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Ron Hall Editor of Phonebox Magazine

Phonebox Magazine send a reporter to the Olney Town Council Meetings on the first Monday to each month. We have our report of the meetings here. Earlier ones are available.


Mercury's reports for 2013 and before

  • January 2013

    Mercury report for the Council Meeting of Monday 7th January 2013

    Public Participation

    Rena Partridge
    First to speak was Rena Partridge, noting that the street lighting at the north end of West Street is very poor and a danger for pedestrians, and asking if there’d been any progress on improving access arrangements to the Co-op car park. She felt the current access from Weston Road was dangerous, particularly for pedestrians exiting the car park. Steve Clark explained it was a pity that neither Ward Councillor was present, as they’d have the most up to date information for Rena. He commented only on her second point, saying that changes were under consideration but he didn’t know when they’d be made.

    Bryan Rice
    Second to speak was Bryan Rice, clearly not happy about the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent and Weston Road. Noting that the latest round of complaints had been ongoing for around a year, he felt that nothing had been done and that the remit given to the Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Transport representative was ‘inept’. He noted a couple of ways he felt the situation could be resolved, that Councillors should ‘pull their socks up’ and that, if the situation didn’t get resolved, he’d be back the next month, and the next... until it did.
    Steve Clark explained that neither Highways nor Parking issues were in the power of Olney Town Council (OTC) to solve – they were MKC issues. Ron Bull concluded this item, noting pointedly that there was a vacancy for a new Councillor, should one wish to put themselves forward.

    Recreation Ground dog fouling

    Rosemary Osborne had met Rob Ward, Neighbourhood Manager at MKC, to discuss various issues related to dog fouling. Namely, to consider whether the Recreation Ground should have a designated area for dog walkers, whether the improved signage has helped, and to discuss the proposed fencing around the football pitch adjacent to East Street. The decisions made in this meeting were to install dog bag dispensers at the main entrances to the Ground, to monitor the impact of the improved signage, to request that the Sports Clubs talk with dog walkers using their pitches and, if appropriate, hand out dog bags to them, and that an article would be produced for the Phonebox to educate people about the effects of dog fouling.
    Liam Costello noted that the proposed fencing around the main football pitch would make it easier for a dog control order to be applied to that area, but that for private land, such as that on which various rugby pitches are based, a joint scheme would be required. Ben Brock, one of the Rugby Club coaches, noted that the Club may well be in favour of such an approach.
    Peter Gage, who’d spoken on this topic in the Public Participation section of last month’s meeting and had come to listen to this one, felt that providing information and education to the Ground’s users was an excellent approach.

    East Street Car Park

    As noted in an earlier Mercury, OTC has sought advice from MKC related to the East Street Car Park extension, prior to it submitting a formal Planning Application. That advice highlighted two areas of concern. First, there are three large trees located to the edge of the proposed additional car parking area. These trees must be retained, implying that protection must be afforded to their roots, meaning that the space immediately around them can’t be used. Second, there must be a six metre over-run area between the football pitch and the additional parking area. This latter area of concern surprised Councillors, in that the Football Club’s Planning Application specifies that the fencing will be only two metres from the Pitch. After some discussions, Councillors decided to wait on the outcome of this Application, due to be considered mid January, then to consider having proper Architect’s plans drawn up for the site, including allowances for the tree roots.

    Berrells Court

    As reported previously, the Council is trying to facilitate surface improvements to Berrells Court. It’s contacted the landlords of properties on the Court and now has a list of those who’d be interested in collaborating to pay for the improvements. Councillors planned to discuss pricing for these improvements in the confidential items agenda item handled after the public, including Mercury, have left the meeting.

    Summer planting

    Tony Evans explained that the Council has received the quotation and plans for the summer bedding plants around Olney. Martin, the new Groundsman, is keen to add more of a ‘wow factor’ to the displays by using a wider range of informal plants and, as such, The Knoll and the bed outside the Cemetery Rest Room will trial these ideas. These have resulted in the quotation of £3077 being £480 more than last year. Councillors felt the would bring, and voted unanimously to accept it.

    Armed Forces Day

    Alan Richardson introduced this item noting that, each June, the Council hosts a buffet meal for war veterans in the Olney Centre. This is much appreciated, but the attendees would like to eat sitting together in one room, and the Olney Centre can’t accommodate this. Alan had talked informally with the Carlton House Club, and it appeared they could host the event in their function room, also providing the food. Councillors liked this, giving their unanimous approval for Alan to pursue this course of action.

    Pinders Circus

    After a successful visit to the Pyghtle last year, Pinders Circus has asked to visit again, the dates being Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th May. Councillors agreed unanimously to this request, with all bar one voting to keep the daily rate charged to the Circus unchanged this year. Surf to www.pinderscircus.co.uk for more information.

    Model T Ford Rally

    Councillors voted to allow the Market Square Car Park to be used as part of a Model T Ford Rally on Friday 7th June. All voted in favour bar three against. The benefits cited were that it’d be interesting for people to see, and should bring more people to the town. The drawbacks were the consequent lack of parking in the centre.

    Market Place Toilet refurbishment

    The toilet refurbishment having been completed, Councillors reviewed the cost breakdown. The main issue was a significant overspend of around £6,000, around a third of the expected total. This was discussed at some length and just the main points are covered here. Tony Evans asked if all the additional amounts had been sanctioned by Mike Hughes, the Clerk of Works appointed by the Council. Liam Costello replied that they had. Jeremy Rawlings felt that some of the overspend, such as that on unforeseen underground sewage work, was reasonable. Overall, there was concern about the issue and, when Rosemary Osborne suggested inviting Mike to a meeting so that Councillors could put their questions to him and he could answer them, it was agreed quickly.

    Specialist Nurse for the Elderly

    Steve Clark noted that, with OTC having funded a specialist nurse for the elderly for the previous year, Olney finance firm The MPA Group – surf to www.thempagroup. co.uk – have set a great example to other local businesses by taking on the funding of that post.

    TOG, PCSOs and torches

    Steve reported that during last year’s Fireworks Display, The Olney Group (TOG) was glad to have help from the local Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs). TOG realised that the PCSOs’ torches were considerably less powerful than those used by the event marshals, and asked whether it could purchase brighter ones to replace them. The response was positive, six bright new LED torches were bought, and they’re now in the hands of the PCSOs.

    Kitchener Centre

    The Kitchener Centre offers day care to older people from Olney and the surrounding villages. Steve Clark outlined a proposal which local GP and ex-Councillor Brian Partridge had discussed with him. Brian was instrumental in the original Kitchener Centre project and, with over a quarter of local people now being over 60, the need for this day care is on the increase. As such, the Kitchener Centre is bursting at the seams and would benefit from additional capacity. Brian had asked Steve if OTC would be involved in a project to raise funds for an extension to the building. This topic will be included on the next meeting’s agenda.


    Next Meeting - 4th February

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

  • February 2013

    Mercury report for the Council Meeting of Monday 4th February 2013

    Public Participation

    Isobel Ager-Righinioti
    The only person wishing to speak at this monthʼs meeting was Isobel Ager-Righinioti. Isobel said that she uses her bike for short journeys around the town in preference to driving a car. One afternoon last July she was riding down West Street and as she drew level with ʻThe Archʼ a car caused her to fall off her bike. She felt that a contributing factor had been the presence of the cobblestones in the road, which she said should not be there on such a narrow street and said she had legal advice confirming this fact. Would it not be better if East Street and West Street were both one-way, she suggested? Deidre Bethune responded, saying that one of the conditions of the planning permission which was granted for the houses served by The Arch was that some form of traffic calming must be provided and the cobbles were not actually part of the highway.

    Co-option of new councillor

    Following the resignation of Andrew Dooley, a vacancy had arisen on the council and, there being no call from the electorate for an election to fill the post, it fell to the council to fill the post by co-option. Only one candidate had put his name forward for nomination, that being Joe Stacey. Joe was invited by Mayor Steve Clark to give a brief resume of his reasons for wishing to join the council. Joe said he moved to Olney from Suffolk, where he had previously served as a councillor, in July last year and had found it to be a
    “smashing place”. He had worked for 40 years in the construction industry, he said, and hoped to bring some of this experience in serving on the council. There then followed a short discussion on what was the minimum period of residence before one could become a town councillor, with periods of between one and three years being suggested. Peter Geary said there was no statutory minimum and the council could elect “whoever they wished”. There being no other candidates, Joe was co-opted unopposed and took his seat at the table.

    Kitchener Centre

    Following the discussion at last monthʼs meeting about a possible extension to the Kitchener Centre, Dr Brian Partridge and centre manager Helena Newbold were present to discuss the proposal. Brian explained that the Kitchener Centre offers day care to older people from Olney and the surrounding villages and, with over a quarter of local people now being over 60, the need for this day care is on the increase. OTC had always been receptive to the needs of the elderly and took up the challenge of getting the centre built when the nearest similar facility was in Newport Pagnell, he said. One of the key roles of the centre was to enable the elderly to continue to live in their own homes rather than go in to residential care but the ability to remain independent becomes less as we grow older. The centre currently provides for 14 people per day between the hours of 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, enabling them to have a hot meal, meet other people and be gently supervised. Helena explained that there are two waiting lists in operation: The first is for people wishing to join the service and there are currently nine on the list with another six in progress. The second list is for people who already use the centre but want additional sessions and this currently stands at 12. Sadly, the only way that people move up the list is when others go in to residential care or pass away. The clientele covers a wide range of ages (more than 30 years) and abilities, with some people in their sixties with dementia attending sessions with those in their nineties. Over such a range it was inevitable that people would have different interests and ideally separate sessions should be available for different age groups, she said. Brian concluded by that he was garnering views as to whether there was a perceived need for further provision for the elderly in Olney and the surrounding area but so far the indication were positive. However, he wanted to be sure that if the centre expanded it would continue to be financially viable, particularly when public finances are being cut back. He did not have time to personally spearhead a fundraising campaign, he said, but thought that perhaps an individual with the right skills and sufficient time might be persuaded to volunteer. Ward Councillor Peter Geary suggested that a Business Case should be prepared and funding sought from MKC. Tony Evans said that since the centre opened in 2000, OTC had supported it and thought there was no question that they would want to be involved but wondered what sort of costs were likely to be involved and would it be just for the building and running costs or staffing as well. OTC could help get the ball rolling but agreed it would need someone to manage the fundraising on a full time basis.

    East Street Car Park

    As previously reported, OTC has sought advice from MKC related to the East Street Car Park extension, prior to it submitting a formal Planning Application. One of the points that MKC identified was that the Football Club had applied for Planning permission to erect a protective fence around their pitch to comply with league regulations and a condition of that permission being granted would be that there must be a six metre over-run area between the football pitch and the fence, The Football Club was subsequently able to argue that the 6m run off area suggested by planning officers was not actually an element of the league regulations, so the officers eventually agreed not to require this as a condition. Steve Clark said there were still a number of issues around the planned car park and the council recognised that an application for car parking may not be popular, so they intend to conduct a survey to gauge the amount of local support. If the outcome is reasonably positive, they would then apply for planning permission. Tony Evans said that in his opinion the town desperately needs more car parking spaces and was passionate that it should go ahead. Peter Geary was sure that there would be flak from residents and said that he did not want the council to start work on the scheme and then back out. He said he, personally, would not be voting for the scheme because it was too expensive for too few additional spaces. Jeremy Rawlings thought that additional parking was required but only at specific times and would only support the scheme if the additional parking was only available as an overflow on match days. John Sharp disagreed, saying that it was needed seven days a week and would be used. The existing East Street (Rugby Club) car park is too far away and too dark, he said. Eventually a vote was taken on whether to progress with the survey which was narrowly passed by four votes to three, the rest of the members present inexplicably choosing to abstain.

    Budget and Precept 2013/2014

    The finance committee have recommended an increase of 5.84% to the precept. This is the portion of the council tax which is collected by MKC on behalf of OTC. The Income & Expenditure Budget vs. Actual appeared to show a deficit of £15k, although there seemed some doubt as to whether it was a ʻrealʼ deficit. Peter Geary felt that the budget should balance and said that the council needed a plan to reduce the deficit and balance the budget. MKC is capped in terms of the amount it can increase the council tax and OTC could be the same. Tony Evans felt that they were a good set of figures and easily understandable. The budget was passed by a vote of five to three. Electoral Review of Milton Keynes
    As previously reported, The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has undertaken discussions with MKC and consulted publicly on council size and has decided that the number of councillor should be increased to 57, from the current 51. Each a councillor will cover 3300 residents as opposed to 3000 at present. The draft proposal as now been published and recommends that Milton Keynes be divided into 19 wards, each represented by three councillors. In most of urban MK this is fine but in the rural areas this leaves very large geographical areas with many individual communities requiring individual attention from their councillors in attending parish council meetings etc. For example a merged Sherington and Olney ward would comprise 17 parishes, which Jeremy Rawlings described as ridiculous. Steve Clark proposed that OTCʼs response to the document should be a request to maintain the status quo such that the current Olney ward continues to be represented by two councillors. The motion was passed by five votes to two, again with a number of abstentions.

    Neighbourhood Planning

    The council had received a copy of the document ʻQuick Guide to Neighbourhood Plansʼ. Since April 2012 local communities have been able to produce Neighbourhood Plans for their local area, putting in place planning policies for the future development and growth of their neighbourhood. The plan is subject to examination and referendum and then forms part of the Local Development Plan. This statutory status gives Neighbourhood Plans far more weight than parish/community plans, such as the
    'Olney for You' document that was produced by members of the community over five years ago. Tony Evans thought that a plan for Olney is a 'must do' as it is an opportunity to influence the planners and wondered if it might be possible to reuse some of the Olney for You output. Peter Geary pointed out that if Olney produced a plan ii must fit in with the existing development framework and could not be used to override MKC plans. If, for example, MKC strategy was to build 400 new homes in the town then a Neighbourhood Plan could not be produced proposing no new housing. Unlike Olney for You it would need to be council led and the effort involved would be massive in comparison. Several such plans were being produced elsewhere in Millon Keynes, he said, and were clos€ to going to referendum. The council agreed to set up a working group of members to investigate the feasibility of producing a plan for Olney.

    Superfast Broadband for Olney

    Town Clerk Uarn Costello reported that he'd had meetings with MKC about the position of street cabinets that will be required for superfast broadband to be rolled out in Olney. Pete Geary explained that this is being enabled by an alliance between MKC, Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Councils to provide superfast broadband to areas that are not part of BT's commercial deployment plans, as described in the Councillor Comer article in January's Phonebox. MKC has set aside £2.4m and has won a government grant of £ 140k to appoint a contractor to do the work, the contract being due to be let in August or September this year. However, since the meeting this has been overtaken by the recent announcement from BT that Olney is now part of its own commercial deployment some time in 2014.


    Next Meeting - 4th March

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

  • March 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting of March 2013

    Public Participation

    Claire Wood
    Claire Wood addressed Councillors about the Church Hall on High Street South. The Church has been considering how the Hall could be better used, and aims to make it meet some of the needs within Olney and be more part of the townʼs community. Itʼs identified some projects to help it meet this aim: a Memory Club for those in the early stages of memory degeneration, a Youth Milkshake Café with two separate strands –to provide a place for secondary school young people to meet after school (initially weekly) and to provide training for them –and New Skill for those who need basic skills training, for example those recently bereaved whose partners had provided for them before. To achieve these projects, some changes to the Church Hall will be starting shortly, including improved access, improved toilet and shower facilities, a new meeting room, a mezzanine floor and a meeting area.

    Kitchener Centre

    Ann Lark and Nick Stacey from Age UK attended the meeting to discuss the Kitchener Centre, a day care centre for vulnerable older people from in and around Olney. Age UK has been managing the Centre under contract to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) since 2000. The contract to manage the Kitchener Centre and another day care centre in Bletchley, currently run by the British Red Cross (BRC), has been out for competitive tender, the bid process having just been completed. Itʼs not yet known who has won the contract, but Ann and Nick provided background information on what might happen next. First, the BRC did not submit a bid for the Bletchley centre, as running day care centres no longer fits with its national agenda. Second, and most important for Olney, the contract value specified by MKC is significantly below that which Age UK believes is required to continue to offer the current level of service at the Kitchener Centre. Age UK has been given notice to leave the Kitchener Centre later this year unless this issue is resolved. Responding to the clear, though not fully articulated, implications for the standard of care being offered, David Rumens, of Senior Voice MK and previously Olney Town Council (OTC), said his organisation would apply as much pressure to MKC as it could, and will also keep in contact with OTC on the subject. Olney Councillors were also clearly concerned about this issue.
    In the background, OTCʼs letter to MKC regarding the possibility of an extension has now received a reply, any consideration being put on hold until the end of June when the contract commissioning process should be near completion.

