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Olney Town Council Extra Meeting - Report 14 June 2021 - Third Meeting


Olney Town Council Reports from the new Council from 8 June 2021 - Second Meeting


Olney Town Council Reports from the new Council from 24 May 2021


Mercury's reports for 24 May 2021

  • May 2021

    Olney Council report for the new Council 24 May 2021

    First report of the meeting printed in the May edition of Phonebox Magazine

    The winds of change were sweeping through the main hall of the Olney Centre for the first meeting of the new council and not just because of the increased ventilation necessary to meet Covid guidelines.
    This first meeting was unusual in that there were only two members of the previous council successful in the recent election.
    As his final act as outgoing Mayor, Jeremy Rawlings opened the meeting, congratulating the new members and inviting nominations for the new Mayor.
    Chris Tennant, Trevor Aldred and Phil Geach were nominated and indicated their willingness to stand, and following a secret ballot, Phil Geach was declared the winner. Jeremy then handed over to Phil and left the meeting. Phil’s first job was to oversee the election of a new Deputy Mayor. Naomi Brock, Dan Rowland, Ben Brown, and Colin Rodden were proposed, and Naomi Brock was successful in the ballot.
    There were 27 items on the agenda, many being mandatory procedural items that could be approved with a minimum of discussion. Others were deferred to future meetings when the members would have had time to review and understand the supporting documents as they felt they could not commit to roles and positions without understanding the commitment required.
    Several subcommittees exist, and members were invited to put themselves forward to serve on those, considering any conflicts of interest that may exist.
    Full details of the committee members will be published in the full report in the July edition of The Phonebox. Finally, Phil noted that there was no AOB on the agenda, but Town Clerk Andrea Vincent explained that this was not permitted under local government rules and only agenda items may be discussed. Phil suggested that when the Standing Orders are reviewed consideration is given to making this possible. The next meeting will be held on June 7th, once again with limited public access but the technical issues which plagued the online sound quality at this month’s meeting have been identified and will be resolved.

    At the start of the meeting, one Letter was read out for the new Council's perusal

    DATE 13th May 2021
    As a resident on Olney of 26 years, I wish to challenge the council on a number of matters in relation to the recreation ground off East Street (The Rec).
    It should be applauded that notice is being taken of the concerns of the various sports clubs which use the rec, namely doing whatever is possible to reduce or remove the incidence of dog faeces on the pitches, asking other users to move around the perimeter of sports pitched when in use, and so on.
    However, in doing so, the council is now operating to the detriment of the silent majority of individual and family users of the area, as they do not speak with one voice, and I thing the balance needs to be redressed. Therefore can the council please, with immediate effect, arrange the following;-

    1. Remove the temporary Heras fence panels between the childrens’ play area and the MUGA. This serves no useful purpose and merely serves to cause more people to walk across pitches, not less. Who thought that one through, it is simply a great inconvenience? Is it even legal to do this? During the height of lockdown the alternative narrow path to the left became effectively unuseable as it was not possible to pass at less than 2m distant from others. And in the rain earlier this year the narrow was an unmaintained mudbath. Either scenario not very user friendly.
    2. Remove, level or surface the two paths that now have a loose and rough covering of tarmacadam road planings applied. Is it applied, or simply chucked? This is a serious hazard to many users, namely people with pushchairs, wheelchair users, those with any form of walking support, and the paws of dogs walked there. At present this surface is a disgrace, and it will only be a matter of time before somebody injures themselves and registers a claim against the council.
    3. Either arrange for additional parking for sports use, or cut down on the number of pitches on the rec. On most Saturdays and Sundays, when Olney are “at home”, the whole area is a sea of cars and those that park are very inconsiderate. The “No sports Parking” signs in the area are a very poor attempt at a solution. Persuading those that live in Olney to walk rather than drive might also assist, but I doubt that many will listen.
    4. In allowing the various sports clubs to mark out their pitches, please ensure that they allow a greater margin around the sides. If you want to ensure that dog walkers and others do not traipse across pitches, you need to allow enough room for them to do so.
    5. And finally, and this is an issue I have directly raised to officials at times, screen off the main football pitch situated directly on East Street. This is extremely close to the childrens’ playground, and the foul language that can be heard loudly and clearly from inconsiderate players is sometimes appalling. The officials questioned seemed to have no power to tell the players to grow up and mind their language.

    In the meantime I have decided not to take my granddaughter to the playground on match days.

    Name and Address supplied

    Public access to meetings

    For the duration of the COVID-19 restrictions, meetings of Olney Town Council (OTC) will be restricted to however many rooms may be available in the Olney centre, the public can also go online to listen to the live audio meetings.
    Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by surfing to the OTC web page, www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, clicking on the ‘Meetings’ tab and scrolling down to the announcement about the next meeting, where there’ll be one link to the agenda and another to join the meeting listen-only.

    If you would like to be identified in the Mercury report as the originator of any correspondence read out, please contact Phonebox Magazine at editor@phoneboxmagazine.com.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held online on Monday 7 June, at 7.30pm. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

A live recording of the outgoing Mayor passing over to the new council on 24 May 2021.


Olney Town Council Reports upto April 2021

Phonebox Magazine sends a reporter to the Olney Town Council Meetings on the first Monday of each month. We have our report of the latest meeting below. Earlier reports are also available below.

Mercury's Reports
We have received various emails from the council complaining about our reporting of the meetings, and that we are bias towards certain councillors. This we repudiate. Our Mercury reporters, who cover council meetings, simply report what they hear and report to a very high standard.

The magazine prints readers letters about various topics, some of which have come recently from several councillors who have resigned from the council and wish to give their views as to why they have done this. We have also received letters from the general public and a previous Mayor from Olney Town Council regarding the running of various aspects within the town. We have not put words into any of our contributors mouths, nor have we influenced in any way what they have written.

If you wish to compare our reporting on the Olney Council Meetings with the Council’s own recollection please go to the Council’s link which houses their Official Minutes here.

Also if you wish to compare further with our notes and the council’s own minutes then please listen and compare with our sound files of the meetings on our web page below.

The council did have their own sound files available on their website, but they seem to have disappeared, possibly just an error which they are looking into.


OLNEY TOWN COUNCILLORS (as at April 1st 2021):
Chris Tennant
Desmond Eley
Graham Harrison
Jeremy Rawlings
Joanne Eley
Malcolm Messenger
Paul Collins
Peter Geary
Stephen Clark

RESIGNED OLNEY TOWN COUNCILLORS (pre April 1st 2021):
Colin Rodden (Resigned)


I have tried my best to serve the Olney community but have increasingly found this difficult. I have just sent the below. A sad day indeed but I am sure it will get better.

It is with regret that I am writing and sending this email to notify you that as from now, 25th March 2021 I wish to stand down and resign my position as councillor for Olney Town Council.
After serving the local community for the last 9 years as councillor, I see that under the current membership of the council, my position is no longer tenable. For some time I have felt my voice has not been heard and more recently I have observed and experienced far too many hidden agendas and what feels like collusion between some of the members of the council; effectively a council within a council. Mistruths and inconsistent messages have been shared and questions around council integrity remain unanswered. We seem to have become a council that values inputs and codes above outputs and effectively and efficiently serving the Olney community.
My concerns have previously been shared with councillors and the Clerk, some of whom seem to disregard opportunities to strengthen relationships to ensure we all act appropriately, as an effective and professional team working with and in the Olney community. This current situation does not represent or support the residents of Olney who, in my opinion, deserve better.
As ever, I will continue to support many aspects of Olney community development and hope to still involve myself in some of these. It is unfortunate that at this time, I feel I cannot continue as a councillor.


I wish you all well.
Regards,
Best wishes & stay safe,
Colin
Colin Rodden FCIPD, FCMI
Tmi4 (HR) Ltd


RESIGNED OLNEY TOWN COUNCILLORS (pre April 1st 2021):
Debbie Whitworth (Resigned)

Letter from the Mayor

Dear Debbie
I have been approached by several councillors regarding posts by you on social media platforms, as well as email and verbal exchanges with others outside OTC. I have previously emailed you on at least 2 occasions on these matters, yet you continue to sidestep the agreed protocols.
Please take note of the Code of Conduct Policy [LINK provided] and the Social Media Policy: [LINK provided]
It is essential that you read, and more importantly, understand these policies where they relate to your public interactions. You must also be aware that elected members are responsible only for policy decisions within the context of OTC unless otherwise authorised by the council. Your interactions with members of the public and social media posts are causing additional work for the already pressed office staff.
Let me be perfectly clear – if you continue to behave in this way, there is justification to raise a misconduct case against you. Councillors must work within the rules and I understand that you are new but your lack of attendance at meetings does not help your position. You need to learn the “ropes”, not jump in at the deep end. Adding “Councillor” to your signature does not give you superpowers.
If you want to discuss further, please contact me. – Jeremy [Mayor of Olney]


Letter to Phonebox: Regarding my resignation from the Council responding to the the Mayor's letter

I consider my role as a Town Councillor to be a privilege serving the best interests of the town and the people who live and work here.
I have always had the well-being of residents first and foremost and my ethos has been one of openness, honesty and transparency. Spending much of my time out and about with residents I believe strongly and passionately that it is vital to listen to residents’ views and do something to address their concerns.
Deliberately proactive in my role during the pandemic, many residents approached me in the street as a Councillor. I have for example actively liaised with grateful local Thames Valley Police officers to help residents with their concerns over parking, litter and anti-social behaviour by large groups of visitors to the town.
I did not therefore expect to receive a Code of Conduct warning letter from The Mayor and Chair informing me my “interactions with the public had caused the office extra work along with my postings on social media”. I was naturally dumbfounded, hurt and distressed by this reaction and felt I had no option but to resign. To add salt to the wounds, I was separately informed by the Town Clerk that care given to help with my disability did not excuse me from attending council meetings!
I have never leaked things that were not policy or discussed at council. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I have never said anything detrimental or that is not already in the public domain.
Anything posted on social media or stated in person to residents has been to provide information, allay residents’ concerns or provide reassurance that their complaints would be taken up by me on their behalf.
Debbie Whitworth

August is usually a month Olney Town Council do not have a meeting. With all that is going on at the moment a special meeting was called to discuss some recent problems, especially the Public Toilets in the Town.
This meeting turned out to be a bit more lively that unusual, and caused the resignation of two councillors, following hard on the heels of a third councillor making a total of four resignations since February, and six in the last 15 months!

RESIGNED OLNEY TOWN COUNCILLORS (pre April 1st 2021):
Deirdre Bethune (Resigned)

Dear Editor
I want to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to everyone for their overwhelming support since my resignation from Olney Town Council. I have been overwhelmed by the support shown from the people of Olney – Olney really IS kind. I am particularly touched by the support I have received from all walks of life, those on all sides of the political spectrum, those who are new to the town and those who have lived here for years.
Some have asked why I resigned after four decades. Others of you have listened to the council meeting and expressed your shock at the tone and tenor of the conversation and how I was treated.
Specifically, I have been shut down and belittled every time I have tried to find ways to solve problems and get things done for the town, whether this is keeping the toilets open or getting the much-needed office refurbishment back on the table, or even in responding to the ongoing problems at the bathing steps, for example. It’s my view that as a council we need to work together to get things done – this has been impossible in the current council. Unfortunately, the behaviour that many of you witnessed at the meeting on August 10 is not new. The hostility and bullying you listened to have continued unabated for months, and at the heart of that, in my opinion, are several councillors as well as a senior employee. This is the reason that the council is currently in disarray, with the loss of six councillors in the last year and several staff. The Mayor and the town clerk need to answer some difficult questions about the environment that has been cultivated in the council and I hope that you – the people of Olney – will continue to ask them and hold them accountable just as you’ve held me accountable for so many years.
In my letter of resignation, I told the Mayor that I love this town and do not want to be associated with dragging it into the mud.
I received a one-line acceptance from the Mayor. In contrast, I received a really lovely letter from the Mayor of Milton Keynes thanking me for all the years I’ve worked for the town and the rural community.
Moving forward, I hope that the many years I have worked tirelessly for Olney are inspiring for some of you. We need motivated, energetic people who listen to others and work collaboratively to support the town and ultimately to join the council or to help with other events or activities. We need “can do” people to replace the “can’t do’s” on the current council.
Thank you again, I am happy to have played a small part in helping Olney grow over the last four decades and I know I will continue to do so in some manner in the future.
Deirdre Bethune

My letter to the Mayor & copied to the councillors of Olney
Please accept this as a letter of resignation. I am aware that you also no longer wish to be a councillor and I am only sorry that I am taking this step and can no longer support you. How many councillors and staff does this council have to lose before the public become totally aware what an absolute shambles it is?
I have spent many years working for this town; a town I love and I do not want to be associated in dragging it into the mud. It is with great regret that I join the ever growing number of councillor resignations, job losses, staff resignations and staff shadowed leaving.
Good luck for the rest of term. Must be one of the best mayorships ever, certainly the most explosive in all my 42 years. Sir, you have my sympathy.
Best wishes Ex councillor Bethune

I received a one-line acceptance from the Mayor

Hello Deirdre
I accept your resignation and thank you for the work you have done for OTC over the years. – Jeremy

Contrast that with a really lovely letter from the Mayor of Milton Keynes thanking me for all the years I’ve worked for the town and the rural community.


RESIGNED OLNEY TOWN COUNCILLORS (pre April 1st 2021):
Sally Pezaro (Resigned)

Dear Phonebox
I wanted to write and thank those who have offered me such kind and encouraging words in response to my resignation from Olney Town Council. Your support has been overwhelming and heart-warming – Thank you!I am sad to be leaving the Town Council, especially as I love the town of Olney so much. Yet unfortunately, within the current council, it has become untenable to remain in post. The behaviours recorded at the meeting held on the 10th of August are far from rare, and as you might imagine, inhibit progress much of the time. I had hoped that things might change after Deidre Bethune and I co-authored the agreed and adopted communications policy, which outlined a vision for the embodiment of workplace compassion and highlighted that the problem is not always what is said, but how it is said and in what context. Alas, they did not, and I can no longer be associated with such behaviours, which have escalated in recent months.
It is well documented that for any organisation to thrive, those within it must embrace workplace compassion. I believe that change in this case must come from the very top, and whilst I have been decidedly vocal about this as a deputy mayor, I am left in a difficult position. Showing further authority in this area may have only undermined those in more senior positions, and thus risked a further weakening of leadership overall. As such, I felt increasingly frustrated and disempowered in a deputy role. That’s not to say I have all the answers, but I would like to think I could have moved things in the right direction had I been in a better position to do so. In my role as Deputy Mayor, I have enjoyed the challenge of making positive changes within the town. This challenge has been made easier with the mentorship of both present and previous Town Councillors such as Stephen Clark and Deidre Bethune, who hold a wealth of Town Council, and local knowledge. Also, we mustn’t forget that there are other Town Councillors who role model integrity and professionalism every day. People have asked me whether I would consider standing to become a Town Councillor again in the May 2021 elections. Although I had hoped to do great things as Mayor of Olney one day, I now think this would only happen if things were radically different. Nevertheless, I continue to enjoy being involved in the town’s events and moderating the Olney Noticeboard on Facebook (sometimes)!
The best is yet to come for Olney, and I certainly hope to be there to see it. In the meantime, be kind to yourselves, and each other. All the best for now.
– Dr Sally Pezaro PhD MSc BA (Hons) PgCAPHE FHEA RM

RESIGNED OLNEY TOWN COUNCILLORS (pre April 1st 2021):
Kevin Viney (Resigned)


Letter to Phonebox and a copy of my resignation letter to OTC

Dear Editor
Please find below my resignation letter to the Council earlier in the year to set the record straight. Despite being sent in February 2020 we have now had 4 Councillors leave in some 10 months. Déjà vu? - Kevin Viney

Hello Jeremy,
I am writing to let you know that I am resigning as town councillor following a distressing year observing the bullying and intimidation of many valued staff and fellow councillors. A professional but once friendly team when I joined 3 years ago has moved to one generating an abrasive and toxic atmosphere. I continue to be shocked at the character assassination of individuals both serving and retired who have served the council well by several individuals on OTC who seemingly plot and delight in taking a Dominic Cummings-like strategy towards colleagues and workforce.
This is a sad day for me as I’ve felt that I have contributed positively to worthwhile campaigns, such as helping to save the Kitchener Centre from closure and keeping Goosey Island free from building blight and accessible to the residents of Olney.
Having had a stake in the town for some 27 years, my wish is to continue to play a more appreciated role in this great town of Olney and I look forward to doing that again now.
Regards – Kevin Viney


RESIGNED OLNEY TOWN COUNCILLORS (pre April 1st 2021):
Tony Evans (Resigned)

Letter to the Phonebox Magazine regarding his resignation in our September 2019 issue:

Tony Evans Resignation
Dear Editor, After nearly 40 years of continuous service on Olney Town Council, I have tendered my resignation with a very heavy heart.
I love this Town and have worked hard over the years with many Councillors and Staff in a friendly and cooperative way to promote, extend and maintain to a high standard all the recreational facilities, flower beds, cemetery and Churchyard and the Allotments. As Chair of the Recreation and Services Committee I have been very fortunate to work closely with the Clerk and Deputy and our Ground Staff, and as a local farmer and keen gardener have been able to help out in practical ways.
Over the past few years, there has been a gradual break down of trust and respect within the Council, leading to the resignation of some fine hard-working Councillors. This year has seen a serious worsening of this situation with our excellent Town Clerk Liam Costello resigning, followed recently by the resignation of our valuable Deputy Clerk Jane Brushwood. During this time [XXXX XXX] staff have presented the Council with official Grievance papers, which at the time of writing remain unresolved. These facts alone must illustrate that there is something seriously wrong within the Council.
I have made no secret during this time how appalled I have been at the dreadful way certain members of the Council have dealt with our staff, and I can no longer sit around the Council Chamber table and listen to these Councillors who just do not understand how to treat valuable members of Staff and who are dragging down the reputation of the Council
Finally, I want to say how grateful I am to all the residents of Olney for giving me the opportunity to serve on the Town Council for all these years and I only hope that I have lived up to your expectations.
My Best Wishes, Tony Evans

The only letter of thanks for his many years service to the town came from Councillor D Bethune in that same September 2019 issue:

Dear Editor
, I would like to publicly thank Tony Evans for all the hard work and commitment he has given to the town over many years. He was a great and patient mayor who, with Joan Jones and Peter Evans (councillor), brought one of the towns great assets into being: the Olney Centre. A great plus for the town.
He has been chairman of Recreation and Services for many years and has made sure that playing fields, open spaces and children’s play areas are kept up to standard (at least as much as the remit would allow him). He worked very well with all the staff and was often to be found, with his farmer’s hat on, clearing grass cuttings, moving things and preparing spaces for town events.
I would need more time and space to list everything Tony has done for the town. It is a great shame that he has felt a need to resign from his position on the town council. He will be sorely missed by many of us on the town council.
Thank you, Tony.
Kind Regards, Deirdre Bethune


Letter to the Phonebox about his thoughts on the state of things, (under one year later) in our August 2020 issue:

The rush of Councillors and Staff to extract themselves from the current regime that calls itself Olney Town Council continues unabated.
Over the years that I have served on OTC I have never experienced such bitterness and discord, in fact quite the opposite, we have always maintained a good working relationship which has led to sound management of the town and its finances, which I am afraid cannot be said for the current Council. I hasten to add that it is only a small minority of Councillors who are causing this situation and dragging down the reputation of the Council.
The Town will have the chance to change this in May, next year, when a new Council has to be elected and I trust we will all use our vote to bring about this change - Tony Evans

2021 March

March Meeting 2021


Ron Hall Editor of Phonebox Magazine

Mercury's reports for 2021

  • January 2021

    Olney Council report for January 2021

    Public access to meetings

    For the duration of the COVID-19 restrictions, meetings of Olney Town Council (OTC) will be held online as audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by surfing to the OTC web page, www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, clicking on the ‘Meetings’ tab and scrolling down to the announcement about the next meeting, where there’ll be one link to the agenda and another to join the meeting listen-only.

    If you would like to be identified in the Mercury report as the originator of any correspondence read out, please contact Phonebox Magazine at editor@phoneboxmagazine.com.

    Public participation

    The first communication was entitled “Amazing Olney Heritage Trail”.
    Organised by the Archaeological Society, Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney Circular Walk, and Olney and District History Society, this is a project to make Olney’s history more accessible to the community. It may also encourage visitors to spend more time in the town, exploring local shops and businesses. The proposed project aims to make a trail around the town, signed by informative interpretation panels, accompanied by a downloadable map of the trail and, hopefully, also QR-code driven facilities. The groups involved would part-fund the project and offer their time and expertise, and it was hoped the Council would fund the approx. £15,000 cost. Recognising that money was tight at the moment, the letter noted that the time feels right for the town to come together around a project which would “shine a light” and look to the future.

    The second item read “Dear Mr. Mayor,
    I would like to ask again why your Council has not met their obligation under the Local Government Transparency Code. There is a requirement to publish, on a quarterly basis, details of all tenders and contracts exceeding £5,000 and all items of expenditure exceeding £500. I should like to be identified as the author of this request. My understanding is that NALC guidance states that members of the public speaking at meetings should be named in the minutes. Finally, I would welcome details of your response to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ruling IC-52639-C8L9, as referenced in the January Phonebox Mercury report, as I don’t see it on the agenda for the January meeting.”

    Jeremy commented on the main three points this raised:

    • Re the obligations under the Local Government Transparency Code, OTC does publish on a quarterly basis all tenders and contracts exceeding £5,000, but there hadn’t been one for some considerable time. However, one had been awarded in December, for heating repairs in the Olney Centre, and that would appear on the website in due course. Re items of expenditure, the Council was a little behind with publishing these, but they will become available on the website. Remote working and resulting lack of access are presenting additional challenges currently.
    • Re the contributor being named in the minutes, Jeremy said he couldn’t find anything in the NALC guidance stating members of the public should be named in the minutes. OTC had also taken advice from other Councils, none of whom name public speakers in their minutes. If the meetings were taking place physically, the contributor would obviously be able to identify themselves but, again, their identity would not be included in the minutes. OTC believes this is the correct and proper way to handle this, compliant with GDPR regulations.
    • Finally, OTC believes it has fully responded to the ICO ruling. The information on the Information Commissioner’s website is not complete and OTC would be taking the matter up, citing additional emails and exchanges it’d since had with the ICO, which conclude this ruling. Again, he said, the ruling is not complete on the website. This would be dealt with over the next week or so.

    Declarations of interest

    Desmond Eley declared an interest in a later item on wall repairs, one of those who’d submitted a tender being a personal friend. Graham Harrison declared an interest in the Community Orchard item, his wife having an allotment in the town

    Allotment Field Community Orchard

    The Council had received a proposal from the Olney Allotment Association for the creation of a Community Orchard. Graham Harrison outlined the proposal. The Allotment Association proposed to apply for planning permission to plant a Community Orchard consisting of heritage apple trees on a strip of land, approx. 150m x 12m, adjacent to and East of the allotments, naming the Orchard “Amazing Grace” in support of the 250th anniversary celebrations due in 2023. In addition, it proposed to support the continued management and rewilding of the remaining Allotment Field as a wildflower meadow. It believed the resulting space would be a great asset for the community.
    The Orchard, estimated creation cost around £5,000, would not result in a cost to OTC – the Allotment Association is raising its own funds. The Orchard would be fenced, and have a footpath through it with seating and display boards.
    Graham proposed and Steve Clark seconded that OTC support this proposal. Jeremy Rawlings asked whether that the proposal was effectively asking OTC for the use of the land, which Graham confirmed. Desmond Eley, in favour of the proposal, wanted to check whether this land could in fact be used for an orchard instead of allotments. Chris Tenant and Peter Geary did not think there would be any planning issues, Chris noting that the Orchard did not represent an Eastern limit to the allotments – if the area did expand, it’d simply have a strip of orchard within it.
    Colin Rodden asked if community consultation was required before moving forward. Jeremy felt this was not needed, the strip already being allotment land. Also, as noted by Joanne Eley, the proposal had effectively come from the community, with the community, specifically the Allotment Association, having done all the work. Peter Geary noted that the high level of fertility in the Allotment Field would make it difficult to establish a wildflower meadow for a significant time – a plan to strip nutrient out of the soil would be required. Desmond asked whether, given the history of the site as a football pitch, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) might expect parking to be provided. Peter Geary did not think this would be the case – people would walk to an orchard. Councillors voted unanimously in favour of this proposal.

    Town Meeting

    The Town meeting is proposed to be held online, Friday 16th April. The Council is working with its IT provider, hoping to give the public the opportunity to ask questions live during the meeting.
    The proposed date necessarily falls before that of the next local elections, Thursday 6th May, with the first meeting of the resulting new Council Monday 10th May.

    Wall repairs

    Three walls, one at the Olney Centre and two the Cemetery, required emergency repair and three quotes had been obtained. MKC has a duty to maintain the Cemetery walls, had seen the quotes and said it’d be happy to pay its part of whichever OTC chose. Andrea Vincent, Town Clerk, believed MKC had previously had work done poorly, requiring remedial work, and was thus keen to have this repair done properly.
    Desmond Eley believed that Quote B, the most expensive, was for significantly more work than the others, this difference in scope making it hard to judge value for money. Andrea explained that all three companies had visited site, judged the work required and come to different conclusions. She felt the company which had judged the most work to be required had included work to stabilise the whole wall concerned, rather than addressing only the specific issue requested.
    After some time spent discussing these differences, Desmond noting the quandary over job scope and that he was no expert in wall repair, Andrea felt it was a choice between having the job done completely and lasting a long time, or partially with more work required soon after as a result. Peter Geary noted that most of the variability between the quotes was in fact for the Cemetery walls, which MKC would pay for – the variability for the Olney Centre walls was very much less. Peter also felt that Quote B, while not the cheapest, would be the most economically advantageous over time. Desmond, noting that he’d earlier declared an interest, meaning his hands were tied, felt Quote B gave the best value provided the resulting quality of work was good.
    Jeremy proposed, Peter seconded and Councillors voted unanimously to accept Quote B, Desmond abstaining.

    Returning Exclusive Rights of Burial

    Jeremy explained that this item had arisen because a member of the public had previously purchased an Exclusive Right of Burial (EROB) and now wanted to return it and receive money back. EROBs reserve a physical space in which to be buried, Olney’s issued in perpetuity. The rarity of someone wishing to return one meant there was no existing policy on the issue. Opting not to allow the EROB’s return would lead to a space between graves which could not be used.
    Steve Clark felt the Council should allow return, with the money back allowing for a handling charge to reflect the administrative work involved. Demand for EROBs would be ongoing, so it would not be hard to sell the space. Peter suggested the refund be 80% of the original purchase price. Paul Collins asked whether the administration required was significant, Andrea replying not. Colin felt the handling charge must not result in profit for the Council. After further discussion, Peter proposed, Desmond seconded and Councillors voted unanimously in favour of a policy allowing EROBs to be returned, refunding 80% of the price paid at purchase.

    Olney Town Council Strategic Plan

    Jeremy thanked Desmond for his work on the plan, and thoroughly recommended adopting it. Desmond, noting he’d taken the original supplied by Andrea and adapted it, thanked Jeremy for his feedback. Desmond asked if Councillors should vote to accept the plan as a draft, which the newly elected Council could then choose whether to adopt, or to adopt the plan, which the new Council could then decide what to do with. Peter suggested the latter would be the best policy, with a caveat that the six month rule should not apply, meaning the new Council, likely elected in May, could change it immediately if it saw fit. Steve felt the Council should adopt it in principle, with the suggestion it be reviewed annually.
    Desmond proposed, Jeremy seconded and Councillors voted unanimously to adopt the plan in principle, with the suggestion it be reviewed annually. It would be published shortly for all to see.

    Town Clerk’s Report

    A small water heater in the Pre School has leaked onto a hand drier, both having to be replaced.
    Works to update the Olney Centre heating system have been commissioned and will start Monday 11th January.
    The Markets continue to take place, each subject to the COVID restrictions in place at the time, although the January Farmers’ Market would not take place due to insufficient traders willing to attend.
    The ground staff continue to mow the grass – unusually, it had not been cold enough to pause its growth.
    The public toilets remain open, and the vandalism has abated.
    Graham noted the poor state of the fence between the allotments and the Allotment Field. While Andrea noted the Council was due to look at this, Graham felt it should be regarded in the context of the Community Orchard work, which itself included fencing there.
    A complaint had been received about a malicious ICO request. Joanne noted her concern about this. She then asked if the malicious Facebook post was the one recently discussed on social media. Andrea confirmed it was, noting the Council had posted a Christmas letter, under which a malicious follow-up comment had been posted under the Council’s Facebook account, thus suggesting it formed part of the Council’s Christmas message. It did not. The Council’s IT support is following this up, including tracking the IP address via which the post was made.
    Referring to the ICO request, Peter felt the Council should respond as the law says it should and, if it feels it has done, the Council’s job is completed. If the complainant is not satisfied, it is for them to take it up with the ICO, which may then choose to contact the Council again. He also noted that a person may make as many requests as they want. Re the Facebook post, once the person is identified, he felt they needed to be reported to the authorities, their actions being a clear breach of the law for which they deserved the consequences.

    Statement of Expenditure

    Here, Councillors had the chance to review the Statement of Expenditure. Paul questioned an £825 payment of professional fees to EMW Law, included under Administration / Legal fees. Andrea explained this was for a Human Resources (HR) issue, Paul feeling it should thus be included under HR Support. Paul also noted a couple of oddities in the Staff section, with two Pension charges rather than the expected one, and some maths related to staff salaries not adding up. These were felt due to administrative issues, which will be corrected.
    Desmond queried the £350 charge for Olney Centre / Electricity, given that the Centre was closed, asking if perhaps it was due to drying out costs following the heating leak. Andrea confirmed this, the drying out requiring five large dehumidifiers running continuously, some of the cost also due to portable electric heaters being used in place of the central heating. Paul asked whether the drying out costs were being covered under the insurance payout due to the leak, Andrea saying she’d check.

    Development Group update

    Chris Tenant reported that Angle Properties had given a useful presentation of their emerging proposals for the site off Warrington Road. Angle is looking to implement the outline planning permission granted in 2017, bringing this forward on a phased basis: infrastructure, employment, then a care home. Peter Geary explained that a stakeholder group had been set up by MKC to solve issues between OTC and a number of nearby residents, and the developer of the Aspreys site. The pre-Christmas flooding issue which affected, amongst other places, the Aspreys - Yardley Road - Driftway roundabout, and a section of Driftway to its North East, was discussed. As a result, on Christmas Eve, the developer dug a number of ponds on site, improving the situation should that much rain occur again in such short order. Peter explained that roads, gardens and garages had been flooded, but no homes. There was also a ditch between the old and newer parts of the Aspreys development, the drainage of which had never been properly finished. This must be resolved, he said, and that should happen in the next few weeks. Work on the development site had caused the flooding problem, and been admitted by the developer who was working to repair any damage caused. Chris thanked Councillors for the swift action taken when the flooding occurred. However, he noted that the flood mitigation measures taken on the site were temporary, the final works not being due for completion until April. Winter still has some way to run.
    Peter also discussed the Community Centre on the Aspreys development, recommending the Council appoint its own Quantity Surveyor, paid out of Section 106 monies, to ensure the proposed building offered good value for money. Desmond and Chris agreed.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held online on Monday 1st February, at 7.00pm. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

  • February 2021

    Olney Council report for 1st February 2021

    Public access to meetings

    For the duration of the COVID crisis meetings of Olney Town Council (OTC) will be held as online audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings and view the presentations by clicking on a link on the OTC web page www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk Click on the ‘Meetings’ tab and scroll down to the announcement about the next meeting where you will find a link to the agenda and another to join the meeting on view/listen only.

    If you would like to be identified in the Mercury report as the originator of any correspondence read out, please contact Phonebox Magazine at editor@phoneboxmagazine.com.

    Public participation

    In the absence of the opportunity to speak at public meetings the public may submit written items to the clerk to be read out. Mercury would normally name those who speak at an open meeting unless they specifically ask not to be identified. Under the new regime the clerk redacts the names from any correspondence and official minutes, although the authors can request that their names are published in the Mercury report.

    If you would like to be identified in the Mercury report as the originator of any correspondence read out, please contact Phonebox Magazine at editor@phoneboxmagazine.com.

    The first communication from the organisers of the Cherry Fair requesting permission to hold the event on the Glebe Field on 26th June 2021, recognising that it may not be possible for it to take place. Permission was granted, in principle, and it was agreed that Town Clerk Andrea Vincent would progress.

    Second Communication - Olney Town Plan request

    The second item was regarding a previous request for a Town Plan to compliment the Neighbourhood Plan. The correspondent noted that his request had seemingly be hijacked and re-presented as a Strategic Plan for OTC. It is the facilities and provisions for residents of a fast expanding town which should be under discussion and not some memoranda for councillors, he thought. This letter was also published in the February edition of The Phonebox where the author identified himself as William Parlor. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings said the request would be dealt with by the Development Committee, rather than full council.

    Milton Keynes Council (MKC) new Councillor Code of Conduct

    Jeremy Rawlings introduced this item, explaining that OTC would need to consider revision of their Code of Conduct as a consequence. There were a number of changes, he said, particularly around the use of social media. MKC Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that MKC was currently scrutinising the document and felt it better for that to take its course and see what recommendations came forth and then adopt them for OTC. Jeremy proposed that it should then be discussed at next month’s OTC meeting.

    To agree the budget for 2021/2022 and the precept

    For information, the precept is the sum collected from residents by MKC via the Council Tax which is returned to OTC to provide local services.
    As Chair of Finance Paul Collins presented the budget document, explaining that it had initially been formulated by himself and Town Clerk Andrea Vincent, followed by reviews with the Chairs of budget holding committees and then a final review to full council and finance committee.
    He said OTC was still recovering from the effects of poor historic financial management. The council does not have significant reserves on which to fall back but progress has been made over the past two years. Notwithstanding that the level of reserves is still below the level he though prudent for an authority of OTC’s size. It was essential to set a balanced and not a deficit budget and to rebuild reserves.
    Regarding income and expenditure, there was the issue of the Market Place refurbishment, long term decline in income from the Sunday and Thursday markets, plus the need for OTC to pay rates on the Market Place which had previously been paid by MKC. The Olney Centre is underused, which calls into question the need for a further Community Centre on the Yardley Road development.
    The ‘precept base’ would show growth in the future as the current pipeline of new housing is delivered. Open Space income should be ‘relatively stable’, he said, as clubs have received government support. Provision has been made for anticipated legal costs, IT support, and the community newsletter.
    The cemetery costs now properly reflect the cost of cemetery maintenance, he said. £5,000 per annum for the next three years has been granted to the museum for the Amazing Grace 250 year anniversary in 2022/23, the purpose of which is to encourage community groups to come forward with small-scale projects as part of those celebrations.
    Provision has been made for OTC by-elections, although the costs of the full-council elections in May will be paid for by MKC. Although it is difficult to budget in current circumstances Paul said that in the event of over-provision the net result would be to build up reserves so that the incoming council inherit financial stability and able to look ahead rather than dealing with ‘legacy issues’ as had been necessary over the past two to three years.
    The precept will be set at £285k which on a tax base of 2580 households equates to £110.47 per Band D household, an increase of £9.58 per annum. This equates to approximately four cups of coffee over the year which he felt residents would not begrudge.
    Peter Geary thanked Paul saying that OTC was very nearly bankrupt, having run a deficit for six out of seven years and used up its reserves. Desmond Eley noted that there is considerable list of outstanding work required on the renewals and maintenance of the Olney Centre and the modest amount already earmarked plus that in the budget would not cover the full extent of the work so more would be required in future years. The budget and increase in precept were passed unanimously

    Documents previously suppressed by the Council

    Jeremy Rawlings introduced this section saying that certain documents were originally discussed under confidential items (when press and public were excluded) and subsequent information received indicated that most should be made available to the public.

    Peter Geary said that OTC regularly vote to exclude press and public for reasons such as HR and other things, but it would be sensible to review to see if they are still relevant at a later date. No one could be in any doubt that problems and angst had existed within OTC over the past year or so and people had been listening to and speaking of things that only told half the story.
    Everyone ‘from The Phonebox down’ should be able to see as much as possible, he thought. Many documents will be straight forward and can be released immediately, but others will need some thought and advice. As part of his initial local government training he had been told that anything that would have to be provided as part of a Freedom of Information Act request should be provided straight away and not kept confidential.
    Some matters, such as tenders or financial information, could justifiably be kept confidential at the time but should eventually be made public he said. There are other issues that might provide residents with a wider knowledge of what has gone on, rather than ‘people’s memories, hints and talking’ he said.
    He proposed that the clerk review all confidential documents going back five years and any obvious one be released immediately. Any that need further discussion should be discussed in closed session prior to the public session of next month’s meeting and then the decision to release would be made in the public section with the documents being made available shortly after.
    It would be necessary for some documents to be redacted to remove words and names. Jeremy Rawlings supported the plan, saying that there had been ‘issues’ with the council going back ten years or more and releasing the documents would show that they were moving towards a well-run council that has proper governance and makes correct and proper decisions. This would put them in a good position to hand the reigns over to new councillors come May, he said.
    The proposal was seconded by Chair of HR Joanne Eley and passed unanimously.

    Town Clerk’s Report

    Andrea Vincent reported that Deputy Clerk Sarah Kennedy had been working through the many council contracts and had identified some duplicates that had already been cancelled and others that were no longer required, such as the franking machine, which would be cancelled when they came up for renewal.
    The year 2019/20 Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) was submitted on time and the figures approved by the external auditor. The supporting papers were submitted to the internal auditor but not to the external auditor because of an administrative oversight. The public right to view was properly publicized and exercised by the public.
    Andrea reported that the Olney Centre is ‘showing her age’. The works to future proof the heating system have started, although a second leak had been found. A buddleia tree has been removed from the centre chimney and the roofing contractor is looking for a leak in the roof which is causing water ingress to the centre. Work has begun on the wall at the Olney Centre. All external public toilets remain open and vandalism seems to have abated.
    There have been two complaints to the monitoring officer about two individual Councillors.

    Yardley Road development

    Chris Tennant reported on the monthly liaison meeting between Taylor Wimpey, Bovis Homes, OTC/MKC and local residents.
    The problems of deliveries to site and the temporary traffic lights on Yardley Road were amongst the matters discussed. On-site wheel washing facilities are being provided to resolve the mud being deposited on the roads. A new website has been set up to assist in communication with the local community and to enable them to have a single point of contact. A link will be provided on the OTC webpage and Facebook page, along with the Olney Noticeboard.
    Temporary drainage measures had been put in place following the ‘surface water drainage incident’ i.e. flooding, which occurred on Christmas Eve. The permanent drainage will not be completed until at least April.
    Peter Geary said that an online public meeting is due to be held to discuss the planning applications for the temporary access roads and impacted residents will be notified by post. Desmond Eley noted that one of the proposed access roads would be on Aspreys opposite the Foxhill junction. A proposal for a permanent access road on the original design had been rejected, he said, so how could a temporary access in the same place be justified? Peter replied that it was in the position of the proposed permanent footpath/cycleway/bollarded emergency access and just because a planning application had been made it did not necessarily mean it would be granted.

    Odds and Sods

    Joanne Eley reported that a Teams Meeting had been held with several shopkeepers regarding the ‘Opening up the High Street’ initiative and the funding available. The shop keepers have been invited to apply for funding from OTC.

    Town Meeting

    The Town meeting is proposed to be held online, Friday 16th April. The Council is working with its IT provider, hoping to give the public the opportunity to ask questions live during the meeting. The proposed date necessarily falls before that of the next local elections, Thursday 6th May, with the first meeting of the resulting new Council Monday 10th May.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held online on Monday 1st March. The start time may be later than usual, due to the pre-meeting discussion on release of confidential documents.
    If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk. If you would like to be identified in the Mercury report as the originator of any correspondence read out, please contact The Phonebox at editor@phoneboxmagazine.com.

  • March 2021

    Olney Council report for March 2021

    Summary of Contents

    This month’s Olney Town Council meeting was too long to report in full, so we have listed here a summary of the highlights. As the full Town Council report is available on-line those wishing to listen to the full details should go to www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk

    The Full Meeting..... is available

    A full written report by our Mercury reporter can be found on our webpage: phoneboxmagazine.com.
    The printed magazine report has been assessed by the editor to give an overview of the meeting, describing the most important aspects, without listing every single point made.
    In this way readers can decide for themselves how much they want to read and in how much detail – and can draw their own conclusions on the decisions made by the Council.

    Public access to meetings

    For the duration of the COVID-19 restrictions, meetings of Olney Town Council (OTC) will be held online as audio meetings using the conferencing platform Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to proceedings by clicking on a link within the OTC web page: www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk. Click on the ‘Meetings’ tab and scroll down to the announcement about the next meeting, where you’ll find one link to the agenda and another to join the meeting on view/listen only.

    Public participation

    The first letter reported the dumping of rubbish on the small island of the Goosey river stretch, noting that with recent flooding this had been an environmental disaster. OTC is in contact with the owner’s solicitors and will keep the correspondent informed of progress.
    The second letter, sent anonymously, expressed concern at the treatment of the Council on social media. The correspondent requested that the Council replies to the questions publicly on social media and in the local press.
    Note: The Council’s reply to the above letter, posted Wednesday 3rd March, and other posts going back to at Wednesday 3rd February, provide some background to recent changes at the Council. These can be found at:
    facebook.com/pg/OlneyTownCouncil/posts, and can be viewed with or without a Facebook account.

    Public Art

    Louise Izod, Public Art Officer at Milton Keynes Council (MKC), gave a brief presentation on Public Art, and specifically how OTC could utilise its Section 106 monies for Public Art purposes.
    Looking at Olney, her investigations suggested that around £27,000 was available to spend now, with potential for a further £233,000 in the near future. She recommended OTC seek public involvement to produce a plan.
    Chris Tenant explained that OTC maintains a tracker of Section 106 monies, so he would be able to help tie down what was available. He calculated the total pot of Public Art money to be about £345,000.

    MKC Councillor Code of Conduct

    This item was to review the MKC Councillor Code of Conduct and consider its adoption in place of the current OTC Code of Conduct. Jeremy Rawlings noted that MKC was yet to approve it.

    Demand-Responsive Transport proposals

    Jennifer Wilson-Marklew, an MKC Cabinet member with areas of responsibility including public transport, had been invited to speak concerning significant up-coming changes to bus services.
    A new demand-responsive, all-electric transport service called MK Connect, a mix of shared taxi and bus, will be introduced on Wednesday 31st March prior to the withdrawal of various subsidised services. The to-be-withdrawn services affecting Olney and its surrounds are no. 37, and the no. 21 Olney–Lavendon stretch. The new service may be used up to 11pm, seven days a week, where no fixed service exists or none is running at the time.
    The service will cost £3.50 during peak hours (7am–9am, 4.30pm–6.30pm), and £2.50 at all other times. Concessions are available, costing £1 for All in 1 MK cardholders for example, with Older Person’s and Disabled Person’s bus pass holders travelling free after 9.30am on weekdays and all day at weekends. The service will arrive within 30 minutes in urban areas, 45 minutes in rural locations, and pick-up and drop-off within 400 metres of locations requested. Once booked, users will be guaranteed a seat, and wheelchair-accessible vehicles will be available on request.
    Further information is available here: https://ridewithvia.com/mk-connect/, and the booking line is 01908 252526. The changes will be publicised, including posters in bus stops, leaflets posted to homes in affected areas and by Parish Councils, including Olney’s.

    Amendments to OTC Standing Orders

    Jeremy Rawlings put forward two proposals: all elected chairmen of committees must have attended chair training within six months before or after their appointment; and all members of the Finance, Human Resources and Planning Committees must attend subject-specific training within six months of appointment and then at regular intervals afterwards.
    Chris Tenant asked that “regular intervals” be defined, Peter Geary replied that it meant yearly, with additional training when underlying changes to the subject matter demanded it. Councillors voted unanimously in favour of these amendments.

    Rugby 7s tournament

    Olney Rugby Club has requested use of the Recreation Ground for the Rugby 7s tournament on Saturday 17th July. Permission was granted subject to COVID restrictions in place at the time, and similar conditions to those imposed in 2018.

    Tenders to repaint the Olney Centre interior

    Two quotations had been received, other companies declining to quote due to the size of the job. Of those two, only the first had quoted for all the work required, the second planning to do so in the next few days. The Council is keen to complete the decoration before the Centre reopens so, once the full second quote is received or seven days have passed, the Council will accept one of them.

    Town Clerk’s report

    The request for the up-coming year’s precept has been submitted, and documents for the Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) are being prepared. Annual staff appraisals have been put back to early in the new financial year, bar the Town Clerk’s already completed one. The Council will be testing technology to allow the annual Town Meeting, planned Friday 16th April, to be online. The Olney Centre heating works are almost complete. Work on external walls has been finished, as has that near the Church.
    All the Markets are taking place, the numbers of stalls being increased gradually in line with emerging COVID regulations. The Cemetery continues to function under COVID guidelines.

    Clerk’s report: Complaints about individual Councillors

    Two complaints had been looked at by Monitoring Officers, each concerning an individual Councillor and on separate matters. Both were dismissed as having no case to answer. Jeremy Rawlings concluded by explaining that, for members of the public listening to proceedings and considering standing for Council, there is a complete set of rules and regulations, a Code of Conduct, and also the OTC Standing Orders, to which Councillors are bound by law. He noted that there is a route for both public and Councillors to complain and raise issues about Councillors’ conduct, as exercised here.

    Clerk’s report: Complaints about the Council as a whole

    Andrea Vincent explained that other complaints, more general to the Council as a whole, had been received in the past year. All of these had been found to have no foundation, she said, but had caused great cost to the public purse.
    Another complaint was from a former member of staff who was concerned that their personal information had not been handled properly. They had become aware that OTC had disclosed information from their personal record on its website and also published the same information on its Facebook account.
    The Council thanked the correspondent for the letter, adding that it understood the concerns raised and said that the complainant was “within your rights to contact the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office)”.

    Human Resources Committee report

    Joanne Eley said that an allegation – reported in the Phonebox Magazine – that HR documents had been shredded, was untrue and urged anyone with factual evidence that this had taken place to come forward to the Council, MK Council or the police, as it could be a criminal matter.

    Finance Committee report

    Paul Collins reported that the Council has allocated £5,000 per annum over three years to support the Amazing Grace 250 celebrations which, it is hoped, will take place in 2022–2023, but added that a report in the Phonebox Magazine that the money had been allocated to the town’s Museum was not accurate.

    Recreations and Services Committee report

    Desmond Eley explained that the Town and Deputy Town Clerk have completed specific cemetery training, and are getting the records in line with current legislation. The grounds staff continued with all maintenance on open spaces except the watering of hanging baskets.
    The sports pitches soil has been tested, with scientists recommending no more general fertiliser be applied for at least another five years.
    Public toilets have been kept open throughout most of 2020. The failure of the old Victorian underground pipe-work in the Olney Centre has been remedied and future-proofed.

    Planning Committee report

    Steve Clark reported a Planning Application related to the ‘apple store’ at the top of the lane down to the orchard in East Street. Members of the Planning Committee had been given an informal presentation by the family concerned and their developers regarding the potential development of a small part of the orchard site. This would require access from East Street – that currently existing is too narrow due to the presence of this property. A Planning Application has been lodged with MKC to remove the property, due to its poor state of repair, allowing access to any subsequent development on the orchard.

    Development Group report

    Chris Tenant first declared an interest, living near the Aspreys / Yardley Road development. There has been concern about surface water run-off from that site, though there has been no further incident, temporary measures having been put in place by the developers. The full drainage scheme is slated for completion by April. Construction traffic routing has now been tightened. It appeared some vehicles had not followed the procedures in place: that Yardley Road and Driftway must be used to access the A509. Also, there will be further closures of Yardley Road due to associated works by Thames Water, noted on the Council’s website.

    Library and Museum reports

    Colin Rodden noted that, while Olney library is currently closed due to COVID, a click-and-collect service is available. Books can be ordered from milton-keynes.gov.uk/libraries and collected from Olney Library at times available via that page. Paul Collins noted that the Cowper and Newton Museum now has an online booking system and an online shop. It is hoped that the shop and gardens will open mid-April, and the Museum mid-to-late May, subject to the lifting of COVID restrictions.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held online on Monday 12th April, at 7.00pm. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk:
    townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

    Notice: Olney Town Council Reports

    If you wish to listen to the full past Mercury Report on Olney Town Council you can use the following link which will take you to the full report of the last meeting:
    Audio Reports of Olney Town Council

    Our written reports are created by our reporter, who covers the meetings and reflect what was heard at those meetings. Any parts of the meeting held in confidence that we are not privy too, cannot be report on.

    If you would like to be identified in the Mercury Report as the originator of any correspondence read out and reported on, please contact Phonebox Magazine at: editor@phoneboxmagazine.com

  • March Full Meeting Notes

    Olney Council report for March 2021 (printed in the April edition)

    Notice: The Full Meeting notes received from Mercury

    The report below is the report the Editor received from Mercury.

    The report below was reduced down for publishing in Phonebox Magazine

    By looking at the two reports and listening to the full council meeting, you can check the accuracy of our reporting.



    Public access to meetings
    For the duration of the COVID-19 restrictions, meetings of Olney Town Council (OTC) will be held online as audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by surfing to the OTC web page, www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, clicking on the ‘Meetings’ tab, then scrolling down to the announcement about the next meeting, where there’ll be one link to the agenda and another to join the meeting listen-only.
    If you would like to be identified in the Mercury report as the originator of any correspondence read out, please contact The Phone Box at editor@phoneboxmagazine.com.

    Public participation
    The first letter reported the dumping of a large pile of rubbish on the small island on the Goosey, noting that with recent flooding this had been a disaster for the environment. Olney Town Council (OTC) is already in contact with the owner’s solicitors, will be meeting with them this month and will keep the letter writer informed of progress.
    The second letter requested it be read out at the March meeting. But the writer would like to remain anonymous in the minutes and recorded meeting. [Some of Mercury’s notes here have been omitted by the Editor because of unsubstantiated personal views against former Councillors and their names being used; that we would not publish without the writers’ name being made available to ourselves].
    It hit out at what say as “the public trial by social media of the Council which, in my view, has been relentless since August 2020. It appears to me that close friends of ex-Councillors associated with and supported by the Phone Box appear to have cornered the local media in trying to influence residents to their way of thinking without a full story.” And the “tireless onslaught which, rather ironically, constitutes bullying”
    It then went on to request that “the Council replies to the questions publicly on social media and in the local press, to give a more balanced coverage of events?”
    Jeremy Rawlings noted that the Council would be replying in due course. He explained that other letters had arrived at the Council, some of which would be addressed later in this meeting.
    Note: The Council’s reply to the above letter, posted Wednesday 3rd March, and other of its posts going back to at least Wednesday 3rd February are worth reading as they provide some background to recent changes at the Council. These may be found here, https://www.facebook.com/pg/OlneyTownCouncil/posts, which may be viewed with or without a Facebook account.

    Apologies and declarations
    No apologies for absence had been received, all Councillors being present. No declarations of interest were made.

    Public Art
    Louise Izod, Public Art Officer at Milton Keynes Council (MKC), gave a brief presentation on Public Art, and specifically how OTC could utilise its Section 106 monies for Public Art purposes. MKC has a broad definition of Public Art, examples including follies and landmarks, sculpture, and artists in residence. It “is about inviting the vision, creativity and skills of artists to engage people freely with place, in a well considered way”, she said.
    Some of the contributions from development are used to help fund Public Art. Looking at Olney, her investigations suggested approx. £27,000 was available to spend now, with potential for a further £233,000 in the near future if certain developments, notably that adjacent to Yardley Road and Aspreys, go ahead. She recommended OTC seek public involvement to produce a plan.
    Chris Tenant explained that OTC maintains a tracker of Section 106 monies, so he would be able to help tie down what was available. He calculated the total pot of Public Art money to be about £345,000, due to about six developments. Desmond Eley asked how long it would take from a potential Public Art project being identified to achieving funding for it – the question asked in the context of the Amazing Grace celebrations planned 2022-2023. Louise replied that timescales for individual projects were around one year to 18 months while, if a plan was put in place first, that would add an initial six to eight months. Andrea Vincent felt it may be worth starting some work immediately, in parallel with creating a plan and encouraging community involvement.

    MKC Councillor Code of Conduct
    This item was to review the MKC Councillor Code of Conduct and consider its adoption in place of the current OTC Code of Conduct. Jeremy Rawlings noted that MKC was yet to approve it, though planned to do so shortly, so proposed to defer this until next month. Peter Geary explained that, while OTC could theoretically adopt it now, if Councillors wanted to propose any amendments, they could be checked for legality prior to MKC debating adoption of the new Code next month. The Code should be ready for the new OTC elected in May to sign up to, he said.

    Amendments to OTC Standing Orders
    Jeremy Rawlings put forward two proposals: All elected chairmen of committees must have attended chair training within six months pre or post their appointment; all members of the Finance, Human Resources and Planning Committees must attend subject-specific training within six months of appointment and then at regular intervals afterwards.
    Chris Tenant asked that “regular intervals” be defined, Peter Geary replying yearly, with additional training when underlying changes to the subject matter demanded it. Joanne Eley noted that most of those chairing committees who’d joined in 2017 had attended Finance, Planning, Effective Councillor-ing and chair training. Although she’d chaired many bigger committees than these, she felt those who were minded to give of their best had already attended the training and kept well abreast of these issues. Councillors voted unanimously in favour of these amendments.

    Demand-Responsive Transport proposals
    Jennifer Wilson-Marklew, an MKC Cabinet member with areas of responsibility including public transport, had been invited to speak concerning significant up-coming changes to bus services.
    A new demand-responsive, all-electric transport service called MK Connect, a mix of shared taxi and bus, will be introduced Wednesday 31st March prior to the withdrawal of various subsidised services. The to-be-withdrawn services affecting Olney and its surrounds are no. 37, and the Olney – Lavendon stretch of no. 21. The new service may be used up to 11pm, seven days a week, where no fixed service exists or none is running at the time.
    The service will cost £3.50 during peak hours (7am – 9am, 4.30pm – 6.30pm), and £2.50 all other times. Concessions are available, it costing £1 for All in 1 MK cardholders for example, and Older Person’s and Disabled Person’s bus pass holders travelling free after 9.30am on weekdays and all day at weekends. The service will arrive within 30 minutes in urban areas, 45 minutes in rural locations, and pick-up and drop-off within 400 metres of locations requested. Once booked, users will be guaranteed a seat, and wheelchair-accessible vehicles will be available on request.
    Further information is available here, https://ridewithvia.com/mk-connect/, and the booking line is 01908 252526. The changes will be publicised, including posters in bus stops, leaflets posted to homes in affected areas and by Parish Councils including Olney’s.

    Rugby 7s tournament
    Olney Rugby Club has requested use of the Recreation Ground for the Rugby 7s tournament on Saturday 17th July. Permission was granted subject to the COVID restrictions in place at the time, and similar conditions to those imposed in 2018.

    Tenders to repaint the Olney Centre interior
    Just two quotations had been received, other companies declining to quote due to the size of the job. Of those two, one of which is local, only the first had quoted for all the work required, the second planning to do so in the next few days. The Council is keen to complete the decoration before the Centre reopens so, once the full second quote is received or seven days have passed, the Council will accept one, likely the cheaper.

    Town Clerk’s report
    This was a long item, containing much relevant to recent changes at the Council. Some information is skipped and other compressed for brevity.
    The request for the up-coming year’s precept has been submitted, and documents for the Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) are being prepared. Annual staff appraisals have been put-back to early in the new financial year, bar the Town Clerk’s already completed. One-to-ones continue. The Council will be testing technology to allow the annual Town Meeting, planned Friday 16th April, to be online. The Olney Centre heating works are completed bar some final making good. A bin in front of the Olney Centre was set alight, this being seen, the fire extinguished and the Police informed of the criminal damage. Work on external walls has been finished, as has that near the Church.
    All the Markets are taking place, the numbers of stalls being increased gradually in line with emerging COVID regulations. The Cemetery continues to function under COVID guidelines, this proving hard for the families involved. OTC has sought guidance from the institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, which has proved helpful.

