30 April 2024 – Minutes


Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 30 April 2024 at 6:30pm in the Upper Chamber, Town Hall, Thame.


Cllrs M Baines, D Bretherton, P Cowell, D Dawson, A Dite (Town Mayor), H Dollman, D Dodds, M Dyer, H Fickling, A Gilbert (Deputy Mayor), C Jones, H Richards, and P Swan


M Sturdy, Town Clerk
L Fuller, Committee Services & Processes Officer


1) Apologies for Absence

Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Champken-Woods (personal), and Emery (personal).


2) Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

There were no declarations of interest.


3) Co-Option

Cllr Richards entered the meeting during this item.

There had been three applicants for the co-option – Chris Hatton, Kenneth Meek, and Sue McGarry. Each candidate has been sent the same three questions in advance and was given 5 minutes to address the council.

  1. What capacity do you have to be a Town Councillor?
  2. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Thame and the Town Council?
  3. What is the best thing about Thame?


  1. To assist with administration, the Council uses a ballot system to elect the co-opted Councillor.

Following this, the Chairman announced the result of the ballot, that Sue McGarry had received a majority and was therefore co-opted onto the council. The Chairman thanked everyone who had applied and hoped the Town Council could capture their enthusiasm.

Cllr Dollman entered the meeting.


4) Lord Williams’s School

Cllr Gilbert briefly left the meeting during this item.

The current headteacher, Mr. Jon Ryder, and his replacement Mr. Neil Dimbleby, presented an update from Lord Williams’s School. The school will have 2,300 students from September, which completes the planned expansion. The Kenningham Building has been completed, and offers nine new classrooms, new staff workspaces, and improved facilities. The well-designed building has solar panels, heat exchangers and is carbon neutral. The new Harding Centre provides much-needed resource space at lower school for those with additional support needs, providing an environment to support their social and emotional welfare. With the lower school staying on that site, improvements are being made to the toilet facilities and new flower beds planted. The carbon reduction survey has been completed, the first bid placed, and work continues with Thame Business Forum.

During the off-timetable ACE week, the school organises the largest residential school trip in the UK to Marlow for Year 8s, as well as other year groups undertaking Duke of Edinburgh expeditions and other activities with support from volunteers. Post-covid there has been a significant increase in SEND pupils and those with mental health issues. There has also been a rise in subject access requests from existing and former students which is time intensive.  

Important upcoming changes include government changes to the vocational curriculum. The school aims to be inclusive, but these changes may change the vocational curriculum offering and the character of the school. The school supports a large number of students with autism, which is currently managed and funded by the County Council, who are keen to transfer this to the school subject to finer details being confirmed.

The resource base is for students with a healthcare plan for autism and a place assigned by the County Council. Whilst they have dedicated time away from mainstream classes, the school is pleased that students thrive during their time at the school.

What was the impact of the Future Fest event earlier this year? The school had observed an increase in students choosing apprenticeships and found that previous students sharing their experiences had a big impact.

How is the recruitment / retention of staff? Recruitment of teachers is going well with only three vacancies; however, it continues to be a struggle with a shortage of trainees and competing with Buckinghamshire Council who can offer the London allowance. The school approaches agencies when required and can offer on-site accommodation.

What is the reason for the subject access requests? They vary but can result in as much as 18hours of work which is believed to be an unintended consequence of the GDPR legislation. The Department for Education are aware as this is a sector wide issue.

Finally, Mr. Dimbleby introduced himself as the new headteacher. Originally based at a school in Maidenhead, he is excited to join Lord Williams’s School and keen to work closely with the community.

The Chairman thanked the speakers and looks forward to continuing to work closely with the school.


5) Civic Announcements

The civic attendances were noted. The Chairman congratulated Chinnor Rugby Club on their recent promotion to the championship.


6) Public Participation and Public Questions

There were no applications to address the Council.
There were no questions put to the Council.


7) Reports from County Councillors

The report was noted. County Cllr Gregory highlighted the key contents of the report: new special needs schools planned for Didcot; budget launched for pothole repairs and cycling/walking; a new ‘vision zero strategy’ approved to tackle road deaths; heads of terms agreed for the Kassam Stadium; and the Councillor priority fund is open until November.

What are the plans for the current Kassam Stadium? The owners aspire to develop it for another purpose. The new land is owned by the County Council. Discussions pre-date the current council administration.

Is there an update on the Haddenham-Thame cycleway? OCC Councillors continue to chase for the options appraisal regularly, that had been due in July. Until there is a plan agreed, it is not possible to bid for funding. Cllr Gregory believed that once the project is in the Local Cycling & Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) it will be easier to progress.

Is there an update on the Moorend Lane planning application? County Council officers continue to await further information from the applicant. If the application is recommended for approval, it will be considered by the County’s planning committee where there will be opportunities for representation.


8) Reports from South Oxfordshire District Councillors

The report was noted. District Councillor Barker highlighted the key contents of the report: a consultation on ‘The Way Ahead for South Oxfordshire’ (formerly the Corporate Plan); a successful public engagement on the recent Joint Local Plan consultation; new empty homes policy; and a summary of community grants awarded.

