06 October 2020 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Virtual Meeting of the Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee held on 6 October 2020 at 7:04pm by Zoom Conference Call.
Cllrs B Austin, D Bretherton, P Cowell, M Deacock, M Dyer (Deputy Chairman), L Emery, H Fickling, S Francis, C Jones (Chairman), A Midwinter and J Tipping
Cllr K Gregory
C Pinnells, Deputy Clerk
G Markland, Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
There were no apologies for absence.
All Members who were present were able to be seen and be heard. Cllr Deacock had intermittent audio issues.
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 4 February 2020 were approved and signed by the Chairman.
5 Working Groups
To receive a report / update from the chairmen of:
a) The NPCC Co-Ordination Working Group (NPCCCWG)
There was nothing to report as the Working Group had not met since the last NPCC.
b) The Infrastructure Delivery Plan Working Group
Cllr Bretherton reported that the money from Persimmon had come in but was more than expected so this was being queried. Unfortunately Cllr Bretherton was unable to provide further updates as he had not been kept informed with activities, but did advise that the Deputy Clerk and other officers would be meeting with the S106 Officer at South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) soon to resolve matters and receive an update. Cllr Bretherton would report back to this committee in due course. The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) added that modest Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds totalling £4,035.82 from April 2020 had been received and S106 funds had been received as part of the Thame Football Partnership project including contributions from developments in Chinnor.
c) The Green Living Plan Working Group
Cllr Fickling reported that the Green Living Plan (GLP) had been adopted by the Town Council in July and was now available online following the launch on 1 October 2020. At the launch, Members of the GLP team gave out flyers outside the Town Hall and encouraged residents to get involved. Hard copies of the GLP would be available in the Information Centre and Thame Library when the procedure for handling hard copy documents had been established. The NPCO reported that the GLP were progressing some projects including Solar Streets, working with TTC on footpaths and signage, Rycote Meadow / Thame Meadows path and inputting into landscaping on the Thame Community Land Trust site. Mr Charles Boundy had attended one of the Town Council’s team meetings to brief Officers on the plan and who to pass questions / queries onto. The GLP team were thanked for producing an amazing document, which had been designed by Sam Osborne.
A question was raised as to progress on the joint Thame Green Living / TTC action group? Cllr Fickling advised that this had not been progressed due to other issues but agreed to now progress this with GLPWG.
d) The Town Centre Working Group
The Market Town Co-Ordinator (MTCO) had produced an outstanding report detailing her work on keeping Thame going during lockdown with initiatives to get people back into the town centre. The committee expressed their thanks to the MTCO for all her hard work and going above and beyond in the circumstances.
Accompanying the report was a Wayfinding Report / Map which impressed the committee with its detail. Members were concerned that other signage in the town would not match the proposed branding, however it was pointed out that some signage had to adhere to certain safety / visibility requirements and that SODC and Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) were involved in this project. Members were advised to contact the MTCO with any feedback on the proposed wayfinding signage.
A question was raised regarding responses to the Town Centre Recovery Plan and Business Survey which would be passed to the MTCO to respond. On Thame Business Forum membership, Cllr Dyer advised they had not met since February but a number of businesses had asked to join.
On the matter of the new twinning signage on the town entrance signs, funding for this had been secured by the Twinning Association via funding from OCC and the design was close to being approved.
Cllr Gregory left the meeting during this item.
e) The Transport Plan Working Group
Over lockdown the Government called for initiatives to encourage walking and cycling whilst public transport was discouraged due to Covid-19. The Town Council put forward some suggestions to OCC, along with the TPWG who met with the TCWG to propose a temporary one-way system, but disappointingly the Town Council has not received a response to either and it has since emerged that OCC has not applied any emergency transport funding for the market towns. Thame did benefit, however, from new cycle racks which were installed by OCC in partnership with the Town Council. The NPCO also reported that proposals to investigate community transport had been delayed due to other priorities, however it was noted that other similar services elsewhere had been suspended due to Covid-19.
Cllr Austin noted that as part of OCC’s response to the recent Health Campus planning application, they had acknowledged that parts of Thame were poorly serviced by public transport and that, if approved, the site should contribute to local bus service provision.
f) The Community Facilities Working Group
There was nothing to report.
g) The Burial Space Working Group
The NPCO reported that Officers had seen plans for the proposed burial space at Site C which appeared to be a good quality scheme offering 200 burial spaces and a memorial garden. The intention was to call a meeting of the BSWG to view the plans however other matters have delayed this, so the NPCO agreed to circulate the plans to Members. The matter of who would take on the responsibility of the burial space remains unresolved and would be a matter for the Town Council to consider, but there was some pressure for the Town Council to do so. The Town Council would need to become a burial authority with Officers suitably trained in burial management and legislation. Members discussed whether the burial space could become a ‘natural area’ and suggested it could be a mix of natural / woodland and more formal / manicured areas, but this would be a matter for the OSWG and BSWG to consider and bring to their respective committees.
