01 February 2022 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of the Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee held on 1 February 2022 at 7:35pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall.
Cllrs B Austin, N Champken-Woods (Deputy Mayor), P Cowell (Town Mayor), M Dyer (Deputy Chairman), L Emery, H Fickling, H Richards, C Jones (Chairman), A Midwinter, and J Tipping
M Sturdy, Town Clerk
G Markland, Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Cllr Bretherton (personal).
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
There were no declarations of interest.
3 Public Participation and Public Questions
Ms Martin-Downhill from Racquets Fitness Centre spoke in relation to Agenda Item 5b. Racquets Fitness Centre were seeking support from the Town Council in their application for S106 funds that have been allocated to improve racquet sports in Thame. Racquets Fitness Centre were seeking to install energy efficient lighting on their four squash courts. It was confirmed that membership is not required to use the squash courts. Two younger members of Racquets Fitness Centre gave their experience of playing squash there and the positive impact it had had on their mental and physical wellbeing.
Members then discussed and made a resolution on Agenda Item 5b.
The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) advised that an amendment was needed in Item 7 of the minutes to provide clarification. It was suggested that the final sentence of this item be amended (shown in italics) to read:
The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) advised that the Neighbourhood Plan would need to be updated every 5 years to stay in line with the District’s Local Plan, meaning the next TNP review would likely need to start in 2024.
The minutes, as amended, of the meeting held on 21 December 2021 were approved, and signed by the Chairman.
5 Working Groups
a) NPCC Co-Ordination Working Group (NPCCCWG)
This working group met by zoom on 12 January 2022 where it was agreed to extend the consultation period by one week to ensure the public had maximum opportunity to attend the drop-in sessions at the Town Hall. It was also agreed that the Town Council would do what it could to refute any idea that it was endorsing High Fields or had anything to do with the leaflet. It was agreed to produce and publish daily Q&As on social media correcting any errors and pointing out what benefits were either required or over-exaggerated. All actions have been taken. The Chairman also reported that Carter Jonas had been appointed by South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) to produce a report on the Cattle Market sites. The lease had also been extended to 2024, and it was possible that local government may need to be involved to assist with the move.
Members noted that there was a new social media campaign from the agent for the Land East of Thame. There was concern that these campaigns may be contributing to a feeling among some residents that the housing and employment sites were already agreed. It was felt that the Town Council needed to increase its social media presence to try and reach as many people as possible to communicate that only the Town Council’s website contains official information relating to the consultation. Cllr Tipping offered to assist Officers with targeted advertising on social media.
Compliments were given to Officers for the ‘Q&A’ graphics that had been produced for social media. Members had received compliments from residents that they were factual and helped clarify matters.
b) Infrastructure Delivery Plan Working Group (IDPWG)
Following the earlier presentation, the NPCO advised that the Section 106 money for squash court improvements at Racquets Fitness Centre had been allocated on the basis that the squash courts at Lord Williams’s Upper School would be demolished when the school merged to a single site. Despite the single site merge confirmed as not going ahead, the squash courts are now being used as overflow changing rooms and unlikely to ever be refurbished or reinstated for squash. The NPCO felt it was now important that the Town Council supported Racquets Fitness Centre in their application for the S106 funds, particularly in light of the closure of the facilities at Lord Williams’s School and as the only publicly accessible squash courts in Thame.
A question was raised as to whether additional funding could be given to Racquets Fitness Centre? The NPCO advised that Thame was over-provided with squash courts. If further funding was required, they would need to request this from the Town Council, and it would be added to the list of projects potentially suitable for Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding.
It was noted that the figure of £1,500 as stated on the agenda was likely to be slightly higher as it was index linked.
- The Town Council support Racquets Fitness Centre in applying for the allocated S106 funds available for the refurbishment of racquet sport in Thame.
c) Green Living Plan Working Group (GLPWG)
There was nothing to report.
d) Town Centre Working Group (TCWG)
The Chairman thanked the Market Town Co-Ordinator for another excellent report. Having been involved in the workshops she was very impressed by the final story and designs. Members were asked to approve the locations of the public art to be formally agreed by Full Council.
A question was raised with regards to the maintenance of the public art? The Town Clerk confirmed that within the S106 Public Art funds, there was a budget for maintenance. The installations would be hard wearing and insured.
This wayfinding story trail would lead from the Thame Meadows estate to the Town Centre, with signage on the route directing to other key locations. The trail would offer engaging artwork whilst increasing footfall to the town centre and its attractions. Future public art would include trails from Lea Park and Wenman Road estates to the Town Centre. The schools would be engaged with the creation of these.
It was confirmed that planning permission was not required because the installations would be less than 2m in height.