    Clerk’s report: Complaints about individual Councillors
    Two complaints had been looked at by Monitoring Officers, each concerning an individual Councillor and on separate matters. Both were dismissed as having no case to answer, the Monitoring Officer noting both Councillors acted correctly. The outcome statements will be published on OTC’s website.
    The first concerned Desmond Eley’s part in the discussion of the agenda item “To agree a tender for the emergency repair of three walls” in January’s full OTC meeting. Desmond noted:
    “I find it rather ironic that former Councillor Mr. Viney made an unjustified, petty complaint about my perfectly acceptable conduct, particularly as he did not always comply with the Code of Conduct during his time as a Councillor. He has wasted hundreds of pounds of public money, and I am very happy for the full decision to be published. For the record, the Milton Keynes independent person advised that I stepped in to provide professional advice so that the matter could be resolved. That decision seemed to be in the best interests of the Council and the residents of Olney.”
    Regarding the second, Jeremy Rawlings explained:
    “This was raised by Councillor Colin Rodden, against me, who accused me of bullying and harassment. The independent person found no evidence of this whatsoever and, in fact, dismissed the claim completely. The complaint was rejected and, again, the adjudication, the report will be published in full on the Olney website.”
    ... and Collin Rodden responded:
    “It was unfortunate, and I didn’t want to go through the Code of Conduct, but I did feel that unfortunately there was no further way for me to actually go, unfortunately. So I think that, hopefully, though the various opportunities we’ve got through the various Codes we’ve been talking about tonight, and that we’ve put forward to the next Council meeting, we can look at those to make sure that all Councillors are protected, and that we have respect for each other and ensure that we don’t have a war over emails, and that people talk to each other, and that there’s more respect between various Councillors within OTC.”
    Jeremy concluded by explaining that, for members of the public listening to proceedings and considering standing for Council, there is a complete set of rules and regulations, a Code of Conduct, and also the OTC Standing Orders, to which Councillors are bound by law. They are important, available on the OTC website, and those considering standing would do well to read them to ensure they are fully conversant with the way the Council operates. He also noted that there is a route for both public and Councillors to complain and raise issues about Councillors’ conduct, as exercised here.

    Clerk’s report: Complaints about the Council as a whole
    Andrea explained that other complaints, more general to the Council as a whole, had been received. In the past year, one former Councillor had sent over 25 emails, including a Subject Access Request and three Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests, as well as complaints registered with the MKC Standards Office. All of these had been found to have no foundation, she said, but had caused great cost to the public purse.
    The first complaint was received from a member of the public and (different) former Councillor: Since the beginning of February, the Council had received 10 emails, on the matter of the Clerk’s Statement and the publishing of a Report, from a former Councillor. The complaints, where evidence had been provided, have been responded to as below. No evidence of bullying of the former Councillor has been provided. However, this will be investigated because it is a complaint and must therefore go through the process.
    The Council’s response was as follows, verbatim bar some reformatting:
    "I was not the Clerk at the time but have spoken to the Mayor and others who were on the Council at the time to build up an understanding of what happened. Having read the independent report and in the absence of other evidence, the report is correct.
    The complaint by the former Clerk clearly came as a surprise to most of the Councillors at Olney Town Council, especially the content. Olney Town Council took the complaint seriously and commissioned a full independent investigation that interviewed numerous people on the Council including yourself.
    The main allegations by the then Clerk were found to be baseless, however a number of significant weaknesses in the way the Council operated, and governance were highlighted. The Council has worked hard to correct these in the intervening time.
    The Council received a FOI request for the report after it was announced that we were looking into all business over the past five years that, at the time, the Council had decided to keep confidential and not make publicly available.
    The Council took professional advice as to whether the report should be released. The advice was it should. When a report is released under FOI it is normal practice to make it publicly available, which OTC did.
    I am sorry that you are annoyed by the release of the report, the Council has a duty to follow the rules. The very reason for this complaint arising in the first place was that the rules had not being followed.
    OTC has followed these rules in this case."
    The second complaint was from a former member of staff: In brief, they were concerned that their personal information had not been handled properly. They felt that they had become aware that OTC had disclosed information from their personal record on its website and also published the same information on its Facebook account.
    The Council response was as follows, verbatim as above:
    “Thank you for your email and I understand your concerns. The Council received a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the report on 5th February 2021. This came from a member of the public.
    The report is a summary report to the HR Committee of Olney Town Council which met on 11th March 2019 and Full Council on 1st April 2019. This summary report was in the papers for both March/April meetings and the agenda/minutes of the meetings show that you provided the papers for that meetings and Clerked them. Further the Mayor sent you a grievance outcome letter summarising the report's recommendations. This came with an instruction to forward to your colleagues which they tell us you did not do and there were no copies of such correspondence on their files. The summary report is not on anyone's personal record.
    This is a quite different document to the Investigation Report which of course regardless of an FOI would need to remain confidential as it is in people's personal records. Advice was taken from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who clearly stated that the document should be published under the FOI Act in full. It was at no time marked confidential by the authors.
    We enquired of the ICO about names of staff and Councillors. They advised that redaction was not necessary as public servants Councillors, and staff should expect publication of their names and activities in the public interest. They also advised that the report was not exempt information under The FOI Act part II, having looked at it closely, there was no option for us other than to publish following the FOI request.
    Having received that advice, the Council took the view that although not necessary we would redact the names of staff. I also wrote to all staff (past and present) by first class post as courtesy to let you all know the document was to be published. As you had not given permission to use your home address, so I contacted “your most recent employer” who agreed to forward a letter to you. That was sent to them in an envelope with a first-class stamp to forward to you, your envelope also had a first-class stamp attached.
    You clearly had sight of the Summary Report when preparing for the March/April 2019 meetings. All other staff involved in the process did have a copy as I ensured this was the case when I took up my post in July 2019.
    The Council should not have suppressed the summary report to the HR Committee document in the first place. I'm unclear why this path was taken. You are of course within you rights to contact the ICO.”

    Clerk’s report: Compliments
    The OTC office had been thanked for its assistance with the repairs for the Church wall, having negotiated with MKC to get the work done, and is now negotiating to see if further walls near the Church can be similarly attended to.
    Colin Rodden thanked Andrea for contacting MKC re cutting back vegetation along the pathway between Olney and Emberton. This was looking really good, he said.

    Human Resources Committee report
    Joanne Eley explained that the Deputy Town Clerk, Sarah Kennedy, has gained her Introduction to Local Council Administration (ILCA) qualification and is embarking on her Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA). The Town Clerk, Andrea Vincent, is part way through gaining her CilCA. Both regularly attend other training courses to give them the skills to manage their roles.
    Joanne then said the following, reproduced verbatim:
    “As the current HR Chair, I take exception to the false allegation reported in the Phone Box, implying that HR documents may have been shredded by current staff or Councillors. This is untrue. The source of this serious allegation is not identified but is asserted to be an anonymised comment posted on the Olney Noticeboard. This is not reliable, and the statements are defamatory. I would like to invite anyone with any factual evidence that this has ever taken place to come forward to the Council, Milton Keynes Council or the Police as it would indeed be a criminal matter. I cannot speak for what has occurred prior to my being elected HR Chair in September ’19, or prior to the appointment of the current Town Clerk in July ’19. There are certainly gaps in our documentation dating from before the respective appointments. The custom and practice employed prior to the dates stated above have been stopped. The former admin team issued confidential minutes on red paper, handed them out around after the exclusion of the press and public, and collected them back up after the end of the meeting. What happened to them after is a matter for the former incumbents. This was certainly not good practice, and lacked transparency. The report recently published highlights how this poor practice failed to stop a breach in confidentiality.
    Please everyone take note, this is untrue. The Council is duty bound to report fact, as a regulated and monitored organisation, that is accountable. We are working within the legislation and rules to correct the past failures that have been many years in the making. We have established good governance and transparency. Cronyism, which undermines democracy and is a moral hazard, no longer exists. At no time in the history of Olney Town Council has there been more transparency around Council working.
    For the record, I reiterate that this is my March 2021 report. No HR report was received by Council in February 2021. Given the editorial in this month’s Phone Box stressing how factual they are, and I quote ‘Mercury report, written by our independent reporters, that are a factual account of what has gone on’, I will therefore be writing to the Editor, asking him to explain why the report is not a factual contemporaneous report in this issue. See page 9 – this HR report was published in the January 2021 issue as a report delivered in December 2020. Whilst on the subject of the January issue, I take this opportunity to report to both Council colleagues and the residents, that the former Councillor who requested the FOI referred to has not exercised their right of appeal on the ICO ruling.
    Finally, on behalf of the staff team and the HR team, I thank all those residents who have taken the time to call, personal message and email in their support throughout the wake of the protracted media attack. In particular, those who stepped away from their family celebrations to convey to us how shocked and angry they were at the New Year’s Eve meddlesome ridiculing of the Town Clerk and Council.”
    Jeremy Rawlings thanked Joanne and the members of the HR Committee for the meticulous way they have worked since 2019 in order to bring the situation back to normality.

    Finance Committee report
    Paul Collins gave this report, part-reproduced verbatim:
    “I would like to correct a couple of statements in the latest issue of the Phone Box in Mercury’s report of the last Town Council meeting, in reference to the Community Support Fund. We have there allocated £5,000 per annum over three years to support the Amazing Grace 250 celebrations, which we hope will take place in 2022 – 2023. The report says I said that ‘£5,000 per annum for the next three years has been granted to the Museum for the Amazing Grace 250 celebrations.’ That is not correct. That money has not been allocated to the Museum. That is a fund specifically designed for the purpose of encouraging small community groups to come forward and suggest a variety of small-scale celebrations. The Museum itself is engaged in a project where we anticipate applying to external funders for approximately £350k, which is a project, I’m sure you’ll agree, in a different league to the one being referred to in the report.
    There is another point I’d like to raise in relation to the Phone Box, and this relates to a comment by a columnist, part of whose column is headed up ‘Council matters’, wherein it is stated that the mistakes made in the last AGR are in black and white and can be rectified by correct accounting next year. That is a totally false statement. There has been no challenge to the accounts submitted in terms of the actual numbers stated in our annual governance report, which has been signed off by both our internal auditor and our external auditor. The comments made by the external auditor were not a challenge to the actual numbers in our accounts, but they concerned procedural matters which have already been referred to by the Town Clerk. I can only surmise that the purpose of this was to smear myself personally and potentially other members of the Finance Committee. I wholeheartedly reject that. I think it’s a disgraceful way to conduct journalism.”
    Jeremy Rawlings reiterated that it was a procedural matter – some of the documents required were not submitted. As soon as the issue was raised, they were submitted and everything was fine. There was no issue with the content of any of the accounts or documentation sent to the auditors. Everything had now been approved.
    Joanne Eley added that the Mercury report is always unattributed to the actual author, month on month. She would be writing to the Phone Box, to ask that the public can see the name of each article’s author, it not being accountable otherwise. Jeremy explained that, over the years, there had been inaccuracies, and noted that there were times in the past when the Mercury reporter would speak with Councillors to verify accuracy but he did not believe this had happened, or at not with him, for well over two years.

    Recreations and Services Committee report
    Desmond Eley explained that the Town and Deputy Town Clerk have completed specific cemetery training, and are getting the records in line with current legislation. The grounds staff continued with all maintenance on open spaces, as they have throughout the pandemic, with the exception of the watering of hanging baskets. This included grass cutting, performed throughout the winter due to the lengthened grass-growing season. The introduction of management controls by the office and head grounds man had achieved a 57% decrease in diesel purchases, saving 3,200 litres for the year. These controls included fitting a padlock to the tank after the stock took a major hit mid May 2020. Further management control has led to a significant reduction in bedding plant expenditure, hoped to be reduced further this year while maintaining the existing displays.
    The soil of the sports pitches has been tested, the soil scientists recommending no more general fertiliser be applied for at least another five years. A rogue fertiliser order received in September 2019 was taken back by the suppliers’ agent without charge, and no purchases have since been made. Some nitrogen may need to be applied in Spring to parts of the pitches only. This evidence-based management of the Recreation Grounds is saving around £3,000 per year, and is also in line with the Council’s Environment Management Plan.
    An audit of machinery has been performed. It was established that two pieces of equipment were being held outside the town and out of the Council’s direct control. They’ve since been relocated to the Council’s compound.
    Public toilets have been kept open throughout most of 2020 and remain open today. Feedback on this and the cleaning regime established has been very positive indeed. The failure of the old Victorian underground pipe-work in the Olney Centre has been remedied and future-proofed, and turned out to be the cause of the long-term dampness in the Pre School area.

    Planning Committee report
    Steve Clark reported a Planning Application related to the ‘Apple Store’, at the top of the lane down to the orchard in East Street. Members of the Planning Committee had been given an informal presentation by the family concerned and their developers regarding the potential development of a small part of the orchard site. This would require access from East Street, that currently existing being too narrow due to the presence of this property. He believed it had not been used for human habitation for many decades – perhaps 60 – 70 years. A Planning Application has been lodged with MKC to remove the property, due to its poor state of repair, thus facilitating access to any subsequent development on the orchard. The state of the building and difficulty securing it mean it will likely be taken down without further consultation. This was a legitimate process, and not part of any future Application for the orchard site, he said.

    Development Group report
    Chris Tenant first declared an interest, living near the Aspreys / Yardley Road development. There has been concern about surface water run-off from that site, though there has been no further incident, temporary measures having been put in place by the developers. The full drainage scheme is slated for completion by April. Construction traffic routing has now been tightened, it appearing some vehicles had not followed the procedures in place – that Yardley Road and Driftway must be used to access the A509. The application for construction traffic access off Aspreys has been withdrawn on the advice of MKC. However, the developers will be able build a tarmac road on-site, along the path of an existing farmer’s track to its North Eastern edge. This will not require planning permission and thus not receive the usual checks and balances: Concerns remained, therefore. OTC has asked MKC to review this decision. Also, there will be further closures of Yardley Road due to associated works by Thames Water, noted on the Council’s website.
    Significant planning reform consultations are underway, particularly one concerning permitted change of use from retail and commercial to residential. If adopted, Chris felt it would imply a parallel planning system, where owners of commercial or retail properties could in effect change their use to residential without a Planning Application. This is of concern to market towns up and down the country, he said, it representing a threat to town centres.
    Joanne Eley noted that the biggest threats to retail were the pandemic and its aftermath. If some retail businesses were threatened, surely housing was preferable to empty units. It was hard to predict how our High Streets would be after the fallout from COVID. The best solutions to this were to support local businesses and shop locally, generating a thriving town centre, she felt. Desmond Eley asked if the Council could do more to encourage local shopping as the situation develops, in its newsletter for example. Joanne felt the whole shopping landscape had changed countrywide, for example young professional couples shopping online and on their way back from work, rather than using Olney for their weekly shop.
    Steve Clark gave some background, noting that OTC has seen various Planning Applications over the years for moves between retail and residential, and has always viewed them with sympathy to the local traders. However, not requiring a Planning Application was a retrograde step, he felt. Steve also asked Chris whether he would write an article for the next issue of the Council newsletter, summarising the main points about the various developments taking place around the town, Chris replying in the affirmative.

    Library and Museum reports
    Colin Rodden noted that, while Olney library is currently closed due to COVID, a click-and-collect service is available. Books can be ordered from https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/libraries and collected from Olney Library at times available via that page. Paul Collins noted that the Cowper and Newton Museum now has an online booking system and, albeit scaling up, an online shop. It is hoped that the shop and gardens will open mid April, and the Museum mid-to-late May, subject to the lifting of COVID restrictions.

    =-=-=-=xxxx=-=-=-=

    The next meeting will be held online on Monday 12th April, at 7.00pm. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

  • April 2021 - Full Meeting Report

    Olney Council report for May 2021

    Public participation

    One letter had been received regarding last month’s Mercury report stating that OTC would be eligible to apply for £345,000 of Section 106 money for public art. The correspondent thought it ’morally irresponsible to contemplate syphoning off S106 monies for wasteful projects such as public arts’ in the current economic crisis. Jeremy Rawlings noted the comments but said producing art puts money back into the economy and believed that it had a good eff ect on public wellbeing. It was also a legal agreement between the developers and Milton Keynes Council (MKC) and could not easily be diverted elsewhere. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that if the money was not spent it would remain in the developer’s pocket, so it was far better that it was spent in Olney rather that being paid to their shareholders.

    Citizens Advice Service

    A document has been received from MK Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) stating how they propose to provide service in the post-Covid environment. Town Clerk Andrea Vincent reminded councillors that prior to lockdown OTC paid CAB to provide a fortnightly face to face presence in Olney. The new off er has resulted in a price increase of around £2000 per annum. In general, 80% of their support and advice service had been face to face with the remaining 20% being phone, email and webchat. During lockdown this had fallen to 5% face to face with 95% being phone, email, webchat and video calls. Post Covid it was expected that 20 to 25% would be face to face with the remainder being phone, email, webchat and video calls. Paul Collins observed that the new proposal, with increased cost, was based on a weekly service which was not currently budgeted for and felt that more clarifi cation was required before a decision could be made. Chris Tennant said that he felt it a small price to pay to provide a professional service for people of need in the town and recommended approval so that there is no interruption in the service. Joanne Eley observed that during lockdown there had been no face to face service provided so it would be diffi cult to argue for an interrupted service when there had been none. Andrea said that OTC had not been charged during this period. Jeremy Rawlings questioned the need for an increased face to face presence with increased cost when the proposal was for the majority of the service to be provided remotely, which should cut their costs signifi cantly. It was agreed to ask for the service to continue but to go back to CAB and ask them to quote for a fortnightly service, as previously agreed. This would then be discussed by the new council at their fi rst meeting in May.

    Allotment Field

    phone, email, webchat and video calls. Paul Collins observed that the new proposal, with increased cost, was based on a weekly service which was not currently budgeted for and felt that more clarifi cation was required before a decision could be made. Chris Tennant said that he felt it a small price to pay to provide a professional service for people of need in the town and recommended approval so that there is no interruption in the service. Joanne Eley observed that during lockdown there had been no face to face service provided so it would be diffi cult to argue for an interrupted service when there had been none. Andrea said that OTC had not been charged during this period. Jeremy Rawlings questioned the need for an increased face to face presence with increased cost when the proposal was for the majority of the service to be provided remotely, which should cut their costs signifi cantly. It was agreed to ask for the service to continue but to go back to CAB and ask them to quote for a fortnightly service, as previously agreed. This would then be discussed by the new council at their fi rst meeting in May.

    MKC Councillor Code of Conduct

    Peter Geary confirmed that the Councillor Code of Conduct had now been adopted by MKC. Previously OTC had considered its adoption in place of the current OTC Code of Conduct, pending adoption by MKC. It was agreed to accept it in full as of 1st May so that it would be in place for the fi rst meeting of the new council.

    Application for scaled down Riverfest

    An email had been received from local volunteers The Olney Group (TOG) requesting permission in principle to hold a scaled down Riverfest, minus the raft race, over the weekend of 3rd & 4th July Covid restrictions permitting. Roger Mann is happy to be identifi ed as the author of the email and this month’s Mercury reporter. Clerk Andrea Vincent said that the requested location of the Charity Field was leased to OTC by the Ann Hopkins Smith Trust and OTC as tenants will have to ask the charity if they want a commercial venture to take place. Jeremy Rawlings declared an interest as a member of the trustees. Steve Clark observed that the event had taken place for a number of years, with OTC having a presence and suggested if it went ahead this year then OTC should consider having a presence so that the public can meet and chat with councillors. Members of the trustees have regularly attended in the past and no objection had been raised so a precedent had been set, and assuming the lockdown roadmap proceeds as planned he proposed that permission in principle should be given.
    Andrea Vincent said OTC had failed to request permission in the past so it was not a question of the trustees having tacitly agreed but an error on the part of the council. Desmond Eley said the lease required OTC to consider the eff ect of noise on nearby residents and also thought that an event where alcohol would be available was at odds with the council’s own ban on alcohol on the recreation ground, which would require the police to ‘turn a blind eye’. (For information, a Temporary Event Notice permits entertainment and alcohol sales at a location where it is not usually permitted). Jeremy Rawlings said there is a diff erence between ad-hoc random drinking and a properly organised event. Chris Tennant said that it is an event from the community for the benefi t of the community and assuming Covid restrictions were lifted he wished to support Steve’s proposal. The town needs something to look forward to and having a cold beer down by the river at an organised event is something to look forward to, he thought. Andrea Vincent replied that OTC had no information about any rules or restrictions that TOG would set up and no information about their fi nances, so councillors needed to consider that they are granting a fi nancial asset for a period of time to a group that has given no indication of how they intend to manage the event, what their fi nances are and what they intend to do with the money raised. Malcolm Messenger asked if ‘the company’ running the event had provided any Risk Assessment and insurance documentation. Peter Geary said that he saw no reason for the landlords to object but felt it important to check with them. Steve Clark said that TOG had confirmed that Insurance and Risk Assessments would be in place and would be reviewed and updated if the Covid situation changed. TOG usually provide a report on their activities and fi nances to the town at the Annual Town Meeting, he said. Malcolm Messenger asked if updated Risk Assessments could be requested should Covid still be an issue, so that the public are kept safe, but Steve Clark expressed the opinion that there was not much point since TOG had stated that the event would not take place if Covid was still an issue. It was agreed to grant the request, subject to permission from The Ann Hopkins Smith Trust being granted at their next meeting on 12th May and also to Covid restrictions being lifted. Jeremy Rawlings concluded by saying that he, for one, was quite looking forward to the event.

    Apologies and declarations

    No apologies for absence had been received, all Councillors being present. No declarations of interest were made.

    Library redecoration

    The library will be repainted by the company engaged to redecorate the rest of the Olney Centre at a cost of £6904. Malcolm Messenger asked why only one quote was being considered and Andrea Vincent said it had been missed from the original tender for the rest of the Olney Centre since although MKC lease the rooms from OTC, OTC as landlord is obliged to maintain them. Joanne Eley thought it unfortunate timing, just as the service was reopening, but Andrea said the librarian was very happy for the work to progress.

    Engagement of a Quantity Surveyor

    Jeremy Rawlings explained that this had come about due to the soaring costs of the proposed community centre on the Aspreys development and the duty of care that OTC have to get value for money. Desmond Eley said that the hall is to be funded from the developer’s S106 funding agreement with MKC but the building is not as big as OTC would like. A plan for a larger hall has been presented by the developers but they have said that it will cost twice the original amount so the suggestion has been made to transfer other funds from S106. The actual cost of the original design was not determined as an amount of money (rather an indicative cost per square metre, said Jeremy), so OTC are effectively blind. OTC need to ensure complete transparency and proper financial management with independent fi nancial advice. Chris Tennent said that his original advice to OTC to engage a quantity surveyor was based on a need to fully understand the costs and any additional funding requirement that could be met from S106 funds transfer and other sources, such as Sport England. Speaking as the OTC rep on the Steering Group he said the developers would need to submit a reserved matters planning application for the detailed design of the new facility. Feedback had been obtained from sports clubs in the town, via the Joint User Group he said, and it was important to continue to engage the community. Andrea Vincent said that although the quote to engage the quantity surveyor was quite significant, due to the amount of work involved, she thought it could be reclaimed from the S106 funding rather than be OTC funded, which Chris Tennant confi rmed.

    Town Clerk's report

    A suitably qualified applicant has come forward for the temporary zero hours groundsman post and will be employed subject to references. The owner of a large part of the Goosey is looking to provide an alternative route for access to their land and their representative has met with the Rights of Way offi cer of MKC and the Town Clerk. There has been a long-standing attempt by OTC to ensure that the existing traditional footpath, which is considered far more suitable, is registered as a public right of way. The owner’s legal representative has indicated that they are keen to sell the land but as yet no proposal has been put forward. Thanks is due to the Clerk for subsequent information and clarifi cation on this matter. A large allotment has been returned to the council and is in the process of being divided into smaller plots and allocated to those on the waiting list. Market stalls continue to increase with more non-essential traders attending. The potholes on the Market Place will be repaired by MKC with hot tar, but unfortunately the expected completion date of 12th April will not be met. Two former councillors have raised separate Standards complaints about two existing councillors. A number of compliments have been received, including for the Clerk in helping a resident with landscaping issues and supporting an A Level student with a project. Deputy Clerk Sarah Kennedy was thanked for helping a young person with a DofE award and for her fl exibility in supporting those arranging weddings at the Olney Centre. The ground staff have been thanked for how well the town is looking.

    Agree the date for next meeting

    Jeremy Rawlings explained that currently the government roadmap for exiting lockdown allows indoor meetings to take place from 17th May, the preferred date for the fi rst meeting of the new council, known as the Annual Meeting. However, as pointed out by Joanne Eley, the announcement would probably be made at 5:00pm on that date which would be insuffi cient time to organise a meeting. Additionally, the dispensation that allows council meetings to take place virtually will have expired on 1st May so meetings must take place face to face. However, regulations dictate that the first meeting of a new council must take place within two weeks of the election on 6th May, so the next preferred date of 24th May would fall outside of that statutory period. The Clerk said she was awaiting information from The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) as to whether an extension would be possible under the circumstances. A discussion followed around how a face to face meeting with public attendance could be achieved with a number of options put forward. It is likely that the council will meet in the council chamber with the meeting streamed both online and to members of the public in a separate room in the Olney Centre. It was agreed to hold the meeting on 24th May pending advice from NALC and if that is not possible to fall back to 17th May. Note: The Clerk has subsequently been advised that the two week period commences when the current council retires, which is four days after the election, so that date of 24th May is confi rmed. Details of the format of the meeting and public attendance will follow.

    Opening the High Street

    Joanne Eley reported on a meeting between OTC and a sub-group of MKC who are leading the economic recovery plan, plus two reps of the local shopkeepers’ forum. Government restart grants are available, she said, which had been added to by MKC making grants available for independent retailers and a further pot for those businesses that have received no support because they fell outside of the original criteria. There is a ‘Rediscover Local’ social media campaign and MKFM will be providing free promotion for a small number of local businesses and an Olney independent shopkeeper has been invited to submit their story for a free citywide advertising feature. MKC are inviting proposals from local councils as to how they can help open their own high streets and Olney will be looking to apply for a grant to support a Unique Selling Point restart project. The next meeting will be held on Monday 24th May, at 7.00pm, further details to follow. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk:
    townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

    Remember..... the date of the next meeting

    The next meeting will be held online at 7.30pm on 24thJune, possibly live streamed from a set of spare bedrooms near you. If you’d like your views read out at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.


2021 Town Meeting

Olney Town Meeting 2021 - Coming Soon
TO BE HELD ON FRIDAY 16 APRIL AT 7PM

2021 May

May Meeting 2021 - NEWLY ELECTED COUNCIL'S FIRST MEETING
TO BE HELD ON MONDAY 10TH MAY AT 7PM

2021 March

March Meeting 2021

2020 April

April Meeting 2021 - Not Yet Folks!
TO BE HELD ON MONDAY 12 APRIL AT 7PM.

2021 January

January Meeting 2021

2021 February

February Meeting 2021

Audio reports for 2020

2020 November

January Meeting 2021

2020 December

December Meeting 2020

November Agenda Items

Pre November's Meeting 2020
Start of November's Meeting 2020
Recording 3 Meeting 2020
Recording 4 Meeting 2020
Recording 5 Meeting 2020
Recording 6 Meeting 2020
Recording 7 Meeting 2020
Recording 8 Meeting 2020
Recording 9 Meeting 2020
Recording 10 Meeting 2020
Recording 11 Meeting 2020
Recording 12 Meeting 2020
Recording 13 Meeting 2020
Recording 14 Meeting 2020

September

October

The Council Meeting for September 2020
The Council Meeting for October 2020

August

Deirdre Bethune's Resignation, August 2020
The Council Meeting of August 2020

Mercury's reports for 2020

  • January 2020

    Olney Council report for 6th January 2020

    Introduction:

    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings welcomed members to the first meeting of Olney Town Council (OTC) of 2020. He explained that the council had recently migrated to a new email system, which seemed to be working well. One of the individual members to reply to emails as OTC, which gives a ‘unified voice’. Unusually there were no members of the public wishing to speak at this month’s meeting, and with a short agenda Mercury looked forward to an early night.

    Approving the minutes

    Jeremy Rawlings noted that concern about the state of the Dennis Timpson stand had been raised under public participation by Martin Allen and not Dennis Timpson himself. Chris Tennant pointed out that under Members Matters, minuted as ‘None’, he had raised the issue of poor visibility at the new Sainsbury’s entrance and also the fact that the developers had not replaced the 30mph turrets.
    Additionally, the land beside the development (Site R) appeared to be being used as a rubbish dump. Colin Rodden noted that he had reported that there were drainage problems at the side of the High Street both outside Brocks and the old Natwest building, but that had not been minuted.

    Policy on charges for use of The Olney Centre

    Jeremy Rawling introduced this item saying some groups use the centre who have a verbal agreement with previous Town Clerks or mayors that get free or reduced rates, and none of this is documented. The proposal is to charge all groups the same amount and certain approved groups would get a grant to offset this. In the interests of transparency, the amount of the grant would be made public. Milton Keynes Councillor (MKC) Peter Geary declared an interest saying that he and his fellow Ward Councillors use the centre free of charge for their monthly surgeries, although he was happy for MKC to be charged. Steve Clark said that there had been a long-standing arrangement that had been agreed by OTC for over 20 years. Paul Collins felt that the core policy should be to charge the full fee for commercial use but a reduced rate for local groups. Peter Geary agreed, pointing out that local residents pay for the upkeep of the centre through the precept in the Council Tax. Desmond Eley noted that substantial remedial work will be taking place in the near future and the council needed to decide if the costs would be met through the precept, Section 106 grants or the hire charges.
    Joanne Eley noted that OTC gave free usage or reduced rates to a number of worthy organisations, but the people of the town are unaware of it. If grants were made to offset the charges, these could be documented in the report which is presented at the annual town meeting. Jeremy Rawlings proposed that all users are notified of the standard charge but advised that they could apply for the offset grant and Olney Centre Management and Recs and Services Committees be asked to investigate a realistic commercial charge. This generated considerable discussion as to whether it is just simpler to maintain the status quo and charge a reduced rate. Joanne Eley pointed out that OTC already make some grants to groups that also get a reduced or nil charge, so it was essential to have a more transparent policy. Peter Geary proposed that the Clerk should be empowered to make a decision for one-off booking situations which would be notified to the Olney Centre Management Committee but where a regular booking is requested then the committee would make the decision. It was agreed to adopt the policy from the start of the new Financial Year.

    Community Infrastructure Fund

    The Community Infrastructure Fund allows parish and town councils to submit applications for their own community improvements or enhancements. It enables a variety of different public realm schemes that have a positive impact on a community to be implemented. These can include projects related to highways, community buildings, environment, landscaping etc. MKC has a total pot of £200k, and each parish/town can apply for a maximum of £20k to be match funded, which will be awarded in the current financial year for projects that must be completed within the next two years.
    The deadline for applications is 7th February.
    Jeremy Rawlings invited ideas as to what projects should be considered and where the additional funding should come from. Paul Collins said it should be a project to benefit the whole community and suggested outdoor gym equipment similar to that installed in Emberton Park. He had identified a number of potential suppliers, he said. Deirdre Bethune said the equipment in Harrold Country Park was of much better quality.
    Town Clerk Andrea Vincent had already suggested a drinking fountain, as discussed at previous meetings, which then lead to something of a tangential conversation regarding the merits of drinking fountains versus refill points.
    Acknowledging that OTC had already discussed the provision of fixed drinking fountains, Steve Clerk suggested a scheme whereby local businesses could be encouraged to provide free water refills, as Phonebox Magazine already does. This would be preferable to a fixed physical structure with all the cost of connecting it into the water mains, he thought. Deirdre Bethune thought it was not so inviting as having something that was ‘available and physical’, and not everybody would have the app showing the locations of refill points.
    Paul Collins supported Steve’s idea, saying that people should be treated as adults are were quite capable of carrying a bottle and refilling it. Bringing things back on track, Desmond Eley wondered if the grant could be used towards the refurbishment of the public toilets on the market Place. Deirdre Bethune pointed out that the last time costs for the refurbishment were obtained it was in excess of £30k so did not get done. It was now more likely to be £50k, she thought. Peter Geary was of the opinion that the grant awarded to individual councils was likely to be less than £20k and would be better put towards a project that was already agreed.
    Colin Rodden suggested asking for public input to decide a suitable project, but this was generally thought to be unfeasible, given the short timescale for submission and the likelihood of requests for a swimming pool. It was decided to investigate Paul Collins’ suggestion of outdoor gym equipment. Chris Tennant suggested that the equipment could be spread around the town to provide a ‘Trim Trail’.

    Reindeer at Dickens of a Christmas

    Colin Rodden raised the issue of live reindeer being kept in a small pen at Fountain Court on Dickens of Christmas day and referred to a Times article condemning such displays. For information, the article stated that animal rights activists had been picketing events where live reindeer were present in an attempt to persuade the public to boycott them.
    The protesters claimed that transporting and displaying the sensitive animals around noisy crowds caused them great distress and said they were not props to be paraded around for human entertainment. Colin wondered if it was appropriate for reindeer to be present at an event organised by OTC.
    Jeremy Rawlings rejected the claims, saying that the display was organised by a private individual on private land, not part of Dickens and therefore in no way connected with OTC. He had seen the animals himself, and they did not look at all distressed. He said Steve Clark had refuted the article as it was extremely one-sided and not backed up with any qualifications.
    Graham Harrison noted that the reindeer had been displayed at the property for a number of years previously and it just happened that this year coincided with Dickens. Steve Clark concluded by saying that if anyone had any concerns at this year’s event, then they should phone the RSPCA who will send out an inspector to investigate.

    Stacks Image 86918

    A Reindeer in Fountain Court, Olney

    Accessibility problems to public buildings

    Newly-elected councillor Debbie Whitworth, who suffers from MS and is herself a wheelchair user, raised the issue of difficult access to shops and other public buildings in the town for physically impaired people and wondered if the council could do anything to improve matters. Jeremy Rawlings said that where a planning application was made to improve access, then it would be looked on favourably by the council.
    Steve Clark noted that when the Disability Discrimination Act was passed, it became incumbent on all businesses to take reasonable steps to enable accessibility, but in some premises it was just not practical. He noted that where wheelchair access was not possible, some businesses had made alternative arrangements, such as provision of an external bell button, but such arrangements had not always continued when the businesses changed hands. It was agreed that the council will initiate a communications campaign to actively promote improved accessibility to shops via a number of channels.

    Odds and Sods

    Peter Geary noted that Grounds Café in Emberton Park had now closed and the Park Liaison User’s Group (PLUG) would need to decide what was required as a temporary replacement so that MKC could start the procurement process.
    Steve Clark reported that a member of the public had complained about the ‘chaos’ caused by contractors currently working on the extension to Broomfield residential care home in Yardley Road. They arrive early in the morning and fill all the available parking spaces and have totally trashed the grass verge, he said. Clerk Andrea Vincent said she had received a number of similar complaints and had contacted the manager at Broomfield who assured her that remedial work would take place once the construction work was completed.
    Colin Rodden asked why Lime Street is currently closed. Peter Geary explained that it is due to a wall having fallen down and the road is expected to be closed for three to four months.
    Colin Rodden reported that the previous Saturday a number of youngsters had been seen cycling at speed on the pavement in the High Street and wondered if it was possible to have some sort of ‘shared use’ arrangement for pedestrians and cyclist.
    Paul Collins reported that the Olney Masonic Club would be sponsoring the Graham Fulford Trust to offer free PSA testing for prostate cancer in The Cherry Tree between 10.00 and 13.00 on Sunday 1st March.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd February in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • February 2020

    Olney Council report for 3rd February 2020

    Introduction

    Prior to the main meeting, Victoria Southern from Bovis Homes presented the outline plans for the new development off Yardley Road to the members of Olney Town Council (OTC). One point of discussion was the large area of land allocated for recreational use at the north end of the site. It appears that the landowner is only prepared to sell part of the land, initially, and will fence off the remaining one Hectare section which was expected to remain as publicly accessible open space (effectively retaining it as a ‘ransom’ strip as leverage to get permission for a second phase). Any future development would be beyond that which is currently agreed in the Neighbourhood Plan (NP). Chris Tennant observed that this would be outside of the ‘red line’ town boundary agreed in the NP. One member wryly observed that the fence might not stay up very long. Peter Geary requested that a meeting be arranged between Bovis, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Planning Officers and Ward Councillors, and residents of adjacent properties to address any concerns that they may have.

    Public Participation

    Two residents wished to speak at this month’s meeting. First was Catherine Rose from Olney Sustainable Futures group (OSF) and also a member of the Climate Emergency Working Group, who was attending with fellow member Jane Varley. Catherine thanked the members and staff of OTC that had been involved in their work so far and said that much of the proposed action would go through the council’s Recreation and Services Committee, but she wanted to bring the rest of the council up to speed. She said they would be attending the Pancake Race to provide some plant-based recipes and are looking at organising a free Eco fair, hopefully in the Olney Centre. This event was an item on the agenda of the main meeting. Catherine went on to say that the Rugby Club has developed its own sustainability strategy, and the group are looking to them to be a model for other community organisations in the town.
    Next to speak was James Cooper who talked about the problems of parking in Conygere, particularly on market days. With parking on both sides of the road, there is very little room for traffic to pass and it is an accident waiting to happen, he thought. He had personally seen several near-misses and asked if double yellow lines could be provided. His second point was about prohibitively expensive property prices in Olney preventing young people from getting on the property ladder. His own daughter had been affected, he said, and quoted an example of a town similar to Olney where preferential treatment was given to local people who could show an ‘attachment’ to the town. If Olney had some land that could be used in a similar manner could a deal be done with a local trust to build such houses in the town? Olney will be a town without young people if something isn’t done, he said. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings, whilst having some sympathy, said that OTC does not have any building land. Peter Geary and Chris Tennant explained that of the 250 new houses that will be built at the north end of the town, 75 will be ‘affordable housing’ with shared ownership and 10% of those will be for local people, managed via a Housing Association.

    Eco Fair

    This item followed on from Catherine Rose’s input to the public participation section. The proposal is to hold the event in the Olney Centre on Saturday 18th April. It would be a ‘co-production’ between OTC for which it satisfies a number of its aims for the Climate Emergency plans, and Olney Sustainable Futures which would undertake the planning and execution. It would consist of a number of elements: The food section would promote plant-based catering with snacks and cakes being available, along with tasting, demonstrations and recipes. The activities section would consist of games, non-food products, and information on climate plans, waste and recycling and grow your own. The repair section would cover gadgets and small white goods, and furniture and clothing. The Library might also be involved. Colin Rodden and Deidre Bethune supported the idea of having a joint OTC/OSF event. Deirdre suggested that OTC should waive the hire charge for the event. Paul Collins asked if the stallholders would be commercial entities, in which case consideration should be given to the rental aspect. Joanne Eley was concerned about the partnership aspect of the event, since OTC would be seen to be endorsing everything that happened at it, and suggested that it should be supported by way of a grant in line with the discussion about rental fees at the previous month’s meeting. The Climate Emergency Working Group of OTC is a separate entity to the Sustainable Futures group, she pointed out. A vote was taken and passed by a majority of 9 to 2, with those who voted against saying they did so only because they did not know enough about OSF as an organisation. Jeremy Rawlings said that the Climate Emergency Working Group would be tasked with providing a plan to be presented to full council at next month’s meeting to enable OTC to endorse the entire event.

    VE Day Celebrations

    The government have moved the date of the traditional ‘May Day’ bank Holiday from Monday 4th of May to Friday the 8th in order to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Chris Roberts was in attendance representing the Royal British Legion. Steve Clark said that in the past similar events have been marked by the lighting of the beacon on Barnfield. It appears that other local organisations are waiting to see what OTC organises before making plans. It was agreed that OTC would work with them to come up with a plan. Peter Geary noted that although it will be a Bank Holiday, it will be the day following the election for members of OTC, and the count will be taking place.

    Mayor's Statement

    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings read out the following statement:

    “Some councillors have breached the code of conduct by discussing confidential matters with individual members of staff and with others. They have commented disrespectfully and incorrectly on member colleagues and staff by name outside the realm of confidential council business. Some councillors are also misrepresenting council policies and decisions. This is of detriment to the council as a whole and must cease. In the same vein, I have asked the town clerk to speak to staff to remind them that they are not to discuss council matters or individual councillors in or outside work in such a way as to the detriment of the council, which is covered in the Staff Handbook, as this will result in disciplinary action.”

    He explained that this has come about because a specific incident which is ongoing has been made more difficult by comments that certain councillors have made. He said he did not propose to hold any further discussion at the meeting but invited councillors to speak to him individually, if they wished.

    Annual Town Meeting

    This will take place on Friday 24th April at 7pm in the Olney Centre and is your chance to find out what the council have been doing during the past year and question them on any matters you wish.

    Budget 2020/2021

    This is the time of year when OTC produce the budget proposals for the next financial year, which in turn determines how much the precept (the portion of the Council Tax collected by MKC for local services and returned to OTC) will rise. Chair of Finance Paul Collins reported that the budget will increase from £243K to £260K which, allowing for the additional 27 taxable dwellings, will be an overall increase of 12.36%. The Band D ‘baseline’ figure will rise from £89.79 per month to £100.89. Desmond Eley said that it was important to have clarity as to what Section 106 money would be available from MKC now and in the future. Section 106, commonly known as ‘planning gain’ is a mechanism which makes a development proposal acceptable in planning terms, that would not otherwise be acceptable. It is focused on site-specific mitigation of the impact of development, and a proportion is usually made available to local/parish councils for capital projects. This can be a considerable amount of money in the case of major developments, such as that proposed for Yardley Road. Desmond said that he understood that MKC would be retaining this money in the future rather than passing it to the parishes. In this case, the precept is the only income that would be available for capital projects. Jeremy Rawlings thought that this was an ‘absolute disgrace’ particularly when MKC are looking to off-load more and more service provisions to the parishes. He pointed out that it had been necessary to significantly increase the fees that the council charges for things such as hire of the Olney Centre and market stalls. Burial fees have almost doubled, but that still made Olney almost 50% cheaper than Milton Keynes, he said. The budget was passed on a unanimous vote.

    Events

    Motorama, run by the Newport Pagnell and Olney Lions, will be held on the Market Place on Sunday 14th June. The Olney Group (TOG) will run Riverfest on Sunday 5th July on the Recreation Ground with the Riverfest Rocks musical event the night before in the marquee. Olney Rugby Club will be holding the annual 7s Tournament on Saturday 20th June.

    Odds and Sods

    Kevin Viney noted that council website is now considerably out of date. A recently elected councillor had submitted their profile information, but that had still not been added. The most recent set of minutes were from June last year, and he had received complaints from residents who wanted to check that details of planning discussions had been faithfully recorded. The clerk reported that this is due to be addressed in coming weeks.
    Graham Harrison said he had received complaints from residents of Timpson’s Row that car parking by people using the sports facilities was causing problems. Also, the pavement by the gate is now a ‘sheet of mud’ due to players removing their boots and scraping the mud off. He noted that the new LED street lighting was failing earlier than expected, particularly along Aspreys. Peter Geary responded that in some case it was the sensors that had failed, rather than the LEDs.
    Colin Rodden noted that a bench on Weston Road had been removed for repair over a year ago and still not replaced. He also reported that he’d recently had to use the public toilets on the marketplace and wondered if there was any money in the budget for air-freshener? Desmond Eley said he had been carrying out some research as to how much refurbishment would cost, which was in the region of £50K, and every member of the public he had spoken to had said that they would rather the money was spent elsewhere and they would prefer to use the facilities of the nearby pubs and cafes.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd March in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • March 2020

    Olney Council report for 2nd March 2020

    Public participation

    Julia Chapman, who runs ‘My Little Vintage’ in Olney, was first to speak. Many years a passionate advocate of craft and up-cycling, she explained she’d run various vintage events elsewhere with attendances in the thousands. For example, a recent event in Towcester attracted 6,000 visitors over a weekend. She’d come to Olney Town Council (OTC) to learn who she should ask in order to hold such events in the town, for example on the Market Place. Jeremy Rawlings said the Council would look into it, and asked for an item to be added to the next meeting’s agenda.
    James Cooper had complained to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about the state of Swan Court in Olney, where a mix of surface mud and leaf mulch made the lines hard to see and the surface slippery. While MKC acknowledged his reporting it, he had no way of knowing when the problem might be addressed. Peter Geary, a Ward Councillor, noted the appropriate ‘FS’ number to investigate. James also noted his concern re Angle Properties’ application to build retirement apartments near Sainsbury’s. Instead, houses and flats for young people were required, he felt. Chris Tenant explained that, with MKC having refused this application, Angle had asked for a Planning Enquiry but been given a, less costly, Planning Hearing for which the date was awaited. Chris explained that OTC had requested ‘Rule six status’, so it could have a seat around the table, presumably alongside Angle’s legal representatives, to put its case for refusal. Peter Geary noted that OTC needed to work with MKC, both having the same aim. The meeting will be public, likely in the Olney Centre, with anyone entitled to attend and contribute. OTC will publish the date once set.

    Annual meeting

    This item covered the deceptively simple task of setting the date of the annual meeting, when the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected for the forthcoming year and members appointed to Council committees. The annual meeting, usually arranged to coincide with a monthly full Council meeting, must be held more than four, but not more than 14, days after the Council elections, this year due to be held on Thursday 7th May. Thus, the combined annual-then-monthly meeting will be held on Monday 18th May.
    Note: As of 13th March, the local elections due on 7th May have been postponed for a year due to coronavirus concerns. At the time of writing, OTC’s website has May’s full Council meeting scheduled for the 4th, the first Monday in the month as usual.

    Bits’n’bobs

    The Council reviewed and approved its risk management register. This covers risks including governance, for example breach of confidentiality, and finance, for example unexpected expenses and payments not received. It also briefly discussed the West Northamptonshire Strategic Plan, Chris Tenant noting that various of the Northamptonshire growth plans, for example in Wellingborough and Kettering, would increase traffic on the A509 through Olney. Councillors agreed to note the document, but give no immediate response.

    Allotment proposal

    Desmond Eley introduced a proposal that, from 1st October, the Olney Allotment Holders’ Association (OAHA) take over day to day administration of the allotments including plot management, invoicing and rent collection. He said the Recreation and Services Committee had recommended the proposal be put to full Council for its view before spending the money required to draw up a proper legal agreement. The proposal is for OTC to pay an initial £500 setup grant, and receive 50% of the approx. £4,000 total annual allotment rents. OTC has to pay for maintenance of the road to, and mowing around the edge of, the allotments, and the water supply. Jeremy Rawlings questioned whether 50% was the right figure. Des noted that the finances of the allotments do not make sense as far as OTC is concerned – its costs far exceed the current rents – but that it had a statutory obligation to provide allotments to suit the level of demand from local residents. The allotments are not meant to break even.
    Paul Collins felt the document too vague on financial considerations, including a reference to an annual subsidy or grant – what was this designed to cover? He also felt there’d be no saving in Council administrative costs, as the office staff would of course continue to be employed. In summary, he was concerned the Council was halving its rental income while exposing itself to the need to pay for annual subsidies or grants. Now allotment administration was coming under control, he felt there was equally a case for keeping it in house. Colin Rodden noted the access road being in need of maintenance.
    Desmond explained that the Council was increasing allotment rents up to the statutory annual limit of around 2%, but this increase wouldn’t nearly cover costs. Sally Pezaro felt that, while there was insufficient detail in the document, the OAHA taking on administration would in fact reduce the costs to the Council since its office staff would spend less time doing it, freeing them for other work. Desmond noted that the annual subsidy or grant was very much up for discussion and review, once a year or so had passed and a clearer idea of the finances emerged.
    Joanne Eley noted that this was not the final document, only agreement in principle being required at this point. Peter Geary felt the allotments would best be managed as locally as possible, by the OAHA, but care was needed in drawing up the detail of the agreement. Councillors agreed in principle to proceed down this route, with a full proposal expected in three months or so. Desmond concluded the item, noting his intention to find a similar legal agreement between another Council and its local allotment association and adapt it – not reinventing the wheel.

    Climate change working group

    Deirdre Bethune introduced this item. Some members of the climate change working group had been surprised to hear, around six months after having appointed a Council employee, that he was not in fact allowed to be in the group. While that decision was fine in itself, first she was frustrated it had taken so long to inform them, and second that the group itself wasn’t told, some of them instead hearing the news at a Recreation and Services Committee meeting. Also, the group wanted to learn its remit. For example, group member Jane Varley had volunteered to perform an energy audit on all OTC property, the group feeling that the Olney Centre was the best place to start. Was this something the Council would like done?
    Jeremy Rawlings explained that if it was a Council working group, then it had to abide by Council rules, including members declaring interests and signing the code of conduct. If all members were not prepared to do that, it couldn’t be a full working group of the Council and therefore, while it could formulate policies and present them to Council to consider and adopt, it would operate (with an advisory role) outside the Council.
    Deirdre replied it had indeed been set up as a working group, but had not done any of these things as it had not been asked to. She felt sure all on the group would abide by the code of conduct, but that it still needed a remit.
    Joanne Eley was keen to avoid duplication. MKC had outlined but was still completing its strategy, so OTC did not yet have its remit from the Council above. Peter Geary explained that if the group was advisory, it could be set up more informally and give advice to the Council for it to decide on. However, if set up as a formal decision making body, only members who are Councillors could vote. Governance of unelected decision making bodies was fraught with problems, he said. The energy audit, however, was a good idea.
    Colin Rodden thanked the volunteers for spending so much time to move this forward – a good example of public engagement. He felt the Council needed targets amongst the various committees – we all need to do our bit as Councillors.
    Steve Clark noted the membership of the group is fixed, Council represented by himself, Deirdre and Colin, and three members of the public, Jane Varley, Sarah Michalik and Catherine Rose. Desmond Eley noted that the members of the public on a Council working group must be approved by the Council.
    Joanne Eley noted that, with all six group members also being members of Olney Sustainable Futures, why couldn’t that group advise the Council instead? Deirdre and Steve disagreed with this, citing that all six were probably also members of the Olney Noticeboard. Chris Tenant felt making the group an advisory one would be a good idea, with its remit based on topics it discussed while being formed. It should concentrate on changes which could be made at the local and community level.
    Although no decision was made, the Council seemed to be moving towards making the group an advisory one.

    Exclusive Rights of Burial and Memorials

    Each full OTC meeting contains an agenda item ‘To approve Exclusive Rights of Burial and Memorials’. This generally passes with little discussion, reported rarely due to its personal nature. Jeremy Rawlings proposed removing it on the basis it’s not required and all Councillors do is say ‘yes’. Various views were expressed, Sally Pezaro thinking it be included only if controversial, Deirdre Bethune that it be retained as a courtesy to those who’ve died and their relatives.
    Peter Geary believed that Exclusive Rights of Burial are a legal agreement between the Council and whoever they’re granted to, which meant the item had to pass through Council even if only as a nodding exercise. Colin Rodden felt it should be retained and that, along with ‘Members’ Matters’ also coming off the agenda, this was part of a ‘dumbing down’ of the Council.
    Desmond Eley explained that an Exclusive Right of Burial is the right to have a body in the ground at a specified location, effectively the purchase of a plot. Therefore, if such rights remain an agenda item, Council must make sure those noted have purchased their plots. Joanne Eley felt the Council should let Andrea, the Town Clerk and absent this meeting, explain the case, her having just been on a relevant training course. The item was postponed until next month.

    Milton Keynes Futures 2050

    If you’re interested in the long term future of Milton Keynes, including Olney, surf to https://www.mkfutures2050.com/, scroll down and click ‘Learn more about the Strategy for 2050’, click ‘Read the Draft Strategy for 2050’ then search for Olney. The Council has until 17th April to submit its views on that document to MKC.
    Peter Geary explained that around 1500 houses were earmarked for Olney in the timeframe, reported elsewhere. The report notes ‘In areas that have poor access to services, additional people living nearby could help to make new facilities viable. As an example, growth at Olney would only be made feasible by the provision of a bypass and/or connection to the mass transit network, with significant benefits that created for the existing town.’ The Council had some fundamental decisions to make. For example, should it agree to this number of houses with only the promise of a bypass? Get this wrong, he warned, and Olney may end up with 1500 houses but no bypass.
    Chris Tenant noted that, at a recent Olney Development Group meeting, the group resolved that MK Futures 2050 should be an agenda item at this meeting. Yet it wasn’t. Jeremy Rawlings stated it should have been but this connection had been lost. Since it wasn’t on the agenda, Peter suggested closing the meeting, then having a general discussion to learn Councillors’ views so that an informed response could then be drawn up in time to be finalised at next month’s meeting and subsequently submitted. Further, he felt Councillors needed to talk to the public over the coming weeks to seek their views.
    Peter felt the 1500 houses would be ‘planned within months’ with developers keen to build them, yet a bypass would need national funding and could thus be a few decades away, if it ever happened. Chris Tenant noted that ‘a growth scenario’ suggested 1500 houses, and it was for Council to make comments on the various scenarios. He also referred to the mass transit system, which had a big ticket cost – fantastic, but something which Peter noted would perhaps not in fact make it all the way out to Olney.
    John Boardman asked Jeremy Rawlings if it was possible that Councillors could leave this meeting with some commitment from him to liaise with the Town Clerk to ensure the necessary mechanism be put in place to enable Councillors to comply with the matters Peter and Chris had raised. Jeremy noted that there was still time.
    Desmond Eley noted that the 2050 plan, with 1500 houses, is in complete compliance with Olney’s Neighbourhood Plan, which includes a bypass to the West, and which the people of Olney voted for by narrow majority. By having a Neighbourhood Plan, Olney had signed up for growth – Olney’s Plan had to be in line with MK’s Plans, he said. Therefore, Olney was having 1500 houses and he couldn’t see any way to avoid it.
    Steve Clark invited Councillors to research a Bedfordshire development called The Wixams, where a very large number of houses were built on the basis the development would get its own railway station. People bought houses on that understanding yet, after 10 years or so, the station is not built, and no funding is available for it to be so. Peter Geary felt this a very good analogy re the Olney bypass.
    Jeremy Rawlings closed the meeting

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th April in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

    Notice: Olney Town Council Reports

    If you wish to view past Mercury Reports on Olney Town Council Meetings you can use the following link which will take you to the last few years of meetings:
    www.phoneboxmagazine.com/Olney-Council-Reports

    These reports are created by our reporter, who covers the meetings and reflect what was heard at those meetings. Any parts of the meeting held in confidence we are not privy to, therefore cannot report on.

  • April 2020

    Olney Council report for 6th April 2020

    Notice: Olney Town Council Reports

    If you wish to view past Mercury Reports on Olney Town Council Meetings you can use the following link which will take you to the last few years of meetings:
    www.phoneboxmagazine.com/Olney-Council-Reports

    These reports are created by our reporter, who covers the meetings and reflect what was heard at those meetings. Any parts of the meeting held in confidence we are not privy to, therefore cannot report on.

  • May 2020

    Olney Council report for May 2020

    Public participation

    Given current COVID-19 restrictions, Council meetings are now being held online. Anyone wishing to speak in the public participation section is asked to submit the text of their speech in advance, to be read during the meeting.
    Ian Stokes, Chair of the Olney Town Colts Football Club, was the only person to submit a speech. Given that the football season had finished two months short of its usual nine, the Club intends to reimburse parents’ subscriptions to reflect saved expenditure. Ian asked, therefore, if it would be possible for Olney Town Council (OTC) to reimburse the Colts for two ninths of its annual rental. He explained that the Colts is a non profit making club, run solely by volunteers to provide football for over 360 local boys and girls. Ian’s request was passed to the Recreations and Services Committee for consideration.

    Admin

    Pre COVID-19, Council meetings had to be held face-to-face, with everyone together in a room. A recent bill passed by Parliament allows the meetings to be held online but, if a Council wishes to do this, it must first vote to confirm its intention. Councillors voted in favour, so the meeting continued.
    Having approved the minutes of last month’s meeting, Councillors then had to vote on whether to agree postponing the Annual Meeting, the post-election meeting where committee chairs are agreed and Councillors take on their roles. That would have been tonight but, with the lack of an election and resulting changes in post, the meeting was no longer required. Councillors voted to postpone the meeting for a year, to May 2021.

