13 February 2024 – Minutes


Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 13 February 2024 at 6:30pm in the Upper Chamber, Town Hall, Thame.


Cllrs M Baines, D Bretherton, P Cowell, A Dite (Town Mayor), H Dollman, D Dodds, M Dyer, L Emery, H Fickling, A Gilbert (Deputy Mayor), H Richards, and P Swan


M Sturdy, Town Clerk
G Markland, Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer
L Fuller, Committee Services & Processes Officer


Before the meeting began, the Chair explained to the public / press present how the meeting would run, noting the number of questions submitted and speakers registered. It was noted that the Town Council had met with Bloor (site developer) and Savills (the agent for the planning application) last week, which is common practice for major planning applications. Yesterday evening, the Town Council had received a letter from Savills advising their intention to submit amended plans. The Town Council will be considering the plans as presented this evening.

1) Apologies for Absence

Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Champken-Woods (personal), Dawson (personal), Jones (personal) and Wyse (personal).


2) Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

There were no declarations of interest.


3) Civic Announcements

There were no civic announcements.


4) Public Participation and Public Questions

There had been a total of 4 questions submitted and 4 applications to speak, all relating to Item 6 (Planning Application P23/S4262/FUL – Land North of Oxford Road).

Public Questions

Mr. Parrey had submitted two questions. These were read and answered by the Chair as follows:

  1. Question: In the last consultation on the N.P. you state that “residents decided that Oxford Road was the best area for a large housing site” could you please produce the figures to back up this statement?

Answer: 478 people, 42.8% of those who voted on the site options chose Oxford Road over the other three options. The next most popular was South of Moreton Lane, with 268 people voting for that site, or 23.8% of the vote.

  1. Question: If Bloor Homes application is not linked to or part of the Neighbourhood Plan, could you please explain why it is being considered?

Answer: Any individual can apply for planning permission at any time of their choosing.  There is no current means of blocking such applications.

Mr. McIntyre had submitted one question. This was read and answered by the Chair.

  1. Question: What considerations will be given to the likelihood that 300 extra cars will result from this application, given that the roads of Thame are already crumbling?

Answer: The Local Highway Authority, Oxfordshire County Council will be consulted on this planning application.  It is their duty to consider the scheme’s impact on the local network and consider what works, if any, are required to ensure that the site’s access will be safe for motor vehicle, pedestrians and cyclists to use.  It is not known if wear and tear on the existing network will be taken into account as part of their deliberations.

Mr. Arthurs had submitted one question. Mr. Arthurs read the question, and was informed by the Chair that a reply would be given after the meeting and reported within the draft minutes.

  1. Question: The Environment Agency flood risk forecasting is by their own admission out of date (2019 data) and hard to predict accurately under the increasingly unpredictable effects of climate change. In a submitted (Freedom of Information Request) sent to the EA, I have been asked them to comment on the accuracy of their flood risk modelling. I will of course share that information when I receive it. As such current assessments of flood risk are not based upon the most recent data or necessarily take into account forecasting inaccuracies. What is Bloor and the Council doing about this lack of up to date and reliable data, when planning on developing right next to a flood plain?

Answer: The Town Council will give a full written response in the minutes, however it was noted that the Environment Agency’s formal response is expected in 8 weeks.

Post-meeting written reply: The Environment Agency (EA) is required to produce national maps showing areas prone to flood risk and update these at least once every six years.  In preparing these assessments the EA is required to take account of information they or bodies such as the Lead Local Flood Authority or the public might hold.  The last nationwide assessment was published in 2019 and is considered valid until replaced, which it must be by 2025 at the latest.  This does not prevent further detailed assessment or forecasts of any smaller area being made by a proper authority (like the EA or Lead Local Flood Authority).  It is common, for example, for planning applications or site allocations to require new surveys and reports that can improve site-specific flood risk assessments.  For this application, the Environment Agency, Lead Local Flood Authority and District Council Flood specialists will assess the information provided by the applicant in addition to any other information they may have for the area and will recommend a course of action for the Local Planning Authority.  The Town Council will always look to the latest information available when making decisions on any matter.  The Town Council can normally only revisit a decision made on a planning application if we are consulted on any proposed amendments to it.  In this case, as the Town Council decided to submit a holding objection to this planning application it has an opportunity to consider any new evidence before making a further formal decision on the application.

Mr. Arthurs asked, as a supplementary question, that the Town Council considers the inaccuracies that are expected with any flood forecasting data, as it appeared that these had not been taken into account by the developer.

Post meeting written reply: The Council would expect there to be uncertainty in any projection meaning the risk could be either under or over reported.  The Town Council will not necessarily be in a position to comment on the confidence that could be attached to future flood / flood risk modelling unless it is raised by an independent specialist within a relevant assessment.

