14 May 2024 – Minutes (draft)

THAME TOWN COUNCIL

Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 14 May 2024 at 6:30pm in the Upper Chamber, Town Hall, Thame.

Present:

Cllrs M Baines, D Bretherton, N Champken-Woods, P Cowell, D Dawson, A Dite (Town Mayor), H Dollman, M Dyer, L Emery, H Fickling, A Gilbert (Deputy Mayor), C Jones, S McGarry, H Richards, and P Swan

Officers

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

 

1) Election of Town Mayor

Town Mayor, Cllr Dite, called for nominations for the position of Town Mayor. It was moved and duly seconded that Cllr Gilbert be elected as Town Mayor.

RESOLVED that:

  1. Cllr Gilbert be elected Town Mayor for the ensuing year.

The Mayor’s chain was handed over to Cllr Gilbert who took the chair.

Cllr Richards entered the meeting.

The outgoing Mayor, Cllr Dite, felt it had been a privilege and an honour to serve his town as Mayor. It had been great to meet everyone at the 80 events he had attended as Mayor over the year. Highlights had included working with John Hampden School, Thame Youth Theatre, Lord Williams’s School, leading Thame’s Remembrance Service and spending an afternoon with Thame’s Ukrainian families. Cllr Dite was pleased to have met with Lord Williams’s School Youth Council, overseen changes to the Town Council’s committee structure, and the refurbishment of Elms Park play area which is due to complete in the coming weeks. Through fundraising events and initiatives, Cllr Dite was pleased to have raised £6,240 for his charities, split equally between the Red Kite Family Centre, and Thame Shed. Finally, Cllr Dite thanked his fellow councillors and the officers for their support and wished Cllr Gilbert a successful year. Cllr Dite was presented with a past Mayor’s badge. The Town Clerk explained his Mayor’s photo album would be available shortly.

Cllr Swan entered the meeting.

The Mayor was grateful to be elected and to represent Thame. Cllr Gilbert will draw on the experience of the council, whilst bringing energy and ideas. A key priority is communicating what the Town Council does, beginning with a stand at Thame Market on 28 May. The Mayor announced that his charities will be Sharing Life Trust and Lord Williams’s School Young Carers.

 

2) Declarations of Acceptance of Office by Town Mayor

Cllr Gilbert signed the Declaration of Acceptance of Office of Town Mayor for the ensuing year.

 

3) Election of Deputy Town Mayor

Town Mayor, Cllr Gilbert, called for nominations for the position of Deputy Town Mayor. It was moved and duly seconded that Cllr Dawson be elected as Deputy Town Mayor.

RESOLVED that:

  1. Cllr Dawson be elected Deputy Town Mayor for the ensuing year.

The Deputy Mayor’s Chain was handed over to Cllr Dawson who was proud to represent Thame and work with the town council team. Social justice, diversity and sustainability are important values, and Cllr Dawson hopes to keep Thame a welcoming and inclusive community.

 

4) Declaration of Acceptance of Office by Deputy Town Mayor

Cllr Dawson signed the Declaration of Acceptance of Office of Deputy Town Mayor for the ensuing year.

 

5) Apologies for Absence

Apologies were received from Cllr Dodds (personal).

 

6) Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

There were no declarations of interest.

 

7) Public Participation and Public Questions

Mr Cornish spoke as a resident of Oxford Road regarding Item 8 – Thame Neighbourhood Plan 2 (TNP2), in particular with regard to Site F (Land North of Oxford Road). This site in the first TNP provided land for a flood water buffer and to accommodate the then-planned expansion of Lord Williams’s School and additional housing. Since the first TNP, it appears that the developer has made a commercial decision to not develop the land originally allocated for housing due to archaeological concerns but has instead submitted applications for up to 154 homes on the other area. This has been met with strong objection locally. It was requested that the Town Council uphold the original TNP, as TNP2 is not in the best interests of Thame residents. Additional housing will have impacts on already-strained infrastructure and reduce absorption of rainfall which would impact other communities locally.

The Chairman noted that a detailed written statement had also been submitted by Dr. Hatton and circulated earlier for Members to consider.

