastern elevation northwards had made a small difference towards addressing overlooking concerns. The NPCO felt that the proposed rooflights, terraces and enclosure of the stairwell would remove opportunities for overlooking into East Street properties and offered a reasonable compromise between privacy for these residents and allowing natural light for future occupiers of the flats. It was also noted that the developer would be seeking to ensure that the proposed flats would not be overlooked too. SODC would be able to calculate the exact distances and confirm whether there was any risk of overlooking or loss of privacy.
Regarding employment, the proposals ultimately would see a loss of employment space. Thame had lost substantial employment land, and this was something that the Town Council had challenged on various sized sites. The NPCO had calculated that the warehouse unit (Unit 8) could yield 3.5 jobs and a full application was only required for conversion to residential as it was a warehouse and not an office. Members were asked to consider balancing the loss of 3.5 jobs against losing the removal of permitted development rights at Units 1-4 and associated upgrades and the wider benefits of the site proposals.
Members sought clarification as to whether the current occupier of Unit 9 would be safeguarded against residential conversion? The NPCO advised that this was not part of this application, although it was noted that external improvements to this building appeared to have been removed from the proposals.
Concern was raised that, as shown in the presentation from the residents earlier, the unit would have an imposing presence and could be considered as overdevelopment. Regarding employment, it was considered that the Town Council should continue to take a firm stand against the loss of employment land. It was noted that the site had been in employment use up until recently and not marketed as required by the Thame Neighbourhood Plan.
A motion to support the application, as per the Officer’s recommendation, was put forward however on being put to the vote, the motion fell.
- The Town Council continues to object to this application as it is not in conformance with Thame Neighbourhood Plan policy WS12.
7 Report from County Councillor N Carter
The report was noted. Cllr Carter advised that the main item to note in the report was the 2021/22 budget, which was approved last month and would see an increase of 3% of the County Council’s proportion of the council tax. Cllr Carter had initiated a discussion early in the budget setting process to model a 0% increase which had gained support and momentum, and perhaps assisted in the final budget increase not rising to the maximum 5% as set by the Government.
Cllr Carter was pleased to report that County Cllr Matelot had successfully secured £70,000 Community Infrastructure Levy funding for a pedestrian crossing on Wellington Street, from Lee Court to Swan Walk.
The County Council would be involved in the upcoming census and a handbook for Councillors had been provided. The report also highlighted that most parents and children in Oxfordshire had been offered their first choice of secondary school for the next academic year, and the county was performing well compared to the national average.
Post-meeting note: Members received a working link to the census handbook.
8 Reports from South Oxfordshire District Councillors
The report was noted. Cllr Gregory highlighted that each of Thame’s District Councillors had awarded all of their £5,000 grant funding to various projects including a number of organisations in Thame. Thanks were given to the District Councillors for supporting the Thame Shed project with a grant. Other items in the report to note were that SODC’s Budget for 2021/22 had been agreed last month, the May elections would be taking place with people being encouraged to apply for a postal vote, a new Car Park Order had been approved, an Ecological Emergency had been declared and two District Councillors had been appointed as Tree Champions for South Oxfordshire.
9 Annual Town Meeting
The Acting Town Clerk explained that the Annual Town Meeting, a meeting of the electorate not the Town Council, was currently scheduled for Tuesday 30 March 2021. The meeting must be held between 1 March and 1 June annually and is convened by the Chairman, although there is no effective sanction if this does not happen. Last year’s Annual Town Meeting was cancelled due to Covid-19.
The proposed date this year faced two challenges. Firstly, that the purdah period for the County Council elections would begin on 29 March and therefore County Councillors would not be invited as to avoid electioneering. Secondly, the meeting would have to be held online and Officers were investigating options for how to manage proceedings virtually. It was noted that the current Zoom capacity was 100, which was in line with the capacity of the Town Hall Upper Chamber. There was uncertainty as to whether the regulations that permitted virtual council meetings up to 7 May 2021 would be extended, and how the Town Council would hold an in-person meeting after this date give Covid-19 restrictions and requirements.