    Milton Keynes Futures 2050

    As noted before, if you’re interested in the long term future of Milton Keynes, including Olney, head to www.mkfutures2050.com/ and read the draft strategy. This had been discussed, with some level of urgency but not as an agenda item, in the previous full OTC meeting, the strategy coming with a 17th April deadline for the Council to submit its views. That deadline had now been extended until 22nd May, and Chris Tenant had drafted a response, now in front of Councillors to agree.
    Chris introduced his draft response. MK Futures 2050 is currently a strategy paper, to guide Milton Keynes Council (MKC) towards a formal policy. It does not carry development plan weight. Thus, the cited figure of 1,500 new homes for Olney is a theoretical one. His response had been guided by two fundamental principles: First, infrastructure must come before expansion, second that decisions on land use issues must be conferred on to communities through their democratically approved Neighbourhood Plans. He felt the potential of the rapid transit network was very interesting, as was that for a Western bypass. He also felt it important to distinguish the handling of urban Milton Keynes from that of the rural hinterlands around it.
    All Councillors were in favour of Chris’s document. Peter Geary further noted that, when the world restarts in three to six months, MK Futures 2050 will continue but the needs which drive it may be different in the new, post-lockdown world. So, for example, it may be that its planners need to pause and start again.
    OTC will submit the document as its response to the MK Futures 2050 draft strategy.

    Exclusive Rights of Burial and Memorials

    This item was to discuss whether Exclusive Rights of Burial and Memorials should continue to have their regular place on the full OTC meeting agenda.
    Deirdre Bethune, in a minority from the start, felt they should continue to appear as a mark of respect – it was something people had come to expect, she said. Arguments against this point included that discussing Exclusive Rights of Burial may fall foul of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and that granting them was a job for the Proper Officer (Town Clerk, Andrea Vincent), requiring full Council attention only by exception.
    Councillors voted by majority in favour of removing them from the agenda, all in favour bar one against.

    Councillor Communications policy

    This item was to discuss the proposed policy for Councillor Communications.
    When Councillors express their views via press or social media, they must make it clear that these views are their own and not the Council’s. As with much of this part of the meeting, the devil was in the detail and the apparently innocuous proposed policy wording, “the Councillor is talking on behalf of him/herself as a Councillor and/or individual resident, and is not making comment on behalf of the Town Council as a whole,” provoked discussion. The point at issue here, first raised by Desmond Eley, was that as a Councillor, a person is always regarded as such and no longer as a normal resident. The wording must reflect this, he said.
    Sally Pezaro raised the following proposed wording, “When commenting on social media platforms Councillors, when using their title Councillor, must always ensure that every comment they make is followed or preceded by a statement such as ‘I am speaking as an individual councillor/individual resident and not on behalf of the Town Council.’ ” As a regular user of social media, including for her work, this could cause practical problems, she felt. After some discussion, the key here appeared to be to omit the ‘Councillor’ title from such posts, the rule not then applying.
    Andrea will seek advice on certain parts of this policy, amend and bring back to full Council for approval.

    Agenda and Minute policy

    This, similarly dry item, was to discuss the proposed policy for Agenda and Minutes.
    The Proper Officer (again, Town Clerk) has legal responsibility for determining what should appear on the agenda. Colin Rodden asked what would happen if a submitted item was refused – was there an appeals process? This raised the general concern that the Town Clerk may have to make decisions on controversial or difficult items. Andrea will look for some wording to provide guidance on what should and should not be allowed on agendas.
    The proposed wording notes that “Minutes of a meeting will include formal resolutions, proposers and, where applicable, seconders, as well as actions.“ Deirdre Bethune stated that it would be very sad if the minutes contained only resolutions and their proposers, omitting the discussions around them – they’d contain nothing of substance, she felt. Andrea noted that her training said that, while minutes should describe that there had been discussion around topics, they should focus on procedure and regulations. Deirdre felt OTC had previously had very good minutes which had told people all about the meetings, but guessed people could still rely on the Phonebox Magazine for that.
    Again, Andrea will seek advice on certain parts of this policy, amend and bring back to full Council for approval.

    Admission to Report Public Meetings policy

    Members of the Public are, of course, allowed and indeed encouraged to attend Council meetings. A new sub-section of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 notes that any person attending meetings is also allowed to ‘report’ on them. Its definition of ‘report’ includes “filming, photographing or making an audio recording of proceedings.” Therefore, for GDPR purposes, it is necessary that people be informed that a recording may be taking place, giving them the opportunity to say if they don’t want themselves recorded, in which case content containing them will be removed.

    Profit and loss

    This section was to review the pre-reconciliation profit and loss figures for the year ending 31st March 2020. Summarising, the figures are slightly better than break-even, showing a small profit. In Paul Collins’ view, this vindicated last year’s precept increase, stemming an ongoing reduction in reserves. Given COVID-19, the future was unusually hard to predict, he said. For example, the Olney Centre’s income was currently reduced to zero. However, the situation would become clearer as more Government guidance, on grants for example, emerged. How would people behave as the lockdown eased – how soon would public confidence return?

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    The Human Resources Committee had proposed that a full time post be advertised for Olney Centre caretaker with ad hoc cleaning duties. This work is currently performed on a contracted basis, but the Committee considered it better value to employ a person to do it. It also proposed that a contract be advertised to cover the cleaning, opening and closing of the public toilets together with regular deep cleaning of the Olney Centre, along with cover for the caretaker while on leave.
    Andrea asked whether, before the Council office got into full swing making arrangements for Dickens of a Christmas, Council should consider a Glastonbury-style fallow year.
    Deirdre
    noted that, as Chair of the Dickens of a Christmas Committee, it would have been nice to have been asked about this first. She felt the Council should “hold tight” for a couple of months on the basis that the event may be, by Christmas, something the town would really very much want. Deirdre then closed down the discussion, noting the topic “wasn’t important enough to ask the chair about.” In summary Dickens of a Christmas is going ahead, unless events dictate and Council decides otherwise.

    The Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held online at 7.30pm on Monday 1st June, live streamed from a set of spare bedrooms near you. If you’d like your views read out at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

  • June 2020

    Olney Council report for June 2020

    Public access to meetings

    For the duration of the COVID crisis meetings of Olney Town Council will be held as online audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by clicking on a link on the OTC web page www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk Click on the ‘Announcements’ tab and scroll down to the announcement about the next meeting where you will find a link to the agenda and another to join the meeting on listen only.
    This meeting was rescheduled from a meeting due to take place a week earlier which was opened and adjourned due to several members being unable to join. There were still some ‘teething difficulties’ at this meeting with two members being unable to join the audio conversation but they were still able to participate in discussions and vote via the text comments.

    Public participation

    A member of the public asked if the council would consider offering space om the Market Place to companies such as cafes that wished to have outside space for tables and chairs because their premises were unsuitable for maintaining social distancing. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings reminded members that this had been discussed before, but no agreement had been reached as to how it might be implemented. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that MKC had made a fund of £230k available to ‘restart the High Street’ and Olney might be eligible to apply for up to £30k. The fund is intended to pay for hire of consultants and equipment etc, so he suggested that Town Clerk Andrea Vincent investigates. Steve Clark supported the idea in principle but asked what would happen if demand outstrips supply? It would be unfair to offer space to some businesses but not others, particularly as it was possible that pubs would be open first and may request space so OTC would have to be very careful how they allocated space. It was agreed that Jeremy and Andrea would manage the process between them without reference to the full council or Recs and Services committee.

    Agenda and Minute policy

    This subject was discussed at length at last month’s meeting and there now appears to be a much more formal approach to what may and may not be discussed. There was certainly a drive to stick strictly to the agenda from some members at the meeting. Last month it was agreed by a majority that Exclusive Rights of Burial and Memorials should be removed as an agenda item. It appears that Members Matters has also gone, which was an opportunity for councillors to raise issues of their own or that had been communicated to them by members of the public. Councillors must now apply to the Town Clerk for any such items to be placed on the formal agenda and she will decide if it is appropriate. Mercury assumes that this is to enable a more efficient running of meetings in the current situation.

    Town Clerk's Report

    Andrea Vincent said she and Deputy Clerk had done a great deal of work with Paul Collins, Chair of Finance, to bring the budget up to date and be ready to speak to the Auditor later this month to enable the Annual Governance and Accountability Return to be completed and signed off. She expressed concern about the forthcoming year as income would be significantly reduced due to lack of income from the Olney Centre hire and reduced market stalls. Finance was a separate agenda item later in the meeting when the schedule of payments for the month of May showed a net loss of £14k since the majority of outgoings were still necessary but there was considerable loss of income. Paul Collins pointed out that precept (the portion of MKC Council Tax which is paid to OTC for services) needed to be included to give an indication of the true state of finances. Local councils are being doubly penalised he said, because unlike private businesses they are unable to claim a Business Rate holiday but as precepting authorities they are unable to claiming the retail, hospitality or leisure grant from central government. The Finance Committee have not met since setting the budget and Schedule of Charges for 2021 and it was likely that that budget would need ‘throwing out of the window’ and be completely revised, he said.
    There appears to have been a misunderstanding amongst some councillors that they have a ‘Line Management’ role over the council workforce. Andrea stated that this was definitely NOT the case and all requests for work must come via the council office.
    A member of staff had left during the month, and Andrea wished him well. A show of appreciation was presented in the form of a few gifts and an afternoon tea. For Information: Richard Mynard was the member of staff in question and had been a Groundsman since 1984. The vacant post has now been advertised.

    Stacks Image 94568

    In addition to the Groundsman vacancy there is also a vacancy for a part time Caretaker. Detailed job descriptions have been produced and the caretaker post will also be advertised in due course. A spec has been created for the cleaning of the Olney centre which will be put out to tender and a contract will be created by the successful applicant.

    A COVID 19 plan for the council has been produced and is constantly evolving. The purpose is to ensure that OTC can reduce the impact of potential infection from Coronavirus and/or continue to function in the case of absence due to illness, self-isolation. Olney Centre, council compound and cemetery closures are included in the plan. It will ensure the safe re opening of services and the running of council business. Peter Geary noted that Olney, along with many other communities, had set up COVID support Groups and they had done a really good job. All groups had had to move quickly to understand what is required. At one point the Olney group were providing support to approximately 120 households with around 280 volunteers. That need was now easing up but could be required again in the future. Jeremy Rawlings said it would be useful if the group could provide a written report detailing what they had achieved and what they felt their strengths and weaknesses were.
    Andrea reported that there had been many complaints to the council about large groups congregating by the bathing steps, and the ‘detritus’ that was then left. The grass had been scorched by portable BBQs and a number of patches will need to be reseeded. There had also been complaints of dogs running rampant, she said. It had not been helped by the re-running of articles in two national newspapers advertising the area as ideal for wild water swimming. Steve Clark noted that the area was referred to in some quarters as a ‘Victorian swimming pool’ and the council should actively avoid using the phrase and discourage others to do the same. He noted that Google Maps was guilty of this and despite representations from several local people, had still not removed it. Signage will be provided in attempt to resolve some of the problems, but Andrea was uncertain how effective that would be, particularly as most visitors were thought not to be local. Joanne Eley said there was a public health concern which the council could not ignore due to the huge amount of human excrement that had been left in the ditches and around the various sports clubs. Where public toilets remain closed the government guidelines are to bag it and take it home, she said. Peter Geary suggested contacting the Environment Health Department at MKC for advice.

    Rugby Club Planning Applications

    Jeremy Rawlings noted that OTRFC has submitted plans for three separate developments. The first is for an extension to the clubhouse to provide two unisex changing rooms on land which is owned by OTC, the second is for a new car park with 48 car parking spaces plus 2 coach spaces on part of Doff’s Field which is owned by the club, and the third is for a fifty seat stand also on Doff’s Field. OTC is not a planning authority and does not decide on such applications but may submit recommendations to MKC via their own Planning subcommittee. Jeremy suggested that individual members of the council could submit comments via the MKC planning portal, along with members of the public. Steve Clark, as chairman of the subcommittee suggested members submit comments to him but Malcolm Messenger was of the opinion that a planning meeting should be held since it would have a big impact on residents of Austin Avenue and Mobbs Way. There is also a public footpath running across the land proposed for the car park, he said, and there had been considerable debate, both for and against, on Facebook. Joanne Eley expressed concern that pedestrians would be walking through a car park which comes out on a blind bend. It was agreed to hold a planning meeting the following week to discuss all three applications.

    OTC office hardware

    The hardware used by the Clerk and Deputy Clerk is now well past its prime and is to be replaced. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings handed over the chair to Steve Clark at this point as his company is one of those that had tendered for the work. The cost for two workstations, two docking stations and four monitors was quoted as around £3.2k with three years warranty from both suppliers but was available from Amazon for £2.9k with one year warranty. Paul Collins proposed that the equipment be purchased from Amazon which was passed unanimously with one abstention.

    Dickens of a Christmas

    Following on from last month’s discussion about whether to declare a Glastonbury style ’fallow’ year Jeremy Rawlings proposed that planning should continue, subject to government rules and regulations at the time and should be in the form of a very much cut-down version with a final decision being made in September. The Lions are very keen that it should go ahead, if at all possible, as it is one of their major fund-raisers and their income has seen a considerable reduction due to Covid. Peter Geary suggested that planning should continue until financial outlay was necessary and the final decision left to the organising committee, which was agreed. Andrea Rawlings said the office was already receiving many enquiries from ‘out of town’ traders and guidance was need as to whether they should plan for a full-scale or cut-down event. As Chairman of The Dickens Committee Deirdre Bethune supported holding a smaller event for local traders, which would reduce a lot of the workload for the office, with the Lions free to organise the craft fairs within whatever regulations exist at the time. Joanne Eley said that with social distancing rules still likely to be in place it was only fair to allow local shops who have had a bad year to have stalls in the road around the Market Place. It was agreed to plan for a smaller scale local event and make a final decision in September based on the regulations in place at that time.

    Stacks Image 94596

    Odds and Sods

    An audit of the allotments has taken place. In ‘normal’ times anyone not maintaining their allotment could lose it, but the council recognise that some holders are currently able to do so and will not be penalised. Desmond Eley reported that allotment holders had assisted the council in filling in some of the holes in the roadways and expressed his thanks.
    As of the beginning of June market traders selling non-essential goods have been invited back to the Thursday and Sunday markets, which have been well supported by the public.
    The Recs and Services Committee of OTC have discussed permanent closure of all but the disabled public toilets on the Market Place (which are currently closed), except to market traders. This would be dependant of alternatives being available and discussions will be held with businesses around the Market Place to see if they would be prepared to open their facilities to non-customers, as happens in many other towns.

    The Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held online at 7.30pm on Monday 6th July, live streamed for members of the public to observe proceedings. If you have any issue which you would like read out at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk This replaces the previous public participation agenda item.

  • July 2020 - On Line only from this date

    Olney Council report for 6th July 2020 - On Line

    Public access to meetings - www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk - Announcements

    For the duration of the COVID restrictions, meetings of Olney Town Council (OTC) will be held online using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by surfing to www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, clicking the ‘Announcements’ menu and scrolling down to the announcement about the next meeting, where there’s a link to the agenda and another to join the meeting listen-only.

    Public participation

    Market Place proposal:
    A retailer on the Market Place was first to have her contribution read by Andrea Vincent, Town Clerk. Noting her awareness that a proposal to use some areas of the Market Place car park for seating had been discussed and rejected by OTC, due mainly to parking, antisocial behaviour and litter concerns, she wanted to express her and the majority of small retailers’ thanks for this. She was pleased the Council had listened to them. She continued that, if it wished to support the small businesses further, they’d prefer the Council to contact them directly rather than through a third party. Noting that Olney has a successful and attractive High Street and Market Place, she felt the lockdown had pressured many businesses, leaving some worried about their ability to survive. If help were available, they’d be very happy to work with the Council, she said. She concluded by thanking Councillors for their help with the situation on the Recreation Ground and bathing areas.

    A Timpsons Row resident had also been in contact, this time concerning the increased number of visitors to the Recreation Ground in recent weeks. They went on to share some incidents they’d seen, in the hope the information would be useful. The main issue in Timpsons Row was parking, it seeing typically 50 additional vehicles on warm days, obstructing pedestrians and traffi c. Noting that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) is responsible for parking in Olney, they encouraged OTC to work with MKC to take a firm stance on the issue – more restrictions and enforcement. Stating that most visitors to the Recreation Ground have to drive, they felt restricting parking would thus restrict visitor numbers – the issue wasn’t with people visiting the Recreation Ground, it was with their sheer number. Noting the nearby gate to the field and inadequate parking-related signage in the Row, they felt closing the gate during the Summer may help. Examples of antisocial behaviour have included residents being sworn at and threatened with violence, and a woman walking down the side of a house to change out of her swimming costume before getting in her car. A mass brawl was also noted, resulting in people walking past covered in blood. They asked residents, the Police, OTC and MKC to work together to devise solutions – else the situation would worsen each year. They concluded by thanking OTC for its work keeping the town in such wonderful condition.

    Closing the Public Toilets: Last in this section, another contributor noted the consequences of OTC closing the public toilets during lockdown. This was without legal requirement, they said, toilets in many neighbouring towns remaining open. It had led to antisocial behaviour with people urinating and defecating on the Recreation Ground, outside commercial premises and in alleyways. This was a health and safety issue, and the lack of open toilets had put people off visiting the town, particularly the young, elderly and disabled. Given COVID, commercial premises were understandably reluctant to let the public use their facilities, they felt. They asked the Council to open and regularly clean the public toilets. They also noted that the Government had congratulated towns which had kept their toilets open, urging those who had not to reopen them safely. Andrea concluded this section, noting that OTC was following Government guidance to reopen the toilets, with the significant cost implications entailed.

    Apologies for absence and declarations of interest

    Debbie Whitworth had sent her apologies. No declarations of interest were made.

    Approving the previous meeting’s minutes

    Colin Rodden asked whether the Council had talked about the public toilets being closed, as he couldn’t recall it, particularly given the noted possibility of permanent closure.
    Jeremy Rawlings replied that the idea of retailers opening their facilities for the public, as happens in some other towns, had been discussed. That discussion had been started as it raised the possibility that the maintenance, management and refurbishment of the public toilets would not need to take place.
    Desmond Eley noted that, pre COVID, a working group had been created to look into the remodelling of the Market Place, necessarily including consideration of the public toilets. The choices were to remodel, extend or close, retaining just the disabled facility and that for the market traders. The decision process is ongoing, pending the group gleaning the information required to make it.
    Deirdre Bethune noted she didn’t feel it sensible currently to talk with retailers about opening their toilets.
    The decision is on hold pending a clearer way forward with COVID.

    Town Clerk’s report

    Faster Internet Connection: OTC has engaged BT in order to achieve a faster internet connection and IP-based phones.
    Jeremy noted that, in his professional opinion, he’d not touch BT with a barge pole, and agreed to talk later with Andrea.

    Amazon Offer Expired:
    The Amazon offer for new OTC office hardware that the previous meeting agreed to purchase was time limited and now expired.
    Quotes from a third local supplier will be obtained, and the three brought to Council for a decision.

    Olney Centre Income required:
    Noting the need for the Olney Centre to restart generating income, Desmond Eley mentioned that Room 2, normally used for marriages, was currently occupied by the Olney COVID Support Group’s equipment. The Council had asked it how much longer, but not yet received a response.
    Jeremy will pursue this noting, at Graham Harrison’s suggestion, that the Council would need the full building in the near future.

    Andrea noted the incredibly hard work of Council staff during the COVID restrictions. They had received a large number of criticisms, mainly about the situation with the Recreation Ground, but also some thanks. She thanked the team, a sentiment echoed strongly by Jeremy. The litter issues, he explained, were due to the amount being discarded.

    Anti-Letter Signage:
    The Council had devoted the resources to clear it up. Councillors discussed whether providing more anti-litter signage on the Recreation Ground would help, Deirdre thinking it would. Although no consensus was reached, the weight of opinion appeared to be that it would not.
    Andrea noted that, even when the local Lions group had handed out bin bags to groups of people on the Recreation Ground, they had often not been filled. Joanne Eley noted that some of the unsung heroes in this episode were the Olney and Clifton Reynes Fishing association, working hard to clear up litter from the riverbank. Graham noted that this was a country-wide problem, not affecting just Olney. Jeremy explained that, although the “alcohol exclusion zone” signs were widely ignored, they gave the Police authority to act. Deirdre noted she may provide anti-litter signs at her own expense.

    Recreations and Services

    Recreation Ground Issues
    A multi-agency meeting had been held to discuss the issues on the Recreation Ground. Desmond explained what happened, the following is a brief summary: The mass gathering issue did not start with COVID, instead having grown over the last three or so years, fuelled in part by mainstream and social media. The option of closing the East Street car park or charging an admission fee was discussed and its many downsides noted, for example the logistics of charging a fee, and the impact on parking elsewhere including the effect on emergency services vehicle access. This was left with OTC to decide on and manage.
    The public toilets should be opened as soon as practically possible. Thames Valley Police is pleased with the recently installed “alcohol exclusion zone” signs. Fencing could be installed to funnel visitors to discourage walking across sports pitches. OTC has lost all its income streams due to COVID and, in spite of multiple requests, no funding or grants had been made available to help it tackle these problems. A key safe will be provided to allow emergency services vehicle access from East Street.
    The ensuing discussion was lengthy and, again, the following a brief summary: Deirdre asked Desmond to clarify the statement on fencing. The aim, he explained, was to funnel people entering the Recreation Ground from beside and behind the Rugby Club to walk between the Bowls Club and the MUGA, entering the Ground near the toilet block. That way, they’d be more likely to avoid the sports pitches, particularly the cricket pitch which had seen people walk across even while cricket was being played. Footpath locations and byelaws were discussed, as was the fact that OTC hires out the pitches to the clubs, which then expect a facility on which they can play sport safely.
    Colin Rodden
    asked how decisions were being made, particularly on the fencing and signage. Desmond explained that no money had been spent without committee approval, and Jeremy Rawlings that in these difficult times decisions had to be taken quickly.
    Jeremy asked Colin if he was happy with this, his immediate response being silence, and later one that more consultation was required.

    East Street Car Park:
    Re the East Street car park, Peter Geary outlined three options: First, continue as now – people turn up in whatever numbers, the Council attempts to manage the paths they take to the river, clears up after them and stomachs the costs. Second, try to dissuade people at all costs – for example lock the East Street car park, but that would disrupt visiting teams and displace parking. Third, charge for the East Street car park to help mitigate the money spent by the Council – but the logistics and inconvenience for legitimate users would be significant. None is a perfect solution, but people expect OTC to do something, even if that’s the first option. It is public open space, and we cannot stop people from accessing it, he said. There are no easy solutions although, as lockdown continues to ease, people will at least have more choice of places to visit.
    Skipping much of the discussion, the Council set up a small working group to look at charging for the East Street car park in peak season. Deirdre asked that the group keep all Councillors up to date, because that didn’t always happen. It was noted that, while there was insufficient time to make this decision in the very short term, it will not be straightforward to make in the long term either. For example, a permit holder scheme would help residents but be less obviously beneficial for sports match away teams.
    David Coles’ open letter, as published in last month’s Phonebox, was also noted for Council consideration. This section concluded with Desmond asking Deirdre about her earlier comment re working groups not reporting back to the Council. He asked which working group Deirdre thought hadn’t reported back. She did not respond.

    Opening up the High Street

    This item noted the reasons the proposal to use some of the Market Place car park for seating was rejected. These were that, in spite of sending a letter to each shop nearby, no responses at all were received, and that the Police thought the idea “madness” and would attract antisocial behaviour.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    The Council had received three quotes for Autumn and Winter bedding plants, accepting Alban Hill Nurseries’. It will also seek quotes for a new mower for the Cemetery. Desmond reported that, in the second half of May, there appeared to have been a significant and sudden drop in the Council’s store of red diesel. Measures have been taken to ensure control and monitoring of the store, with others pending if agreed.

    Allotment Association Agreement

    Desmond noted that, as reported previously, the Recreations and Services Committee had been discussing the formation of a service agreement with the Allotment Association, expected to move forward in October subject to agreement. This had been done informally so far, but formalising the group of Councillors involved as a working group with authority to make decisions would be appropriate to continue this work.

    Finance

    Paul Collins provided a broad overview of the Council’s finances given COVID.
    His major area of concern was the current reduced income from the markets and Olney Centre room hire. He noted that many of the room hirers have memberships skewed towards the at-risk age groups, meaning the drop in income could be relatively long term. In the three months to 30th June, these sources of income were down £9,500 compared with a year ago.
    Unlike commercial businesses and non-profits, the Council had not been eligible for business rates relief or the Retail, Hospitality, and Leisure Grant – almost singled out for special, unfair treatment he felt. Further, none of the extra money paid by Government to higher-tier Local Authorities appeared to have trickled down to Parish Council level. Hopefully, this would change. In terms of expenditure, OTC had been mindful of the need to make significant savings, and thus expenditure for this financial year is more than £30,000 below that a year ago.
    However, this level of saving would not be maintained once the Olney Centre was reopened. He hoped that, by October, the Council would have a clearer view of how things will turn out. He also noted the costs of the antisocial behaviour on the Recreation Ground, and of the enhanced public toilet cleaning regime.

    Andrea noted that cleaning both sets of toilets will cost £700 - £1,000 per week. Desmond raised the opportunity to promote Room 2 of the Olney Centre for marriages, noting the potential logjam for such events – it was important to know what was happening with that room. Jeremy will further ask the COVID Support Group about its plans. Although feeling that marriage bookings may not pick up until next year, Steve Clark agreed that OTC should indeed aggressively market use of the Centre for marriages. Deirdre asked about the state of the Recreation Ground toilets. These had been vandalised seriously pre COVID and, while that had delayed their repair, it would happen shortly.

    Olney Development Group

    Chris Tennant reported that a review of Olney’s existing Neighbourhood Plan had started. He then ran through the local development sites, of which just the residential ones are covered here.
    On Site A, Lavendon Road, work had started on the building of 50 homes.
    On Site B, Warrington Road, outline permission had been granted.
    As for Site C, off Osiers Road adjacent to the business park, while not allocated for housing the construction of 66 homes was in progress.
    On Sites D&E, off Aspreys and Yardley Road, very large scale archaeological site investigations had started. The reserved matters planning application for the 250 homes on those sites is live and out for consultation, with further drawings and reports received. OTC had objected to this application and asked for it to be considered by the MKC Development Control Committee. Chris noted issues with MKC Planning Department not necessarily consulting with members of the public and Councillors, something it is now reviewing. He felt this an effect of lockdown.
    At Site R, the Sainsbury’s store is open but the planning application by Angle Properties and McCarthey & Stone, for sheltered and retirement living on the remaining land had, contrary to the Neighbourhood Plan, been allowed on appeal.
    Jeremy noted that the Sites D&E reserved matters application contained significant changes. Chris agreed noting that, of most concern, a significant proportion of the promised public open space had since been extracted, no longer forming part of sites’ D&E delivery, never envisaged in the Neighbourhood Plan.
    Chris felt the MKC Chief Planner at the time, who’d since moved on, had perhaps dropped the ball in that regard by allowing this change as part of the Section 106 agreement. Essentially, the town was being held to ransom on a future development option North of Site E. He felt it important to note that OTC was unhappy with this situation – we can’t have part of a playing pitch delivered, where OTC hasn’t considered a future planning application on a site outside the settlement boundary. Other issues include access: The original land promoter did not own the land strip which could provide access from Aspreys so, while MKC and OTC were previously keen to pursue that access, it was not in the promoter’s gift to offer. However, the strip is owned by the chosen developer, Vistry (ex Bovis), meaning that it could, if it chose, deliver that access. Finally, the reserved matters application includes some three storey apartment blocks, never originally envisaged. It was already the highest site in Olney in topographical terms. He felt this change perhaps a little disingenuous. Peter Geary, agreeing with much of Chris’s description and noting it pretty disappointing, expressed confidence in the current MKC Planning Offi cer. Re the issues with the playing field, he felt these were known about before and were one of the reasons he was against the outline application. This was not exactly in the spirit of things, and he felt Chris was right about the current situation. Desmond asked Chris whether, given the recent building work, there were any Section 106 monies which OTC could draw down, with a view to accessing funds to spend around the town. Chris will look into this.

    The Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 7th September, at 7.00pm if online else 7.30pm if in the Council Chamber. If you’d like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

  • July - Olney Council Extraordinary Meeting (20th July) reported in Phonebox Magazine in August 2020 - Olney Public Toilets

    Discussion to decide if the Public toilets should be reopened (Held online on Monday 20th July.

    An extraordinary meeting of Olney Town Council (OTC) was held online, Monday 20th July, to discuss reopening the Market Place and Recreation Ground public toilets, closed since lockdown. Apologies for absence were received from Chris Tenant. No declarations of interest were made.

    Jeremy Rawlings reported that, as part of the ‘Olney is Open’ initiative, delegated to himself and Andrea Vincent (Town Clark), the Council had sought and received two tenders for ongoing cleaning of the toilets and, under those delegated powers, chosen the cheapest. It was, however, very expensive and raised concern from a number of other Councillors about the ongoing cost and whether OTC should bear it for the sake of reopening, so he organised this meeting in response.
    He noted that the retailers, and Thursday and Sunday Market stallholders were keen for the toilets to open, a sentiment matched by the general consensus of an all-comers meeting at the Rugby Club.
    The ongoing cost involved was indeed significant at around £700 per week, equating to around £3,000 per month, for the duration of the pandemic, itself an unknown quantity. It would allow the toilets to open 8am – 5pm, closing three-hourly for cleans at 11am, 2pm and 5pm, that being the period specified by the Council’s insurers for COVID-19 infection control. The cleaning, using bleach or equivalent, would include all surfaces around the toilets and sinks, internal surfaces and floors, and all the touch points - door handles, etc. The contract could be stopped by OTC at short notice.

    Colin Rodden suggested obtaining sponsorship, but this would be hard in the current climate.

    Malcolm Messenger suggested employing someone to do the work, but that would incur start-up costs and come with commitments.

    Desmond Eley felt sorry for OTC’s staff, working harder for less pay than this, and that the tender was not good value.

    Graham Harrison asked for the cost if just the Market Place toilets were reopened, Andrea replying it’d be half, and Deidre Bethune that the Recreation Ground toilets were also important given recent complaints.

    Joanne Eley noted the earlier than usual closing time for the Recreation Ground toilets – what were people meant to do after 5pm?

    Paul Collins, chair of the Finance Committee, reported that OTC had seen a significant reduction in income and, to date, received no Government or Milton Keynes Council (MKC) money due to COVID-19. Having started to get the Council’s finances under control and set a budget for the year, this toilet cleaning alone would add £18 per year to the average home’s Council Tax precept. He felt the toilets wouldn’t be used much and that the Council could not afford this cost. He strongly opposed the idea of reopening.

    Peter Geary, noting this a difficult decision, proposed reopening both toilets pending a review at the next full Council meeting on 7th September.

    This proposal, amended to first wait for upcoming advice from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and a final positive discussion with the Council’s insurers, appeared to receive a consensus. It would result in a cost of around £5,000, and the responsibility for taking the decision to reopen was delegated to Jeremy, Desmond and Andrea.

    In the meantime, the Council will continue trying to extract funding from MKC and Government. It will write to our local MP, stating it was under the impression that some funding would be available for this purpose and, unless some came forward, it would not be able to keep the toilets open. Also, it will attempt to gauge opinions in the town with a Facebook poll, notices and a Phonebox article.

    Jeremy Rawlings concluded the meeting, thanking Councillors for their input and for reaching a consensus.

  • August - Olney Council Meeting August 2020 - On Line on Monday 10th August And The nonexistant report on the EGM held on the 28 August 2020 which we await

    Town Council Controversy

    Intimidation Resignation & Regret

    August is usually a month Olney Town Council do not have a meeting. With all that is going on at the moment a special meeting was called to discuss some recent problems, especially the Public Toilets in the Town.
    This meeting turned out to be a bit more lively that unusual, and caused the resignation of two councillors, following hard on the heels of a third councillor making a total of four resignations since February, and six in the last 15 months!

    Public Access to Meetings

    For the duration of the COVID crisis meetings of Olney Town Council will be held as online audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by clicking on a link on the OTC web page www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk Click on the ‘Meetings’ tab and scroll down to the announcement about the next meeting where you will find a link to the agenda and another to join the meeting on listen-only.

    Preamble

    There is not normally a meeting of OTC in August but as there were a number of issues to be discussed this meeting was called at short notice by the Clerk Andrea Vincent and Mayor Jeremy Rawlings in the light of ‘a rapidly changing situation’.
    Deirdre Bethune asked why the minutes of the July meeting stated that an August meeting would be held when at that stage none was planned. Andrea said she had amended the draft minutes for the July meeting the day before. This was picked up under matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting and the amendment removed.

    Public Participation

    In the absence of the opportunity to speak at public meetings, the public may submit written items to the clerk to be read out. Mercury would normally name those who speak at an open meeting, unless they specifically ask not to be identified. Under the new regime, the clerk redacts the names from any correspondence under alleged GDPR rules, so there exists the situation whereby councillors and public are not permitted to know who has submitted the written items. Note: If any member of the public wishes to be identified as the originator of correspondence to the council, they should state that in the letter/email to overcome any GDPR constraints.

    This month there was an email from a person who owns a business but does not currently live in Olney, but in a neighbouring village. This person said they wholeheartedly supported Deirdre Bethune’s proposal to use the Sidney Dix Community fund (or any other funding source) to enable the public toilets on the Market Place and Recreation ground to remain open, as they are an asset to the town. (This was the subject of a later agenda item). A town meeting should be called before any decision is taken, they said. David Pibworth has contacted The Phonebox and asked to be identified as the author of this email.

    Another resident had also emailed to ask that the final decision on the toilets should be made by the public in the name of good governance, transparency, and democracy. The final decision should be delayed till after the May 2021 election with candidates declaring how they would act on the issue, this person believed. Kevin Viney has contacted The Phonebox and asked to be identified as the author of this email.

    Regarding the first email, Malcolm Messenger questioned Deirdre as to how a person living outside the town could know that she was going to present her proposal at the meeting. Deirdre explained that this person was ‘very local’, having interests and working in the town and her (Deirdre’s) intentions were public knowledge. Malcolm proceeded to press her very strongly, asking who had told this person. Deirdre explained that it was on the published meeting agenda which was in the public domain. Malcolm asked Andrea on what date the email had been received to which she replied that it was the date that the agenda had been published.

    A letter had also been received from Trevor York on behalf of Friends of Cobbs Garden Surgery, which donates over £2000 per month for health-related projects, equipment and services. A book of photographs of Olney over the years is being proposed as a fund-raiser, and Trevor asked if any colour photos in the possession of OTC could be included. It was agreed that OTC would loan any photos in its possession for the project.

    Apologies for Absence & Declarations of Interest

    There were no apologies for absence or declarations of interest. Jeremy reported that Debbie Whitworth had formally tendered her resignation, would not be joining the meeting and was no longer a councillor. Deirdre Bethune asked if a reason could be given. Jeremy declined to give one, but said Deirdre could ask Debbie if she wished. Deirdre replied that the public would really like to know why Debbie had resigned. Jeremy replied that it was up to Debbie to inform the public, not him. Deirdre suggested that perhaps the town Clerk would like to provide input as well, saying that Debbie had been considerably upset all weekend and did they care? She hoped the public were listening, she said.
    Jeremy said Debbie had tendered her resignation and he had accepted it. Joanne Eley asked Jeremy to move on, saying that quite clearly there are reasons which are well documented in emails, and this was not a ‘show-boating exercise’. Jeremy closed the conversation by saying that if ex-councillor Whitworth wishes to make a public statement, then that is her prerogative, bearing in mind that whatever she says is still covered in part by the code of conduct.

    Proposed Reopening of The Olney Centre

    Andrea reported that the organisations that were previously regular users of the Olney Centre had been contacted asking when they wished to resume bookings. Not all had replied, but six that meet monthly had indicated that they wished to return in September. None of the weekly groups had provided a date, mainly because their members were previously in the shielding category and are not yet willing to commit.
    Age UK previously held a lunch club once a week but were currently looking to only commence operations at the Peartree Bridge Centre from October and asked if the council could assist with travel expenses for users. If the Olney centre were to open it would need to be done with a caretaker and cleaning contract in place, but the council would need to consider the shortfall of income, Andrea said. Perhaps as a public body, OTC should consider reopening as a sign of the ‘bouncing back of the High Street, etc’? Jeremy asked what would be the cost vs income of opening in September? Andrea replied that each booking would provide in the region of £70, but outgoings would be considerably more. Colin Rodden asked how this would impact on the reopening of the library, which was not in Phase 1 of Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) plans. Jeremy said that the library could open independently as MKC had their own cleaning contract. Graham Harrison said it was a ‘chicken and egg’ situation because if people saw the building open, they might come, but he would not like to see the building open before October. However, if an intended opening date were published, maybe more people would consider using it. Jeremy said much was dependant of the oft-hinted Second Wave. As Chair of Finance, Paul Collins suggested waiting till the September meeting when a proper cashflow could be provided. If a caretaker is employed, it is not easy to ‘turn the tap off’, he said, and the current budget was based on a pre-Covid expectation of £34K in room hire income. The current income this financial year is £900, so there are considerable financial implications he said. The £900 is from pre-bookings which may yet be refunded in the future, he explained. It was agreed to review the situation at the September meeting.

    Building Works for OTC Office

    As chair of the Olney Centre Management Committee Deirdre Bethune presented a proposal for changes to the OTC office, for which planning approval had been granted and had previously been discussed by the council. It would make for far greater safety when the Clerk or Deputy when working alone as the door could be locked and it would still be possible to communicate with the public through a hatch, which would make it easier to be Covid compliant, too.
    It would create more usable space whilst distancing the clerks without having to make other changes to the existing arrangements. She’d hoped that it could be financed by a Covid grant, but the clerk had advised that this was not possible. It is, however, possible to take out public works loans which attract very little interest. The work could be done while the centre is currently closed, she said.
    Joanne Eley said that in this uncertain time and without a cashflow she didn’t think that OTC should be taking out a loan at all, since the council could easily function with the current configuration. The council and residents should not be put into debt for a ‘nice to do’ she thought, since the duration of Covid is unknown, and the council currently has no income. Deirdre interjected to say she believed the work to be essential. Joanne continued that she would like to see the Management Committee produce a clearly thought out evidence-based plan on how it could be funded without taking out a loan.
    Graham Harrison said he was astonished that the council could even think about spending £15k on the work but then tell residents that there was no money for anything else. It was just a ‘non-starter’ he thought.
    Jeremy said he agreed that at this time the expenditure was inappropriate. Malcolm Messenger was of the view that when and if the centre opens Covid distancing could be provided with the use of a screen, and the door could be closed when privacy was necessary. Desmond Eley asked Andrea if she thought the changes were necessary to perform her duties. Andrea replied that there was already a reasonable plan to make the office Covid safe, so it wasn’t immediately necessary, but at some time in the future it was essential that changes were made to improve disabled access. Additional space could be found by moving some documentation into storage, she felt.
    Colin Rodden expressed the view that keeping the office staff safe should be a priority, so as the Covid situation improves then anything that could be done to provide a better working environment would be helpful. Jeremy asked for a seconder for Deirdre’s proposal, and Colin Rodden declared himself prepared to second it. However, he then declined to vote in favour, saying he wanted more information. Joanne Eley interjected to say that it was not legitimate for a member to second a motion that he or she was not in favour of, but Peter Geary said it was a perfectly legitimate situation, which Joanne thought ‘crazy’. Deirdre said that there was obviously no support for the proposal and withdrew it. Jeremy said that the situation would be reviewed in the future as there may well be ways of resolving the issues without spending £15k.

    Use of The ‘Sidney Dix’ Community Support Fund to Support the Continued Opening of Public Toilets

    Full details of the rules for this fund may be found on the OTC web site but to summarise:

    The OTC Community Support Fund (previously known as the Sidney Dix Fund, after a local benefactor) exists to provide financial support for voluntary and community groups in the Parish. Grants will only be awarded for applications that promote or improve the economic, social, or environmental well-being of their area, and to organisations based within the Parish. Grants are normally only given for items of a capital nature which will have an ongoing benefit to residents of the town, although in exceptional circumstances other awards may be made.

    Deirdre Bethune put forward a proposal that under these exceptional circumstances it would be justified to use the fund to keep the toilets open for this year, providing a much-needed service for the town, which would avoid using funds from the Council Tax Precept. With many visitors to the town, including those to the museum for the forthcoming Amazing Grace celebrations, it was essential that public toilets were available. Those visitors will also be supporting businesses in the town. The high expense of keeping the toilets open seemed to be based on employing the services of a limited company with all the associated overheads, she said, and asked why it was not possible to employ an individual at a cheaper rate.
    The decision was made by the HR Committee, the workings of which are not divulged to other council members, she said. Paul Collins said whether the toilets were open or not was not a big factor with regards to the museum, because most visitors are in large parties who then go to a restaurant to use their facilities, plus the Amazing Grace celebrations will not be taking place for two years.
    He went on to say that because the Community Support fund is a ‘restricted fund’ the money therein cannot be transferred to other funds and cannot be used for purposes other than those stated. The philanthropist that set it up did so with the intention of providing modest grants to community groups. By no stretch of the imagination is OTC a community group and it is not legitimate to use the fund to meet OTC overhead costs, he said. He reminded councillors that on 28th April 2011 the councillor making the proposal reported to the annual town public meeting that the Sidney Dix Fund would shortly be renamed the OTC Community Fund and that its purpose would remain unchanged. It is a totally invalid proposal, he said. Deirdre replied saying she thought the community of Olney would like to be able to go to the toilet as part of their recreation, so it would be a justified use of the community fund.
    Joanne Eley interjected to say that the proposal was against the council’s Community Grant Policy to which Jeremy agreed. Desmond Eley then read a statement explaining how the current situation had arisen. To summarise, he said pre-Covid the council recognised that a number of issues need to be resolved regarding the Market Place and the state of the toilets was one of them. A working group identified that the cost of refurbishment would be between £30k and £60k, depending on the solution chosen. The Recs and Services committee was informed by some members of the public – complete strangers unknown to the council, he said – that residents didn’t like or use the toilets, would not like to see that amount of money spent on the toilets and felt there must be better uses for the money. It was then suggested by ‘a councillor’ that the toilets be closed, with the exception of the disabled toilets, and only used on market and event days. Deirdre was actioned to ask retailers around the Market Place if they would be prepared to let the public use their facilities, but Covid meant this could not be completed. A meeting of the recreation ground Joint User Adjourned Group and others resolved that the then closed Market Place and Rec toilets should be opened as soon as possible.
    This was reported back to the council which resolved to reopen them at a cost, established Adjourned by the clerk, of £38k per year. Because of the high cost, this would be reviewed at the September OTC meeting.
    An Internet Poll would be created to gauge public opinion. He finished by saying that in his opinion, the use of the Community Support Fund was inappropriate.
    Jeremy Rawlings said at no point had OTC talked about permanently closing the toilets. The temporary closure was due to Covid, and they were now open again with additional costs in the region of £700 per week. The decision to be made at the September meeting would be whether OTC would be prepared to continue with that funding. To use the Sidney Dix fund would be an abhorrence and absolutely disgraceful, he thought Peter Geary asked how much cash was currently in the fund (a figure of £35k was quoted) and what was the result of the poll which appeared briefly on the OTC and Olney Noticeboard Facebook pages? He suggested the final decision be delayed in order to give sufficient time to look at the conditions of the Community Support Fund, noting that after a year the fund would be exhausted and suggested that the agenda item should be adjourned.
    Malcolm Messenger said that the poll was not a true vote as some respondents lived in New Zealand, Norfolk, and Scotland. It should be a ‘paper vote’ to all households that pay the precept, he said. Jeremy said he agreed and wasn’t happy about the poll being posted. Deirdre asked where the figure of £18 per household came from. At this point, Joanne Eley interjected to say that the item under discussion was whether to use the Community Support Fund, not the finances and the proposal should have contained that information.
    Deirdre responded by saying that the figure of £18 had not be made available until the poll went up. The following conversation was indecipherable with many people talking over each other, and Jeremy called the meeting to order. Colin Rodden felt that the council needed to understand how many people use both lots of toilets. He had been looking at the Covid website, and it was not clear how much cleaning was actually required as there seemed to be more emphasis placed on individuals to look after themselves. Cost could be cut by reducing hours spent cleaning, he suggested. Peter Geary, returning to the online poll, said it should be taken as a steer of public opinion and was not a referendum. It should be used as input to the building of the budget and setting the precept for the next financial year once the public had been given a full breakdown, he said, and once again recommended adjourning the item.
    Paul Collins interjected saying he did not believe there was a need to adjourn since the point under discussion was quite specific and was an abuse of the fund. Graham Harrison said he had suggested at the last meeting that OTC place an advert in The Phonebox since Facebook was full of ‘Chinese whispers’ and not relevant. Deirdre pointed out that should already have been done as it was already an action from the minutes of last month’s meeting.
    Colin Rodden felt that all councillors should be involved in the wording of any survey since he wasn’t happy with the wording and ‘binary’ nature of the poll that had been posted and then removed. Andrea pointed out that the matter of the toilets had been devolved by full council to herself, Desmond and Jeremy, and she had consulted with them before the poll was posted. Jeremy said he was minded to adopt Peter’s suggestion to adjourn the item, but Joanne Eley asked how OTC could award themselves a grant and match fund it, as per the conditions of the fund. ‘The proposer’ was the immediate past financial Chair and should be fully aware of how these things work, she said. Graham Harrison suggested a vote and Jeremy agreed and asked for a seconder. Nobody offered to second the motion, so Jeremy said the proposal therefore fell. The following discussion is reported verbatim:

    Resignation:

    Deirdre: Can I just have a word please?
    Jeremy: Yes, and then we’ll move on.
    Deirdre: We will - well, I won’t because I am resigning. I have no confidence in this absolute shambles of a council. It has just been going downhill; we cannot keep staff. I’m sorry, I’m out of it – I resign.
    Jeremy: If you’d like to put that in writing, thank you Deirdre. Deirdre: I will put it in writing, but I am resigning, I have had enough. Unknown: Move on.
    Deirdre: I have been on that Council for 42 years…
    Graham: (Harrison): Yeah, that’s the problem.
    Deirdre: The last year has been HELL and the year before that was
    also HELL, and there are certain Councillors and certain (indecipherable – spoken over) that have made it that way. Malcolm: (Messenger): You cannot do this in public.
    Jeremy: That’s enough, thank you Deirdre. Thank you VERY much,
    that’s enough. Thank you. OK, moving on…
    Graham: Turn my microphone…

    OTC to Take Over Running of Youth Centre from MKC

    A letter had been received from the new Youth Centre Management Committee explaining that they were not asking OTC to take over the running of the Youth Centre but to provide a level of support and financial help in tackling the problem of rent and cost of repairs. More specifically, they were seeking help in negotiating an acceptable lease agreement with MKC which was currently demanding £12.5K per year rent, making the operation unviable based on current predicted hires. The building has become dilapidated through neglect by MKC over many years and now requires considerable investment, including what Peter Geary referred to as a six-figure sum to repair the roof.
    The committee are in a stand-off position with MK Council and cannot seem to be able to converse with someone who can make a genuine decision. Indeed one person seemed to be deliberately obstructive. Jeremy said that when he and Steve Clark were on the previous management committee, they had similar problems. A long discussion took place, which would normally be reported in detail, but which unfortunately will need to be abbreviated due to space restraints.
    Colin Rodden reported that he and Peter Geary had recently attended a meeting with the new management committee. He reminded councillors that some years ago OTC were in the process of taking over full responsibility for the Youth Centre under the Community Asset Transfer Scheme, but MKC had withdrawn from the transfer when the Neighbourhood Plan identified the site for potential health service use, since a condition of the transfer would be that the entire site retains its original usage. Many local groups are currently using the Youth Centre, and it could be a valuable community asset with the associated green space. Peter said that as Ward Councillor he would be negotiating with MKC to get a resolution which he hoped would result in MKC completing the major building works to enable the building to remain open. He will report back regularly to Olney Town Council.

    Update on Section 106 Monies Due to OTC

    As Chairman of the Development Committee (DC), Chris Tennant gave an update on the progress of applications for Section 106 (Planning Gain) grants available to Olney Town Council. Developers pay an agreed sum to MKC, and local councils and other community groups can apply for portions of that sum for projects related to services that they provide as developments progress to completion. The Olney Neighbourhood Plan lists projects that the DC would endeavour to seek funding for and make applications on behalf of other community groups.
    Desmond Eley said it was important that the DC started to deliver on the promises in the Neighbourhood Plan. Chris reminded Desmond that as a member of the DC, he (Desmond) had been actioned at the last meeting to test the process by providing a costed solution with a design of the Whirley Pits play area. Desmond said that, unfortunately, Covid had got in the way of the design process. Chris said he looked forward to receiving Desmond’s report at the next DC meeting. Joanne Eley asked how the promised public consultation with residents about the refreshment of the Neighbourhood Plan would take place. Chris said at a previous DC meeting, at which Joanne was present, the Communication and Engagement Strategy which contained that information was tabled and agreed. Joanne asked what that document looked like. Chris responded that it had been issued to her as a published document, but at the following meeting she had resigned from the Development Committee.

    The Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 7th September, at 7.00pm if online else 7.30pm if in the Council Chamber. If you’d like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

    Footnote:

    After this meeting Deputy Mayor Sally Pezaro also resigned from the council.

    Olney Council EGM report for 28th August 2020

    The Olney Town Council EGM held on Friday 28th August 2020 at 19:00 could not be watched or listened to.
    This issue has since been attributed to a poor internet connection. It is unclear if the issue has been rectified so that it will not occur again in the future.

  • September - Olney Town Council Meeting - On Line - September 7th 2020

    Public Access to Meetings:

    For the duration of the COVID-19 restrictions, meetings of Olney Town Council (OTC) will be held online as audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by surfing to the OTC web page, www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, clicking on the ‘Meetings’ tab and scrolling down to the announcement about the next meeting where you will find a link to the agenda and another to join the meeting listen-only.

    Public Participation:


    Jeremy Rawlings introduced this section, highlighting its maximum 15 minutes’ duration and noting that, if more entries were received than can be read in the time, the remainder would not be read out until the next meeting.
    Citing advice received, GDPR and other regulations, current practice is that contributors’ names are not read out. For the first time Mercury can remember, the sheer number of entries received did indeed mean that the time limit passed before all had been read. Most that were read out, around seven, were on the subject of the public toilets, all requesting they be kept open. Reasons included that closing them would make people shop elsewhere, the up-coming retirement homes being built near Sainsbury’s would increase the local elderly population and thus the need, it would have negative effects on people with certain medical needs, and that our values as a caring community would be undermined if they closed.

    Two entries dared to be different.:


    The first looked back, asking various administrative questions of the Council, including why Quarterly and Annual Financial Reports has not been published since 2018, particularly as the 2017/18 accounts appeared to have been qualified by auditors.The second looked forward, and a post-meeting enquiry revealed it to be from the happy-to-be-named Mike Pezaro. Noting an interest due to being from the husband of a recently resigned Councillor, but containing his own views, it discussed the possible implications of last month’s Council meeting and the working environment it depicted:
    “The recent resignation of numerous Councillors and the Public meetings in which rude and bullying behaviour was clearly prevalent, and a weak apology made in retrospect, has led to my perception of the Council as an unpleasant and toxic environment to work in. I'm sure my view is representative of many people in the town, given the vocal response on social media. With multiple positions on the Council now being available, I am concerned that many capable and caring candidates will not put themselves forward for fear of becoming either associated with or a victim of noxious behaviours. What is Olney Town Council doing to address the underlying issues within the Council, and to encourage the Public to become part of a revitalised, compassionate team?”

    Planning application:


    This item discussed a planning application for an extension to 64 High Street, and associated concern from those living in an adjacent property. Steve Clark, absent from this meeting, had visited the concerned residents and written a report which Councillors now considered. Peter Geary had also visited, noting this one of the most interesting applications he’d seen in quite a while. Chris Tennant noted that planning is an assessment of technical and subjective points, taken in the round to get a balance. Subjective elements here included poor quality design and potential overdevelopment, and technical ones loss of sunlight, daylight and privacy. He felt Olney Town Council, OTC, should express its concerns to Milton Keynes Council.

    Public Toilets:


    Desmond Eley
    introduced this item, having written a paper that included a proposal. First, he noted that OTC had agreed in July that everybody wanted to keep the toilets open, and that it was only the financial restriction that made it decide to review the situation in September.
    Basic facts had to be considered, he said. Any plan of action would have to stay contemporary with the latest and changing COVID-19 guidance, and unless the toilets were cleaned and disinfected after every use, they could never be guaranteed safe. He had taken a look at how other local authorities had dealt with the situation. His proposal reduced the number of cleans to one per day, and included the display of a notice on each facility stating that it cannot be maintained COVID-19 safe, and those who use it do so at their own risk.
    In summary, his proposal aims to maintain the provision of the facilities in line with contemporary COVID-19 restrictions and public demand, with operational decisions made by the Council office, and the cost being within the yearly budget – as cleaning once a day should be. He recommended his proposal to Council. This was discussed at length, Peter Geary proposing an amendment – that the Council also seek advice that the plan is in line with current COVID-19 guidance. This was accepted by majority, then the main vote unanimously. Jeremy Rawlings concluded this agenda item noting that, in spite the social media interest in this topic, there had never been a proposal to permanently close the toilets. The Council had never discussed that, he said.

    Opening the Olney Centre for bookings:

    Jeremy Rawlings introduced this topic. The Olney Centre had closed in March due to lockdown and, now that some of the regulations had been relaxed and certain events made permissible, the Council should consider whether to reopen the Centre. The costs of reopening were quite significant compared to the income it may generate, he said. Specifically, the estimated loss to open from the quarter October to December was around £6,000. Note that the following discussion is independent of the preschool and library, each run independently within the building. Various views were put forward. Joanne Eley suggested delaying reopening, as there was little interest from Centre users. Colin Rodden believed the Youth Centre was planning to reopen in October, and felt it would be a really positive message to the community if the Olney Centre reopened at the same time. Paul Collins suggested finding some way for the Centre to operate which didn’t require caretaker input, for example asking the hirers to do their own setup and takedown, and restricting hires to certain days. Desmond Eley suggested Councillors could lock and unlock the Centre, saving more money. Peter Geary felt the Centre should open ASAP else hiring groups may go elsewhere, their income lost for good. Others felt a short delay might be in order, given the upward trajectory of new COVID-19 infections in the UK. Councillors voted unanimously to reopen the Olney Centre on 10th October or as soon as practical, for the least cost possible. The terms and conditions of hire will be amended to reflect changes in the service offered.

    Dickens of a Christmas:

    This item was to discuss whether to stage Dickens of a Christmas this year, given COVID-19. Jeremy Rawlings felt there were two alternatives: Cancel the event completely or run a small event with just the outdoor markets, maybe called ‘Olney welcomes St. Nicholas’. Chris Tenant, fully supportive of holding Dickens in a perhaps-reduced format, suggested obtaining a traffic regulation order to close the High Street for a fixed number of hours, leaving a wide thoroughfare giving more public space to allow proper social distancing and segregation of stallholders and public. Jeremy Rawlings noted that, while this might be possible, the A509 was a primary trunk road, so the diversion must also be along primary trunk roads. The diversion would be significant, all the way between the Chicheley and Warrington roundabouts. Peter Geary felt Chris’s comments deserved investigation, though the event would still need to be scaled down for this year, for reasons including that it may have to be cancelled at short notice. After further discussion, Jeremy Rawlings proposed that a small event be held, combining the Thursday and Farmers’ Markets, but including neither entertainment nor craft fair. This was passed by majority, with the naming of the event yet to be decided.