    Highways

    Andrew Jackman is the new Team Leader for Traffic Management at MKC, having replaced Richard Duffill in the post. Tonight he was attending the Council meeting to discuss various Highways issues in the town.

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent is a longstanding and contentious issue. Andrew agreed that there was severe pressure on parking there, as had been made clear to him by Ward Councillors Peter Geary and Debbie Brock and stated that, if there was a simple solution, itʼd be in place by now. Peter Geary outlined three current ideas, each with highly approximate ballpark figures:

    • A new road running from Dagnall Road through The Pyghtle to serve the properties which face it, £250,000.
    • A car park in the (retained) garden of 102 Weston Road, £85,000.
    • A residentsʼ parking scheme in Oakdown Crescent, £5,000.

    As is usual for this issue, a good deal of discussion followed. The main points were that Peter Geary felt OTC should propose a solution, Andrew wanted to understand the problem and have MKC work out the best solution and, when pushed by Ron Bull, Andrew said the issue would be addressed by the end of March 2014. Finally, Debbie Brock noted that the investigative work done so far hadnʼt gone to waste – it would still be useful when choosing the best way forward. The Olney Traffic Management Review in 2008 included the idea of having one-way systems in East Street and West Street. Andrew felt that using a one-way system to calm traffic was an odd idea, since evidence shows that such systems in fact make people drive 5-10 MPH faster. Based on the brief discussion which followed, which saw various Councillors expressing safety concerns regarding East Street, itʼs hard to see the one-way idea progressing further. Regarding potholes, Andrew explained that the Highways Authority has a duty to maintain roads in a safe condition. All roads are inspected regularly at least once a year. Defects, whether spotted during inspections or reported by members of the public, are dealt with in 24 hours if classified as dangerous or 28 days otherwise. The general condition of the roads has been contributed to by bad winters causing water which has penetrated the road to freeze and lift the surface. Insufficient maintenance on a national basis hasnʼt helped either. MKC is developing plans for a pothole month, likely April, during which the Council would deploy many road gangs to blitz the problem.

    Fairʼs fair

    OTC agreed to requests to hold the annual fair on the Recreation Ground between Wednesday 19th and Saturday 22nd June, and the Cherry Fair on the Glebe on Saturday 29th June.

    Olney Centre facilities

    Great news for those who attend Council meetings but, by the end, feel like theyʼve missed out on the interesting bits. OTC has received quotes to improve the Olney Centreʼs facilities for the hard of hearing. One quote was for a fixed system, building on the hearing aid induction loop already fitted in the Council Chamber and supplying boundary microphones and an amplifier. The other also provided microphones but, instead of using the existing induction loop, provided earphones and two mini loops which the hard of hearing could wear around their necks. No decision was made on the night, but one or both systems will be trialled during a real Council meeting.

    Fields

    Liam noted that the hedge laying on Crouchʼs Field has been completed. Also, the gate into Crouchʼs Field has been moved to comply with the right of way through to Nichols Field - the field to the East of Crouch's Field beside the river.

    East Street Car Park

    There was a brief discussion about the proposed extension to the East Street Car Park, particularly including how it would adjoin the proposed fencing around the Recreation Ground football pitch. Joe Stacey noted that, while a concrete path is planned to go all the way round the pitch, thatʼs not an FA requirement – the FA requires hard standing on only two sides. He suggested instead that the path at the East Street end could be removed from the proposals, thus creating more space for parking which currently looks pretty tight. Although the Football Club does have planning permission, and OTC as landlord has given its permission, OTC could change its permission if the Council felt that section of the path should not be included. The Council will discuss the issue with the Football Club.

    Community Asset Transfer and the Olney Centre

    Back in February 2012, Alan Richardson stated and Peter Geary confirmed that the Olney Centre was not an asset which would be affected by the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) scheme, as it was not MKCʼs asset to transfer. Now, however, legal opinions about this differ.
    The Olney Centre is held in a trust and, until recently, was believed to be owned by that trust and not by MKC, even though the trustees are wholly that Council. Day to day, MKC is responsible for certain aspects of the repair of the building while OTC is responsible for other aspects.
    The ownership of the Centre has been challenged, with the Queenʼs Counsel (QC) and the Charity Commission having been asked for advice. The QCʼs advice was that the Olney Centre was the property of the trust and hence could not be transferred. However, the Charity Commission believes that, since around £400 was paid on the transfer of the building in 1870, it seems to have been purchased by the predecessor to Buckinghamshire County Council, then reverted to that Council when it formed, and then to MKC in 1996. It is therefore currently thought that the property could be transferred under the CAT programme to a community organisation or group such as OTC.
    MKC is to arrange a Public Meeting at the Olney Centre at 6.00pm on Wednesday 22nd May to explain CAT and how it affects the Olney Centre. This may well be a very interesting meeting.
    Mercury thanks Peter Geary and Liam Costello for background information on this topic.


    Next Meeting - 8th April

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

  • April 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting of April 2013

    Public Participation

    David Rumens
    There was only one member of the public wishing to speak at this month’s meeting and that was ex-Olney Town Councillor David Rumens speaking on behalf of Senior Voice MK. David explained that the contract to run the Kitchener Centre was recently put out to tender by Milton Keynes Council and they had set a tender value of £312,000. Age UK is the only organisation to have tendered for the contract but its tender was rejected as it was substantially above MKC’s valuation. This raised the question of whether the original tender was correctly valued, he said. The fact that there was only one bid from an existing provider and that it exceeded the tender value by a considerable sum suggested that something may have gone wrong during the tender valuation process. There is considerable concern being expressed about the ability of Milton Keynes Council to deliver a Day Care Service at an equivalent standard on the allocated budget both now and in the future, he said. As things stand the service will be brought in house and decision will be made by Councillor Debbie Brock, as Cabinet Member of MKC with Portfolio responsibility for Adult, Older Years and Health, as to whether the council or Milton Keynes Service Partnership will manage the Day Care Service. This matter was discussed as a formal agenda item later in the meeting and David was invited to stay for that discussion.

    Superfast Broadband

    Present at this month’s meeting was Nick Brown from MKC planning department. Nick explained that his role was to negotiate with Openreach to identify the best locations for the additional street cabinets that are necessary to contain the equipment that provides the service. They need to be located as near as possible to the existing cabinets which they connect to. There is one such cabinet in the High Street opposite the Flower Shop and the proposed site of the equipment cabinet is in the Market Place, opposite Darwins Gifts and Cards. Nick explained that it could not be positioned next to the existing cabinet due to the requirement for Openreach to access the cabinet every time a customer was set up for the service, which would restrict access on the footpath. The proposed position would enable parking while the engineer carried out the work, he said. The usual locations selected were footpaths, which MKC own as part of the highway, so there are no issues with access. The member present felt that the box would be rather obtrusive in the proposed location so agreed to Nick’s request for it to be moved back a few feet on to the Market Place and rotated by 90 degrees so that it was parallel with the wall for the planter. Nick said he expected work to commence in 6-8 weeks.

    Future of the Kitchener Centre

    As reported last month, Age UK has been managing the Centre under contract to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) since 2000. The contract to manage the Kitchener Centre had been out for competitive tender and the bid process has just been completed. There had been 10 Expressions of Interest but only Age UK had tendered and its application had been rejected because it is £100,000 more than MKC’s tender value of £312,000. Jeremy Rawlings said the decision could be ‘called in’ if 20 members of the electorate requested it and suggested that David Rumens went down that route’. Why had the other nine parties declined to bid, he wondered. Could it be that the indicative price had put them off? He also observed that OTC only had Age UK’s estimate that it would cost more to run the service, since no other bids had been submitted. David Rumens said that as part of the bid process any interested party could submit questions and the answer would be made available to all of the other parties so they would have been fully aware that that Age UK had received no replies.

    Debbie Brock said that due diligence had been applied and MKC were confident that £312,000 to run the service is a realistic figure and as portfolio holder she felt that ‘internalisation’ is the best option. Jeremy said that, with respect to Debbie, MKC did not have a good track record on due diligence. Debbie said that good grounds would have to exist in order for the decision to be called in, but Jeremy replied that Age UK’s expert opinion that the service could not be run within that financial constraint should be sufficient. Jeremy formally proposed that OTC recommend that the decision should be called in. The motion was seconded by Deidre Bethune and passed by a large majority.

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    Following on from last month’s discussion about the Parking in Oakdown Crescent there was an item on this month’s agenda to discuss one of the options: A new road running from Dagnall Road through The Pyghtle to serve the properties which face it, i.e. numbers 70 – 92 Weston Road. This scheme would involve the council relinquishing part of The Pyghtle, which caused some consternation to members. Steve Clark observed that when permission was granted for the houses on The Pyghtle there was a condition that at least half of the land must be retained for recreational use. Even if OTC agreed to relinquish the land it was unlikely that MKC would fund the scheme he said, since it was estimated that it would cost £250K. John Sharp noted that part of the problem with parking in Oakdown Crescent was due to the fact that a fence that previously existed had fallen down. If that was reinstated then there would be no shortcut making parking there less attractive, he thought. Peter Geary stated that because the fence had been down for a number of years it was now effectively a right of way. Joe Stacey wondered if providing parking spaces in the garden of the houses in Oakdown Crescent might alleviate the situation but Peter Geary pointed out that most of the cars parked there did not belong to residents. (Mercury wondered if this might be a passing reference to the revolutionary ‘Driveway Parking Scheme’ announced in the April edition of The Phonebox, as did a number of other councillors, apparently!) Deidre Bethune proposed that the scheme be rejected in favour of one of the cheaper alternatives: parking spaces on the retained garden of 102 Weston Road. This was seconded and passed unanimously, meaning that every member present voted. This is a most unusual occurrence for OTC.

    Community Defibrillator at Recreation Ground

    The Joint User Group (JUG) has recommended that a defibrillator be located at the recreation ground for the use of the various sports clubs that use it. Steve Clark wondered if the clubs would be prepared to assist with funding and Town Clerk Liam Costello said that the individual clubs had schemes through which funding would be available. It would be housed in a lockable unit with a key or combination given out in a controlled manner. Alan Richardson wondered whether such a unit should also be located at the Olney Centre. It was agreed that OTC would contribute £1500 for the installation of a community defibrillator at the Olney Centre and £1000 for one at the Recreation Ground.

    Olney Brass request for funding

    The council have been asked to consider a request from Olney Brass that they award a grant of £2.5K towards the running costs of the youth section of Olney Brass for the coming year, possibly from the Community (previously Sydney Dix) Fund. As part of the application Olney Brass were required to submit a copy of their accounts and on inspection the council agreed to the request.

    Exclusion of Public and Press Representatives

    Whenever matters are to be discussed that the council deems to be of a confidential nature the following item appears on the agenda: ‘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 interests by the confidential nature of the business to be transacted’. Joe Stacey questioned whether the item to be discussed warranted the exclusion of the public and press, since it was a matter of public interest. Debbie Brock agreed, saying that she had often questioned the rationale behind such exclusions. Peter Geary was of the opinion that because the matter was of a financial nature relating to the tendering of contracts this justified the exclusion. The council resolved to seek guidance from Bucks Association of Local Councils on when exclusion is justified. For information, the draft minutes published on OTC’s website state: The council considered quotations for surfacing work at the Recreation Ground. As all three contractors had provided different specifications, they are to be asked to re-quote on a like for like basis.

    Annual Town Meeting - Thursday 2nd May

    This will take place at 7:00 pm on Thursday 2nd May in the Olney Centre and all Olney residents are invited to attend to question the council on any matter of concern to them. If you want to know why the precept you pay to OTC as part of the Council Tax has risen by 5.8% this year, why we may lose part of the recreation ground to a car park or have any other concerns, then come along and exercise your democratic right.

  • May 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for May 2013

    Public Participation

    Brian Rice
    In this slot, Brian Rice spoke about parking in Oakdown Crescent. First, some background on this issue: In last month's meeting, Councillors rejected the option of a new road through the Pyghtle, reluctant to relinquish the land and believing that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) wouldn't finance the £250,000 projected ballpark cost. Instead, they unanimously agreed that the best solution would be to provide parking spaces on the retained garden of 102 Weston Road. They also discussed to what extent the lack of a previously existing fence, now allowing access from Oakdown Crescent to the back of the properties 70 - 92 Weston Road, was affecting the parking problem.
    Brian made a number of points. He stated that the agreed solution would provide parking for only around six cars, when around double that was needed. He also felt that the projected cost of the new road was far too high, around £80,000 being realistic which, as it happens, is remarkably close to the ballpark cost of the agreed solution. Finally, Brian felt that the fence referred to had never existed, so access had always been available. John Sharp disagreed, saying there'd not always been access. A 1945 picture of the area, courtesy of Google Earth, appears to show that there was access at that time, though that in itself implies nothing about the situation when Oakdown Crescent was built. Mercury thanks Liam Costello for background information on this point.

    Annual elections and appointments

    The Mayor and Deputy Mayor were elected, this time round Steve Clark and Jeremy Rawlings being re-elected to their respective roles. Committee Chairs and members were appointed, almost completely unchanged from last year.
    Usually, Standing Orders are formally adopted with little change but, this time, adoption was postponed pending change and review. Specifically, Deidre Bethune wanted to make them less gender-specific (i.e. male) and, following a debate started by Joe Stacey, there was general discussion about whether or not Committees should provide reports to full Council meetings. This latter point meant that the Council will review the Scheme of Delegation to Committees and Staff.

    Inventory review

    Always an interesting topic, Councillors reviewed Olney Town Council's (OTC's) inventory of land and assets. Council regulations state that fixed cost accounting must be used, meaning that each item is listed with its purchase cost, these not being depreciated over time. Peter Geary and Joe Stacey felt that it'd be helpful to also include each item's replacement value. Tony Evans brought the ensuing debate to a close, stating that "We have to accept that these figures are absolutely meaningless", and "move on".

    The Kitchener Centre

    This has become a contentious topic, with enough background information and vociferous disagreement to fill an article on its own. To fit the most into the space available, and try to keep it interesting, this is a mix of what occurred in the meeting and the background to it.
    provides day care in Olney. As reported last month, the contract to manage the Centre had been out for competitive tender, and the bid process had completed with ten expressions of interest but only one bid, from the incumbent provider, Age UK. That bid was rejected because it was around £100,000 more than the price for which MKC believed it could manage the Centre in-house. So, that's what it decided to do. OTC disagreed with this decision, so voted by majority to call it in. As a result, two meetings on this topic took place between OTC and MKC.
    The first meeting was adjourned after some delay. Steve Clark attended, and believes the delay was due to evidence, thought to be from MKC Officers, having been submitted late to the members of the panel, allowing too little time for proper consideration. Peter Geary believes it was due to there being insufficient supporting information for the committee to reach a conclusion.
    Jeremy Rawlings attended the second meeting. He'd presented the Council's case that MKC's decision to manage the Kitchener Centre in-house should be called in. Debbie Brock, MKC Councillor and OTC Ward Councillor, had then presented the opposing case. Both presentations had been 'robust'.
    Jeremy noted that the Officers who were justifying MKC's costs said that various management items, for example human resources, payroll and training, could be absorbed by Council departments with no impact on their budgets and thus not appear in MKC's contract price. The cost quoted by Age UK for these items was £45,000, and Jeremy felt that 'absorbing' such significant and real cost was impossible for a smaller organisation such as Age UK. A vote was taken, OTC lost, so the decision stands: MKC will manage the Kitchener Centre. Peter Geary, also MKC Councillor and OTC Ward Councillor, replied with his view. Peter felt that OTC needed to understand what it had agreed to when it decided to present its case to call in the decision: It delayed the process, which resulted in MKC having to extend care provision using the current providers at both the Kitchener Centre and the Bletchley day care site, thus putting care at risk if either provider had refused this extension.
    Peter cited the £45,000 Age UK management figure, questioning why OTC had backed Age UK quoting this amount when the spend would not be necessary if MKC ran the service. He also stated that the credibility of OTC had taken a nosedive, due to it presenting flawed figures, thus succeeding in uniting the MKC parties round the table to an extent rarely achieved, with the vote being eight to one against calling in the decision - there was no case to answer. He noted that OTC would shortly be asking MKC Officers to expand the Kitchener Centre, 'within weeks of effectively calling the same Officers liars'.
    Tony Evans had heard enough. Forcefully disagreeing with Peter, he said that the first meeting had been 'a farce', that MKC had its figures incorrect and that if Peter didn't like OTC, he should 'get off it'.
    Steve Clark called the discussion to a halt. Note that, if you're wondering why Debbie didn't express her views, she was absent from this meeting.
    Mercury thanks Steve Clark, Jeremy Rawlings and Peter Geary for background on this issue.

