Olney Council report for February 2017
Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. The results of the residents parking scheme consultation have now been published and as this was an item on the main agenda it will be covered in the main body of the report.
Co-option of new councillor
A vacancy had arisen on the council, following the resignation of Ron Bull. There had been no request from the electorate for an election so it fell to the council to fill the post by co-option. There was only on applicant for the post, that being Kevin Viney, who was therefore elected unopposed. In his letter of application Kevin stated that he had lived and worked in the town since 1994 and been the director of two companies that created eight part-time vacancies drawn from Olney and four from neighbouring villages. He had also helped successfully fight the closure of the local day centre at the Kitchener Centre.
Parking in Oakdown Crescent
The parking scheme consultation document was sent to all residents of Oakdown Crescent and those of 70-92 Weston Road (even numbers only). The latter are houses that face the grassed area of The Pyghtle and back on to Oakdown Crescent, with no parking outside their homes so are effectively ‘land-locked’. A total of 33 surveys were sent out of which 31 were correctly completed and returned and the result was 61% against the introduction of a resident parking scheme, although 87% agreed that parking was either a problem or a serious problem. This was below the 70% required for the scheme to go ahead. The main objection to the scheme appeared to be the likely £50 per permit charge recently announced by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for all such schemes in the borough, although there is a possibility that this might be waived for elderly residents. Sue Warren, whose mother lives in Oakdown Crescent, expressed her disappointment at the result and said that the MKC officer who had visited the residents expressed the opinion that the charge would probably not be applied. If that were the case the vote would almost certainly have gone the other way, she felt. She was critical of Olney Town Council (OTC) for not getting sufficiently behind the scheme but accepted that the vote meant it would not now happen. Her sister now has a blue disabled badge, she said, and so would be campaigning to ensure that a disabled space was provided. As a resident of the Weston Road houses, Bryan Rice expressed his frustration at the length of time it had taken to get to the current stage and said that the right questions had not been asked of the right people. He felt that the market value of his house had been adversely affected by the delay and was considering legal advice on compensation. Some of the children of the ‘land-locked’ residents would soon be getting cars of their own, so the situation was only going to get worse, he said.
John Boardman and Mayor Jeremy Rawlings felt it was unfair to criticise OTC as the members and Town Clerk Liam Costello had done a tremendous amount to find a resolution. A discussion took place about what the next step should be, as the issue remains that the existing layout is unsatisfactory and the surface is breaking up. Joe Stacey was of the opinion that OTC should decide on a way forward and ask MKC to implement it, but Colin Rodden thought that MKC should identify the most cost effective solution, as they have experts who are paid to know such things. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said it was unlikely that MKC would take the initiative on any further action, since they would only progress projects where there was agreement of those impacted and the survey had proved that there wasn’t. The next step would be for OTC to agree on a layout to maximise the available space and to get it resurfaced, he said.
Community Skate/BMX Park
An Invitation to Tender document has been produced by the committee that was working to provide this facility, but it had only been sent to the council on the morning of the meeting and many members felt that they hadn’t had time to fully study it. Although absent from the meeting, Desmond Eley had provided written comments. His main points were around the fact that the document appeared to be placing the main responsibility for the tendering, planning, construction and ongoing maintenance of the park with OTC. At a previous meeting OTC had agreed to support the project with funding. Tony Evans reminded members that the final position relied on the successful relocation of the existing zip wire and was concerned that it was still too close to the cricket pitch. He wondered how a tender date could be declared if the full funding was not yet available. It needed to be ‘sitting in someone’s account’ he thought. Peter Geary said it was good that the document had been produced but the location needed to be agreed by all affected parties before the request for planning permission could be submitted. It was agreed that a weekend site meeting should be set up to include representatives of the Cricket Club, Bowling Club, Tennis Club, Football Club including Colts, skaters, and parents of children who use the play equipment.
MKC needs to make savings of £56m over the next four years and had proposed reducing the previously agreed grant for Devolved Landscape Service for the next financial year by a third. This grant covers litter picking, grass cutting and play area maintenance. Following submissions made by OTC and other parish councils MKC has agreed to defer the decision for a further year in order to gain agreement as to how the savings can be made.
The OTC budget for 2017/18 was presented to the meeting, including the Parish Precept, which is the portion of the MKC Council Tax that is allocated to the parish councils in order to provide the services that they are responsible for. The precept for Olney will be increased from £177,081.76 to £185,050.00, an overall increase of 4.5%. The figure usually used to benchmark average Council Tax is for a Band D property, the precept portion which will see a rise from £70.79 to £73.57 – a rise of 3.93%. It was noted that this considerably less than the average rise across the rest of Milton Keynes. The budget was proposed and passed unanimously.
A Neighbourhood Plan is document that sets out planning policies for the neighbourhood area which is written by the local community, rather than the Local Planning Authority and is a powerful tool to ensure the community gets the right types of development, in the right place. The Planning Authority, in this case MKC, is obliged to use it to decide whether to approve planning applications. Joe Stacey reported that the Olney plan had completed the consultation stage and had been submitted to MKC. The next step would be an independent examination before going to a public referendum. Liam Costello explained that, although it is not formally adopted until approved in the referendum, it is supposed to gain weight as it progresses. However MKC have indicated that the recommendations therein will not be taken into account in the forthcoming planning decision about housing development on existing land earmarked for employment.
Emberton Park PLUG
Until a year ago stakeholders with an interest in the park were able to raise issues of concern with MKC at regular Park Liaison User Group (PLUG) meetings. Due to staff reductions brought about by budget cuts MKC are no longer able to resource these meetings, relying instead on their online portal for raising concerns and complaints. At the request of OTC they have offered to hold six monthly meetings with stakeholders to explore strategic suggestions and improvements to the park. Peter Geary was in favour of the offer and suggested that OTC and Emberton Parish Council should work together to agree a joint approach. Colin Rodden thought that the park was starting to deteriorate quite badly and it was important for MKC to have some sort of strategy for its future. He wondered whether it would be possible for OTC and Emberton PC to run it between them, in a similar manner to Harrold Country Park. Steve Clark said that Harrold Country Park was supported by a massive subsidy from Bedford Borough Council.
The council granted permission for the following events:
Motorama on the Market Place – Sunday 11th June
Fun Fair, Recreation Ground – 19th to 26th June
Riverfest – Sunday 2nd July
It was noted that BOTO (formally Booze on the Ouse) has been cancelled for this year.
Dumping of waste on Goosey Island
Although not a formal agenda item, having occurred after the agenda was published, it was raised under Members Matter by Rosemary Osbourne. Over the previous weekend members of the public had observed and photographed a van driver unloading waste material on to Goosey Island via the narrow wooden bridge and were up in arms about it, she said. Liam Costello said it had been reported to the Environmental Agency as commercial waste being stored without permission. It appears that a ‘Mr Chan’ purchased the island and bridge some years ago when the tannery closed down. He claims to own the land at the other end of the bridge and says that the public have no right of access. He also claims that he has stored a greenhouse on the island which has been vandalised. Steve Clark was of the opinion that it was waste, not storage, and the owner required a licence to transport and deposit it.
Odds and Sods
Age UK are planning to close the Tuesday lunch club held at Clifton Court due to declining numbers. OTC currently pays for the transport of residents that cannot make their own way. The Thursday lunch club at the Olney Centre will continue, so OTC will transfer its funding to the Thursday club.
An agreement has been reached with all interested parties to relocate this year’s Christmas tree to the north end of the Market Place by the war memorial.
The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th March in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.