    Council Newsletter:

    Jeremy Rawlings explained that the Council used to write a newsletter, delivered to all houses in Olney by Council staff and Councillors. However, the birth of the Phonebox and Mercury meant it faded and fell from publication. The desire to resurrect it was mainly due to recent negative publicity on social media. People were not aware of the good things which the Council does, he said. The Council voted unanimously in favour, so expect to see the first quarterly newsletter drop through your letterbox soon.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs:

    Desmond Eley noted that the repair of the allotment tracks was felt by one allotment holder to be ‘the best job in 30 years’. Jeremy Rawlings said that a valid request for an election had taken place for the three recent Council vacancies, so the Council would remain five down until May 2021 when all 15 places would be up for election. So, it’d be ten Councillors until next May. “At the moment we’re still quorate”, he noted, “and hopefully that will remain so”.
    The next meeting will be held on Monday 5th October, at 7.00pm if online else 7.30pm if in the Council Chamber. If you’d like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@ olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, stating whether you would like your name to be included with the communication to be read out.

    STOP PRESS: News in after the Meeting

    It is with great regret that Olney Town Council has taken the difficult decision to Cancel the Dickens of a Christmas event this year. Consideration was given to a downscaled event but after discussion with local traders and market traders, it was clear that it would not be right to stage an event to bring people into Olney from far and wide given the Covid –19 situation. We will reinstate this event as soon as it is safe to do so. There will be a Thursday Market every Thursday including Christmas Eve so you can get all the fresh festive produce for the big day. There will also be a December Farmers Market on Sunday 6th December.

  • September 2020

    Public access to Meetings

    For the duration of the COVID-19 restrictions, meetings of Olney Town Council (OTC) will be held online as audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by surfing to the OTC web page, www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, clicking on the ‘Meetings’ tab and scrolling down to the announcement about the next meeting where you will find a link to the agenda and another to join the meeting listen-only.

    Public Participation

    Jeremy Rawlings introduced this section, highlighting it’s maximum 15 minutes’ duration and noting that, if more entries were received than can be read in the time, the remainder would not be read out until the next meeting.
    Citing advice received, GDPR and other regulations, current practice is that contributors’ names are not read out. For the first time Mercury can remember, the sheer number of entries received did indeed mean that the time limit passed before all had been read. Most, around seven, were on the subject of the public toilets, all requesting they be kept open. Reasons included that closing them would make people shop elsewhere, the up-coming retirement homes being built near Sainsbury’s would increase the local elderly population and thus the need, it would have negative effects on people with certain medical needs, and that our values as a caring community would be undermined if they closed.

    Two entries dared to be different

    Quarterly and Annual Financial Reports:
    The first looked back, asking various administrative questions of the Council, including why quarterly and annual financial reports has not been published since 2018, particularly as the 2017/18 accounts appeared to have been qualified by auditors.

    Last Month's Meeting and the Working Environment it depicted
    The second looked forward, and a post-meeting enquiry revealed it to be from the happy-to-be-named Mike Pezaro. Noting an interest due to being from the husband of a recently resigned Councillor, but containing his own views, it discussed the possible implications of last month’s Council meeting and the working environment it depicted: “The recent resignation of numerous Councillors and the Public meetings in which rude and bullying behaviour was clearly prevalent, and a weak apology made in retrospect, has led to my perception of the Council as an unpleasant and toxic environment to work in. I'm sure my view is representative of many people in the town, given the vocal response on social media. With multiple positions on the Council now being available, I am concerned that many capable and caring candidates will not put themselves forward for fear of becoming either associated with or a victim of noxious behaviours. What is Olney Town Council doing to address the underlying issues within the Council, and to encourage the Public to become part of a revitalised, compassionate team?”

    Planning application

    This item discussed a planning application for an extension to 64 High Street, and associated concern from those living in an adjacent property. Steve Clark, absent from this meeting, had visited the concerned residents and written a report which Councillors now considered.
    Peter Geary had also visited, noting this as one of the most interesting applications he’d seen in quite a while.
    Chris Tennant noted that planning is an assessment of technical and subjective points, taken in the round to get a balance. Subjective elements here included poor quality design and potential over development, and technical ones, loss of sunlight, daylight and privacy. He felt Olney Town Council, OTC, should express its concerns to Milton Keynes Council.

    Public toilets

    Desmond Eley introduced this item, having written a paper that included a proposal. First, he noted that OTC had agreed in July that everybody wanted to keep the toilets open, and that it was only the financial restriction that made it decide to review the situation in September. Basic facts had to be considered, he said. Any plan of action would have to stay contemporary with the latest and changing COVID-19 guidance, and unless the toilets were cleaned and disinfected after every use, they could never be guaranteed safe.
    He had taken a look at how other local authorities had dealt with the situation. His proposal reduced the number of cleans to one per day, and included the display of a notice on each facility stating that it cannot be maintained COVID-19 safe, and those who use it do so at their own risk. In summary, his proposal aims to maintain the provision of the facilities in line with contemporary COVID-19 restrictions and public demand, with operational decisions made by the Council office, and the cost being within the yearly budget – as cleaning once a day should be. He recommended his proposal to Council. This was discussed at length, Peter Geary proposing an amendment – that the Council also seek advice that the plan is in line with current COVID-19 guidance. This was accepted by majority, then the main vote unanimously. Jeremy Rawlings concluded this agenda item noting that, in spite of the social media interest in this topic, there had never been a proposal to permanently close the toilets. The Council had never discussed that, he said.

    Opening the Olney Centre for bookings

    Jeremy Rawlings introduced this topic. The Olney Centre had closed in March due to lockdown and, now that some of the regulations had been relaxed and certain events made permissible, the Council should consider whether to reopen the Centre. The costs of reopening were quite significant compared to the income it may generate, he said. Specifically, the estimated loss to open from the quarter October to December was around £6,000.
    Note that the following discussion is independent of the preschool and library, each run independently within the building. Various views were put forward.
    Joanne Eley suggested delaying reopening, as there was little interest from Centre users.
    Colin Rodden believed the Youth Centre was planning to reopen in October, and felt it would be a really positive message to the community if the Olney Centre reopened at the same time.
    Paul Collins suggested finding some way for the Centre to operate which didn’t require caretaker input, for example asking the hirers to do their own setup and take-down, and restricting hires to certain days.
    Desmond Eley suggested Councillors could lock and unlock the Centre, saving more money.
    Peter Geary felt the Centre should open ASAP else hiring groups may go elsewhere, their income lost for good. Others felt a short delay might be in order, given the upward trajectory of new COVID-19 infections in the UK. Councillors voted unanimously to reopen the Olney Centre on 10th October or as soon as practical, for the least cost possible. The terms and conditions of hire will be amended to reflect changes in the service offered.

    Dickens of a Christmas

    This item was to discuss whether to stage Dickens of a Christmas this year, given COVID-19. Jeremy Rawlings felt
    there were two alternatives: Cancel the event completely or run a small event with just the outdoor markets, maybe called ‘Olney welcomes St. Nicholas’.
    Chris Tenant, fully supportive of holding Dickens in a perhaps-reduced format, suggested obtaining a traffi c regulation order to close the High Street for a fixed number of hours, leaving a wide thoroughfare giving more public space to allow proper social distancing and segregation of stallholders and public.
    Jeremy Rawlings noted that, while this might be possible, the A509 was a primary trunk road, so the diversion must also be along primary trunk roads. The diversion would be significant, all the way between the Chicheley and Warrington roundabouts.
    Peter Geary felt Chris’s comments deserved investigation, though the event would still need to be scaled down for this year, for reasons including that it may have to be cancelled at short notice.
    After further discussion, Jeremy Rawlings proposed that a small event be held, combining the Thursday and Farmers’ Markets, but including neither entertainment nor craft fair. This was passed by majority, with the naming of the event yet to be decided.

    Council Newsletter

    Jeremy Rawlings explained that the Council used to write a newsletter, delivered to all houses in Olney by Council staff and Councillors. However, the birth of the Phonebox and Mercury meant it faded and fell from publication. The desire to resurrect it was mainly due to recent negative publicity on social media. People were not aware of the good things which the Council does, he said. The Council voted unanimously in favour, so expect to see the first quarterly newsletter drop through your letterbox soon.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Desmond Eley noted that the repair of the allotment tracks was felt by one allotment holder to be ‘the best job in 30 years’.
    Jeremy Rawlings said that a valid request for an election had taken place for the three recent Council vacancies, so the Council would remain five down until May 2021 when all 15 places would be up for election. So, it’d be ten Councillors until next May. “At the moment we’re still quorate”, he noted, “and hopefully that will remain so”. The next meeting will be held on Monday 5th October, at 7.00pm if online else 7.30pm if in the Council Chamber. If you’d like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, stating whether you would like your name to be included with the communication to be read out.

    Late News: Dickens Cancelled

    It is with great regret that Olney Town Council has taken the diffi cult decision to cancel the Dickens of a Christmas event this year. Consideration was given to a downscaled event but after discussion with local traders and market traders, it was clear that it would not be right to stage an event to bring people into Olney from far and wide given the Covid –19 situation. We will reinstate this event as soon as it is safe to do so. There will be a Thursday Market every Thursday including Christmas Eve so you can get all the fresh festive produce for the big day. There will also be a December Farmers Market on Sunday 6th December.

  • October 2020

    Public Access to Meetings

    For the duration of the COVID crisis meetings of Olney Town Council will be held as online audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings and view the presentations by clicking on a link on the OTC web page www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk Click on the ‘Meetings’ tab and scroll down to the announcement about the next meeting where you will find a link to the agenda and another to join the meeting. Town Clerk Andrea Vincent noted that there were 15 members of the public viewing the online meeting.

    Public Participation:


    In the absence of the opportunity to speak at public meetings the public may submit written items to the clerk to be read out. Mercury would normally name those who speak at an open meeting, unless they specifically ask not to be identified.
    Under the new regime the clerk redacts the names from any correspondence. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings introduced this section, saying that it needs to be done verbally due to the limitations of the currently used technology. He started by reading submissions to the September meeting that were not read out due to the maximum 15 minutes’ duration of this section.

    Speeding Traffic along Driftway
    The first was regarding the speed of traffic along Driftway, reminding the council that the last time the Speed Indicating Device (SID) was used to measure traffic flow and speeds it was evident that the majority of vehicles were exceeding the 30 mph limit. Since then the new Sainsbury’s store had opened and the footpath completed along the remainder of Driftway. This footpath is well used by shoppers and parents taking their children to the Middle School. There would be more compliance with the speed limit if drivers were more aware of the speed limit, the correspondent thought, and suggested that road markings, width restriction markings, or repeater signage fitted to the lampposts could be employed. Jeremy Rawlings said that his understanding was that none of the suggestions were lawful in a 30 mph zone, but the matter would be passed to the Recs and Services Committee.

    Closure of the Public Toilets
    The second letter was regarding the much discussed but no longer planned closure of the public toilets on the Market Place. The writer noted that the suggestion by an ex-councillor to use the Community Fund to finance the continued operation of the facilities was not approved. (For information: The OTC Community Support Fund, previously known as the Sidney Dix Fund after a local benefactor, exists to provide financial support for voluntary and community groups in the Parish. If granted, groups are expected to match the grant from their own funds). The correspondent noted that the council had apparently changed the rules last year to grant the museum £15k split over three years. They also understood that the current contractor completes the required cleaning in less than the allotted time and suggested that the council look to cut the allocated time (and therefore presumably the cost) and also explain how much it cost to clean the toilets pre-Covid so that the actual additional Council Tax sum could be calculated. Jeremy Rawlings replied that pretty much all of these issues had been addressed in a previous meeting. OTC Chair of Finance and Chairman of the Museum Trustees Paul Collins interjected to say that the letter was factually incorrect in saying that £15k had been allocated to the museum as that was not the case. The grant was to support other community groups in putting forward their own small projects for the Amazing Grace 250 celebration, he said. Mercury assumes that it would be down to those groups to provide their own matched funding, although that was not stated.

    In Support of the Public Toilets
    The third letter was also in support of the public toilets and the correspondent said they were writing on behalf of the many users who did not have access to computers and emails or could not write letters. Again, Jeremy Rawlings emphasised that the toilets would remain open and the points raised had been addressed. The final letter was from members of FOLIO (Friends Of the Library In Olney) concerning the continued closure of the library. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) have stated that there is no date for opening up the four libraries that remain closed. The MKC Library Volunteer Coordinator has pointed out that those that have opened have done so with reduced opening hours and facilities. FOLIO asked for support from OTC to enable the library to be opened in the next phase. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that the Covid situation had changed significantly since that letter had been written and he did not see the library opening imminently. MKC had been very quick to close things down but not ‘overly quick’ in opening them up again, he said.

    Remembrance Day Parade

    A letter had been received from Chris Roberts - The Royal British Legion (RBL) Olney Branch and North Bucks Group chairman asking what plans, if any, OTC have for this year’s remembrance parade on 8th November. Jeremy Rawlings said he could not see how it would be possible to hold a parade under the current Covid rules. Town Clerk Andrea Vincent put forward a proposal to close the Market Place for a much reduced event that could possibly be viewed by the public via a live video feed. Jeremy said attendance would have to be limited to six people and it would be impossible to prevent the public from attending. Peter Geary said his understanding that [nationally] parades would not happen, but events would be organised. The RBL should have guidelines to follow and all OTC can do is liaise with them, recognising that the situation could change before the event. Steve Clark agreed that the Market Place should be made available to the RBL and the council should try to get clarification as to what the max of six applies to, since that could easily be exceeded with sound/video engineers, a Church minister, the mayor and reps from the RBL. Graham Harrison pointed out that there would be an OTC meeting the week before the event where a fi nal decision could be made, which was agreed. Jeremy Rawlings finished by saying that it was sad times when the council had to consider cancelling such an important event.

    IT support and hardware tenders


    Two quotes had been obtained, one for £2900 and the other for £4100, and a third from a company that is used by several other local authorities was awaited. Joanne Eley asked if there was a cut-off date for the tenders and thought if so, the council should not wait for the last one if the date had been missed. Andrea Vincent replied that there was but many companies had been reluctant to quote as they considered OTC’s requirements to be rather ‘niche’ so she was attempting to be flexible. The current contractor was unable to provide the necessary back-up support and had declined to tender, she said. It was agreed to defer a decision to the Finance Committee.

    Odds and Sods

    It was noted that some councillors had not submitted a current Declaration of Interests to the clerk and were reminded to do so. Paul Collins noted that the Statement of Expenditure referred to August and not the current month, so it was agreed to roll it over to next month’s meeting.

    Town Clerk’s report


    The next Finance Committee meeting will look to considerably re-jig the budget in the light of the lack of income due to Covid.
    The Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) is currently with the external auditor and there has been no feedback so far, so it is assumed that ‘no news is good news’.

    New Part Time Cleaner
    As of the 28th September the council have engaged a self-employed part time cleaner for the external public toilets. The toilets are thoroughly cleaned each day on closure, a service that previous contractor was unable to provide.

    The Olney Centre
    The Olney Centre is now open for bookings so long as they conform to the current Covid regulations. Several weddings have been booked but Andrea believed that OTC need to ‘smarten up their’ act to make it more attractive for weddings, as they are currently the only income stream for the Centre. She is working on a proposal which will be presented at the next meeting.

    Thursday Market
    The Thursday Market is gradually increasing in size as stall holders return. Some of the traders have asked that there be a market on Sunday 13th December. OTC has instigated a poll of traders but at present there has not been much interest. There will, however, be a a Christmas Eve Market.

    Market No Parking Signs
    There has been a complaint from the Thursday Market traders about cars parking overnight. Additional no parking signs are being provided on lampposts as the council’s insurers have said that the existing A-signs could cause damage to cars. Thanks have been received from a Farmers Market trader for the efficient work of the OTC office.

    Ground Staff Thanks
    The ground staff have been thanked for their professional work in landscaping.

    Freedom of Information Request
    There is currently a Freedom of Information request which is being progressed with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

    Olney Development Group


    This is the committee responsible for progressing and updating the Neighbourhood Plan (NP). Chris Tennant reported on the recent meeting of this committee saying that there are two significant government consultations as to how housing methodologies are calculated and also a white paper regarding planning for the future. Progress on the updating of the NP had been discussed, he said, and Section 106 funds (planning gain) from various developments are gradually becoming available. Refurbishment of Children’s play areas is being discussed with the Recs and Services Committee and the specification of the proposed community hall on the site of the Yardley Road development is being discussed with the developers.

    Recs and Services Committee


    Desmond Eley reported that there would shortly be a meeting of the committee. He said that while addressing the issue of council overspend it had been noted that council charges for market stalls, cemetery charges etc had not been increased for a number of years and had now fallen well below those of neighbouring councils. The full council had reviewed the charges over a year ago and decided to introduce increases in stages, rather than all at once, starting in April this year, and in the main charges were still below those of other councils.
    There had recently been discussions on social media about increases to market stall charges, but they were relatively small and necessary. Negotiations regarding the lease of the ex-football club had stalled, he said because the solicitor at Garrard and Allen who was dealing with it had left the company and the one that had taken over had displayed a lack of knowledge on the draft lease and the current status. He said there were serious concerns about the performance of the council’s solicitors.
    Olney Town Colts FC have asked for a reduction of their pitch rental due to the curtailment of their season due to Covid and to be able to pay the rental in stages.
    They have also requested permission to install floodlights on their pitch on the Charity Field. Jeremy Rawlings thought that the floodlights would require planning permission from MKC and Chris Tennant agreed. Desmond said his main concern was that the lights would be pointing towards Timpsons Row, which would be an issue. Detail plans of the lighting patterns had been provided. Peter Geary said as landlords OTC would need to initially grant permission prior to formal planning permission being sought. It was agreed to discuss at the next Recs and Services Committee and then bring back to full council.
    There have been requests from the public for additional dog bins, which are being progressed but there is an installation charge of £200 - £250 for each, plus the ongoing emptying charge.
    Steve Clark pointed out that some play equipment on the Dagnell Road play area had been removed by MKC a couple of years ago and had not been replaced. MKC had not been forthcoming on his request for an update, he said.

    Next Meeting
    The next meeting will be held online on Monday 2nd November, at 7.00pm. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

    Note:


    If you would like to be identified as the originator of any correspondence to that meeting in the Mercury report please contact the Phonebox at editor@phoneboxmagazine.com.

  • November 2020 - Reported in December 2020 Issue of Phonebox Magazine

    Public access to meetings

    For the duration of the COVID-19 restrictions, meetings of Olney Town Council (OTC) will be held online as audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by surfing to the OTC web page, www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, clicking on the ‘Meetings’ tab and scrolling down to the announcement about the next meeting, where there’ll be one link to the agenda and another to join the meeting listen-only.

    Public participation

    The first communication was from an allotment holder.
    As one of the large majority of holders who is not a member of the Allotment Association, they much enjoy tending their allotment. The annual charges include the use of water, but the recently provisioned toilet facilities, provided mainly by lottery funding for the use of allotment holders, are designated for the use of Allotment Association members only. The correspondent felt that the toilets should be for the use of all allotment holders, and would support a modest addition to the charges towards their maintenance and repair. The second was from an Olney resident with a few suggestions. First, they felt Olney Town Councillors should retire at pension retirement age. Second, they suggested making East and West Streets one way, with limited parking and large roundabouts at their junctions. Third, they suggested a speed trap for the noisy cars heading North up the High Street to Santa Pod on Sunday mornings. Jeremy Rawlings said that pension retirement age was not a ‘thing’ anymore – people no longer have to retire at any age. He also noted that traffic concerns on East and West Streets had been discussed many times before and would be again. Indeed, there had been plans to discuss the topic pre lockdown.

    Community Land Trust

    Jeremy explained that, since earlier in the year, the Council has been investigating whether to establish a Community Land Trust for Olney, the aim being to promote the building of social housing starter homes for the young adults of Olney. The idea came about because some small packets of land in the town, with room for only one to three houses, had been identified as potential sites for building. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) said these land packets belong to Olney Town Council (OTC), which came as news to the latter. Councillors discussed it, then met with a specialist firm of solicitors.
    Andrea explained that, since OTC was not generally regarded as the type of Council that could build, a Community Land Trust would provide a vehicle with which to build dwellings. Alternatives could include a Housing Association, but then OTC would have no control over how the housing was let or sold. The Community Land Trust would be a trust of the people of Olney, working to create housing with a rationale as to the type of housing wanted, in perpetuity if desired. But, while OTC could have representatives on the Trust, the Council itself could not be that Trust – it would be an arms-length vehicle. The Council would then decide what land to lease or donate to the Trust, and the Trust would be able to raise monies itself. Also, small grants were available from the National Community Land Trust to help move towards creating Community Land Trusts.
    Jeremy concluded that more research was required before moving forward. Desmond Eley noted that the work was purely in the investigative phase at present. A report would then be written and presented to OTC for consideration. Colin Rodden felt this would be great for young people. Peter Geary said that, planning-wise, each site would be judged as usual and on its own merits. He also noted that, if there are pockets of land in the town which don’t have houses on them, it was probably for a reason.

    Statement of Expenditure

    This item was to review October’s Statement of Expenditure. Andrea noted that monthly expenditure was
    in the low £30,000s, while income was much less due to COVID – so OTC was eating into its reserves. Jeremy noted that the Public Toilet cleaning, opening and closing charge was just over £400 per month. The Council plans to keep both the Market Place and Recreation Ground toilets open, even though lockdown may reduce the number of people using them.
    Desmond Eley explained that OTC had taken another delivery of diesel this month, and was currently using around 30% of the volume it had before. Chris Tenant noted that the Olney Centre had been deep cleaned and bio-misted, requesting that the Council be mindful this may be required again. Andrea had been thinking of booking this quarterly, but with only one user of the Olney Centre since it being open, and it shortly closing again, the required timing may be rather different. Desmond noted he thought the virus only lasted 72 hours, in which case it was simply necessary to wait that long after a booking and there’d be no risk. Jeremy Rawlings and Paul Collins agreed.

    Town Clerk’s report

    Andrea presented this month’s report. She explained OTC had been surprised to receive a non-domestic rates bill for the Market Place car park, for which it didn’t know it was liable. It had therefore engaged a non-domestic rates specialist to look at the Council’s rates liabilities. Steve Clark noted he understood that, provided OTC used the Market Place as a market site first and did not charge for parking, rates did not apply. Andrea explained that, in fact, MKC had apparently been paying the non-domestic rates for the Market Place for the last 20 years in error.
    Joanne Eley asked whether, if OTC did pay rates on the Market Place, could it then charge for parking or collect fines? Andrea explained that the fines go to Napier Parking, the Council’s contractors, also noting she planned to speak with Napier as it wasn’t clear they were currently doing a good job. Peter explained that OTC had been advised some years ago that, if it made money from parking on the Market Place, it would have to pay rates there, this being why Napier were engaged on the current basis. Once it was confirmed that the new situation on rates was correct, it would be appropriate to renegotiate with Napier. Peter felt that in fact MKC may have been paying these rates under discretionary powers where, if an organisation gets relief for a proportion of business rates, MKC would pay the remainder. MKC was planning for next year, budgeting based on a worst case scenario, and looking for ways to make savings, he said. OTC did indeed need to engage specialist advice on this. Joenne Eley concluded this topic, noting that it seemed odd for OTC to pay Napier to issue tickets, with Napier also keeping the resulting fines.

    Olney Centre

    OTC is seeking quotes to address an issue where an Olney Centre outbuilding’s roof overhangs the property boundary, with water draining into the neighbour’s garage. The unfortunate coincidence of the Centre recently reopening for bookings, only to be followed closely by the second lockdown, was noted.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    The Christmas lighting has been safety-checked, with the aim of hanging them on all the usual A509 lampposts, including the new ones. The tractor shed roof has been cleared of many years of debris and is no longer leaking. Allotment invoices have been sent, with payment requested via BACS transfer, though many people were still paying via cheque. Graham noted that, when paying for his wife’s allotment, the bank’s security had questioned the account’s name – a possible problem. This will be investigated.

    Market Place

    The Markets have been working well, with the numbers gradually being increased while complying with COVID regulations. However, while the Council’s wish is to keep as many traders on the Market Place as possible, lockdown has meant it may need to contact the non-essential stallholders, depending on how Government regulations pan out. QR codes for the Market Place are now displayed on lampposts, with measures taken to encourage social distancing and the wearing of masks. The Council will help promote the Market and stalls on a rota basis.
    Remembrance Sunday will have only a small ceremony on the Market Place, live streamed so the Public can commemorate from home. There’ll be no parade, with the expectation that only participants in the ceremony will be present, socially distanced. Peter Geary later noted that the Council was not trying to restrict people from viewing in person, it was more a matter of the lockdown restrictions - the reasons for which people could travel and leave home.
    The Thursday Market traders will have a special market on Sunday 13th December, closing at 3pm.

    Odds 'n' Ends

    The Council has received numerous compliments on its Community News publication, for example “The newsletter looks good and definitely puts OTC on a professional footing.” Andrea and Jeremy thanked Councillors for helping deliver it.
    The Council’s Risk Management Policy and Plan has been compiled, reviewed by the Finance Committee, recommended to full Council, then adopted.

    Public participation

    If you would like to be identified as the originator of any correspondence to that meeting in the Mercury report please contact the Phonebox at editor@phoneboxmagazine.com.

  • December Council Meeting - Reported in January 2021 Phonebox Magazine

    COVID Crisis Meetings

    For the duration of the COVID crisis meetings of Olney Town Council will be held as online audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings and view the presentations by clicking on a link on the OTC web page www. olneytowncouncil.gov.uk Click on the ‘Meetings’ tab and scroll down to the announcement about the next meeting where you will find a link to the agenda and another to join the meeting. A recording will also be available for a few days following the meeting.

    Public participation

    In the absence of the opportunity to speak at public meetings the public may submit written items to the
    clerk to be read out. Mercury would normally name those who speak at an open meeting unless they specifically ask not to be identified. Under the new regime the clerk redacts the names from any correspondence and official minutes, although the authors can request that their names are published in the Mercury report. Only one such request has been received this month, so Mercury assumes that all other correspondents prefer to remain anonymous. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings said there were six emails to be read.
    The first email was missed from last month’s meeting for which Jeremy apologised. The email was requesting that OTC produce a Town Plan which would have a wider scope than the existing Neighbourhood Plan. Jeremy explained that this would be discussed as an agenda item later in the meeting.
    The next email was regarding rubbish bags being put out on the High Street as early as Thursday evening. The correspondent thought this unhygienic and liable to encourage vermin and stated that bags should be put out no earlier than 5pm on Sunday evening. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that the issue had been reported to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) and Clerk Andrea Vincent said that any resident with similar concerns could report them via the MKC portal. The email also expressed concern about vehicles speeding on the High Street and said that traffic calming would be most welcome.
    The third email was concerning the use of the OTC land east of the allotments where, according to the correspondent, OTC is considering granting permission for a football training pitch. The Allotment Association are in the process of submitting a proposal for an orchard to the west of the field and hope that the rest of the field can be left as an eco-friendly wildflower meadow. This would be better for the environment and would help reduce Olney’s carbon footprint as it would not require mechanised mowing, bearing in mind the council’s declared Climate Emergency. Considerable justification for this proposal was listed and the correspondent concluded by saying that in time the area could become an attractive and tranquil area. Later in the meeting Desmond Eley said that there had been no council resolution to change the use of the field from wild meadow whilst there was no other demand for its use but as the town develops there is a greater demand for sports pitches. Any such change would be discussed by the Development Group he said. Creating wild meadow is expensive in itself because it needs to be cut by heavy machinery and the mowings removed twice a year to stop them rotting down and fertilizing the land. This, plus loss of rental from the sports pitch would be a great expense to the council. The majority of OTC owned land, consisting of Barnfield and The Goosey, is already wild meadow he said. The cutting is necessary because the land has been found to be very high in nutrients, having been over fertilised. It will take at least five years of cutting and mowing to make it suitable as wild meadow. Peter Geary said in his expert opinion it would be decades before the land could become wild meadow as the nutrient level is well above that of even agricultural land. Such nutrients do not leach away and can only be removed by continual growing and cutting, he said, and all that would grow in the meantime are pernicious weeds such as thistles and nettles. The fourth email appeared to be from the Allotment Association stating that the lock on the eco toilets had been damaged and hoped that this “wasn’t the work of the person who quoted the allotment toilets
    at the previous meeting” in an email regarding access to the toilets by allotment holders that are not members of the association. The toilets had been erected by a lottery grant and fundraising by the association, not OTC, the correspondent said and were maintained solely by the association. To change the management to OTC control would set a precedent to other organisations in the town. Jeremy said that there were no plans to do this as the facility was for allotment ‘users’ only although there seemed some confusion as the original debate had been around access to the toilets by non-members of the association.
    The fifth email related to the discussion at last month’s
    meeting re plots of land that have recently been identified as belonging
    to OTC and the possibility of creating
    a Community Land Trust for local housing.
    The correspondent requested confirmation that
    the land would be gifted without charge or any element
    of retained council ownership and asked why OTC would require council representation on the trust when such a trust’s activities are legally defined. Jeremy explained that this would be discussed later in the meeting.
    The last email, also relating to the plots of land asked that OTC draw up a map of all of them and displayed in the Olney Centre so that residents could use it as a reference source, since there is a great deal of interest in the matter. David Pibworth has contacted The Phonebox and asked to be identified as the originator of this email.

    Planning matters

    An application has been made for an extension to a house in Stonepit Close and a neighbour has raised an objection. The extension will extend up to the boundary of a shared driveway which Steve Clark agreed with the objector’s opinion that it might make access to other properties difficult for larger vehicles and will reduce the amount of car parking space available from four to two, due to relocation of the parking space to the front of the property. Steve also agreed with the objector that the extension would also have an impact on the nature of the cul-de-sac. Chris Tennant expressed concern that this might be a breach of MKC’s off-street parking standards and could lead to additional roadway parking. Peter Geary agreed and recommended that the MKC Planning officer was made aware of this concern and it was agreed to write to MKC accordingly. Chris Tennant gave an update on five detailed planning applications concerning the mixed commercial development on Wellingborough Road, being marketed as Olney Park by Angle Properties. The plans include a 66-bed care home, a hotel, car showroom, office space, industrial units and a nursery. The applications dealt with infrastructure and access, drainage, phasing, and relocation of elements from outline planning permission. Colin Rodden
    reminded councillors that the council had had previous dealing with Angle Properties on the ‘Sainsbury’s’ site which had resulted in the company gaining planning permission
    for residential development on the site in contravention of the Neighbourhood plan (NP). Could they do the same thing on this site, he asked? Chris replied that the plans being considered were compliant
    with the NP and there was nothing to indicate otherwise. Peter Geary said that now the principle of development on the site had been determined there is nothing to stop Angle Properties coming back at
    a later date with a different application. A much-guarded discussion followed and there seemed to be deep suspicion that this might happen so Chris Tennant
    suggested that the applicant be asked the question.
    The next application was regarding the 250-home development on Yardley Road by Taylor Wimpey and
    Bovis Homes. The applicants had originally requested permission for a temporary off-site construction compound to the north of the site, but OTC had objected because it was outside of the agreed settlement boundary of the town in a farmer’s field. This had been withdrawn and replaced by a request for split compounds within the planning application boundary (but closer to existing homes, noted Mercury). The original construction access was to be along the farmer’s track to the rear of properties in Woodpits Lane, which OTC had objected to, and that has now been amended to move further away from those properties.

    Parking outside Olney Infant Academy

    As a school governor, Jeremy Rawlings introduced this item to note complaints from residents of Spinney Hill Road about inconsiderate parking by some parents dropping off and collecting children from school. He said he had been contacted by two residents, one of them an on-call emergency worker, who had suffered verbal abuse when challenging motorists who had parked across their driveway. Jeremy said the school had regularly sent out letters to parents asking them not to block driveways, which usually worked for a while but then the problem reoccurred. He said he had asked the PCSOs to visit the area and encouraged residents to report any instances of abuse to the police. Steve Clark, as an ex-governor, said in the past parents had been asked to use the old car park on the other side of Spinney Hill Road. It would probably worth the school including a map to show the location of the old car park in any letters, he thought.
    Andrea Vincent reported that emergency repairs are required to two walls at the Olney Centre, which have become very dilapidated, partly because previous repairs had not been performed correctly. It appears that cement had been used, so quotes were being obtained for a ‘dry stone wall’ repair. There is considerable variation in the quotes and a rather confused conversation followed so Desmond Eley suggested that the quotes be documented in a clear and concise way and revisited at the January meeting, which was agreed.
    The Olney Centre heating is in need of some urgent maintenance. A leak occurred under the floor of the pre-school and when it was fixed the heating for much of the rest of the building was found to be ‘unserviceable’. The work will require the re-routing of some of pipework to now be exposed above the floor and there was concern that they would need some sort of protection for safety reasons. Andrea said that they would be lagged rather than boxed in because the number of bends meant that there would need to be several access points. Colin Rodden was concerned that this would look rather ‘industrial’ bearing in mind that the centre is used for weddings and other events. Again, there is a huge variation in the quotations. The cheapest was considerably cheaper than the rest but was from a reputable company with several testimonials. Paul Collins suspected that heating companies in general were busy at present and inflated quotes might have been provided. It was agreed to accept the cheapest quote subject to detailed investigation.

    Covid Marshall Plan

    Andrea Vincent presented a plan to use funding from central government, via MKC, to deploy COVID Marshals in the town whose role would be to chiefly serve as a friendly and reassuring face in public places, providing advice and guidance to the public. Some would be deployed at weekend evenings when footfall to hospitality venues is at its busiest. They will be tasked with visiting pubs and other hospitality establishments to check that COVID-19 Secure measures are in place. Actions would include checking whether pubs have door staff to manage entry and exit, checking whether social distancing measures were in place in businesses, ensuring that track and trace customer information collection was taking place, and noting any large gatherings. The role would strictly one of observation and advice, and marshals would be not authorised to intervene in issues of enforcement. The intention was to use existing OTC groundsmen plus public volunteers, including OTC councillors. Joanne Eley observed that the marshals would be powerless, and many police forces were baffled by the role. It could give rise to confrontational situations and no amount of guidance would modify the behaviour of those who did not want to comply. Is Olney in need of this, she asked? Having consulted local retailers, they felt the money would be better spent proving masks and hand sanitisers she said. A long discussion took place and no member expressed support for the scheme, although Colin Rodden thanked Andrea and Deputy Clerk Sarah Kennedy for their work in producing plan. Paul Collins observed that the Olney Covid Support Group had 300 volunteers so surely they could provide 10 for this, if required? He would not want to use the already overstretched council ground staff as marshals, he said. Eventually it was decided that OTC would invite volunteers from other organisations fulfil the role but would not be providing resource itself. The funding would be used to obtain items such as high viz vests, masks and hand sanitiser which would be passed to the volunteers to use and distribute.

    OTC Strategic Plan

    Jeremy Rawlings introduced the draft plan, saying that it is a plan to provide a medium to long term vison of where
    the council want to be in three to six years’ time and how they want to engage with the public. Desmond Eley thought it ‘a good starter for ten’ and suggested that councillors take time to read and review it and then bring back to a future meeting. Mercury observed that this document was more of a plan for the council, rather than a plan for the town which had been requested in the email from the resident discussed in Public Participation.

    Town Clerk’s report

    Andrea presented the report, noting that the ground staff are fully employed at present. Colin Rodden enquired if
    there is any intention to employ more staff as he was concerned that they might be overloaded. As chair of Recs and Services Desmond Eley said he regularly spoke to the staff who were happy with the workload and any additional seasonal work would be covered by contractors.
    The recreation ground toilets have been vandalised for the third time in as many weeks at apparently the same time of day each time. Repairs are costing around £200 each time and it is unlikely that the council’s insurers will continue to cover the repair costs without a hike in premiums so Andrea suggested that the toilets should be closed at lunch time. A discussion took place as to how the vandalism could be prevented, including use of CCTV, but eventually it was agreed that they should be closed at lunchtime.

    Freedom of Information Act 2000 request

    Joanne Eley thanked the staff for being ‘fantastic’ in supporting the town and councillors during the pandemic. In her HR report she said that social media and ‘local press’ comment regarding lack of response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was a misrepresentation of the situation. The council office has replied and complied, she said and the ICO have been consulted and the matter is now closed. The complainant had been advised and had the right to appeal but did not appear to have done so, she said. Mercury has subsequently found what appears to be the Decision Notice on the ICO website under ref No IC-52639-C8L9 which indicates otherwise. The notice sets out in considerable detail the correspondence between all parties and concludes:

    Freedom of Information Act 2000 request Evidence

    Therefore, from the evidence presented to the Commissioner in this case, she does not consider that the Council provided a FOIA-compliant response to the request within 20 working days, the Council has thus breached section 10 of the FOIA.

    The next meeting will be held online on Monday 4th January, at 7.00pm.


    If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk: townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk If you would like to be identified as the originator of any correspondence to that meeting in the Mercury report please contact The Phonebox at Editor@ phoneboxmagazine.com.


Mercury's reports for 2019

  • January 2019

    Public Participation:


    Parking in Oakdown Crescent:
    Susan Warren
    was the first to speak on the ongoing subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She said she was disappointed and disgusted that having emailed all the recently elected members of Olney Town Council (OTC) regarding a letter sent to all residents of Weston Road telling them that they would lose their tenancy if they parked in Oakdown Crescent, not one had had the courtesy to reply or comment. They were supposed to ‘be there’ for the residents according to the OTC web site, she said.
    At this point, Graham Harrison interjected to say that he had certainly replied. A recent article in the MK Citizen reported on how the Fenny Stratford ward Councillors had obtained £22k to sort out a parking issue for their senior citizens, and Susan asked why OTC could not do the same. Although Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had published a draft proposal plan which includes provision for a reserved ambulance parking space it did not meet the needs of the residents as it was too far away from the majority of properties and should be located more centrally, she felt.
    Sue concluded by saying that it was now two years since she had applied for a residents’ parking permit scheme so she was now able to start the process again, which she would be doing the following day. This matter was discussed later as a formal agenda item.

    Olney Town Colts Football Club
    Next to speak was Ian Stokes, on behalf of Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC). Ian said the colts now comprised 26 teams, including an adult team and he had on two occasions stated his interest in acquiring certain assets from the now-defunct Olney Town Football Club (OTFC) and taking over the lease of the building. He said he had been in discussion with members of OTC, OTFC and was keen to work with BodyForce, current occupiers of the premises to reach a mutually agreeable solution. He explained that he wanted to retain the town’s 115-year footballing heritage and ensure that the football club, which was originally built by its members, remains a community asset primarily for the benefit of local non-profit making sports clubs.
    This matter was discussed later in the meeting under Confidential Items after the press and public had been excluded.

    Stacks Image 86927

    Market Place Surface

    Changes to Standing Orders

    Standing Orders:
    Standing orders are the written rules of a local council. They are used to confirm a council’s internal organisational, administrative and procurement procedures and procedural matters for meetings. They are not the same as the policies of a council, but they may refer to them.
    As reported last month, Standing Orders due to be agreed in May still haven’t been, with drawing up of ones on which Council could agree having been delegated to a working group – Paul Collins, Des Eley and Peter Geary.
    At last month’s meeting, it was agreed to defer the review to the January meeting, due to the complexity of the changes and the short notice councillors had to review them.
    During the section of the meeting to approve the minutes of the previous meeting, Des Eley asked for the recording of the previous meeting to be reviewed as he did not think the minutes accurately reflected what was said. He introduced the item this month saying that a working group had reviewed the existing Standing Orders and produced a revised set.
    Peter Geary said it would be necessary to review the document line by line as the majority of changes would not cause any problems, but some might. Des was clearly frustrated and said that the document had been widely circulated in advance and should not contain any surprises if councillors had read it. He said it had been produced using the model produced by the National Association of Local Councils, rather than basing it on the existing OTC Standing Orders to reduce the risk of ‘errors and inconsistencies’.
    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings expressed his opinion that the council were mainly interested in the differences between what previously existed and what was being proposed. The tone of the meeting was becoming considerably heated by this stage, and Tony Evans reminded members that one of the existing Standing Orders stated that only one person should speak at a time and members should abide by it! Peter Geary suggested that it should be put to the bottom of the agenda and discussed if time allowed, but Kevin Viney thought that a separate meeting should be held as it would take too long to debate, given the time constraints of regular OTC meetings. Joanne Eley pointed out that the item had been pulled from last month’s agenda and needed addressing.
    Eventually, a vote was held as to whether to defer to a future meeting with seven for and seven against. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings used his casting vote, and it was agreed to hold a separate meeting on January 14th.

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    Barclays Bank in Olney

    Traffic Regulation Orders

    MKC have completed the required 21 day consultation period for two Traffic Regulation Orders in the town. The first is ‘To introduce ‘no waiting at any time’ restrictions (double yellow lines) in front at the crossing point on Market Place, Olney (opposite the war memorial)’.
    This will have the effect of making it an enforceable offence to park in front of the drop-down kerb by McColl’s. Colin Rodden observed that there are a number of other broken yellow lines which need to be repainted. Deirdre Bethune noted that the hatching outside the old Nat West Bank is widely ignored and thought that the installation of bollards was the only Solution. Peter Geary said that this was being investigated.
    The second Traffic Regulation Order referred to the location of the ambulance space in Oakdown Crescent. Although it is not in the position that Susan Warren had requested MKC advised that it is the most central to service all properties in Oakdown Crescent, being less than 50 metres from any property and adjacent to a drop-down kerb. Peter Geary said it would be completed this financial year, assuming weather conditions permit.

    Planning Matters

    At the recent meeting of the Planning Committee concerns were raised about the advertising on the new Smart Gents Turkish Barbershop in the Market Place. As the shop is in a conservation area it was felt that a planning application should have been submitted to MKC. The matter was referred to the MKC Enforcement Officer, but no response had been received.

    Milton Keynes Eastern expansion

    Desmond Eley said that the MK Eastern expansion is ongoing and in the latest plan Olney and Woburn are identified as ‘Key Settlements’ for expansion, although all expansion will be via Neighbourhood Plans (NPs). There is no further expansion planned for Olney outside of the current NP as MK now has a Five Year Land Supply.
    Chris Tennant was certain that Plan MK, the new Local Plan for Milton Keynes, will be adopted so it essential that the existing Olney NP be reviewed in 18 months’ time as the National Planning Policy Framework published in 2018 will take precedence. Desmond Eley said that any modification to the NP must include growth and would need a further public referendum so funding would be required. Town Clerk Liam Costello replied that it depended on the nature of the modification.

    Connie’s Colander – The Human Story Theatre

    A request has been received from Michelle Herriman of MK Libraries asking for the council’s support in staging a short play entitled Connie’s Colander which explores the subject of dementia, in the Olney Centre in May or June 2019. The 50-minute play would be followed by a 20 minute post-show Q&A session with a dementia expert. More information can be found by searching ‘Connie’s Colander’ on YouTube. The council agreed by a majority to support the production.

    Olney Rugby 7s

    Olney Rugby Club has informed the council that they will be running the hugely popular 7s festival on Saturday 22nd June. The council agreed that the football pitch can be used for parking, like last year, and also the strip of land outside the clubhouse itself, subject to weather conditions.

    Silent Soldier benches

    Following considerable interest on The Olney Noticeboard Facebook group, the council have purchased two Silent Soldier benches, which will be placed adjacent to the war memorial. There were many offers of funding support from members of the public, so that a JustGiving page is to be created.

    Market Place surface

    Tony Evans reported that the surface of the Market Place is in a bad state and sooner or later OTC will need to ‘bite the bullet’ and repair it. This could be in the form of:
    ● Patching up
    ● Digging out the worst parts and resurfacing
    ● Resurfacing the entire Market Place

    Steve Clark agreed, noting that it was a trip hazard and, in wet weather, deep puddles were forming. He suggested the council obtain rough costings so that the work could be budgeted for in the future. Joanne Eley reminded members that the council was still in dispute with EON over the poor quality of the workmanship when the new electric posts were installed, and they should wait until that was resolved before rushing into any repairs.

    Stacks Image 86939

    Broken play equipment in Johnsons Field

    Odds and Sods

    The CCTV in the Market Place is now working again. If it proves to be stable then the council will consider moving to a centrally monitored system, rather than the on-request retrospective access to footage that is currently in place.

    The resurfacing of the footpath between the tennis courts and the council compound came in considerably over budget due to the inaccurate information shown on the marker posts installed by Anglian Water. Des Eley suggested that Anglian Water should be asked to make up the difference.
    The footpath between Olney and Weston Underwood is once again navigable since MKC cut back the bushes. However, it was noted that the footpath is getting progressively narrower as soil spills down the banks.

    Colin Rodden asked what was happening about the damaged play equipment on Johnsons Field, which is the responsibility of MKC. Peter Geary replied that MKC had suggested that Section 106 funding could be used, but that was not appropriate since it is supposed to be used for new locations.
    Kevin Viney noted that the repairs to Barclays Bank seemed to be taking a long time. Liam Costello said he had written to Barclays asking about their plans but had received no response. The contractors on site have been told that the bank will reopen.

    Malcolm Messenger said he had received a complaint about the configuration of the baby changing facilities in the Olney Centre toilets which could result in a baby being knocked off by an opening door.

    Next Meeting - Monday 4th February

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 4th February in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • February 2019

    Olney Council report for 4th February 2019

    Public Participation

    There were 11 members of the public present for the public participation section of the meeting this month, with six of them wishing to speak. Normally this section of the meeting is restricted to five participants, each being permitted to address the council for a maximum of three minutes, but Mayor Jeremy Rawlings agreed to make an exception this month.

    Stuart Dorrill
    First to speak was Stuart Dorrill, owner of Bodyforce who have used the Olney Town Football Club (OTFC) premises for the last nine years and are now looking to take on the full lease on a permanent basis since the demise of the Football Club. Stuart presented letters of support for the work he is doing from a number of organisations and individuals, including Cobbs Garden Surgery, Ousedale School, Dr Ian Fletcher (Principle Lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire School of Sport Science & Physical Activity), and Phil Pask (Consultant Physiotherapist England Rugby). Stuart said he had asked his members to send emails of support for his application to OTC but had not anticipated that around 150 would do so, which he said he found humbling to read and sent a powerful message of what is possible with commitment and vision. He finished by saying he was looking forward to working with other sports clubs and the wider community for many years to come.

    Danny Whitington
    Next to speak was Danny Whitington. Danny said that seven years ago he was recently divorced, leading an unhealthy party lifestyle and was very unfit. With his responsible and stressful job, he said his life could easily have imploded, but after meeting Stuart and starting to train with him within three months he’d had a drastic change in body and mind and changed his entire lifestyle and diet. Three years later he and his partner trained until she was 34 weeks pregnant and after an emergency C Section at 42 weeks was back training three months later, under Stuart’s careful guidance. The clubhouse was not just a training facility but a home to 650 members of the Bodyforce family, he said. Danny then handed over to his son Tom, aged 13. In an at times emotional speech Tom said that he enjoyed Caveman (a Bodyforce class) because it made him feel more prepared for a rugby match and more confident in sport. Without Caveman he wouldn’t have achieved his current athletic abilities, now being the fastest 100m sprinter at Ousedale and playing in the rugby A team. Caveman and Stuart mean a lot to him and his family, he said.

    Steve Price
    Next was Steve Price who explained that his son, Alden, had died suddenly in May 2017 from Young Sudden Cardiac Death. Subsequently, Stuart and the Bodyforce family had raised over £11k for the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) and organised a heart screening day in Olney where 211 young people had been screened for the condition. As a result, one of them had been referred to their GP, potentially saving their life.

    Peter Gage
    Next was Peter Gage who spoke on behalf of Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC) and their application to take over the lease of the clubhouse. He explained that he had been a keen supporter of the colts for many years and they had started with just three teams and now had 26. He said the colts would like to retain the history and legacy of football in Olney and lease at least part of the building. If this didn’t happen it would be akin to ‘air-brushing’ out the history of football in the town, he said. The likes of Denis Timpson and the final committee members, which he named individually, had devoted their entire lives to the club would be ‘air-brushed’ out, he believed. He concluded by going around the table, naming councillors and asking them if they would be prepared to meet those individuals and tell them of such a decision.

    Ian Stokes
    Finally, on this matter, Ian Stokes spoke on behalf of Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC). Ian said he was ‘wearing three hats’: First as Chairman of OTCFC, secondly as a life member of OTFC but thirdly, as someone who is passionate about local sport. Ian said he wanted to work with Stuart and Bodyforce to build and maintain a legacy (of football) and suggested the matter ought to be opened to form a wider debate. It was not right that the matter of the building lease was only discussed by OTC in the confidential items part of the agenda when public and press had been excluded, he said.

    Mike Totton
    Mike Totton spoke on behalf of the Allotment Association regarding the educational cabin on the Community Allotment Plot. Mike said that at the November OTC meeting the council had agreed to provide 50% of the funding for the cabin, which was assumed to include installation of electricity and water. However, the cost of installing electricity had turned out to be an extra £13,000, for which a £10,000 lottery grant was being sought. The association wish to push forward with the erection of the cabin as soon as possible so Mike asked if the council would sanction handing over the funds to build the base and cabin alone, which would amount to approximately £10,000. The association will then take responsibility for raising the funding for the rest of the work, he said.

    Stacks Image 86959

    Olney Town Football Club

    Closure of Barclay’s bank

    Barclays Bank have informed OTC and customers that the Olney Branch will not re-open following the ram-raid on the cash machine last year. Kevin Viney said that the letters had said that the decision was made on the single criteria that fewer members of the public were using it. However, all banks have signed up to a code to fully consult with communities should they propose a closure for the ‘last bank standing’ and a robbery should not alter that prior sequence of discussion. OTC had written to Barclays offering any help it could after the raid but had not received a reply, he said. The nearest branch would now be Milton Keynes, but many small businesses in town need cash facilities, he added. A meeting will take place in March between Kevin and Deirdre Bethune on behalf of OTC, Barclays, and MP Mark Lancaster, where the case will be made to save the bank from closure by reminding them of the future growth and wealth creation in Olney, with new houses and businesses that have already received planning permission. Peter Geary said it was important that the council’s standpoint was clear, otherwise Barclays would simply walk out of the meeting. Deirdre Bethune said the bank provided an essential service for the elderly, some of whom do not use ‘plastic’ or on-line banking.

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    Last Bank Standing

    Proposed charge for use of Market Place

    The council is considering making a charge for events that use the Market Place, such as The Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF), Motorama and Dickens of a Christmas. Town Clerk Liam Costello noted that the charge for commercial events, such as the special food markets is £400 per day. Jeremy Rawlings pointed out that there is usually an actual cost to the council in hosting these events. The fact that a new electricity distribution system has recently been installed and that the surface is now in urgent need of repair or replacement is seen as justification. Peter Geary pointed out that this might impact the rates that OTC pay (presumably to MKC) for the Market Place and Kevin Viney observed that most of the events mentioned were community events which also raised money for charity. Steve Clark noted that such events bring people into the town and a charge in the region of the commercial cost of £400 might make organisers think twice about the viability of the events. It was agreed to discuss with the organisers of these events before making a decision.

    Closure of Emberton School

    Emberton School currently has no pupils on its role, and the Governing Board have asked MKC to consult on closure. This eight-week consultation is currently underway and will end on 17th March. After this, the necessary Statutory Notices will be published followed by a representation period before a final decision is made. Birth data indicates that a small number of children in the catchment area are due to start school in 2019, but there are sufficient places at other local schools to accommodate them and parental choice in recent years has shown that the school is not a popular choice for parents. There is currently no demand expected from new housing in the local area.

    Budgetary matters

    Paul Collins reported back from the Finance Committee, summarising the draft budget proposals and proposed increase in the precept (the element of the Council Tax collected by MKC and paid to OTC to provide certain services).
    A number of factors such as increased staff costs, essential refurbishments and lower than predicted income from various sources meant that to avoid a shortfall it would be necessary to increase the precept by approximately 20%. This equates to a £15 increase per year on an average Band D property. It was also agreed to increase the schedule of fees that OTC charges for allotments, market stalls and venue hires etc. in line with CPI. A vote on the budget proposals was taken and passed unanimously.

    MK East Local Stakeholder Group

    Steve Clark reported that he had recently attended a meeting of the MK East Local Stakeholder Group where a presentation on Traffic Modelling had been given. The (obvious) context was that the existing highway network is not and will not be sufficient to accommodate the MKE expansion without new strategic infrastructure investment. Minimal infrastructure investment would lead to massive and unacceptable delays to journeys, so a number of options have been considered:
    ● Improvements at Junction 14
    ● Enhanced capacity through A422 Corridor
    ● Widening of the Willen Road Corridor and bridge over M1
    ● A new Bridge over the M1
    Of these, a new bridge is considered the best option and six possibilities have been considered, although all but one ruled out and that is subject to a bid for Housing Infrastructure Funding. Modelling of all schemes predicted ‘tidal flow’ rush hour traffic increases through Olney of 5%.

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    Roundel painted on the Road along Aspreys

    Odds and Sods

    The amended Standing Orders, discussed at length in previous meetings, are being drafted and will be discussed at a future meeting.

    The Lions will be holding Motorama on Sunday 9th June in the Market Place.

    The ‘One-Stop’ pedestrian crossing is due to be improved with illuminated posts and improved street lighting but no confirmation from MKC that it will be in this financial year.

    The 30mph ‘roundel’ painted on the road along Asprey meant that police could not legally enforce the speed limit since that is no longer legal signage. It has recently been removed, meaning that enforcement will now be possible.

    Next Meeting - Monday 4th March

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 4th March in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • March 2019

    Olney Council report for 4th March 2019

    Public Participation

    For the first time in many a year there were no members of the public wishing to speak at this month’s meeting. A reminder that any resident can choose to address the council at the start of each meeting, by giving prior notice to the clerk, and will be given three minutes in which to speak. Officially there should be no discussion on matters raised in this section and any items requiring further discussion would be added to the formal agenda of the next meeting. In reality the mayor will often apply common sense and allow a limited response, if appropriate.

    Minutes of previous meetings

    Standing Orders of Olney Town Council:
    There has been considerable debate at previous meetings on proposed amendments to the Standing Orders of Olney Town Council (OTC). The minutes of the January meeting document these changes in considerable detail and approval of the minutes of that meeting would presumably be deemed as acceptance of those changes.
    Paul Collins said that he had many comments on the revisions and felt that the council would have benefited from a meeting between the dedicated working group and Liam Costello, the Town Clerk, before this meeting.
    Peter Geary thought that there was a need to listen to the audio recording of the January meeting to ensure that the minutes were an accurate reflection of what was discussed and agreed.
    Liam said that in his opinion the minutes were an accurate record of what was agreed, and he had advised members that some of the proposals were not legally sound, but his advice had been ignored.
    Deirdre Bethune asked that her displeasure that the Clerk’s advice on the legality of the amendments had been ignored to be formally recorded.

    Closure of Emberton School

    As reported last month Emberton School currently has no pupils on its role and the Governing Board have asked MKC to consult on closure. This eight-week consultation is currently under way and will end on 17th March. OTC have decided not to comment on this matter, the feeling being that the school is going to close, anyway. It was noted that the Emberton Neighbourhood Plan includes new housing on the existing School playing fields.

    Closure of Barclays Bank

    Kevin Viney reported back on the meeting between OTC, Mark Lancaster MP and representatives of Barclays Bank. He felt it had been constructive but Barclays definition of what constituted ‘a customer’ when determining the amount of business, and therefore justification to remain open, was rather suspect. Barclays had claimed that the Olney Branch had only 140 active customers, but their definition of a customer is someone who is dependent on that branch alone and has no access to an alternative branch. By definition, even if you are a regular user and your account is registered elsewhere or you have the ability to travel to another branch you are not a customer. They claimed there had been only two complaints about the closure.
    Deirdre Bethune said it was clear that Barclays had no intention of reopening in Olney but might consider setting up an office where they could assist customers by providing advice on alternative ways to access their accounts, but there would be no transactions of any type. Peter Geary said that 800 ‘customers’ had used the bank in the month previous to the closure and there had been 23,000 transactions in the previous year. He was also concerned about the state of the building and said pressure must be maintained to ensure that Barclays comply with their obligation to repair the frontage.

