26 April 2022 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 26 April 2022 at 6:30pm in the Upper Chamber, Town Hall, Thame.
Cllrs D Bretherton, N Champken-Woods (Deputy Mayor), P Cowell (Town Mayor), M Deacock, A Dite, D Dodds, M Dyer, L Emery, H Fickling, K Gregory, C Jones, A Midwinter, H Richards, and T Wyse
M Sturdy, Town Clerk
C Pinnells, Community Services Manager
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Austin (personal).
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
There were no declarations of interest.
3 Civic Announcements
The civic attendances were noted. The Mayor reported it had been a busy period.
4 Public Participation and Public Questions
Mr. David Dawson, a resident of Thame, spoke in support of the 20mph speed limit in Thame. A reduced speed limit had significant safety benefits, with survival rates 7 times higher if a person is hit by a car travelling 20mph than 30mph. More than 80 years have passed since the 30mph speed limit was introduced in built-up areas, however in that time town centres have become busier and 30mph was no longer a safe limit in these areas. On some streets in Thame, such as Park Street, North Street and Wellington Street, it was difficult to drive at 30mph so now this was an opportunity to formalise a lower speed limit and make the town safer for the children. The County Council has funding available to make this happen, and it was felt that the Town Council should take the opportunity whilst the funding is there.
Mr. Steve Brandish, a member of Lea Park Residents Association (LPRA), also spoke in support of 20mph. In 2016, LPRA undertook a survey on the estate and 82% were in favour of 20mph, with concerns noted regarding traffic calming measures and enforcement. A traffic survey was also undertaken, with support from OCC and funding from the Town Council, over several weeks in four locations which showed speeding issues particularly on Cromwell Avenue. At the time, there was no funding available to progress this. Now that OCC are promoting and funding 20mph schemes in residential areas, and speed-watch radar guns were available, Mr. Brandish hoped that the Town Council would support 20mph in Thame to keep this moving in the right direction. Overall, LPRA would support 20mph either just on the estate or as a town-wide initiative.
A question was raised as to whether the speakers felt a town-wide 20mph limit was the best approach? The speakers agreed that a town-wide approach was simpler for drivers to follow and would be possible due to Thame being well-designed with its entry points. It would also enable Thame to promote itself as a 20mph safe town.
Had any of the Lea Park Residents Association had training on the speedwatch radar guns? No, although there are people who would be willing to undertake the training.
It was proposed and seconded that Item 15 be taken immediately next.
5 Reports from County Councillors
The report was noted.
With regards to the junction at the High Street / Priestend / Oxford Road, the new signage has been changed to a larger sign that shows the road turning, with reports that this appeared to be having a positive effect.
Cllr Gregory reported that with regards to possible S106 funding for a crossing at Bell Lane, as discussed at a previous meeting, she had spoken to officers who advised that there was no S106 funding available and so alternative funding would be required.
A question was raised as to whether Thame could get some electric buses, possibly for the hopper bus? Cllr Gregory advised these were just for Oxford City, however there was S106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding available for buses which could be explored.
6 Reports from South Oxfordshire District Councillors
The report was noted. There were no questions for the District Councillors.
7 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)
Cllr Dyer was disappointed that the Town Council did not fly the St George’s flag on St George’s Day due to wind speeds, however it was noted that St Mary’s Church were able to fly the flag and the Queen’s Jubilee Flag was flying at the Memorial Gardens.
The Community Services Manager advised that the flagpole outside the Town Hall is 10metres tall and due to wind speeds exceeding 30mph on Saturday, regrettably it was not possible to fly the St George’s flag. The flagpole at the Memorial Gardens is 8metres and protected by trees, and the flag being flown is smaller. The flagpole at St Mary’s Church, whilst higher off the ground, is much shorter in height. It was recognised that the Flag Flying Policy needed to be updated to include the wind speed restrictions on flag flying, as the Town Council had also received complaints from the public.
It was suggested that perhaps the flagpole was not fit for purpose. The Community Services Manager noted that the flagpole had been in place for 6 years during which time various flags had been flown regularly, when wind speeds allowed.
It was also suggested that the Town Council should purchase a smaller St George’s flag so it could be flown during higher wind speeds, which the Chairman felt was a logical solution.
The Minutes of the Committee Meeting held on 1 March 2022 were confirmed as a correct record, and were signed by the Chairman.
9 Policy & Resources Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 12 April 2022 were noted.
10 Community, Leisure & Recreation Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 5 April 2022 were noted.
The committee had discussed the funding shortfall with regards to the Cricket Clubhouse Redevelopment (Item 13) and made a recommendation to Full Council that Option A (as outlined in the report) be taken.
The Town Clerk clarified that the outstanding balance was £83,000 and Option A would involve using the remaining CIL balance (£62,000) and capital receipt funds. The unclaimed S106 monies (£88,000) originally for the Cricket Clubhouse can be transferred to other projects in the future, but the District Council advised that retrospective claims were difficult hence the request to fund the shortfall through CIL and capital receipt funds.