Were empty homes a serious problem in the district? Numbers were in the hundreds, rather than thousands, but it was worth addressing any homes that can be made purposeful.

The Chairman thanked the District and County Councillors for attending Thame’s Annual Town Meeting last week.


9) Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)

Cllr Fickling asked for an update on the Thame Community Land Trust? The tender documents for the building phase have been issued and expected to be returned by end of June 2024. A grant application has been submitted to SODC to enable the project to reach net zero.

Cllr Dollman asked if there had been an update on the Her Land project? Officers had circulated some information, however it was noted this was not within the parish boundary.


10) Town Mayor Designate

The Chairman called for nominations for the position of Town Mayor Designate. Cllr Gilbert wished to be considered for the position of Town Mayor Designate for 2024-25 and was given an opportunity to explain why.

Cllr Gilbert explained that over his two years as a councillor and last year as Deputy Mayor, he had a good understanding of how things do and don’t work. Cllr Gilbert stressed the importance of teamwork, compassion for the community, and communicating the work of the Town Council. It would be an honour to represent the town. As Mayor, Cllr Gilbert hoped to follow his election campaign of having a head for business and a heart for community.

On being put to the vote it was:


  1. Cllr Gilbert be elected Town Mayor Designate for the ensuing year.


11) Deputy Town Mayor Designate

The Chairman called for nominations for the position of Deputy Town Mayor Designate. Cllr Dawson wished to be considered for the position of Deputy Town Mayor Designate for 2024-25 and was given an opportunity to explain why.

Cllr Dawson had really enjoyed his first year as a councillor. The Town Council has a great team who work hard. It would be an honour to be Deputy Mayor.

On being put to the vote it was:


  1. Cllr Dawson be elected Deputy Town Mayor Designate for the ensuing year.

The election of the Town Mayor and Deputy Mayor designates was followed by a round of applause. The Chairman confirmed that he will remain as Chairman until the Annual Meeting.


12) Committee Review

The report was noted. The previous Delegations Policy and committee’s terms of reference had been updated and brought into a single document – the ‘Scheme of Delegations’. The main changes were highlighted in red. Feedback from Councillors is welcome prior to the document being formally approved at the Annual Meeting.

Councillors were asked to confirm by email their committee preferences by 7 May to assist with administration ahead of the Annual Meeting.

Councillors recognised and applauded the outstanding work of the Committee Services & Processes Officer on this project.


13) Schedule of Meetings 2024-25

The report was noted. It was confirmed that the number of meetings proposed for 2024-25 equalled the number of committee meetings that took place in 2023-24. The aim is to make meetings intentional, with the option to call more as and when required. It was noted that Officers are working on streamlining some of the reports that go to meetings, to improve communication on project progress, and for meetings to be more decision-focused rather than just noting items.


  1. The Schedule of Meetings for 2024-25 be approved.


14) Showmen’s Guild Request – October Charter Fair

The Town Council has received a request from the Showmen’s Guild to extend the October Charter Fair to three days, allowing them to arrive on a Tuesday. This would be a fundamental change in the agreement requiring approval from the Council.

A charter was granted in 1215 to enable the October Charter Fair to take place annually for 3-4 days. This fair currently trades for two days (Friday and Saturday) but sets up on the Wednesday evening and sets down on the Sunday morning. The request is to extend the trading time to three days, which would see the fair arrive on the Tuesday. The Guild have offered cheaper rides on the Thursday. An additional trading day would impact on residents and businesses, have additional staffing costs, require a longer road closure, and the agreement to be amended.

Overall, the feeling from councillors was to not support the request to extend the Charter Fair to three trading days, however there was some disagreement as to whether a community consultation should be held first.


  1. The Town Council does not support the Showmen’s Guild’s request to extend October Charter Fair to three trading days.


15) Budget Summary

The budget summaries up to 29 February 2024 on budget lines from the Policy & Resources and Community, Leisure & Recreation Committees were noted.

Is there an update on plans to promote Town Hall hire? Town Clerk welcomed ideas from everyone for ways to improve promotion and the space. It was noted that the budget summary does not reflect utilisation of the Town Hall due to free use. Officers hope to develop a digital booking system.


16) Minutes

The Minutes of the Council Meeting held on 5 March 2024 were received.

Is there an update on the Councillor information stall? Dates and arrangements are being progressed.


  1. The minutes of the meeting held on 5 March 2024 are confirmed as a correct record, and signed by the Chairman.


17) Planning & Environment Committee

The minutes of the meetings held on 12 March 2024 and 9 April 2024 were noted.


18) Personnel Committee

The minutes of the meeting held on 8 April 2024 were noted.

Was there any update on staff receiving gifts? The Town Council continues to follow Government guidance regarding this.

What kind of support will the fundraiser offer to community groups? The fundraiser will support community groups whilst also supporting Town Council projects. The Town Council will ensure due diligence in selecting the right person for the role.


19) Annual Town Meeting

The minutes of the meeting held on 17 April 2024 were noted.

Councillors requested that the District and County Councillors be asked to provide the Council (at the next suitable meeting) with an update on the questions presented to them at the Annual Town Meeting

The meeting concluded at 8:19pm.


Signed ………………………
Chairman, 14 May 2024