Public Participation

Dr. Hatton spoke against the planning application, on behalf of his family and the 830 people who had signed the petition objecting to any development of this land. 2,779 people made the first Thame Neighbourhood Plan (TNP1), 830 have signed the petition objecting to planning application P23/S4262/FUL along with 256 households and 3 neighbouring parish councils via the District Council’s website. The main objections are the development of open space and on a floodplain. The site goes to the edge of where the floodplain can be seen. The site is harbouring water and, if developed, this will be distributed elsewhere. Water storage and sewage is an issue on the existing Oxford Road development. The TNP1 and legal agreement specify that the land proposed for development should never be developed and should be retained as open space. The current open space is home to diverse wildlife. The proposed replacement open space is not as good. Thame’s amenities, such as schools and doctors, are struggling without additional development. The draft TNP2 has limited weight. Within TNP1, there are several references to protecting the open space on this site. The River Thame Conservation Trust are keen to protect floodplains and lowland meadows. In summary, everyone who has signed the petition and made an objection, does not want the land in question to change.

Dr. Hatton’s presentation was followed by a round of applause from the public gallery.

Had the presentation been shared with South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC)? The petition has been shared with SODC, although more people have since signed it, and the presentation will be shared. The Town Council agreed to include a copy of the presentation within the minutes.

Post meeting note: The presentation can be viewed here. This presentation was provided and produced by Dr Hatton and is not data supplied by the Town Council.

Mr. Taylor spoke in support of the planning application as a resident of Thame. Mr. Taylor noted that he was familiar with TNP1 and TNP2. The Officer report on the planning application contained objections relating to more technical matters therefore it seemed premature for the Council to object to the planning application, and any objection would be concerning in light of TNP2. Mr. Taylor would like to see the draft TNP2 and its policies being upheld as they provide direction for Thame.

There were no questions for Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Cornish spoke against the planning application as a resident on Oxford Road. Thame Town Council exists to serve in the best interests of its residents. Promoting this site is against TNP1 and Thame residents’ best interests. Thame’s roads, health and parking facilities are under strain; how can more housing improve life for Thame’s residents? Additional housing is likely to increase further rainwater runoff, which will increase flooding on Cuttle Brook and Aylesbury Road, as well as neighbouring villages such as Shabbington and Ickford. Mr. Cornish urged Councillors to act in the best interests of the town, by upholding TNP1 and protecting the land north of Oxford Road.

Mr. Cornish’s presentation was followed by a round of applause from the public gallery. There were no questions for Mr. Cornish.

Mr. Joseph spoke in support of the application on behalf of Bloor Homes, the site’s developer. This was an unusual situation. The application at present reflects the aspirations of TNP2 and is based on the input of technical specialists. The Town Council’s Officer’s recommendation relates to feedback from SODC Officers in non-public documents. Mr. Joseph asked the Town Council to be mindful of the limitations of these documents with regards to the current planning application. Mr. Joseph, on behalf of Bloor, was pleased to listen to the public and presentations this evening and recommended that the best option would be for the Town Council to defer its decision.

There were no questions for Mr. Joseph.

It was proposed, seconded, and moved that Item 6 be brought forward and discussed immediately next.

5) Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)

No questions were raised.


6) Land North of Oxford Road, Thame – P23/S4262/FUL

Full application for 154 residential dwellings including new highways, associated infrastructure, sustainable urban drainage systems, pumping stations, demolition of agricultural buildings, green infrastructure and ancillary works.

The report was noted.

The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) summarised his report. The first TNP provided certainty for 203 homes, land for a primary school and expansion of Lord Williams’s School and a reserve housing site for 78 homes. While the school facilities are not required, 78 homes are still needed, but cannot be placed on the area identified due to nationally significant archaeology being found beneath it. Through no fault or absence of due diligence, TNP has no plan for this scenario. Following this, the Town Council explored options which included discussions with the applicant. The applicant had hoped to twin-track their application with TNP2, however this was not possible due to delays in TNP2 evidence. The application is broadly in line with the policies of the draft TNP2, however these have no current weight in material planning terms. The application comprises two housing areas within it. The benefits of the application are the provision of public parkland and publicly accessible areas (estimated to be around the amount allocated in TNP1). The harm would be on the views from Oxford Road, Rycote Meadow, and the listed buildings. This harm needs to be judged against the public benefits. The NPCO considers that the harm is not appropriate when considered against the benefit.

A question was raised about the Landscape Officer’s objection to the lack of open spaces. This is a matter for SODC as the applicant says they have used SODC’s standards.

It was noted that the Cuttle Brook and River Thame had been severely impacted by flooding recently, possibly as a result of housing development in Chinnor and Haddenham. Noting that most of the proposed pavements appeared to be non-permeable, can the Town Council comment on the possible flooding impact on neighbouring areas? When making decisions on planning applications, the Town Council must take advice from the experts and ask the applicant to address these matters accordingly. SODC will consider responses from the Environment Agency, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) and Thames Water to ensure that water runoff is managed.

Would this application provide an opportunity to address the lack of safe crossing on Oxford Road? This is a matter for OCC, but any additional housing would add weight to TTC’s concerns.

Is there any provision for managing droughts, such as water storage? The applicant has suggested the use of water butts, however there is no requirement in law for water storage. Depending on when the application is determined, the new local plan – if adopted – does require water storage.

Concern was raised about the provision of only a bund and trees separating the play area from the ring-road. Is there a fence?  This is a concern that needs to be addressed.

