28 February 2023 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 28 February 2023 at 6:40pm in the Upper Chamber, Town Hall, Thame.
Cllrs P Cowell (Town Mayor), M Deacock, A Dite (Deputy Mayor), 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
A Oughton, Operations Manager
G Markland, Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
Before the meeting started, a minute’s silence was observed for former Town Councillor and Mayor, Don Butler, who passed away last month.
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Austin (personal), Bretherton (personal), Champken-Woods (personal), and Gilbert (personal).
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
Cllr Dodds declared an interest in Item 17 – Hode Garth Allotments as a relative of one of the parties in the Deed of Agreement. Cllr Dodds abstained from debating and voting on this item.
Cllr Midwinter declared an interest in Item 18 – Thame Community Land Trust as a member of the trust. Cllr Midwinter abstained from debating and voting on this item.
3 Civic Announcements
The civic attendances were noted. After a quieter period post-Christmas, events were picking up again.
4 Public Participation and Public Questions
There were no applications to address the Council.
There were no questions put to the Council.
5 Lord Williams’s School Update
Unfortunately, due to personal circumstances, the headteacher from Lord Williams’s School was unable to attend. The presentation has been rescheduled to the Full Council meeting in April.
6 Reports from County Councillors
Cllr Richards entered the meeting during this item.
The report was noted.
It was clarified that the ongoing issue at Nelson Street related to the junction with Southern Road which was dangerous and not fit for purpose. Officers at Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) are in discussions with residents in order to progress.
The report mentions flood prevention measures, what would this include? Cllr Gregory advised she would get the details and report back.
What was involved in the Haddenham-Thame Greenway options appraisal? This was a year-long consultation which Buckinghamshire Council were running with funding from OCC, to look at and analyse different options. An update was expected in mid-2023.
7 Reports from South Oxfordshire District Councillors
The report was noted.
The requirement for photo ID was noted, and Members felt this would create a barrier to vote and disenfranchise both the young and elderly as a result. The biggest concern is voters forgetting to bring their ID on election day. The Town Council should continue to publicise the voter ID requirement.
It was noted that South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) are offering support for community litter picking as part of the Great British Spring Clean. It was noted that Thame Wombles have faced obstacles from SODC and OCC when trying to undertake community litter-picking, what support can they receive on a long-term basis? Cllr Gregory advised that SODC had provided grant funding to Thame Wombles but had not received feedback that they were facing barriers. It was noted that Thame Wombles had done a great job on the Old Long Crendon Road on behalf of SODC. A few years ago, Thame Tidy was a successful annual town-wide initiative run by 21st Century Thame, and it was suggested that SODC speak to them regarding the Great British Spring Clean.
8 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)
Cllr Wyse asked what action the Town Council was taking regarding the poor customer service in Thame Post Office? The Mayor was aware of the emails received, and it was agreed to email both Morrisons, who are ultimately responsible, and the Post Office to reiterate the concerns. It was suggested that data be gathered where possible to support the Town Council’s case. An update would be provided at or before the next Full Council.
The Minutes of the Committee Meeting held on 17 January 2023 were confirmed as a correct record, and were signed by the Chairman.
10 Policy & Resources Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 14 February 2023 were noted.
11 Community, Leisure & Recreation Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 7 February 2023 were noted.
The committee had made a recommendation to investigate options and costings for different events and activities, and report to Full Council. The report presented various options with associated costings and risks based on the allocated £5,000 budget and feedback from the online survey and social media comments. A large screen had been explored and costed at between £4,000 to £7,000. If an event is chosen, consideration needs to be given to costs for security and road closures, which date to hold the event, and the risk of bad weather which is the event organiser’s risk. Whichever option(s) the Council choose, or don’t choose, the community should be informed of the reasoning.
Members agreed that the screen was not a good use of money, due to the risk of bad weather and likelihood that people will stay at home to watch the coronation events. Members also agreed not to proceed with the coronation planting scheme, as it would not be planted until June and red, white, and blue flowers were already due to be planted in the other beds.
