17 August 2021 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of the Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee held on 17 August 2021 at 7:17pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall.
Cllrs B Austin, D Bretherton, P Cowell (Town Mayor), M Dyer (Deputy Chairman), L Emery, H Fickling, C Jones (Chairman), A Midwinter, H Richards, and J Tipping
G Markland, Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Cllr Champken-Woods (personnel). The Acting Town Clerk also gave her apologies.
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 6 July 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)
Cllr Bretherton had asked the Acting Town Clerk for an update on the latest S106 figures but had not received this yet. However, in relation to the Sports Strategy, all money had been received other than that relating to Chinnor Rugby Club.
c) Green Living Plan Working Group (GLPWG)
The Chairman reported that Thame Green Living were focussing on their Electric Vehicle experience event in September.
d) Town Centre Working Group (TCWG)
The Chairman thanked the Market Town Co-Ordinator for another excellent report, which called for feedback on the proposed KPIs (key performance indicators) and volunteers to assist with the delivery of leaflets to various locations in surrounding parishes. Delivery of leaflets was time-consuming so it was hoped that several Councillors could each be responsible for one or two locations which would be a low commitment. Cllr Richards volunteered to help with Towersey and Cllr Midwinter with Stoke Talmage.
The Chairman asked Members to review the list of leaflet locations and proposed KPIs and contact the Market Town Co-Ordinator if they could assist or had any feedback.
e) Transport Plan Working Group (TPWG)
Cllr Austin reported that the group would have its inaugural meeting on Monday, and the report from the Transport Representative was very interesting and would be fed into this meeting.
f) Community Facilities Working Group (CFWG)
There was no report, however Cllr Bretherton provided an update on S106 allocations for community facilities. There was £385,000 for community facilities generally in Thame, which must be spent by 2024, plus a further £235,000 for community facilities at Southern Road and £14,000 at Elms Park, both to be spent by 2025.
g) Burial Space Working Group (BSWG)
The report from the Asset Manager was noted. There was nothing happening at present whilst the Town Council awaited Taylor Wimpey to submit the planning application.
6 Reports from Town Council Representatives
a) Transport Representative – Cllr Bretherton was unable to attend the previous meeting and thanked Mrs Mary Stiles for attending in his absence and providing a very comprehensive report.
Mrs Stiles asked whether the Town Council had received any correspondence from Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) with regards to the national bus strategy, as mentioned in the report? Mrs Stiles advised that an earlier conversation with County Councillor Champken-Woods revealed that he had been consulted. Cllr Austin as chair of the TPWG felt frustrated that the Town Council was not being involved in this important matter. The TPWG had previously spoken to one of the Officers at OCC, who was involved in the bus strategy, regarding a needs analysis which the TPWG had prepared through Community First Oxfordshire and would now need to be actioned very quickly in order to respond to the bus strategy in time. OCC had almost £1million in S106 funds for Thame but it appeared that their approach was top-down with a focus on primary routes, rather than the needs of and servicing local bus services. Mrs Stiles reported that the bid is due to be approved by Cabinet in October and therefore the Officer report was due by the end of August.
Given the importance of this issue, it was agreed that Cllr Bretherton would follow this up with the Acting Town Clerk to establish, through the relevant OCC officers, whether only Cllr Champken-Woods had been consulted and if so why.
7 South Oxfordshire District Local Plan
The Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer (NPCO) advised that following the recent appeal decision at Sonning Common, South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) have stated that they do have a 5-year supply of housing land and that they will be challenging the decision.
8 Thame Neighbourhood Plan Revision (TNP2)
The written update from the TNP2 Consultants, Troy Planning, was noted.
The NPCO provided a verbal update on matters that had progressed since that report was written. It had been agreed that a workshop would be undertaken with volunteers from the community for the character assessment, to identify if anything was missing. Members were welcome to attend, however as it was the community’s plan it was important that their views were gathered initially. There will be an opportunity for Members to input their views as representatives for the Town Council in due course.
The NPCO advised that AECOM, the Government retained consultant for technical matters, had been in contact regarding the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) work and have confirmed they can work to the timetable. They will work to a range of options to forward plan any amendments further down the line. They appeared to be making good progress, with the full draft of the SEA scoping report due to the Town Council in the next few days. The NPCO also reported that the consultants will be in touch with local estate agents to provide an opinion on the local housing, employment, and retail markets.