    Naval Cadet Corps

    A while ago, the Naval Cadet Corps had identified a derelict building near the Emberton Park cafe and, with permission, started repairing it to make it suitable for use as the centre for a new Olney based Cadet Group. The Corps aims to start the new group soon, accepting children from eight to eighteen years living in Olney and the surrounding villages.
    The work thus far has been paid for by the Corps, and thus money is very tight. In order to help complete this work, the Corps are now seeking a £4,500 grant from OTC. Councillors were generally sympathetic to the request but required more information in order to make a decision. So, a Corps representative will be invited to the next meeting.

    Speed Indicator Display units

    Speed Indicator Display units (SIDs) are the live vehicle speed indication devices you sometimes see on lampposts. Behind the scenes, they also note recorded speeds and times, the resulting data often proving useful to analyse traffic patterns and general driver behaviour.
    Due to a recruitment freeze in MKC's road safety team, and MKC's SIDs needing replacement, it's inviting Town Councils to either purchase their own SIDs or to participate in a loan and operate scheme, where they'd borrow the SIDs and be trained to deploy and operate the units themselves. The Council liked the loan and operate scheme, and will tell MKC it would like to participate.

    Private and confidential?

    At the end of most OTC meetings, Councillors vote '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 interests by the confidential nature of the business to be transacted'. This mouthful is almost invariably agreed, and Mercury, along with any remaining members of the Public make their way home, while Councillors stay to discuss the confidential business. It tends to get used to cover items such as personnel matters, where its use is uncontroversial, and tenders, where it isn't.
    Councillors had received guidance on the legislation and how to interpret it. The initial position should always be in favour of disclosing as much information as possible about the decisions the Council takes, and only in limited circumstances should information be withheld, where there's justification, in law, for doing so. The relevant considerations in favour of disclosure include openness and accountability for tender processes and prices.
    After some debate, in which it was clear that there was general agreement in favour of openness, Councillors agreed that tenders would not generally be regarded as confidential, and that the names of the companies and organisations concerned would be anonymised. This common practice would prevent, for example, one company gaining business-critical information from another's quotation.

    Anemometer

    It was mentioned in passing that a planning application had been received from RWE npower renewables for a temporary 80 metre anemometer on land at Bozeat Grange, just South of Bozeat. For more information, surf to planning.wellingborough.gov.uk/portal, click Application Search, enter Reference number WP/2013/0162 and click Search.

    Hanging baskets

    The hanging baskets in the town during the Summer months, bar those around the Market Square, are all sponsored by local companies, organisations and individuals. Ron Bull, who's kindly organised this sponsorship in recent years, is not able to run it this time due to health reasons. As a result, the Council has stepped in and is starting to organise sponsorship for this year. So, if you've had a basket in the last few years, it'll be the Council approaching you to see if you'd like to sponsor one again this time round.
    If you're a company, organisation or individual who'd like to sponsor a basket this year, please contact the Council by calling Liam or Sandra on 01234 711679, or emailing them at townclerk@ olneytowncouncil.gov.uk. Each basket has an individual plaque showing the name of its sponsor.

    Buses

    As a result of MKC budget cuts, the Number 1 bus service between Olney and Milton Keynes will be considerably reduced from 2nd June - surf to www.milton-keynes.gov. uk/bus/documents/1.pdf. Essentially, most of the evening buses will be cut, and there'll be no buses at all on Sundays. The Council will ask MKC if any of these evening buses could be reintroduced.


    Next Meeting 3rd June

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

  • June 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for June 2013

    Public Participation

    Samantha Chapman
    Samantha Chapman spoke about the cuts to the bus serice between Olney and Milton Keynes which have taken place since the beginning of June. Samantha said that as someone who works in Milton Keynes she was a regular user of the late evening bus service, which had now been cut. As a result she was now unable to work late nights and Sundays. She felt that it was unfair to penalise residents of Olney who do not have access to a car, particularly when the majority of shops do not shut until 8.00 pm. This subject was an agenda item later in the meeting so it was agreed to move it to become the first item.

    Bob Blackie
    The next person to speak was Bob Blackie from the United Reformed Church. Bob said that the URC would be holding a flower festival on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th July, followed by a service on Sunday 14th. He thanked the council for their generous donation towards the running of the event and invited all councillors to attend.

    Cuts to Bus service

    As reported last month and discussed in public participation, because of Milton Keynes Council budget cuts, the Number 1 Arriva bus service between Olney and Milton Keynes has been considerably reduced. The last bus leaves Central MK at 19:18 and there are no Arriva buses at all on Sundays. Northampton based Meridian Bus will now be running a new service 101 on Sunday from Lavendon to Central MK, but this is being run as a commercial initiative and is not subsidised by MKC. Deidre Bethune was unhappy that Olney Town Council had not been consulted but recognised that it would not be possible to get all services reinstated. She wondered if it would be possible to get a specific evening bus reinstated. MKC ward councillor Peter Geary said that the council had a £20m revenue challenge and the original proposals had been far worse. One possibility could be provision of a linking bus from Newport Pagnell to the villages, he said, but consideration would need to be given to the likely demand and cost. Tony Evans said he'd had a lot of representation from young people, who are not the sort of people who come to meetings of OTC (and looking round the room, Mercury was inclined to agree!). The cuts had made it difficult for them to get to MK for an evening out, he said. The issue will be raised at the next meeting of the N.E. Area Forum.

    Naval Cadet Corps

    As reported last month, the Naval Cadet Corps have identified a derelict building near the Emberton Park cafe and, with permission, started repairing it to make it suitable for use as the centre for a new Olney based Cadet Group. The work thus far has been paid for by the Corps, and in order to complete this work, the Corps is now seeking a £4,500 grant from OTC. Cdr. David Moth was present to explain more about the group and how the money would be spent. David explained that the Corps had now leased the building for a peppercorn rent from MKC and were refurbishing it at no cost to them. The group
    will give boys and girls from the age of 8 - 18 from Olney and the surrounding villages the chance to learn about and participate in activities such as climbing, sailing and camping. A similar unit at Leighton Buzzard was created a year and a half a with 5 cadets now has a membership of 40 he said. Deidre Bethune noted that a large amount of the requested grant was to be spent on catering equipment and wondered if this was necessary at the start of the venture. David explained that all of the equipment had to be new and child friendly, due to Health and Safety regs, because it would be used by the cadets as part of their training in seamanship. Jeremy Rawlings proposed that the council award the full amount of £4500 but it was not passed by a majority on the vote. A subsequent vote to award a lesser amount of £3000 was passed with the understanding that the Corps can seek further funding at a later date.

    Church Hall renovation

    The Parochial Church Council are undertaking a major refurbishment of the Church Hall in order for it to be used for a number of community uses, including a memory club for those experiencing memory loss and a youth cafe. The PCC is seeking a grant of £5000 towards the cost of renewing the floor in the entire building and provided a very thorough cost breakdown of the entire project. The total costs for the renovation are in the order of £163K, £119K of which has already been raised and the total cost of the floor renewal is £12.5K. The council voted to grant the full £5000 requested.

    The Olney Centre Community Asset Transfer

    OTC has been offered the opportunity to obtain the freehold of the Olney Centre from MKC under the Community Asset Transfer scheme. MKC had recently held a public meeting at the centre to explain the options and see if there were any parties interested in moving forward with the scheme. It came as a surprise to the members of OTC who attended that OTC is not the only interested party and a private developer was also in the running. Tony Evans was of the opinion that this meant that OTC had no option but to start the process as soon as possible and Jeremy Rawlings agreed, saying that it appeared that any commercial company could join in the bidding process. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that under the rules of the scheme the bidding had to be open to all but unless the applicant met the strict community usage criteria they would not progress to the next stage. There are a number of safeguards in place and the process can be stopped at any time. Tony said that if OTC was successful then MKC would hand ownership to them but would not do any maintenance prior to the transfer. A survey conduct two years ago had revealed that the building was 'not about to fall down' but there were a number of things that needed doing. Ben Brock was of the opinion that a full survey should be carried out as part of the transfer process. Town Clerk Liam Costello reminded members that the building came with a 'sitting tenant' of the MKC Library Service. Tony Evans proposed that OTC progress with stage 1 of the transfer process, which was passed unanimously.

    Future of MKC Parish Wardens

    A letter has been received from MKC explaining that the Parish Warden posts were created nearly a decade ago from central government funding and subsequently picked up by themselves. MKC now wish to 'delete' the six remaining warden posts, four of which are currently occupied. This came as something of a surprise to most members of OTC as they had no idea that Olney even had a warden or what duties they actually perform. Peter Geary explained that the wardens spent on average half a day per week in their allocated parish and could perform duties such as enforcing dog fouling fines, supporting the police and PCSOs etc. Castlethorpe Parish Council is currently undertaking a trial of directly funding a warden on an hourly basis to enforce a dog control area. Deidre Bethune suggested that OTC might be interested if the Castlethorpe trial actually resulted in some penalty notices being issued. Jeremy Rawlings suggested that OTC request a breakdown of what the wardens have contributed to Olney over the past few months before deciding what to do, which was agreed.

    Council protocols

    During the meeting there were a number of separate discussions around the way that OTC conducts its business and manages its finances and these are summarised here. During the item concerning the Internal Audit Joe Stacey said that the council did not appear to have proper and adequate control over the spending of sub committees. Tony Evans replied saying that he believed this was not the case. Each subcommittee has devolved authority to spend up to £2k and all expenditure has to be authorised by the full council. Later in the meeting Joe requested that any item that was not resolved at a meeting should be an agenda item at future meetings until it is resolved. He felt that there was a risk of items simply 'dropping off' as things stand. Earlier in the meeting he had noted an issue that had not appeared in the official minutes of a previous meeting but had been covered in the Mercury report of the same meeting. Debbie Brock suggested the setting up of an issues register. Joe thought that as a matter of routine all committees should summarise the decisions they have made to the full council. Jeremy Rawlings pointed out that the minutes of all committee meetings are circulated to the full council but Joe felt that this did not give members the chance to ask questions. Liam Costello said that there was a risk that each meeting could end up effectively being held twice. Peter Geary proposed that these issues should be covered in a future debate about the council's Standing Orders.

    Odds and sods

    Jeremy Rawlings said that in due course the Youth Club would be up for consideration as a candidate for the Community Asset Transfer scheme. He wondered if the same individual who had shown an interest in the Olney Centre would also be bidding.

    Liam Costello reported that High Street South will be closed for resurfacing from 19th to 28th August and during this time all traffic will be diverted along Weston Road and Aspreys.

    The new Mayor of Milton Keynes, Brian White, will be in attendance at next month's meeting to address the council.
    And finally ... Tony Evans observed that the banks along Driftway were looking good but MKC should be reminded of the requirement for regular mowing if they are to remain that way.


    Next Meeting - 1st July


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

  • July 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for July 2013

    Introduction

    Steve Clark started the meeting by saying how wonderful it was to see Ron bull take his place back in the Council Chamber.

    Public Participation

    Brian Rice
    Now almost a regular at these meetings, Brian Rice spoke about parking in Oakdown Crescent. In an earlier meeting, Councillors had referred to ballpark costs for two possible ways to address the issue: £80,000 to provide parking in the retained garden of 102 Weston Road, and £250,000 to provide an access road through the Pyghtle. Sceptical of these figures, Brian asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) had investigated whether they were correct. Questioning the lack of consultation on the proposals, he reported that residents thought the 102 Weston Road proposal was 'funny'.
    Liam Costello explained that OTC was still waiting for Milton Keynes Council (MKC) to propose a scheme and, once it did, it would be put to public consultation in due course. Peter Geary and Debbie Brock, OTC's Ward Councillors on MKC, said that a scheme should be proposed by MKC in this financial year.

    Brian White
    Brian White, Milton Keynes Mayor, attended the start of the meeting. He wanted to show that the Mayoralty wasn't just for Milton Keynes town, but for the whole borough and, to do this, he aimed to be seen in every Parish. He also promoted the need for a two way flow of information between MKC and OTC. He spoke briefly about his two nominated Charities for the year: the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines (www.icbl.org), and Ted's Gang (www.tedsgang.co.uk), a local Charity supporting children with Shwachman Diamond Syndrome.

    Youth Centre grant application

    Jeremy Rawlings introduced this item before, along with others, leaving the meeting having earlier declared a pecuniary interest. MKC doesn't fund youth work for the under 13s and, about 15 years ago, Olney Youth Centre felt it would be good to provide a service for that age group. So, it started an under 13s night on the first and third Mondays of each month, staffed by volunteers without the benefit of Council funding. These nights grew in popularity and now regularly attract 50-60 children. As they grew, they became harder to manage without professional help and, for the last two years, OTC has funded a professional Youth Worker to run them alongside the volunteers. The Youth Centre would like to continue funding this position, and is applying for a £1 200 grant to cover it for another year. With the various Councillors having left the meeting, those remaining discussed the item briefly before approving the application.

    Parish Wardens

    Peter Geary introduced this item, explaining that about three quarters of the 17 Parish Wardens in Milton Keynes Borough area are currently employed by Parishes, the balance being employed by MKC and generally working in the smaller Parishes. These roles were cut from MKC's budget last year and one year's grace given to allow Parishes to buy in to paint for their work as a service. For example, OTC might decide to pay £4680 per year for half a day a week
    of Parish Warden time. Either way, it needs to decide on the first year by the end of September. Examples of a Parish Warden's duties include weekly patrols for dog fouling and littering, and checks for household waste being put out early.

    This was discussed at length, the main points including that the Wardens may be trained to implement road closures, and an interesting explanation of how dog fouling enforcement works. In order to issue a ticket for dog fouling in an area not under a dog control order, a Warden has to be visible and prominent, watch the deed being done, watch the owner walk away, offer a bag and challenge the owner to pick up, and only on their refusal can the Warden issue a ticket. Most owners pick up when challenged, hence so few tickets being issued. Compare that with the more straightforward situation in which an area might be covered by a dog control order which, amongst other things, mandates that no dogs are allowed.

    Jeremy Rawlings proposed that OTC sign up for half a day a week of Warden time for a year. A vote was taken, and carried with all in favour bar two abstentions.

    Road closure

    The A509 will be closed for resurfacing between its junctions with Weston Road and Lavendon Road for approximately 8 days, the proposed start date being Monday 19th August. Local traffic will be diverted via Weston Road, Aspreys and Driftway, and through traffic diverted via the outskirts of Bramham on the A422 and A428.

    Traffic regulation order

    In order to alleviate problems due to vehicles parking on or near various West Street junctions and on the North side of Spring Lane towards the High Street, MKC is considering introducing waiting restrictions, denoted by double yellow lines. Further, due to a request from a nearby resident, the existing restrictions on Spinney Hill Road opposite the School are being changed to allow more flexibility with parking outside the School's pick up and drop off times.

    Scheme of delegation

    The proposed scheme set out the circumstances in which the Town Clerk and various Committees are authorised to act with delegated authority. So, while it seems pretty mundane, it's actually very important to the smooth running of the Council. For example, the scheme proposed that the Town Clerk can authorise emergency expenditure of up to £2,000 without requiring the approval of full Council.

    The ensuing discussion centred mainly on one particular aspect of the scheme: the way in which Committees report their work to full Council meetings. Steve Clark explained that, in the past, this reporting would sometimes result in full Council reopening and debating recommendations made by the Committees, thus wasting time and lengthening Council meetings. Joe Stacey felt that since Committees would now be reporting on decisions rather than recommendations, these debates simply would not happen, and meetings would in fact be shorter.
    The scheme of delegation was approved.

    Bus services

    Following on from the issue covered in previous Mercury reports, meetings are being held to see if it would be possible to reinstate a small number of the cut services. Peter Geary noted that the critical cost was that which MKC would need to pay to subsidise a service, per person per journey, and that, if this was less than £2.50, reinstatement may be possible.

    Core planning strategy

    MKC will be talking with Olney and Newport Pagnell Town Councils about additional land allocation for small housing developments, with the Town Councils having a say on where these pieces of land might be. Peter Geary stressed the importance of this issue - local Councils should be able to have their say on housing and retail planning in their areas.

    Hanging baskets

    Ron Bull usually organises sponsorship for the hanging baskets on the High Street and Yardley Road, and recruits a team of people to put them up. It wasn't possible for him to do so this year, so alternative arrangements were made. He thanked Liam and Sandra for arranging sponsorship, and Mark Luckin, TOG, the Lions and others for putting them up.



    Next Meeting - 2nd September

    The next meeting wlll be held at 7 .30pm on Monday 2nd September in the Councll Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always weloome to attend and, If they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • August 2013

    There was no Olney Town Council meeting in August 2013

  • September 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for September 2013

    Monday 1st July 2013

    It was the start of a new term and the chums of Olney town Council were excitedly telling each other what ripping adventures they'd got up to during the long summer vac…..

