25 August 2015 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 25 August 2015 at 7.30pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall
Present: Cllrs B Austin, D Bretherton, D Butler, , P Cowell,
M Deacock, N Dixon (Town Mayor), D Dodds, M Dyer, H Fickling, P Lambert, A Midwinter, M Stiles and T Wyse.
G Hunt, Town Clerk
L Spokes, Community Project Support Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs N Champken-Woods (Holiday), L Emery (Deputy Mayor) (Holiday), and C Jones (Holiday).
2 Declarations of Interest
Councillor Cowell declared he was a member of Lea Park Residents Association.
Councillor Austin declared he was the Chairman of East Thame Residents Association and a member of the Thame Centre First Steering Group.
The Town Clerk confirmed there was a general dispensation in place for members of residents associations and a dispensation in place for Cllr Austin as a member of Thame Centre First.
3 Public Participation
Sue Gilbert, Chris Lindop and Tom Newitt spoke on behalf of Thame Centre First against the planning application for Kingsmead Business Park. The group had received over 3500 signatures opposing the proposals and objections from 43 businesses within the town.
The representatives referred to policies in the Thame Neighbourhood Plan (TNP) that stipulated new retail should remain in the town centre. Loss of footfall within the town due to the new store would be damaging to the library, banks and shops and would have an adverse impact on employment levels within the town. Proposed parking and cycle provision was poor and access to the site from Howland Road was not safe for pedestrians or motorists. The site’s current operating hours (9am-5pm) would be dramatically increased should the plans be approved, leading to unacceptable noise and traffic levels. Additionally, the lack of sufficient parking provision for Tesco employees would result in neighbouring streets becoming congested with parked cars.
In conclusion, the group claimed that if the planning application was to be approved it would result in many town centre businesses becoming unviable leading to a reduction in staff and stock or permanent closure.
Miles Young of MRPP thanked the Council for its transparent communication with the developer, councillors and local community. Mr Young highlighted to Members that the application had the support of the current site occupiers, DAF, whose lease would be extended until 2018 subject to the outcome of the application. Whilst the report from JCPC Planning Consultancy recommended refusal, Mr Young invited Members to consider whether the benefits of the application outweighed any perceived negatives, highlighting the reduction in travel for customers, improved provision for cyclists and pedestrians, environmental improvements and the retention of an important local employer. The fact that Tesco was the owner of the site meant that it had an ongoing commitment to the town.
Peggy Long and Rachel Lester from Thame Needs Tesco (TNT) promoted the need for change within Thame’s growing community, stating that the town must cater for all levels of wealth. The group had undertaken extensive petitioning throughout the town and had obtained over 650 pledges in support of the application.
Referring to consultation with current Tesco employees, the representatives stated that Tesco could offer a good standard of flexible employment for all ages. The proximity of the store would also reduce the distance travelled by customers who currently go out of town to undertake their food shopping. Attention was drawn to the current condition of Thame’s congested high street, claiming that any retail development within town, specifically on the Cattle Market site, would only add to the problem.
4 P15/S1637/O – Kingsmead Business Park, Howland Road
Planning consultant, Jake Collinge, gave Members an overview of the application that was before them. Mr Collinge highlighted that the site was currently for B1 (Office), B2 (General Industrial) and B8 (Storage and Distribution) employment use and must remain so as stipulated by the Thame Neighbourhood Plan. The proposal was partially for A1 (Retail) employment use and so Members were asked to consider whether the retention and possible increase in employment on the site would allow for the policy to be over ridden.
Referring to the sequential test, no other sites for a supermarket have been identified in Thame other than the Cattle Market. This site, however, was allocated in the Thame Neighbourhood Plan for mixed-use development and could therefore be discounted.
The impact on retail, should the development be approved, remained an issue for the South Oxfordshire District Council’s external consultant to consider. The lack of empirical evidence supplied by Tesco meant that no conclusion could currently be drawn.
Following questions from Members, Mr Collinge confirmed that the outline planning application would set the principle and size of the superstore, but that other factors such as the building’s location and the number of parking spaces could be altered via a Reserved Matters application. In addition to this, Mr Collinge confirmed that developers could not be forced to consider plans for a smaller floor space.
During discussion, Councillors expressed concern that the proposals were not in line with policies of the Thame Neighbourhood Plan and that the development would have an adverse impact on the town centre. Whilst the concept of an additional food store within Thame was welcomed, the size and location of the proposals being considered would have an adverse impact on the town.
In contrast, two members highlighted that Thame was set to grow following future housing development and that current provision within the town, with particular reference to parking, could not accommodate this additional need. Similarly, the town also needed to make provision for those who could not afford to shop at the current outlets within Thame.
Development is four times greater than provision set out in Thame Neighbourhood Plan.
Development is outside South Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan.
b) Unacceptable level of harm to vitality and viability of the town centre
Applicant has failed to demonstrate there would be no significant adverse impact on the town centre, including the market
c) Unacceptable level of harm of the proposal on planned public and private investment in the centre of the town.
The meeting concluded at 8.29pm.
Chairman, 29 September 2015