Cowper & Newton Museum
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, 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 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.
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.
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.
How Olney’s new Community Centre may look. Supplied by David Hosking
Edgar Mobbs Close off of East Street. Right: Edgar Mobbs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Olney’s One Stop Crossing
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 email@example.com, 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.
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.
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.
The Olney Crest
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Market Place Power Bollards
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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’
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.
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 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.
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.
Olney Town Football Club
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.
Potholes in Stanley Court
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.
Olney Bean and her husband Lee had travelled from Bermuda to see the town she was named after
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.
The old NatWest building, purchased by David Coles Architects
Jeremy Rawlings was elected Mayor and Sally Pezaro appointed Deputy Mayor, both unopposed.
Peter Evans, former caretaker of the Olney Centre, recently passed away. Jeremy Rawlings led all present in standing for a minute’s silence.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
Silver End 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.
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
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 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.
Olney Town Football Club building
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.
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.
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
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.
Market Place Power Bollards
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
Olney Town Football Club
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.
Olney War Memorial
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
A jaded website
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.
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.
In an unusual move Olney Town Council have decided to hold a full meeting in August, as there some matters to resolve
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Barclays Bank Robbed
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.
The next Cherry Fair will be held on the Glebe on 15th June 2019.
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.
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.
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.
Strategic Urban Extension: Milton Keynes East
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.
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.
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.
Dropped Kerb outside the old Nat West Bank
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Civil Ceremonies at the Olney Centre
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Steve Clark was unwell so could not attend this meeting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Children's Play Area
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.
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.
High Street Trees
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.
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.
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.
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.
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