    Bench outside the Carlton House Club

    For many years Olney Town Council (OTC) had received requests for a bench somewhere in the middle of the High Street, so that pedestrians could rest on the long walk from one end of town to the other. The location of the bench had been the cause of considerable debate and eventually OTC had agreed to site it at the front of the Carlton House Club. At the time there had been objections from the club and the United Reformed Church, both fearing that it would lead to an increase in rowdy behaviour outside their premises. The council had agreed to review the situation after six months so Town Clerk Liam Costello had written to both organisations in July. No response had been received from The Carlton House Club and the URC had responded saying that they had not observed any adverse impacts. A number of councillors said they had observed the bench being used and felt it had been a success.

    Cattle Market car park

    This car park is owned by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) and some years ago bollards were placed at the Freemans Garden entrance to stop drivers ‘joy riding’ around the car park. This has caused issues to drivers who, finding that there are no spare spaces, have to back out on to Silver End. A number of suggestions had been considered by the Neighbourhood Action Group but the eventual proposal that they recommended to OTC was to lose half a parking space to the right of the current ‘keep clear’ bay to create a wider area for vehicles to turn in – creating 1.5 spaces for vehicles to turn in but losing an additional parking space. The half space could be used for a motorcycle bay. OTC agreed to support the NAG proposal.

    Olney Centre Zebra Crossing

    In order to increase the visibility for car drivers and pedestrians alike, bollards have been placed to prevent cars parking close to the crossing. However, due to the ‘imaginative parking’ for which Olney residents have become renowned it is still possible to squeeze cars into the gaps between the road and the pavement via the crossing itself.
    The NAG has requested that more bollards be erected in order to prevent such opportunities. MKC Traffic Management Team have supported this suggestion and proposed that eight new bollards be installed. Colin Rodden was not in favour of the plan saying that he felt there were enough “large bits of metal” in the area already. He suggested that the solution would be to enforce the existing parking restrictions.
    Though some members were sympathetic to this idea the consensus was that the traffic wardens do not attend regularly enough to do this. Mayor Steve Clark proposed that OTC support the installation of the extra bollards and Rosemary Osbourne seconded the proposal. It was passed by a majority with one vote against.

    Road junction improvements

    Plans for two schemes had been received from MKC. The first is a remodelling of the road system by The Knoll at the north end of town. The proposal is intended to make Yardley Road less appealing to HGVs and ensure that they use the more suitable A509 Wellingborough Road.
    Tony Evans agreed with the aim saying that drivers were using Yardley road to save “a Farthings worth of diesel”. (For readers born after 1960 Mercury should explain that a Farthing was a quarter of an old penny, or 1/960 of a pound!).
    The plan involves reducing the width of the roadway in a number of places and creating more traditional T junctions. Some of the space thus gained is proposed to be used to create additional parking spaces, eight of which will be on newly created space adjacent.
    MKC Ward Councillor Peter Geary said the costs would be in the region of £70k – to £80k and members seemed generally in favour of the scheme, although Tony Evans said it was important to maintain the character of The Knoll.
    The second scheme is for the long awaited improvements to the Weston Road/High Street junction by the Hallelujah Lamppost. The intention here is to slightly relocate the lamppost and remodel the island such that traffic turning left or right from Weston Road would need to keep to the left of the island. Traffic travelling from the south and turning left into Weston Road would do so as now. Traffic travelling from the north and wishing to turn right into Weston Road would do so via a new filter lane, keeping to the left of the new island. A new tactile paved crossing point would be provided on Weston Road by the entrance to the Coop and another on the High Street to the south of the junction with a central refuge.
    This scheme caused more discussion than the first with Peter Geary observing that it was the eighth such proposal for this junction and none had been perfect, although he was less convinced of the merits of this one than some of the previous ones. Jeremy Rawlings disliked the amount of road markings and said he had quite enjoyed the lack of white lines during the recent resurfacing work, but Ward Councillor Debbie Brock said it was necessary for such a complex junction.
    Mercury noted that it did not appear to address the issue of access to and from the Coop car park which was one of the problems with the previous schemes.

    Landscape maintenance and associated services

    MKC has recently approved a procurement process to test the market in terms of both cost and service standards as part of a ‘value for money’ review of the landscape services that include grass cutting, shrub, hedge and tree maintenance and weed control. OTC has been asked whether it wishes MKC to retain responsibility for the services, which would be put out to tender, or take responsibility for the services themselves. If they opted to take responsibility themselves they would receive an apportionment of the current budget, expected to be in the region of £24.25k.
    Tony Evans was of the opinion that it would be good for OTC to control all maintenance but felt that the figure quoted would only “scratch the surface” of the actual cost. The expense of employing an extra person, purchasing the necessary equipment and depreciation thereof could easily exceed £50k, he thought. Debbie Brock was keen that OTC should not dismiss the idea without doing a full desktop estimate of how much it would cost. John Boardman asked if OTC had received any complaints about the existing level of service, which caused considerable amusement amongst members who have regularly listened to Tony Evans’ complaints about the state of the banks on Driftway.
    He quickly qualified the question with “from the public” and Peter Geary replied that there had been numerous complaints in the last year. Jeremy Rawlings was of the opinion that if MKC continued to provide the service the standard would get steadily worse as they continued to cut costs, but Peter Geary said that by outsourcing MKC would get better value and standards would improve. Ron Bull said that OTC should take on the work and it was a golden opportunity for them to employ a young person as an apprentice.
    Tony Evans suggested that the matter should be fully investigated with all the facts and figures, since OTC prides itself on the way it looks after its assets. It was agreed to invite Andy Hudson, Head of Environment and Waste at MKC to attend a future meeting to address the council.

    Play areas

    MKC has received a Section 106 financial contribution of £35,584.33 as planning gain from the residential development off Yardley road. This money has to be spent on improvements to public space and play areas in the town and expires in May 2017. In a letter to OTC they pointed out that some of the equipment at Dagnall Road and the recreation ground is nearing the end of its useable life and does not comply with current regulations. There are also issues with the structural fencing and equipment at the Cowper Tannery site. Tony Evans was concerned that MKC was suggesting using the money to replace equipment nearing the end of its life, since MKC were obliged to replace that, anyway. The money should be used for improvements, not maintenance he said. Peter Geary said that the money does not have to be spent just on play areas. It could be used on any open spaces, he said, and he also warned against spending it all in one go as there would not be any further Section 106 income for a long time. Tony Evans suggested getting input from the parents of children who use the play areas, as happened some years ago when some of the equipment on the recreation ground was replaced.

    Odds and sods

    A letter has been received from a young resident of Lavendon asking the council to provide a cycle path between Lavendon and Olney.

  • October 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for October 2013

    Public Participation

    Brian Rice
    Brian Rice, the only speaker in this slot, had come to discuss parking in and around Oakdown Crescent. He reported that the previous Friday evening, a large van had parked on a corner in the Crescent in such a way as to make it hard to drive cars, let alone emergency vehicles, round it. Noting that the Crescent was full of cars most evenings, he said that the parking issue needed to be addressed within the next 12 months.

    Colts changing rooms

    Olney Town Colts Football Club (FC) has raised sufficient funds to build changing rooms, and contacted Olney Town Council (OTC) to discuss where they would be best located. After discussion, the Recreations and Services Committee recommended they be placed in an extension to the left of the tractor shed, approximately symmetrical with the toilet blocks to its right. The Council approved this recommendation, with all in favour bar Ron Bull, who was against the location on principle, feeling that the Football Clubs should be located together.

    As background, Olney Town Colts FC has 23 teams covering the junior age range from U6 to U18, while Olney Town FC has various senior teams. The two clubs were due to meet on the same evening as this Council meeting.

    Traffic regulation order

    As reported in an earlier Mercury, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) has recently been considering various requests to restrict parking in parts of Olney. The proposals have been out for consultation and the results are now in. The double yellow lines on Spinney Hill Road opposite the School will, in fact, be retained. New double yellow lines will be painted on the North side of Spring Lane between the High Street and West Street, and at various West Street junctions between Dinglederry and Spring Lane.

    Community Asset Transfer

    Jeremy Rawlings reported that the Youth Centre had been added, to tranche seven of MKC’s Community Asset Transfer programme. He believed there were four or more parties interested in taking over the running of the Centre. Steve Clark noted that MKC still had the option to keep the Centre, being under no obligation to transfer it. Jeremy concluded the topic, by noting that two or more of the parties appeared to have ambitions to build on the field to the rear of the Centre, suspecting they were as yet unaware of the buried sewer pipe running East-West across the site to the pumping station behind, and the associated restriction that no building was allowed within four metres of its route.

    Citizens Advice Bureau

    As reported previously, the local Citizens Advice Outreach Service is supported financially by OTC, and had provided a report on its work between April 2012 and February 2013. It had seen 57 clients in that time, almost all from the Olney Ward, 34% aged 35-49, 26% aged 25-34 and 72% female. The biggest topics enquired about by its clients were benefits (43%) and debt (27%). It was noted that OTC had effectively paid approximately £100 per client, and that it would have been cheaper for it to pay for taxis to have those people seen in Milton Keynes, although that would not preserve their anonymity. John Boardman felt, and various Councillors agreed, that a representative from the Bureau should be invited to speak with the Council before the next anniversary of the funding, to allow Councillors to get a better picture of its operation.

    Bits’n’bobs

    Liam Costello noted that the allotment track is due for resurfacing in the next month or so. A site meeting has been held with the contractor, and tenants of nearby properties will be informed.

    Jeremy Rawlings had attended the opening night of the new Youth Café in the redeveloped Church Hall. Around 30 children came along, and Jeremy was impressed with both the Café and the Hall’s fresh new look.
    A new Café, La Cantina, has opened in Rose Court. It’s made use of the ‘pop up’ measures introduced by Eric Pickles to promote regeneration, where various kinds of retail outlet, including restaurants, can open for up to two years before gaining the usual planning consent – for example, change of use. However, it did not give the required 21 days’ notice to MKC Planners, who have since visited the Café and asked it to provide the information retrospectively. Steve Clark, also a member of OTC’s Planning Committee, noted that this area of planning was currently something of a minefield, with those setting up new businesses under these measures not necessarily aware of what permissions and licences they need to apply for.


    Next Meeting - 4th November

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

  • November 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for November 2013

    Olney Colts FC changing rooms

    As reported last month, Olney Town Colts Football Club has raised sufficient funds to build changing rooms, so they are no longer reliant on the facilities of Olney Town FC. The Recreations and Services Committee of Olney Town Council (OTC) had recommended that it be built adjacent to the existing tractor shed and should reflect the style of the existing building. Following that meeting, the colts had engaged an architect to draw up some illustrative plans of the proposals, and he and Ian Stokes were present at the meeting to present these to the council. The building will contain two junior changing rooms, a kitchen, a changing room for match officials, showers and an over-flow changing room that could double as a function room. The entire building will be disabled friendly, said Ian. The plans met with general approval of the council and, having already agreed in principle to the proposals, agreed that The Colts could now proceed to the next stage of producing detailed plans and apply for planning permission. Deidre Bethune asked if the issue of the blocked sewer, which the building would connect to, had been resolved. For information the sewer, which serves all of the clubs and the public toilets on the recreation ground, runs along the boundary of the football pitch but diverts under the fence and private properties before joining with the main sewer in East Street. It is partially blocked by tree roots under the private properties and occasionally backs up and overflows during periods of exceptional use. Jeremy Rawlings explained that the blocked section was the responsibility of Anglian Water, who have admitted responsibility but prefers to reactively respond to blockages on each occasion and will only consider remedial work when it becomes financially advantageous to do so.

    Berrells Court resurfacing and drainage

    The extremely poor condition of Berrells Court, off East Street, has long been a cause of concern with huge areas of standing water often covering much of the surface. It has never been adopted by Milton Keynes Council (MKC), and according to the Land Registry it does not have an owner. Planning Permission for a new property was granted almost two years ago, and a condition of this Permission was that the road surface should be brought up to standard with tarmac and drainage before construction could start. When OTC last discussed the matter in December 201 2, the proposal was to bring the surface up to adoption standard and seek adoption. The council has since obtained quotes for a tarmac surface with five soakaways but the fact that the soakaways would be directly under the road does not meet the standard for adoption. Town Clerk Liam Costello has contacted the residents of Berrells Court with a view to getting them to contribute to the costs and all but one or two had agreed. Joe Stacey questioned whether the specification needed to be so high for a residential road that gets very little use, particularly now that adoption is not being proposed. Liam agreed to seek alternative quotes for a lower spec. Ben Brock and Deidre Bethune wondered if residents who contributed to the work would be able to claim ownership once it was done. (For a wonderful moment Mercury had a vision of them installing a toll booth and charging the recalcitrant few for access to their properties!) Jeremy Rawlings expressed his displeasure with the whole proposal, declaring it 'a farce'.

    Landscaping Services

    As previously reported, MKC has recently approved a procurement process to test the market in terms of both cost and service standards, as part of a 'value for money' review of the landscape services, that include grass cutting, shrub, hedge and tree maintenance and weed control. OTC has been asked whether it wishes MKC to retain responsibility for the services, which would be put out to tender, or take responsibility for the services themselves. A working party of Cllrs Evans, Geary, Boardman, Bull and Clark were appointed to look at the pros and cons of each option and have produced a detailed report which recommends that OTC take on the devolved service in house for an initial three year period, employing a part-time worker and leasing any additional equipment required. At the end of the three-year period, OTC can chose to hand the service back to MKC if it does not prove successful. The recommendation was put to a vote and passed unanimously.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    The Localism Act introduced a right for communities to draw up 'Neighbourhood Plans' that can become part of the formal planning framework for the area. Once adopted, these Neighbourhood Plans form part of the statutory Development Plan for the area and give the local community more say and control over development in the area. They cannot be used to counteract or override existing core strategies but are more to provide a local input to the implementation of those strategies. At a previous meeting, Joe Stacey had strongly urged OTC to produce such a plan and had agreed to be part of a working group to investigate the feasibility. Joe had consulted members of other communities that had produced plans, including Stony Stratford, Woburn Sands and Winslow, and noted that some had obtained significant funding and produced large documents, whereas others had produced smaller documents in house at little or no cost. The working party had recommended that OTC allocate a budget of £7,000 for a Steering Group, consisting of five Town Councillors and four selected representatives of the community, to produce a Neighbourhood Plan for the parish of Olney. A vote was taken to proceed with the recommendation, which was passed unanimously.
    A point of interest: The Working Party report refers to the MKC Core Strategy, which states that collectively Newport Pagnell, Olney and Woburn Sands are earmarked for an additional 1760 new homes over the next few years. These three settlements were chosen on the basis that they have the largest range of facilities and best public transport links in the rural area. All, bar Olney, have already embarked on producing Neighbourhood Plans, and based on historical growth patterns Olney would be expected to grow by approximately 250 properties in that time. As Olney has been identified as a key settlement, numerous landowners have put forward parcels of land to be considered for housing development. The suggested sites will now be examined in detail to see how sustainable they are, e.g. in terms of proximity of main services such as water, electricity and sewage and also how they would link in to the current highway network. One or more of the sites will then be included in the development plan as being suitable. To this end, most (if not all) of the landowners to the west of Aspreys have put forward plots of land to be considered, and the land thus far put forward is sufficient to build over 2000 dwelling, although this does not guarantee that they will be deemed acceptable and included in the development plan. The action of the landowners is not surprising bearing in mind the considerable increase in the value of green belt agricultural land that such designation would confer. Of course, any development at the Weston Road end of Aspreys would further accelerate the gradual sprawl of Olney towards Weston Underwood. Mercury is grateful to Steve Clark for clarification of the Milton Keynes Development Strategy.

    Kitchener Centre

    Earlier this year the council had discussed a possible extension to the Kitchen Centre, due to an increase in the need for day care for the elderly. Dr Brian Partridge and Centre Manager Helena Newbould, had attended to support the proposal, and explained that there were then two waiting lists in operation: The first for people wishing to join the service, and at the time there were nine on the list with another six in progress. The second list was for people who already used the centre but wanted additional sessions and that then stood at 12. Since then, the incumbent operator has lost the contract for running the centre and it has been bought in house by MKC. For some reason which was not made clear, there is no longer any waiting list and consequently no business justification for expansion. Debbie Brock, Cabinet Member of MKC with Portfolio responsibility for Adult, Older Years and Health, said that opportunities for additional services that do not involve expansion of the building were being explored.

