10 November 2020 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 10 November 2020 at 6:30pm by Zoom Conference Call.
Cllrs B Austin, D Bretherton, N Champken-Woods, P Cowell (Deputy Mayor), M Deacock, 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
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
There were no apologies for absence.
All Members who were present were able to be seen and be heard.
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
Cllrs Dite and Wyse declared an interest in Item 13 – Thame Shed as members of the Thame Shed committee.
3 Civic Announcements
The Chairman reported that the Service of Remembrance which had been moved to the Church and scheduled to take place on Sunday, had to be brought forward due to the Government’s announcement of a second national lockdown. Determined to have a Service of Remembrance this year, a small Service took place on 4 November 2020 at the Memorial Gardens and the Chairman thanked the Vicar, Major Bartlett, Mrs Barnett (Deputy Lieutenant) and the Chairman of South Oxfordshire District Council for making this happen.
The Chairman had seen the very nice display of poppies at John Hampden School and thanked the school on behalf of the Royal British Legion.
4 Public Participation and Public Questions
Mr Mike Ashford spoke on behalf of Thame Shed in relation to Item 13 – Thame Shed. Mr Ashford had submitted a grant application in September in line with the Grant Awards policy. Thame Shed would add to the excellent range of activities in Thame, with emotional well-being at the core. It would provide a base for its members with woodwork and tools to enable them to enjoy hobbies, work on their own projects and to refurbish and repair items. From experience of other ‘sheds’, they are full of conversation and humour, as well as a space to learn new skills and more importantly they provide a support network for their members, often after retirement or illness. The proposal had been well received by the Community, Leisure & Recreation committee in 2016 and Cllrs Champken-Woods, Dyer, Dite, Wyse and Bretherton were thanked for their support since in various aspects of the project. A barn had been identified at Chinnor Rugby Club as a possible suitable location for the Shed. Half of the barn had been used as storage for the Thame & Oxfordshire County Agricultural Association for Thame Show. Chinnor Rugby Club had offered a 10 year lease for the Shed to be built within this half of the barn and were enthusiastic about the project. It had been estimated that the materials and providing utilities to the site would cost £26,000 with an additional £22,000 required to build the shed professionally, although it was hoped that the Thame Shed members would be able to do this. It was expected that the Shed would provide a space for students to do vocational qualifications too.
In terms of the funding request, it was explained that £10,000 would enable site access and utilities but would not meet the specific needs of the project. Funding of £26,000 would ensure the project was sustainable and would not require further funds in the future. The project would have a community bank account and provide a long term benefit to the town, although Mr Ashford was aware that the funding request was a significant amount in challenging times.
Members raised various questions in relation to how the project would be funded. Mr Ashford advised that funding applications had been made to South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) and Oxfordshire Community Foundation however these had not been successful so far. Bids had also been put into the Screwfix Foundation, Tesco and Robert Dyas. Mr Ashford advised that the credibility of the applications was often dependent on having support from the local council. The group’s focus had been on finding a suitable location for the Shed rather than fundraising. It was anticipated that running costs and expenditure would be relatively low with costs covered by membership fees, donations and selling refurbished/repaired items depending on the skills of the members. It was possible that the products could be sold at Thame Market, although this would not be intended to be in competition with other businesses.
It was proposed and moved that Item 13 – Thame Shed be moved up the agenda so it could discussed following Mr Ashford’s presentation. Members then discussed and made a recommendation on Item 13 – Thame Shed.
5 Report from County Councillor N Carter
Cllr Carter had given his apologies for the meeting and had advised that his report would be available tomorrow morning.
Post-meeting note: Members received Cllr Carter’s report by email on 11 November 2020.
6 Reports from South Oxfordshire District Councillors
Cllr Bretherton introduced his report which covered SODC’s recent activities and was able to answer any questions.
Members were disappointed at the retrograde step that minor applications were not automatically referred to Planning Committee as this took away opportunities for the Town Council to comment on planning applications. Cllr Bretherton clarified that ‘minor applications’ was a Government definition and that the change in procedure was a temporary measure in response to Covid-19 and was due to be reviewed in June.
Cllr Bretherton advised that Thame Shed would be eligible to apply for SODC’s Capital Grants scheme when it opens shortly. On Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE), District Cllr Barker clarified that several district councils in Oxfordshire did not have CPE but discussions were underway with OCC – who had to agree the proposal – after which the district council’s would enforce it.
7 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)
No questions were raised.
The minutes of the meeting held on 2 November 2020 were approved.
On Item 6 of the minutes, a question was raised as to whether the Chairman would receive IT equipment that would enable her to chair virtual meetings more efficiently? Although this was not in the tender, Cllr Cowell agreed to contact the IT company to arrange something and it was anticipated that there would be some spare IT equipment that the Chairman could use following the IT upgrade.
