17 January 2023 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 17 January 2023 at 6:30pm in the Upper Chamber, Town Hall, Thame.
Cllrs B Austin, N Champken-Woods, P Cowell (Town Mayor), M Deacock, A Dite (Deputy Mayor), D Dodds, M Dyer, L Emery, H Fickling, A Gilbert, C Jones, A Midwinter, H Richards, and T Wyse
M Sturdy, Town Clerk
G Markland, Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer
A Oughton, Operations Manager
L Fuller, Committee Services & Processes Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Bretherton (personal) and Gregory (personal).
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
Cllr Cowell declared an interest in Item 6, as he lived close to the application site. This was not a pecuniary interest and did not preclude Cllr Cowell from debating or voting on this item. With regards to the same item, Cllr Dyer advised he had a dispensation relating to Thame Football Club.
3 Public Participation and Public Questions
Mr. Charles Boundy spoke against planning application MW.0163/22 (Moorend Lane) as a resident but also on behalf of Thame Green Living and the Green Living Plan (GLP). Overall, it was felt this was the wrong application in the wrong place, and it was only being considered given the previous use, which was also unsuitable. The site’s location gives rise to concerns regarding contamination (existing and future); dust and particulates which could be carcinogenic; light and noise pollution; its proximity to residential, leisure, and children’s play facilities; the impact on the footpath; and water quality in the Scotsgrove Brook. The site access is also unsuitable and dangerous with poor visibility and close proximity to Lea Park, and Moorend Lane is a well-used bridleway and public footpath, which must be protected. A sustainable traffic management plan would be needed to include traffic lights and a reduced speed limit on the A4129. There appeared to be little benefit to Thame. The proposals would see the removal of green space which has been identified in the GLP as part of a ‘Green Halo’ in partnership with the Woodland Trust, and could create issues for the Haddenham-Thame Cycleway. Overall it was felt that the Town Council should strongly object to the proposals, but go further and support the vision of the adopted GLP and engage with Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) in finding a better use for this land.
There being no questions for Mr. Boundy, it was moved and seconded that Item 6 be taken immediately next.
4 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)
Cllr Dodds asked whether the Town Council could lead a campaign to keep the Post Office open in Thame? Earlier in the day, the Town Council had received information that the Thame McColl’s and Post Office were due to close. In the context of several banks also closing, it was unacceptable that these essential services were able to be withdrawn from Thame.
The Mayor advised that as this had only been received today, further information was needed to clarify the situation. Officers were already looking into possible options and trying to contact the Post Office.
Post meeting note: The Town Council received confirmation from the Post Office that Morrisons will be retaining the Thame Post Office and are working closely to improve customer service.
5 Budget and Precept for 2023-2024
Cllr Fickling left the meeting during this item.
The Responsible Financial Officer (RFO) was unable to attend the meeting but was available by phone for any questions. Officers were praised for their hard work in reducing the budget by reducing costs, and increasing income and efficiencies.
- The budget be approved for 2023-24.
- £900,453 be raised for the precept for 2023-24.
6 MW.0163/22 – Land adjacent Sewage Works, Moorend Lane
Use of part of the land as a permanent aggregate and soil recycling facility, with final restoration of the remaining land to agriculture by regrading already deposited materials. Erection of a new site office and weighbridge, and retention of the surfacing of part of the site with hardcore.
The report was noted.
The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) explained that until 2014 the site was used as agricultural land. In 2013 a temporary permission was granted for the removal and export of filtration sands, and deposition of construction, demolition, and excavation (CDE) waste to provide a landscaped area above the floodplain for cattle and sheep grazing. The deadline for the removal of sands was 31 December 2020, and for the restoration of land 31 December 2022, however the owner went into insolvency in 2019 and the site was left unfinished. In planning terms, with the temporary permissions now expired, the land has returned to its former lawful use as greenfield land.
The latest application seeks to regrade the northern part of the site to form a relatively shallow slope down towards the Scotsgrove Brook, a working platform surrounded by a 5m high bund, and a permanent waste management site that will take 100,000 tonnes of CDE waste annually. All material will then be processed and exported to other construction sites Monday-Saturday. Modest planting schemes are proposed to improve the environment next to the Scotsgrove Brook and the site’s western boundary.