    Parish Wardens

    Parish Wardens are employed by MKC and spend on average half a day per week in their allocated parish, performing duties such as enforcing dog fouling fines, supporting the police and PCSOs etc. Earlier this year MKC had informed OTC that it was proposing to 'delete' the six remaining warden posts, only four of which were then occupied, unless the parishes provided funding for them to continue. At the time, OTC requested a breakdown of what the wardens had contributed to Olney over the past few months, before deciding what to do. 23 other parishes had done likewise, and only three had expressed an interest in purchasing the services of the wardens so MKC has decided to end the service from 31 st March 2014.

    Odds and sods

    Tony Evans reported that a vacancy has arisen at the Ann Hopkins Smith Almshouses and applications are invited from ladies of the parish who are over 60 of age in need of accommodation.
    Deidre Bethune reported that the organisers of the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) would like to extend the event to cover the whole weekend of 6th & 7th of September next year. They currently have no clear plans for the Sunday but suggested it could encompass the Farmers' Market and other events. Steve Clark suggested a meeting between reps from BOFF, the Farmers' Market and OTC Rees and Services committee.
    Debbie Brock passed on her thanks to The Olney Group (TOG) for another highly successful fireworks display.


    Next Meeting - 2nd December

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

  • December 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for December 2013

    Public Participation

    Paul Collins, Chair of Trustees at the Cowper and Newton Museum, was the only member of the public to speak in this slot. After a recent unintended schedule clash between two musical events in the town, he urged the Council to consider implementing a central calendar for town events which local organisations would be free to use, thus reducing the possibility of such schedule related surprises in future.

    Olney Dementia Project

    The Council listened to a presentation from Joy Oehlman on the Olney Dementia Project, organised by the Friends of Cobbs Garden Surgery and made possible through generous donations from local businesses. It's in response to David Cameron's Dementia Challenge, and Joy is employed on a fixed term one year contract. Olney has a higher than average proportion of older people and, nationally, increases in dementia detection rates (currently 44%) are expected to significantly boost the proportion diagnosed with dementia.
    Two thirds of those diagnosed with dementia live in the community , with many of them feeling let down and misunderstood by those around them. The Project aims to increase awareness and understanding of dementia, trying to address issues such as shopping - dementia sufferers tend to feel more comfortable shopping locally - and signage. While not the first initiative in the UK, that honour falling to York, it is the first in Milton Keynes borough.

    Big Olney Food Festival 2014

    Following on from last month, the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) has now formally asked the Council if it can extend its September 2014 event to two days. Sunday, the second day, would see the Farmers' Market stalls housed under BOFF's covered area, encouraged to serve hot food and to stay at the venue late into the afternoon. The Council agreed to this request.

    Proposed Road Changes

    Although only mentioned briefly in this meeting, two proposed road changes have entered their consultation period -the High Street junctions with Yardley and Weston Roads. If you visited the Council's stall at Dickens of a Christmas, you'd have seen their details on display.

    Hearing Loop System

    As reported previously, the Council has been trying to install an improved hearing loop system in the Olney Centre. This has been progressing very slowly, with an external company having agreed to install a trial system but not yet having done so. In order to guarantee some progress, Councillors voted that, if the trial system was not ready by the January full Council meeting, Jeremy Rawlings would investigate the purchase of one or two boundary microphones and equipment to connect them to the existing hearing loop, thus hopefully providing a useful fixed system for the Council Chamber.

    East Street Parking

    Parking near the Sports fields at certain times during weekends continues to be a hot issue. Various possible solutions were discussed, and those which seemed most relevant are noted here. Firstly, the Rugby Club has offered an area in the West end of Doffs Field which could be used at weekends for sports related parking. Secondly, Tony Evans suggested the compulsory purchase of the vacant land North of and adjacent to the existing East Street car park, and currently classified as being for housing use. Peter Geary felt that the parking problem was a neighbourhood planning issue, that there was a logical process to pass through and that, since it was a problem for only around four hours per week, there may be easier solutions such as traffic management. He also noted that, with its housing classification, this vacant parcel of land was extremely valuable and, to purchase it, the Council would likely need to request that another piece of land be classified as being for housing use. If this was done, then the money from the sale could be used to fund the purchase of the land adjacent to the car park. Tony Evans felt that having decided to reclassify this land as being for housing use, thus significantly inflating its value, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) should fund the land purchase. The only thing which seemed certain at the end of the discussion, was that this issue will run and run.

    Traffic Management Training

    Since the Police are generally no longer providing assistance with closing roads for local events, two three-hour training courses are being run in December, which will qualify those who complete them to be able to close roads with speed limits of 30MPH and below. They'll be attended by representatives from various local groups, and from the Council.

    Rugby News

    Duncan Taylor, previously a junior player at Olney Rugby Club, graduated to playing with Bedford Blues, now plays for Saracens and has six caps for Scotland. Councillors congratulated this major achievement.


    Next Meeting - 6th January 2014

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


Mercury's reports for 2012

  • January 2012

    Olney Council report for Monday 9th January 2012

    New Town Clerk

    Mayor Steve Clark opened the meeting by wishing all present a happy New Year and welcomed the new Town Clerk, Liam Costello. As reported last month, Liam has seven years' Council experience, previously holding the post of Clerk to Marlborough Town Council.

    Public participation

    Gerald Wilson
    The first person to speak was Gerald Wilson of C.T. Wilson and sons who spoke about the issue of parking in the High Street. This was discussed at last month's meeting with comments being made about the fact that the parking spaces are not marked out, leading to some vehicles parking so as to not make the best use of the spaces available. Gerald said that during the winter months it is necessary to park his coal truck outside of his shop sideways on, due to the length of the vehicle. Although this occupies more than one space it does create a layby of sorts, he said, enabling customers who wish to load coal and other heavy purchases into their cars to pull in. In the past there had been discussions about 'A' boards and displays of goods outside of some shops, he said. Whilst agreeing with Milton Keynes Council's (MKC) ban on 'A' boards, he felt Lhat his display added to the aesthetics of the High Street and it was necessary to display goods to show that the shop was open. He reminded the council that 30 years ago, via the Chamber of Trade, he had obtained an agreement with Bucks County Council, forerunner of MKC, to have a display and as far as he was concerned that arrangement still stood.

    Roger Mann
    Second to speak was Roger Mann, who also wished to express his opinion about High Street parking and in particular the suggestion made at last month's meeting to realign and mark the spaces so that vehicles would have to reverse in to them and then drive out forwards. He reminded the council that last lime markings had been discussed they had decided that it would not be appropriate in the conservation area. The current alignment enabled drivers to spot a space and indicate, albeit belatedly, and pull in lorwards. If the parked cars were 'slewed' the other way it would not be possible to see a space until the driver was level with, or even past, the space. This would lead to drivers looking out of their passenger windows or rear view mirror, rather than the road ahead, he felt. Assuming the following vehicle had left space for the driver to reverse they would then need to complete the manoeuvre quickly so as not to hold up the traffic. A lot of drivers have considerable trouble with reversing and not particularly the elderly, he said. The danger was that the alignment of the traffic on the opposite side of the road would now present a better view of spaces, so drivers would probably pull across and park front-ways in to a space. When they subsequently backed out they would either have to reverse across both lanes ol traffic or find themselves lacing oncoming traffic. In conclusion he said that anything that improves the parking or traffic situation in the town is to be encouraged, but this would do neither, possibly making the latter worse. Gerald Wilson observed cryptically that his truck was probably the only vehicle parked legally in the High Street, anyway, as he left the meeting!

    Olympic Games - Olney Celebration

    Tony Evans reported on plans by the Baptist and Parish Churches to hold a combined event on the Recreation Ground to celebrate the opening of the Olympic Games on the evening of Friday July 27th. It would be a celebratory, family friendly, community event by the people of Olney for the people of Olney that reflects the aims of the Olympic Village in terms of its sporting and cultural agenda running from 4:30pm to 11 :30 pm. The council agreed to support the event so long as the sports clubs are in agreement but if significant financial support is required then an approach would need to be made to the council in the proper manner. Finance was a recurring theme during this month's meeting.

    Cobbs Garden Surgery - Specialist Nurse for the Elderly

    For a number of years the surgery employed an ex-District Nurse funded by Milton Keynes PCT. Last year the PCT withdrew the funding and it looked as though this valuable service would be lost. At the request of Cobbs Garden Patient Participation Group the Olney Town Council (OTC) had agreed to fund the post for a year at a cost of £13,500. Steve Clark noted with some concern that a journalist from BBC Three Counties Radio had recently visited the surgery and interviewed one of the partners who had given the impression that OTC had declined to renew the funding, due to budget constraints. Steve said that no such decision had been made and ii the journalist concerned had bothered to contact the council or visit the offices whilst he/she had been in town then they could have clarified the situation. Mike Hughes suggested that the partner had probably assumed that funding would not be renewed since the original decision had just been to fund it for a year with no obligation to fund on an on-going basis.

    Continental Market

    Traditional Markets Ltd has applied to hold a continental market In Olney on Sunday 18th March. Debbie Brock recalled that there had been a few complaints from the public about lack of pricing signage on some of the stalls when a similar event was held last year. Mike Hughes said that some of the businesses around the market had complained that they had lost most of their trade that day to the market. The general feeling was that the council would support the event but the ofler of £250 from Traditional Markets was insufficient and
    £450 should be charged. This was agreed by a majority. After the vote Tony Evans said that he assumed the ban on the selling of hot food would apply, as it did for the Sunday and Thursday markets. Debbie Brock said she thought ii was reasonable to relax this rule for a one-off event but Tony said this would send out the wrong message to the existing market traders and the ban should apply to all such events on the Market Place. Andrew Dooley asked if Tony thought it should also apply to the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) in that easel He proposed that the council agreed to the sale of hot food and the vote was carried by a majority.

    Localism Act - Council Code of Conduct

    Jeremy Rawlings explained the changes that would be necessary for councillors to meet their obligations to promote and maintain high standards of conduct. The key tasks that OTC has to achieve before 31 st March are:

    • Adopt or amend a Code of Conduct
    • Adopt or amend a Register of Interests for publication
    • Set rules (standing orders) for disclosure of interests
    • Manage standards and ethical governance as part of the wider corporate governance of the Council

    MKC have an existing code which meets these requirements and considers that parish councils will have met their obligations ii they adopt MKC's Code, Register and Rules. Jeremy said that the new rules were considerably more stringent than those currently in place and it would be a criminal offence not to declare an interest in matters coming before the council. A number of councillors round the table will be obliged to be much more open in the information they provide regarding properties and land that they own etc, he said.

    Finance Committee

    The Parish Precept (the amount of Olney residents' Council Tax which goes directly to OTC) has been retalned at the existing rate of £147,610 for the last 6 years. This has been achieved by using a reserve of funds that OTC has built up over the 'good' years and Mercury assumes that it was an effort to ease the burden on Council Tax payers during what, at the time, was thought to be an economically difficult period. However, these reserves have now exhausted and the current financial crisis means that there will actually be a deficit next year. Deidre said that the Finance Committee were proposing that the Precept should now be increased by 10%. Ron Bull suggested that it should be less that 10% so that the rest could be recouped in future years and Andrew Dooley said he would find it hard to support any increase, as the council should be cutting expenditure in the same way as householders are having to. Steve Clark closed down the conversation by saying that since this was the recommendation of the Finance Committee the full council and the full council should only be voting on it and questioning discussing it again. A vote was taken and passed by a majority.
    Mercury is grateful to Town Clerk, Liam Costello, for providing the following information:
    The total Precept will rise by 10% from
    £147,610 to £162,371. However, due to an increase in the Council tax base figure
    (which is the number of equivalent Band D Households in the parish) the actual increase to households will be 9.30%. This equates to 10p a week for a Band D property.

    Odds and sods

    A quote of £2602 for the planting of summer bedding plants (red, white and blue) to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee had been received. Colin Rodden suggested that in the light of the previous item that an alternative quote should be obtained.
    (Perhaps it would only be one third of the cost for a single colour, such as red, mused Mercury.) Tony Evans said that there were considerable cost savings obtained by continuity of the existing contract and any alternative contractor would need to do a considerable amount of pre-work which would be bound to be reflected in the quote. The council voted by a majority to accept the quote.
    Debbie Brock said that MKC have served notice through the High Court in London to The Planning Inspectorate, Npower and the various Land Owners that they (MKC) have lodged an appeal agalnst the Planning Inspectors Decision to grant permission for the Nun Wood Windfarm .
    Rosemary Osborne said that the issue of the path which runs between the bottom of Wagstaff Way and the play park and is liable to flooding should have been discussed at a meeting of MKC on 4th January but was missed off the agenda. She has been assured that it will be discussed in the February meeting.
    Tony Evans said that he thought the banks on Driftway were looking 'better' at the moment but doubted that it would continue. The maintenance by MKC had been erratic last year, he said, and he would like a meeting with Rob Ward, MKC Neighbourhood Manager, to find out what the schedule is for this year. It would be a tragedy if what has been done so far is not maintained, he said.


    Next Meeting - Monday 6th February

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

  • February 2012

    Olney Council report for Monday 6th February 2012

    Public Participation

    Paul Watson
    The first person to speak was Paul Watson, a former Mayor of Olney. Paul had read in last month's Mercury that the Council had Increased its precept, the part of your Council Tax which goes to Olney Town Council (OTC), by 10%. He'd been astonished by this, given that he believed the Council's reserves to be very healthy. During the six years ended 31st March 2009, he stated that Income and expenditure had been under strict financial control, resulting in increases in the cash and bank reserves every year from £195,000 on 31st March 2003 to £386,000 on 31st March 2009, not including the money provided by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for planning gain and land purchase.
    He stated that this financial discipline appeared to have been abandoned and, in each of the years ended 31st March 2010 and 31st March 2011, cash and bank balances had fallen, by in total almost £80,000. Whilst current numbers were only available to the end of December 2011, an extrapolation of those figures to a 12 month period to 31 March 2012 suggested that the same downward spiral was continuing: Even with the 10% Increase in the precept, the Council was staring at an overspend or more than £65,000. Further, he noted that, if the Council had approved the Market Place Toilet renovations, which seemed to be so strongly supported by the Chair of Finance, that would have required a further £38,500, based on OTC's estimates.
    Paul felt this was in stark contrast to OTC's staff having been on a pay freeze for three years, bar one Government allowance of £250 paid some time ago. He s1ated that OTC's current spending level was profligate, and that it wasn't too late to reduce spending by instructing the Chair of Finance to rescind the budget approved last month, eliminate the precept increase and prepare a budget which balanced income with expenditure.

    Members of the Public speaking in this slot are allowed a maximum of three minutes and, in this meeting, the limit was enforced vigorously by Steve Clark. So, Paul didn't get to finish his contribution.
    Later In the meeting, Mike Hughes spoke to express his concern about this, and register his disgust at how harshly Steve had called time on the former Councillor's contribution. He felt It was a disgrace. Steve noted his comment.
    For information, the minutes of December's Finance Committee meeting show that, of the eight people on the committee, two were absent and, at the vote to set the level of the precept, three voted in favour, one against and two abstained. This proposal was then brought to full Council and finalised.

    Carole Russell
    The second person to speak was Carole Russell, asking the Council to continue part• funding a Specialist Nurse for the Elderly at Cobbs Garden Surgery. The Friends of the Surgery had been campaigning to raise funds but, while they'd raised nearly £2,000, this was nowhere near enough to fund the post. Carole felt that the nurse was a lifeline for the elderly in the area and that, particularly with Olney having a higher than average proportion of elderly people, it would be a travesty if the post could no longer be funded. She concluded by saying that the Friends would not give up raising funds in future and that she was sorry to have to tall back on the Council.

    Terry How
    The third speaker was Terry How, expressing his concerns about the disposal of the land to the rear of 57 - 59 Moores Hill, a topic also covered later in this meeting. Terry felt that c􀁴rtain individuals had pocketed vast sums of money over the sale or the land. He stated that there'd been no representation from Olney's Ward Councillors, who seemed to know what was going to happen in advance of It happening. He was sure that the disposal of the land could have been handled better - it seemed to him to be a case of collusion al MKC, with Olney's Ward Councillors having something to do with ii. He slated that the situation stunk and asked that, If some individuals have made £200,000 to £300,000, how much would go back to Olney residents? He felt that the correct procedures had not been followed by MKC, who are under investigation by the Ombudsman about the issue. Terry fell strongly that a similar situation should not be allowed to happen again, and that OTC had a duty to make sure it didn't. For information, Olney's Ward Councillors are Debbie Brock, absent from this meeting, and Peter Geary, present and seated in the public viewing area.

    Circus

    Pinder's Circus is due to visit Olney, with the likely time and place being 7th - 9th May on The Pyghtle. The Council will inform local residents.