In addition to the ideas in the report, Members suggested the following activities: a big street dance in the Upper High Street Car Park; sports day on the recreation ground; union jack coloured wildflower seeds for school children; painting the High Street road; a ‘Thame Tidy’ style event, possibly in partnership with Thame Wombles; chalk street / pavement art and murals with school children; planting a tree; laser projection of the union jack onto the Town Hall. All of these options would have cost / resource implications and risks which Officers would need to explore.
It was felt that Thame’s decorations for the jubilee had been disappointing compared to other local towns. Members suggested purchasing more bunting, hanging baskets and flags to wrap around lampposts to ensure the town looked good. It was noted that the town centre businesses had created jubilee-themed window displays.
It was agreed that the Town Council should encourage street parties and simplify the process for people to hold them. SODC were taking a soft touch on road closures, but they must be applied for and ensure emergency access. A booklet could be produced, similar to the Jubilee booklet and potentially funded via sponsorship, to publicise street parties and any coronation other activities / events in Thame.
Upon discussing all the options presented, it was:
- The Town Council does not purchase the Coronation planting scheme for the Memorial Gardens.
- The Town Council purchases enough wildflower seed packets for every primary school pupil in Thame.
- Officers be delegated to explore the costs and feasibility for following options, and circulate to Members a priority list via email: Union Jack projection onto the Town Hall, bunting / flags in the town, street art with school children, facilitating street parties, and a community clean-up on Monday 8th May.
12 Planning & Environment Committee
The minutes of the meetings held on 31 January 2023 were noted.
13 Thame Neighbourhood Plan 2 (TNP2)
It was noted that the draft Plan will be brought to the Council for approval in April 2023.
Members were presented with two options for when to hold the statutory 6-week consultation for TNP2, either 1) starting the consultation prior to the elections which would be during the pre-election period, or 2) after the elections. Before that consultation, further work is required to work through the evidence base, submit the draft plan as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment process, and place the plan before SODC and the Town Council. This work is expected to take up to 4 weeks, therefore it would be preferrable to choose option 2) as this would provide greater certainty and give Officers time to make amendments to the draft plan following Member’s feedback, and prepare material for the consultation. Whilst TNP2 seeks to make best progress, SODC have advised it is not good practice to hold the consultation during the pre-election period.
Members agreed that the option 2) was preferable, so that the current council agree the consultation to start after the election. Any change of administration should not affect the plan as it is the community’s plan.
- Subject to the receipt of a satisfactory Pre-Submission Plan, the Town Council agrees at Council on 25 April 2023 a date for the statutory 6-week consultation to start, after the 2023 local council elections.
14 Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: Reforms to National Planning Policy
The report was noted. The Government are currently consulting on wide ranging changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB). The current consultation focuses on changes to the NPPF. Several matters affect Thame, which have been outlined in the report. The District’s Joint Local Plan is currently on track for adoption in 2025, which would give protection to the TNP in being less than 5 years old.
The next round of consultation is expected to include permitted development matters.
The NPPF proposes permitting mansard rooves to make effective use of land, however it was questioned why this was necessary as permitted development allows additional storeys on dwellings. The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer advised that the additional storeys are only permitted where surrounding buildings are higher, whereas the mansard rooves appear to be permittable anywhere.
- The Town Council approves the comments included within the report as the basis for its response to the most recent proposed reforms to national planning policy.
15 Public Art
The report was noted. Members were asked to approve the draw-down of the S106 funding for Phases 1 & 2 of the Art Leading Wayfinding Project. It was noted that the Public Art Working Group have continued delegated authority to oversee the project. The designs and locations for the second and third Wayfinding trails will be brought to the Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee for approval.
When completed, the Art Leading Wayfinding project will create a cohesive network of footpaths throughout the town.
A question was raised as to whether any money could be put aside to improve existing, and damaged, art on the Phoenix Trail? The Community Services Manager advised that the Public Art Strategy had been agreed by the Town Council and all S106 money had been allocated, but once the Wayfinding project had been completed, existing art on the Phoenix Trail could be the next project.