There are concerns regarding flood risk and runoff onto Tythrop Way due to reliance on a permeable surface that could become clogged, and there is nothing to propose how this would be managed, contrary to Oxfordshire Minerals & Waste Core Strategy (OMWCS) Policy C3. The landscaping will offer slight improvements for footpath users across the north of the site and some screening further afield, however it is noted that the bund would be noticeable during winter months, contrary to OMWCS Policy C8 and Thame Neighbourhood Plan (TNP) Policy ESDQ16. It is unclear if the 10metre buffer requirement to the water course has been met, and therefore the proposal is a risk of being contrary to Local Plan Policy ENV4. The noise impact calculations state that residents would be mitigated by the distance however this may be wrong, as the calculations do not include the skate park, football pitches, play area or properties on Roundhead Drive. In terms of dust, there are concerns that the proposal may give rise to further dust issues for residents, plus there are also concerns regarding the impact on the new artificial pitch at the Football Club and the skate park, and therefore the proposal is at risk of being contrary to OMWCS Policy C5. There are concerns regarding the impact of the large increase in the number of HGV trips and difficulties in how highways mitigation measures would be enforced.
In terms of policy, the proposal does not appear to meet the visions and objectives of the OMWCS in Oxfordshire becoming net self-sufficient in meeting its own CDE waste needs and minimising distance that waste is transported by road, as it is likely that most of the site’s tonnage would be to support projects in neighbouring counties, such as housing growth areas, HS2 and East-West Rail. Thame is identified as a ‘smaller town’ in the OMWCS and should not host a strategic facility such as is proposed, therefore the proposal is contrary to OMWCS Policies W1, W4, and C10(b).
For the above reasons, the NPCO recommended that the Town Council objects to this application.
Members thanked the NPCO for a thorough report.
Members agreed that the proposal would negatively impact highways due to the significant increase in traffic movements, degradation of road surfaces, impact on the public bridleway, and unenforceable traffic flow conditions.
Concern was expressed with regards to dust and how this would be managed, noting that damage to the new artificial was a risk to investment as well as to health; it was noted that the Football Association were aware of the application. The air pollution was also a real health concern.
A question was raised with regards to the likely contract length for this proposal? The NPCO advised it would be indefinite and the Town Council had no control over this.
Members noted that Buckinghamshire Council were charging Oxfordshire residents to use Bledlow Household Recycling Centre (HRC), whereas this site would allow waste from Buckinghamshire in.
The site use has always been contentious and not well supported by the community, and this proposal has the potential to enable the site to grow further. It was noted that any activity on the site at present was likely to be unlawful due to expired permissions. In terms of alternative use such as a HRC, this would generate more vehicle movements than the current proposal, but could be suggested through the OMWCS Site Allocations Part 2. Members felt they would like the site to be returned to its original agricultural use, and it was agreed to pass this suggestion to OCC as the site will not have been considered by the current administration.
- Thame Town Council objects to planning application MW.0163/22 on the following grounds:
- The development would be contrary to Oxfordshire Minerals and Waste Core Strategy (OMWCS) Policies W1 and W4.
- The proposal would be contrary to OMWCS Policy C10 (b).
- The proposal is at risk of being contrary to OMWCS Policy C5.
- The proposal is contrary to OMWCS Policy C3.
- The proposal appears contrary to South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) Local Plan 2035 Policy ENV4.
- The proposal would be contrary to OMWCS Policy C8 and Thame Neighbourhood Plan Policy ESDQ16.
7 P22/S4155/FUL – H & C Pearce & Sons Ltd Aylesbury Road
Full planning permission for the erection of 21 dwellings with associated parking, landscaping and open space.
The report was noted.
Of the 21 homes proposed, 17 will be built and 4 will be converted from existing buildings on the site, and will offer a range of tenures, noting that the usual affordable housing requirements have not quite been met due to the vacant building allowance.