    OTC Communications Policy

    The first draft of a document setting out OTC’s Policy for Internal and External Communications was presented for discussion. It sets out the council’s commitment to use a multi-channel approach to communications including public announcements, email alerts, their website, printed material and social media.
    The policy is based 90% on the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity issued by central government and 10% bespoke additions from OTC.
    Peter Geary questioned the statement that ‘Any public communication from councillors or staff (in their official capacity) should reflect current council policy and not a personal view.’ The job of a councillor, he said, is to represent people not council policy. OTC is not a cabinet with collective responsibility.
    Steve Clark agreed, using the example of OTC charging event organisers for use of the Market Place. Until a decision on that matter is made, he is free to express his personal opinion, he said.
    Peter
    responded that even after such a decision individual member have the right to express their own opinions. Council staff have a responsibility to back council policy but councillors do not, he said. The document lists examples of face to face negative body languages which may be viewed as undermining the council’s compassionate workplace cultures including eye rolling, tutting, sighing, glaring, finger tapping, finger pointing, and aggressive gesturing. Peter asked that excessive sarcasm also be included.
    Mercury can only hope that once this policy is adopted we will see an end to the difficult atmosphere that has been apparent at some OTC meetings in recent months.

    Riverfest and Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF)

    Requests to hold the following events were received and granted:
    Riverfest on July 6th and 7th.
    Big Olney Food Festival on 14th and 15th September. Deirdre Bethune, as a member of the BOFF committee, reported that the exact nature and duration of this year’s event was still under discussion.

    Olney hanging baskets

    Each year the lampposts through the centre of the town are adorned with floral hanging baskets, which are erected by a team of volunteers. This popular feature was initiated many years ago by the Floral Fiesta committee and continued by successor groups, including The Olney Group (TOG) and Olney Events helpers. The baskets have always been provided by C.T. Wilson and Sons, who have now offered to fully fund the provision of the baskets. Previously this funding was obtained by offering local businesses, groups and individuals the opportunity to sponsor a basket, but the cost of watering and ongoing maintenance fell to OTC. This sponsorship will still be sought but it will be used to fund the ongoing maintenance.

    Olney Development Group

    This is the sub-committee that has been set up to implement the proposals set out in the Neighbourhood Plan. It was confirmed that the ‘Site R’ (corner of Lavendon Road) will be occupied by Sainsburys with completion due in September/ October. The future of the remaining two acres is uncertain, since it is earmarked in the Neighbourhood Plan (NP) for retail use but the developer, Angle, has been unable to find a retail tenant to occupy the site. As a result, it has entered into a partnership with McCarthy and Stone to develop the site for age-restricted and assisted living accommodation use, contrary to the NP. A public consultation event will take place at the Olney Centre on 27th March. Deirdre Bethune expressed the opinion that such a development would not provide much in the way of employment since there would be very little care support. Steve Clark said it was obvious that Angle had set up the relationship with McCarthy and Stone in order to push through the development and members should be careful when expressing an opinion on the matter. Kevin Viney agreed, saying that there was an element of ‘railroading’ taking place and he was disappointed that one Ward Councillor had already posted information on social media without stating that it was in violation of the NP. John Boardman was concerned that Angle might use the event to take an unofficial ‘straw poll’ to gauge public support which might be used in support of their application. Peter Geary said regardless of this the public had voted for and adopted the NP which allocated the site for retail and that McCarthy and Webster were proposing a large development on a small plot of land. They would not have come on board unless they were reasonably confident of success, he thought, and any planning application would test Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) planning policy with regard to NPs.

    Liam Costello

    It was announced that Town Clerk has tendered his resignation and is currently working out his notice. Deirdre Bethune said she would like to record her gratitude for his work with OTC, a view that was echoed by other members.

    Recycling sacks

    Since the sacks have ceased to be obtainable from local outlets many residents have experienced difficulty in obtaining new sacks.
    Peter Geary said it was clear that some residents were managing to obtain supplies, but others were not.
    Clerk Liam Costello said that when the sacks had been obtainable from the council office in the Olney Centre it had caused considerable disruption to the staff. He felt that a better solution would have been for the sacks to be held in the library, which is open and weekends and is staffed by MKC employees.
    Steve Clark
    was of the opinion that MKC is employing an element of rationing.
    Deirdre Bethune said she had observed sacks that were not being filled efficiently because large items such as cardboard boxes were not being broken down. There was also evidence that people are using the bags to take donations to charity shops, since they are considered to be ‘free’.

    Odds and Sods

    Malcolm Messenger said that he had noticed many examples of bad parking on the High Street with large vehicles sticking out into the road or overhanging the kerb, and felt that the police and PCSOs should be ticketing such vehicles. John Boardman reminded members that some years ago a similar approach was proposed but MKC had advised that overhanging the kerb was permissible due to the wide pavements in Olney.
    The ‘One-Stop’ pedestrian crossing is due to be improved with illuminated posts but there is still no confirmation from MKC that it will be in this financial year. Peter Geary said that additional lighting will be provided by ‘turning up’ the brightness of the adjacent street lights. It appears that when the new LED street lights were installed, they were deliberately ‘dulled down’ to avoid causing annoyance to nearby residents.

    Next Meeting - Monday 1st April

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st April in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.
  • April 2019

    Olney Council report for April 2019

    Public Participation

    Elaine Herniman was first to speak, following up her November 2018 meeting contribution about creating a communal area within the allotments. The plan is to remove two old sheds and replace them with a modular cabin building. She was unclear what kind of grants and support Olney Town Council (OTC) could offer towards the project, and asked if a discussion on this could be added to the agenda of the next Recreations and Services Committee meeting.
    Nigel Birrell was last to speak. He’s planning to hold a silent vigil in front of the War Memorial starting at 1pm on Thursday 27th June and ending 24 hours later on the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles signing. He asked the Council’s permission to do this.

    Absence

    Des and Joanne Eley were absent from this meeting.

    Minutes

    The minutes of January’s meeting to consider the proposed changes to Standing Orders were, following a significant number of amendments, finally approved.

    Silent Vigil

    Council quickly agreed to Nigel’s request, thinking it an excellent idea.

    One Stop zebra crossing

    The safety of pedestrians using the zebra crossing near One Stop continues to cause concern for Councillors and the Public. Kevin Viney, noting that he was still receiving residents’ complaints on the matter, started the discussion by showing Councillors a picture of one large lorry overtaking another parked lorry, which was delivering to One Stop. He explained that delivery lorries parking there meant that pedestrians crossing from the One Stop side were unable to see Northbound traffic, with that traffic also unable to see them, until they started to cross. A Facebook survey conducted by OTC, and with around 800 responses, saw about two-thirds in favour of a traffic light controlled crossing, the remainder preferring improvements to the existing zebra crossing. As noted by David Hosking on Facebook, these improvements would amount to “a high performance illuminated post system featuring a robust high-strength design with low energy and low maintenance light sources, available with either a post-top beacon or a mid-post beacon with a post extension enabling floodlight fitting.”
    Steve Clark explained that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) was not prepared to install a traffic light controlled crossing, but would install the illuminated post system and increase the brightness of the surrounding street lights. He felt it would be silly to lose this opportunity, so OTC should agree with MKC’s proposal, reserving the right to ask for an alternative if safety problems persist.
    Councillors noted a number of problems associated with the crossing: Delivery lorries parking near One Stop causing overtaking and reduced visibility, excessive speed of traffic, the curve of the road naturally reducing Northbound drivers’ visibility, a nearby tree further obscuring visibility, and the presence of a number of perhaps distracting vertical bollards installed to stop parking on the pavement immediately South West of the crossing.
    Some Councillors including Chris Tennant felt OTC should fight for the traffic light controlled crossing, others feeling it should accept the illuminated poles then fight for the traffic lights if needed. Peter Geary noted that, on zebra crossings, most pedestrians don’t cross until the traffic has stopped, unlike on traffic light controlled crossings where they cross the moment the green man illuminates. Neither can be completely safe, he said. He explained that MKC’s decision was not driven by cost, but instead by its safety audits that found the zebra crossing safer than a traffic light controlled one. The Council decided to agree with MKC’s recommendation for illuminated poles and associated works, reserving the right to ask again if those improvements didn’t help.

    Human resources

    The Human Resources Committee had met twice since last month’s full OTC meeting. Colin Rodden felt that, in the interests of transparency, the minutes of those meetings should, like those from other Committees, be available for all Councillors to read. The Committee was happy for that to happen, he explained. Jeremy Rawlings disagreed, offering to discuss another time, perhaps during the busy programme of confidential items covered later in this meeting after exclusion of Press and Public. These items included the Town Clerk’s finishing date, recruitment of a new Town Clerk and staff grievances.

    Olney Centre office changes

    The Olney Centre office is being reconfigured, with plans prepared and quotes sought by the Olney Centre Management Committee. It had not proved possible to obtain three quotes, so just the two received were discussed. Councillors preferred the first quote and voted by majority – seven for, two against and one abstention – to accept it. Colin Rodden felt unable to express a preference without seeing the plans and, again noting lack of transparency, was one of those voting against.

    East Street

    As reported before, pedestrian safety on the narrow section of East Street immediately South of the Recreation Ground gate continues to be a problem. Chris Tennant reported that he and John Boardman had attended a site visit with a representative from MKC, and the following options were considered:

    • Installing priority traffic signs (one way has priority) – not viable due to limited visibility;
    • Installing traffic lights – not viable due to dwelling exits on the affected stretch of road;
    • Add speed cushions along the affected stretch, and a zebra crossing adjoining the path from the High Street – viable;
    • Change the whole of East Street to one way Northbound with associated traffic calming, and add a new 1.2m wide footpath along the affected stretch – viable, but a very significant and likely unpopular step.

    As a short term measure, MKC plans to install ‘pedestrians in road’ signage in the next month or so.

    Stacks Image 86975

    East Street

    Speed Watch

    Colin Rodden reported that various concerned residents had contacted him to ask if Olney Community Speed Watch could target specific roads in the Town. He explained that resourcing these extra requests would require additional volunteers, which he’d be happy to have trained to perform the checks. Feeling that the community needed to ‘own’ the Speed Watch effort to an extent, he planned to encourage interested residents to assist.

    Dickens stalls decision

    The Dickens of a Christmas Committee had decided and minuted that there will be no stalls to the shop side of the road along the South side of the Market Place; a controversial issue with last year’s event.

    Market Place lines

    The South and North East sections of the Market Place road will be re-lined, yellow lines conservation yellow, to see if parking improves. As reported before, this has been causing concern, particularly where it blocks dropped kerbs installed for those with reduced mobility. This is expected to happen soon.

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    Market Place Road Markings

    Olney Town Football Club Lease

    One of the confidential items discussed after exclusion of Press and Public was related to the Football Club. Although this news came after the meeting, it was likely discussed during that item: OTC has unanimously decided, subject to successful negotiations, to lease the entire Olney Town Football Club building to BodyForce, the new Northern extension remaining with Olney Town Colts.

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    Olney Town Football Club

    Next meeting - 13th May

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 13th May in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • May 2019

    Olney Council report for May 2019

    Public Participation

    One person spoke in this slot. They’d been informed that family decorations made to a close relative’s grave fell outside those allowed by the rules, but had discovered those rules only on being told of their breaking them.

    Election of roles

    Each May, the Council’s various roles and responsibilities are decided. This year saw two candidates for Mayor, Jeremy Rawlings and Des Eley. Jeremy won the resulting vote seven to six, and is thus Mayor of Olney for a third year. Thanking those present, he told those who voted for Des that this would be his final year as Mayor. On to Deputy Mayor, Sally Pezaro was elected unopposed for another year. She thanked those present.

    Apologies for absence

    During the review of last month’s minutes, Joanne Eley asked they be amended from noting “Absent: Desmond Eley and Joanne Eley” to state that these absences had been apologised for in advance. The minutes will be changed accordingly. Last month’s Mercury report covered this in a similar vein to the minutes, and the Phonebox Magazine regrets any concern caused regarding the wording.

    Standing Orders

    Last month’s minutes were also challenged by Des Eley, who felt the wording “Standing Orders – are finished with” conflicted with three clauses having been referred to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for advice. While that advice had now been received and the opportunity to discuss and conclude the wording had become available, the clauses had not yet been resolved, he said. The minutes will be amended to reflect that these clauses remain outstanding.

    Crossing near One Stop

    Colin Rodden raised the issue of the High Street crossing near One Stop. Work is due to be performed to improve safety, but Jeremy Rawlings noted this would not be the whole solution. He’d seen a person with three children start to cross while traffic was flowing in both directions. Education on safe use was also required, he felt.

    Remaining annual business

    This part of the meeting centred on reviewing the Scheme of Delegation, the membership of the various committees, the Council’s representation on various external organisations, the Standing Orders and the Financial Regulations. Sometimes mundane, it was at times chaotic, reflecting a Council on its way through a period of significant change and with much to do, and with the vacant Town Clerk position expected to remain unfilled until August or September.
    Summarising a lengthy discussion, the key points were: The Human Resources (HR) Committee will be disbanded and replaced by full Council, with Standing Orders updated to match. In theory, the Public could attend these HR
    meetings but, given the content, much of the discussion would be after exclusion of Press and Public so there’d be little to hear. Peter Geary noted it had been a turbulent year for the HR Committee, due to its failings over the three or so previous years – missed appraisals, etc. Joanne Eley suggested a rota be arranged for HR training to fix some misunderstandings apparently brought out by a report which had been conducted.
    The Standing Orders were approved, bar the pending changes for the HR Committee and the three clauses noted earlier. This represents an important step forward, it having taken many months to get this far.
    Des Eley noted that Standing Orders require that a review of Olney Town Council (OTC) land, other assets and insurable risks be conducted in this meeting, yet it was not on the agenda. Jeremy said it would be added for next month. Finally, the Council representatives attending the Milton Keynes Eastern Expansion meetings, Steve Clark and Des Eley, will be included in its list of representation on various external organisations.

    Receiving minutes of committee meetings

    The Council often spends significant time discussing the minutes of its subcommittees, under a recurring agenda item to ‘receive’ them. This will change, minutes of future meetings remaining in Councillors’ briefing packs but their reception no longer
    appearing as an agenda item – so they’d no longer be discussed. This month, they were discussed briefly, a couple of amendments being requested including one by Paul Collins to the Finance Committee meeting minutes, the content of which was not expressed.

    Bits ‘n’ pieces

    Section 106 agreements are arrangements made between local authorities and developers that can be attached to a planning permission to mitigate the impact of development on the local community and infrastructure. For example, new houses imply more use of local parks. Chris Tenant has prepared a Section 106 Contributions Tracker, to allow Council to keep an eye on the money available to draw on, and how it would be spent.
    Certain events happened in Emberton Park over Easter Weekend which will result in the resurrection of the currently defunct Emberton Park Liaison Users Group (PLUG) as a body to better manage such problems. Councillors felt this a welcome move.
    Following a couple of break-ins to the tractor shed over the last few months, Councillors discussed various security measures and will obtain quotes.

    Citizen’s Advice

    Each year, Councillors decide whether to continue to fund the Olney based Citizen’s Advice community outreach programme. Deidre Bethune felt it an easy ‘yes’, while Joanne Eley disagreed. An interesting debate followed. Joanne felt it was a pure duplication of services also available from MKC and for which Citizen’s Advice is bidding. Peter Geary disagreed. Noting it was a difficult issue, he said the service was crucial for those who receive the benefit, the alternative being a bus trip to Milton Keynes, a few hours queuing for the service, and a bus trip back – the best part of a day. He felt it a real benefit, MKC having cut all funding to Citizen’s Advice and saying the Parishes could support it. Joanne asked if MKC had changed its tack, Peter noting it had cut funding in October 2018. Des Eley questioned this, claiming that MKC had a duty to provide these services, and Peter responded that perhaps that was relevant to homelessness prevention rather than the outreach being discussed here. The decision went to a vote, in favour by majority of continued funding.

    Olney Middle School parking

    Colin Rodden raised the issue of parking on Yardley Road near Olney Middle School at pick-up and drop-off times, noting the context of a recent lively discussion of the topic on the Olney Noticeboard. Jeremy Rawlings explained that parents’ parking was a tricky issue for many schools, having direct experience of it at Olney Infant Academy. Joanne Eley felt the nearby bus stop had to be safe for bus drivers to use, a topic raised by one of the drivers in a recent Council meeting. Jane Brushwood noted that MKC had been asked to look into the issue.

    Next Meeting - 3rd June

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd June in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.
  • June 2019

    Olney Council report for June 2019

    Public Participation

    Amanda Molcher
    First to speak was Amanda Molcher, volunteer and trustee at the Cowper & Newton Museum. Various local walking routes have been created and, if you’re interested in local history, surf to http://www.mktrails.org/olney.html to see a couple of them.

    Catherine Rose
    Catherine Rose spoke next. In January, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had declared a climate emergency as part of its new Sustainability Strategy, promising to make Milton Keynes carbon neutral by 2030. She encouraged people to join the Olney Sustainable Futures Facebook group, and asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) was willing to host a discussion to see what action it could take to help save the planet. Des Eley suggested that the Olney Ward Forum might be the best place to discuss it.

    Two members of the public spoke regarding decorations they’d placed on their families’ graves. These had apparently fallen outside the usage rules for the Cemetery, and each criticised OTC about the rules themselves, their lack of visibility, and how the subject had been communicated to them.

    Brian Rice
    Brian Rice was last to speak, on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Noting it’d been two years since he last spoke about this, he said parking had reached saturation point, with ever more vehicles competing for the same space. He said it was affecting property values and quality of life, yet appeared to have dropped from OTC’s agenda. He said that, if the Council was doing nothing about it, he and other affected residents would initiate legal action against OTC and MKC due to the impact on their property prices. Joanne Eley noted that he needed to take this up with MKC, it being the responsible body. Brian claimed that when he’d spoken with MKC, it’d put the ball back in OTC’s court. Jeremy Rawlings noted this was not an agenda item, could not be discussed in this meeting, and reiterated that MKC was the body responsible. Brian walked out of the Council Chamber.

    Cemetery rules

    This item was brought forward due to the significant number of the public attending to hear it. It was a tense, awkward part of the meeting. Jeremy Rawlings opened the discussion, noting the strength of feeling and explaining that OTC had two broad choices – to implement the rules as they were or to change them. He’d recently visited three other cemeteries in the Milton Keynes area and seen no evidence of similar decorations. Des Eley drew Councillors’ attention to a notice on the cemetery gate which stated it was an offence to remove anything from the site, and he noted there appeared to be a change in how the public viewed grieving, so maybe a review of the rules might be appropriate.
    Peter Geary suggested to Jeremy that this was not the right forum for such sensitive discussions – a smaller, less time constrained meeting would be more appropriate. Jeremy agreed, Colin Rodden noting that he’d made a similar suggestion previously but seen it rejected. Colin explained that the individuals concerned had talked with him about the issue, that it was very raw and perhaps personalised. Tony Evans spoke in support of the Deputy Town Clerk – she had correctly pointed out the rules as they currently exist, he said.
    The members of the public who’d spoken on this topic appeared a little happier that their concerns would be listened to, and agreed to a subsequent private meeting with a smaller set of Councillors.

    Rugby Club purchase

    Olney Rugby Club is planning significant investment to extend and improve its clubhouse and, as the land it occupies is leased by OTC to the Club, it’s expressed an interest in buying that land to give it more security over that investment. OTC selling that land appeared somewhat complex, Des Eley stating that solicitors would need to be engaged to move the process forward and Jane Brushwood that a referendum would be required. Deirdre Bethune suggested resetting the lease to its original 99 years, subject to the Club paying any associated costs. Noting that this may set a precedent, Councillors agreed to write to the Club suggesting it as the way forward.

    Stacks Image 86987

    Olney Town Football Club

    Fireworks on the Goosey

    Joe Wheeler, organiser of last year’s display on the Goosey had contacted Brian Reynolds, the farmer working that land, to ask his permission to hold the display again. Brian refused the request then contacted the Council. After a brief discussion, Councillors agreed to write to both parties refusing permission for any fireworks display on the Goosey.

    Aspreys parking permits

    Residents of 1-12 Aspreys, the two cul-de-sacs to the Northern end of that road, have applied to MKC to implement a residents only parking scheme for their cul-de-sacs, optionally plus the nearby Flaxlands Row. As per procedure, MKC will start an informal consultation with nearby residents and, provided at least 50% respond with 70% or more expressing support, they will implement it. MKC had asked OTC for its view, so it was discussed. Joanne Eley was concerned about how such a scheme would be enforced, and Deirdre Bethune suggested OTC not support the application. Colin Rodden, agreeing, felt that Olney residents instead needed to work as a community – people had to park somewhere. It went to a vote, Councillors voting by majority to object to the scheme.

    Amazing Grace 250

    Stacks Image 87554

    Paul Collins reported that, on 1st January 2023, it will be 250 years since the hymn Amazing Grace was written. Starting this year, a mix of organisations, businesses and residents had come together to explore how to raise the profile of Olney’s unique international heritage story as ‘The home of Amazing Grace’. He asked for, and was given, the Council’s support for this initiative.

    Standing Orders

    As the Council inches towards creating Standing Orders it can approve, Des Eley introduced the latest round of discussions. First, he noted that the previous meeting had agreed that a set of clauses from the Orders be reviewed at this meeting. While their wording was from the ‘model’ clauses, he asked if any background information was available so a considered review could take place. There wasn’t, and Jane Brushwood asked if this review could be left until a new Town Clerk had been appointed, as she was unable to devote much time to it until then. Des replied that would be ok if Council agreed to the delay. Jeremy Rawlings said this discussion should be deferred until this meeting’s Confidential Items slot, during which they’d also be discussing the new Town Clerk’s recruitment.
    Second, he referred to various other clauses concerning access to staff records. During the 14th January meeting held to discuss Standing Orders, these had proved controversial and were referred to MKC for feedback. Its report concluded that their original proposed wording was correct and, finally, these clauses were agreed. That being so, it appears that next month OTC can attempt to sign off the resulting Standing Orders – something of an important moment, pending since its annual meeting of May 2018

    Works

    The Council is compiling the information required for it to approach EON in connection with the quality of its work installing the electrical points on the Market Place.
    As reported before, OTC paid for the resurfacing of the path leading from the toilet block, past the tennis courts to the next field South, the work having been completed some months ago. Des Eley noted that plans for the path had included a drainage channel down its middle, yet this had not been installed. Tony Evans replied that, as work started on site, it became obvious it would be better not to fit this channel, replacing it with kerbing on one side to guide water to drain. This kerbing accounted for the £700 increase in cost, he said. The work had been completed and approved – OTC had not overpaid for the work. Des said he’d look further at the detail, then raise the issue again if required.
    Colin Rodden again raised the issue of broken play equipment remaining unrepaired, citing various basketball hoops and the zip wire on Johnson’s Field. It would be great to get these fixed for young people to use over the Summer, he said. Jane noted that OTC had three replacement boards for the hoops but no time to install them, and that the rest of the equipment was MKC’s responsibility. Peter Geary suggested OTC write to Stuart Proffitt at MKC requesting the remedial work be done.
    Peter Geary noted the equipment required to improve the crossing adjacent to One Stop should have been installed by the end of June. It would take something over one day, with temporary traffic lights required.

    Schedule of payments

    Towards the end of each full OTC meeting, Councillors review the schedule of payments – a list of the Council’s outgoings during the previous month. Often passing through unchallenged, more recently the detail of individual payments has been requested. This month, Joanne Eley asked if the £4,320 payment to MKC concerning a grievance was the end of the matter: Were there any outstanding Human Resources costs? Jeremy replied there were none as far as he knew, although there were related matters to discuss. A payment of £630 to the Tennis Club was also questioned, Tony explaining it was for the Club performing certain maintenance tasks.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Next Meeting - 1st July

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st July in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • July 2019

    Olney Council report for July 2019

    Public Participation

    Catherine Rose
    Catherine Rose spoke first in this slot on the subject of OTC considering whether to declare a Climate Emergency. She started by placing a bowl of flowers on the Council table as a symbol of the beauty of Olney and the surrounding area. Feeling that Olney was somewhat cocooned and ‘climate privileged’ she thought it beholden on the town to make climate-friendly changes. She knew that people wanted to make these changes, but didn’t know how – Olney needed a plan to guide families, schools, community organisations, etc. She asked Olney Town Council (OTC) to commit to two or three headline activities, for example reducing waste and planting trees. Finishing with a plea to ‘listen to our children’, she asked OTC to act.

    Jane Varley
    Jane Varley spoke next, representing Extinction Rebellion. Continuing with Catherine’s theme, she felt OTC had a moral duty to lead in this area – that Olney as a community had the power to make change happen. Like Catherine, she felt the next step was to plan. She also had a set of steps OTC could follow if, like Milton Keynes Council (MKC), it did choose to declare a climate emergency.

    Sarah Williams
    Last to speak was Sarah Williams. Continuing in a similar vein, she noted that individuals look to local government to facilitate change, but that there were huge contradictions between current policy and climate change. Declaring a climate emergency would give the Council a framework for change. While the UK has committed to ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, she felt we didn’t have 30 years to wait – people needed to act quickly.

    Approving the minutes

    A few items from the previous meeting’s minutes caused discussion. Desmond Eley explained he had not researched the Rugby Club purchase item, but merely stated that in order to proceed with the sale OTC should engage a solicitor. Colin Rodden was concerned about the brevity of the minutes, Jeremy Rawlings explaining that things should ‘get back on track’ in September, presumably when the Town Clerk post is filled making the office once again fully staffed. Joanne Eley had GDPR concerns about members of the Public being mentioned in the minutes. Jeremy explained that he understood her concerns but did not agree with them. Joanne Eley requested he take advice on this topic.

    Climate Emergency

    Steve Clark generally appeared in favour of declaring the Emergency, noting that other Councils had done so recently, and citing the hole in the ozone layer and associated reduction of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as an example of what could be achieved if people worked together. Deirdre Bethune felt OTC should look at what it could start to do, for example litter picking and installing water stations to discourage the use of single use plastic bottles. Paul Collins, first explaining that he respected the integrity and sincerity of the speakers, noted that the world’s greatest polluters are China, India and the USA, the UK being responsible for 1% of emissions globally. While the argument was to lead by example, he felt it naive to assume others would respond in kind. This was gesture politics, he said.
    Other Councillors spoke in favour of declaring, Colin Rodden noting that the required change would cut across many things OTC does, such as leisure, managing its land estate and making purchasing decisions. Peter Geary noted that MKC was delivering a Climate Emergency plan, perhaps around the end of the year, which OTC would need to review and mesh with. The Council is setting up a small working group to report back to full Council with recommendations of what should be done.

    Annual accounts

    Paul Collins reported that the Council’s accounts have passed their annual audit, though he was surprised the auditor didn’t comment on its low level of general reserves.

    VE Day 75

    Celebrations for the 75th anniversary of VE Day will be held on 8th – 19th May 2020, the first of those days being the shifted early May bank holiday. OTC supports this and will track the arrangements as more information becomes available so it can assist as required.

    MUGA marking

    The MUGA will shortly be marked out with new lines for netball, five a side football and basketball.

    Emergency Plan

    This item was to discuss OTC developing an Emergency Plan, a topic which was discussed a number of years ago but never came to fruition. Peter Geary explained that the Plan would be designed to apply in the event of local emergencies such as gas leaks or fires, rather than large scale ones such as plane crashes. It would, for example, note an emergency centre and a list of its key holders to allow access should the need arise. Jeremy Rawlings will open discussions with MKC, which had offered help if OTC didn’t already have a plan.

    Wildleaf

    Jeremy Rawlings noted that Wildleaf has started selling tea, coffee and sandwiches from a shed behind the Rugby Club previously used as a store. Jane Brushwood explained that the business owner had visited the OTC office a few days before to tell the Council he was doing this. She had asked if he’d obtained planning permission, but he didn’t appear to know whether it was needed. The Council agreed to inform MKC of the situation, explaining to Wildleaf its concern that planning permission may be required.

    Amazing Grace pilgrimage walk

    The 240th anniversary of the publication of Amazing Grace in the Olney Hymns is being celebrated on Sunday 15th September, with a walk from Central Milton Keynes to Emberton Country Park, taking in various Churches en route.
    Walking distances of 11, seven and five miles are planned and, if you’d like to be involved as a walker, marshal or musician, surf to
    www.amazingpilgrimage.co.uk for more information.

    Cemetery rules

    Following on from the public participation and subsequent discussion in last month’s meeting, this was more of an update on progress. The Recreations and Services Committee had reviewed the rules and recommended the removal of the sentence “No artificial wreaths, flowers, crosses or articles of a similar nature will be allowed to be placed on any grave.” Councillors voted unanimously to accept its recommendation. Jeremy Rawlings noted that he’s continuing attempts to organise meetings with each of the families who’d spoken at the previous meeting.

    Standing Orders

    The recently adopted Standing Orders will be uploaded to the Council website.

    Litter

    As well as litter in the area near the Rugby Club being discussed, Graham Harrison noted that the bin adjacent to Timpson’s Row was too small. Colin Rodden, frustrated, felt the real issue was that people should take their litter home.

    Funding

    Milton Keynes Council has announced the availability of a £100,000 Supplementary Fund 2019-20, for which it was inviting applications. The fund had come into being due to problems with the way the Community Infrastructure Fund 2019-20 had been communicated with Parish Councils. The time remaining to apply being surprisingly short, Councillors decided to apply for monies to install water stations.

    Lambs

    Colin Rodden noted he’d recently seen two lambs in the river near the Goosey, with someone trying to fish them out. Having previously mentioned the poor condition of the field fences there, he again raised the need to contact the tenant farmer to request they be fixed. Peter Geary
    pointed out that lambs tend not to fall into rivers, being good at navigating slopes, but are more likely to be chased into them by dogs. Colin felt it more an issue of good animal husbandry. The Council will write to the tenant to request the fencing be repaired.

    Bits’n’bobs

    Steve Clark reported that changes to the payment system to enter Emberton Park were being discussed, including the provision of a chip and pin terminal on the entry barrier, and a reduced fee to visit only the cafe. Desmond Eley noted there was an ongoing debate between those wanting to make the Park more commercial and those wanting it to function as a nature reserve as originally intended.
    Desmond Eley asked if this month’s £950 spend on diesel fuel was typical for a Summer month, Tony Evans replying that when the diesel tank needs filling, it gets filled up. Quotes have been obtained to improve the security of the tractor shed, one of which has now been accepted.
    Colin Rodden noted that the £2,000 of MKC community funding applied for in connection with Oakdown Crescent had now been
    awarded, matched funding raising the total to £4,000.
    Nigel Birrell had written to OTC to thank it for allowing him to perform his recent 24-hour vigil on the Market Place. Separately, the Armed Forces Day lunch at the Carlton House Club was successful and much enjoyed by those who attended.

    Declarations of interest part one

    Joanne Eley spoke briefly on the subject of her and Desmond Eley’s declarations of interest in December’s full Council meeting where, as reported, Jeremy Rawlings had advised they each declare an additional interest, which they chose not to do. For reference, these interests were in an agenda item to ‘approve costs of mediation process’ (Desmond), and in one to ‘consider recommendation from HR Committee regarding Job Evaluations’ (Joanne).
    Joanne explained that after seven months, her legal advice was that the declarations her and Desmond had made were perfectly correct. Jeremy and Liam Costello, then Town Clerk, had been given incorrect advice, having sought it from the wrong person at MKC. Mentioning a significantly longer time period of two years, she noted that nothing had been found other than her having full personal and professional integrity. Jeremy apologised, and Joanne said she wished to declare an end to the matter.

    Declarations of interest part two

    Desmond Eley spoke about the same declarations of interest raised earlier by Joanne. He noted that OTC’s Proper Officer at the time, ex-Town Clerk Liam Costello, had complained to the unitary authority (MKC) that Joanne and Desmond had breached the code of conduct. But they had not. Desmond stressed that he and Joanne had been investigated for two years and stated that he wanted a proper apology from the Council in writing. Jeremy Rawlings said he’d be happy to arrange that and would make sure it happened.

    Next Meeting - 2nd September

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd September in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • August 2019

    Olney Council report for August 2019

    There is not normally a Council Meeting in August

    August Meeting

    There is not normally a meeting of Olney Town Council (OTC) for the month of August. However, this year a meeting was convened at short notice and The Phonebox was unable to send a reporter. Therefore, the only records of the meeting are contained in the official minutes which are available on the OTC website but summarised below.

    Tony Evans presented a comprehensive report on the progress of legal papers concerning the lease of the former football club building to Body Force, where it was noted that OTC have paid £4000 for the surrender document for the Football Club and also that Body Force have engaged their own solicitors.

    Olney came home second in the Buckinghamshire Best Kept Village Competition with 90 points, losing out to Winslow with 93 points.
    Most of the meeting appears to have been to discuss HR issues, from which the public and press would have been excluded.

    August Meeting

    Minutes for the August meeting cannot be found at the moment!

  • September 2019

    Olney Council report for September 2019

    Public Participation

    Catherine Rose
    Following on from last month, Catherine Rose once again spoke in support of OTC declaring a Climate Emergency. Catherine said that she appreciated living in a beautiful town and surrounding countryside and knew that many people were concerned about the environment, both at home and in a broader sense. She said there was already great work being done in Olney, particularly Barnfield where the meadow is being regenerated, and the Climate Emergency Plan (CEP) working party originated at last month’s meeting had met. She quoted recent examples in the news such as the decline of the Great Barrier Reef, the hurricane in the Bahamas and the fire in the Amazon – the ‘lungs of the world’. Our own forests were cut down in the Industrial Revolution and ‘we’ have been polluting for 250 years and are still in the top 15 polluters worldwide. Blaming China, India and South America for all the pollution that is happening now simply will not wash, and much of the pollution in the continents is being generated for us as consumers. It was not necessary to make massive changes to make a massive difference, she said, and finance is available for various schemes which the council could explore. She said she was aware that some people, even on the council, see environment campaigners as ‘swivel-eyed disaster-mongers’, but they like to think of themselves as ‘clear-eyed disaster preventers’ and prevention is better than a cure.

    Sarah Michalik
    Next to speak was Sarah Michalik on the same subject. In an impassioned speech, Sarah explained that last year she decided to do more to fight climate change in our town. Since 1970 wildlife extinction rates were at a level never seen before, with climate change affecting one-third of our UK species. As a parent to two young children, she said she needed to be able to look them in the eye and say she did everything she could to secure their safe future. She started the Olney sustainable futures Facebook page that now has approaching 300 members who share ideas about reducing the impact on the planet. She runs the Eco-Schools programme at the infant school to teach the next generation, but we need to act now she said. By declaring a climate emergency we are saying ‘it matters’ and the dozens of willing volunteers (some of whom were present) want to work with the council and put Olney on the map and secure its future. Sarah finished by saying, let’s do something and get everyone part of the conversation to achieve carbon neutrality inline with UK targets by 2030. There was considerable applause from the audience and some council members around the table.

    Climate Emergency

    Chris Tennant
    Chris Tennant reported back on the first meeting of the CEP working party to discuss the way forward and presented a recommendation that OTC declares a Climate Emergency, as 200 local councils around the UK already have, covering 64% of the population. It will raise the profile of the issue and provide leverage in obtaining the extra support that OTC needs to achieve the necessary reductions to meet the plan. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) has published its own sustainability strategy running to 2030, many of the elements relevant to what OTC can do to become carbon neutral by then by reducing carbon emissions, increase energy security and improving air quality. OTC could look at how it runs its own estates such as heating and insulating buildings, more use of solar energy and moving from diesel to electric vehicles. Biodiversity could be enhanced across the estate and landowners could be encouraged to do the same. Green events could be run or supported in collaboration with the schools and businesses to encourage them to reduce their own energy costs and carbon emissions. The CEP can be developed to enable the wider community to become more resilient in the face of extreme weather conditions. There was real enthusiasm in the working group, he said, and he implored the council to support the proposal.

    Steve Clark
    Steve Clark supported the proposal and noted that OTC already supported energy efficiency and conservation by using low energy lighting and the work that is done at Barnfield with trees and wildflowers. It was important to note the contribution that young people are making all over the country, he said.

    Paul Collins
    Next to speak was Paul Collins, reading a prepared statement. A lot of the items being proposed were essentially good housekeeping, he said. He did, however, object to the term ‘climate emergency’ because he did not believe there is one. The earth’s climate has always varied over time and to have a true appreciation of climate you either need to be a geologist or a historian. Eco-guilt is a first-world luxury and is the new religion for urban populations who have lost faith in Christianity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is their bible and Al Gore their prophet. Man’s contribution to the thing we now call climate change was, and probably always will be, quite negligible. Terrifying because you cannot help but be appalled at how much money has been wasted and how much unnecessary legislation drafted because the problem does not actually exist. There is now a powerful and very extensive body of vested interests, governments that intend to use global warming as an excuse for greater taxation, regulation and protectionism plus energy companies and investors who stand to make a fortune from scams like carbon trading. Charitable bodies like Greenpeace depend for their funding on public anxiety, and environmental correspondents constantly need to talk up the threat to justify their own jobs. Finally, said Paul, he’d like to say a bit about consensus. If you’d asked any scientist or doctor 30 years ago where stomach ulcers came from, they would all have given the same answer: Obviously, it comes from acid brought on by too much stress. All of them apart from two scientists who were pilloried for their crazy, wacko theory that it was caused by bacteria. In 2005 they won the Noble prize – the consensus was wrong.

    Jo Eley
    Jo Eley asked what research into the costs and targets for OTC council taxpayers were likely to be, even if it only extended to a single electric tractor. Consensus would need to be obtained from them because there was a cost involved, and she would prefer it to be called sustainability, not climate emergency. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings said money would be available from grants. Chris Tennant replied that at the moment, the ‘nitty-gritty’ detail was not available, and the proposal related to setting policy objective. The IPCC had stated that there was less than 12 years to act to avoid the worse impacts and that, despite what Paul Collins had said, constituted an emergency.

    Responding to Paul’s statement, Steve Clark said that the effect of carbon emission had been measured over millennia through rock and wood samples and the science behind those measures was absolutely proven and there is no doubt that climate changes have been accentuated by mankind’s activities. He accepted that there has always been climate change, but whereas it was in the range of one or two degrees over thousands of years, those changes were now happening in a generation.

    Desmond Eley
    Desmond Eley noted that MKC had declared Climate Emergency and therefore OTC had no choice but to follow their policies as part of the unitary authority. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that he was on the working group for the MKC sustainability strategy which was due to be adopted in March 2020. Much of its work concerned the environmental impact of cows, he noted.

    The proposal for OTC to declare a Climate Emergency was passed by a vote of 6 to 2 with several abstentions. Desmond Eley stated that the reason for his objection was insufficient information and felt that a document should have been available to support a decision of such magnitude.

    Safety of bathing at Olney Riverside

    A request has been received from a group called ‘Slow Swimming’ wishing to hold a ‘mass participation social swim’ in the river next year and seeking to use the recreation ground for registration. Also, a letter had been received from a member of the public, drawing attention to a recent article in The Times concerning the hazards involved in wild water swimming in countryside rivers.
    It stated that no river in the UK could be considered safe for bathing due to inadequate testing in compliance with ecological standards. 86% of those that were tested fell short of the minimum threshold for healthy waterways, an increase from 75% ten years ago. The letter suggested that OTC might be liable for any death or illness caused by swimming in the river by holding and actively promoting the raft race, although the event is fact organised by The Olney Group, not OTC.

    Jeremy Rawlings
    Jeremy Rawlings said that his view was that the safety of bathing in the river was down to the individual as he personally swam there and has done so for many years.

    Steve Clark
    Steve Clark said he had no problems with organised groups or competent adults swimming in the river, but the newspaper article was complete nonsense and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    Sally Pezaro
    Sally Pezaro said she wasn’t comfortable with the existing sign that says swimming is at ‘own risk’ and would prefer the council to officially advise against swimming but noted that it could not be policed.

    Peter Geary
    Peter Geary said the council do have a responsibility as they own the land and need to follow due process. He suggested investigating the MKC Parks Trust policy to ensure that OTC can be seen to have considered the risks. He said that the river in Olney was the cleanest it had been for 150 years, and in the past the sewer from Emberton used to discharge directly into it, although he noted that with the amount of rats that were currently to be seen around the bathing steps he personally wouldn’t want to swim there.

    Chris Tennant
    Chris Tennant said that he knew of people that had been injured by broken glass at the bathing steps and wondered if it might not be time to consider a swimming pool in the town, possibly to the rear of the new Sainsbury’s.

    Paul Collins
    Paul Collins said that while a pool might not be expensive to build it would certainly be expensive to maintain and besides which a good swimming facility existed nearby in Newport Pagnell.

    Emberton Park

    Steve Clark said that the Emberton Park User Liaison Group was meeting regularly once again and was making good progress. Jeremy Rawlings noted that there had been a lot of discussion on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook group, mainly about litter. Steve agreed, saying that it would be good to prevent the large groups that descend on the park unannounced, but Emberton was one of the only parks in the area where this was possible. Jeremy noted that MKC Parks Trust have a rule that large groups must make a booking. Changes had been considered to provide more automation for admissions but were proving very expensive. Peter Geary said the park was ‘work in progress’ and the ward councillors had met with MKC and requested a 5-10 year strategy on how they intended to manage it because hundreds of thousands of pounds of spending is required.

    Grant for school PHSE programme

    A teacher at Olney Middle School had submitted a request for a grant towards a resource pack for a PHSE (Personal, Social and Health Education) programme called Jigsaw PHSE. The government has mandated that RSE (Relationship and Sex Education) and Heath Education are now compulsory for all schools but presumably not made any additional funding available. The letter noted that young people are increasingly putting themselves or finding themselves in vulnerable positions and it is important that schools are in a position to prepare them with the skills and resilience to deal with real-life situations and to stay safe. The resources would be utilised by both the Olney Infant Academy and Middle School, and the total cost would be £1,925.

    Desmond Eley noted that there was no particular budget for this, although Jeremy Rawlings stated that OTC has a fund (formerly known as the Sidney Dix Fund) which could be used. Jo Eley questioned what the requested resources would actually look like, and Jeremy referred her to the link in the email hwww.jigsawpshe.com/ which describe the programme in some detail. Each school has already raised £500, so the requested grant is for the balance. Des Eley pointed out that two-thirds of the existing Section 106 allocation already goes to schools so questioned why the additional grant was necessary.

    Chris Tennant said that section 106 could only be used for capital projects so was not appropriate. Paul Collins replied that the original request had been for the full amount and it was only when the council’s ‘matched funding’ policy had been pointed out that the schools had ‘found’ £1000 between them. The government had just announced a massive increase in spending on schools, he said. Des Eley said he did not think the council had sufficient information to make a decision so suggested that a representative be asked to give a brief presentation at a future meeting, which most members seemed to agree with.

    Colin Rodden thought it unfortunate that the council was spending so much time discussing a grant of £925 when it had readily given out larger sums to other bodies in the past.

    Odds and Sods

    Peter Geary reported that the surface of the newly laid path between Olney and Weston Underwood is already ‘failing’ because the preparation of the sub-layer was poor. It is covered by a two-year warranty and will be referred back to the contractors. Later in the meeting, he observed that the hedges were currently neatly cut back (presumably to enable the resurfacing work), but it was unlikely that MKC would maintain it so suggested that OTC obtain funding from MKC and do it themselves a couple of times a year.
    The tenant farmer on the Goosey has replaced 120 fence posts, but Peter Geary thought there is still some work to be done and proposed a meeting with him and group of councillors to decide who would be responsible for any additional work.

    Jo Eley reported back from the recent Parish Forum where the PCSOs had noted that the signs banning the consumption of alcohol in public spaces appear to have fallen down. While not totally preventing the consumption of alcohol, it meant that the PCSOs cannot react to drink-related antisocial behaviour or confiscate alcohol from under-aged drinkers.

    A letter had been received from The Olney Group (TOG) requesting permission to hold the annual fireworks display on Sunday, November 3rd, which was granted.

    Councillor Tony Evans

    Jeremy Rawlings announced that Tony Evans had resigned from the council and they had lost a valued and well-respected member. He expressed his sincere thanks for all his work over more than 40 years for the council.

    Next meeting - 7th October

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th October in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • October 2019

    Olney Council report for October 2019

    Deputy Town Clerk

    Before the meeting commenced Mayor Jeremy Rawlings welcomed the recently appointed Deputy Clerk Sarah Kennedy, congratulating her on her appointment and thanking the interview team.

    Public Participation

    As reported last month, a teacher at Olney Middle School had submitted a request to Olney Town Council (OTC) for a grant towards a resource pack for a PHSE (Personal, Social and Health Education) programme called Jigsaw PHSE. Members did not think the council had sufficient information to make a decision on financial assistance so suggested that a representative be asked to give a brief presentation at a future meeting. This month Lucy Coleman, a teacher at Olney Middle School, was present to provide that information. Lucy began by saying that children and young people’s mental health is on the decline due to pressure such as social media. There has been a huge drop in funding for outside agencies to support schools and parents/carers with children’s emotional well-being. Previously the schools could direct parents to agencies, but these just don’t exist anymore. Of the remaining counselling services many are now not able to take on young people unless they are in extreme need – often a suicide risk. The school learning mentors are overrun with children in extreme need and have no time to support those with lesser needs. This is often left to teachers who are already overrun trying to meet educational needs but are expected to be experts in every field. She finished off by saying that schools were doing their best to create happy, secure, respectful and resilient children who will be an asset to the wider community.
    Next to speak was Lindsay Heath on the subject of the Thursday Market. She said she was concerned that if people don’t use it, they will lose it. It gets no publicity, she said, and it needs to be advertised widely as happens with the Sunday Farmers Market. It is a high-quality market with amazing fresh local produce and the latest addition is a stall for sharpening knives and other implements. She appealed for the council’s help in promoting the market, particularly as Sainsburys will soon be opening. Jeremy Rawlings said that OTC had been involved in a number of promotion initiatives over the years, the most recent being an invitation to the market traders to promote their wares on the Olney Notice Board which had received a zero response.
    The next speaker was Kevin McPartland who noted that OTC had recently declared a Climate Emergency, part of which pledges to improve the air quality in the town. Why after 30 years of discusses has the issue of a bypass not been addressed, he asked. With 350 new homes plus a new Sainsburys on the horizon, traffic will increase, and pollution will get worse. For the past 15 years Milton Keynes Council have issued air quality reports but no action has taken place on the findings. In 2009 the transport research laboratory issued a report which proposed remedial action to reduce HGV traffic in Olney, but 10 years on no action has been taken. In 2005 and 2017 the local plan identified it as an issue but still no action. He asked the council to look at the issue and pursue the provision of a bypass. Jeremy Rawlings responded that both proposed bypass routes are shown as reserved in the local plan but the main issue is funding.
    Last to speak was Lynda Batty on the subject of the Youth Centre. She said that two years ago she had attended an OTC meeting to ask what was happening with the building and why had a group of regular users not been regularly invoiced. Two years later they were still waiting to be invoiced for May 2019 onwards. Surely the council need the money because the building requires a substantial amount of repair. At the original meeting she had been told that there was a problem with the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) scheme to OTC. As far as she was aware no further information was available. The building is ideal for use by older members and youth of the community and is sadly under used. Collecting fees would help with the upkeep and enable the employment of an admin person to manage the hire, she said. Jeremy Rawlings said that the building was managed on behalf of MKC by an independent committee of four people, including himself. This group act as tenants and are responsible for all repairs to the building but it was difficult to find new volunteers. The existing committee were on the verge of giving up and handing it back to MKC, he said. In that case MKC will simply close the building, he said. He will be posting information on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook group in due course.

    Grant application for school PHSE programme

    Following Lucy Coleman’s presentation, a discussion took place about the need for the grant. Des Eley asked why it was necessary and Jeremy Rawlings, declaring an interest as a school governor, said the rhetoric coming from central government about school funding increasing year on year is a ‘tissue of lies’ because he sees the figures for funding and there is no doubt that it is actually declining. Peter Geary proposed that a grant of £925 be made, which was agreed. Lucy will provide feedback to the council at a future meeting.

    Co-option of new member

    Following the resignation of Tony Evans, a vacancy exists on the council. One person had put themselves forward for co-option but was not present at the meeting. It was decided to hold this over to the next meeting.

    Emergency/ Resilience Plan

    Clerk Andrea Vincent presented a plan based on a template produced by MKC for situations where an emergency arises (actual or potential) and the emergency services are unable to provide the normal swift assistance, due to weather conditions of or priorities elsewhere. Under those circumstances a member of the council might be called upon to arrange for emergency reception centres to be opened and liaise with other agencies and community groups. It was agreed to adopt the plan.

    Climate Emergency

    The development group has met since the last OTC meeting but Chris Tennant was not present so no report had been submitted.

    Land to the rear of the Bowling Club

    A landlock strip of land exists between the building formally occupied by Olney Town Football Club and the Bowling Club which is not used and has become overgrown. It is currently owned by OTC and is part of that land that is due to be leased to Body Force, although they are not intending to use it. The Bowling Club have approached OTC with a view to buying or leasing the land to provide a
    viewing and seating area. Des Eley explained that it is not possible to sell the land as it is part of the recreation ground but it is currently unused and polluted by rodents. It was agreed to lease the land to the Bowling Club for a ‘peppercorn rent’, with all associated costs being born by them and subject to access being allowed to the rear of the building occupied by Body Force and Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC).

    Councillor Tony Evans

    Jeremy Rawlings announced that Tony Evans had resigned from the council and they had lost a valued and well-respected member. He expressed his sincere thanks for all his work over more than 40 years for the council.

    Next Meeting - 7th October
    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th October in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

    We do apologies for a cut and past mix up. To keep a true record on what went into the Phonebox Magazine we have left this in here. But there is a correction in next month's magazine.

  • November 2019

    Olney Council report for November 2019

    Omission from last month's report

    Due to error on the part of your reporter the following items were missed from last month’s report and are now included here for completeness:
    Olney Town Colts Football Club has recently suffered a good deal of vandalism to its premises and facilities. A letter has been received requesting permission to install CCTV covering the clubhouse, stand and dug-out. It was noted that The Rugby Club already have CCTV covering the Olney Town Council (OTC) owned car park at the front of their clubhouse. While sympathetic to the request a number of members had concerns about the coverage of the cameras and who would view the footage, particularly around the changing rooms where minors would be present, and there were safeguarding obligations to consider. Jeremy Rawlings said it would also be important to consult Caveman Conditioning, who use the grassed area in front of the building for classes. It was agreed to hold a meeting of all stakeholder users the area, along with a security expert who can provide advice on CCTV covering such sensitive areas.
    The electricity supply to the Market Place has still not been completed by EON to a satisfactory standard, the making good around the control box has not been completed, and there is some doubt as to whether it has been commissioned correctly. Desmond Eley is investigating and will report back.
    Many of the trees in the High Street have now been pollarded by Milton Keynes Council (MKC), as requested by OTC.

    Stacks Image 88068

    One of the pollarded trees on Olney High Street

    Public Participation for the November Meeting

    First to speak was Chris Roberts on behalf of the Olney Branch of The Royal British Legion. Chris thanked the members of the council for their continued support of the Remembrance Day parade and requested that two councillors attend to read out the names of the Olney men who died in WW1 and WW2. It was agreed that Joanne Eley and Steve Clark would perform that duty.
    Next to speak was Patricia Gadsby. Patricia explained that she is the Activities Co-ordinator for Broomfield Residential Care Home, which care for 40 residents and specialises in dementia care. There is currently a major refurbishment taking place, and Patricia said she is trying to create awareness and stronger links with the community, which has attendance by a group of Pre-school children to perform song and dance and talk to the residents, which has two-way benefits. Members of The Baptist Church have also performed there, and it is hoped that residents will be able to participate in the Amazing Grace 250th anniversary celebrations. Patricia said the councillors, either collectively or individually, would be most welcome to get involved with activities. She said that there would be a grand opening of the refurbished premises in January and all councillors and the local MP (whoever that might be) would be invited to attend. Mercury interjected to say that his old mate David Pibworth would no doubt be delighted to attend should the voters of the Milton Keynes North constituency return a Monster Raving Loony Party MP at the forthcoming general election!

    OTC Code of Conduct

    Paul Cummins, Deputy Monitoring Officer MKC, was present to give a presentation on the Code of Conduct which has been adopted by OTC. Also present was Monitoring Officer Sharon Bridglalsingh. Paul did not state the purpose of the presentation since OTC adopted the code in 2012, but Mercury assumes it was a timely reminder to all members of the ethical standards required of them. The code was introduced in order to comply with the Localism Act of 2011 and is intended to be ‘light-touch’ compared with the more formal standards regime of the predecessor Local Government act of 2000. The code states that councillors, along with everyone else in public office, should uphold the principles of accountability, honesty, integrity, objectivity, selflessness, openness and leadership known as the Nolan Principles. The council must maintain a Register of Interest for all members which includes Disclosable Pecuniary (financial) Interests (DPI) applying to councillors and their spouses or partners. If any member becomes aware of a DPI during a meeting that is not already on the register, they must declare it at the meeting and register it within 28 days. Any gift or hospitality over £100 in value must be declared, including a series of lesser value gifts totally more than £100. The full Code of Conduct can be viewed on the council website https://www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk/
    Kevin Viney asked how many investigations into breaches of the code had taken place in 2019 across all parish councils. Paul replied that four alleged breaches were currently being investigated at a cost to Council Tax payers of approximately £30K.

    Co-option of new member

    Following the resignation of Tony Evans, a vacancy exists on the council. Debbie Whitworth was the only candidate to put her name forward and was present to address the council. Debbie explained that she had lived in Olney for 28 years, and her three sons had all attended local schools and had played for Olney Town Football Club. Since being diagnosed with MS six years ago, Debbie said she had become very aware of the daily obstacles affecting the elderly and disabled in the town, bad parking being a particular issue of concern. As there were no other candidates, it was not necessary to hold the usual secret ballot and Debbie was elected unopposed and welcomed to the council by Mayor Jeremy Rawlings.

    Supplementary Fund application

    Parish councils are permitted to apply for funding for projects which support MKC Themes and demonstrate public benefit. The Limit on the total value of bids is £5,000 (£10K project value as parishes are expected to match any grant by 50%). Each Parish or Town Council may submit a maximum of three applications. OTC has applied for and been given two grants – one for fencing around the children’s play area on the recreation ground and the other for drinking fountains in the town, for which the council are looking at designs.

    McCarthy and Stone development proposal

    Angle Properties and McCarthy & Stone have submitted a detailed planning application for 48 retirement flats and ten houses on land to the rear of the new Sainsbury’s store. The MKC Planning Officers have recommended acceptance of the plans which were due to be presented to the MKC Development Control Committee (DCC) two days later. Chris Tennant explained OTC objections to the plans, being:
    • The land is earmarked for retail use in the Neighbourhood Plan.
    • Insufficient evidence has been submitted to prove that an attempt has been made to find a retail customer for the site.
    • The site is unsuitable for retirement housing, due to its location.
    Chris said as Chair of the Olney Development Group he would be speaking at the meeting, along with Ward Councillors Peter Geary and David Hoskings. Colin Rodden said he understood that Sainsbury’s had signed a non-competition clause in the agreement with Angle to ensure that a similar retail operation would not be permitted on the site. Chris responded that the marketing report submitted by agents BNP Paribas confirmed this. Deirdre Bethune wondered if this excluded a petrol station and Chris replied that there had been enquiries of this nature, but since petrol stations usually include a convenience grocery section this would be considered competition to Sainsbury’s. Steve Clark said that OTC had only recently discovered that the non-competition clause existed, and Angle had met with them several times and claimed that there had been no interest from other retailers so believed that there had been deliberate deception on their part.
    Update: At the meeting on 7th November, MKC DCC decided not to accept the MK Officer recommendation and refuse the application due to its conflict with the Olney Neighbourhood Plan. The applicant was given advice by Councillors that where communities have come together to produce a Neighbourhood Plan, planning decisions will be made in accordance with the Neighbourhood Plan and Plan:MK. It is not known at this stage if there will be an appeal.

    Astro-turf pitch

    Chris Tennant said consideration was being given to the provision of a full-size 3G Astro-turf pitch locally. Some Section 106 money is available, and MKC and the Football Foundation would provide additional funding. The FA has identified that there a number of locations in MK that are lacking such facilities and are committed to providing 1000 pitches nationally. As chair of the Olney Development Group, he had recently met with the FA, representatives of local sports clubs and Ousedale School with a view to providing a pitch at the Ousedale Olney campus. It would be managed by the school with a community use agreement out of core school time, he said. Chris said the cost would be in the region of £750K, which caused some consternation amongst members. Dierdre Bethune was sceptical of the community use suggestion, pointing out that OTC had agreed to release a large part of the council-owned Barnfield for creation of the school playing field on condition that it would be available for community use and that agreement had not been honoured by the school. She also pointed out the irony of a council that had recently declared a climate emergency proposing to lay down plastic grass. Peter Geary said that finding capital funding to provide such facilities was often not a problem, but the council should bear in mind that the life-span is usually in the order of 10 years, after which a six-figure sum would be required to replace the surface otherwise it would have to close on safety grounds. It was important that a ‘sink fund’ was set up right at the start to cover this, he said. This meant that the fees for using it would have to be quite steep in order to build up this fund.