- Option A (as outlined in the report) is taken to clear the outstanding balance for the construction of the Cricket Clubhouse.
11 Planning & Environment Committee
The minutes of the meetings held on 15 March 2022 and 5 April 2022 were noted.
12 Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 15 March 2022 were noted.
13 Town Mayor Designate
It was requested that under Standing Order 6.0 the vote for this item be taken by a secret ballot.
The Chairman called for nominations for the position of Town Mayor Designate. It was proposed that Cllrs Cowell and Dite be considered for the position of Town Mayor Designate. The candidates were given an opportunity to give a short speech on why they wished to be Town Mayor for 2022-23.
Cllr Cowell felt that it had been an interesting year, with the covid-19 restrictions making it difficult to progress projects. However, with the new Town Clerk in post, Cllr Cowell felt it would be logical for him to remain as Town Mayor to provide continuity for him and the Town Clerk.
Cllr Dite would feel very proud to represent the Council and residents as Mayor of Thame. He had been a councillor for 8 years and was currently Deputy Chair of the Planning & Environment and Chair of the Community, Leisure & Recreation committees which gave him a good understanding of the council’s business. The Council would be developing a strategic plan, and Cllr Dite has experience in this. Cllr Dite felt now was a good time for change and he would ensure the Town Clerk is fully responsible for managing the staff.
On being put to the vote it was:
- Under Standing Order 6.0, the vote for Town Mayor Designate be taken by secret ballot.
- Cllr Cowell be elected Town Mayor Designate for the ensuing year.
14 Deputy Town Mayor Designate
It was requested that under Standing Order 6.0 the vote for this item be taken by a secret ballot.
The Chairman called for nominations for the position of Deputy Town Mayor Designate. It was proposed that Cllrs Champken-Woods and Dite be considered for the position of Deputy Town Mayor Designate. The candidates were given an opportunity to give a short speech on why they wished to be Deputy Town Mayor for 2022-23.
Cllr Champken-Woods felt he should be re-elected as Deputy Town Mayor to ensure continuity and that he had worked well with Cllr Cowell over the past year. As the current Town Mayor and the Town Clerk are both relatively new to their roles, Cllr Champken-Woods felt his council experience and knowledge was beneficial in supporting them.
Cllr Dite hoped to be elected as Deputy Town Mayor for the same reasons as set out earlier for Town Mayor. In addition, he felt there was an opportunity to add depth to the organisation and speed up decision making.
On being put to the vote it was:
- Under Standing Order 6.0, the vote for Deputy Town Mayor Designate be taken by secret ballot.
- Cllr Dite be elected Deputy Town Mayor Designate for the ensuing year.
Cllr Gregory left the meeting.
15 20mph Speed Limits
The report summarised the eligibility requirements from Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) as well as listing all of the streets / areas that had requested 20mph speed limits in Thame and Moreton. 20mph has been a long-term aspiration for the Lea Park and Moreton Residents’ Associations.
OCC have advised that Moreton should be considered separately from Thame. In Moreton, there are no streetlights which usually denote a 30mph area. Vehicles often enter Moreton at speed, which makes it particularly dangerous for pedestrians and there have been accidents as a result.
With regards to Thame, a map of the town had been highlighted to show the different requests for 20mph which effectively covered all of Thame within the ring road. These streets / areas were eligible due to being a school route, road safety concerns, and evidence of speeding or traffic incidents. Given that the requests covered most of Thame, the Community Services Manager recommended that the Town Council should request that all of Thame be considered for 20mph subject to the approval of the area by OCC Officers.
With regards to the environmental impact, the ‘20’s Plenty for Us’ website had lots of information including research that shows that driving at a slower speed requires less energy and fuel and produces fewer emissions. Members were reminded that they had adopted the Green Living Plan which supports healthier living and improvements to air quality.
Members raised some concern over the effectiveness and enforcement of the 20mph speed limit, for example drivers often exceed the existing 20mph speed limit on Ludsden Grove. However, it was noted that generally drivers adhere to the speed limits in Thame, and so to some extent it should self-enforce and speed-limiting technology within modern cars would assist with this. Speedwatch radar guns could be hired from the Town Council for residents to monitor and report speeds in their area. 20mph speed limits were increasingly common in towns and cities across the country so drivers were more expecting of them but did not know where they were being enforced. Research in Scotland showed that average speeds dropped by 6mph where the speed limit was changed from 30mph to 20mph. With regards to Ludsden Grove, 20mph may not be followed at present due to the rest of Thame’s residential areas being 30mph.