 

8) Thame Neighbourhood Plan 2 (TNP2)

The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer provided a verbal update on the timeline of TNP2 to date.

Preparation for TNP2 – Thame Town Council (TTC) undertook extensive public consultation and worked with the community to develop TNP2’s vision. This established that TNP1’s vision is still fit for purpose and a robust evidence base was prepared. Plan making is iterative and TNP2 developed as more evidence and consultation comments were received. The first consultation gathered people’s initial views on character areas including their ideas for how they could be improved. The second consultation built on that and proposed options for housing and employment. This showed 42%, over 475 people, preferred Oxford Road for the housing site.

Regulation 14 consultation –The Regulation 14 consultation was the latest, and third, public consultation, held in summer 2023, which also consulted the statutory consultees on the policies and preferred options prepared based on previous consultation feedback and the evidence base. Accompanying documents also presented how developments should be proposed and designed. That TNP2 version also developed a policy for windfall and projects in line with TNP2 and Green Living Plan’s visions. Despite extensive publicity and invitation to comment, the response to this consultation was disappointing in terms of the quantity of comments received, however it may reflect that it largely presented the options previously supported by the community. 52% of respondents supported Oxford Road as the preferred housing site.

Changes to TNP2 following the Regulation 14 consultation – Due to landscape concerns, the policies for the Oxford Road housing site and Rycote Lane employment site have been amended. At South Oxfordshire District Council’s (SODC) request, the proposal for the Cattle Market has been removed as a housing allocation, and the future uses on the site have been refined. Other changes include: incorporation of Green Living Plan principles; a Thame-specific housing needs / mix and employment needs; greater focus on retaining town centre parking; design codes and advice for each of Thame’s character areas; community-supported projects; and windfall policy.

Submission – If TNP2 is approved for submission, the plan plus accompanying Masterplan, design codes, consultation statement and basic conditions statement (demonstrating compliance with policy, laws and regulations) will be submitted to SODC.

Examination – TNP2 becomes SODC’s plan. SODC will run a 6-week public consultation. SODC will work with TTC to appoint an examiner, who may make amendments before deciding whether to put the plan to referendum.

Referendum – At this stage the plan’s policies carry material weight. SODC arrange and fund the referendum. If over 50% support the plan at referendum, the plan will be adopted and become part of the development plan.

Timeline – An indicative timeline could see the referendum taking between December 2024 and February 2025.

A question was raised regarding the archaeology and Bloor’s decision to not excavate? The site has gained interest from Historic England and likely to be of national significance, which would remove the opportunity for development.

The TNP2 process has been democratic and open, but also confusing. TNP2 defines what should be in the plan and the site locations; the detail, including scales and layout will come later.

Is it democratic that the larger group of objectors to a housing site has more influence? It was acknowledged that land use planning can be difficult for smaller groups, but this happens at every scale of land planning.

Would the flooding earlier this year count as new evidence? Would it be possible to arrange a mediation meeting between TTC, Bloor Homes and the residents of Oxford Road to establish a solution before TNP2 is submitted? Historically, flooding has been higher than recently occurred. As part of the planning application, flooding evidence has been submitted with the Environment Agency’s response on the applicant’s flood modelling due early June. The District and County Council’s flood teams have not objected. In TNP2, the site allocation has been pulled further away from the flood zones.

The plan had been years in the making and subject to numerous public consultations. Members noted that TNP1 had used all the most-preferred housing sites, so inevitably TNP2 would be more challenging. It was noted that TNP2 is connected but should be differentiated from the live planning application at Oxford Road. TNP1 prevented speculative development but TNP1 no longer protects Thame and it is important to adopt TNP2 to continue to see the same protection.

RESOLVED:

  1. To approve that the draft Thame Neighbourhood Plan 2 be submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council (Regulation 16 Submission) so that it can proceed to a further round of consultation and public examination by a qualified examiner.

 

9) Rycote Meadow

The report was noted. This had been a significant piece of work, and by forward funding this work (subject to the District Council’s confirmation), the project can progress.