6 South Oxfordshire District Local Plan
The NPCO reported that since the last NPCC report, matters with the Local Plan had simplified. SODC were made an offer that they could not refuse by the Secretary of State directing them to get on with the plan. On 5 March, SODC voted to proceed to examination of the Local Plan. The Town Council made written representation on matters relating to density, distribution of development, employment and the wider strategy for Thame and spoke on these matters (except distribution of development) at the examination hearings. The Inspector has submitted his preliminary conclusions following the hearings with the primary findings being that the overall strategy was sound, or capable of being sound, and that the housing figure of 23,350 homes between 2011-2035 was justified. The Inspector suggested where the main modifications should be made following the hearings, and the Inspector’s report is due by the end of November allowing adoption to commence in December.
Cllr Bretherton had read the Inspectors conclusions and felt that Thame had not come out too badly in terms of housing, and that the Inspector had taken into account the comments made regarding housing and employment. SODC remains under the direction of the Secretary of State and cannot obstruct the Local Plan.
In terms of the phased releasing of land for development, the revised Local Plan did allow for this but at a more strategic level to allow for infrastructure to be in place that would enable new development, rather than to allow infrastructure to catch-up from existing development.
It was questioned whether the Town Council could make a case for town centre infrastructure given the congestion resulting from increased housing and employment? It was explained that a more recent evidence base on travel patterns than the 2011 Census was required and that Covid-19 would have an impact on the town centre and may skew the data if any survey was undertaken now.
7 Thame Neighbourhood Plan Revision (TNP2)
The NPCO reported that since the last NPCC there had not been much progress. As reported earlier, the Local Plan was now at the Main Modifications public consultation stage. The NPCO was preparing a summary of key matters to send to Members to assist with deciding if / how / what to respond. The Inspector decided that market towns had seen considerable growth and have large pipeline housing commitments, but were sustainable and well connected. Thame was allocated a minimum of 339 houses. Whilst this doesn’t account for windfall development or development in neighbouring villages, there was a caveat in that C2 self-contained dwellings were included. With affordable housing, there was a move away from shared ownership and 40% would now apply for C2 self-contained dwellings. Where affordable housing applied, 40% would be delivered as affordable rent, 35% as social rent and 25% as ‘other’ which could be First Homes. The NPCO felt this could be a win for Thame as we have a hard target for affordable and social rent. Employment allocation was up from 1.6ha to at least 3.5ha which was welcome but more was needed. The Inspector was sympathetic with density, with no minimum allocated and developers being expected to use land efficiently. Once Members have received the briefing on the Main Modifications, the Town Council can begin to think about the review of the TNP, noting that the matter of elderly accommodation had become a big consideration over recent months.
The Chairman thanked the NPCO for a comprehensive report. A question was raised regarding TNP2 and placing a major focus on climate change? It was explained that the Town Council would be guided by the policies of the District and County Councils and the Government, which had come a long way with specific targets on carbon neutrality and biodiversity. The NPCO was optimistic that District policies provided a good basis to incorporate climate change matters into TNP2.
8 Oxfordshire Growth Board / Oxfordshire Plan 2050
The NPCO reported that there were anecdotal reports that the Oxfordshire Growth Board (OGB) were not responding and had gone unusually quiet. This was possibly a result of Officers being reallocated during the Covid-19 response or from the delay of unitary discussions.
There has been an agreement with MHCLG to extend the programmes and projects of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, as a result of delays due partly but not solely to Covid-19, but these must be proved on a case-by-case basis. There had been an ambitious consultation ‘Open Oxfordshire’ during the spring / summer.
The OGB were also seeking an extension for the plan’s adoption and for flexibility in housing land supply. The OGB now had to deliver plans and meet deadlines. As such, a new timetable proposed a consultation on spatial options in January 2021, followed by a Draft Plan in September and submission in January 2022.
A question was raised on the latest on the Growth Corridor? The NPCO advised that this was now known as the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, rather than expressway, as requested in the Local Plan Main Modifications which allowed for greater flexibility. The LEP focus currently was on supporting businesses during the pandemic and the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 was not saying much on the matter. Cllr Francis advised that a press release had recently been issued via SODC on this with a link to the economic prospectus, which she would circulate after the meeting.
9 Affordable Housing / Community Land Trust (CLT)
The Chairman thanked the Thame CLT Team for their thoroughly useful presentation to Council a few weeks ago. Cllr Austin advised this would be passed onto the tremendous Thame CLT team. There had been a lot of activity since the last NPCC in February. More recently, Cllr Austin reported that the public exhibition in September had attracted 122 visitors, with 23 comments made and many subscribing to the mailing list for future updates. The majority supported the proposals with the main concerns relating to traffic crossing the Phoenix Trail and parking. These were both matters that the CLT team would follow Highways advice on, who supported the proposals. For additional reassurance, an independent safety audit had recently been commissioned in partnership with Sustrans to ensure the proposals were acceptable. The planning application submission was now due to be at the end of October which would mean a decision in January.
SODC have produced a new policy on the allocation of S106 commuted sums, with Cllr Austin being pleased that various matters relating to funding, environmental policies, definitions and technical issues, were now in favour of the CLT project which made the road ahead easier.
The Chairman was pleased to hear the positive progress, concluding that the Town Council and its members were once again torch bearers.
10 Other Items to Note
The NPCO clarified on Item 10a, that he and Emily Hadley would be on the panel, not speakers, and that he would report back in due course.
The meeting concluded at 8:17pm.
Chairman, 24 November 2020