    Grant Application for Nurse post

    Following on from Carole Russell's contribution, this agenda item was for the Council lo decide whether or not to accept a Grant Application for £11,550 which, added to the money raised by the Friends, would fund the Nurse post for another year. Tony Evans and Mike Hughes thought the post was important, were in favour of funding it but nervous that the commitment was open ended. Deidre Bethune S1ated that the Council had budgeted for the funding. Colin Rodden felt that there were certain things that the Council needed to do, but that it mustn't duplicate things that should be done by the Health Authority.
    The Grant Application went to the vote, with all voting in favour bar one abstention - the Council will fund the position tor another year.

    Land to rear of 57 - 59 Moores Hill

    First, some background on this long running issue. Over the years, a number of Planning Applications to build houses on the land to the rear of 57 - 59 Moores Hill have been made and rejected. Now, an Application has been accepted by MKC and, contingent on that acceptance, a developer has purchased two thirds of the garden of one of the Council houses in Moores Hill from MKC, which has also granted an easement for access to the site via a thin strip or its land off Dinglederry. In addition, the developer has purchased part of the garden of a nearby privately owned Moores Hill property, a key area which Joins the access strip with the Council house garden area. The purchase of the two areas of garden, the granting of easement for access and of Planning Permission all come together to create an area of land on which houses may be built.
    There were questions as to whether MKC has handled this process correctly, so a complaint was raised In order to discover what happened. MKC complaint investigations can pass through a number of stages - surf to http://bil.ly/z98jJZ for further information. The main findings of Stage two or the investigation were:

    • There was no evidence of MKC consulting with OTC or OTC's Ward Councillors about the land disposal;
    • The land was not advertised for sale in an appropriate publication. This was because MKC's Valuer felt that sale to this developer was the only viable option for achieving a development rate for the land, since this developer had already secured the key area of private garden. The Valuer should have set out the justifications for not advertising the land in writing, but appeared not to have done so.
    • MKC used independent expertise to value the land at a development rate, and secured a price higher than this valuation.
    • Summary: "In my opinion, the Council ... disposed or the land in accordance with relevant law and largely in compliance with Council Policy, There were some procedural issues which appear to have been missed but in reality these issues are unlikely to have resulted in any different outcome in the disposal."

    Presumably, the investigation had been escalated further, as the Council had received the following letter from MKC: "The outcome of the stage three investigation Into the Council's processes surrounding the disposal of the above property interests concluded that Property Services had not properly administered the processes ln regard to consultation with Town and Parish Councils and their respective Ward Members. Although this maladministration occurred during the time of my predecessor (2010) I should like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to each of you. The protocols put in place ensure that evidence or timely consultation is included as part of the sign-off procedures, such that there Is now no scope for error or omission in the future.

    Jeremy Rawlings spoke first, having followed the land disposal issue from the start. He felt that Terry How was right - the support given to affected residents had been abysmal. He summarised the letter as saying that, yes, MKC had made a mistake, but that they weren't planning lo do anything much about it. He felt that OTC must make sure the issue gets raised to a higher level. Jeremy stated that the way the land disposal had been handled was wrong, but didn't know how to proceed further. He concluded by saying that the sale of the land was alter an MKC Planning Meeting in which most of the comments were against It yet, when it came to the vote, most Councillors abstained.

    Mike Hughes asked Steve Clark, as Mayor, for his views and perhaps an undertaking to investigate possible ways to proceed. Steve agreed with Jeremy but, again, lei! it unclear what the Council could do. Tony Evans stated that OTC needed legal advice, MKC having operated Improperly and against its own protocol by not advertising the land sale. He also noted rumours that the land had since been sold on by the original purchasers lor a massive profit. He explained that OTC had said the situation was wrong from the start, that It should seek legal advice and, perhaps, that it should sue MKC.

    Colin Rodden, a lone voice, questioned the validity of one public body suing another in these money-saving times. He also lelt that Olney had to be allowed to grow - houses had to be built somewhere.

    Jeremy Rawlings stated that, while one Olney Ward Councillor is related to one of those who'd purchased the land from MKC, there was emphatically no suggestion that either Ward Councillor had done anything wrong.

    Investigations after the meeting confirmed that the residents have raised the complaint to the Ombudsman and discovered that, while the Council was unable to raise it in this way, it's investigating other options, including whether it could support the residents' complaint.
    Mercury thanks Jeremy Rawlings and other Councillors who've provided background for this section and helped ensure its accuracy.

    Grant Application for Youth Centre

    Jeremy Rawlings gave a brief introduction, saying that the Youth Centre was applying for a grant or £1,250, the salary of a professionally qualified Youth Worker for two sessions per month, for the year starting April 2012. The Council funded the post last year and the sessions have proved very popular with around 50-60 children attending.
    Mike Hughes asked if the Youth Centre had tried to obtain funding elsewhere. Jeremy said that ii hadn't, noting that MKC doesn't fund these sessions tor Under 13s. Mike suggested that perhaps the session entry fee should be increased from 60p to £1.60 per person, thus covering the cost. Tony Evans felt that the Grant Application was very good value for money and that, with some people spending time criticising young people In the area, the Youth Club was doing something positive to help. Deidre Bethune concurred, saying that OTC needed to fund the sessions. A vote was taken and passed with all in favour bar two abstentions - the Council will pay the grant.

    Bits 'n' bobs

    MKC is running meetings to explain the process of Community Asset Transfer, in which it plans to transfer some of the assets it owns lo more local ownership. Peter Geary spoke briefly from the public gallery to clarify the purpose of these meetings. As Alan Richardson noted and Peter Geary confirmed, the Olney Centre is not one of these assets - it's not MKC's to transfer.
    Some funds arising from the Petsoe End Wind Farm development are becoming available. with £7,000 assigned to the Olney Parish. This money must be allocated towards schemes "for the promotion, installation and education of renewable energy or energy saving measures" in the Parish. OTC will send a representative to the next meeting of the Community Development Liaison Committee, set up to administer these funds.

    Parking

    The Council had received a letter from a local business asking that the Market Place Car Park time limit be increased from three to five hours. The Council refused this request for reasons including three hours being long enough, there being longer stay spaces in the town and the cost of changing the signage.
    In the Cattle Market Car Park, a single parking bay is reserved for turning. However, Mike Hughes noted that it's often heavily encroached on by the vehicle in the next space, thus leaving insufficient angle for vehicles to turn. This results in cars having to back out of the Car Park onto the main road - hardly ideal. MKC has suggested increasing the reserved area to two bays, thus allowing cars to turn more easily. The Council ag.reed with this suggestion.

    Olympics event

    As reported in earlier Mercury articles, the local Churches are organising an event on 27th July to coincide with the Olympics· Opening Ceremony. Tony Evans noted that this was progressing and that, once the finances had been estimated properly, the organisers must be encouraged to put a proper proposal to OTC. He felt ii would be a fantastic event, if it could be made to work.


    Next Meeting 5th March

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

  • March 2012

    Olney Council report for March 2012

    Public Participation

    Terry How
    The only person to speak at this month's meeting was Terry How, once again speaking about the disposal of the land to the rear of 57-59 Moores Hill. Much of Terry's statement was a reiteration of what he had said at last month's meeting and he noted that while the Ombudsman was now looking into the handling of the matter, none of his questions from last month had been answered. He repeated his assertion that the whole matter ·stinks" and said there appeared to be no transparency from the councillors who should be representing the residents. Mercury assumed that this was directed at the Milton Keynes (MKC) councillors, rather than Olney Town Council (OTC). He said that this was the "thin edge of the wedge for Olney" and, noting that the matter was on the agenda to be discussed when the public and press had been excluded, said that he thought it should be discussed in an open forum. Deidre Bethune asked why It was being discussed in private session and Town Clerk Liam Costello explained that OTC had sought advice from their solicitors which was confidential, at present. Although no discussion normally takes place in the public participation slot, Mayor Steve Clark said that he would allow some discussion to take place, but not regarding the solicitor's advice. It might be possible to communicate this advice to the residents once this had been discussed in the closed session, he said. Jeremy Rawlings said he had spent some lime working with the residents and MKC officers and, while the third and final stage of MKC's complaints procedure had found some shortcomings, it was by and large legal. OTC is not permitted to formally support the residents' complaint to the Ombudsmen, he said. Tony Evans noted rumours that the developer was now looking to buy additional land and build up to six houses. There had been no response to OTC's concerns about drainage, Highways impact in Dinglederry, loss of trees subject to Tree Preservation Orders and overlooking of houses in Moores Hill, he said. Steve Clark said that there were some questions around the procedures adopted for the land sale. When previous planning applications for the land had been submitted the MKC Planning Officers had agreed with OTC's recommendation that It should be rejected. However, this time round an officer had recommended approval and under such circumstance the Planning Committee is obliged to have good reason to ignore the advice of Its own officer in order to overturn this recommendation. Even ii this were to happen an appeal by the developer would usually be successful, he said.
    Mercury is grateful to Steve Clark for providing the following Information regarding the Solicitors' advice: The gist of the legal advice was that it would be very unwise for the Town Council to contemplate Instigation of a judicial review into the matter as it would prove lo be extremely expensive and risky and would be hard to justify on the basis that MKC had 'generally followed the correct procedure'. Members were all of the opinion that they could not possibly justify spending a massive sum of public money to pursue this case given the very high risk that it could go against Olney Town Council.

    Hot food at Thursday and Sunday Markets

    In the past OTC has always rejected requests from market traders to sell hot food on the Sunday and Thursday markets, not only because they didn't want to see things like burgers and hot dogs on sale but also in order to protect the interests of the businesses around the Market Place. Following a recent market where one of the traders had apparently ignored this rule, there had been some feedback at the Recreations and Services Committee meeting about how popular the product on sale had been because it was something different that was not regularly available In the area. Tony Evans reported that the Recreations and Services Committee was now recommending that this rule should be rescinded, subject to certain conditions. Deidre Bethune questioned the actual proposal from the R&S meeting, saying that she thought the recommendation from that meeting was to ·consider· rather than to
    'allow'. (For information, the minutes of that meeting show that no vote was actually taken). Tony said that any trader wishing to sell hot food would have to apply in advance and comply with strict conditions. Mike Hughes was in favour of the proposal and said if anyone flouted the new conditions they would be ordered to leave immediately. A vote was taken and passed by a majority with two members voting against.
    As an aside, Town Clerk Liam Costello suggested that sub-committees should be more autonomous and not be obliged to take every decision to the full council in order to get it approved. Mercury understands that this is common practice with many other local councils, such as Newport Pagnell, and would certainly overcome the frustration expressed by councillors in the past that, having fully discussed and agreed a course of action at a sub-committee, it is then discussed again at length by the full council.

    Milton Keynes wind turbine policy

    The council has been sent a copy of the document Draft Wind Turbines Supplementary Planning Document and Emerging Policy: Wind Turbines Planning Applications for comment, and also a request from the Chair of Castlethorpe Parish Council, Philip Ayles, to support the policy. Philip's letter noted that the existing policy is over 10 years old and was written when turbines were half the height they are today, which is typically 125m (the height of the local turbines at Petsoe End). In fact 200m turbines exist and plans for the first 1000m turbines were recently announced. Much of the policy is around the minimum separation distance between wind farms and housing. The policy is available at www.millon-keynes.gov.uk/wind-turbines and the public are invited to comment, although the consultation period officially ends on 28th March 2012. Unfortunately these documents were sent out in early February and were on the OTC agenda in March but this report will not appear until the end of that month.

    Milton Keynes Transport Strategy Review

    MKC has written to the council asking for comments on the Transport Strategy Review. The policy is available at
    www.millon-keynes.gov.uk/transport/ and the public are Invited to comment, although the consultation period is even lighter, officially ending on 23rd March 2012.

    Parish Partnership Fund

    This fund is granted by MKC to local councils to enable them to apply for funding of up to 50¾ for improvements or facilities which they wish to provide in their local area, and applications are now being invited. Tony Evans noted that the path into the cemetery needed upgrading, while Deidre Bethune suggested improvements to the roadway to the allotments. Mike Hughes suggested the current hedge laying work that is taking place on Crouch's Field (previously known as 'The New Field'). John Boardman noted that some items of play equipment had been removed from the recreation ground for safety reasons, although Steve Clark said that a similar scheme, the Play Area Improvement Scheme existing specifically for such reasons and MKC was also inviting applications for funding under that scheme. It was agreed to get quotes for the suggestions which will presumably be discussed at a future meeting.

    Parish Meeting

    This has traditionally taken place in April so that in an election year, such as this, the outgoing council are able to present the annual accounts prior to the start of the new council year, although Uam Costello said that this is not actually a formal requirement. The election for the new council will take place on 3rd May so it was decided to hold the Town Meeting on 26th April. Liam questioned whether the closeness of the two events might impinge on the members ability to 'go knocking on doors' but the opinion of some councillors was that if the electorate could actually be bothered to turn up at the meeting then it would save them the trouble! Mercury is usually almost as lonely at the Town Meeting as he is at the monthly OTC meetings, so ii you want the chance to meet your councillors before the election and question them on anything you like, please come along.

    Odds and Sods

    Tony Evans reported that Crouch's Field is looking good and the council workers have done an excellent Job, particularly with the fencing, The hedge laying is coming along well, also. He invited any councillors (and presumably the public as well) to go along and have a look.
    Steve Clark reported on the recent meeting of the Emberton Park Liaison Group. There is concern about car movements in the park and the 10 mph speed limit is not well observed. A one way system is being considered, with two way traffic being permitted up to the cafe, he said. The downside of this would mean that access to the Sailing Club would result in a large circuit of the park, though. Consideration is also being given to extending the season for the static caravans, he said.
    Rosemary Osbourne reported that MKC had now approved the work required to resolve the Issue of the path which runs between the bottom of Wagstaff Way and the play park that is liable to flooding. Work would commence in May and is due to be completed by August.
    Mike Hughes reported 1hat a recent survey conducted by the Neighbourhood Action Group showed that the main issues concerning the residen1s of Olney were:

    1. Traffic congestion
    2. Parking
    3. Dog fouling

    all of which came as a surprise to precisely no one, suspected Mercury.


    Next Meeting - Monday 2nd April

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd April in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, ii they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides Is appropriate. The Town Meeting will take place on Thursday 26th April and members of the public are invited to attend and question the council on any matters concerning them. Remember. it's your opportunity to make your voice heard and it's no use complaining that you don't know any of the people behind the names on your ballot paper or you don't agree with what your hard earned money is being spent on ii you don't attend.

  • April 2012

    Olney Council report for April 2012

    Filled to capacity

    The council chamber was filled to capacity by members of the public this month, many eager to speak about the plans to build houses on land to the rear of two houses in Moores Hill or listen to the council debate on the matter. The possibility of two more properties to the rear of a further house has inflamed the situation even further.

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    The first person to speak was Sue Warren, once again addressing the council on the matter of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Sue said that the situation had worsened as two more nearby residents had recently passed their driving test. She asked Mayor Steve Clarke why he had not responded to a request for action some years ago from MP Mark Lancaster's assistant to himself and Graham Mabbutt when they had been Milton Keynes Council (MKC) ward councillors. (For information, Steve has informed Mercury that neither he nor Graham have any record or recollection of such a request being made). She criticised the council for addressing parking issues elsewhere in the town, quoting the erection of signs to dissuade drivers from parking near Crouch's field, whilst ignoring the plight of the residents of Oakdown Crescent. She criticised the Town Clerk for not following up a letter written in November to Richard Duffill, MKC Traffic and Parking Team Leader, and also Richard himself (who was not present) for not responding to any of her letters or emails, but suspected that the reason for that was her mother giving him a 'hard time' when he had visited to investigate the situation. Finally she criticised MKC Councillor Debbie Brock for not following up a request for information from the Ambulance Service after an incident where an ambulance had not been able to park close to the house of a sick resident. She challenged the councillors to take action and reminded them that it is an election year and there are 20 elderly residents who need their support to have a good end to their life instead of living in a car park.

    Chris Kitchener
    Chris Kitchener spoke on behalf of the residents of Dinglederry about the plans to build additional housing using the rear gardens of some houses in Moores Hill with access via Dinglederry. Chris said that a number of applications had been made over the years for two houses, five houses and lastly three bungalows, all of which had been rejected. The latter had been the subject of an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol. The residents had been supported by both OTC and MKC in those objections and in July 2002 MKC had placed a preservation order on trees in the gardens. In July 2004 she and her neighbours in Dinglederry had been approached by a firm of property developers with a request to purchase eight metres of their gardens to enable access to the gardens in Moores Hill but had turned down a considerable offer because they loved their existing rural outlook. She concluded by saying that the Government have stated that they want local people to have more say in the development of their localities and asked that they be listened to.

