06 July 2021 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of the Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee held on 6 July 2021 at 7:15pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall.
Cllrs B Austin, P Cowell (Town Mayor), M Dyer (Deputy Chairman), L Emery, C Jones (Chairman), A Midwinter, H Richards, and J Tipping
C Pinnells, Acting Town Clerk
G Markland, Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Cllrs Bretherton (personal), Champken-Woods (personal), and Fickling (personal).
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
There were no declarations of interest.
3 Public Participation and Public Questions
There was no public participation.
There were no public questions put to the Committee.
The minutes of the meeting held on 25 May 2021 were approved and signed by the Chairman.
5 Working Groups
To receive a report / update from the chairmen of the:
a) NPCC Co-Ordination Working Group (NPCCCWG)
The Chairman advised there had not been any meetings since the previous NPCC and therefore there was nothing to report.
b) Infrastructure Delivery Plan Working Group (IDPWG)
There was no report in Cllr Bretherton’s absence.
c) Green Living Plan Working Group (GLPWG)
As mentioned at the previous committee meeting, Cllr Jones was now a member of Thame Green Living and as such it was felt that she should be chair of the GLPWG.
- Cllr Jones be appointed Chair of the Green Living Plan Working Group.
The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) advised that he had recently met with the District Council’s Neighbourhood Planning Team to discuss how the policies and projects of the Thame Green Living Plan would be incorporated into the revised Thame Neighbourhood Plan (‘TNP2’). The team advised that they, and the Climate Change team, were very impressed with the Thame Green Living Plan and were championing the document.
d)Town Centre Working Group (TCWG)
The Chairman thanked the Market Town Co-Ordinator for her ongoing great work. It was noted that Thame had been in the local media recently for its vibrant high street, which was in part a result of the 2016 Miller ‘Vibrancy and Vitality’ Report and the ongoing work of the Market Town Co-Ordinator.
e) Transport Plan Working Group (TPWG)
Cllr Austin explained that the Terms of Reference for the TPWG had been updated to enable the Hopper Bus project to proceed.
- The updated Transport Plan Working Group Terms of Reference be approved.
f) Community Facilities Working Group (CFWG)
There was nothing to report.
g) Burial Space Working Group (BSWG)
The Asset Manager’s report was noted.
6 Reports from Town Council Representatives
- Transport Representative – There was no report in Cllr Bretherton’s absence.
7 South Oxfordshire District Local Plan
Bioabundance’s request for an appeal over the Court’s decision to refuse a statutory review of the Local Plan 2035 had been refused and all action on the matter had now ceased. A question was raised as to whether the delay to the Local Plan being formally made, caused by the legal challenge, would allow the Town Council to request an extension for the Thame Neighbourhood Plan revision? The NPCO advised that this would not be an option as the resolution to adopt the plan, made on 10 December 2020, prevented this.
8 Thame Neighbourhood Plan Revision (TNP2)
In relation to the various draft documents received by Members, these have been sense-checked by the Town Council and it had been hoped that these would be in the public domain by now. The publication of these documents was awaiting information from SODC regarding specific windfall and allocation sites. This had taken longer than expected, likely due to the recent appeal decision at Sonning Common. The NPCO would be contacting the TNP2 consultants to find out when the documents would be available to publish.
Concern was raised that Members had not had an opportunity to debate and comment on the documents, and that the workshop scheduled for June had not taken place yet. Members needed reassurance that TNP2 would be a fair and proportionate exercise, with conspicuous involvement from the consultants, Councillors, and the public.
The NPCO advised that the draft documents were there for initial review and indication of the methodology and the delay at SODC had held up getting this to Members for the workshop. The NPCO reassured Members that they would see the documents before public consultation, which Officers were preparing for, and that Officers and the Consultants were acting to meet the timetable. The first consultation would be based on revisiting the vision and objectives of the Plan and reviewing the suggested methodology for how allocation sites would be selected. All options would remain on the table at this stage. It was important that the public understood what and why they were being presented with, and the NPCO advised that a briefing note would be needed for the public to understand the context of the review. The NPCO added that he was in regular contact with the consultants.