There were also concerns over the claims on air quality, as driving at a lower speed means driving for a longer period in that area. The ‘20’s Plenty for Us’ website contains a lot of research on this. A study by Future Transport in 2021 found that 20mph speed limits lowered carbon dioxide emissions by 26% and nitrogen oxide by 28%.
County Councillor Gregory advised that she had received more messages on 20mph, largely in support, than any other topic during her time as a County Councillor which showed it was something the town wants. OCC will cover the costs of changing the speed limits in Thame.
Overall, despite some scepticism about the effectiveness and enforceability, it was felt that safety concerns were paramount and that a town-wide approach, excluding the ring-roads, was sensible to avoid confusion. It was suggested that Thame should embrace 20mph and create a slogan, similar to Edinburgh and Bristol.
With regards to Moreton, there was strong evidence for 20mph to be introduced due to the lack of streetlighting and history of incidents. There was some discussion as to whether the 20mph speed limit should start from the junction with Rycote Lane or further down Moreton Road. It was agreed that the commencement point would be subject to advice from OCC Highways.
- Thame Town Council requests that all residential areas in Thame within the ring road, and the Taylor Wimpey / Bellway estates, be considered for 20mph.
- Thame Town Council requests that Moreton be considered for 20mph, with the commencement point subject to Highways advice.
Each resolution, which was unanimously voted for, was greeted with a round of applause from the public gallery.
16 Community Youth Centre
The Town Clerk advised that the project was progressing with some initial design plans, consultation with potential users, and the architect was keeping the project moving forward. The report detailed the various fees that had been quoted so far in order to progress the project through planning. There was S106 funding available of just under £700,000 and Thame Youth Projects were investigating various funding options. This was an exciting opportunity for Thame. The Town Council was being asked to forward fund £80,000 from general reserves to enable the project to progress, which would be returned through S106 upon planning permission being granted.
Concern was raised at the amount being charged for the Landscape Architect fees. The Town Clerk advised that this was an estimate and would be put to tender, however it was likely to be a realistic figure based on previous project experience.
Concern was also raised about taking £80,000 from general reserves, however this would be repaid through S106 once planning permission is granted.
- Thame Town Council approves to forward fund up to £80,000 from general reserves to allow the next phase, to planning permission, of the Thame Community Youth Centre building.
Members noted the report, which summarised the actions the Town Council has taken towards the Ukraine response following a public meeting earlier in the month. The Town Clerk thanked the Committee Services Officer for creating a webpage on the Town Council’s website that collated local information and resources. Members gave a round of applause in recognition of this.
Cllr Cowell reported that at the Thame Business Forum earlier in the day, the businesses were keen to provide employment opportunities for Ukrainians in Thame. The Market Town Co-Ordinator would work with businesses to create a jobs board for this.
Cllr Cowell reported that there had been a lot of offers to help and donate items, however moving forwards organisations would be working on a needs-based approach speaking directly with those affected to identify what they need.
18 Thames Valley Police
The written update from Thames Valley Police was noted. As TVP Officers had been unable to attend the meeting, any questions would be collated and sent via e-mail.
The update covered the parking enforcement responsibilities of the County Council and Police. It was noted that there was no mention of enforcement on zig-zags at zebra crossings, which was particularly problematic on the High Street. Cllr Champken-Woods advised that the County Council’s contractor for parking enforcement, Conduent, could only enforce parking offences within designated parking areas.
There was also no mention of drugs or county lines.
19 Democratic Process
Cllr Dyer provided Members with an update following Council’s decision in January to afford every possible assistance to any Councillor, resident, or group thereof in pursuance of a referral to the Local Government Ombudsman relating to the failings of a democratic process. Cllr Dyer had been working with a resident on the matter. A referral was made to the Local Government Ombudsman online, however each of the three questions had a character limit which made it difficult to detail the case. A reply was received within a few days stating that the referral would not be considered as the District’s Monitoring Officer had considered it satisfactorily. Unhappy with this response, Cllr Dyer and the resident appealed this decision on the grounds that the District Council only consider the processes and not whether correct judgements are made within that process nor that the outcomes would be satisfactory. It was also appealed on the grounds that no supporting evidence could be submitted as part of the referral. The appeal, which was submitted with a five-page summary, has been acknowledged and is being investigated with the outcome awaited. It was noted that this was the final course of action and there were no further avenues to explore.
Members thanked Cllr Dyer and the resident for all their hard work in continuing to pursue this matter.
20 Schedule of Meetings
The dates of the additional Full Council meetings on Thursday 28th April 2022 and Tuesday 24th May 2022 were noted.
21 Planning Decision
It was noted that planning permission had been refused on planning application P21/S0644/FUL at Pearces Yard, Aylesbury Road.
22 Community Governance Review
It was noted that the District Council are currently consulting on the changes put forward by parish councils as part of the Community Governance Review. The consultation runs until midday on Friday 29 April 2022.
The meeting concluded at 7:40pm.
Chairman, 10 May 2022