As part of the previous application, South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) accepted the employment viability report as there were no reasonable alternative site uses. The NPCO noted that the Town Council now has its own employment analysis which recognises employment needs which could be raised with the Case Officer. In terms of highways impact, the number of evening journeys is likely to be lower than the existing use, the site is well connected to the Town Centre and car parking standards are met, however as cycle parking standards are not met the proposal is contrary to TNP Policy ESDQ27 and SODC Local Plan Policy DES1. Only a small part of the site sits within the flood risk zone 3, however it is considered that the impact of the site no longer being fully impermeable should help with achieving greenfield runoff rates. There is currently a holding objection by SODC regarding Surface Water Flooding. The impact of the proposal on the retained buildings is considered to be low, with materials relating well to the site and surroundings. Recent ecology surveys have made recommendations and overall, the ecological impact is acceptable. The main concern relates to the impact on the heritage assets, as the development does not reflect the listed buildings at the front of the site, contrary to Local Plan Policy ENV6 and TNP Policy ESDQ16. Two of the dwellings lack accessible and adequately-sized private amenity space. In failing to provide play space and adequate private amenity space, the proposal is contrary to Local Plan Policy CF5 and TNP Policy ESDQ28.
Overall, the site has been made to work too hard and the NPCO recommended that the Town Council objects to the planning application for the reasons set out above.
Members felt the proposal was an improvement from the previous scheme and the site was appropriate for housing. However, concerns included poor design within the Conservation Area, insufficient amenity space, overlooking, flooding, the narrow entrance from Aylesbury Road, and insufficient visitor parking. There may be a covenant on the northeast of the site. Concerns regarding loss of employment remain, as the viability study accepted by SODC was not independently conducted and the site has never been tested in the market despite companies being interested.
The NPCO advised that overlooking may be a concern for a small number of properties however it was noted that existing properties on Aylesbury Road are relatively close together.
A suggestion was made that the Town Council request that the developer do more than the minimum to minimise the impact of the development on the environment. As the Town Council was minded to object to this application, it did not seem necessary to include this request at this point. The NPCO advised that the Town Council should ensure TNP2 has a focus on energy efficient building materials.
- Thame Town Council objects to planning application P22/S4155/FUL on the following grounds:
- The development will harm the setting of the Thame Conservation Area, contrary to SODC Local Plan Policy ENV6 and TNP Policy ESDQ16. The proposal would not conserve or enhance the setting of the Thame Conservation Area and adjoining heritage assets. The development would not make a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness. The proposal would not respond to the specific character of the site and its local surroundings, maintaining or enhancing its strengths and seeking to address its weaknesses.
- The failure to provide quality private amenity space for two dwellings and provide a quality play / open space is contrary to Local Plan Policy CF5 and TNP Policy ESDQ28.
- In failing to provide adequate proof of secure bicycle parking and other design matters, and proper visitor bicycle parking, the proposal is contrary to TNP Policy ESDQ27 and SODC Local Plan Policy DES1.
The NPCO left the meeting.
The Minutes of the Committee Meeting held on 15 November 2022 were confirmed as a correct record, and were signed by the Chairman.
9 Planning & Environment Committee
The minutes of the meetings held on 29 November 2022 and 20 December 2022 were noted.
There was a recommendation from the committee meeting on 20 December 2022 regarding accepting ownership of the new bus shelter at Thame Park Road. Additional information as requested by the committee was included in the report for consideration.
- The Town Council accept ownership and the ongoing future maintenance of the new bus shelter at Thame Park Road from OCC.
10 Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 29 November 2022 were noted.
11 Personnel Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 10 January 2023 were noted.
12 Schedule of Meetings 2023-2024
In light of new information regarding the dates for the pre-election period (purdah) which may affect the date of the Annual Town Meeting (Item 13), it was moved and seconded that Item 12 be taken after Item 13.
Members were asked to consider approving the council and committee dates for May 2023 – May 2024. A suggestion was made that there needed to be more committee meetings, particularly of the Community, Leisure & Recreation (CLR) and Policy & Resources (P&R) committees, in order to speed up decision making within the Council and give greater focus / representation on what the Town Council delivers, and less focus on planning matters. It was suggested that the number of CLR and P&R meetings be increased from 4 to 6 a year each. It was noted that extra meetings would place additional workload on Officers, and there were limited meeting-free Tuesdays. The Town Clerk reminded Members that the Terms of Reference for all committees were due to be reviewed, and that any urgent matters could be progressed through an extraordinary council meeting. It was suggested that the proposed schedule be adopted and reviewed by the new administration prior to May 2024, to allow Officers time to assess the feasibility and implications of additional meetings.
- The Schedule of Meetings 2023-2024 be approved up to 1 September 2023, with the schedule and frequency of meetings being reviewed for meetings after that date.