- The signing of relevant legal agreements by the Town Clerk to allow the funding drawdown of both phase 1 and Phase 2 as outlined in section 14.1 & 14.2 of the report to meet the completion of the approved ‘Art Leading Wayfinding’ Project be approved.
16 Strategy Working Group
The Town Clerk had prepared draft Terms of Reference for the Strategy Working Group, which were expected to continue to evolve. Alongside the Strategy Working Group, Officers are working on a one-year delivery action plan which will be brought to Council. It was agreed that the membership of the working group would be agreed after the elections.
- The Terms of Reference for the Strategy Working Group be approved. The membership will be approved after the local elections.
17 Hode Garth Allotments
The report was noted. In April 2021, the Town Council approved in principle to take on the ownership and management responsibilities for Hode Garth Allotments (Bellway development). A Deed of Variation has been drawn-up which will enable the transfer of the allotments site and commuted sum to the Town Council. It is recommended that the Town Council sign the Practical Completion Certificate, subject to a final site visit.
The site currently has no gates. The Operations Manager explained that the gates had been absent from the planning application, so the Town Council could not retrospectively ask the developer to install them, however the commuted sum from the developer could be put towards a gate.
- The draft Deed of Variation between the developer and South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC), to allow transfer and ownership of Hode Garth allotments to the Town Council be approved.
- The Town Council issues the Practical Completion Certificate with the assistance of the s106 Officer at South Oxfordshire District Council.
18 Thame Community Land Trust
The report was noted. Following the recommendation made by the Council on 17 January 2023, the Operations Manager explained that a point of clarification needed to be made. The S106 agreement states that the Town Council must be offered all the public open space. At the previous meeting, the Village Green space was not offered as it was noted that it would remain under the ownership of the Registered Social Landlord (RSL), but the Town Council would maintain it on a contract basis. Therefore, the Town Council was being asked to formally reject the ‘Village Green’.
Members were confused about the term ‘reject’. The Operations Manager explained that the RSL has always been keen to keep control of the Village Green, although in future it may be offered to the Town Council once a proven track record has been established. Although a minor technicality, if the Town Council does not ‘reject’ the Village Green it will cause significant delays to the CLT development.
- The Town Council formally accepts the offer, through the s106 Agreement, of ownership of the public open space as outlined in Appendix 1 but that the Town Council rejects the offer of ownership of the public open space referred to as the ‘Village Green’.
19 Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties)
The report was noted. The Town Clerk explained that legislation requires the Town Council to set equality objectives. The report presents some low-cost quick-win objectives that the Town Council could choose from to set and include in a long term strategy. Suggestions were welcome.
There was discussion over the number of days the Pride Flag should be flown. The equality objective set out in the report includes a review of the Flag Flying Policy, and suggests the flag be flown for 1 to 30 days in June. It was agreed that the Flag Flying Policy needed a thorough review and further discussion.
It was suggested that the Town Council do something for International Women’s Day and International Men’s Day.
Concern was raised about the risk of positively discriminating when recruiting. The aim when recruiting is to ensure advertisements reach a diverse audience, and the equality guidance is clear that any action must be proportionate.
- The Town Council approves the equality objectives as set out in the report with the addition of two further objectives – to mark international women’s day and international men’s day.
20 Effectiveness of Internal Control / Financial Risk
The financial risk assessments had been updated as per the annual requirement, with any changes shown in red. Members were reminded that two Councillors are required to sign off the payments fortnightly, and it would be helpful if all Members could assist with this.
- The measures taken to mitigate financial risks be approved.
21 Financial Regulations
The Financial Regulations had been updated, shown in red text, in line with a change to legislation regarding contracts. A full review of the document would take place in May.
- The updated Financial Regulations be approved.
22 Proposed Parking Measures – Thame
The Delegated Decisions by the Cabinet Member for Highway Management at the meeting on Thursday 26 January 2023 were noted. It was also noted that a closed meeting will be held on Tuesday 27 June 2023 with an Officer from Oxfordshire County Council to gather feedback and views about parking locally. It was suggested that the Council meet informally after the elections and before the 27 June, to ascertain the Council’s position.
The meeting concluded at 8:19pm.
Chairman, 25 April 2023