    Climate Emergency

    Chris Tennant reported that Climate Change Group had held their third meeting where they had discussed how they could work with local organisations. A workshop will be held in January, focusing primarily on food issues such as food waste, sourcing food locally, and what the council can do in terms of procurement of goods and services. Consideration has been given to reducing grass cutting in order to reduce fuel costs and enhance wildlife habitats and planting additional trees.

    Odds and Sods

    The Local Authority Publishing Co Ltd (a private company) have approached OTC concerning an update of the Town Guide. This is at no cost to the council as the revenue comes from advertising. It was noted that previous editions had contained a number of errors so the council will proofread before publishing.
    The Children’s Air Ambulance charity have approached the council about locating a textiles collecting bank somewhere in town, but it was decided not to follow it up as a similar facility already exists outside the fire station.
    The Market Place will be closed for the annual Pancake Race on 24th and 25th February 2020. Jeremy Rawlings suggested that the marquee company are requested not to drive stakes into the tarmac surface of the Market Place as usual, but Dierdre Bethune pointed out that the areas where the surface has broken up is due to traffic movement, not piercing by stakes. The marquee company will be asked to consider alternatives in advance of the future refurbishment of the Market Place, when piercing of the surface will be banned altogether.
    Deidre Bethune and Jeremy Rawlings expressed their thanks to TOG (The Olney Group) for their hard work in providing the ‘fantastic’ fireworks night that had taken place a few days before.
    Graham Harrison reported that the Allotment Association would like to create a Community Orchard on part of the field behind the allotments as part of the Amazing Grace 250 celebrations, to be called the Newton Orchard. Funding is available from several sources so it would be at no cost to OTC. This will be considered at a future Recs and Services meeting.

    Next Meeting - 2nd December

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd December in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • December 2019

    Olney Council report for December 2019

    Public Participation

    Danny Conway
    First to speak was Danny Conway, from the Milton Keynes area of UNISON. He started by noting that he was attending because Olney Town Council (OTC) was planning to discuss discretionary powers related to the local government pension scheme. He explained that OTC did not seem to have consulted its staff on this change to their conditions, and it would have been good industrial relations to do so. Further, he felt that what the Council was doing was to its financial disadvantage, the relevant clauses sometimes being useful.

    Martin Allen
    Next up was Martin Allen. Around a year ago, he had asked OTC to consider resurfacing the area between the Recreation Ground play area and the MUGA. Noting that this had not been done, he asked if the Council would look again at the area, as he felt it dangerous especially if puddles froze over. He asked if the S106 monies from the development behind the Rugby Club could pay towards it. He concluded by noting that the Dennis Timpson Stand, next to the football pitch adjacent to East Street, appeared to be being misused as a public lavatory. Jeremy Rawlings noted that both issues would be placed on the agenda of the Recreations and Services Committee, the Police already having been informed of the latter. Desmond Eley noted that the resurfacing work had not been forgotten, and was instead waiting for budget, for example from S106 monies, to proceed.

    Mary Swallow
    Mary Swallow spoke briefly to ask why the double yellow lines outside her house had not been repainted. She believed this work had been authorised but, while other yellow lines on the High Street had been repainted, hers had not.

    Tom Winter
    Tom Winter, Secretary of Olney Rugby Club, was next to speak. He explained that he’d written to OTC with reference to the Council’s submission to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about the change of use of the Football Club building. In that submission, he explained that OTC had written that the Rugby Club was not in a financial position to put forward a business plan. He noted that these references to the Rugby Club were factually incorrect – it was in a position to take over the lease and make structural alterations to the building as needed. OTC did not go back to the Rugby Club to ask for a business plan, in spite of the Club having formally expressed an interest in the building back in September 2018, noting it was in a position to move forward immediately. Over the next few months, he’d reiterated that the Club had the financial resources to go ahead. However, in one of those conversations, he felt a misunderstanding may have arisen over work on its clubhouse, which is subject to funding from the Rugby Union, which is temporarily unavailable. Its expressed preference at the time was for Olney Town Colts FC to take on the lease, with itself taking it on if they could not, while also noting that the Rugby Club retained an interest in the building. The Club is concerned the submission is somewhat misleading, that information has been put into the public domain which should not have been, perhaps calling into question the integrity of the way the Council worked. Perhaps it had been misrepresented to support a position OTC had taken. He concluded by saying that the Club has no issue with Bodyforce – but sees the misrepresentation as a matter of principle.

    Phil Morden
    Last up was Phil Morden who, having lived nearby and been a regular visitor over the last 35 years, had recently moved to the town. He was appalled at the amount of traffic passing through Olney and also Weston Underwood, which now seemed like a de facto bypass. He’d been interested to read how OTC had helped get the Lavendon Road residential development overturned, due to it not being in the Neighbourhood Plan. That plan had also included the need to reduce traffic problems, he noted, for example reducing the number of HGVs travelling through the town. He could see no evidence of OTC or MKC having done anything about this. He asked if any progress was being made, and for regular updates for people in the town. Jeremy Rawlings noted that Northampton Council had just approved a new housing development just South of Brackmills, from which quite a few residents would likely be travelling along the A509 to and from Milton Keynes. He also explained that the two routes identified for a bypass are preserved in the Neighbourhood Plan – none of their area is allocated for building purposes. However, he explained that a bypass would be dependent on Central Government funding – it costing a significant number of millions to build.

    Approving the minutes

    Kevin Viney had an issue with one item on the draft minutes of last month’s meeting, in which Councillor Eley had noted that there had recently been a political stand on the Market Place and that this was neither allowed nor authorised. He felt that description significantly cut short the ensuing discussion, in which the Town Clerk had confirmed that authorisation had been given and in which Kevin had noted that, in the past, all political parties had been welcome to use the Market Place provided this had been properly requested. So, he felt this wording on its own was somewhat misleading, and that those extra points should be added. Jeremy Rawlings noted he was happy for that to be changed.

    Amazing Grace 250

    AG250, shorthand for Amazing Grace 250, is the 250th anniversary of the Amazing Grace hymn being written by John Newton to be delivered at a service in St Peter and St Paul church on 1st January 1773. Paul Collins stepped out of the meeting for this item, having declared an interest because the Cowper and Newton Museum, of which he is a trustee, may benefit from part of any monies granted by the Council towards the Town’s celebrations in general. This was felt to be a laudable aim and, after some discussion, the Council concluded it was minded to grant up to £5,000 for each of the next three years. This will likely come from the Sydney Dix Community fund.

    Pensions discretions policy

    This item, to approve OTC’s pension discretions policy, followed on from Danny Conway’s speech during the Public Participation section. As background, Andrea Vincent noted that most Council staff were members of the Local Government Pension Scheme administered by Buckinghamshire County Council (Bucks CC). One staff member had asked for retirement on a flexible basis, and this required OTC to get an up to date Employer Discretions Policy, it’s current one being some 20 years outdated and thus not valid as far as Bucks CC was concerned. Councillors had a template policy which discussed what employers might want to do in addition to the terms and conditions. She noted she’d checked with Bucks CC and they’d confirmed it was an employer’s policy and not part of the terms and conditions, and that the Council as a whole needed to agree an up to date policy. She described various discretionary points from the Policy, namely, giving extra pension where someone might retire early, adding sums of money for people taking flexible retirement, waiving age limits due to illness, and about the ’85 year rule’ being switched on or off. That rule means a retiree can start to draw benefits if the sum of their age and years worked under the scheme add up to at least 85 years. All of these came with significant costs, and it was up to OTC’s discretion to decide which it would allow.
    The Human Resources (HR) Committee had recommended a policy on each discretion, and OTC debated whether to approve these policies. The long ensuing discussion is summarised for brevity. Joanne Eley noted that any discretionary payments would have to be made from Council funds (in other words, Public funds) resulting in money needing to be raised from the Precept. This point was noted widely. She noted that the pension was more generous than those elsewhere and that the amounts involved would be very significant for OTC. She also noted that Councillors should be aware that a discretionary amount, which could be up to £6,500 per year per retired staff member, would burden the precept payers and future Councillors. It was not an easy decision to make, she said.
    Kevin Viney, the Councillor coming out most strongly against the policy, felt this a mean spirited financial attack on the staff, no consultation of whom had taken place. Given that morale is already low, he felt the policy’s approach to work conditions represented a move from a John Lewis to a Sports Direct – like relationship with its staff. He asked that the proposal be returned to the HR Committee and that full consultation be performed with staff representatives.
    Joanne Eley noted that delaying approval of the policy meant delaying a member of staff’s retirement. She asked if Kevin was aware of OTC’s 24.4% contribution to staff pensions. Peter Geary noted that the HR Committee had looked at this, made its recommendations and, if the Council had to go through the issues again, that’s what it must do. After some confusion concerning the impact of the potential extra £6,500 per year per staff member, Desmond Eley explained that, if given to two staff members, it would be an extra 7% on the precept.
    After further discussion, Jeremy Rawlings asked whether, given that approval for this proposal was required in order for the staff member to retire, Council could approve it in this meeting, reviewing the proposal in six months if felt necessary. This was seconded, voted on and agreed by a comfortable majority.

    Update on former FC Planning Application

    This refers to the topic which Tom Winter spoke about in the Public Participation section. Jeremy Rawlings introduced this item, noting that BodyForce had submitted a second planning application for the former FC building. There were plenty of submissions on the MKC Planning Portal in favour of the application with just one or two against, he said.
    Paul Collins started by explaining that Olney Town Football Club had found it impossible to continue and could not meet its obligations to maintain the building. A deed of surrender was prepared and signed, resulting in OTC becoming the freeholder of the building. A survey identified the poor, dilapidated condition of the building, and the Council’s Working Group gave consideration to who could restore and use it. Discussions were had with interested parties, including the Rugby Club and BodyForce, the latter allowed to remain in the building for an interim period. Various of those parties had aspirations for the building, but the Working Group’s genuine feeling from the discussions was that neither the Rugby Club nor Olney Town Colts FC had the financial capacity to improve the building, although clearly this was being disputed this evening. BodyForce had come forward with a detailed business plan and information on how it could be funded, so an announcement was made back in April that they were the preferred tenant. That announcement generated no negative reaction from the other interested parties, and it is only when the change of use planning application is being considered that they started making a comment. He felt the Council had acted properly, protecting the precept payers and ensuring a wide range of amenities were available to the town.
    Desmond Eley noted that there are past and present Councillors with strong ties to the sports community, but they are unpaid public servants and thus have a duty to Olney’s residents. Councillors are required by law to follow rules and regulations, and to make responsible decisions on how public money is spent. The former chair of the Recreations and Services Committee had led a Working Group to resolve the issues with the Football Club building, which otherwise carried the potential to saddle a huge debt on Olney Residents. This Working Group had presented a paper to full Council recommending it proceed with BodyForce. This had been agreed unanimously and the decision published on the Council’s website. Since then, the Council has spent time and money following that agreement. In the eight months since he joined the Working Group, no group or organisation had asked for an explanation, or what could be offered to enable a reassessment by the Council. He was disappointed that there seemed to be ongoing attempts to thwart the business of the Council.
    This second planning application will come before the MKC Development Control Committee on 23rd January. Desmond Eley suggested resurrecting the regular Joint User Group meetings for those using the Recreation Ground as a way of avoiding misunderstandings in future.

    Bits ‘n’ Bobs

    A speed detection van will be spending around 16 hours per week in Olney for a period. This was as a result of speed data collected by Olney Speedwatch. The van has already issued 20 tickets for speeding on Aspreys in its first week of operation.
    Kevin Viney pointed out that, due to the way in which the white lines around the Market Place have been repainted, it is no longer clear that there are four disabled parking spaces, there appearing to be only one. He suggested the Council ask MKC to paint ‘disabled’ for the three remaining spaces.
    Colin Rodden noted that there were drainage problems at the side of the High Street both outside Brocks and the old Natwest building. Peter Geary suggested Councillors take pictures next time these areas flooded, to send to MKC to help justify it investigating.
    Chris Tenant noted that the Sainsbury’s developers had not replaced the 30 MPH turrets, which were meant to be moved further down Lavendon Road. OTC has asked MKC’s Highways department to reposition them. He also noted that, when pulling out of the Sainsbury’s car park, visibility left onto Lavendon Road is poor. With Kevin Viney also noting a road crossing issue in the area, Peter Geary suggested the Council arrange a meeting of the MKC Road Safety Team to discuss issues around the new Sainsbury’s development.

    Next Meeting - 6th January 2020

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th January in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.


Mercury's reports for 2018

  • January 2018
    Mercury Report:
    Olney Town Council
    There was an unusually low turnout of members for this month’s meeting with only nine being present.

    Public participation

    First to talk was Hillary Terry on the subject of the re-submitted Planning Application for four 4-bed houses with detached double garages behind numbers 63 & 65 Moore’s Hill. She said the main difference to the original application appeared to be an alleged wider access to the site and did not know of any residents in Moore’s Hill who think this application should be approved. There had been a recent residents’ meeting at which five Moore’s Hill households were represented, plus one from Dinglederry and three from Maybush Walk, with several apologies from others who also feel very strongly that this application should be turned down.
    Moore’s Hill is a sub-standard single width road of between 3.75 and 3.85m, and vehicles are required to drive on the pavement to pass. Both driving on, and parking on, the pavement is dangerous to pedestrians. It is often the case that pedestrians with children in push chairs need to walk in the road because of cars parked on the pavement. The situation is further aggravated enormously by the proximity to Olney Middle School, when Moore’s Hill becomes a car park and there is barely room to get a small car between the rows of parked cars. Building four extra houses will further aggravate the traffic problems in this road,
    she said. The application is misleading and inaccurate, she felt. The developer is now proposing to demolish part of No. 63, without giving any details, suspecting the removal of the downstairs toilet. Hillary called into question the extra width the developer alleges for the proposed site access and pointed out that the boundary with Maybush Walk properties is incorrectly drawn on the application.
    Access is also hampered by a hedge which gives a difficult, if not blind, exit, not to mention the fact that traffic going in would be head-on to traffic going out.
    Although the applicant claims to have considered parking, in reality he is reducing parking for 63 and removing it completely for 65, Hillary said. She concluded by saying that the proposed development would be totally out-of-character with the houses in Moore’s Hill, thus fundamentally altering the character and nature of Moore’s Hill, an historic development long known for its old houses and spacious gardens. It is ill-advised, ill-conceived, dangerous and unsuitable, she said.
    Ralph Terry briefly spoke next, reiterating to points made by Hillary and asking that Olney Town Council (OTC) recommends rejection of the revised plan at the next meeting of the Planning Committee. He said that a more detailed document had been provided to that committee detailing where the plan was contrary to Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) own planning guidelines.

    Stacks Image 86835

    Moores Hill

    Finally, Sue Warren spoke on the subject of the parking situation in Oakdown Crescent. Sue repeated her firm belief that OTC had interfered in the request for a residents’ parking scheme by requesting that residents of Weston Road were included in the survey. Why were residents of West Street not included in the survey for a parking scheme in Orchard Rise, she asked. Ward Councillor Peter Geary’s assertion that OTC did not interfere was ‘ludicrous’, she said. Sue said she would wait till the end of the year when she would apply again, only this time she would not inform OTC,
    as the residents of Orchard Rise hadn’t. She presented some photos which showed the scale of the problem, unlike the photo in the December edition of The Phonebox which appeared to have been taken in the middle of a weekday when it was not a problem. She concluded by asking if there was any news on funding from the MKC Community Parking Fund, which had been expected months ago. Town Clerk Liam Costello said that there would not now be any funding from that source. Later in the meeting Peter Geary said he and a number of other MKC councillors and officers had recently attended a site visit but the reception they had received from the residents had put back their case considerably.
    Events

    Requests had been received to hold a number of events on the recreation ground, all of which have been approved:
    ● The annual Riverfest (raft race) on Sunday 1st July.
    ● Riverfest Rocks – a public charity fundraising music event in the Riverfest Marquee on the night of Saturday 30th June.
    ● The Olney 5km Stagger Race on 12th May to raise funds for the NSPCC.

    Bollards and weight limit in Silver End

    MKC has recently received a complaint relating to lorries mounting the pavement outside No. 4 East Street and is proposing to install bollards outside, similar to the bollards installed outside The Swan. They are also proposing a 3.5t weight limit from the Market Place, along Silver End until just beyond the property. Whist broadly in agreement with the bollards, members were concerned that the weight limit might cause problems elsewhere, meaning that large vehicles would gain access to businesses by travelling south along the length of East Street, or even via Church Street and Coneygere. OTC will write to MKC with their concerns.
    Stacks Image 86900

    East Street


    Community Hall on new development

    At the last meeting of the MKC Development Control Committee the planning application for 250 new houses west of Yardley Road was deferred, due to outstanding issues with the section 106 contribution for the community hall. Chris Tennant reported on meetings that had subsequently taken place between himself, MKC ward councillors, officers from MKC and the applicant, where the focus had been on what would be required by the community. The applicant is proposing a building with a total floor area of 150m2, the hall area being 100m2. Tony Evans supported the proposal but was concerned that access would be via the new housing estate and might create access and parking problems. Peter Geary said that the building design need to allow for future extension and should consider residents that do not play sports. This led on to a discussion around the proposed provision of playing fields with either grass or 3G/4G synthetic turf. The problem with the latter, he said, was that it would have a maximum lifespan of 10 years and would cost a six-figure sum to eventually replace. Maintenance needs to be agreed from day one, otherwise the replacement cost would fall to OTC. Colin Rodden thought that the proposal should go out to public consultation, but Peter said there was no time for that because the DCC meeting will be held on 8th February and necessary reports will need to be in place by the end of January. A vote was taken on the community hall proposal and passed by a majority.

    250th anniversary of William Cowper and Mrs Unwin moving to Olney

    To celebrate this event the Cowper and Newton Museum will be holding a showcase event at the Carlton House club on 15th February to which supporters of the museum and various dignitaries will be invited. OTC agreed to pay £250 towards the cost of catering for the event.

    Odds and sods

    Rosemary Osbourne reported that the double yellow lines on the Weston Road/Chantry Rise junction were fading leading to them being ignored.
    Peter Geary reported that MKC had appointed a new Deputy Monitoring Officer responsible for enforcing the laws on declarations of members personal interests. His view is that when such matters are discussed the member must leave the meeting, which is not what currently happens with OTC where the member remains but may take no part in discussions. He also reported that the MKC budget is currently being discussed.
    Proposals are:

    ● A 6% rise in Council Tax
    ● Grit bins will not be filled
    ● Graffiti squads cut from 4 to 3
    ● £500k cut from road resurfacing budget
    ● Pot hole repair budget cut by 15% or £100k. Also, removal of 28 day timescale for holes greater than 50mm deep. Currently if a repair is made within 28 days of a hole being reported MKC do not have to pay compensation for vehicle damage. Members were concerned on the impact of this measure.

    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings was concerned that MKC have been ‘slipping in’ LED replacement street lights without consulting OTC. The standard replacement is an eight-point high intensity array with no diffuser, he said (Mercury had noted that that particularly bright lamp at the top of Spring Lane is actually a double array of 16).
    Tony Evans reported that there is a large road depression on the route of the pancake race.
    Kevin Viney reported that collection of evidence to provide a right of way over the privately owned section of The Goosey is progressing well. A report on the proposed weight limit on the bridge is due at the end of the month. A meeting with the Environment Agency to discuss the unauthorised structure and rubbish is being held on 15th January. A new gate, including a pedestrian gate, is being erected on the Weston Road entrance.
    Work to upgrade the electricity supply on the Market Place has been delayed until March.

    Stacks Image 86841

    Cowper & Newton Museum

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 5th February in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.
  • February 2018

    Olney Council report for 5th February 2018

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren was first to speak, on the topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She stated again that the reason Oakdown Crescent wasn’t granted a parking permit scheme was that Olney Town Council (OTC) had insisted on Weston Road residents being included in the survey. Noting that OTC existed to improve the lives of Olney residents, she said this seemingly did not apply to those in Oakdown Crescent, Deirdre Bethune being the only Councillor to speak with them about the parking problem. She advised the Council that she’d made a formal complaint to the Local Authority Ombudsman regarding how OTC handled the application for parking permits in Oakdown Crescent, compared with the successful application for Orchard Rise.

    Christine Platt
    Christine Platt, Sue’s sister, then spoke briefly on the same topic. She noted that the Phonebox Magazine had reported Peter Geary as saying that he and other Councillors had visited the Crescent but that the reaction of those they spoke with had put back their case considerably. In her view, it was instead the case that, while Councillors had spoken with the residents, they did not want to hear what they had to say.

    Peter Geary

    Peter Geary responded to this specific issue. He took a group of Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Officers on a site visit to the Crescent in an attempt to convince them that work needed to be done to alleviate the parking problem. He stated that, factually, the Officers had been less impressed by the residents’ case after the visit than before. Addressing Sue and Christine, he stated that they needed to work with the Council in order to move the situation forward - their current approach was not helpful, he said. He concluded by saying that he supported them contacting the Ombudsman. If they had a problem, that was a sensible way to address it.

    Events

    The Council gave permission for Cherry Fair to be held on Saturday 16th June on The Glebe, and for Motorama to be held on Sunday 10th June on the Market Place.

    New development and Community Hall

    This topic concerns the planning application for the site to the West of Yardley Road. First, some background kindly provided by Liam Costello after the meeting. The planning application is for “Outline permission (with all matters reserved except access) for the residential development of 250 dwellings and associated public open space, car parking and community facilities including a multi-use community building”. This means that the applicant is seeking permission for the principle of those items, with their detail to be agreed at a subsequent more detailed application termed a “Reserved Matters Application”. So, the only things due to be agreed and set in stone at this stage are the highway access details and the Section 106 (S106) agreement. With regards to the S106, the MKC Development Control Committee (DCC) will approve the heads of terms of the S106 at their committee meeting, and afterwards solicitors for MKC and the developer will agree the S106 arrangement, which is a binding legal document.
    Now back to the meeting. Chris Tenant reported that he, Peter Geary, David Hosking, Tony Evans and Liam Costello had met with Providence Land and MKC Officers on a number of occasions to progress the Community Hall item. This covered the scope, layout, form, design and principle of the proposed building, along with the Section 106 package, due to be assessed by the DCC on Thursday 8th February. He noted that all this was “indicative” meaning that, as explained above, the precise detail of the Community Hall will not be agreed at this stage.
    Peter Geary noted that, in the amenity area, one of the two sports areas will be laid out as a pitch, while the other will remain the property of Providence Land, effectively their ‘lever’ to help secure the remainder of the Site E development area, which is essentially the remaining Westerly section of the Southernmost field of the overall development. Tony Evans noted that this second sports area needn’t be a pitch and could, for example, be a running track - although OTC would need to pay for the work required to achieve this.
    Chris and Peter then covered the ‘phasing’ of the amenities becoming available versus the houses being built. The application currently commits to this happening only after 180 dwellings are built which, assuming a build rate of 50 dwellings per year, could be in around seven or eight years’ time. OTC would prefer, and will push for, a figure of more like 125 dwellings (50% of the total), thus ensuring that the first buyers have the benefit of the facilities earlier. Chris noted that the build rate would not be linear. For example, much infrastructure work would be required before the first house was built. He also noted that the foot and cycle path to Aspreys was similarly slated to be available only after 180 dwellings had been built, and this was not nearly early enough. Peter felt that this was fine tuning, on which he felt the developer would likely compromise.
    Note: In their meeting of Thursday 8th February, MKCDCC unanimously resolved to grant outline planning permission (with all matters reserved except access) for the residential development of up to 250 houses and associated public open space, car parking and community facilities including the multi-use community building.

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    How Olney’s new Community Centre may look. Supplied by David Hosking

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    Edgar Mobbs Close off of East Street. Right: Edgar Mobbs

    Section 106 Museum and Archives monies

    Paul Collins, Councillor and trustee of the Cowper & Newton Museum, proposed that it administer the Museums and Archives part of the Section 106 monies from local developments, currently £58,924 assuming the new 250 dwelling development. He noted that the Council nominates two people on the Museum board. Peter Geary asked Paul to confirm that the Museum would effectively have oversight of where the monies were spent, rather than necessarily spending them on itself. Paul confirmed this, and Councillors voted unanimously in favour, bar Paul who was not allowed to vote.

    Goosey Island

    Kevin Viney provided an update on the temporary structures on Goosey Island. The deadline for the removal of these structures expires in March and, if not heeded, MKC Planning Enforcement will take action at the owner’s expense. Further, the Environment Agency (EA) will write to the owner to remind him that, while temporary permission for scaffold poles under the weak wooden bridge has been given, he must now submit a permanent proposal.
    High winds have torn off a section of a gate coated with anti-climbing paint, and it’s likely that this paint is dangerous to aquatic life. The EA has been informed, and concerned residents are advised to report the issue to its incident hotline.
    Finally, a planning application has been submitted by the owner of Little Goosey Island to install a cattle grid and gates, the land deeds indicating that he is allowed to keep animals. While this is clearly a concern, Peter Geary noted that an application can only ever be assessed on its own merits so, if OTC was to recommend against it, it would need good planning grounds on which to do so.

    Budget and Precept

    Councillors voted unanimously to approve OTC’s budget for 2018-2019. This includes an increase in its precept by 2.99% to £190,585 which, for various reasons, will result in only a 2% increase in the part of your Council Tax bill which goes to OTC.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    The street name for the 14 house development off East Street will be either Edgar Mobbs Close or just Mobbs Close.
    OTC will take on the administration of the Hanging Baskets which furnish the High Street and nearby roads during the summer, Jeremy Rawlings noting the Council would review whether its office staff required additional help.
    OTC’s Planning Committee has objected to an application for a retail food store with up to 26 residential units on the land at the corner of Lavendon and Warrington Roads. That was because the site was allocated purely for retail development under the Olney Neighbourhood Plan, and it was important for the sustainable future of the town that retail space be available to meet its growing population’s future needs.
    Tony Evans passed on OTC’s best wishes to Jeremy Rawlings who, as Mayor, would be in Liberal, Kansas for the Pancake Race.

    Crossing outside One Stop

    Deirdre Bethune introduced this topic, explaining that she’d heard of further incidents involving drivers not seeing pedestrians about to cross. Other Councillors, including Jeremy Rawlings and Tony Evans, agreed the crossing was dangerous, and fair to neither pedestrians nor drivers due to a mix of lighting and nearby parking. Noting that OTC had to be clear about what action it wanted, Peter asked that all such near misses be reported with dates and times. That would help increase the priority of any improvements, he said.

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    Olney’s One Stop Crossing

    Councillor vacancy

    Although not discussed in this meeting, Liam Costello asked Mercury to note that OTC will look to fill a Councillor vacancy by co-option at its next full meeting on 5th March. If anyone would like to be considered, please contact the Council, 01234 711679 or townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, for details and an application form.


    Next Meeting - 5th March

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 5th March in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • March 2018

    Olney Council report for 5th March 2018

    Public Participation

    Ralph Terry
    First to speak was Ralph Terry. He thanked the members of Olney Town Council (OTC) for their continued support in objecting to the resubmitted planning application for additional houses in Moores Hill. Ralph said there were four other points he wished to make. The first was the matter of the huge pothole and puddle at the end of West Street which had been there for over a month. The second was about the new street lights in the High Street. The Olney crest had not been replaced on a significant number of them and one had been left as a cut off stump. Thirdly, the footpath from Johnsons Field to the Middle School was in a bad state being covered in vegetable matter with the bank falling away and trees growing over the path. Lastly, he said that dog mess was particularly bad along the path, which he and his wife use several times a day and both had resorted to picking up the mess themselves.
    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings responded that the sawn-off stump was probably due to an existing lamppost which had been found to be very close to a gas main during replacement and Transco were due to investigate and rectify. Dierdre Bethune explained that all the crests were supposed to be replaced as part of the lamppost replacement scheme, but Ringway, Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) service provider are yet to complete the job. Later in the meeting there was a discussion regarding responsibility for clearing leaves from footpaths, which generally is down to MKC. Tony Evans noted that the mobile sweeper did not appear to have visited for some time. Colin Rodden pointed out that many footpaths had never been formally handed over from the numerous developers to MKC so remain unadopted.

    Ruth Ayling
    Next to speak was Ruth Ayling. Ruth said she understood that the Thursday Market was struggling for business and wondered if the opening hours were precluding many people from using it, who otherwise would. She suggested that perhaps it should be open later as a trial to see if it gets more use.
    Steve Clark noted that the recent bad weather had meant that some stalls had been unable to attend, and footfall had consequently been low. The suggestion of later opening will be put to the market traders.

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    The Olney Crest

    Co-option of new councillor

    A vacancy having arisen and there being no request from the electorate for an election to fill it, it fell to the council to fill the vacancy by co-option. Residents Graham Harrison and Mike Hughes had put their names forward and, both being present, were invited to introduce themselves prior to the secret vote. Graham spoke first explaining that he had stood unsuccessfully in the recent election but the support he had received had encouraged him to put himself forward for co-option. He said he had been an Olney resident for three years and prior to that had lived in Warrington for 35 years and been the Parish Meeting Chairman for the last 10, attending Rural Area Forum and Neighbour Action Group meetings. During this time he had, with others, successfully opposed the building of the Nun Wood wind farm and the supermarket at Warrington BP station. In 2016 he retired as a magistrate after 23 years.
    Mike said that he had been an Olney resident for 23 years. During the next few years the town will be going through momentous change and, having previously served as a councillor and mayor, felt that he had the experience and ability to once again be of service. He explained that he is currently OTC’s representative on the Petsoe End Windfarm Committee, a member of the Ann Hopkins Smith Alms House Trust and member of St Peter and St Pauls Church Fabric Committee.
    A secret ballot was held and Graham Harrison was elected by nine votes to four.

    Draft Framework for Parish and Town Councils to have an increased role in service delivery

    Desmond Eley explained that MKC have big budget restrictions and are looking to cut expenditure further when the current contract with Serco for some services expires in two years’ time. One of the proposals is for Parish and Town Councils to take on and pay for some services themselves. He felt that OTC needs to proactively get an understanding of what residents are prepared to pay for. Jeremy Rawlings said that the problem is that it is not yet clear what MKC are likely to be dropping. Steve Clark suggested that OTC should reply saying that they are keen to work with MKC but felt that recent experience with the transfer of landscaping responsibility and the abortive attempt by OTC to take over ownership of the Youth Club under the Community Asset Transfer scheme had been a bad experience. There was no guarantee that Olney would not get ‘shafted’ again, he said. Peter Geary said that OTC was in a better position to take on the work than many other local councils as it has its own ground staff. The current MKC Public Realm Service Director had come into the job with the intention of cutting many services but it had since become clear that they could not all be cut, he said.
    OTC has for some years been responsible for its own landscaping services on a devolved basis from MKC. Instead of paying Serco to do the work, as happens with most other parishes, MKC gives OTC a grant to do it on their behalf. There had been some concern that MKC could arbitrarily reduce this grant due to changes in their budget, so an ‘extension of and deed of variation to agreement’ document has been drawn up and will be signed by both parties. The agreement ensures that:

    ● The grant will be reviewed annually, rather than quarterly as proposed by MKC.
    ● Any variation in the grant at the annual review shall not reduce the grant below a level which would have been charged by Serco.
    ● Any disagreement resulting from the review will be referred to binding arbitration.

    Street naming

    Local historian and resident Elizabeth Knight had been approached by MKC to provide suitable street names for the proposed new developments in the town. She noted that a 1970s document identified a field in the Stilebrook area as ‘Foul Slough’ which Mercury thought particularly appropriate, given the proximity of the proposed houses to the sewage works. She also commented that the proposal to name the new development off East Street as Mobbs Close, after local sporting and WW1 hero Edgar Mobbs was very appropriate. This provoked a discussion initiated by Tony Evans as to whether his full name should be used. It was agreed that this would be more respectful and might provoke locals to investigate his life and achievements further.

    Silent Soldier Campaign

    The Royal British Legion are inviting sponsors to get involved in the campaign by donating to receive a ‘Silent Soldier’ silhouette to commemorate the end of WW1 and as a tribute to those who didn’t return and to those whose lives would never be the same again. Council agreed to donate a sum to be decided. The silhouette will probably be displayed at different locations around the town.

    Citizens Advice – Community Outreach Project

    OTC pays £4,400 each year so that Milton Keynes Citizens Advice can provide sessions for Olney residents once a fortnight at the Olney Centre. These sessions can be booked by calling the clerk or deputy clerk at the Olney Centre on 01234 711679. The report for July to December 2017 showed that 27 people had been helped to resolve and address 59 separate legal, financial and personal problems. Joanne Eley noted that the two detailed case studies appeared to duplicate what is provided by the health services and wondered if the service essential or just a ‘nice to have’. Peter Geary replied that since MKC no longer provided the funding the parishes had agreed to provide support so that the 2-3% of residents who need advice on issues such as housing can obtain it locally. These are the most vulnerable members of society, he said. Desmond Eley asked why MKC had withdrawn funding. Peter replied because they were short sighted and the easiest thing to cut in a financial crisis is such grants. John Boardman reminded members that the councils of surrounding villages had been approached to contribute to the funding, but none had done so meaning that residents of those villages were now directed to the service in Milton Keynes. Dierdre Bethune was concerned that residents of those villages were not being supported and suggested that they speak to their own parish councils in order to provide their own service. Peter Geary noted that the cost for signing up for a further three years would be £4,293 per year, a discount of just over £300 in total. He said it was important for the providers to have commitment as they needed the continuity to plan ahead and ensure that they had people in place with the right skills. He suggested that OTC renew for a further year with a view to extending to three years next time the contract was up for renewal, which was agreed

    Market Place CCTV

    This matter came up during the finance agenda item where it was questioned whether OTC is getting value for money for the annual fee. Jeremy Rawlings was of the opinion that the service had been miss-sold. Pictures from the camera are stored 24/7 on a memory card which can then be remotely accessed. It was agreed to look at the possibility of getting the camera centrally monitored by the police in Central Milton Keynes.

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    Market Place Power Bollards

    Odds and sods

    The installation of power bollards on the Market Place is due to run from 10th to 21st of March and will hopefully be complete by the time you read this. This work will enable market traders to connect to a power supply close to their stalls, instead of draping overhead cables back to the main power box by the toilets.
    A temporary fence on the new development on East Street is encroaching 2-3 metres on to the Youth Club field. The estates team at MKC will be informed.
    It was noted that the cobble stones have been removed from outside the front of The Bull and replaced with a resin and gravel surface as part of the redevelopment. However, this is in accordance with the submitted plans and has been done on health and safety grounds.
    It was noted that the water consumption on the allotments was unusually high and will be investigated.


    Next Meeting - 9th April

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 9th April in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • April 2018

    Olney Council report for 9th April 2018

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    First to speak was Susan Warren who reported that the Local Government Ombudsman would be taking up her complaint about the way that OTC (Olney Town Council) and MKC (Milton Keynes Council) had dealt with the issue of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She said it was nice to see officers from MKC present at the meeting now that the Ombudsman would be investigating.

    Martin Allen
    Next to speak was Martin Allen on the subject of the High Street premises previously occupied by T A Bennett & Sons. He asked if members were aware of any planning applications for the premises and if not, could they ask the owner to paint the rather unattractive boarding. Members were not aware of any application at that time.

    Kate Bostock
    Next to speak was Kate Bostock. Kate said that the bay window of her house in Bridge Street has been struck by vehicles twice in the last four months, the latest in a long line of such incidents over many years and each time she has had to bear the cost of repairs. Although the road was repaired a few years ago the camber seems to be getting worse again, she said, and was concerned about the safety of pedestrians. She had spoken to the MKC Ward Councillors about the possibility of a speed restriction or bollards on the bend.

    Ken and Gill Simmond
    Last to speak were Ken and Gill Simmonds from Long Massey about speeding traffic on Aspreys. Ken said that the speed and noise of traffic was increasing and the recently installed Speed Indicating Device (SID) had recorded one vehicle traveling at 57 mph. He said there were an increasing number of lorries and works vehicles using Apreys and believed that some companies were advising their drivers to use Aspreys to avoid congestion in the High Street.
    He asked when the data from the SIDs would be available and whether it would be made public.

    Peter Geary agreed that the data should be made public but Town Clerk Liam Costello said that the raw data is not easily understandable. He would be happy to explain it to Ken and Gill, he said. Gill said that even the data from the SIDs would not be a true reflection of the speeds because she had observed vehicles slowing down when the drivers saw the SID.

    Mayor Jeremey Rawlings said the usual procedure was for the SID data to be sent to Thames Valley Police (TVP) and they then decide if further action is necessary.

    Colin Rodden said that there were plans to implement a community Speedwatch, which would be covered later in the meeting.

    Oakdown Crescent parking

    Present at the meeting were Bernie Ibekwem (Interim Highways Community Manager) and Naveed Ahmed (Senior Highway Liaison Officer). Bernie explained that he was new to the role and was attending to look at the issue, listen to concerns and then take to the next stage. When he’d first picked up the issue he was under the impression it had only been going on for around two years but having investigated further it was clear it had a much longer history. Sue Warren said she had been fighting to get it resolved for 10 years and Steve Clark said he had seen some minutes of a meeting 38 years ago where it had been discussed.
    Dierdre Bethune asked Bernie how long his tenure was likely to be, as one of the problems seemed to be that too many temporary officers had promised action and then moved on. Bernie said it was ‘number one’ on his priorities and the new MKC Head of Highways was keen for the matter to be resolved. A plan had been produced some time ago but it appeared this had not been forwarded to OTC.
    Peter Geary said he had seen a plan which involved turning the entire central area of the crescent into a car par park for 14 vehicles.
    Sue Warren said the residents had been presented with a number of options and had chosen ‘Plan B’ which consisted of a central circle with one-way traffic. Naveed said that that plan did not pass the safety review, so the current plan allowed for just 11 vehicles and she then presented plans showing the proposed layout. Sue observed that the current ad-hoc arrangement allowed parking for 18 vehicles.
    Jeremy Rawlings asked if the scheme would be fully funded by MKC and Bernie replied that the current ball-park figure was £30k split evenly between OTC and MKC.
    Liam Costello said that an application had been made in the last financial year for funding from the MKC Community Parking Scheme, but no awards had been made that year. Sue noted that there was no dedicated disabled space or Doctor/Nurse bay. It was agreed that a disabled space could be provided and enforced, and an emergency vehicle bay could be marked out but wasn’t enforceable.
    Peter Geary noted that MKC enforcement officers visit Olney on average three times a week so could be asked to enforce the scheme. A vote was taken as to whether the proposed plan was acceptable, which was passed unanimously.
    Sue Warren said that next December she would be reapplying for a residents’ only parking scheme, so it looks as though this will run for a while yet

    East Street – Holes Lane general improvements

    John Boardman said that the first phase of the two-phase housing development off East Street was coming to a close which should release around £30k in Section 106 (planning gain) funding. Two years ago MKC had put forward three possible improvement schemes and John suggested now would be the time to revisit these. Colin Rodden asked if it could be considered as part of the overall Section 106 funding from the proposed new houses off Yardley Road, but Jeremy Rawlings said legally it had to be spent in the vicinity of the development. This generated some discussion around what improvements could be made. One suggestion was to continue the footpath around the bend close to the recreation ground but Peter Geary said it would result in the road becoming too narrow for two way traffic and it would have to become one-way. Steve Clark said a one-way system would result in an increase in traffic speed. The alternative might be two way with priority in one direction but that would probably involve the installation of traffic lights, he thought. Chris Tennant said such a scheme would not be appropriate to S106 and would need to be a major capital project which in turn would need to consider all traffic movement around the town. Peter Geary said that with the current financial situation at MKC it was unlikely that funding would be available. Jeremy Rawlings proposed that the matter should be progressed outside the meeting and Desmond Eley expressed the opinion that it was only a matter of time before there was a ‘serious incident’

    Community Speedwatch

    Thames Valley Police have identified a scheme whereby communities can sign up to take part in exercises where they can themselves actively be involved in monitoring traffic speed in their locality. Two communities that have taken part in a trial have seen positive feedback. The scheme works by residents volunteering to assist in the setting up of the Speedwatch equipment and logging vehicles that are exceeding the speed limit. Offenders are then written to, via TVP, advising them of their excessive speed and given guidance to avoid speeding in the future. Vehicle details are recorded on the TVP Speedwatch database. OTC has requested volunteers via Facebook and to date around six people have expressed an interest. If you would like to volunteer, please contact the council office for more information.

    Land at corner of Lavendon Road and Warrington Road

    As previously reported, Angle Property have submitted plans for a retail foodstore and up to 26 residential units on this site and officers of MKC Planning Department were recommending acceptance of the scheme. Peter Geary reported that he and a number of other councillors had attended a meeting with the developer where the developer’s objective had been to persuade OTC to drop its objection to the scheme. OTC’s objective was to get the housing element of the scheme removed because the recently adopted Neighbourhood Plan (NP) had reserved the site solely for retail use. Chris Tennant said that at the meeting the developer confirmed that the foodstore would be occupied by Sainsbury’s and they considered the site to be in-fill and therefore not subject to the restrictions of the NP. Peter Geary said the change in the retail market meant that the size of new stores was reducing, but it was not in the interests of the town to see the whole scheme fall apart. No one had been able to demonstrate a sound reason why the NP should be changed or challenged, he said. Tony Evans was of the opinion that anything that OTC did which weakens the status of the NP would cause problems further down the line and the recommendations of the plan must be observed. Steve Clark thought the submitted plans would be bound to be rejected by the forthcoming MKC Development Control Committee (DCC) and his advice would be to resubmit without the housing. Peter Geary asked if OTC wished to reconsider its decision to object to the plans in the light of all the information they had before them. This was put to a vote and was unanimously rejected. Hew then asked if the housing element was removed would OTC support the application. This was unanimously agreed.
    Note: After a short debate at the DCC on 12th April the developer withdrew the application for the housing element. They undertook to resubmit the plans with a stand-alone supermarket within the next two weeks

    MKC affordable housing

    MKC has published a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which aims to make clear the council’s responsibilities in providing affordable housing, both as a housing landlord and as an enabler and regulator to assist others in meeting the housing needs of the community. One of the objectives is to provide more clarity on options for affordable housing delivery in the rural areas. Joanne Eley doubted whether affordable housing will be built in Olney and Peter
    Geary said that Olney is not a popular location with housing associations due to the limited public transport links with nearby centres of employment. Jeremy Rawlings noted that the size of development requiring affordable housing has been reduced from 15 to 10. The consultation period runs from 19th March to 27th April and it was agreed that Joanne Eley will liaise with MKC on the matter.

    Olney Town Football Club

    The entire committee of Olney Town Football Club (OTFC) have announced that they will stand down at the end of the current season and unless sufficient volunteers come forward to replace them, the club will fold. Tony Evans said he would be sorry to see the demise of the club, but it is no longer a local club as all players and the manager come from outside the town. He noted that the separately run Olney Town Colts now had a seniors team and said he would like to see the club grow. Joanne Eley said that unlike other local sports teams the players receive a match fee and do not get involved in running the club. Steve Clark was disappointed that OTC had been mentioned in the club’s Facebook announcement, particularly when they had bent over backwards to help them with the barrier around the pitch, in the face of public opposition. The leagues need to recognise that many smaller clubs play on town/parish council owned recreation grounds and will not get permission for stands, turnstiles and the like, he said. Liam Costello said that a 99 year lease for the land on which the club house stands was signed in 1983 so it was important that the contract terms should be obeyed by OTC and OTFC during the winding-up process. The lease does not include automatic use of the pitches he said, which get renegotiated each year.

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    Olney Town Football Club

    Odds and sods

    The installation of power bollards on the Market Place has been completed, but to a generally poor standard. Some bollards are in exposed locations and are at risk of being damaged by vehicles. A meeting will take place with the contractors.

    Kevin Viney reported that most of the illegal structures on Goosey Island had finally been removed. The metal scaffold poles on the bridge had been removed but those on the island remained, as did the rubbish. MKC will be reminded that the owner has not yet been fully compliant with the enforcement order.

    It was noted that the recent wet weather had resulted in the Long Lane bridleway becoming impassable again.

    A large pot-hole has appeared at the entrance to the Co-op, probably caused by delivery and construction vehicles. Repairs are in hand and will be completed shortly.

    Deirdre Bethune was concerned that vehicles are continuing to park in front of dropped kerbs required for disabled access. She also noted that delivery vehicles to the newly opened Cherry Tree pub were blocking the footpath in Spring Lane during deliveries and causing problems to the users of mobility scooters.

    The old Natwest Bank building has been sold. The ‘Town Clock’ mounted on the wall of the building was provided by public donation for the Silver Jubilee in 1977 and is maintained by OTC. The new owner has agreed to continue with the existing wayleave arrangement.

    The Annual Town Meeting will take place on Thursday 17th May at 7:00 pm at the Olney Centre.


    Next Meeting - 14th May

    The next OTC meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 14th May in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

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    Potholes in Stanley Court

  • May 2018

    Olney Council report for 14th May 2018

    Olney in Bermuda

    Olney Bean and her husband Lee had travelled from Bermuda to see the town she was named after. Introducing herself and clearly joyful to be here, she explained that her mother had been given the middle name ‘Olney’ because she’d been delivered, in Bermuda, by a midwife from Olney UK. Wanting to continue the line, her mother then named her Olney, a favour she conferred on the next generation by giving it to one of her daughters as her middle name. She exchanged gifts with Jeremy Rawlings, she giving him various books and cards, and he reciprocating with the Olney Hymns book.

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    Olney Bean and her husband Lee had travelled from Bermuda to see the town she was named after

    Public Participation

    David Coles
    David Coles, the only person to speak in this section, explained that David Coles Architects has bought the old NatWest Bank building to become its business premises. He has applied for permission to build a single storey rear extension to contain a toilet, and to change the class of use from A2, financial and professional services, to B1, business. He plans to maintain a shop-front-like exterior, so people can look in to see what services the firm offers. The clock, which currently falls under a wayleave agreement between Olney Town Council (OTC) and NatWest, will now fall under a similar agreement between the Council and David Coles Architects.

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    The old NatWest building, purchased by David Coles Architects

    Elections

    Jeremy Rawlings was elected Mayor and Sally Pezaro appointed Deputy Mayor, both unopposed.

    Peter Evans

    Peter Evans, former caretaker of the Olney Centre, recently passed away. Jeremy Rawlings led all present in standing for a minute’s silence.

    Admin

    This being the first meeting of the new Council year, various administrative matters were discussed and taken care of.
    Deidre Bethune asked Councillors to consider whether, for confidential discussions in the Human Resources Committee, Councillors outside that Committee should be excluded, along with the press and public as now. Peter Geary felt this would be a misstep, noting that each Councillor has a responsibility and that taking away their right to attend any meeting they wish would be a dangerous step. After further discussion, Deidre withdrew the request.
    The Council voted to adopt the General power of Competence, a new power available to local authorities in England to do “anything that individuals generally may do”. Brought into force for local authorities in 2012, it was provided for in the Localism Act 2011 and replaces the well-being powers in the Local Government Act 2000.

    Bits’n’bobs

    The Human Resources Committee is considering outsourcing some of its work as the area it covers becomes more regulated and complex.
    The Council agreed to give the Rugby Club permission to use the Nursery Field as parking for Rugby 7’s day on Saturday 23rd June, subject to reasonable weather. It will also inform the Club of the requirements for proper marshalling and signage, along with the potential for a Park and Ride service to help alleviate the overall parking problem.
    The Council is considering upgrading its website and perhaps also its email system.
    The recent repair to the large pothole at the entrance to the Co-op car park, paid for by one of the smaller nearby businesses and acknowledged temporary, will be completed more permanently, funded by a group of the larger affected businesses including the Co-op and the Bull.

    Planning

    Chris Tenant reported that the mixed retail and residential application for the site to the North East of the Whirly Pit roundabout had been discussed at a Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Development Control meeting. He and Peter Geary had spoken on behalf of OTC to object, inviting the applicant to withdraw the residential aspect. Rather than risk the application being refused, the applicant took the highly unusual step of withdrawing the whole application.
    The applicant has since requested a meeting with representatives from OTC to explain what it proposes to do next, the expectation being that it will submit an application for retail only. Peter Geary suggested that Councillors listen to its proposal and restate OTC’s policy that, as the Neighbourhood Plan designates, the site is for retail only. Chris noted that Councillors should also encourage the applicant to engage with the Public, for example sending a newsletter to local residents then holding a public meeting to discuss the application.
    Finally, Colin Rodden noted that the Council must do all it can to avoid a part residential plan from being granted permission. It was “the elephant in the room”, he said. Peter agreed: If MKC rejected the new application, the applicant could appeal and, if at that point MKC was having difficulty meeting its five year land supply, the applicant’s chances of successful appeal and subsequent grant of retail and residential permission would be increased. OTC would need to remain vigilant.

    Cobbs Garden Surgery

    As noted in the Olney Neighbourhood Plan, the Surgery is around half the size it should be, with long term population and care projections suggesting that a larger site will certainly be required. The Plan identified the site adjacent to Austen Avenue alongside the Youth Club as being suitable.
    Chris Tenant reported that Councillors had met with representatives from Cobbs Garden Surgery, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in which it operates and those responsible for finance. The Surgery is keen to expand the range of services it offers as well as increasing the number of patients it serves, but is highly constrained physically. Doctors from the Surgery have visited the new site and are very impressed with its potential. Department of Health (DoH) funding for a new site may be available and it was felt that it’d be great to see this Neighbourhood Plan proposal become a reality.
    Peter Geary noted that a crucial element was what MKC, the new site’s owner, would be prepared to sell it for versus what the DoH would be prepared to pay. He explained that MKC has a duty to maximise revenue from such sales but that, given the associated benefits, that may not be its only consideration when setting the price.

    Market Place electrics

    As reported before, the installation of power bollards on the Market Place has been completed but to a generally poor standard. The contractor has submitted an interim bill, but the Council is not intending to pay it, partly because no interim payment was agreed and mainly because the Council is not yet satisfied that the work has been completed to a sufficiently high standard. Tony Evans concluded the discussion, noting that “not a penny should go out of OTC” until the work is properly completed.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Peter Geary gave an update on the situation of parking in Oakdown Crescent. He said that Sue Warren had made a complaint to the MKC Standards Committee, which investigates complaints that Councillors are in breach of their Code of Conduct. The first stage of handling such a complaint is an assessment by an independent person to decide whether it should be referred on for a formal investigation or dismissed. Sue’s complaint was dismissed.
    As reported before, Sue had said at previous meetings that she’d lodged a complaint against OTC with the Local Government Ombudsman. However, the Ombudsman doesn’t investigate complaints about Town and Parish Councils. It does investigate complaints against Borough Councils, but OTC is not aware of any such complaint against MKC.
    Colin Rodden raised the idea, discussed before, of converting the Crescent’s garage block area to parking. Peter agreed that, in general, more parking was needed. He described the issue with parking as being like a balloon – you squeeze it in one area and it pops out in another.
    Sue had also said that she intended to re-apply for a Residents Parking Scheme in December. Peter noted that MKC had been asked whether, should such an application happen, Weston Road residents would be consulted as before. The answer was that they would be. He stressed that, to obtain a solution, it would be necessary to work with the people affected.
    OTC has submitted an application for money from the Community Parking Fund, and does not plan to take any further action regarding Oakdown Crescent until a decision has been made on that.
    Thank you to Liam Costello for providing assistance with the background and content of what was an important but fast moving part of the meeting.

    Bobs’n’bits

    The hanging baskets on the High Street and nearby roads will have been erected by Olney Events and friends before this article is published. Deidre Bethune thanked the Council for organising the baskets’ sponsorship, and for watering them throughout the season.
    Colin Rodden reported that a section of fencing in Kitchener Close had been damaged in order to provide an unofficial route into the recreation fields. The fence is believed to be owned by a housing association, so it will need to replace it, perhaps with one of a more substantial design.
    Graham Harrison noted that the potholes on the driveway to the allotments were becoming deep. Tony Evans explained that the groundsmen have material to fill them but, due to high workload, it would not happen soon.


    Next Meeting - 4th June

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 4th June in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • June 2018

    Olney Council report for 4th June 2018

    Public Participation

    Ashley Pankhurst
    Ashley Pankhurst was first to speak in this slot, concerning a project to fund and locate a 24/7 accessible defibrillator in the town centre. He suggested that a suitable position for the unit would be on the Market Place bus shelter or public toilet. He’d already secured funding from The Olney Group (TOG), Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) and the Newport Pagnell and Olney Lions, and asked if the Council would feel able to purchase the unit and claim back the VAT.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke next, on the topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Referring to Peter Geary’s comments in last month’s meeting, she reminded him that it wasn’t her who’d made the complaint – it was the residents of Oakdown Crescent. She expected an apology for this error, she said. She felt the Councillors who attended the site meeting in the Crescent on 7th December 2017 to see the problem first hand had no respect for the elderly people who’d met them there. She also showed a picture of an ambulance in the Crescent which could not, due to parked cars, park outside the house it needed to attend. She finished by claiming the Council didn’t care about the electorate, even the elderly, but that she would do whatever it took to make Oakdown Crescent a nice place to live with space for visitors to park.

    Teresa Riley
    Teresa Riley spoke about a parking issue affecting certain houses in Silver End, asking the Council to support their residents’ application to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) to lease parking spaces in the Old Cattle Market car park, including one 24 hour disabled space. She noted that the residents of nos. 2, 4 and 8 currently park there but that it’s becoming harder due to the success of Olney, for example with the expanded evening dining provided by the various new pubs and restaurants attracting visitors from out of town.

    Stuart Dorrill
    Next up was Stuart Dorrill, founder of local health, fitness and wellbeing company Bodyforce, which would like to take on the lease for the recently vacated Olney Town Football Club building. Founded in 2010, Bodyforce has grown to a team of seven qualified professionals providing group and individual training, as well as local outreach programmes. Noting that Bodyforce had trained 150 people on the day of this meeting, Stuart outlined its philosophy to inspire and empower people to take control of their health, fitness and wellbeing while having fun with people they might not otherwise meet. Bodyforce already uses part of the building for fitness sessions, but would like to extend the facilities it offers by taking on the lease and thus being able to control the whole space. Noting that Bodyforce has a stable, proven business model with finance in place to ensure maintenance and development of the building, he said it’d engaged an architect for initial design ideas and aimed to have a more detailed, costed plan in the near future.

    Paul Collins
    Paul Collins asked Stuart to outline Bodyforce’s commercial relationship with the Football Club. Stuart explained that it hires a room in the Club and also pays Olney Town Council (OTC) to hold sessions outside on the Recreation Ground.

    Silver End parking

    This item was to discuss the issues Teresa Riley raised in her Public participation slot. She had contacted MKC about the issue in 2014, and it had responded positively, citing various costs including a £350 per space yearly rental, and some conditions including that each household must be responsible for insuring its space. The residents did not take up MKC on its offer but, with parking becoming more difficult, they’d like to pursue it now.
    Colin Rodden noted that, if OTC backed these spaces, it may come under pressure to do the same for further spaces in the area. Graham Harrison felt that, with the Old Cattle Market car park having no disabled spaces, it may be sensible to add one. Peter Geary, explaining that he had no problem with the disabled space and did not necessarily disagree with the rest of the request, noted that it was MKC not OTC which controlled that car park. He said that the Council could push for waiting restrictions there to help parking overall. There was further debate, which concluded with Councillors agreeing to ask MKC for a disabled space in the car park and to ask it to propose a solution for the affected residents’ parking.

    Stacks Image 88452

    Silver End Parking

    Riverfest parking

    Following high attendances at Riverfest 2017 and the notable lack of on-site public parking, TOG had asked if it could use the Nursery Field for this purpose. The Council agreed subject to reasonable weather.