    Nick Shipton
    Next to speak on the subject was Nick Shipton. Please note that the following transcription is based on a statement read by Nick and The Phonebox cannot vouch for the accuracy of its content. Nick stated that as a result of the Stage 3 complaint which the residents had raised with MKC, they now had a letter and apology which stated that the sale of the council land and the easement of the 'ransom strip' was not carried out according to policy and process and was unlawful. He said that MKC had admitted that the land was sold illegally to the developer and was now considering compounding the situation by allowing further houses to be built. The original developer had since sold on the gardens on to a builder at a huge profit, he said, but local government law does not allow ex-council land to be sold on undeveloped. He also had a letter from Peter Smettem, Valuer to MKC, which stated that the easement over the council owned strip would be limited to three dwellings and another letter from Richard Jenden, Estates Manager, confirming this to be the case. This commitment should be upheld as promised, he said. The granting of the previous application will have a devastating consequence to many families living in Dinglederry and any further building in the area would ruin other families' home lives, including his own. The developer was not providing valuable services to Olney through the building of social housing, but was merely looking to make money. Due to the family relationship of the original developer to both of Olney's MKC ward councillors (Debbie Brock and husband Peter Geary) the residents will, again, not have the benefit of a ward councillor to support them, he said. With the previous application they were only able to secure the services of a 'proxy' councillor (i.e. a councillor with no interest from another ward) a week before the meeting at which the planning permission was granted.

    Terry How
    The last person to speak was Terry How, who had spoken at the two previous meetings. He was highly critical of the two ward councillors, making a number of accusations, and called for them both to resign. In view of the forthcoming MKC elections and libel laws of this country, The Phonebox has decided not to report these accusations.

    Easement to rear of 59 Moores Hill

    This was the formal agenda item for the council to discuss this matter. The interested members of the public were still present for this item and some attempted to join the debate, but Mayor Steve Clark was strict in imposing the Standing Order which forbids this. Jeremy Rawlings informed the council that an application had been received for a further easement of the MKC owned access strip, as discussed in the public participation section of the meeting. This was not unexpected he said, as previous applications had included development to the rear of 61 Moores Hill. He said the whole thing was steeped in mystique and bad dealings and felt that MKC should be bought to account. He was frustrated that no one at MKC was being brought to account for the original mistakes in the consultation process. Deidre Bethune said that there was no point in objecting as MKC would just ignore the recommendation of OTC. Mike Hughes thought that the Mayor and Town Clerk should make an official and personal representation stating OTC's objection rather than proffering it in a 'limp' way. He felt it was time that OTC was listened to prior to the easement being debated. Background details should be provided pointing out that MKC has admitted previous wrong doing, he said. Town Clerk, Liam Costello, reminded members that MKC had admitted its previous mistakes but has been advised by its solicitors that it had not acted illegally so the only subject currently up for debate was the extension to the easement. Jeremy said that if OTC had a spare £1 00k it could take on MKC and probably win, but unfortunately it didn't. Steve Clark compared the situation with the strategy of a certain major supermarket chain when dealing with objections to planning permissions. Ron Bull suggested harnessing the power of the local media to point out that MKC had broken its own rules and the general consensus was that this was a good idea and should be investigated.

    Church Community Festival for Olympics

    As reported previously, the combined Baptist and Parish Churches plan to hold an event on the Recreation Ground to celebrate the opening of the Olympic Games on the evening of Friday July 27th. It would be a celebratory, family friendly, community event by the people of Olney for the people of Olney that reflects the aims of the Olympic Vision in terms of its sporting and cultural agenda, running from 4:30pm to 11 :30 pm. The intention is that the event should be self­financing through proceeds from takings, together with sponsorship and donations from organisations. To that end the organisers have requested a grant of £2056 from OTC and an underwriting sum of £660 to cover the hire of toilets. In view of recent criticism of council spending the council decided not to agree to the grant outright but agreed on a majority vote to underwrite the event to the value of £2,716 to cover the costs of the marquee and toilets. The money will be paid by instalments to cover any costs when they incur, and is to be repaid if the event generates a surplus.

    Community Parking Fund

    This fund is managed by MKC with the aim of providing additional parking availability in established residential areas and is delivered in partnership with Parish and Town Councils. The maximum award is normally £30k per Parish/T'own Council per year and a maximum of three applications may be made by each Parish, although the Parish is expected to contribute 50% of the costs. Tony Evans reported on two plans, the first to increase the number of spaces in the East Street (Rugby Club) car park and the second to provide a new car park at the East Street end of the Nursery Field (football pitch). At the moment there is a central dividing kerb, with two rows of perpendicular parking either side of it. There is a considerable amount of space between the rows of bays which often results in cars parking in the middle blocking access to and from the marked bays. It is proposed to remove the central kerb, moving the rows towards the pitch with the bays at 45 degrees, which should allow one, or possibly two, rows of additional parking. The second plan involves the creation of a new parking area behind the football pitch at the East Street boundary, to provide an additional 36 spaces. Mercury understands that a six foot high fence will be erected for protection. A vote was taken with a majority voting in favour of making two applications for funding under the scheme. The council is keen to hear views of residents and details of the proposals, including plans, can be viewed at the offices in the Olney Centre during normal offices hours of 9:00am to 4:00pm Monday to Thursday, and 9:00am to 3:00pm on Friday.

    Market waste skip

    Councillors had noted that little waste is placed in the weekly skip and that the automatic sweeper is no longer used. This is an annual cost to the OTC of £16750. The last meeting of the Rees and Services Committee had recommended that the provision of a skip be discontinued and the market traders asked to clear their pitch at the end of the day and take their rubbish away. Tony Evans reported on a subsequent meeting with the market traders to discuss the issue where Neil Bowditch had managed to obtain a quote for a basic open top skip for £8060 per year. The council voted by a majority to have a six month trial and Debbie Brock thanked Neil for his initiative.

    Emptying of dog waste bins

    There are currently 39 dog bins in Olney which are emptied on Monday each week, with a second collection on Thursday between the months of April and September (Mercury assumes this is in order to avoid unpleasant odours, rather than the impact of hot weather on the canine metabolism). The current contactor has quoted £2.69 plus VAT per bin for the first empty and £1.34 plus VAT for the second empty for an eight year contract running up to March 2020. The council consider this good value for money and agreed to renew the contract.

    Disclosure of Interest

    Town Clerk, Liam Costello, provided a summary of a document issued by the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) regarding members' conduct and the registration of and disclosure of their interests, as defined in the Localism Act 2011. The Act provides that every relevant authority in England is under a duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by its members and co-opted members and in doing so must adopt a code of conduct. The definition of co-opted member covers non­councillor members of sub-committees and joint committees who are entitled to vote at meetings. This would include such groups as the Dickens of a Christmas Committee, said Liam. The lack of a declaration of interest is now considered a criminal offence, he said. Mercury noted that the offence carries a potential fine of £5000 and/or disqualification for up to five years.

    Odds and Sods

    Representatives of OTC will in future be entitled to issue parking tickets themselves for parking violations on the Market Place on days when parking is prohibited, such as market days. The tickets will be enforced by its contractor, Napier Parking.
    Deidre Bethune said she thought the thick yellow bus stop markers painted by MKC are an eyesore and noted that complaints had been received from members of the public.
    Alan Richardson noted that parking around The Knoll was becoming a problem and suggested that double yellow lines should be provided.
    Mike Hughes reported that he would be standing down at the forthcoming elections and thanked the council for an enjoyable time, including his two years as Mayor. Steve Clark thanked him for his valuable contribution.
    The recent continental market was not judged to be a success. The food was of very poor quality and the whole event was described as scruffy and down at heel. Jeremy Rawlings noted that the German Sausage vendor was a burger van and Tony Evans said that the traders left all of their rubbish at the end.


    Next Meeting - Monday 14th May

    The next 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. The Town Meeting will take place on Thursday 26th April and members of the public are invited to attend and question the council on any matters concerning them

  • May 2012

    Olney Council report for May 2012

    Public Participation

    Kevin Osborne
    The first person to speak was Kevin Osborne, representing lhe Olney and Clifton Reynes Fishing Association. Over 30 years ago, the Association built a set of walkways and small bridges alongside the river between the Mill and Doff's Field in order to improve access for its members. Over time, the riverside walk has become taken for granted by the Public and, while the Association has no problem with non­members using the structures, this usage increases wear and tear. As such the Association is asking if they could contribute towards what has become a town facility, either by supplying materials or reducing the Association's rent.

    Mike Hughes
    Mike Hughes, who's just stepped down as the Councillor, spoke very briefly to wish the Council and residents of Olney good fortune and a successful year.

    Samantha Tomlin
    Samantha Tomlin, of the Olney Chamber of Trade (CoT), had asked the Council for permission for the CoT to use the Market Square on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th September for the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF). This topic and that of the next speaker were to be discussed later In the meeting.

    Paul Collins
    Finally, Paul Collins, a Trustee of the Cowper and Newton Museum, noted that ii was hosting a number of events starting on Sunday 16th September. On that day, the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire will be starting a Charity horse ride from the North to the South of the County and. with Olney being pretty much at the Northernmost lip, the ride is starting from the Museum.

    Elections

    This was the first meeting of this year's Council, so ii started with various elections. Steve Clark was re-elected as Mayor with Jeremy Rawlings continuing as his deputy, both posts being uncontested. The committee Chairs stayed as last year although Deidre Bethune, absent this evening, had noted that, If anyone else wished to lake over as Finance Committee Chair, she'd be more than happy for them to do so. The Committee will elect its own Chair at its first meeting.

    Storage unit licences

    The storage units on the Recreation Ground are rented to The Olney Group (TOG), Olney Rugby Club and Olney Colts Football Club. The licences are due for renewal and, following advice from a Solicitor, they've been tightened up somewhat and, to reduce administration, now have a five year upper limit on their duration.

    Big Olney Food Festival

    As you may have noticed, the High Sheriff's horse ride will be starting one day after the BOFF. As such, the CoT and the Museum plan to coordinate and, after a brief discussion involving Councillors and, with Standing Orders temporarily suspended to allow it, Samantha and Paul, it seemed like this would work out well. The CoT offered either to have the BOFF Marquees taken down on the Saturday night, leaving the Square free for the ne-xt day, or to leave them up for the Sunday, allowing the Museum to use them with, if desired, some food stalts. This item concluded with the CoT being given permission to use the Market Square for 48 hours from midday Friday 14th September.

    Chantry Rise play area

    As reported before, the lower footpath in the Chantry Rise play area is liable to flooding. To alleviate this problem, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) has proposed building a boardwalk over much of this path, similar to those in Emberton Par1<. Councillors liked this and, after a short discussion, it was approved. Debbie Brock concluded by thanking the Neighbourhood Action Group for its help pushing this through.

    Olney Middle School Car Boot Sale

    The Friends of Olney Middle School have asked the Council for permission to use the East Street Car Park to host a Car Boot Sale in the summer to raise funds for the School. Tony Evans started by noting that, while he didn't want to be a killjoy, the Council had always refused requests to use this Car Park for non-parking purposes. Steve Clark asked where people attending the Sale would park. Other possible nearby venues included the area between East Street and the nearby goalposts on the Recreation Ground - that which may in any case soon become a Car Park. After further discussion, a consensus was reached. The Council agreed in principle to support the event, and to hold discussions with the School about precisely where to hold it.

    Dickens of a Christmas

    Introduced by Alan Richardson, this item was to request a budget increase for Dickens of a Christmas (DoC). In essence, Alan wanted to increase the entertainments budget from
    £3,000 to £4,000 in order to provide more to see along the High Street - the aim being for the event lo be continuous between the Amaya restaurant and the Market Square. Councillors voted to accept this request - this was a major event which deserved the backing.
    Peter Geary, while in favour of the increase, noted that it must be round without increasing the overall budget for the current financial year, currently projected to overspend by
    £65,000. In other words, other things would have to be trimmed to compensate. Liam Costello noted that recent budgets had underspent compared with initial projections. Peter replied that the budget should be redrafted in order to make It realistic.

    Sound and lights

    Alan Richardson noted that the Olney Centre sound system, around 20 years old, had failed and, with that affecting bookings, the amplifier had been replaced by local company Impact.
    The Council had budgeted £2,250 this year towards the ongoing replacement of the lamppost-mounted Christmas light curtains with more efficient LED versions. Councillors approved this expenditure and, with some local shops offering to make contributions to the local community, will see if that could make it possible to replace them more quickly.
    The Jubilee Beacon lighting is being organised by a group of Councillors and one of the TOG members. It will be Iii at 10.1 Spm on 4th June. For more information on the Beacons Which will be lit around the UK, surf to http://bit.ly/Kg6YVX.

    Development publicity

    Following on from Terry Howe's question at the Town Meeting, Ron Bull asked Liam Costello for the latest information on the Moores Hill development issues. Much as before, Liam replied that the Council was still waiting on MKC for an update and that, while publications had been made aware of the issues, he couldn't force them to publish them.

    Long grass

    Tony Evans noted that the last lime MKC had cut the grass around Olney was 6th April, with the next cut being due for 18th May, six weeks later. He felt this was totally unacceptable. He concluded by comparing the schedule with those of previous years: Last year there were eight cuts, one every four weeks, while In the year before there were 13.


    Next Meeting - Monday 11th June

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 11th June in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • June 2012

    Olney Council report for June 2012

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    First to speak was Susan Warren. chasing for progress with the ongoing parking problems in Oakdown Crescent, asking about the outcome of the site meeting held on the 8th May and for any news on a letter concerning the issue sent to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) last November. She also brought some old letters, including one from Newport Pagnell RuralDistrict Council to Weston Road _ residents dated November 1968 which stated that the "tuming space, in Oakdown Crescent, is not to be used for long term parking and your cooperation to ensure this is so, is requested'. Susan concluded by saying that the Oakdown Crescent residents deserve better and that she would not give up.

    Debbie Brock
    Debbie Brock responded that the site meeting had been on behalf of MKC officers working on several proposals to improve parking in the area but that the process would take time. Susan claimed that Debbie was not informing people of progress. Debbie concluded thisitem by explaining that there was nothing - to say but. when there was, she'd say it.

    Barry Edwards
    Last to speak was Barry Edwards of Dodo Antiques, giving background on road closures he'd requested for consideration in this meeting. In summary, the closures are for the length of road between 2 and 8 Silver End for the daytime of various weekends over the summer for the purpose of charily fundraising antiques fairs.

    Bits n Bobs

    Tony Evans and Ben Brock were not present, having sent their apologies.
    Tony had sent a letter explaining that, following recent rainfall, the pitch between the Football Club and East Street was too soft for heavy vehicles and, thus, unsuitable for the fair due lo arrive on Monday 18th June. So, regrettably, his letter recommended that the Council cancel the fair In order to avoid the risk of serious damage lo the ground. Councillors agreed.
    Debbie Brock noted that the April grass cutting date given In last month's meeting, and
    reported by Mercury, was incorrect. e correct dale ls in fact 16th - 17th Apnl, ,:ti ten days later than given, meaning that the lime between cuts was shorter than claimed.
    Councillors briefly discussed then agreed Barry's request for Silver End road closures over the summer.

    Moores Hill development - part one

    This item was to discuss correspondence from MKC regarding the easement to the land to the rear of Moores Hill from Dinglederry and, having earlier declared personal and prejudicial interests, Debbie Brock and Peter Geary left the meeting.
    Jeremy Rawlings started the discussion, feeling that the decision, at Peter Geary's request, to split the single agenda item covering the development Into two parts was not ideal because the parts were not separable. He noted that John Bint, the Ward Councillor who'd represented residents' views at the Development Control meeting, had done a good job. After further discussion In which every Councillor who contributed appeared unhappy with the whole issue, bar Steve Clark who took more of a chairman's role, Councillors decided to note their displeasure and to make furtherrepresentations If and when a Planning.
    Application for the land is received.

