Olney Council report for February 2020
Sue Warren spoke again on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She’d been speaking with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about the possibility of introducing a permit parking scheme there. In order to be considered by MKC this would, amongst other criteria, require the support of over 70% of the properties in the Crescent. Sue felt this level of support would be achievable and said she would canvas opinions.
Susan Hughes spoke to report that, after nine years, the Olney Neighbourhood Action Group had ceased in its current form due to the withdrawal of support from MKC and, because of restructuring, Thames Valley Police. She explained that she was sad to see it go, but felt it had helped the town a great deal. She also thanked John Boardman for chairing its meetings, Liam Costello and Sandra Grummit (the Town and Deputy Town Clerks), and said she could not have wished for a better representative from Olney Town Council (OTC) than Rosemary Osborne. Steve Clark, on behalf of the Council, thanked Sue for the Group’s work.
Liam reported that he’d attended a site meeting in the Crescent, along with a new person at MKC who’d be in the job for only the next six months. While that doesn’t sound like a great start – the Mercury report from July 2015 noting stalled progress due to the person looking at the issue being reassigned without MKC telling OTC who, if anyone, was continuing with it – it is a step in the right direction and at least the length of his ‘stay’ is known. Peter Geary explained that a plan had been proposed: To make interim repairs addressing the worst of the uneven surface, to produce an options paper on which OTC would consult with residents, then to show the results to MKC who would decide what action to take.
As reported before, a Circular Walk is being planned, and MKC has proposed that the section which runs parallel to and south of Weston Road alongside one of the streams be diverted to instead run in the same direction along the northern bank of the River Great Ouse. Tony Evans preferred this route as, with it being fenced, there was a degree of separation between walkers (and their dogs) and the nearby sheep. Peter Geary felt OTC should ask for it to be a permissive right of way, this being different from a public right of way in that, although anyone could use it, the Council could ban particular people from doing so if the need arose. As noted by Jeremy Rawlings, permissive rights of way are not shown on Ordnance Survey maps although, as Liam explained, good signage could partially negate this concern.
Citizens Advice Bureau
For the past few years, the Council has made a yearly payment to Citizens Advice Milton Keynes in order to provide an outreach service in Olney, amounting to four 45 minute appointments every fortnight. Citizens Advice has proposed leaving the amount unchanged this year, at £5,198. Councillors discussed this, the key points being that the sessions were, on the whole, fully booked but that less statistical information, for example the number of people helped, was available than in previous years. Councillors voted all in favour, bar two abstentions including one due to this lack of information, of making the payment to retain the service for
Based on a recommendation from the Finance Committee, Councillors voted unanimously to accept the proposed budget. Looking at the income side, the Council Tax Base – the equivalent number of Band D properties in the Parish paying Council Tax – has increased by 0.8%. But, the Council Tax Base Reduction Grant for Olney – a government grant given to Parish Councils to compensate them for the reduction in Council Tax Base due to various welfare changes – has been reducing every year and will eventually disappear. Looking at those issues, plus the predicted spend, OTC has increased its precept to £177,000, a 4.1% increase, resulting in it taking £68.54 per year from the illustrative Band D Council Tax, a 3.28% increase.
Lavendon Road Section 106 requirements consultation
Having previously declared an interest, Peter Geary and Ben Brock left the meeting for the duration of this item.
This refers to a Planning Application to build 50 houses on the triangular parcel of land South of Lavendon Road and immediately South East of the Whirly Pit roundabout, stretching around half way to the river. Section 106 refers to a legal agreement between a Local Authority and a Developer, linked to planning permission and also known as a planning obligation. A new development can place extra pressure on local infrastructure, for example healthcare, and the agreement aims to balance that pressure with improvements to the surrounding area such that, where possible, the development will make a positive contribution to the local area and community.
Liam started the discussion, noting that this was prior to planning permission being decided and that the estimated amount payable under Section 106 would be £985,220, equating to £19,704 per house. MKC had calculated this estimate in accordance with its Supplementary Planning Guidance, and were asking for comments on it, along with whether any additional projects or requirements were needed in order to make the development agreeable in planning terms.
While this sounded a large figure, Deidre Bethune and Joe Stacey each noted that the money would go to MKC and that Olney wouldn’t get to see a lot of it, perhaps 25%, OTC effectively having to bid for local projects. A lengthy discussion followed, much of which centred on what OTC could, in principle and reality – which, the feeling appeared to be, may differ significantly – actually affect. Councillors agreed to respond noting the amount, showing a few illustrations of local projects and offering further information in due course.
While not discussed during this meeting, on the same night, the Sainsbury’s Planning Application was rejected by MKC. This was for a number of reasons, but it’s worth noting that they included the supermarket site being outside the existing settlement boundary and in open countryside. This 50 house Application is outside but almost adjacent to that boundary and just over the road from the proposed Sainsbury’s site. If this Application is agreed, would the ‘open countryside’ reason for rejecting the Sainsbury’s one carry less weight?
As reported before, Olney and other Parish Councils had won various concessions from MKC in terms of the content of the Plan, for example that the map showing satellite settlement ‘bubbles’ surrounding Olney and certain other nearby villages would be removed. MKC had released draft one of the document without making this change, then draft two with the ‘bubbles’ removed but the associated text continuing to state the names of these towns and villages, then finally draft three with those also removed. It was believed that one Council had already provided its response to the plan based on draft one. Olney and associated Parish Councils are arguing via Solicitors that the process has therefore been tainted, is flawed and should be withdrawn. A Solicitor’s letter has been written and, come the Public Examination some time 2016 – 2018, this will be mentioned.
Peter Geary and other Councillors felt that option three, ‘one or more satellite settlements in the rural area’, would be a disaster wherever they were located, as it would separate people from their work and cause more travel, for example in and out of Milton Keynes via the already congested M1 crossings. He also noted that option four, ‘intensification and redevelopment of the urban area’, which had seemed attractive, meant building on various parcels of employment land within Milton Keynes, and that alternative land for employment must then be provided elsewhere, for example to the East of the M1.
Councillors are keen to get the Plan:MK information out to the Public, and you’re much encouraged to read and respond to it. Please surf to this link www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/PlanMK.
Purchase of new mower
Councillors voted unanimously to spend £15,000 to purchase a new Kubota mower. This was interesting mainly because it highlighted a case where the usual recommendation that all purchases must go out to three tenders was, with reason, not followed. In summary, this was because all Kubota agents tend to charge remarkably similar prices, and it’s hard to
compare one dealer with another like-for-like when you consider location, standard of service, trust, etc.
This year’s Town Meeting will be held on 12th May in the Olney Centre. Noting with irony that last year’s meeting was ‘our usual show of dynamic excitement’, Steve Clark asked for ideas to make it more interesting and worthwhile for people to attend. Councillors agreed with this sentiment and, in practice, these meetings tend to attract a tiny attendance unless a particular controversy is in progress at the time. For example, a few years back, issues surrounding Doff’s Field led to a good attendance. In order to attract more people, Councillors decided to provide drinks, including wine, to advertise the meeting more widely and to look into the possibility of providing some entertainment.
Bits ‘n’ bobs
A permanent CCTV camera has been installed covering the Market Place. The Recreation Ground play area improvements should be well underway or complete by the time this is published. The Council is getting a full condition report for the Youth Centre, as part of the process to decide whether it wishes to apply for the Centre under the Community Asset Transfer scheme. MKC is starting formal action against the owner of Westlands due to their use of the building outside planning consent, and the owner has submitted plans to convert it into flats.
Next Meeting 7th March
The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th 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.