    Finance Committee

    It recently being the start of a new Council year, committees have been electing their chairs. Jeremy Rawlings noted that the most recent Finance Committee meeting had seen proposals for Deidre Bethune and Paul Collins to be elected chair but, with so few people being present at the meeting, they didn’t feel able to elect a chair. Peter Geary noted that this was bizarre – it was the Committee’s first meeting of the year so it should elect its chair. Paul Collins noted his concern that, while the accounts had been approved, the auditors’ report was not tabled at the meeting in spite of being received before it took place. Liam Costello noted that the report had been received after the agenda had been sent. There did not appear to be an inference that anything hinged on the report not being tabled

    Speeding on Aspreys

    Councillors reviewed the data collected by the Speed Indicator Device (SID) which had been placed at various locations along Aspreys over the preceding few weeks. There were many graphs and some difficulties interpreting the data, but the average speed at the faster locations looked to be around 34 MPH, with 85% of drivers at or below 39 MPH with a few peaks of above 50 MPH generally late at night. It being a 30 MPH limit, the Council saw this to be a significant problem and will pass the data to the relevant authorities. Regular mobile speed camera checks and enforcement seem likely.

    Olney Town Colts FC pitch request

    Olney Town Colts requested, and OTC acceded, that it formally take over the rental of the Nursery and Charity Field pitches, allowing it to bring back two teams which currently play on the sports fields at Emberton.

    Stacks Image 88467

    Olney Town Football Club building

    Plan:MK examination

    OTC has the opportunity to present further comments on Plan:MK. For tonight, discussions centred on whether Olney, currently designated a Key Settlement, should instead be designated a Selected Village. Des Ealey was concerned that some aspects of Plan:MK are unclear about how development will happen in Key Settlements and had thus been talking with MKC. The key relevant question from the weighty information pack is: “Is the role of Key Settlements sufficiently clear? Does the policy comply with paragraph 154 of the National Planning Policy Framework which requires that policies should provide a clear indication of how a decision maker should react to a development proposal?”
    There was much debate on this, with there being clear concern that, should Plan:MK be rejected, Olney would have much to worry about: By then, it would be more than two years since approval of its Neighbourhood Plan and thus, with that much time having passed, it would carry less weight. So, Olney had no interest in risking that rejection by pushing too hard for the designation change. But, there was also a feeling that it would be advantageous to at least ask the question. Councillors voted unanimously to submit that OTC supports change in designation from Key Settlement to Selected Village at the next appropriate moment, and to seek advice on its effects.
    It’s worth noting at this point that OTC is commendably free of party politics, issues instead being discussed on an apolitical basis. Perhaps uniquely in Mercury’s experience, the matter of political allegiance was raised during this topic: Colin Rodden, while noting that, with the Neighbourhood Plan vote being so close, the Council needed to listen to local people, stated that he was an independent and Peter Geary a Conservative. Peter responded to this by saying that the usual Conservative position is to back rural areas to the hilt, but that Councils couldn’t make up policies on the hoof.

    War Memorial

    Historic England had informed OTC that it would like to list the Olney War Memorial due to its special architectural and historic interest, with the aim of affording it additional protection. It asked the Council for its views. Councillors were concerned that listing would bring with it unnecessary bureaucracy, with Peter Geary noting that, for small Councils particularly, the additional cost could yield an effect opposite that intended. Feeling that OTC has, is and will continue to maintain the structure to a high standard, Councillors agreed to recommend against listing.

    Market Place electrics

    As reported before, the installation of power bollards on the Market Place has been completed but to a generally poor standard. Due to holidays and other unavailability, the situation has not progressed since last month. One significant problem appears to be that, while the manufacturer of the electrical outlets specifies that the holes in which they’re mounted must be connected to a drain or have drainage holes drilled into the subsoil, EON had not included either action in its subcontractor’s specification

    East Street footpath

    John Boardman asked for the issue of there being no footpath on East Street between the Nursery Field and Fountain Court car park to be added to the list of ongoing actions tracked at each Council meeting. Plans for this path were drawn up by MKC 10 years ago but not progressed. The Section 106 agreement for the nearby 14 home development off East Street makes a contribution of £35,000 towards its provision.

    Stacks Image 88458

    Market Place Power Bollards

    Planning

    As reported previously, the mixed retail and residential application for the site to the North East of the Whirly Pit roundabout was withdrawn by the applicant due to OTC and others objecting to it on the basis that the Neighbourhood Plan designates the site retail only. Angle Property has since requested a meeting with the Council to discuss what, given the new, smaller retail only application, will happen to the rest of the site. Councillors agreed to stick with the view that the site was for retail only. Steve Clark concluded the topic by noting that the original all-retail Sainsbury’s application included facilities to deal with the effects of flooding, an aspect missing from the current one.

    Swimming Steps

    Colin Rodden reported that a young girl had cut her foot on a submerged broken bottle at the Swimming Steps. There was some debate about how to stop such problems, perhaps through signage asking people to take their litter home or the provision of a glass and plastic recycling bin near the existing general waste bin. There was also clear frustration with a feeling that, against someone leaving a broken bottle in such a location, what good was either measure?



    Next Meeting - 2nd July

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd July in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • July 2018

    Olney Council report for 2nd July 2018

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke first, on the topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She said since the last meeting two ambulances had failed to be able to park to take residents to hospital and said if the same situation arose with her mother it would be all over the local press. She said that before the council discussed the £7k cost of a ground survey (a later agenda item) they should consider using some of the money which they would shortly be receiving from the Grace Park development on East Street. She thought £7k was nothing in the grand scheme of things, compared to expenditure she had observed from the previous months Olney Town Council (OTC) accounts, and noted that the members were sitting on newly purchased chairs. If the survey decreed that the planned work was not viable the only solution would be parking permits. She finished by asking the council to consider the elderly residents, and their relatives who save money by caring for them.

    Bethan Courtman
    Bethan Courtman briefly spoke next about the now vacant Olney Town FC club house. Following the statement last month from Stuart Dorrill, founder of local health, fitness and wellbeing company Bodyforce, she reiterated that the company would still like to take over the lease of the building and had sought initial costing from an architect for changes to the infrastructure. She issued an open invitation to the Bodyforce summer fundraising event on 18th August 9.30 to 13.00 on the recreation ground.

    Ian Stokes
    Ian Stokes from Olney Town Colts FC spoke next, on a similar subject. The council had agreed that the colts could rent the Nursery Field pitch from next season, but there were unresolved issues around the lights, fencing and clubhouse, he said. To date he had been unable to make much progress due the absence of any proof of ownership or asset values of these items. Before any progress could be made he needed to know if the fence would be remaining, he said. If the fence was removed, then the pitch would not be safe to play on due to the associated concrete path. Would the colts have access to the clubhouse and the floodlight power at the back of the building, he asked? The Football Club situation was a later agenda item in the confidential section of the meeting from which press and public were excluded.

    Julie Lane
    Last to speak was Julie Lane about the possibility of the council purchasing land either side of the Goosey Bridge which has been the subject of unauthorised construction and depositing of rubbish. Julie said she was excited about the prospect as it would be a wonderful asset to the town with it’s views of the Church and where historically wildlife has had a chance to live alongside us in relative peace. Goosey Island is especially important as it provides a complete sanctuary for wildlife free from disturbance by people and dogs etc, presently being home to otters, goosanders, kingfishers and many more species. She said purchase of the land and subsequent good management would safeguard the wonderful views and landscape, secure a future for the wildlife and provide an opportunity for residents to get out into the countryside, thus improving mental and physical wellbeing.
    This was another item that was later discussed under confidential matters.

    Stacks Image 88556

    Olney Town Football Club

    War Memorial

    As reported last month Historic England had informed OTC that it would like to list the Olney War Memorial due to its special architectural and historic interest, with the aim of affording it additional protection. The council have now received the initial assessment report, which is a factual report which Historic England will use as the basis for its recommendation to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The view around the table was that OTC are quite capable of maintaining the structure to a high standard and do not want it listed.

    Stacks Image 88544

    Olney War Memorial

    Swimming Steps

    Colin Rodden reported that a young girl had cut her foot on a submerged broken bottle at the Swimming Steps. There was some debate about how to stop such problems, perhaps through signage asking people to take their litter home or the provision of a glass and plastic recycling bin near the existing general waste bin. There was also clear frustration with a feeling that, against someone leaving a broken bottle in such a location, what good was either measure?

    Oakdown Crescent parking

    Milton Keynes Council (MKC) has informed OTC that in order to provide a detailed design and quotation for any proposed works it would need to undertake some surveys of the existing ground conditions. This would involve some slip trenches and coring and the maximum cost would be £7k. This would identify what services existed and where, as well as the depths of pavement layers which would be required if the area is to be turned into parking. The cost would form part of the Community Parking Scheme and OTC would only have to pay 50%. Desmond Eley was of the opinion that this was ‘putting the cart before the horse’ since OTC and MKC’s preferred scheme had already been rejected by the residents. Paul Collins agreed, saying without a scheme that is supported by residents there was no point in carrying out a survey. Steve Clark suggested that the council go back to MKC to confirm what their financial obligation would be and ask if they had confidence to carry out a survey without an agreed scheme. MKC should have received the original plans for the development when Newport Pagnell RDC was disbanded, he said, making a survey unnecessary. Chris Tenant suggested that the survey might be required in order to decide what is possible. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings proposed that OTC do not proceed with the survey ‘at the present time’ and seek further information from MKC, which was passed by a majority vote.

    Deputy Mayor’s chain of office

    As well as the Mayors chain of office, to be worn at official functions, a second chain exists and there has been some confusion recently as to whether it is intended for the Mayor’s consort when accompanying the Mayor, or the Deputy when representing him/her. Dierdre Bethune clarified the matter, saying it was intended to serve as both. When representing the mayor at short notice it is not always possible for the deputy to obtain the chain as it is locked in the safe at the council offices. It was not considered an urgent or particularly important issue, but Steve Clark wondered if a local person or business might like to sponsor another chain.

    MK East Local Stakeholder Group

    The Milton Keynes East Strategic Urban Extension (MKE SUE) will see largescale development to the East of the M1 as part of Plan:MK and MKC is currently pursuing funding from Government to enable development on the site to begin before 2031. MKC is engaging with the community by creating a Local Stakeholder Group (LSG) made up of representatives from parish and town councils. It was agreed that OTC will provide reps into this form to reflect any issues and concerns raised by residents. This initiated a discussion about the impacts on Olney of MKE SUE and one of the inevitable impacts will be an increase in traffic. Kevin Viney said that improved pollution monitoring would be essential as the existing equipment is obsolete and only just held together ‘by wax and string’. Chris Tennant stated that the development would take the A509 beyond critical capacity so some of the funding should be used for an Olney bypass. Desmond Eley noted that the currently favoured route had been decided many years ago and wondered if the electorate should be asked to decide if it was still appropriate.

    OTC Website

    Jeremy Rawlings reported that the current website is ‘looking a bit jaded’ and does not meet current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), having had no money spent on it for several years apart from content updates. The provider had little interest in upgrading or supporting it, consequently it is getting very difficult to maintain. The council have approached local company Nuwave Design who have put together a proposal and they will be invited to present them in more detail prior to a decision being made.

    Stacks Image 88550

    A jaded website

    Market Place electrics

    As reported before, the installation of power bollards on the Market Place has been completed but to a generally poor standard and the drainage does not meet requirements. There has been no progress since last month, so Colin Rodden said it was now essential to impose dates and deadlines. Desmond Eley pointed out that the new bollards cannot be used until certified and tested. Deidre Bethune said it was important that the matter is resolved before the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) on the weekend of 8th and 9th September.

    Odds and Sods

    MKC has agreed to pay for repairs to the Speed Indicating Device (SID).

    Colin Rodden said the footpath between Olney and Weston Underwood is getting narrow and overgrown. He asked if any reply had been received to OTC’s letter about the poor state of the boarding at Bennett’s butchers. Town Clerk Liam Costello confirmed that there hadn’t.

    Kevin Viney expressed his concern about traffic on the bend in Yardley Road at the site of the old railway bridge as it is a blind corner and an accident waiting to happen in his opinion. The new housing close to the bend will exacerbate the situation, he thought.

    Steve Clark reported that the English Regional Transport Association who are committed to reopening the Bedford to Northampton railway line recently held a meeting in The Bull. The currently proposed route was designed in 2001 and notes that the office park to the north of the town ‘may have to be demolished’ in order to facilitate this!


    Next Meeting - No August meeting - 3rd September

    There will be no August meeting, so the next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd September in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

    Stop Press - There will be a meeting in August

    In an unusual move Olney Town Council have decided to hold a full meeting in August, as there some matters to resolve

  • August 2018

    Olney Council report for August 2018

    Public Participation

    Mike Totton
    First to speak was Mike Totton on behalf of the Allotment Holders’ Association. Mike explained that the current system of allocating each plot a number was confusing and unpopular and the association would like to give each row a street name and display a map at the entrance. A list would be drawn up and agreed with OTC to ensure that it did not contain anything that could cause offence. It was noted that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) policy prohibited roads being named after a living person, but Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that this only applied to public thoroughfares. Normally the council would not make decisions on matters raised during the public participation part of the meeting but in this case made an exception and agreed to support the proposal.

    Howard Tanner
    Next to speak was Howard Tanner. He and Ashley Pankhurst had previously attended the Recreations and Services Committee meeting to discuss their proposal to provide two Public Access Defibrillators (PADs) in Olney with funds raised locally. It was agreed in principle at that meeting, but the actual locations would need to be decided by the full council and was therefore an item on the formal agenda. Howard was concerned that the existing PAD in the Olney Centre was only available during opening hours and suggested that it should be relocated to an outside cabinet to give 24-hour access. This could be done at a cost of approximately £300 which he suggested could be raised with the support of local businesses.

    Public Access Defibrillators

    Following on from Howard Tanner’s presentation the location for the PADS was discussed. Mike had been in discussion with the General Manager of St John Ambulance about placing a unit there, who was supportive but said it would have to go through the central organisation Estates and Facilities to decide. Dierdre Bethune reminded members that the local St John was no longer active and the unit might need to be relocated if the building was sold. It was agreed to look at a different location and eventually it was decided to investigate the possibility of using one of the bus shelters along Aspreys. A suggested location for the second unit was the now redundant BT phone box on the Market Place. BT has offered to sell it to OTC for £1 but Peter Geary was concerned that the sale would be delayed by bureaucracy. It was decided to locate the second unit in the Market Place bus shelter and to progress with locating the existing unit at the Olney Centre to an outside wall.

    OTC Website

    As reported last month the current OTC website is difficult to maintain and does not meet current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), having had no money spent on it for several years apart from content updates. The council has approached local company Nuwave Design who has put together a proposal and Matt McAuliffe was present to discuss his proposal. Matt explained that he provides website design and support for several international, national and local companies as well as developing the OlneyApp to help local businesses get online. He explained how he could work with OTC to create a site that would be WCAG compliant so that it would be accessible to visually impaired residents. Text and background colours need to be chosen carefully to enable viewing by people with colour-blindness and links and pictures need to have full descriptions behind them so that they can be converted to meaningful audio by content readers. Paul Collins said he thought that the guidelines were only advisory, not mandatory, but Sally Pezaro believed OTC should want to be compliant. Matt said his interpretation was that any site published before 23rd September this year would need to be compliant within two years. A vote was taken as to whether to stay with the existing supplier or employ Nuwave to develop a new site. Nuwave was agreed by a majority.

    Neighbourhood Plan (NP) – the next stage

    The full council meeting closed at this stage and the members of the Neighbourhood Plan Development Committee remained for their inaugural meeting. The first task was to elect a chairman and Chris Tennant was elected unopposed. The Terms of Reference for the committee were reviewed and it was decided to name it the Olney Development Group. The group can comprise a number of OTC councillors and up to five external or ‘lay’ members, but Mayor Jeremy Rawlings thought that it was unlikely five volunteers would come forward. Tony Evans pointed out that if the group contained non-elected members then it could not ‘spend’ any of the Section 106 (planning gain) money, only recommend projects for funding to the full council. Concern was also expressed that external members would not be able to vote and would not be accountable to anyone but themselves. After some discussion it was agreed to create a ‘person spec’ of areas of expertise required to take the plan forward. The group will look at three or four projects at a time and engage the appropriately skilled resource as and when required.
    In the 12 months since the Olney NP was written and adopted by a local referendum the government has revised the National Planning Policy Framework and MKC has issued Plan:MK for public consultation. Chris Tennant was of the opinion that nothing in either would require a revision of the NP but said the group should be mindful of any changes that might. Major changes would require another referendum. He proposed that an update be issued to the public explaining the progress of the plan and the status of each proposed development. For information, Site D/E ‘Land West of Yardley Road and West of Aspreys Outline permission (with all matters reserved except access) for the residential development of 250 dwelling houses and associated public open space, car parking and community facilities including a multi-use community building’ was approved by MKC on 31/07/2018. The council successfully objected to the inclusion of housing on Site R ‘Land at Corner of Lavendon Road and Warrington Road’ as it contravened the NP which states that site should be used for retail only. Jeremy Rawlings said he hoped that this latter decision will have persuaded some of those that were against adoption of the plan that it has proved its worth.

    Premises License application – Sainbury’s

    Sainsbury’s have submitted an application to sell alcohol Monday to Sunday 06:00 to 24:00 and provide Late Night Refreshments Monday to Sunday 23:00 to 24:00. The council had no comment to make on the application.

    Next Meeting 3rd September

    The next full council meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd September in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • September 2018

    Olney Council report for 3rd September 2018

    Public Participation

    Sandra Hearn
    First to speak was Sandra Hearn. As one of the owners of The Nest at No. 9, next door to the recently ram-raided Barclays bank in the High Street, she noted the effect that the works to make safe and clean up the bank were having on her business. The Nest had seen an immediate reduction in takings following the Barclays raid, meaning that neither owner could any longer take a wage from the shop. She was concerned that, if the works took as long as allowed, the end of September, the shop would have to close. On one day, their takings amounted to £30, less even than in the midst of this year’s winter snow. It’s worth noting that, at the time of this meeting, the works’ fencing entirely blocked the walkway, and stretched across the full width of The Nest, only a few metres in front of it. The walkway has since been reopened and the fencing reduced, although, as you’d expect, the hoardings in front of the bank aren’t pleasant to the eye or thus conducive to good business. Subsequent works will be required for the bank to reopen. This topic was discussed later in the meeting.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren was next to speak, on the topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She pointed out what she felt to be an anomaly, that the Mayor appeared to believe that the residents of the Crescent had not agreed any plan to improve the parking situation, and noting that in fact they had agreed Option B, parking in a single block in the middle of the Crescent, back in June 2016. She backed this up by providing a handout, to every Councillor, of meeting minutes relevant to the Crescent over the last three years. This topic was also discussed later in the meeting.

    Jariath McElroy
    Jarlath McElroy, from Olney Rugby Club, spoke last. He explained that the Club’s facilities are limited and somewhat dated, requiring additions and improvements for ladies and younger players. The Club is looking to expand its facilities and, thus, would like to take over the lease on the Football Club building. If this was successful, the Club not being the only contender, it would still want to see football played on the Recreation Ground pitch, so would come to an arrangement with the Olney Town Colts Football Club and also with Caveman Conditioning so its range of sports could continue. He noted that if, for example, the Council still had money owed to it from the previous occupants, the Rugby Club would see what it could do to help. Finally, he noted that the alternative was to expand its existing facilities onto Doff’s Field.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Olney Town Council (OTC) had been in correspondence with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about a possible parking scheme in Oakdown Crescent, and this had progressed to the point where MKC wanted to perform a ground survey prior to costing and implementing the scheme. If agreed, OTC would need to pay £3,500, half the survey’s cost, MKC match-funding the remainder. This scheme would provide 11 marked spaces in the Crescent.
    This started a lengthy discussion. Joanne Eley noted that the proposed scheme had two fewer spaces than one discussed before. Peter Geary noted that a ballpark cost for the scheme itself might be £20-30,000, and that deciding whether to perform the ground survey needed to be seen in the context of the overall cost. Joanne felt that bays for carers and the disabled should be provided, Peter noting that that carer bays were not enforceable and that, although disabled bays were, they wouldn’t meet the real need.
    Chris Tenant proposed working with MKC to get a design which regained the two lost spaces, a mutually agreeable solution, then performing the survey as the first step towards starting work. This proposal was not carried – five Councillors voting in favour, six against and two abstaining.
    Chris then suggested that a scheme be devised where the bays could simply be painted on the ground. Peter questioned whether, while this would be cheap, it would help. Malcolm Messenger, back as a Councillor following a short break in the Channel Islands, suggested that an ambulance bay would be useful and, in general, such bays were respected. The Council will contact MKC to discuss marking out one or more bays for ambulances and carers only.

    Barclays bank robbery

    Councillors acknowledged the problems being experienced by the Nest at No. 9 due to the works resulting from damage caused by the recent Barclays ram-raid. Peter Geary noted that the current works, which involved clearing asbestos from the bank (hazardous work requiring specified minimum clearances, etc.), had been given permission to continue until 24th September. When the rebuilding then started, he felt the subsequent permission must require the pavement to be kept open, even if adjacent parking bays could be closed. Des Eley noted that, while the September date was that until the current works had been given permission to continue, asbestos removal could often prove more complicated and time consuming than initially predicted. In reality, bar advising Sandra Hearn to apply for the various types of compensation available, the Council did not appear to be able to do much to remedy the immediate situation.
    The Council, doubtless along with residents, is very keen for Barclays to reopen, and will write a letter to the bank expressing support for its reopening and offering to assist, for example by expediting the planning process.

    Stacks Image 88682

    Barclays Bank Robbed

    Electric vehicle parking space

    The Council voted to support a proposal to have an electric vehicle space and charging point in the small parking area where Midland Road meets the A509. Access to the bay will be restricted to electric vehicles currently being charged.

    Cherry Fair

    The next Cherry Fair will be held on the Glebe on 15th June 2019.

    Tennis court track resurfacing

    The Recreations and Services Committee had recommended to full Council that the track between the tennis courts and the toilet and workshop block be resurfaced to improve drainage. There were questions as to whether it was worth spending around £16,000 on this work, but Tony Evans noted a related issue – that the new tennis courts’ surface would deteriorate faster if players tramped in mud from the nearby track. This was, in part, why the Multi Use Games Area’s surface degraded, he said. The Council voted on whether this work should be done, subject to Section 106 funding, and the vote was carried by majority, six to five, with two abstentions.

    Speeding on Driftway

    Following further measurement of vehicle speed on Driftway, it’s clear that speeding is commonplace, with around 90% exceeding the 30MPH limit. Kevin Viney raised an interesting point: Given that no houses front on to the road, should it in fact be a 40MPH limit? Peter Geary suggested initiating an open dialogue with MKC Highways Department to discuss road design, speed, etc. Malcolm Messenger asked if data was available on road traffic collisions on that road. A dialogue will be opened with MKC.

    Milton Keynes expansion

    Des Eley had attended a meeting of the Milton Keynes East Strategic Urban Extension Stakeholder Group. The East Strategic Urban Extension area is that immediately to the North East of the M1, South of Newport Pagnell and roughly bisected by the A509 section North of M1 Junction 14 (see map). MKC wants to promote Milton Keynes expansion and has government quotas to work to, but is having trouble funding the required infrastructure, Section 106 monies proving insufficient. This is one reason why development is proceeding more slowly than desired. MKC has now applied for £75 million of government funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund towards the Eastern expansion. This Fund contains £2.3bn to help deliver new homes in England by funding delivery of infrastructure ahead of development – a worthy attempt to address a common ongoing problem. The Eastern expansion, which could comprise up to 8,000 homes, had been timed for after 2031 but, to attract this funding, the monies would have to be spent by 2022. This being considerably sooner, brainstorming sessions were being run to work out how to achieve it. Des noted that this money included funding for an additional M1 crossing, though not an Olney bypass. The final decision on funding will be made early to mid 2019.
    Peter Geary noted that a Planning Inspector had concluded a public examination of Plan:MK over the Summer and, subject to minor changes, passed it for MKC to adopt. The Eastern site is included in Plan:MK but only as a reserve site. So, the plan effectively gives the green light for this area being developed. But, he felt it would be a huge mistake to push ahead with the funding and earlier build. It was ‘scandalous’ that ‘back of a fag packet estimates’ had been made in order to apply for the funding. They would not pass the normal spending criteria, he said. A major concern was that if MKC had underestimated the funding required, it would either have to pick up the tab or live with the resulting terrible infrastructure. Steve Clark noted that the body language of those in the meeting suggested they felt the works could not be accomplished in the required time.

    Stacks Image 88688

    Strategic Urban Extension: Milton Keynes East

    Trees and hedges

    Colin Rodden noted that various residents’ hedges were protruding onto pavements making it hard for pedestrians, particularly the elderly or disabled, to get around. Householders are responsible for trees and hedges which overhang from their property, while MKC is responsible for ensuring that footpaths are kept clear for pedestrians to use.


    Next Meeting - 1st October

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st October in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • October 2018

    Olney Council report for 1st October 2018

    Public Participation

    PCSO Terry Rhodes
    First to speak was Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Terry Rhodes. Terry introduced himself to Olney Town Council (OTC) and members of the public present, explaining that he had been in post as the dedicated officer for Olney for approximately six weeks, having taken over from Tina Lewington who had held the post for the previous 10 years. He said he had been actively working with the local Speedwatch team and had approached Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about repainting of some double yellow lines in the town. Terry said that his shift pattern was a mixture of days and late shifts but would endeavour to be present in town during specific events, especially if organisers could inform him of such events.

    Richard Hillier
    Next to speak was Richard Hillier. Richard explained that as the user of a mobility scooter he was getting increasingly frustrated by the poor parking in the town, particularly in front of dropped kerbs, which meant that he often has to take a considerable detour just to cross the street. The kerb outside the old Nat West is one such area, he said. He often finds parked cars there preventing him crossing and when he then attempts to cross outside McColl’s there are cars parked there as well. PCSO Kirsty Martinson said she was aware of the situation but felt that the hatching on the road was not sufficiently clear in some places. She said she frequently receives abuse from drivers when cautioning them for bad parking, claiming that they are ‘only slipping into a shop for a minute’. Terry Rhodes said in certain circumstances PCSOs can issue a £30 parking ticket for obstruction.

    Stacks Image 88741

    Dropped Kerb outside the old Nat West Bank

    MKC Community Infrastructure Fund

    This item was brought forward on the agenda as it was thought that it might assist with some of the parking issues discussed in the public participation section. Steve Clark explained that the fund was part of a scheme to replace three previous Parish Grants. Bids need to be in place by the end of October, but these can be in the form of a Statement of Interest, rather than a fully worked up application. The fund enables a variety of different Public Realm schemes that have a positive impact upon a community to be implemented that would otherwise not meet funding criteria for council funded schemes. These can include highways, transport, environment, landscaping, play area or outdoor leisure schemes. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said the scheme would partly replace the Parish Parking Fund, so could be used to address some of the town’s parking problems. He thought that the situation outside the old Nat West could be improved if the kerb was ‘squared off’ making it more difficult for cars to just nip in to park. Colin Rodden suggested that area on the market place in front of the BT Broadband cabinet could be used for motorbike parking. It was agreed to apply for a grant from the fund to improve the dropped kerbs in the Market Place.

    Litter on Lavendon Road

    A letter had been received from Robert Marchant saying that he and Mike Price had recently spent a Sunday afternoon picking up litter along the highway between the Wellingborough Road roundabout and Uncle Jack’s corner. Robert said he understood that there are many calls upon budgets but asked if it was possible for proper formal endeavours to be made by those responsible to keep the town and its approaches looking nice, particularly as the town is now receiving more visitors due to the opening of new establishments. He wondered if it might be possible for retailers, businesses and residents to contribute to a general fund to keep the place looking smart. Peter Geary said that litter picking along a highway is the responsibility of MKC, which used to provide a regular service, but each road was now only done once a year. It might be appropriate to ask MKC’s contractors Serco to quote for additional litter picks, he thought. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings said that because it was a dangerous and fast road with no footpath it would not be appropriate for voluntary groups to be asked to do it. If Serco were asked to quote then it should include the other approaches to the town from the parish boundary, he thought.

    Overhanging trees in High Street

    Jeremy Rawlings explained that when the new LED street lighting was installed in the High Street, MKC carried out a survey of the trees and the requirement to trim, as appropriate. This was not only because they were already overgrown, but because the horizontal stems of the new lampposts were shorter than the originals, thereby exacerbating an existing problem. No trimming had taken place and the problem had got worse. Declaring an interest as a resident of the High Street, Deirdre Bethune said that an upper story room in her house was in almost perpetual darkness, due to the problem. Peter Geary said that the required work would take 60% of the total MKC tree budget. Most of this budget is held in reserve for storm damage he said, and even if the trees could be crowned by the required 30% they would need doing again in five to six years’ time. OTC will write to MKC requesting that the work is carried out.

    MK East – Sustainable Urban Extension

    For a detailed description of this project see last month’s Mercury report. Newport Pagnell Town Council has commented on the proposals with particular reference to the impact of queuing traffic and impact on its shops. Peter Geary said that in order to avoid a massive increase in traffic over the existing and proposed M1 crossings to get to Kingston a new eastern District Centre would need to be built and this could have a detrimental impact on the shops in Newport Pagnell. Although government funding has been sought for an additional M1 crossing, no provision has been made for an Olney bypass, the cost of which would be around £100m. Steve Clark said a series of workshops are being held, which OTC members should be encouraged to attend.

    Civil Ceremonies at the Olney Centre

    The licence to hold civil ceremonies at the Olney Centre expires in March 2019 and will cost £2.5k to renew for a further three years. This is an increase of £1k from when it was last renewed in 2016 and whilst it was agreed that this service brings in hire revenue for the centre, some questioned the justification for such a large increase in the fee. The council will write to MKC requesting a breakdown of the fee, since it is supposed to just cover costs to MKC and not make a profit.

    Stacks Image 88735

    Civil Ceremonies at the Olney Centre

    Odds and Sods

    The new electrical installation in the market place has been completed by EON. Colin Rodden said he thought it had been done to a very shoddy standard and OTC should be looking for a discount. It was also agreed that new Risk Assessments need to be carried out based on market stall holders’ routing of cables from the new pillars.
    Colin Rodden reported that the Johnsons Field play equipment is in a bad state of repair, with the zip wire and basketball hoops both broken and the ramp defaced by graffiti. It was time to revive the proposed skate park, he said.
    Deirdre Bethune noted that when MKC had disposed of 102 Weston Road it had held back part of the garden to provide parking for residents who were currently parking in Oakdown Crescent. What was the current situation, she asked? Steve Clark said there was also a gravel area behind the houses on Weston Road that had come about by taking some land from the existing houses. This area was sufficient to park 11 cars, but a recent check indicated that it wasn’t being used he said. Peter Geary reminded members that if any of this land was turned into formal car parking then MKC would require OTC to provide 50% of the funding.
    Colin Rodden reported that the spotlights on the zebra crossing by One Stop have been removed making it difficult for approaching cars to see pedestrian after dark. Deirdre Bethune noted that the overgrown trees were adding to the problem.

    Confidential matters

    Very often the final item on the agenda is ‘to consider exclusion of Public and Press Representatives pursuant to the Public Bodies (admission to meetings) Act 1960 on the basis that publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest by the confidential nature of the business to be transacted’. A vote is taken as to whether members of the press and public should be asked to leave (they always are) and the rest of the meeting takes place behind closed doors, details of which are not recorded in the minutes made available to the public. In this case the matter being discussed was the ongoing issue of the now dissolved Olney Town Football Club and its assets.


    Next Meeting - 5th November

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 5th November in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • November 2018

    Olney Council report for 5th November 2018

    Public Participation

    Chiv Parslow
    Chiv Parslow spoke first in this slot. He’s a coach driver whose work includes taking children to and from local schools. He asked whether the bus stop adjacent to Olney Middle School could be marked, as are all the other stops he uses. He felt the lack of marking to be a safety issue – parked cars meant he sometimes had to drive around the block in anticipation of a space becoming free, or stop on the brow of the hill. He noted that the School head teacher had asked if he could raise this issue.

    Gill Simmons
    Gill Simmons spoke next. As part of the local Community Speedwatch group, she noted the excessive speeds, up to 80mph, recorded by the Speed Indicator Devices (SIDs) on Aspreys. She felt signage was required to reinforce the 30MPH limit, drivers perhaps not appreciating that pedestrians need to cross that road. This topic was discussed later in the meeting.

    Elaine Herniman
    Elaine Herniman spoke last, on the subject of creating a communal area within the allotments. She explained that this could be used for a mix of purposes including helping local schools, ‘Men in Sheds’ (usually an Age UK initiative), workshops, talks on wildlife and the countryside, and to help people with mental health issues. She asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) would like to support a planning application to remove two old sheds and replace them with a modular cabin building on a permanent concrete base, ideally with electrical and water connections. Again, this topic was discussed later in the meeting.

    Visit Olney partnership proposal

    Founded by Sophia Sanger, the Visit Olney website, https://www.visitolney.com, launched around ten years ago and is to become a Community Interest Company (CIC) with local directors. It’s requested a formal partnership with OTC, as its ambition is to make Visit Olney a tourism site, promoting Olney as a destination town. It’s not requesting funding as it’s created a business model based on monies from subscriber and partner listings.
    Colin Rodden felt the site was a great idea and one the Council should support. Deirdre had a slight concern that the Council should not be seen to endorse one local website over others. Jeremy Rawlings concluded the item, saying that the site was a good thing and looking forward to future interactions with Visit Olney.

    Allotments cabin

    Following on from Elaine’s introduction, this project is essentially the removal of two old sheds, which are in a poor state, and their replacement with a modular cabin atop a permanent concrete base of essentially the same footprint, all supplied by Dunster House. The cost of the cabin would be in the region of £10,000 excluding electricity and water connection costs. After some discussion, the Council agreed to submit and support the planning application when received, the former since it pays only half price on planning applications.

    Community Speedwatch speed awareness signage

    Continuing from Gill’s public participation slot, Colin Rodden explained that SID data for Aspreys and Driftway showed more than 75% of vehicles travelling above the 30MPH limit. Daytime recorded speeds, all MPH, have been up to 50 on the High Street, 46 on Yardley Road, 62 on Aspreys and 48 on Driftway.
    During the discussion which followed, all Councillors who spoke appeared to appreciate there was a problem, differing only on how to solve it. Peter Geary felt that road markings and coloured tarmac could help but, really, the solution was to speak with MKC’s road safety team to see what it recommended. Deirdre, while supporting the need to reduce speeds, noted that adding signage risked creating a surfeit of signs. Steve Clark felt that Thames Valley Police catching and fining speeding motorists would quickly result in speed reduction. Sally Pezaro was keen to learn what measures were proven to work. Gill Simmons explained that studies show it’s a mix of measures – for example speed cushions, additional signs and road narrowing – that slow people down. Peter Geary concluded the item, suggesting OTC request then consider a proposal from Speedwatch.

    Commemorative benches

    On 2nd October, Steve Clark made a post to the Olney Noticeboard. It contained a picture of a bench in Suffolk, believed to be https://www.davidogilvie.com/ww1-seat, designed to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. This post garnered support to site a similar bench in Olney, perhaps near the War Memorial on the Market Place. In addition, there appeared to be a will for this to be part funded by the public.
    A brief discussion covered the basics: The bench is comfortable to sit on and solidly constructed so felt unlikely to be damaged. Councillors felt two such benches should be purchased, likely sited replacing the existing wooden ones. Councillors agreed to fund the benches, with the Public also being given the opportunity to contribute toward their cost. Contributions are most welcome and may be made through the Council: Please call 01234 711679 or email townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

    Inspection of East Street

    John Boardman and Peter Geary had walked the length of East Street to view the condition of the roadway and paths and discuss some specific issues, the main one pedestrian safety on the ‘S’ bend to the rear of The Two Brewers. Regarding that issue, there’s no pavement on this section and, to address it, Peter felt OTC would need to take the lead and engage with Milton Keynes Council (MKC). He noted that creating a pavement there would narrow the roadway, implying one-way traffic, perhaps alternated by traffic lights, for at least that section of the roadway. Chris Tenant explained that Section 106 monies from a nearby residential development were allocated for East Street improvements, Peter noting that the improvements would happen.

    Olney to Weston Underwood hedges

    Weston Underwood Parish Council had contacted OTC to ask if it would consider a joint agreement to cut the hedges bi-annually on the road between Olney and Weston Underwood. Tony Evans noted that much of the hedge line is privately owned, that between Weston and the Parish boundary (the hump back bridge) having been cut by its landowner during summer. He also explained that the section uphill towards Olney needed to be cut first by hand, and that the path itself was the responsibility of MKC Highways Department. Deirdre Bethune requested that, if the ‘wonderful tunnel’ there is cut back, it be done sensibly. Peter noted that perhaps the tunnel could be widened, thus allowing future cutting by machine. Regular machine cutting was thought to be only in the region of £200 for a bi-annual cut. A group of Councillors, including Tony, will walk the path then report to the Recreations and Services Committee.

    Milton Keynes Eastern expansion

    As reported previously, Milton Keynes is looking to expand into the East Strategic Urban Extension area, that immediately to the North East of the M1, South of Newport Pagnell and roughly bisected by the A509 section North of M1 Junction 14. Des Ealey and Peter Geary remain concerned, feeling the process is being rushed to meet Government funding deadlines. Des noted that the Cambridge – Oxford arc is now being called the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford arc, reflecting the key part Milton Keynes is expected to play in it.
    Peter noted that, while MKC appears to want the Eastern expansion, it had no policy saying it should build in excess of 200,000 houses. He felt its actions had instead grown from various informal meetings. Chris Tenant said he got the sense that Officers were running MKC rather than Councillors. Peter agreed, stating the expansion was their agenda and that, “if was in charge, some of them wouldn’t be there.”
    Although this expansion might seem mundane and far in the future at this point, it really is neither. If you’d like to find out more, http://bit.ly/2T5odWD, contains a link to the National Infrastructure Commission’s final report on the arc and one to the Government’s response to it.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    The snagging process with the Market Place electrical outlet installation continues. The location of the Oakdown Crescent emergency vehicle parking bay has been agreed and OTC will submit an application for it to be implemented. The tarmac surfacing of the roadway adjacent to the tennis courts has attracted an additional £4,000 cost due to the Anglian Water sewer below, expected to be 2.5m below ground, actually being only 0.9m down, thus requiring a concrete cap along the roadway’s full length.

    Colin Rodden noted some broken play equipment: The zip wire on the Recreation Ground, one football net on the MUGA, and the zip wire and bucket swing on Johnsons Field. Apparently the first of those will be repaired, but it raised an interesting more general issue. Peter Geary explained that MKC’s responsibility is to inspect and make safe existing adopted play areas, the point being that making them safe may involve decommissioning broken equipment rather than fixing it.

    The topic of defibrillators was touched on in passing, which seemed like a good excuse to print the locations of the Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in Olney. AEDs are currently sited at the Market Place on the Toilet Block and on the Recreation Ground by the Council workshop. By the time of publication, there should also be one just off the High Street on the wall of the Olney Centre a few metres right of the main doors.


    Next Meeting - 3rd December

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd December in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • December 2018

    Olney Council report for 3rd December 2018

    Public Participation

    Martin Allen was first to speak, with a request that Olney Town Council (OTC) spend some of the Section 106 monies from the development adjacent to the East Street car park on resurfacing the area on the recreation ground between the children’s play park and the MUGA (Multi Use Games Area). Jeremy Rawlings passed this request to the Recreations and Services Committee for consideration.

    Apologies for absence

    Steve Clark was unwell so could not attend this meeting.

    Declarations of interest

    This is the part of the meeting in which individual Councillors can declare their interest in various topics on the agenda. Normally pretty dry, the Mercury report tends to skip this bit. However, this time it was more interesting.
    After all interests had been declared, Jeremy Rawlings stated he’d been advised that Des Eley should declare an interest in an agenda item to ‘approve costs of mediation process’, Joanne Eley already having done so, while she should declare an interest in an item to ‘consider recommendation from HR Committee regarding Job Evaluations’. Both these items, while on the publicly available agenda, fell in the part of the meeting where public and press were excluded. Des and Joanne chose not to declare these interests. Jeremy concluded the discussion noting that this was what he’d been advised but the decision was up to them.

    Car parking and dropped kerbs

    Local resident Debbie Whitworth had passed a 230 signature petition to the Council, asking it to take a long hard look at the appalling car parking situation in the town. In a note to the Council, she took particular issue with poor parking around the Market Place and, as a wheelchair user, felt acutely the effects of selfish and inconsiderate parking. She cited an example where carers were attempting to push two elderly patients in wheelchairs across the road near McColls but, with a car parked blocking access to the dropped kerb, had to lift the chairs down a high kerb risking tipping the patients out. Asking where the traffic wardens were, she requested a meeting between residents and Council so the former could air their views.
    Peter Geary reported that he’d inspected the site very recently, had seen a vehicle parked adjacent to the dropped kerb outside the old NatWest building for some of the time he was present, and vehicles parked on nearby double yellow lines for all that time. So, he felt that double yellow lines adjacent to the dropped kerb would not help – something more physical was required. He hoped that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) officers would draft a proposal to address the issue. Deirdre Bethune noted that the two dropped kerbs near McColls should also be considered. Peter and Jeremy plan to present the petition to the next MKC Cabinet meeting, adding weight to the request. Peter concluded by saying that he hoped a scheme would be drawn up by February.

    Goosey fireworks

    Jeremy Rawlings reported that, on Saturday 17th November, a substantial fireworks’ display had been held on the Goosey. The Council was concerned about this primarily because it was fired from its land without its permission. The land in question is leased to Brian Reynolds, a farmer who grazes sheep there. He wrote to the Council to explain what happened: Brian learned of the event at around 2.30 that afternoon, receiving a text from a dog walker concerned about fireworks being set up in a field near his sheep. He was then called by the fireworks company, Illusion Fireworks, noting they were setting up ‘a few fireworks’ and were concerned about sheep nearby. He agreed to the display, as there’d be only a few fireworks and the sheep would move away. To shorten a rather involved story, as he learned more including the large scale of the display, Brian moved the sheep to a further field, then got to meet the organiser, Joe Wheeler, some time after 7.30 that evening and, ‘after a few strong words’ they settled that the display could go ahead.
    Kevin Viney was concerned both about the lack of valid permission and the proximity to the sheep. Peter Geary noted that Brian was a very experienced sheep farmer, so Councillors shouldn’t necessarily be more concerned than he about the welfare of his sheep. But, he felt that in any case the display should not have happened. Joanne Eley didn’t think Brian had willingly given his permission – it felt like he’d been ‘strong armed’. Deirdre noted the display had been fired from a similar location for the last few years but the Council had only just realised. Councillors agreed to write to the organiser and fireworks company, stating the display was fired from private land without the landowner’s permission, and that it was very unlikely the Council would ever grant such permission. Finally, and independently of the display, MKC is already looking at siting a stile and locking gate to restrict access to the field from which the display was fired.

    Stacks Image 88974

    Goosey Fireworks

    Chipper

    Tony Evans explained that their current chipper was old and incapable of dealing with thin, bushy material, which therefore had to be burned on his farm – not ideal. A replacement chipper had been chosen, the Recreations and Services Committee proposing the Council purchase it for £9,950. This would be part paid for by the part exchange of a, now almost unused, triple gang Hayter mower for £4,000, plus £500 for the old chipper. Paul Collins noted that the Hayter mower, purchased in 2014 for £17,000 was now to be exchanged for very much less. Tony noted that the mower was bought when Olney took on more landscaping work and, while some found it useful, others did not and, with the Council’s rotary mower more manoeuvrable and able to do everything required, was now rarely used. Peter Geary noted that machinery tended to depreciate quickly after purchase and, as the ground staff’s method of working had moved on, there was no point in leaving it idle in the shed. Des Eley asked why the cost of the Hayter hadn’t been depreciated in the accounts, Liam Costello replying that Council account guidelines are not to depreciate. John Boardman, noted that, with Tony and Peter best qualified to take the decision and in favour, would it not be sensible to vote on Tony’s proposal? After a surprisingly long discussion, Councillors voted in favour of the proposal, eight for, none against with six abstentions. Paul Collins explained that he’d never normally dream of abstaining, but wanted the Council to learn the lesson not to incur big losses due to short term thinking.

    Football Clubhouse

    Olney Town Football Club had agreed to hand back the clubhouse building to the Council, and planned to sign the deed of surrender in the few days after this meeting. Later in the meeting, having voted on whether to exclude press and public, Council was to discuss who the building would then be passed to.

    Standing Orders

    Standing Orders are normally agreed annually during the May Council meeting when the Council re-forms. For various reasons, the Standing Orders due to be agreed in May still haven’t been, with drawing up of ones on which Council could agree having been delegated to a working group – Paul Collins, Des Eley and Peter Geary. The agenda item for this part of the meeting was ‘Standing Orders – To agree a process for reviewing changes, and request that a schedule of proposed changes and reasons be supplied by the working group.’ Liam introduced this item, explaining that the planned agenda item, essentially to adopt the Standing Orders produced by the working group, had been changed to give more time to consider them.

    Des Eley explained that the Council was meant to adopt the Standing Orders in the May meeting but, with a hard copy of the Orders provided to Council only three days earlier and with no detail of the changes made, there were various queries and they were not adopted – so there were currently no adopted Standing Orders. Jeremy Rawlings interrupted to say that the previously adopted Orders remained in force, Des Eley noting this was ‘possibly’ the case, the minutes not noting a Council decision to adopt the previous ones. Des continued that the last few meetings’ minutes noted the working group would draft the Standing Orders, which were then supplied for review in this meeting. He felt slightly disappointed that they’d not been adopted today, and asked Councillors to put forward their views on the proposed Standing Orders. Jeremy replied that the Council would have the chance to adopt them in the January meeting.

    Peter Geary felt the way this had worked fell outside the Council’s constitution – the agenda item should have remained unchanged with Councillors able to vote to defer consideration until the next meeting if needed. Liam disagreed noting that, having consulted with Jeremy (the meeting’s chair), he had the right to change the agenda under certain circumstances. Specifically, he felt that some of the changes were not legally sound and noted ‘other concerns’. Following up with Liam after the meeting for clarification, he felt that other changes were not consistent with recent Council decisions, and that the information the working group provided initially did not make clear what the changes were (later rectified). He also cited two of the previously adopted standing orders, 4(d) and 4(e), reproduced below:

    ● 4(d). If the wording or nature of a proposed motion is considered unlawful or improper, the Proper Officer shall consult with the Mayor or, as the case may be, the Councillors who have convened the meeting, to consider whether the motion shall be included or rejected in the agenda.

    ● 4(e). Having consulted the Mayor or councillors pursuant to standing order 4(d) above, the decision of the Proper Officer as to whether or not to include the motion in the agenda shall be final.

    Back to the meeting, Paul Collins stated that, given views had been expressed re certain changes lacking legality, he wanted to see a paper detailing why. Des Eley noted that he wanted the working group to take on the feedback and provide a revised set of Standing Orders. Peter Geary said that Council needed to see the revised Standing Orders. Jeremy concluded the item, stating that the Standing Orders will be available, with tracked changes, to be discussed and voted on in the January meeting.

    There was clearly a range of views expressed in this part of the meeting and, in the usual way, it is the Town Clerk, Liam, who Mercury calls on with post-meeting questions, requests for context, etc. This is part convention and, reading the Standing Orders relevant to relations with the press/media, presumably also the Council’s intent:

    ● 28(b). In accordance with the Council’s policy in respect to dealing with the press and/or other media, councillors shall not, in their official capacity, provide oral or written statements or written articles to the press or other media.

    Dickens of a Christmas

    This was part of an agenda item where the Council receives minutes from various subcommittees such as Planning and HR. Again, it’s normally pretty dry but at times more interesting. Joanne Eley reported that the draft minutes of the Dickens of a Christmas meeting did not reflect the meeting accurately. Liam asked her to submit her concerns, which she said she’d do in writing.

    Children’s play areas

    Colin Rodden was frustrated that, while he regularly raised issues related to broken play equipment, such as zip wires and basketball hoops, it needed to become an agenda item in order to ensure ongoing focus and action to resolve the problems. Liam replied that he appreciated this, but the responsibility was with MKC. Peter Geary suggested Liam contact Phil Snell at MKC. If it turned out that equipment was not being repaired because MKC couldn’t afford it, Liam should ask what OTC was meant to do. Either way, it would require OTC to keep raising the issue.

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    Children's Play Area

    Milton Keynes Eastern expansion

    Peter Geary explained that Milton Keynes Council is looking to apply for £75 million of Government funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) towards the Eastern expansion. They’d originally planned to do this in December but now plan to do so in March. Noting that, back in October, he and David Hosking had called in the decision to apply for the HIF bid, he felt that had resulted in the detail behind that bid becoming available for inspection. No decisions will be taken on the design of the development itself until it’s known whether the HIF bid has been accepted – infrastructure must come first. If and when the HIF bid is accepted, and Plan MK insists on the development being required, only then will an implementation plan be drawn up. The bid has been delayed because it’s become clear that Government are scrutinising the value from such bids very carefully, so MKC is working to make a good case. Peter had put forward a motion asking for the HIF bid to be put on hold, but didn’t receive MKC support.
    Peter concluded by noting that, in parallel with the HIF bid issues above, Mark Lancaster and Iain Stewart had been concerned by the housing deal, which MKC was planning to sign without any corresponding firm Council decision to approximately double the size of Milton Keynes. They’d noted that this could not happen without proper Council agreement, which has resulted in a pause while MKC worked out how to proceed.

    High Street trees

    A High Street resident has contacted the Council because a tree has pierced their sewer and, while Anglian Water has agreed to fix the issue, presumably by lining the pipe, they felt the Council should be aware. Following up with Liam after the meeting, he explained that the Council has for some time been raising issues with MKC about trees on the High Street affecting adjacent properties. MKC hasn’t taken remedial action due to budgetary constraints, but their latest stance is they’ll survey all the trees along the High Street, prioritising the worst for remedial action.

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    High Street Trees

    Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford Arc

    Des Eley reported that he and Graham Harrison had attended an informative presentation on the Arc, where Des asked for and was promised data on the anticipated extra traffic flow on the A509 due to the forthcoming expressway.

    Pollution monitoring

    Kevin Viney reported that the air quality monitoring equipment near the Church Hall would shortly be replaced, the new equipment measuring NOx levels more frequently, but no longer particulates as they have thus far tracked levels already measured in Milton Keynes. He noted that NOx levels had reduced significantly, now only around half the threshold at which concern would be raised – diesel engines have become cleaner, Jeremy noted. Kevin also noted that the number of cars passing through Olney each weekday is approximately 17,000, North and Southbound combined.

    Stacks Image 88992

    Polution Monitoring

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Chris Tenant noted that over 200 young people had undergone heart screening by Cardiac Risk in the Young in the Football Club building over the weekend of 10th to the 11th November. This was made possible by fundraising following the untimely death of Alden Leuan Price in May 2017 due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Chris said that this had been a big success, and he hoped it would be part of an ongoing legacy.
    Tony Evans explained that Yardley Road would be closed near Olney for periods over the next 18 months for works related to the new housing development near the Industrial Estate, one which OTC had recommended against. He felt that light controlled one way traffic for the affected section of road would be achievable, significantly less disruptive than the closure. Peter Geary noted that requests for such closures are always scrutinised by MKC, but recommended OTC question this one to see if the closure times could be reduced with, for example, the road always being open at weekends.
    Des Eley proposed replacing the dog bins with ones of a larger size, thus avoiding the need to empty them as often. He believed this would cost around £2,500 and pay for itself in the first two months or so. Jeremy referred this to the Recreations and Services Committee for a decision.

    Highways

    Peter Geary reported that, in the next few weeks, there would be a solution proposed for the One Stop crossing issues, for example illuminated columns for the lights to improve visibility.
    John Boardman reported that he, a group of Councillors and two representatives from the MKC Highways department had visited East Street. He felt sure that progress had been made towards resurfacing and noted that MKC would consider how best to address the pedestrian safety issue on the ‘S’ bend to the rear of The Two Brewers.


    Next Meeting - 7th January

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th January 2019 in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.


Mercury's reports for 2017

  • January 2017

    Public Participation:

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. While householders had now received the residents parking scheme consultation, some were struggling to understand it and, in particular, the annual £50 permit charge. This topic is dealt with in the main body of the meeting below.

    Rod Parker
    Rod Parker also spoke about parking, this time in Orchard Rise. This has worsened over the last ten years. The main problems are safety (there’s no pavement), reduced road width (due to the line of parked cars) requiring larger vehicles to mount the grass verge, and lack of access to driveways (due to poor parking). Residents formed a small committee around a year ago and, keeping the residents informed throughout, it’s looked into various solutions and discussed the issue with both Olney and Milton Keynes Councils. Yellow lines were suggested and rejected due to them being too expensive and restrictive. A residents parking scheme was then suggested. The Committee liked the idea so a petition was sent to Milton Keynes Council (MKC). Again, this topic is dealt with in the main body of the meeting below.

    Election of Deputy Mayor

    With Ron Bull having left the Council, a vacancy has arisen for the post of Deputy Mayor. There were two candidates: Sally Pezaro (in her absence) and Desmond Eley. Votes were taken and Sally was elected Deputy Mayor with six votes, with Desmond having four.

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    The consultation document has now been sent to those living in the Crescent plus the houses in the immediate vicinity, first online (not ideal for the elderly residents) then printed. If 70% or more respondents are in favour, the scheme will be in place within six months. While parking permit schemes within Milton Keynes Borough are free in the current financial year, there is a proposal for an annual £50 permit charge starting April 2017 – hence it being raised as a concern in the Public participation part of this meeting.
    Deidre Bethune felt it was not ideal that pensioners would have to pay for parking permits. Peter Geary replied that this point had been raised for a number of schemes and that there was a proposal for them to be free for pensioners, although it was uncertain if or when this would be agreed. He also noted that the advantage of residents paying was that the schemes would likely be better enforced. Martine Stoffels asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) should be trying to help the residents understand the scheme, though Jeremy Rawlings noted that it had no jurisdiction in the matter – it could only comment and suggest.
    Joe Stacey said that the issue was a ‘bit of a mess’, ‘disgraceful’ and had ‘gone on and on’. He suggested that OTC write a strong letter to MKC’s Chief Executive to get this remarkably long running issue sorted out. Peter felt the Council should hold back on that option for now, explaining that writing now could provoke the easy response that ‘a process was underway’, as the parking scheme for which OTC had pushed was moving forward. He felt the time to write would be if less than the required 70% of the respondents were in favour of the scheme, in which case further thought would be needed.

    Parking in Orchard Rise

    This item required a decision on whether the Council would support a consultation on the requested residents parking scheme in Orchard Rise. The debate on this was comparatively brief since, while Joe Stacey wanted to know more about the issue before the Council expressed its opinion, the general view appeared to be that sensible investigations had already taken place, there was no financially viable alternative and it didn’t seem democratic to ignore the views of the residents and MKC. The Council voted all in favour of expressing a positive opinion, bar one abstention.

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    Orchard Rise parking problem

    Hanging baskets

    The hanging baskets mounted on the lampposts along the A509 in the Summer have been organised by Ron Bull for the last 11 years, and his wife Sheila for around five years before that. He’s stepping down from this task, and has asked the Council if it would take over. Colin Rodden thanked him for his hard work over this long period. Tony Evans noted that the time needed for basket planting and subsequent growth meant that a decision was required in the next month or so. Councillors agreed to see if another organisation, for example Olney Events, would take on the task with the proviso that, if not, the Council would take it on with Councillors doing the organisation so as not to create more work for Council staff.

    Market Place Christmas tree

    Deidre felt that the tree had insufficient impact in its current position South of the toilet block near the High Street, and suggested it be moved to the High Street side of the grass area behind the war memorial. She’d talked with some members of the local Royal British Legion (RBL) and they were content provided the tree was not too close to the memorial. The general view was that the idea was good, so it will be investigated further and the RBL contacted for an official response.