The Acting Town Clerk had proposed an agenda, as set out in the report, and recommended that the meeting should be held virtually for transparency.
Members were wholly supportive of holding an Annual Town Meeting, adding that a virtual meeting would possibly allow more people to attend, however raised concern that the date was not appropriate given it falls within purdah. It was suggested that the meeting could be advertised to advise that County Council subjects would not be discussed. It was also suggested that the meeting could be brought forward, to be before purdah begins.
Overall, it was agreed that the Annual Town Meeting should be held, but that it should be postponed until after the elections in May and that Officers would come back to Council with a suitable date.
10 Effectiveness of Internal Control / Financial Risk
The Acting Responsible Financial Officer had circulated nine documents that covered the Town Council’s effectiveness of internal control and financial risk. Some minor amendments had been made upon reviewing the documents and these were highlighted in red.
- The measures taken to mitigate financial risks be approved.
- The effectiveness of internal control be approved.
11 Marking the Death of a Senior National Figure
The Acting Town Clerk explained that the procedure for Marking the Death of a Senior National Figure had been reviewed and updated in light of Covid-19 and the Duke of Edinburgh’s ongoing hospital treatment. The Covid-19 measures included using an online book of condolence, encouraging donations to charity rather than laying flowers, and consideration of gatherings in line with Government guidance. It was suggested that Members could assist Officers with managing the Book of Condolence in the Town Hall. The Acting Town Clerk agreed to add this into the procedure.
- The updated Marking the Death of a Senior National Figure procedure be approved.
12 Thame Neighbourhood Plan Revision (TNP2)
The NPCO advised that the Committee Services Officer was compiling the scores from Members, the NPCO and Acting Town Clerk. The NPCO clarified that the Acting Town Clerk would not be making the final decision on the consultant appointment, however delegated authority was sought to enable this process to take place through an informal meeting with Members to then be ratified at the next formal meeting. The Acting Town Clerk would write the letter to confirm the appointment of the consultant following this informal meeting, which it was hoped would be held over the next week. The NPCO advised that the Town Council could not wait until the next scheduled council meeting on 27 April 2021 to expedite the employment of the TNP2 consultant.
- The decision on the chosen TNP2 Consultant be made through an informal meeting with Members, the NPCO and Acting Town Clerk, and formally ratified at the next Full Council meeting.
13 Thame Football Club
The Acting Town Clerk explained that SODC were drafting the S106 agreements ahead of their Cabinet meeting. The Acting Town Clerk was seeking delegated authority for two Councillors to sign and seal the agreement when it was available, to avoid delays to the 3G pitch project which was progressing ahead of schedule. The agreement would be checked over by the Council’s legal advisor first. The Acting Town Clerk also advised that the third application to drawdown on the Football Foundation Grant had been submitted, which would assist with cashflow.
- Two Councillors are authorised to sign and seal the S106 Agreements for the Artificial 3G Pitch project.
14 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)
No questions were raised.
The minutes of the meeting held on 9 February 2021 were approved.
16 Policy & Resources Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 16 February 2021 were noted.
17 Community, Leisure and Recreation Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 9 February 2021 were noted.
18 Planning & Environment Committee
The minutes of the meetings held on 2 February 2021 and 23 February 2021 were noted.
19 Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 23 February 2021 were noted. The Chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee highlighted that the committee had resolved to ask the chosen Thame Neighbourhood Plan Consultant to undertake and prioritise a survey to identify local needs for provision of elderly accommodation in Thame.
The minutes of the meeting held on 27 January 2021 were noted.
21 1358 – P20/S4963/FUL – Land to the West of Windmill Road Thame – Amendment No.2 – Energy Statement received 10 February 2021
It was noted that after reviewing the additional information it is the Officer’s view that the amendments would not alter the Town Council’s recommendation to Support the application made on 9 February 2021.
22 Appeal Challenge
It was noted that the Town Council’s application for statutory review at the former DAF Trucks Ltd site had been dismissed.
The meeting concluded at 8:18pm.
Signed ……………………… Date ………………………