The first public consultation event took place earlier in the day at the market. There had been a steady flow of engagement with an approximately 40-70 people spoken to. Discussions were lengthy, with a notable support for better walking and cycling provision, as well as concern for the impact on health and education services, and affordable housing. There was some disappointment that the Town Council did not have firm sites or housing numbers available, however as it was early days all options were on the table. Thanks were given to Members who had helped at the market event and signed up to help with the remaining consultation events over the next few days. The consultants will be promptly analysing the responses from the consultation and will report their recommendations to Members based on the public’s initial feedback on the vision, objectives, character assessment and sites. They will be available to answer Members’ questions and help advise on options for the direction for the Plan’s review and future consultation.
A question was raised with regards to the timetable for the character assessment workshop with the public? The NPCO advised this could happen as early as next week but wanted to ensure there was a good number involved, with people still coming forward through the consultation.
Another question was raised regarding the selection of people to be involved in the workshops? The NPCO advised that four of the 7 areas in Thame were covered, and the Town Council was carefully selecting people who had expressed an interest and were committed to active participation. The workshops would help the Town Council to work with a core group from the community to build policies within TNP2 for development in their areas. The workshops had not been widely publicised, although some informal recruitment had been advertised through local residents’ groups on social media. The public were able to respond through the consultation and there would be opportunities for additional people to be involved.
Concern was raised regarding transparency and public perception. Some Members felt that the process had been narrow in terms of the information distributed and people involved. The NPCO assured Members that the workshop was not intended to exclude people or have secrecy, however as TNP2 will be the community’s plan, it is important that the workshop group is formed with residents who are committed to working for their community to identify their needs and wants. It was also noted that there is some tension within the community regarding the Neighbourhood Plan, so it would be positive for the community to be working together in this way. This was a grassroots approach to ensure maximum benefit in terms of resources and time and would be just one approach for one piece of work. Whilst work could be delayed to take a different approach, this would be likely to harm the timetable.
A question was raised as to whether another consultation event could be held outside of the summer holidays? The NPCO recognised the concerns as consultation events are not traditionally held in the summer. The consultation was just the first initial stage and there would be at least one more consultation prior to the pre-submission consultation for the plan. Unfortunately, the timings could not be avoided due to the timeframe imposed by SODC, however advance notice and publicity of the consultation was given through a range of digital and printed materials and the three weeks allowed should extend beyond most people’s holiday periods.
It was proposed that Members move forward with the agenda, and further discussions would be held offline.
9 Oxfordshire Growth Board / Oxfordshire Plan 2050
The NPCO advised that, due to the TNP2 review work taking priority, unfortunately he had not had time to review the progress of the Oxfordshire Growth Board (OGB) or Oxfordshire Plan 2050, however it was noted that the groups do not usually meet over the summer. Three consultations, as reported to Full Council on 10 August 2021, would be reviewed shortly with the Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy (OxIS) consultation taking priority given the closing date of end of August.
The only mention of Thame within the OxIS related to the Haddenham-Thame Cycleway, so it was questioned why there was no mention of other matters such as health facilities or school places which also affected Thame? The NPCO advised that the Town Council was working with the education authority (OCC) to decide the number of school places through the Neighbourhood Plan. OCC would prescribe numbers based on the TNP’s allocations and apply their formulas which would decide whether there was a need for another primary school. Given that Lord Williams’s School’s comprehensive expansion plan was underway, it was considered unlikely that another secondary school would be required. The situation with health facilities was more frustrating. The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in Oxfordshire would be responding to the consultation, but Thame is also covered by the Buckinghamshire CCG. The funding for primary care services is through the GPs, which may not be strategic. It was noted that through the TNP2 consultation, the Town Council was receiving calls for more walking, cycling, and public transport infrastructure. The OxIS identified a shortage of cultural and arts provision in Oxfordshire and it was felt that this applied in Thame too.
Members were reminded that they could respond as individuals to the consultation in addition to the Town Council’s response, although the input from the NPCO was appreciated given that it was a complicated document.
10 Affordable Housing / Community Land Trust (CLT)
Cllr Austin advised that the target committee date for the application had been delayed again to 22 September. There were five outstanding matters, 3 were minor and 2 were of greater importance. The first being the SAP calculations (insulation standards) which SODC had asked to be revisited. The architect for the application had used rigorous Passivhaus standards which were to a higher standard than requested by SODC. The other matter related to ecology as the Countryside Officer had queried the removal of two trees as they may be home to bats, despite evidence gathered through the application showing no bat presence. Cllr Austin reported that they were now seeking bat experts across the country for opinions. Overall, however, the Case Officer was content, and it was hoped that a positive report would be presented to committee.
11 For Information
The item for information was noted.
The meeting concluded at 8:01pm.
Chairman, 28 September 2021