Five Councillors had volunteered to join a Task and Delivery Group at the Full Council meeting in June, and the NPCO thanked those Members for delivering the first two tasks. The Task & Delivery Group had given feedback on the draft graphic panels, which will cover the proposed site selection methodology, for the first consultation. A second draft of the panels and a draft consultation questionnaire will be sent to the Town Council over the next few days. The group have agreed that a pamphlet is needed to explain the success of TNP1 and aspirations of TNP2. This will be produced in-house prior to the consultation, to relieve pressure on the consultants. The group had also reviewed a draft character assessment for the town, which the consultants had drawn up.
Initial discussions had been held with AECOM regarding the Strategic Environmental Assessment requirements and the Town Council / TNP2 Consultants were awaiting to find out when they will start work. It had been decided that AECOM would be also used to produce the housing needs information, given their work in the local area. The household survey would be driven in-house with support from the Task & Delivery Group and likely to be carried out using Community First Oxfordshire. The NPCO reported that the application for £10,000 financial support had been successful. Finally, the NPCO reported that he would be working to a more efficient method of keeping Members informed between committee meetings, and arrangements for the consultation event were being progressed with the Acting Town Clerk.
Members recognised the delays resulting from Covid-19 challenges and delays at the District Council, however concern was raised regarding transparency, the absence of the consultants at this committee meeting, and a lack of community consultation so far and understanding of the consultant’s work. Members were concerned that the community may only get the chance to comment, rather than be involved throughout the process. The NPCO understood the concerns and whilst he could not immediately provide reassurance regarding their concern, as previously mentioned he would seek to better communicate with Members and would feedback their comments to the consultants.
The focus so far appeared to be on housing, when the number of new houses would be relatively small compared to TNP1 and there were other issues such as infrastructure. The NPCO advised that infrastructure requirements would come once Thame’s housing needs had been identified. The NPCO reassured Members that decisions were not being made at this stage, no policy would be included without public consultation and that the community were the focus of all current thought processes.
It was noted that Thame Green Living were keen to get involved. The NPCO advised that the focus now was to get the public consultation going and being open to the community’s ideas.
9 Oxfordshire Growth Board / Oxfordshire Plan 2050
The Oxfordshire Growth Board (OGB) had appointed a new Chair for this year, Michelle Mead who was also the Chair of West Oxfordshire District Council. The OGB had received two reports, one on the post-Covid green recovery and the other regarding the current skills landscape shortfalls. The Oxfordshire Skills Board would be taking a more strategic role when reviewing the Strategic Skills Strategy and recognised the challenges which would include the post-Covid recovery and preparing for net zero. Oxfordshire Plan 2050 would be going to consultation in July this year following agreement of the strategic vision.
10 Affordable Housing / Community Land Trust (CLT)
Cllr Austin reported that the planning application, which was submitted at the end of last year, would now be considered at the District’s Planning Committee in August. The Planning Officer remained supportive of the scheme however they were unable to prepare their report for the July meeting due to awaiting responses from internal consultees which would inform the planning conditions. The Project Manager had met with the District’s Affordable Housing team, who would agree S106 once planning permission had been granted, and with SOHA to discuss possible cooperation for the rented properties. Overall Cllr Austin remained optimistic but regretted the delay.
11 For Information
With regards to Item 11c, the Council had received a letter from one of the residents supporting the petition for a Pedestrian Crossing on Oxford Road, Thame. The letter was read out and noted. The Acting Town Clerk advised that Thame’s County Councillors had been made aware of the petition and Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) Officers had been contacted and had asked whether the crossing was a priority for the town, detail on the location and funding options. The Town Council could look at using Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds as part of the TNP2, however Thame had a relatively small amount of CIL compared to other parishes and given that this was a highways safety matter, it was questioned whether the Town Council should be using its CIL funds. It was questioned whether the Town Council could undertake a traffic survey? The NPCO advised that there may be commercially available data, or this could be passed to the TNP2 consultants, although it was noted that traffic surveys often require an expert consultant and need the support of OCC to carry any weight however OCC do not have resources to assist which generated a vicious circle.
It was noted that the petition would be added to the Town Council’s increasingly long projects list with a view of lobbying Oxfordshire County Council to fulfil this requirement.
It was also noted that the previous County Councillors had secured funding for a pedestrian crossing on Wellington Street, as reported to the Town Council in March. Members asked for an update on the progress of this.
The meeting concluded at 8:15pm.
Chairman, 17 August 2021