13 Annual Town Meeting
The Town Clerk reported that the start date for the pre-election period (purdah) in South Oxfordshire had just been announced as 20 March 2023, which was earlier than expected and also falls before the Annual Town Meeting, currently scheduled for the 21 March 2023. The advice is to not hold Annual Town Meetings during the pre-election period. Members were asked whether they would prefer that the meeting be held before 20 March 2023, or after the elections, noting the requirement to hold the meeting between 1 March and 1 June. As a meeting of the electorate, Members felt it was important that the meeting be held before the elections so that the existing Councillors would have the knowledge and experience to be able to answer the public’s questions.
The report was noted. In addition to a public forum, which would be the focus of the meeting, Officers suggested that the meeting be used to kickstart the community’s involvement in developing a strategy for Thame, which would just be a short presentation to introduce the strategy and explain what the community can expect. Members were asked to form a project team to assist Officers in managing this. Some example questions had been circulated, which Members suggested various amendments to.
- The date of the Annual Town Meeting be moved to 14 March 2023 so that it does not fall in the pre-election period, and the committee meetings scheduled on that date be moved to 21 March 2023.
- The Annual Town Meeting has a focus on involving the community in the initial stages of creating a strategy / vision for Thame.
- The Council agree to appoint a project team to manage the Thame strategy consultations and delivery, with Terms of Reference to be agreed at the next Full Council meeting.
14 Elections Publicity
The report was noted. Members were asked to consider how the Town Council could encourage people to stand in the elections, beyond the usual publicity methods such as video interviews. Some Members were supportive of getting involved and sharing their experience of being a Town Councillor, however there were also concerns regarding possible breaches of the pre-election period guidance and that the Town Council already successfully promotes its activities such as through the Town Guide. Overall, it was agreed that Councillors should not be involved in the elections publicity.
15 Civility and Respect Pledge
The report was noted. At the meeting of Full Council on 15 November 2022, Members requested more information on the training programme element of the Pledge, which seeks to ensure that Members understand that they are likely to need training to effectively carry out their roles. The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) have confirmed that the Town Council’s Training & Development Policy meets the requirements of the pledge.
- Thame Town Council signs up to the Civility and Respect Pledge.
16 Thame Community Land Trust
The report was noted. The Town Council has been asked by Thame Community Land Trust (CLT) to take on the management and maintenance of two areas of public open space on a long lease (between 990 and 997 years). These would be a wildflower area to the west of the site, and a small copse area with landscaping and a natural play area to the northeast of the site. The Town Council would receive a commuted sum towards the maintenance costs as part of this lease.
Thame CLT own the land and the freehold will remain with them. The open space lease is being offered to the Town Council, but negotiations are ongoing as to whether the lease is given to the Town Council or the Registered Social Landlord. Thame CLT are keen to ensure that the areas remain public in perpetuity and are not exploited.
- The Town Council agree in principle that, subject to changes in the S106 agreement between Thame Community Land Trust and South Oxfordshire District Council, and practical completion certificates being issued, the Town Council can take on ownership (on a long lease) and management responsibilities for public open space as set out in the report.
17 Land Registry – Change to Boundary at 9a Bell Lane
The report was noted. In 2013, following legal advice, the Town Council agreed to establish a definite boundary between the properties on Bell Lane / Bell Close and Thame Town Cricket Club, so that the ditch is owned by the residents of relevant properties on Bell Lane / Bell Close, rather than the Cricket Club, which was further defined as part of the Cricket Clubhouse redevelopment lease. Two properties on Bell Close have already updated their Land Registry documents, and 9a Bell Lane is seeking to do the same. The only visible change at 9a Bell Lane will be that the hedge will be cut, and a post-and-wire fence will be installed to match the neighbouring property.
- The Town Council authorises the signing of the Transfer Deed at 9a Bell Lane as ratified at the Policy & Resources Committee meeting dated 17 September 2013.
With the time approaching 8:30pm, it was proposed and seconded to suspend Standing Orders in order to conclude the remaining business on the agenda.
18 Exclusion of the Public
- 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 Town Council Asset
The Chair updated Members on the positive discussions that had been held between the Town Council and relevant parties with regards to improvements to a Town Council asset.
- The Town Council continues discussions with the relevant parties to authorise a Deed of Variation that will enable improvements to the Town Council asset.
Post meeting note: Initial advice is that a Deed of Variation will not be required. The Town Council will continue discussions with the relevant parties.
The meeting concluded at 8:40pm.
Chairman, 28 February 2023