9 Policy & Resources Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 3 November 2020 were noted.
10 Community, Leisure & Recreation Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 20 October 2020 were noted.
11 Planning & Environment Committee
The minutes of the meetings held on 6 October 2020 and 27 October 2020 were noted.
Due to a change in the constitution at SODC, District Councillors could now debate and vote on applications in their ward at SODC’s Planning Committees therefore Cllr Gregory had stepped down from the Town Council’s Planning & Environment Committee and a new appointment was sought. It was agreed that Cllr Jones be appointed to the Planning & Environment Committee to replace Cllr Gregory with immediate effect.
12 Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 6 October 2020 were noted.
13 Thame Shed
The Acting Town Clerk explained that following the presentation to the Community, Leisure and Recreation committee in July 2016, a successful public open meeting was held, a working group formed, a constitution adopted and a lease prepared for the site at Chinnor Rugby Club. There were 37 prospective ‘Shedders’. The group has no formal project finances and requires £48,000 to build the 18m x 6m shed, although £22,000 could be saved by self-building. Grant applications had been submitted to SODC and Oxfordshire Community Foundation but the outcome was unsuccessful or unknown. The grant request to Thame Town Council was for either £5,000 or £10,000. It was noted that the 2020-21 Grants balance had been transferred to Earmarked Reserves as the scheme had not been administered this financial year. It was also noted that it had not yet been established whether planning permission would be required for the shed.
Members were unanimously supportive of the Thame Shed proposal, which would offer benefits such as supporting people’s mental health and contributing to a greener economy. Members were aware that the project may fall if it was not supported financially, however it was noted that the project had been running for 4 years but had not raised any funds. However it was felt that the project was missing a business plan that demonstrated how the organisation would finance itself in the future. It was recognised that the Town Council’s budget was likely to run at a deficit this year due to the impact of Covid-19. The Grant Awards Policy only permitted a maximum of 20% of the available budget to be awarded to an organisation, equating to approximately £2,000. Alternative options for the Town Council to support the project included with a progressive investment / phased funding that was commensurate with progress, match funding or through a loan agreement.
Overall it was felt that the project needed to provide a business plan and that the Town Council would be willing to financially support the project subject to that, as had been the case with other seed-funding requests. A business plan would demonstrate how the project will be self-sustaining and ensure the Town Council’s money was controlled. By part-funding the project initially, the Town Council was showing support for the project, which would hopefully enable the organisation to apply for funds elsewhere. It was suggested that Thame Shed could apply for a grant as part of the 2021-22 Town Council Grants scheme.
- £5,000 be awarded to Thame Shed, subject to a business plan being presented.
14 Nursery Proposal
Members agreed that they could not support the release of recreational / public open space for the Nursery proposal as it was a commercial operation. The proposal did raise some important points such as a reminder of the need to include nursery provision in the revised Thame Neighbourhood Plan. The Town Council also needed to consider how the space and buildings at Southern Road Recreation Ground (SRRG) could be used and developed more holistically. It was noted that the community buildings at SRRG were hired out for commercial use, however the Town Clerk advised that under their leases they had the right to hire out their facilities to cover maintenance costs. It was also noted that the proposed nursery site was also a possible site for the Splash Pad project.
- The Town Council does not support a proposal to locate a Nursery building on the land next to the Girl Guides HQ, Southern Road.
15 Schedule of Meetings
No concerns were raised with the Schedule of Meetings for 2021-2022 and it was agreed that the Committee Services Officer would circulate the document by email for Members to add the meeting dates into their diaries.
- The Schedule of Meetings for 2021-22 be approved.
16 Controlled Parking Enforcement Scheme
It was noted that a meeting will take place with Oxfordshire County Council to investigate how Thame’s parking arrangements will fit into the controlled parking enforcement scheme following the 13 October 2020 Cabinet Meeting.
The Acting Town Clerk advised that the meeting with Oxfordshire County Council will be taking place on Wednesday 18 November at 2:30pm which she, Cllrs Dyer and Francis and County Councillor Carter will be attending.
17 Consultation – Planning for the Future, White Paper
It was noted that the Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) has formulated and submitted the Town Council’s response to the White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’ Consultation. The Chairman thanked the NPCO for all his hard work on preparing the Town Council’s response.
18 Exclusion of the Press and Public
- That 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.
19 Appeal Challenge
It was noted that the Town Council’s legal team is currently preparing for the Trial. By mid-November the skeleton argument presenting our case will be submitted. It is still expected that the challenge will be heard in early December. The Town Clerk advised that there was nothing further to report.
The meeting concluded at 7:52pm.
Chairman, 19 January 2021