14 July 2020 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Virtual Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 14 July 2020 at 7.19pm by Zoom Conference Call.
Cllrs B Austin, N Champken-Woods, P Cowell (Deputy Mayor), A Dite, M Deacock, 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 Bretherton (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 Green Living Plan
Mr Charles Boundy, Ms Wendy Duckham, Mr Rich Henderson and Ms Lisa Meaney gave a joint presentation on the Green Living Plan (GLP).
Mr Boundy began by explaining that the 10 year plan was ambitious and that the team of voluntary consultants were passionate about its delivery. The plan was divided into four sections: Background, Major Themes, Recommended Actions and Composite Actions Summary. This version of the plan had evolved significantly following the public consultation and wider changes in that time. The GLP provided an opportunity to address matters outside the scope of the Thame Neighbourhood Plan, make connections to the future, plan ahead and provide answers to the climate emergency.
The five focus areas of the plan remained unchanged but the branding had been updated. The three staged approach for managing projects with different timescales was introduced and the theming would run through the plan. Projects are divided into those actions that could be undertaken by individuals, projects that could be carried out by the Thame community, and actions that would require the involvement of other bodies, such as the District Council. Approximate time scales for each project have also been given and they do suggest the order in which they could be carried out, with the shortest timescale projects happening first. Section three, Recommended Actions, was the largest section of the plan given it provides detail on objectives, actions and timescales for individual projects. An example from this section was provided.
Clean air was a significant challenge as the problem is often invisible. The benefits of lockdown such as cleaner air and safer walking and cycling are disappearing as lockdown has eased. Public transport was outside the remit of the plan but the team would be supportive of public transport initiatives. Members were asked to consider what kind of Thame they wanted to see in 2030? Idling vehicles in the town centre was a problem, but it was recognised that there would be trade-offs and the solution would need an integrated approach.
Ms Duckham discussed the plan’s approach on green energy. Renewable energy was growing and the plan hoped to encourage all homes and businesses in Thame to switch to green energy. There were lots of grants and offers available to improve energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings. Community Energy Schemes were being explored and would provide locally generated energy from renewable sources with the benefits shared locally. The electric / hybrid vehicle market was growing significantly due to their long-term cost effectiveness and environmental benefits, and with more options available and improving infrastructure across the country. However it was noted that there were no publicly available charging points in Thame, with the nearest one at Haddenham & Thame Parkway Station. The GLP proposed publicly accessible charging points in and around the centre of town, as well as encouraging businesses to install them. An Electric Vehicle / Shared Car Club for Thame was also being explored, as a green alternative with no capital outlay that could reduce pressure on parking and increase access to cleaner vehicles for wide sections of the community.
Mr Henderson covered green routes, spaces and biodiversity aspects of the plan. Currently, space in the town centre is prioritised for vehicles with proportionately little allocated for pedestrians. It was recognised that priorities needed to change away from vehicles whilst considering the impact on businesses. Active travel for individuals had health and economic benefits. Thame is a key town in supporting nearby villages and towns, but currently can only be safely accessed by bike from Princes Risborough and Towersey. The Haddenham and Thame Greenway was a key project within the GLP and the group were very involved. It had been an aspiration for decades and there had been some progress recently along with huge public support, but the group were keen to maintain this as the project would deliver access to the train station for cyclists and reduce rush hour traffic on the A418.
Ms Meaney introduced the idea of the Thame Green Living (TGL) group to help the Town Council to identify and realise projects, assist with lobbying other authorities, access funding, bring together the wider community and allow the successful and timely delivery of the GLP. TGL would also bring in the work already being done by organisations such as 21st Century Thame and Cuttle Brook Volunteers. TGL was not fully formed but a website (www.thamegreenliving.org.uk) had been set up and people were encouraged to get involved.
Mr Boundy thanked his team, including John Scott, Colin Bloxham and Anne Fisher. Thanks were also given to organisations in and outside of Thame who had assisted with projects and research, residents associations, Sam Osborne and the Council Officers and Councillors. The GLP was another ‘first’ for Thame and the council was asked for their enthusiastic support in progressing the plan, whilst acknowledging there would be challenges, and it was suggested that a small group of Councillors work with the team to help progress some of the projects outlined.
Cllr Midwinter thanked the speakers for their presentation. Members were given the opportunity to submit questions ahead of the meeting.
A question had been asked regarding parking in the town centre, which had been suggested as largely unnecessary, given the expected increase in demand following housing expansion in neighbouring villages. Mr Boundy explained that the plan was focused more on removing traffic from driving through the town centre, rather than preventing cars parking there altogether. The plan suggested ways that parking could be limited to make it less polluting, and recognised there was a role for improvements to public transport and cycling infrastructure too.
