22 September 2020 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Virtual Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 22 September 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) and T Wyse
C Pinnells, Deputy Clerk
G Markland, Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Cllr Tipping (business).
All Members who were present were able to be seen and be heard.
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
Cllr Austin declared an interest in Agenda Item 8 as the Chair of East Thame Residents Association but there was a dispensation in place which allowed Cllr Austin to speak and vote on this item.
3 Civic Announcements
The Chairman reported that she had attended the virtual Annual Meeting of the Scouts Association of Oxfordshire and expressed how grateful she was for all that the Scouts and the volunteers do for Thame.
4 Public Participation and Public Questions
Mr Alex Taylor spoke on behalf of East Thame Residents Association against planning application P20/S2593/O (Item 8). A detailed response had been sent to South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC), with the main grounds for objection based on strategic matters and site access. From a strategic point of view, the proposals do not conform to the Thame Neighbourhood Plan (TNP) as the site is not allocated for development. If approved, it could lead to development on other unallocated sites. Concern was expressed that the relevant health authorities, such as the local GP practices, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and NHS Trusts, had not been consulted as part of this application and their support was important to ensure the development met their needs. In terms of site access, given the location outside of the town centre it was expected that most visits – by patients and staff – will be made by car as recognised by Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) in their response. Access by foot would principally be via Fanshawe Road however the proposals include a footpath in front of 2 Fanshawe Road which does not exist and currently is their front garden. Although a pedestrian crossing was proposed on Howland Road, people were more likely to cross Tythrop Way at the roundabout or walk down Queens Road where there is no footpath. Both options were busy and dangerous, so it was suggested that any proposals must envisage proper safety crossings and barriers. Regarding public transport, although the site is served by the twice-an-hour 280 and hourly 40 bus services, the timetable of the 280 service meant it was effectively an hourly service which was inadequate. It was considered that the single proposed bus stop on Howland Road should be inset to avoid disruption to the traffic flow. The proposed car parking was considered inadequate as the Buckinghamshire Council’s Zone 2 requirements are 1 space per 14sqm meaning that there should be 173 spaces rather than 95.
There were no questions put to Mr Taylor.
Mr Andy Birch spoke on behalf of Hallam Land Management and Montpelier Estates in support of planning application P20/S2593/O (Item 8). Mr Birch was disappointed to read the recommendation to object in the Officer’s report but felt there were some positives to take. It appeared that the main grounds for objection was the lack of affordable housing, referencing the recent appeal decision at The Elms. Mr Birch advised that this decision was after their application had been submitted to SODC and that they have delivered C2 use without affordable housing previously, but they would welcome a discussion with the Town Council and SODC to consider this. As such, it was requested that the Town Council defer the decision on this application or offer a holding objection to enable these discussions, regarding policy CSTHA1 and TNP policies HA8 and HA9, to take place. Regarding the landscaping, it was considered that other developments on the outskirts of Thame such as Thame Football Club and the Windles / Groves development had an impact on the landscape but were endorsed. The proposed development has been in the pipeline for many years and it was not expected to be concealed. The Design and Access Statement addresses the landscaping in response to pre-application discussions, however Mr Birch welcomed further discussions on these reserved matters. Overall the scheme provided a great opportunity to provide a new, long term health facility and, although there were some technical issues to resolve, Mr Birch hoped that this application would be supported.
Members questioned the land ownership of the proposed footpath on Fanshawe Road, which currently appears to be under private ownership of 2 Fanshawe Road on land registry maps. Mr Birch advised that this had been looked into and it was owned by Highways, adding that he would be able to provide further details on this.
Mr Birch was asked whether an access point could be created from the Kingsey Road roundabout, rather than on Kingsey Road which was a fast road and dangerous. The access point on Kingsey Road was proposed as it was suggested as the better option in pre-application consultations. Furthermore the speed limit would be reduced to 40mph and visibility splays introduced, but ultimately it will be the County Highways Officer to determine the safety.
A question was raised as to why the health organisations did not appear to be involved? Mr Birch advised that they had been trying for 4 years but the situation with CCGs and the NHS was complex. At a simple level, Doctors needed the new facility which would improve the current situation.
Finally a question was put regarding the justification / need for the Assisted Living Units (C2), and whether the site would be viable with just the health hub and nursery? The TNP identified a need for elderly accommodation and there is more recent evidence to support this. The Assisted Living Units helped with the viability of the site so at this stage it could not be answered whether that aspect could be removed.
Members then discussed and made a recommendation for planning application P20/S2593/O.
5 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)
Cllr Jones questioned whether, given today’s announcements from the Government, the Town Hall would have to re-close? The Deputy Clerk advised that the management team would be discussing this tomorrow, following any announcements from the Prime Minister that evening.
Cllr Francis was very concerned about the Town Council’s investments and asked when an update / presentation was next scheduled from the investment company? The Deputy Clerk advised that she would check with the Office Administration Manager to confirm and respond.
The minutes of the meeting held on 11 August 2020 were approved. Regarding Item 6, it was noted that the Town Council still had not received a report from County Cllr Carter. The Chairman advised that this would be followed up.