A question was raised as to whether it was possible to change the story in the future to encourage people to continue engaging with the installations? The stories were linked to the totems however the use of QR codes gave some flexibility to change the stories. It was noted that the totems were more than just about the stories, as they offered a familiar landmark and milestone, provided navigation, and their design would be interesting to children and encourage them to walk more. The stories would be complex and although some residents may not repeat them, they would appeal to visitors to the town too.
Overall Members were fully supportive of the proposals and thought the designs were fantastic.
Members were also asked to consider authorising Officers to investigate the feasibility of adopting the phone box outside the Town Hall for use as an information centre and storytelling booth. Whilst the committee supported the idea, concern was raised about vandalism. The Town Clerk advised that Officers would be scoping only the feasibility at this stage and would come to Council with costs and further information.
- The proposed locations of the Public Art be approved and taken to Full Council for final approval.
- The committee approve scoping the adoption of the phone box for use as an information centre and storytelling booth, subject to ongoing costs not being prohibitive.
e) Transport Plan Working Group (TPWG)
Cllr Austin reported that the Transport Needs Survey had begun being distributed last week. There had been 300 responses so far to the online survey, which was pleasing.
f) Community Facilities Working Group (CFWG)
There was nothing to report.
g) Burial Space Working Group (BSWG)
There was nothing to report.
6 Reports from Town Council Representatives
- Transport Representative – In the absence of Cllr Bretherton there was no report.
7 Thame Neighbourhood Plan Revision (TNP2)
The NPCO advised that he had contacted SODC to request a breakdown of their calculations for Thame’s outstanding housing allocation. This had been received in the last few days and identified some errors in both the Town Council’s 2011/12 housing completion records and a possible miscounting by the District Council, which the NPCO would follow up.
The second TNP2 consultation is ongoing and had been extended by one week as reported by the NPCCCWG. Seven drop-in events were arranged for daytime and evenings, and a weekend event. Of the events so far, there had been a steady attendance with most attendees spending a good amount of time reading the information and asking questions. The NPCO was pleased with the number of attendees given the number of events that was being offered, and it was hoped that those who had attended would spread the word to their friends and family. As of 26th January, there had been over 400 responses to the consultation.
The draft reports from Community First Oxfordshire and AECOM on Thame’s specialist and general housing needs, respectively, had been received and provided excellent detail. The report showed a considerable affordability challenge for some Thame households. The NPCO was proofreading the draft reports and the final reports would be reviewed together due to their natural overlap in relation to affordability and special accommodation. The NPCO hoped to report the findings of the consultation and the review of these reports at a Full Council meeting. The NPCO would work to prepare a timetable for the Council to work confidently towards.
A question was raised as to whether the TNP2 could request that all of the homes that need to be delivered are affordable? The NPCO advised that attempts have been made to justify higher levels in other geographic areas and noted Oxford City requests 50% affordable homes. The NPCO hoped that our new evidence would enable a greater focus on our local needs. Cllr Austin advised that of the 775 homes built in Thame under the Local Plan 2027, only 46 were allocated to local people. From experience with the Community Land Trust, the only way to achieve affordability is to get an exception site or change the District’s Allocation Policy.
8 Future Oxfordshire Partnership / Oxfordshire Plan 2050
The NPCO reported that the Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy had been refreshed and looked at the planned housing and employment against the current identified infrastructure needs. The strategy considers that Thame’s growth has already been accounted for, however, it recognises that the growth of nearby villages / towns in Buckinghamshire will impact upon Thame’s infrastructure. This is presumably why the Haddenham-Thame Cycleway has been kept in the strategy as part of Stage 1, which runs up until 2040. The Future Oxfordshire Partnership had been presented with a scoping report for the work and governance required to get Oxfordshire to Net Zero.
The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Regulation 18 consultation received 400 responses which were now being analysed. It was expected that the draft plan would be published in late spring although it was noted that there did not appear to be a timetable published on their website.
9 Affordable Housing / Community Land Trust (CLT)
Cllr Austin reported that the project was proceeding with the technical design to agree Stage 4, where the site would be ready to go out to tender. Detailed negotiations were underway with housing associations and providers with regards to the rented units. A large investment from the financial industry into sustainable housing was encouraging and it was hoped that the project could take advantage of this as it aligned with the visions for the site to meet Passivhaus standards. The architects for the detailed elements have been tendered and commissioned. Over the next few months, the project would be undertaking a public engagement exercise that would include a substantial number of public meetings and panel discussions in Thame. Cllr Austin was aware that due to financial constraints, public engagement had been neglected however following receipt of the Community Housing Fund grant, the project was now able to meet its public engagement obligations.
The meeting concluded at 8:25pm.
Chairman, 15 March 2022