It was noted that the floodplain stretched well beyond Thame, but some degree of man-made control ensures water levels are managed and considered in the wider landscape to protect the River Thames.

It appears the Section 106 agreement is being overruled. The NPCO advised the land in question was protected by TNP1 and the S106 agreement, unless there is significant change to both. TNP1 has been superseded by other events. SODC will not permit an application until there is an agreement on the matter of the publicly accessible open space.

If this planning permission is refused, where does that leave Site F with regard to TNP2? It would depend on why the application is refused and whether the matters could be addressed. Also, it is important to note that this site was the preferred site from the latest consultation. The site may be impacted on, and could inform TNP2, or vice versa.

A question was raised with regards to access and footpaths? A network of footpaths is proposed, although it was noted that footpaths within the current development are still not in place. The Town Council does not want to repeat the situation where the benefits of a scheme are not delivered as promised.

Other comments were made regarding lack of community facility provision, high density of housing, lack of sense of place in the design, and noise / air pollution from the A418 ring-road.

Members thanked the NPCO for his report. Members noted that the Town Council does not have access to the specialist inputs which makes it difficult to make a decision, therefore a holding objection based on the NPCO’s recommendation seemed an appropriate way forward.


  1. Thame Town Council submits a holding objection to planning application P23/S4262/FUL on the grounds set out in the Officer report.
  2. Thame Town Council recognises the applicant’s intention to submit revised plans, and as such a holding objection be submitted to give time for the Town Council to receive and review comments submitted to the District Council from bodies on future flood risk, transport, noise, and other matters.

This was followed by a round of applause from the public gallery. The Chair advised that the Town Council is not the planning authority, although our comments do have weight. Residents are encouraged to submit their comments to SODC, who will make the final decision on the planning application. The Chair thanked everyone for attending.


7) Joint Local Plan 2041 – Preferred Options Consultation

The report was noted.

The NPCO gave a verbal update. The proposed Joint Local Plan appeared to be strong with multiple evidence documents. There is a clear vision, with environmental improvements being a key theme throughout. It is important that the Town Council submits a cohesive response, but the NPCO called for assistance from Members, noting the valuable input already received from some Members already. The consultation closes on 26 February 2024.

It was noted that Thame is the only place to have outstanding housing (143 homes) to be delivered. Whilst there is now no deadline for this, Thame has less protection than before so it is important to maintain progress on TNP2.

Would the new Local Plan supersede TNP2? It would depend on the policies adopted, but it may be possible to undertake a modification rather than a full review.

It was agreed that given the number of documents to read through, that Members be divided into smaller groups to focus on certain aspects and highlight areas of concern, positives, or anything that might impact Thame. The NPCO would put Members into suitable groups.


8) Community Youth Centre

The report was noted.

To enable the Community Youth Centre to progress, a small team is needed who can make decisions quickly. As financial decisions cannot be delegated to a working group or non-Councillors, the Terms of Reference have been updated to delegate these decisions to Officers with regular reporting of these decisions back to the Working Group and the Council. Members agreed this was a sensible approach.

Is there an update on the business plan for the Community Youth Centre building? Following 3 quotations being received, the Town Clerk hopes to place the order this week.


  1. To approve the Terms of Reference for the Capital Project Delivery Team
  2. That in line with legislation and council Standing Orders approve the delegation of day-today decisions to deliver the building at the Southern Road Recreation Ground, within budget to the Town Clerk and / or Operations Manager in the absence of the Clerk.


9) Minutes

The Minutes of the Council Meeting held on 16 January 2024 were received.


  1. The minutes of the meeting held on 16 January 2024 are confirmed as a correct record, and signed by the Chairman.


10) Planning & Environment Committee

The minutes of the meeting held on 23 January 2024 were noted.


11) Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee

The minutes of the meeting held on 23 January 2024 were noted.


12) Exclusion of the Public


  1. 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.

The NPCO left the meeting.


13) Committee Review / Strategy

Cllr Gilbert left the meeting during this item.

The Committee Services & Processes Officer provided Members with a verbal update on the committee review work. Thanks were given to the Councillors who had given feedback so far. There was discussion around introducing a potential ‘health’ group, refocusing the agendas of the planning committee, and ensuring all financial decisions consider the impact on future budgets. It was agreed that the External Organisation appointments needed further review with various suggestions / feedback made and noted. Members thanked the Committee Services & Processes Officer for their work which appeared to be on the right track.

The Town Clerk gave a brief presentation on the strategy work, which is being done in parallel with the committee work. A minor update had been made to the Strategy Working Group’s (SWG)Terms of Reference. The next step will be to develop a short ‘slogan’ defining the council’s vision, with the SWG meeting to define the detail, and to establish how to consult the community. There needs to be a vision made for and by Thame’s community, and a strategy for how Thame Town Council can help deliver those aspirations within its powers. This work will be done in partnership with the SWG, the community, and possibly some external specialist input, as well as utilising examples from other councils and software where appropriate.

The council agreed to continue using the SWG to progress this work.


The meeting concluded at 8:26pm.


Signed ………………………
Chairman, 5 March 2024