7 Planning & Environment Committee
The minutes of the meetings held on 25 August 2020 and 15 September 2020 were noted.
8 1286 – P20/S2593/O – Land east of Tythrop Way (B4012) and south of Kingsey Road (A4129), Thame
The NPCO apologised for the lateness of the report, which had been due to ongoing issues with SODC’s website spanning over a fortnight. On the matter of affordable housing it was included in the report for the benefit of Members and the public, not as a lever. Affordable housing is not the Town Council’s role to decide, however it may become a material consideration for SODC in time. In addition to the recognised need for health facilities as set out in the TNP, there had been 4 expressions of interest for nursery provision this year as well as anecdotal evidence of nurseries wishing to expand. It was not known if expected that the proposed nursery of 110 spaces would be sufficient but it was expected they would and cater largely for local families. The situation with the care home and assisted living has somewhat snowballed since the pre-application two years ago. The Town Council has seen attempts to identify the need for these facilities in Thame within other applications, using a variety of methods such as taking a wide geographic radius around Thame however none have gone far enough to demonstrate the need for Thame. In terms of the care home, there had not been any consultation comments on this application from the CCGs or OCC’s Housing and Social Care Commissioning Team however the latter did comment on the care home application proposed at The Elms recently stating that the need for extra care housing in South Oxfordshire had been met up to 2031. The NPCO felt that this application had not gone far enough to demonstrate the need was there for that use. In terms of design, the proposal for the nursery and health facilities was appropriate however the care home and assisted living housing design was not. Contrary to TNP policy ESDQ16 the design tries to incorporate the scale of the industrial units nearby without considering the residential area opposite, and also inappropriately takes inspiration from town centre buildings. Overall, the application has been presented as package with some benefits, however there are concerns of design, landscaping and no evidential need for the Extra Care Home. The NPCO noted the request from the applicant to defer recommendation of this application.
Members felt that in addition to the points raised in the Officer’s report, it should be noted that there were clear problems with pedestrian access and parking, as well as a disappointing lack of environmental awareness both in terms of building design and consideration of important wildlife on the site.
i) Thame Town Council objects to the application on the grounds set out in the Officer’s report.
9 October Charter Fair
The Deputy Clerk explained that the Showmen’s Guild had provided information for the October Charter Fair regarding number controls, social distancing measures, a risk assessment and a track and trace system, as requested for a Safety Advisory Group (SAG) meeting. A SAG meeting had not been held yet and the Town Council awaited an updated Event Safety Management Plan. In addition to this, the Showmen’s Guild have offered to provide – at their own cost – barrier fencing for a one way system with entrance and exit points and additional stewarding to monitor social distancing and adherence to the ‘rule of six’, which is the responsibility of the event organiser. The Deputy Clerk advised that for the Charter not to be lost, the Guild must place a single attraction on site for a maximum of 2 hours. Overall, the October Fair remains an uninsurable risk and there is uncertainty over the contents of the Prime Minister’s announcement due later this evening.
Members recognised the significant efforts made by the Showmen’s Guild to try and make the October Fair happen. However, as with the September Fair, Members recognised their responsibility to the constituents of Thame and that despite the efforts of the Guild it was not possible to safely hold the October Fair due to the town centre street environment. A question was raised as to whether the Guild would sanitise after each ride, and how the Fair is any different to playground rides? Sanitiser was provided at the Maidenhead Fair, visited by Cllrs Champken-Woods and Dyer last month, however that was a completely different set-up.
It was regrettable and a great pity that the October Charter Fair could not take place this year but the health and wellbeing of Thame’s residents was paramount.
In terms of the single attraction to honour the Charter, it was felt this should be allowed as it would be unfair for the Charter to be lost as a result of the Town Council’s decision. The specific attraction would be confirmed with the Town Fairs Working Group.
i) Thame Town Council cancels the October Charter Fair for 2020. In order to satisfy the Charter, a single attraction be placed on site for a maximum of 2 hours.
10 Website Accessibility
The report and update on the Town Council’s website accessibility was noted.
11 Consultation – Planning for the Future, White Paper
It was noted that the formal response for the Planning for the Future, White Paper consultation closes on the 29 October 2020. It was agreed that the NPCO would circulate some initial thoughts to Members, collate any further comments and submit a response on behalf of the Town Council.
12 Thame Football Partnership / Artificial Pitch
The report contained the meeting notes from a meeting held on 20 August 2020 between the Football Foundation’s Consultant, McArdle Sports Tec (constructors), Tiger Turf (3G Pitch Surface), Thame Football Partnership Chairman and the Town Clerk at the time. The Deputy Clerk reported that the Town Council’s Management Team were going to be scheduling a meeting with SODC’s S106 Officer to receive the progress to date on this project. The Football Foundation have confirmed that they are happy with the legal processes regarding the charge on the land. The Town Council’s solicitor has been instructed to act on the Council’s behalf.
13 IT New Equipment & Support Service
The timetable for implementation was noted. Cllr Cowell added that an alternative way forward had been circulated to Councillors and feedback was welcome. The responses from the IT specialists had been received.
The meeting concluded at 7:28pm.
Chairman, 10 November 2020