RESOLVED:

  1. To forward fund the project to the value of the S106 and TOE funding awarded, to a maximum of £40,644, subject written confirmation and a minute to confirm SODC approval.

 

10) Standing Orders

The report was noted. Minor changes were proposed to the Standing Orders. It was clarified that names would be recorded under a secret ballot in the case that councillors request a recorded vote, which legally they must be able to do, but otherwise would remain confidential.

RESOLVED:

  1. To adopt the Standing Orders for 2024-25 with minor amendments shown.

 

11) Financial Regulations

The report was noted.

RESOLVED:

  1. To adopt the Financial Regulations for 2024-25.

 

12) Scheme of Delegations

The report was noted. The proposed Scheme of Delegations is largely as presented at the previous council meeting. Two key points for the council to be aware of before approving the updated scheme of delegations, firstly that delegated spending for the committees (except Planning and Personnel) have been set as £15,000 as the former committee’s delegated spending had not been increased since 2018 which did not reflect inflation. Secondly, due to committee preferences, it was suggested that committee membership for Environment & Assets Committee be set as 10, and Planning Committee be set as 8.

RESOLVED:

  1. To adopt the Scheme of Delegations for 2024-25 as presented.

 

13) Committees Responsibilities and Structure

The report was noted. Members welcomed the changes and noted these can be reviewed in due course.

RESOLVED:

  1. To adopt the Committee Structure and Responsibilities for 2024-25.

 

14) Working Groups

The report was noted. A draft working group structure with high-level responsibilities was proposed. The first meetings of the committees will be used to refine these documents and the working group terms of reference for the respective committees.

 

15) Appointment of Standing Committees Membership

Members were presented with a proposal for committee membership based on preferences.

It was noted that the Chairs and Deputy Chairs for each committee will be elected at the respective committee meetings which immediately follow this meeting. It was also noted that the membership of the Personnel Committee will be the Mayor and Deputy, and Chairs of each standing committee.

RESOLVED that:

  1. Cllrs Bretherton, Champken-Woods, Cowell, Dite, Dollman, Dyer, Emery, Jones, and McGarry be elected to the Community Services committee.
  2. Cllrs Bretherton, Champken-Woods, Cowell, Dite, Dyer, Dodds, Fickling, McGarry, Richards, and Swan be elected to the Corporate Governance committee.
  3. Cllrs Baines, Bretherton, Champken-Woods, Cowell, Dite, Dollman, Emery, Fickling, Jones and Richards be elected to the Environment & Assets committee.
  4. Cllrs Baines, Dodds, Emery, Fickling, Jones, McGarry, Richards and Swan be elected to the Planning committee.

 

16) External Organisations

It was suggested to keep the external organisation appointments as they are, but noting they will be reviewed as part of the committee review and any changes brought to the council ahead of the September committee cycle. Cllr Champken-Woods advised that as a trustee of Thame Senior Friendship Centre, he would step down as the Town Council’s external organisation representative. This and the two vacancies left by the resigned councillor were filled as follows:

  • Citizens Advice – Cllr Dite
  • Thame Senior Friendship Centre – Cllr Dollman*
  • Thame Shed – Cllr Cowell

* Post-meeting note: It was agreed between Cllrs Champken-Woods and Dollman that Cllr Champken-Woods would remain as representative for Thame Senior Friendship Centre.

 

17) Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)

There were no questions for the Mayor.

 

18) Minutes

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 30 April 2024 were received.

RESOLVED that:

  1. The minutes of the meeting held on 30 April 2024 are confirmed as a correct record, and signed by the Chairman.

 

19) Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee

The Minutes of the Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee Meeting held on 23 January 2024 were received. Given that the Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee has concluded and is unable to approve its latest minutes, the Council was asked to approve the minutes of this meeting.

RESOLVED that:

  1. The minutes of the meeting held on 23 January 2024 are confirmed as a correct record, and signed by the Chairman.

 

20) Planning & Environment Committee

The minutes of the meeting held on 7 May 2024 were noted.

 

The meeting concluded at 7:45pm.

 

Signed ………………………

Chairman, 18 June 2024