Another question had been asked regarding how the plan proposed to reduce pollution at Barley Hill School gates? Mr Boundy explained that the plan did address this and made some suggestions. Mr Henderson added that the plan was keen to engage and work with the schools on this.
A question was raised as to whether there were incentives for people to install electric vehicle charging points at home, as town centre charging points could encourage longer parking. The charging points would be for top-ups for residents and visitors, and could be positioned close to, rather than in, the town centre.
Mr Boundy explained that Members were encouraged to continue to put forward their ideas and get involved, as nothing was cast in stone.
Cllr Midwinter thanked Mr Boundy and his team for all their hard work over the six years, in providing the council with a very thoroughly researched and detailed Green Living Plan which will guide us to help our planet and, in doing so, the health of the people of Thame.
i) Thame Town Council adopt the Green Living Plan, on the understanding that Thame Town Council take it forward in a manner that can be delivered over time and within its means.
4 Member’s Motions
Cllr Austin had proposed the following motion: “The Council commits to a rapid and thorough examination of the potential for the provision of a hopper bus service and/or alternative community transport possibilities based on an assessment of need. The latter will be consequent upon the proposed introduction of GLP initiatives. This appraisal is to have due regards to operational and financial constraints but also to existing funding availability for, and initiatives in, community transport.”
Cllr Austin felt that a needs assessment for a hopper bus needed to be done promptly, particularly for those in Thame who were less-abled, physically and financially. The Hopper Bus idea has been on the to-do list for many years and attempts to meet with OCC had been unsuccessful, despite OCC having S106 monies for transport. Having an assessment needs for a hopper bus service would help to get more people on board with the idea. Cllr Cowell, as the seconder, added that progressing the hopper bus alongside the Green Living Plan would be a more holistic approach.
It was noted that not getting a meeting with OCC was not for lack of trying, and that past and present transport representatives had tried and offered help to OCC.
i) The Council commits to a rapid and thorough examination of the potential for the provision of a hopper bus service and/or alternative community transport possibilities based on an assessment of need. The latter will be consequent upon the proposed introduction of GLP initiatives. This appraisal is to have due regards to operational and financial constraints but also to existing funding availability for, and initiatives in, community transport.
5 Transport Strategy
The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) advised that a Transport Strategy would look at the longer-term transport needs of Thame, taking into account possible changes to transport use and the impact of the loss of local bus services.
i) Officers investigate undertaking a Transport Strategy in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council.
6 Public Participation and Public Questions
There were no applications to address the Committee.
There were no questions put to the Committee.
7 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)
Cllr Dyer asked under what authority Thame Youth Projects distributed their leaflet on the proposed Youth Centre, on which the wording which misrepresents the Town Council’s position and could be damaging to the council if public expectations are raised and the project is not delivered?
Cllr Midwinter asked the Town Clerk to answer Cllr Dyer’s question. The Town Clerk advised that the publicity shows the council’s support and aspiration for the project, which was subject to the consultation identifying support, a planning application and funding.
The minutes of the meeting held on 16 June 2020 were approved.
9 1253 – P20/S0928/FUL – Land at The Elms, Upper High Street – Amended & Additional Information received 5, 11 & 24 June 2020
It was noted that having reviewed the amendments and additional information, it is the Officer’s view that they would not change the Town Council’s recommendation made on 2 June 2020 to Object. The Town Council’s response to the amendments, made by the NPCO under delegated powers with input from Members, was also noted.
The NPCO added that the applicants continue to compare the proposed scheme at The Elms to the C2 residential care home scheme at Lower Shiplake, but the two are not comparable as the Thame proposal cannot be self-contained in the same way.
10 Thame Fairs
The report was noted. The Community Services Manager advised that the Town Council had applied for the road closure at a reduced cost of £875 in the circumstances. The Government guidelines on how street funfairs can safely operate are currently unclear. The Showmen’s Guild had produced a risk assessment which Officers received this morning and were reviewing. The Community Services Manager suggested that the Town Fairs Working Group (TFWG) be reconvened in the next four weeks to progress arrangements for the September and October Fairs. The Working Group currently comprised of the Community Services Manager, Town Clerk and Cllrs Champken-Woods and Wyse. Following the retirement of Cllr Stiles, an additional Councillor representative was required. It was suggested that Cllr Dyer join the Working Group as Chairman of Policy & Resources. Cllr Jones also volunteered to join the Working Group.
Members agreed the Town Council was in a difficult position but reconvening the TFWG to progress discussions was sensible.
i) The Town Fairs Working Group be reconvened as soon as possible with Cllrs Champken-Woods, Dyer, Jones and Wyse, to negotiate the Town Fairs 2020 with the Town Clerk and Community Services Manager.
The meeting concluded at 8:24pm
Chairman, 21 July 2020