    Milton Keynes Council budget consultation

    As reported previously, MKC needs to find £20m of cost savings next year plus a further £60m by 2020. Peter Geary spoke about a few of the ways in which this will likely affect local Councils. The effects on landscape maintenance, the filling of grit bins and weed spraying have been reported previously. He added another two planned cuts: MKC’s Emergency Planning Service (which swings into action in the event of a major incident such a gas explosion) may soon operate only 9-5 Monday to Friday, and the subsidy given to bus companies for Junior Tripper bus passes may reduce causing their price to increase. It was also noted that the precepts charged by local Councils would almost certainly increase as a result of responsibilities they took over from MKC.
    John Boardman was unsure how MKC could achieve the 60m savings, noting that the Council Tax from the planned additional dwellings would nowhere near cover the shortfall. Peter Geary noted that growth was actually much of the problem: Councils have to provide services, such as schools, to new housing areas before they’re fully built and generating Council Tax revenue. He also noted that MKC’s current cutting and slicing of services could not continue and that what was really needed was a radical change to the way it functions and provides services. He felt that the Government would not stop cutting until Councils bit the bullet and transformed, for example by empowering the people at the bottom of the organisation. Finally, Peter noted that OTC would pretty much have to ‘stomach’ the changes for this year, but plan ahead for which cuts it will accept and which it will fight over the coming three years.
    The increasing importance of developing a two sided good and cooperative relationship between OTC and MKC was noted.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Pinders Circus will be held on the Pyghtle from Thursday 27th to Sunday 30th April.
    As reported previously, Kevin Viney was concerned about the colour of light which would be provided by the new LED lighting units when the lamp posts on the High Street were replaced. A verbal response has now been received but, being quite technical, has been requested in writing. Separately, the lighting units on all lamp posts in Olney and Newport Pagnell are due for replacement in the next financial year.

    Olney Wine Bar and Brasserie

    As reported last month, the MKC Licensing Committee considered an application from John Shayler on behalf of the Olney Wine Bar and Brasserie to align the hours permitted for the sale of alcohol, performance of music and performance of dance. After noting OTC’s objection to the later hours requested, the Committee voted to curtail these hours, and approved the application with the sale of alcohol permitted 10am – 11pm Sunday to Thursday, and 10am – midnight Friday and Saturday. It is also a condition of the licence that drinks must not be consumed in the outside area after 9pm.

    Yardley Road Solar Park

    Tony Evans reported that construction of the Yardley Road Solar Park was now well underway. There are 2-300m of field track leading from the turning on Yardley Road and, while some attempt has been made to keep this track in good condition, it has not been successful, so mud is being pulled onto the road by vehicles exiting the site. He felt this was a safety risk, particularly with the exit being on the crest of a bend which is taken quickly by many drivers. Jeremy Rawlings noted that it was a statutory duty not to bring mud onto the highway from such sites and Peter Geary concurred, saying it was an issue for planning enforcement.


    Next Meeting - 6th February

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th February in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • February 2017

    Olney Council report for February 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. The results of the residents parking scheme consultation have now been published and as this was an item on the main agenda it will be covered in the main body of the report.

    Co-option of new councillor

    A vacancy had arisen on the council, following the resignation of Ron Bull. There had been no request from the electorate for an election so it fell to the council to fill the post by co-option. There was only on applicant for the post, that being Kevin Viney, who was therefore elected unopposed. In his letter of application Kevin stated that he had lived and worked in the town since 1994 and been the director of two companies that created eight part-time vacancies drawn from Olney and four from neighbouring villages. He had also helped successfully fight the closure of the local day centre at the Kitchener Centre.

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    The parking scheme consultation document was sent to all residents of Oakdown Crescent and those of 70-92 Weston Road (even numbers only). The latter are houses that face the grassed area of The Pyghtle and back on to Oakdown Crescent, with no parking outside their homes so are effectively ‘land-locked’. A total of 33 surveys were sent out of which 31 were correctly completed and returned and the result was 61% against the introduction of a resident parking scheme, although 87% agreed that parking was either a problem or a serious problem. This was below the 70% required for the scheme to go ahead. The main objection to the scheme appeared to be the likely £50 per permit charge recently announced by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for all such schemes in the borough, although there is a possibility that this might be waived for elderly residents. Sue Warren, whose mother lives in Oakdown Crescent, expressed her disappointment at the result and said that the MKC officer who had visited the residents expressed the opinion that the charge would probably not be applied. If that were the case the vote would almost certainly have gone the other way, she felt. She was critical of Olney Town Council (OTC) for not getting sufficiently behind the scheme but accepted that the vote meant it would not now happen. Her sister now has a blue disabled badge, she said, and so would be campaigning to ensure that a disabled space was provided. As a resident of the Weston Road houses, Bryan Rice expressed his frustration at the length of time it had taken to get to the current stage and said that the right questions had not been asked of the right people. He felt that the market value of his house had been adversely affected by the delay and was considering legal advice on compensation. Some of the children of the ‘land-locked’ residents would soon be getting cars of their own, so the situation was only going to get worse, he said.
    John Boardman and Mayor Jeremy Rawlings felt it was unfair to criticise OTC as the members and Town Clerk Liam Costello had done a tremendous amount to find a resolution. A discussion took place about what the next step should be, as the issue remains that the existing layout is unsatisfactory and the surface is breaking up. Joe Stacey was of the opinion that OTC should decide on a way forward and ask MKC to implement it, but Colin Rodden thought that MKC should identify the most cost effective solution, as they have experts who are paid to know such things. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said it was unlikely that MKC would take the initiative on any further action, since they would only progress projects where there was agreement of those impacted and the survey had proved that there wasn’t. The next step would be for OTC to agree on a layout to maximise the available space and to get it resurfaced, he said.

    Community Skate/BMX Park

    An Invitation to Tender document has been produced by the committee that was working to provide this facility, but it had only been sent to the council on the morning of the meeting and many members felt that they hadn’t had time to fully study it. Although absent from the meeting, Desmond Eley had provided written comments. His main points were around the fact that the document appeared to be placing the main responsibility for the tendering, planning, construction and ongoing maintenance of the park with OTC. At a previous meeting OTC had agreed to support the project with funding. Tony Evans reminded members that the final position relied on the successful relocation of the existing zip wire and was concerned that it was still too close to the cricket pitch. He wondered how a tender date could be declared if the full funding was not yet available. It needed to be ‘sitting in someone’s account’ he thought. Peter Geary said it was good that the document had been produced but the location needed to be agreed by all affected parties before the request for planning permission could be submitted. It was agreed that a weekend site meeting should be set up to include representatives of the Cricket Club, Bowling Club, Tennis Club, Football Club including Colts, skaters, and parents of children who use the play equipment.

    Financial matters

    MKC needs to make savings of £56m over the next four years and had proposed reducing the previously agreed grant for Devolved Landscape Service for the next financial year by a third. This grant covers litter picking, grass cutting and play area maintenance. Following submissions made by OTC and other parish councils MKC has agreed to defer the decision for a further year in order to gain agreement as to how the savings can be made.
    The OTC budget for 2017/18 was presented to the meeting, including the Parish Precept, which is the portion of the MKC Council Tax that is allocated to the parish councils in order to provide the services that they are responsible for. The precept for Olney will be increased from £177,081.76 to £185,050.00, an overall increase of 4.5%. The figure usually used to benchmark average Council Tax is for a Band D property, the precept portion which will see a rise from £70.79 to £73.57 – a rise of 3.93%. It was noted that this considerably less than the average rise across the rest of Milton Keynes. The budget was proposed and passed unanimously.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    A Neighbourhood Plan is document that sets out planning policies for the neighbourhood area which is written by the local community, rather than the Local Planning Authority and is a powerful tool to ensure the community gets the right types of development, in the right place. The Planning Authority, in this case MKC, is obliged to use it to decide whether to approve planning applications. Joe Stacey reported that the Olney plan had completed the consultation stage and had been submitted to MKC. The next step would be an independent examination before going to a public referendum. Liam Costello explained that, although it is not formally adopted until approved in the referendum, it is supposed to gain weight as it progresses. However MKC have indicated that the recommendations therein will not be taken into account in the forthcoming planning decision about housing development on existing land earmarked for employment.

    Emberton Park PLUG

    Until a year ago stakeholders with an interest in the park were able to raise issues of concern with MKC at regular Park Liaison User Group (PLUG) meetings. Due to staff reductions brought about by budget cuts MKC are no longer able to resource these meetings, relying instead on their online portal for raising concerns and complaints. At the request of OTC they have offered to hold six monthly meetings with stakeholders to explore strategic suggestions and improvements to the park. Peter Geary was in favour of the offer and suggested that OTC and Emberton Parish Council should work together to agree a joint approach. Colin Rodden thought that the park was starting to deteriorate quite badly and it was important for MKC to have some sort of strategy for its future. He wondered whether it would be possible for OTC and Emberton PC to run it between them, in a similar manner to Harrold Country Park. Steve Clark said that Harrold Country Park was supported by a massive subsidy from Bedford Borough Council.

    Local Events

    The council granted permission for the following events:
    Motorama on the Market Place – Sunday 11th June
    Fun Fair, Recreation Ground – 19th to 26th June
    Riverfest – Sunday 2nd July
    It was noted that BOTO (formally Booze on the Ouse) has been cancelled for this year.

    Dumping of waste on Goosey Island

    Although not a formal agenda item, having occurred after the agenda was published, it was raised under Members Matter by Rosemary Osbourne. Over the previous weekend members of the public had observed and photographed a van driver unloading waste material on to Goosey Island via the narrow wooden bridge and were up in arms about it, she said. Liam Costello said it had been reported to the Environmental Agency as commercial waste being stored without permission. It appears that a ‘Mr Chan’ purchased the island and bridge some years ago when the tannery closed down. He claims to own the land at the other end of the bridge and says that the public have no right of access. He also claims that he has stored a greenhouse on the island which has been vandalised. Steve Clark was of the opinion that it was waste, not storage, and the owner required a licence to transport and deposit it.

    Stacks Image 89232

    Goosey Rubbish

    Odds and Sods

    Age UK are planning to close the Tuesday lunch club held at Clifton Court due to declining numbers. OTC currently pays for the transport of residents that cannot make their own way. The Thursday lunch club at the Olney Centre will continue, so OTC will transfer its funding to the Thursday club.
    An agreement has been reached with all interested parties to relocate this year’s Christmas tree to the north end of the Market Place by the war memorial.


    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th March in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • March 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent, remaining unhappy about the negative outcome of the residents parking scheme consultation. Frustrated that properties near the Crescent had been included in the survey – the ‘land locked’ even numbers from 70-92 Weston Road – and even claiming Council bias in the way they were chosen, she felt the result would have been positive had they not been included. She also felt that the £50 per household cost, which would in fact have been waived for elderly people although that was unclear at survey time, impacted the result. Noting that on most nights and weekends at least 18 cars were parked in the Crescent, she also stated that emergency services vehicles could not get near the houses. She cited an example of a recent ambulance arrival, where it could not reach the house it needed to visit. She finished by vowing to continue fighting for a solution to this parking problem.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Now that the consultation result had gone against the introduction of a residents parking scheme, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had asked Olney Town Council (OTC) to send it a list of options to help resolve the situation. Deidre noted that the surface of the Crescent was in very poor condition and unsafe to walk on, the holes patched by MKC having quickly reappeared. OTC has drawings of two proposed layouts for parking in the Crescent, one with parking around the edges and one with parking in a central rectangle, and these will be sent as a possible basis for a plan moving forward.

    Skate and BMX park

    Although the park was not discussed as a formal agenda item, it was raised during a review of the minutes of last month’s Council meeting. Colin Rodden disagreed with this section of the minutes, but the resulting discussion didn’t really clarify the current state of the project. Since readers may be interested to learn how preparatory work towards the park is progressing, Mercury asked for and the Council provided a brief update: “The Council initially approved in principle a location for the Skatepark, subject to detailed plans being prepared, where the zip wire is located. It has become clear that siting it there will compromise the operation of other clubs and facilities. Consequently, the Town Clerk has been tasked to review and assess alternative locations. The Council has earmarked £33,000, from future developer contributions, towards the project. The Skate park group need to raise the remaining funds.”

    Yardley Road/Aspreys development

    As reported before, a large new housing development is planned on the land to the West of Yardley Road and Aspreys. A Preplanning Application has now been received for a proposed development of up to 250 houses, plus the associated community facilities and public open space.

    Yardley Road development

    A Planning Application for up to eight houses with detached garages on a parcel of land to the West of Yardley Road, which was refused last July, has now been appealed and a new application submitted. A member of OTC spoke against it at a recent MKC Development Control Committee meeting, but the application was granted by the Committee by one in favour and four abstentions. One cited reason was that there was no realistic chance of the land being passed back into employment use. OTC felt this was surprising, given that local business Scorpion Mouldings had tried to buy the land four times before and still wished to do so now. Using a little cited clause, the Council has asked MKC to look again at the process to see if it had been performed incorrectly, and thus it will have been considered by the time this is published.

    Goosey Island

    As reported in the previous article, a van driver has been unloading rubbish on Goosey Island. Rosemary Osborne again raised concerns about this but it appeared that, having informed the Environment Agency and MKC that waste was being stored on the land without permission, there was little more OTC could do other than wait. Specifically, it is MKC which has the enforcement powers; OTC does not.

    Standing orders item 23

    Item 23 of OTC’s Standing Orders (those being the rules which govern how a Council works), states:
    Unauthorised activities:
    (a) Unless authorised by a resolution, no individual Councillor shall, in the name or on behalf of the Council, a committee or a sub-committee:
    (i) inspect any land and/or premises which the Council has a right or duty to inspect; or
    (ii) issue orders, instructions or directions.
    Colin Rodden reported that he’d received art designs from Olney Middle School to include in the circular walk around Olney. He also mentioned that Milton Keynes Council had offered to do some public artwork for the walk. Joe Stacey replied stating that Colin’s emails on this topic and on a Section 106 matter were in breach of Standing Orders item 23 because he was effectively ‘going solo’, without the knowledge and agreement of the Council. Colin, explaining that he’d not been looking to take any decisions in this way, apologised if he’d done anything wrong.
    The resulting discussion went on for some time, with nearly all Councillors who contributed speaking along similar lines to Joe. Peter Geary put forward a differing view, that Councillors can seek advice (on Section 106 and other matters) and that, in any case, there was effectively no way to enforce Standing Orders. He also felt that the only way for the Council to work effectively was together: Olney Council was nowhere near a split but, having seen the effect of splits in other Councils, he didn’t want to see one happen here. Colin rounded off the discussion, stating that he’d not been “trying to go behind anyone’s back” and that it was the “first time he’d heard about it”, which was “very disappointing”. Finally, Peter noted that the Council must resolve this issue outside this meeting, and that it would “need change from all of us”.


    Next Meeting 3rd April

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd April in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate

  • April 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent, saying that she was upset that it was not an agenda item, having been assured some years ago that it would be a monthly agenda item to keep the momentum going. ‘Where was the feedback from the Highways Dept and Ambulance service?’ she asked, following her statement last month that an ambulance had been obstructed by parked cars. The poor condition of the pathways has still not been resolved, which is becoming more of a problem as the better weather means the residents are getting out and about. If one of them falls there would be a ‘huge compensation claim’, she said. Oakdown crescent is not a quiet or nice area for senior citizens and they are paying exorbitant rents just to live in a car park, she said. She finished off by asking the councillors if they would let their mothers live in a car park?
    Note: later in the meeting when reviewing outstanding actions it was noted that the ambulance service has no record of the alleged incident of obstruction and resurfacing is due to commence this month.

    Public Realm Services

    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings, Milton Keynes (MKC) Ward Councillor Peter Geary, Olney Town Councillor (OTC) Helena Newbould and Town Clerk Liam Costello recently attended a conference of MK Association of Local Councils, to look at how local councils can work with MKC in order to deliver important services at lower cost. To date MKC has cut £111m from its budget, but needs to find another £22m next year and £60m by 2020. In order to do this it is looking to transfer responsibility for a number of services to the local councils. Olney has already taken over responsibility for landscaping and has the necessary equipment and staff, but this is not an option for some smaller parishes. However, OTC could sell its services to smaller neighbouring parishes. MKC currently has two separate contracts with Serco to provide Landscaping (including play areas) and Street Cleansing, which still have some time to run. It is able to negotiate a ‘bulk’ price to cover the whole of the borough, but at the expense of excluding smaller companies that could not service on such a large scale. However, individual councils would now be at liberty to engage with smaller companies directly and might be able to negotiate a more favourable price. Possible future service options are:
    ● Councils take over management of MKC’s contract with Serco in their Parish, pay them directly and top up to the standard they want. MKC provides them with base level funding.
    ● Councils provide their own contractors. MKC provides base level funding to them directly.
    ● MKC provide base level service and councils pay MKC for any top up they want.
    ● MKC provides base level service and councils provide their own contractor for any top up they want.
    Parish councils have until August 2017 to decide how they want to move forward, which Joe Stacey did not think sufficient. Peter Geary said it was important for OTC to decide what it would and wouldn’t be prepared to take on and then produce a strategy, since environmental services such as landscaping and street cleansing were much less complex than ‘people services’ (presumably such as education and welfare).

    Plan MK

    MKC has now entered into a 12 week public consultation, from 17th March to 9th June, on the Draft Plan. When it is adopted it will be the new Local Plan for Milton Keynes, setting out how and where developments will take place up to 2031. Jeremy Rawlings said it wasn’t particularly controversial for Olney yet, and Peter Geary said that Olney would have its own adopted Neighbourhood Plan, so would not be required to accept more houses than it had already signed up to. The proposed expressway from Buckingham to M1 J13 is an important pre-condition to any development on the east side of the M1 though, he said. The draft plan is available at https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/planning-and-building/planning-policy/plan-mk or Milton Keynes and Olney libraries.

    Yardley Road development

    As reported last month, a Planning Application for up to eight dwellings on a parcel of land to the West of Yardley Road was refused last July, was appealed and a new application submitted and subsequently passed. OTC invoked Para 51 of the MKC constitution to review the decision making process and see if it had been performed incorrectly, since the land is currently earmarked for business use in the draft Neighbourhood Plan. An adjacent company wished to purchase the land for employment purposes but had been refused. Once again the MKC planners have ignored the wishes of OTC and the draft plan, despite representations from OTC members present, and apparently voted along party lines to reject the call to review the decision.

    Replacement street lighting

    As reported previously, the lamp posts in the High Street have reached the end of their life and are being replaced by MKC, using a similar design to the existing ones. At the same time the familiar yellow sodium lights will be replaced by high efficiency LED lights. In December, prior to becoming a member of OTC, Kevin Viney spoke at a council meeting about the impacts of the much brighter white LED lights that will be used. He also wrote a letter to MKC outlining his concerns about the visual impact of what he considered the ‘morgue like’ 4000°K white lights and associated health impacts to those who were exposed to the light. At the time he also suggested that warmer 3000°K lights could be used instead. A rather wordy reply was written, but has only just been received from the Street Lighting Manager of Ringway Infrastructure Services, who manage the street lighting for MKC. It stated that the proposed LED lights would provide savings of at least 50% over the existing sodium lights on energy alone, although the warmer 3000°K lights requested by Kevin are 15% less efficient than the 4000°K white lights. Added to that, the current lamps have to be replaced every four years, whereas the LEDs would last in excess of 25 years. The yellow lights were only introduced in the 1950/1960s, the previous lighting being white and prior to that gas lighting existed, which would also have been white. Thus, it was claimed the new white lights would create a more historically accurate look. The letter also denied that there is any known risk to human health, including disturbed circadian rhythms, when LED lights are employed. LED lighting has major benefits to facial recognition and colour rendition leading to safer streets in terms of crime reduction and a better lit environment for both pedestrians and vehicles. The letter said that change is often seen as a negative but LED is the future of all road/footpath and public lighting and is something that the public will not only get used to but also embrace.

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    Sodium Light v 4K LED Light - Oundle Town Centre (April 2017) © Kevin Viney

    Kevin presented a picture that he had taken in the historic town of Oundle which has been fitted with the Woburn style lamp posts that are due to replace the similar ones in Olney and where one sodium light had been left. This enabled comparison of the intensity and colour with the modern LED lamp replacements. On the left of the picture is the warm yellow light (see illumination on pavement) and to the right is the somewhat harsh intense light from the 4K LED fitting, along with the similar colour of the fluorescent white of the shop front illuminating the ground. On a wet surface the white light would give a lot of glare, he said. Replacement in Olney is due to commence at the beginning of April, but Kevin suggested that OTC request MKC to delay for a period of six weeks until Holophane, the supplier, can obtain the warmer 3000°K lights. These are the norm in the USA, he said. John Boardman wondered if MKC had had any feedback from other parishes where LED lighting had been deployed and thought that High Street residents would be the first to complain when it happened in Olney. Joe Stacey asked if OTC actually have any authority to delay the deployment and Jeremy Rawlings questioned whether as a council they wanted to. Sally Pezaro was of the opinion that the yellow lights are part of the Olney atmosphere, particularly with the Christmas lights. The council agreed to request the delay.
    Update:A response has been received from MKC refusing to agree to the delay and stating that the replacement of lighting in the High Street will commence on 18th April and then continue to the rest of the town. The reply stated that “the design of the lights has already been reduced from the 5000k that have been used on the grid road network that has formed part of our overall replacement programme. It has been proven that the temperature of the proposed units replicates moonlight, which is the best type of light source for the human eye to view at night.” A number of the lights already exist in the town for residents to compare for themselves. They are the top of Spring Lane, the footpath on Aspreys between Sillswood and Hollow Wood, and The Knoll close to the (A)Maya restaurant. Any comment should be addressed to MKC Street lighting on 01908 252353 (Mon-Fri).

    Fun Fair

    John Scarrott and Sons will be bringing the funfair to Olney between 19th and 26th June. As Chairman of the Recs and Services Committee, Tony Evans has requested that it is not located on the Nursery Field (football pitch) due to damage that has been caused previously and is now repaired (note: last year Scarrotts voluntarily cancelled at the last minute, for fear of causing damage as the ground was so wet). Joe Stacey questioned whether the damage had actually impacted the football club and suggested that if damage is caused then Scarrotts should be asked to pay for it. Jeremy Rawlings said that there really was nowhere else it could be held and suggested that it go ahead this year with a review in July, which was agreed.

    Town Meeting

    The Annual Town Meeting will take place on Thursday 18th May at 7.00 pm in the Olney Centre, with cheese and wine after. This is your chance to come and meet your councillors and police representatives and question them on any matters concerning the town and its future. Perhaps you have an opinion on LED street lighting? Are you in favour of the growth of the Town? Are you happy with the level of policing? Alternatively, you could just have a moan on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page….


    Next Meeting - 8th May
    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 8th May in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • May 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She’d been in contact with Milton Keynes Council (MKC), who’d stated that the footpaths in the Crescent would not be repaired, even though Olney Town Council (OTC) had claimed this would happen in May. She also noted that MKC would have been happy to survey just Crescent householders for the residents parking scheme, it being OTC who insisted that those nearby also be surveyed. She asked why OTC had not insisted on the same treatment for Orchard Rise which, in pretty short order from the idea being put forward, will very likely have a parking scheme. She also noted that MKC told her no money had ever been ring fenced for improvements to the Crescent, which she felt contradicted an assurance given to her by OTC. Sue concluded by asking Councillors if they’d let their mothers live in a car park.

    David Chennells
    David Chennells spoke about the poor state of the Long Lane bridleway section heading West from the crest of the hill. That and the section to its East have suffered damage due to vehicle movements associated with g2 Energy connecting the Yardley Road solar farm to the grid. However, while the Eastern section has been very well reinstated, the Western section has not. Instead, while a broken land drain has been repaired and a French drain installed, the surface appears simply to have been flattened using a road roller. David felt this inadequate because the grass which used to grow there, providing a surface mat and stabilising the ground with its roots, had been chewed off by the vehicles and was no longer present. He was particularly concerned about this from a horse riding perspective, as horses’ gaits puts them in danger of injury from boggy ground. He concluded by saying that as soon as we saw some sustained wet weather, this section of the bridleway would turn into a quagmire

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    As reported before, there are two proposals for providing marked parking spaces in the Crescent, one sighting them at the edges of the central area and one in its middle. Councillors continue to prefer the latter. The Council had received an email from MKC stating that it was happy to look at either option but that OTC must apply for it through the Community Parking Fund, which would see MKC and OTC each pay half the cost. OTC must apply for this before 23rd June, at which point MKC will consider the application. The email also stated that the footpaths in the Crescent would not be repaired, as the surface was not sufficiently poor to meet the intervention level criteria and there was little or no budget for housing footpaths.
    Responding to points raised by Sue and by MKC’s email, Peter Geary explained that money had been earmarked for the Crescent rather than ring fenced, and suggested OTC challenge why the paths had not been resurfaced since he’d been told they would be. Responding to Sue’s question about whether Councillors would let their mothers live in a car park, he stated that this was just what would be happening if either of the proposals was enacted.

    Mayor and Deputy Mayor

    Jeremy Rawlings was elected unopposed as Mayor and Sally Pezaro was appointed, also unopposed, as Deputy Mayor.

    Long Lane bridleway

    Councillors suggested that a working party, including a representative from MKC, have a site meeting with David Coles so he could show them the extent of the problem.

    Orchard Rise parking

    The survey to see if Orchard Rise should have a residents parking scheme has found that 87% of the households were in favour so, this being well above the 70% threshold, a statutory consultation will take place shortly and the scheme is expected to be introduced within six months.

    Waste on Goosey Island

    As reported before, there is a growing problem with the landowner depositing waste on Goosey Island. He has been served with two notices in an attempt to remedy the situation: The first was to remove the waste within 14 days, a time which has now expired. The second was to remove the structures, for example containers, within 28 days. At the time of writing, it’s part way through this period yet more structures continue to appear.
    It was noted that Goosey Bridge has two owners, the Council and the landowner each owning up to half way across. With it being an old bridge and there being vehicle movements associated with this issue, the Council will ask a Structural Engineer to assess its safe weight limit, with the aim of then placing a sign to display it.

    Air quality

    Kevin Viney met with MKC’s Air Quality Officer. A few years ago, the roadside pollution monitoring cabinet near the Church Hall was installed in response to the NO2 levels being above the permitted maximum. It is now becoming unreliable and reaching the end of its life. During that time, pollution levels have dropped to below the permitted limit but remain significant, with the Officer noting various issues which may cause further concern: traffic increase due to the economy and the proposed additional houses in Olney, windless days leading to a pollution hot spot in that location, and the possibility that the Government may tighten regulations to include smaller particles which the current equipment cannot measure.
    All that said, there was cost pressure to remove the unit along with a similar one in Newport Pagnell, with the only one remaining in the area being at MKC’s office. The criteria for that choice were interesting, the latter unit being chosen to remain more to continue a long running data collection than in response to high pollution levels at its location. The Officer suggested that OTC consider replacing the unit with a more modern type funded from Section 106, for example money from the developers of the forthcoming new houses near Yardley Road and Aspreys. Modern monitoring units can, in addition to the measurements captured by the exiting unit, also measure the smaller particles from diesel engines, and can make their readings available near real time. So, for example, a run could be planned to avoid the area if current pollution levels were unduly high. Councillors will consider this although, with money being tight, it was not obvious that the unit will be replaced.

    Alleyway between High Street and East Street

    This item concerns the alleyway which runs from the High Street to East Street, emerging near the football pitch. In spite of the existing pedestrian chicane, concerns have been raised for the safety of those exiting the alleyway into East Street. Cars often mount the pavement there and, with it being a narrow stretch of road, often parked on and close to a corner, visibility is poor. OTC will see if MKC can place bollards on the pavement either side of the alleyway exit.

    Licensing

    Late last year, MKC’s Licensing Subcommittee voted to restrict the opening hours of Olney Wine Bar to below those which the business applied for, OTC having objected to the times in the application. The Wine Bar appealed this decision, so MKC sought legal advice as to whether to fight this. Given the facts of this particular case, the advice was that it could not be defended so MKC felt compelled to agree to the licence as applied for.
    More Than Just Coffee (Taylors old premises) has applied for a licence to supply alcohol on the premises from 12.00 - 23.00 Monday to Sunday, with late night opening, from 23.00 - 01.00, on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. Councillors did not raise any objections.

    High Street lamppost replacement

    As you’ll no doubt be aware, MKC’s contractors are working to replace the lampposts on the High Street, at the same time upgrading their lighting units to LEDs which emit a whiter light than the existing lamps. Kevin Viney explained that the new posts were not as ornate, and noted that the swan fittings had not so far been transferred to them. The Council will ask MKC about this, having been told they would be retained. Kevin also noted that residents can complain if the new posts light areas which, previously unlit, are now troublesome. Although there’s a £130 charge for rectifying this, it can be waived under certain circumstances.


    Next Meeting - 5th June

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 5th June in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • June 2017

    Public Participation

    Residents are permitted to speak on any subject they wish at the start of Olney Town Council (OTC) meetings. They are allocated three minutes and the councillors are not obliged to respond unless the matter is a formal agenda item. The matter can, however, be made an agenda item for a future meeting. The three minute rule was strictly enforced by Mayor Jeremy Rawlings at this month’s meeting.

    Bryan Rice
    First to speak was Bryan Rice on the subject of parking In Oakdown Crescent. Bryan lives in one of the ‘landlocked’ houses backing onto Oakdown Crescent and would not have been able to park near his house had the now abandoned residents’ parking scheme gone ahead. He said that he had being doing some historical research into the issue and had found a three-year business plan for Olney produced in 1963 which had included building the houses (presumably Oakdown Crescent). At this time there was a roadway to the rear of the now landlocked houses in Weston Road. The houses in Oakdown Crescent were built in 1968 and the car park built in the middle. When that car park was built it was intended to be for residents of Weston Road and Oakdown Crescent but the residents of Weston Road were subsequently informed that their tenancies would be terminated if they parked in the crescent. Finally, Bryan said that he had some ideas for the proposed layout of the new parking space that he would be happy to share with the council.

    Sue Warren
    Next to speak was Sue Warren on the same subject. She wanted to know why it was not a formal item on the agenda as it was resolved at the last meeting that three items should be pursued. Sarah Gonsalves, Head of Policy and Performance at Milton Keynes Council (MKC), was present at the meeting so Sue addressed much of her statement to her. She presented some photos taken the previous day, saying that the situation was ‘horrendous’.
    She repeated that her sister, also present, was registered disabled and there was no disabled bay, even though MKC are obliged to provide one. She said OTC had ‘interfered’ with the residents’ survey by insisting that residents of Weston Road were included, which had resulted in an overall vote against a residents’ parking scheme. Why had the residents of West Street not been included in the similar survey for a scheme in Orchard Rise, she asked? She repeated her statement that the paths were a disgrace and MKC had better be prepared for a huge claim if any of the residents had a fall as a result.

    Bryan Rice
    Bryan Rice attempted to respond but Jeremy Rawlings refused to let him speak, saying he’d had his allotted three minutes and bringing down the gavel several times to call the meeting to order.
    MKC Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that Bryan’s reference to historical events was irrelevant as there had been several changes in the local authority since 1963. Also the tenancy act had been introduced, which meant that tenancies could not be cancelled in such circumstances. Jeremy Rawlings said the reason that it was not an agenda item was because there was nothing new to report.

    Planning

    A discussion took place regarding the proposal for 250 homes on Land West of Yardley Road and West of Aspreys. Peter Geary noted that the current plans show a single access from Yardley Road although OTC had expressed a preference that there should be a second access from Aspreys. He said that he would formally raise an objection to the plans as Ward Councillor, in order that the second access was included. Asked by Heléna Newbold to clarify comments made in the Councillor Corner column of The Phonebox, Peter said that the published plans are nothing more than a picture of what the site could look like and the minute details of what would eventually be provided cannot be controlled in planning. At a later stage in the meeting the member discussed the Section 106 contribution, which the developers have to pay to MKC as a ‘planning gain’ and will be in the region of £5m for the development. All agreed that it was essential that as much as possible of that amount is used to benefit Olney and not the greater Milton Keynes. Of particular interest was the £112.5k allocated to landscaping, all of which should come to OTC as it manages its own landscaping.

    Public Realm Services

    Kay Pettit and Sarah Gonsalves were present to speak about MKC’s plans to deliver Public Realm services under the current financial restraints. Sarah said this was one of a series of meetings with the parish councils to get an understanding of the issues they face, not just in public realm services. She explained that it had been necessary to reduce costs but not much more cutting could be done without services suffering. Landscaping and waste service had attracted most attention, she said, noting that OTC along with some other councils had devolved responsibility for landscaping, although MKC had little understanding of how this was working and agreed that the relationship between MKC and the parishes was not as good as it could be. MKC intend to produce a framework of methods to progress the various options, she said. There could be no more devolving of Landscaping, though, because MKC was tied into a contract with Serco till 2020.
    Kay Pettit, Programme Manager, spoke next, explaining that MKC was looking at best practice around the country and Bedford was one council that stood out. She had visited many parish and observed many different approaches, she said. Asked by Desmond Eley if the current Serco contract would be extended beyond 2020 she replied that it was under consideration. Deirdre Bethune expressed concern that MKC might again attempt to renege on the funding for devolved service. Jeremy Rawlings pointed out that although OTC manages its own landscaping, residents are still paying MKC for the landscaping of other parishes via the Council Tax. Peter Geary said that OTC had been ‘bluntly’ told at a meeting with MKC that the funding would be reduced, even though this could not actually be done due to the ongoing contract with Serco. A senior manager at MKC had assured OTC in February that the pathways of Oakdown Crescent would be repaired and then promptly left office leaving no record of the agreement, he said. This approach had caused much damage which would take years to repair and communication between the councils needed to be a two way street. Sarah responded that she was happy to look at decisions made by colleagues and recognised that it would take time for trust to build up. ‘Judge us by our actions’ she asked. Kevin Viney asked if anyone had calculated the real cost of cancelling the Serco contract. Peter Geary responded that it would be £2.5m for each remaining year and none of the contracted work would be done so it was not a viable option. Colin Rodden was of the opinion that litter was not being cleared up often enough. Sarah said that it was possible to reduce pick-ups in some areas to concentrate on areas where the problem was worse. Peter Geary noted that in Weston Underwood MKC were clearing litter more often outside of the village, since the villagers had volunteered to be responsible for litter pick up between the village signs. More use could be made of volunteer litter collection groups, such as the session recently organised by staff of local company MPA Group, he suggested.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    After three years of hard work by the steering group the Neighbourhood Plan for Olney is now ready to be presented to residents for adoption, but first the majority of the electorate have to vote in a referendum. For information, The Localism Act introduced a right for communities to draw up Neighbourhood Plans that can become part of the formal planning framework for the area. Once adopted, these Neighbourhood Plans form part of the statutory Development Plan for the area and give the local community more say and control over development in the area. The plan for Olney, if adopted, will guide development till 2031. Steve Clark said there had been lots of discussion and consultation during the evolution of the plan, but from comments on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page, it appeared that some people thought that it could be ‘tweaked’ to make it correct. All the tweaking had been done during the development of the plan, he said, and the referendum was a simple yes/no vote on whether to adopt it. Although individual members of the council could encourage people to vote ‘Yes’, as a council they could not. Desmond Eley asked what would be the implication if only 5% of the electorate bothered to vote. Peter Geary replied that it would be carried by a simple majority under normal election rules. The council will advertise through leaflets, The Phonebox and social media, encouraging resident to use their vote.

    Waste on Goosey Island

    As previously reported, there is a growing problem with the deposit of waste and illegal erections by the landowner on Goosey Island. He has been served with two notices, both of which have expired, with no remedial action being taken. Town Clerk Liam Costello reported on the current situation but in a statement reminiscent of the computer Deep Thought from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy said “You’re not going to like this….” However, rather than the answer to the Great Question being ‘42’ it is, in fact, ‘H&S’. It appears that the landowner has stated that it was necessary to erect the barriers on Health and Safety grounds. The Planning department appear to have accepted this and say they will review the situation in six months or so (it took Deep Thought Seven and a half million years!) The Environmental department have taken no action, saying they were leaving it to the Planning department. This obviously caused much outrage and Peter Geary said that the MKC Planning Enforcement Officer is not an H&S expert and it was essential to get the senior planning enforcement and environmental people round a table as soon as possible. Kevin Viney said it was hugely disappointing and implied that residents could not make cosmetic changes to their garages, for example, but could get away with such violations of regulations. He doubted that the environmental officer from MKC had even visited the site.

    Stacks Image 89591

    7th June - Two operatives were seen at the Goosey site, but were simply adding fencing to the structure, despite apparently having been served notices to remove the rubbish.

    Stacks Image 89628

    Pictured at the beginning of the year showing two otters on the bank of Goosey Island. Disturbing their place of rest is highly illegal and has been reported to Milton Keynes Council who have said they would look into the matter.

    Odds and Sods

    The Town Council’s annual financial statement has been prepared and may be inspected by members of the public between 11th June and 21st July.
    In May 2018 the Data Protection Act will be replaced by an EU directive known as the General Data Protection Regulation. The Government has confirmed that Brexit will not affect the UK implementation so councils are being advised to prepare now.
    Kevin Viney said that the replacement of the lights in the High Street is progressing and is due to be complete w/e 9th June. There has been a delay with some as they are adjacent to gas pipes. It is expected that those in the High Street in Newport Pagnell will be changed before the team return to Olney to start on the rest of the town.
    Tony Evans said that the recent Farmers’ Market had been the ‘best ever’ in terms of attendance by traders and the public and thanked Martin Ward for covering in his absence.
    Heléna Newbold thanked the volunteers from Olney Events for putting up the floral baskets in the High Street.


    Next Meeting - 3rd July

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd July in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • July 2017

    Public Participation

    Peter Gage
    Peter Gage spoke on the subject of the upcoming Orchard Rise residents parking scheme. As someone who parks in the area and is employed nearby in The Works, he felt there was not a real problem – residents could park and they have driveways. He asked about the criteria by which these schemes are judged concerned that, if this application was approved, the floodgates could open and other roads with no real problem could end up controlled by such schemes. He concluded by noting that Riverfest was a great day and thanking those involved in running it – The Olney Group (TOG) and a band of volunteer helpers.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren was next up, speaking about parking in Oakdown Crescent. In summary, she asked whether the Council had applied to the Community Parking Fund for money towards the implementation of Option B, parking in a single block in the middle of the main square. This was confirmed. She also questioned why the potholes on the Crescent had still not been repaired, in spite of assurances that they would be.

    With there being no related agenda item, this topic was not discussed further.

    Neil Biggs & Phil Kermeen
    This meeting was held three days before the Neighbourhood Plan referendum so, particularly in view of the wide ranging discussion on Facebook, it was unsurprising that people wished to talk on it here. Neil Biggs and then Phil Kermeen both spoke about the issue. Neil, who works in traffic management with Thames Valley Police, understood that the developer for the Yardley Road estate would be re-applying for outline planning permission, this time with access from Aspreys, and he had some related concerns. Now, until a few days before this meeting, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) were due to attend for a discussion on this planning application, but they’d then pulled out, citing concerns about closeness to the referendum. Neil understood this, but noted it was not ideal because people wanted answers to planning questions before voting in the referendum. He also asked whether, in the light of MKC’s recent statement, that Olney is no longer required to build these homes, there was any longer a need for the development to proceed. Phil then spoke briefly, reiterating Neil’s last question then asking whether, in the event of a ‘no’ vote, piecemeal developments would occur around the town.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    Jeremy Rawlings spoke briefly to explain that, when MKC had pulled out of attending the meeting to discuss the Plan, the item had been removed from the agenda. That left no remaining item under which the Plan could be discussed, so it could not be talked about further. This left a rather odd situation where various members of the Public, who had attended to put their points of view and learn more about the Plan before voting, couldn’t interact with either their local Councillors who’d been involved in writing the Plan or with Peter Geary, the Ward Councillor present. So they left, perhaps with the impression that the Council simply didn’t want to discuss it with them.

    Council vacancy

    Olney Town Council (OTC) has a vacancy to fill, with Martine Stoffels having left the Council. Sally Pezaro returned to this later in the meeting, stressing the need to advertise the vacancy widely and offering to publicise it on social media.

    West Street residents parking

    This item covered the Orchard Rise residents parking scheme, concerns about which had been raised earlier by Peter Gage. Colin Rodden shared Peter’s concern that this scheme might lead to a cascade of applications elsewhere in Olney, although Peter Geary noted that OTC could only comment on applications, it being MKC which made the decisions. He also noted that concerns, including the narrow width of Orchard Rise and the need for large vehicles to mount the kerbs on occasion, had been raised when OTC was originally informed of the application.

    Stacks Image 89717

    West Street in Olney

    Nursery field and fair

    The fair had recently visited town, based as usual on the Nursery Field, the football pitch adjacent to East Street. The associated large vehicle movements had resulted in some damage to the field, and Tony Evans was asked to comment on this. He felt that the ground would recover in time for the football season, although did question how popular the fair had been. Helena Newbold noted that, the two times she visited, it had been packed with happy looking families. John Boardman explained that the Council collected around £900 from the fair, so there was some benefit there. Tony then noted that OTC had spent money reseeding and spiking the field, and it seemed odd to do so only to have the fair damage it each year. The item concluded with the Recreations and Services Committee being asked to discuss it and recommend the best way forward.

    Summer football camps

    The Council had received an email from Pete Lindsay, who runs the children’s summer football camps. These were started by Olney Town Colts FC but are now run as a private operation, although one which contributes to the Colts to cover costs of equipment and changing rooms. Liam, having provided that background, asked whether, now it was a private operation, OTC should start to charge for its use of the field. Tony Evans was concerned that the email stated when the camps would be held rather than asking permission for them to be held. Councillors decided to let the camps proceed this year free of charge, review, then consider charging next year.

    Licence applications

    OTC had received licence applications for the Bull Hotel and the Cherry Tree, both in the High Street, and Gabriella’s in the Market Place. All were supported, mostly because Councillors welcomed the new establishments and partly because they felt MKC didn’t really listen to OTC’s views on licensing anyway.

    Skate Park

    This item was to discuss the assessment of possible sites for the Skate Park. Tony Evans reported that the process had started a few weeks ago, but that work relating to the Neighbourhood Plan had delayed it. So, the item was postponed until the next meeting.

    Waste on Goosey Island

    As reported previously, there is a growing problem with illegal structures and the deposit of waste by the landowner on Goosey Island. Action on this is painfully slow, but the Head of Environment at MKC has agreed to look at the issue in detail. Peter Geary, noting that solving the problem would require action from both MKC and the Environment Agency, felt OTC needed to get the two bodies working together in order to address it.

    Deputy Town Clerk

    Jeremy Rawlings welcomed Jane Brushwood, the new Deputy Town Clerk.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    OTC will remind the Recreation Ground gate key holders that it’s meant to be kept locked, with vehicles limited to 5MPH on site.
    The yellow lines near the junction of Chantry Rise with Weston Road are faded and broken, leading to people parking on them. MKC will be asked to investigate.
    The open space off Stonemason’s Close is seeing some damage because, when it’s busy, cars are parking with two wheels on the grass. OTC’s groundsmen will investigate and recommend a solution.
    As reported before, The Youth Centre has now been withdrawn from the Community Asset Transfer scheme. Steve Clark noted that the Centre has a small pot of money to work from and that, with its only income being from local users, he didn’t know what would happen to the Centre when the pot was empty. Desmond Eley noted that the building required more than £100K of remedial work. Finally, Peter Geary explained that, if MKC wished to sell the Centre, they’d need to offer it to the local community to buy for six months before selling it elsewhere. He also asked whether MKC would wish to sell it for use as a Doctors' Surgery (as outlined in the Neighbourhood Plan).

    Next Meeting - 4th September
    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 4th September, in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • August 2017

    There is not normally a Council Meeting in August

    True to form, there was no Council Meeting in August.

  • September 2017

    Public Participation

    Such was the popularity of this month’s meeting that Mercury had difficulty finding a seat. There were a record number of seven members of the public wishing to speak.

    Christine Platt
    First up was Christine Platt, who thanked the members of Olney Town Council (OTC) and Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Ward Councillors for their assistance in getting the pavements in Oakdown Crescent resurfaced. Despite their unsightly state, MKC’s Highways Officers had decided that they did not reach ‘intervention levels’ for repair. The MKC ward councillors have persuaded them otherwise and repairs should be carried out over the next few weeks.

    Mike Totton
    Next to speak was Mike Totton from the Allotments Association. Mike outlined the work of the society over the last 15 years and explained the dramatic development which occurred three years ago when the Community Allotment was set up. This had enabled mature, disabled and young people to get involved. An eco-toilet has now been installed, which was due to be officially opened by MP Mark Lancaster on 16th September. It was agreed that Mayor Jeremy Rawlings would also attend.

    Joanne Eley
    Joanne Eley asked what facts did OTC think that the MKC Ward Councillors had got wrong in their statement prior to the recent Neighbourhood Plan referendum. The question was noted.

    Lynda Batty
    Lynda Batty, on behalf of FOLIO (Friends of the Library) asked that the noticeboard at the back of The Olney Centre be moved, as it is hidden by rubbish bins on collection day. If it can be moved nearer to the post box it is more likely to be seen, she said.
    Sue Lamming said she had lived in the town for 35 years and thought the hanging baskets and flower beds were currently looking splendid. However, she also said that the bus shelter is full of cobwebs and is a disgrace, as is the town bridge and the estate where she lives is full of weeds and the pavements are in a bad state of repair. Peter Geary said that MKC are responsible for killing weeds and they only do this once a year.

    Andy Davis
    Andy Davis spoke about the Section 106 funding (‘Planning Gain’), which is due to be received as a result of the Yardley Road development agreed in the Neighbourhood Plan. He urged the council to find ways to fully engage with the public and pledged his own support in any way he could provide it.

    Anne Walker
    Anne Walker, MKC’s Service Manager for Older People spoke about the Kitchener Centre. She said a few years ago the centre was under threat of closure but is now running well. She said that she would like to find ways of using it during weekend and evenings in order to bring in more revenue. This was an agenda item later in the meeting where it was agreed that an article would be produced for The Phonebox. Like the majority of residents Mercury has never been inside the centre. Could an open day be used to increase awareness, he wondered?

    Stacks Image 89723

    Olney Allotments Toilet

    Community Circular Walk

    Colin Rodden gave an update on the project, assisted by Mike Totton from the Allotment Association as well as Tom Jones and Amanda Molcher from The Cowper and Newton Museum. The vision is to have a series of walks looking at all that Olney has to offer. The walks will provide a whole day’s experience, encouraging visitors to see the cultural attractions and visit the shops and restaurants.

    Neighbourhood Plan S106 agreements

    This is a sum of money that developers are required to pay to the planning authority (MKC) and is spread across such things as schooling, health, recreation, amenities and public art. Joe Stacey reported that now the Plan has been formally adopted the Steering Group will now be replaced by a Development Committee, the first meeting of which will take place on 25th September. It is likely that this committee will consist of six councillors and six lay members and will consider, amongst other things, how to allocate the Section 106 funding. Peter Geary felt it was important that the needs of the town resulting from the new development be considered. The money can be spent over a period of ten years and Peter said it was important that some should be kept in reserves so that OTC reserves are not used in launching projects. Helena Newbold suggested that the breakdown of how funds are allocated to the individual categories is made available to residents via the OTC website. Joe Stacey felt it important not to under-estimate the amount of work involved and suggested that it might be necessary to engage a consultant.

    Skate park site assessment

    A number of sites have been considered, all with pros and cons, which have been identified in a document produced by Town Clerk Liam Costello. They are the recreation ground, the allotment field, Johnsons Field, The Pyghtle and Emberton Park. The site preferred by OTC is the allotment field, mainly due to its accessibility and distance from any housing. Colin Rodden was concerned about the remoteness of the site and Mike Totton, from the public gallery, expressed his concern at the impact on the small parking area available to allotment holders and that it might lead to a return of the vandalism experienced some years ago. Tony Evans said it was unfortunate that OTC had given the skateboard committee the impression that the current site of the zip wire on the recreation ground was the best location but further investigation had shown that it was not suitable. He thought that Emberton Park would be the best site, where a much larger facility could be built. Steve Clark reminded members that the park is actually owned by MKC and if there were any serious thoughts of locating the skate park there it was important to consult with Emberton Parish Council. Desmond Eley said that whatever site was chosen it was important that there is a water supply nearby, since OTC would be responsible for the upkeep and it would be necessary to regularly wash it down for safety reasons. Peter Geary was concerned that the allotment field is liable to flood and since much of the facility would be below ground it could fill with water. He suggested that OTC take pre-planning advice from MKC as there are planning regulations which might preclude some of the suggested sites. It was agreed to do this and discuss at the next meeting.

    Goosey erections

    Kevin Viney and Rosemary Osbourne have been in communication with Carole Mills, Chief Executive of MKC, about the unsightly scaffold, gates and rubbish on Goosey Island. The reply stated that because the gates are two metres in height they are classed as permitted development, even though the supporting scaffold is much higher, and therefore there is no action that MKC can take. The rubbish has now been put in builders’ bags, but the risk remains that flooding could result in it entering the river flow. This is the responsibility of the Environment Agency, who have no apparent concerns. The land owner also owns part of the larger southern island and Rosemary said that there was a possibility he may want to erect ‘no access’ signs. Peter Geary repeated his previous opinion that the only solution is to request that MP Mark Lancaster arranges a face to face meeting between MKC and the Environment Agency, since MKC seem to have ruled themselves out of any enforcement action.
    Additionally, OTC has been approached by solicitors for the land owner requesting that they sell their part of the Goosey. This was obviously rejected out of hand. It appears that he has divided his land into 21 plots that have been offered for sale as an investment for future building. Some of these plots have been sold and the aggregate value of the plots is believed to be in the region of £600k. Kevin expressed his opinion that this was a ‘shabby, speculative operation which was probably not even legal’. Desmond Eley asked if it would be possible for OTC to compulsory purchase the land. Peter Geary said yes, but it would need to be purchased for a particular reason, would be a five-year process and would involve paying the owner the market value. Kevin suggested that OTC should start the process of obtaining a public right of way along the entire bank of the southern island, which was agreed. The Clerk will write to the land owner’s solicitors formally rejecting their clients request to purchase the land and with a counter-offer of interest in purchasing his land.

    Parking outside One-Stop

    The MKC Ward Councillors have received a request from a resident requesting that a loading bay is provided outside One-Stop, to overcome the problem of traffic building up during deliveries. This way it could be managed in the same way as deliveries to the Carlton House Club. They passed it to the MKC Highways Dept who have considered the options and consulted OTC via an email. The email noted that any loading bay will require a Traffic Regulation Order, which would cost £2,056 and require consultation with all affected parties, including nearby residents who would lose parking outside of their properties and would probably object. Funding would be required for the implementation of the scheme. Peter Geary reminded members that this had been discussed by the council on previous occasions and if it was done for One-Stop, it would need to be done for all other businesses. There was a risk that Olney would end up with a High Street full of loading bays and no parking, he said. Colin Rodden suggested that One-Stop could be asked to make deliveries earlier in the day but Peter pointed out that there are deliveries from different suppliers during the day. Deirdre Bethune suggested that a loading bay could be situated outside of the Olney Centre, rather than outside residential properties. It was noted that the Carlton House Club does not have a formal loading bay, rather the manager cones off parking spaces the night before deliveries are due and removes them when complete, thus causing minimal disruption. It was agreed to seek the views of residents regarding provision of dedicated loading bays outside of the Carlton House Club and The Olney Centre.

    Joe Stacey

    Joe Stacey announced that he would be standing down from the council with immediate effect. He had notified the clerk of his intention to stand down in July but had stayed on to complete some outstanding work on the Neighbourhood Plan. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings formally thanked Joe for all his hard work on the plan and said he would be very sorry to see him go. As a result, a vacancy additional to that which will be filled by the forthcoming election now exists. If ten members of the electorate request that it be filled by an election, then it will be necessary to hold a further election, otherwise it will be filled by co-option.

    Market Place parking weight limit

    There has been considerable discussion on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page about the stated weight limit of 1.5 Tonnes, which would preclude a number of family cars and all market traders’ vehicles. The previous notice stated 50 cwt but it appears that Napier Parking set it at 1.5 Tonnes when they were engaged to enforce the time limit restrictions. The original limit was set to prevent parking by lorries so Napier will be requested to amend the notices to 3.5 Tonnes.

    Odds and sods

    Peter Geary asked if any comments had been received about the new street lights in the High Street. Liam Costello said there had been complaints that they were originally too dim, but had now been increased in brightness by 30% and no further complaints had been received. Kevin Viney said there are still locations where the lights are obscured by trees, since the horizontal sections are shorter on the new post. The contractors had now agreed that power points for the Christmas lights could be fitted, he said.
    Tony Evans reported that the grass cutting on Yardley Road by MKC stops half a mile short of the county boundary.
    The Pre-School have a requested a grant of £3,000 to assist with the £18,000 cost of resurfacing the play area and replacing equipment. The majority of the funding has been obtained from other community funds so OTC agreed to the request.
    Desmond Eley reported that a hearing-impaired resident had had a ‘near miss’ whilst crossing the road near the Hallelujah Lamp-post. This was due to the state of the pavement, but also due the speed of the traffic which is a particular problem late at night.
    Sally Pezaro reported that the location code of the defibrillator at the recreation ground has been scratched off. Liam Costello replied that anyone dialling the emergency services would be provided with the access code.


    Next Meeting - 2nd October

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd October in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • October 2017

    Public Participation

    Julia Clarke
    Julia Clarke was first to speak, explaining how hugely disappointing she found it that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had pulled out of the recent public planning meeting in which the 250 home development was due to be discussed. She asked for assurance that the planning process would not proceed further until the meeting had been rescheduled and held. Peter Geary noted that MKC’s absence was due to the Planning Officer concerned being taken ill, then a communications breakdown meaning that an alternative Officer did not attend. He was then pretty forcefully interrupted by Tony Evans, saying that Officers should have attended. Liam Costello noted that Olney Town Council (OTC) was trying to rearrange the meeting within the next few weeks and would publicise the date when it was finalised.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren, speaking on her usual subject of Oakdown Crescent, thanked the Ward Councillors for getting some of the pathways resurfaced. Explaining that her fight would continue, she noted that people were already driving over them, which would likely mean they’d not last long. She concluded by asking if there was any news on the application from the Community Parking Fund. Liam replied in the negative, Peter Geary noting that it’d be at least a month until there was some.

    Ralph Terry
    Ralph Terry spoke about a proposed development of four, four-bedroomed houses off Moores Hill with access through the gap between nos. 61 and 63. A meeting of nearby residents had been held, with all attending being against the development. He cited the narrow entrance to the new development (disputing the builder’s figures), the narrowness of the main section of Moores Hill and the associated danger to pedestrians caused by pavement parking, as reasons OTC should object to the development, and urged it to do so. He felt the development would change the character of the road, and be a ‘cul-de-sac off a cul-de-sac’. He also noted that various people living close to the proposed development, within the zone in which MKC should have informed residents, had heard nothing about it.

    Maria Tennant
    Maria Tennant spoke on the subject of traffic concerns near Olney Middle School. Noting that Aspreys is a fast road, she felt that a zebra crossing was required across Aspreys, around 20m West of Woodpits Lane. She also felt that a part-time speed restriction outside the School would be beneficial, slowing traffic while pupils were entering and leaving the site. As it stood, she did not think it safe to let her child walk to or from the school unaccompanied.

    Philip Geech
    Philip Geech spoke next, noting that Olney had character and charm, primarily due to it having the right balance of architecture, people, community spirit and shops. He felt these helped make it a ‘destination’ town, but was concerned about that changing with a gradual influx of chain stores tending to make the town ubiquitous. He questioned whether they were appropriate and asked what OTC could do in this regard. As an example, he noted the change in the McColls store frontage for the addition of Subway, also asking what planning use class had been applied for.

    Neil Biggs
    Neil Biggs, a Traffic Management Officer from Thames Valley Police, asked whether the zebra crossing, discussed earlier by Maria Tenant, was related to the nearby 250 home development. He said that the related traffic survey had noted that crossing assistance would be needed, but he hadn’t seen what was being done to address it.

    Alan Smedley
    Alan Smedley spoke briefly to reinforce Ralph Terry’s view on the proposed Moores Hill development, and to ask why there was often such a long wait between pedestrians pressing the button on the lights at the Wellingborough Road crossing and the lights changing to let them cross. Finally, Colin Cook spoke, also in