    Moores HIii development - part two

    Having earlier declared only a personal interest in this item, which was to discuss the Ombudsman's Reports, Debbie and Peter retumed to the meeting.
    As background, there were two Reports. The first responded to a nearby resident's complaint that MKC had failed to properly process a transaction involving the sale of Council owned land and that, as a result, he missed out on the opportunity to bid for the land. The second responded to another nearby resident's complaint that in addition to a similar MKC failing, MKC was at fault for the grant of an easement over the access to that land. He'd also claimed that a survey of Great Crested NeW1s should have been arranged and that incorrect information about Tree Preservation Orders had been presented to the Development Control Committee.
    The Ombudsman's decision on the first Report was that there was no requirement !or MKC to advertise the land for sale but that rt should have consulted with Olney Town Council alternative (OTC) uses and for its the Ward Councillors about alternative uses for the land, a failing which MKC had acknowledge,cL The Ombudsman felt that the complainant had not suffered significant injustice because, even if his views on alternative uses for the land had been heard, the price obtained by the Council for the land reflected its development value and took into account the easement and, thus, would have exceeded and provided better value than any otter made by the complainant. The decision concluded with the Ombudsman saying that he needn't be further involved with the complaint.
    The decision on the second Report was broadly similar, though also noting that MKC had behaved correctly regarding the ecological points. This decision concluded with the Ombudsman discontinuing his office's involvement in the complaint.
    Back to the meeting, Jeremy Rawlings felt that, once again, the Reports had indicated errors in MKC's handling of the land sale but that the Ombudsman had ignored them. Peter Geary felt differently and, starting with "I wasn't going to say anything but...", gave his views. He felt that OTC had received a one sided recollection of what had taken place. The facts were that the Ombudsman had
    identified some failings, for which MKC hadapologised, but concluded that these _failings
    had not changed the overall outcome. Pet r felt there'd been one main failing - that 􀂡neither OTC nor them as Ward Councillors had been notified - but that much debate had taken place in OTC and in the town. However, the Obmudsman's Reports were from an independent, unbiased body with no axe to grind. He concluded by noting a concern that, with OTC having taken legal advice in this case due lo requests from concerned residents, a precedent could have been set for how it handles similar requests in future.
    Andrew Dooley pointed out that this planning issue was different from others, as neither Ward Councillor had been allowed to represent the town. People thought they'd been abandoned by OTC and it could not change their views. Peter replied that he'd spent many hours on the phone to Nick Shipton, who'd spoken as a member of the public in April's OTC meeting, but that when it became clear they could no longer take part in the issue, he and Debbie had backed out. Going further, Peter slated that people had not been abandoned: This was a myth and not part of the complaints. In fact, someone had taken on representing residents' views a few days later. He noted that one complainant was an aggrieved developer who'd also wanted to bid for the land.
    Debbie gave some background, some of which was in answering a post-meeting question from Mercury. She explained that Peter had been due lo speak In a Planning Meeting as a member of the public against the Planning Application. He'd declared a prejudicial interest and so was allowed to do this but would have had to leave before the debate had taken place. However, a day or two before the meeting, MKC received accusations about Debbie's conduct along with a strong view that neither she or Peter should have anything to do with the Application. As a result, they backed away from it apart from, when asked, helping lo arrange an alternative Ward Councillor to represent residents' views. She said that they'd never abandon people in the town, "we just wouldn't", and that the whole episode had been regrettable. She fell that OTC had been manipulated to an extent: One of its members, not present at this mooting, should not have been part of some conversations in this Chamber - not good news.

    Jeremy Rawlings concluded the discussion, saying that MKC had made an arbitrary decision not to advertise the land on the open market due to it not being possible to use standalone. He felt this had been glossed over.

    Code of conduct and declaration of Interests

    As regular readers will know, Councillors are obliged to declare ii they have an interest in any items being discussed. Peter Geary explained that not doing so will shortly become a criminal offence. This meant that Councillors must understand what constituted personal and prejudicial interests or else, in theory at least, they could end up appearing before a Court.

    Local boundary review

    Differences in the rate of population expansion across M1lton Keynes Borough mean that some Ward Councillors now represent many more people than others and, thus, MKC ls performing a Ward boundary review. First of all the Electoral Commission is asklng how m􀃘ny Councillors should sit on MKC. Once it knows this, the ratio of Ward Councillors lo people is known and the resulting Ward boundary positions will then be decided.
    This raises the possibility of Olney, plus some surrounding villages, being split into two Wards and, thus, each Olney Town Councillor being elected to represent one or the other. Historically, OTC has not believed this to be a good situation, and discussion tonight confirmed this view. As a result, OTC's opinion was that the number of MKC Councillors should be increased to around 67 - 70, thus keeping the ratio of Ward Councillors to people about the same and, it hoped, avoiding Olney being split into two Wards.
    Mercury thanks Debbie Brock and Peter Geary for providing background on this issue.

    East Street car parking

    OTC noted in this year's Town Meeting that it's looking to provide additional parking near the sports fields by changing some of the grass area between the westernmost Recreation Ground goalposts and East Street for use as a car park. Details of this proposal have been on display at Olney Town Council but, in summary, a reconfiguration of the existing nearby car park would provide an additional 25 spaces while the additional area would provide a further 36. The MKC Community Parking Fund may help fund this work.
    liam Costello Introduced the Item noting that there'd been some opposition from local residents and suggesting that, since both parts of the scheme were feasible, OTC could apply for funding for the two, then make firm decisions later on which, if any, to implement. Noting that, in spite of the Council having sent consultation letters to nearby residents, some had first heard of the proposals from the Phone Box, Debbie felt that they were very much hypothetical - they may never happen. She also stated that the devices added to the existing East Street car park to reduce antisocial behaviour mustn't be removed by any changes. Councillors decided to submit formal applications to the Community Parking Fund, listing the reconfiguration of the existing car park as the priority.

    Football Club fence

    Olney Football Club has informed the Council of plans to erect a perimeter fence around its main pitch on the Recreation Ground. Paul Tough, Chair of the Club, was present and, at various points, standing orders were lilted so he could answer questions.
    Summarising, Paul explained that the fencing would be low, likely green in colour, and was required to meet new Football Association rules and thus allow the Club to continue to operate. It was not the intention to stop the public, or indeed the fair, from using the area. As such, the plans included two areas where the fencing would slide back to allow access, and that these would be closed just between Friday and Saturday evenings. An additional benefit would be the reduction of dog fouling on match days. Finally, given the earlier discussion on parking, he noted that, if the area between the westernmost goal and East Street did become a car park, it could be possible to have a temporary high net behind the goal, to be erected only on match days, thus avoiding a permanent, and likely less pleasing, high fence there.

    Councillors voted in favour of the plans, with six voting for, two against and three abstalning.

    Bobs 'n' bits

    liam said that the Jubilee Beacon lighting had been very successful, and thanked The Olney Group (TOG) and Neill Elliot for helping organise it. He also reported that a new head groundsman has started at the Council. Finally, all Ann Hopkins Smith Alms Houses are currently lull but the waiting list is empty, so any elderly Lady with strong Olney connections can apply for an Almshouse by writing to Tony Evans at Olney Park Farm, Yardley Road, Olney, Bucks.


    Next Meeting - Monday 2nd July

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

  • July 2012

    Olney Council report for July 2012

    More Public than Members

    There were more members of the public than councillors present at the start of this month's meeting, so Mercury was looking forward to an evening of lively debate.

    Public Participation

    Jim Middleton
    Five members of the public spoke at this month's meeting. First to speak was Jim Middleton on the subject or the Olney bypass. Jim read from a statement he had submitted to the Milton Keynes Core Strategy examination hearing. Jim said as a resident of Olney he attended the MK South Midlands Panel but was not allowed to say anything at the examination. The point he had made in the written submission was that all the development of urban areas north, south, east and west of Olney was having a hugely detrimental effect on Olney with traffic getting ever worse. Jim said he was ignored, and the panel in fact allowed no transport schemes, other than those in the then government's short term plans. This was a pathetic response from so called professionals to a long term planning exercise, he said, and in his opinion there can be no stronger case for a bypass anywhere in the country than Olney. Jim's full submission can be downloaded from http://www.milton­
    keynes.gov.uk/planning-policy/documents/REP-269971-
    3_MiddletonMKlnqdoc1 OlneyBP.pdf

    Karen Gilbert
    Next to speak was Karen Gilbert, owner of Beans Cate in the Market Place, on a subject that was obviously of concern to a number of members of the public present, namely the application by Real Estate Advisors Savills, on behalf of Calle Nero, to open a branch in the building previously occupied by Derby House Saddtery. Karen said hers is a small, independent business which would struggle to compete against a large, national chain. The rates in Olney were the highest of the lour locations where she had branches and while Caffe Nero could absorb high business rates, she could not.

    Elaine Baxendale
    Elaine Baxendale also spoke against the application. She has been an Olney resident for nine years, she said, and one of the attractions of the town is Its small 'quirky' establishments. Local businesses would be certain to suffer, she feat. and questioned whether Olney needed another big concern. There was a need to consider the environment, she said. The planning application was discussed as an agenda item later in the meeting.

    Brian Rice
    Next to speak was Bryan Rice on the continued problems of parking In Oakdown Crescent.

    Richard Stone
    Richard Stone, Bar Manager of The Carlton House Club (formerly Olney Working Men's Club) spoke about the proposal to position a bench outside of the club. For Information, this has been the subject of discussions by the council for many years. Many elderly people have complained that there is no where to sit and rest whist making the long walk along the High Street and the council have been looking to find a suitable location for a bench. Richard said that one of the license conditions of the club was that members should leave the club in a quiet and orderly manner. Although the club has a smoking area within the grounds he was concerned that a bench at the front would encourage members who wished to smoke to sit on the bench and also take drinks with them, which would be against the terms of the license. As a previous licensee of The Bull he knew what problems a bench outside would attract, he said. Added to that he and his family lived above the club with bedrooms facing out on to the High Street and they would be bound to suffer disturbed nights, he said.

    George Horncasltle
    George Horncastle, Secretary of the club spoke next and said whist he accepted that the bench was for the benefit of elderly members of the community it would be bound to attract other people and the club would be blamed for disorderly behaviour of customers leaving adjacent licensed premises.

    Best Kept VIiiage 2012

    Although Olney is a town it is eligible for entry to this competition and this year won the Michaelis Cup for small towns. The competition awards are for Best Kept towns/villages, not beautiful villages, and care, cleanliness, maintenance and community effort were what the judges were looking for when they visited in June. There will be a brief presentation ceremony at the Olney Centre on 8th September. Mercury noted, somewhat ironically, that Savills Is one of the sponsors of the competillonl

    Planning application for Derby House

    For information, this building has been empty since the Derby House Saddlery vacated the premises a year ago. It is a building of significant local importance and history, having been the site ol J.W. and E. Sowman which was established as an ironmongers in 1888 and went on to become a large emporium, finally being sold to Burgess' In 1962. Burgess' left the town in 1984. Real Estate Advisors Savllls have lodged two planning applications with respect to the premises. The first is to convert the upper floor into four two bedroom residential apartments. The second is for a change of use from a shop (use Class A 1) to a cafe
    (mixed A1/A3) for occvpation by a branch of Calle Nero. In the Planning Statement Savills referred back to similar change of use applications which had been granted in Olney over the last 12 years. They also listed a number of natJonal appeal decisions which had established the justification for change to mixed A 1 /A3, which some councillors found somewhat intimidating. MKC ward councillor Peter Geary reminded the members that objections could only be made on planning grounds rather than the impact it would have on local businesses. However, the council might decide that there are already enough similar businesses nearby and any more would change the character of the town, in which case an objection might be justified. Multi-national companies like Savills and Caffe Nero have huge financial resources to appeal against any rejections he said, pointing out Tesco had successfully taken over two shops in the town. Mayor Steve Clark felt that Caffe Nero could not be regarded as a quality outlet and would not increase footfall in the town. He said it was regrettable that Derby House had closed the branch, since he knew of customers who travelled over 100 miles to shop there. Jeremy Rawlings thought it most unlikely that anyone would travel 100 mile to visit Caffe Nero, although he pointed out that if the application was rejected the building could be empty for many years. Peter Geary suggested that the council should support the application for the flats since it would reduce the size of the shop and make it more marketable. He also reminded councillors that if Gaffe Nero were so minded they could buy up one of the existing coffee shops in the town and would not need to apply for a change of use. Colin Rodden was concerned that the plans did not allow for sufficient car parking for the cafe and flats. Debbie Brock said that it was important that the Integrity of the front and rear of the building Is maintained so the proposed UPVC windows were not appropriate. Alan Richardson noted that the plans Included retlling of the entrance but pointed out the existing tiling is of historical importance.

    Electoral Review of MIiton Keynes

    Mercury is grateful to MKC ward councillor Peter Geary for providing the background to this issue. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has undertaken discussions with MKC and consulted publicly on council size and has decided that the number of councillor should be increased to 57, from the current 51. Each councillor will cover 3,300 residents as opposed to 3,000 at present. What now has to be decided is the way the wards in Milton Keynes are constructed. The starting point is 19 wards, each represented by three councillors. In most of urban MK this is fine but in the rural areas this leaves very large geographical areas with many individual communities requiring individual attention from their councillors in attending parish council meetings etc. For example a merged Sherington and Olney ward would comprise around 18 parishes. With this in mind the two councillors. The boundary commission says that if a parish is split then it must be warded. Two years ago OTC campaigned against proposals by MKC to impose warding but these proposals mean that parish would be warded by stealth. Both the Sherington Ward and the Olney Ward currently have the correct representation for the new ratio of 3,300 electors per councillor so little change would be necessary and maintaining the status quo may well mean that better representation could be given to the areas. If, however, the areas are to be merged it would be better to have one three-councillor ward as opposed to single councillor wards which would see Olney Town Council warded. Peter said that in his opinion the two-councillor ward has worked successfully for many years, with the two councillors dividing up responsibility between them. Jeremy Rawlings questioned if this would work across the political spectrum, but Debbie Brock said that she and Steve Clark had managed ok. Steve Clark said that Olney Councillors have always expressed a desire to represent all of the people of the town.

    102 Weston Road

    The Town Council have received notification from the Housing Revenue Account Strategic Landlord Asset Management Group within MKC that the ground floor flat forming part of the property is to be removed from their housing stock and disposed of. It appears that when the previous occupant left it was no longer fit for habitation and has been empty for the last two years. MKC cannot justify the 'extensive financial investment to bring it up to a suitable standard for future beneficial occupation·. Peter Geary explained that the property has many issues and would cost an enormous amount to repair so the money would be better spent on building another, more easily maintainable property somewhere in Milton Keynes. One of the by• products of the disposal might be a partial solution to the parking problems in Oakdown Crescent since the property has a large front garden, some of which could be retained and used for parking. This would need consultation with the residents, he said.

    Odds and Sods

    A kebab van has applied to MKC for permission to operate from the old cattle market car park, owned by MKC. The councillors agreed not to support the application on the grounds of there being another establishment nearby catering for the need. Steve Clark said the applicant seemed to be under the impression that MKC had already granted permission and suggested that OTC apply to take over ownership of the car park as a Community Asset Transfer so that they could fully control it.

    Steve Clark reported that he had attended the Olney 2012 event to mark the start or the London Olympics and it had been a great success.

    Rosemary Osbourne reported that the boardwalk over the flood plane in Wagstaff Way should have started but had been delayed by the bad weather! It was now expected to be completed by 20th August.


    Next Meeting - Monday 3rd September

    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. Official minutes of all meetings and much more information can be accessed via OTC's revamped website at
    www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk

  • August 2012

    Olney Council report for August.... 2011

    Public participation

    No members of the public present (Mercury plus one!) wished to speak at this month's meeting.

    Co-option of members

    A vacancy had arisen following the recent resignation of Nigel Birrell and there being no request for an election from the requisite number of the electorate, it fell to the council members present to fill the vacancy by co-option. The two candidates were invited to give a short address to the council to summarise their CVs.
    First to speak was David Rumens, who was standing again following his failure to be co­opted to fill one of two vacancies at last month's meeting. David was first elected to OTC in 2008 and served for two years before having to resign due to ill health. Now that his health issues had been resolved David said he would welcome the opportunity of serving the town again as a member of the council. His experience in local government dates back to 1979 when he was elected to South Beds District Council and he has held many positions since. During his last stint on OTC he represented the council at many meetings with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) as he has a keen interest in resolving the enduring problem of high traffic volumes through Olney. He was also instrumental in the battle to keep Olney as a single ward, against the wishes of MKC who wanted to split it into three. He is currently a member of the Neighbourhood Action Group and is proud of his reputation as a 'campaigning councillor', he said.
    The second candidate to speak was Tony Summerscales, a civil engineer in the water industry. Although he admitted he had no experience in local govennment he said that he had a young son and wanted him to grow up in a safe community and he was putting himself forward so that he could get involved in maintaining the town and its community for the enjoyment of the next generation.
    A secret ballot then took place with Tony Summerscales receiving the most votes and he was duly elected. Steve Clark thanked David Rumens for his interest. David left the meeting at this point.

    Flood Risk Management

    Bruce Stewart, Senior Planning Officer - Strategic Flood Risk Management for Milton
    Keynes Council was present to explain his role, which he has been in since March 2011, and the implications of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 which is gradually being implemented nationally. The current framework was largely established in the 1930s and 40s, he said and, although some updating had taken place, it did not comply with EU legislation and guidance. The new act meant that MKC as the Local Authority were obliged to take over certain flood responsibilities from the Environment Agency (EA) and Dept. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). MKC has set up a parent Cabinet-led management group and three officer lead working subgroups comprising Strategic Flood Planning, Flood Prevention and Flooding Emergency Response. The principle shortcomings identified thus far are a lack of in-house water, drainage and flood expertise and a shortage of available funding to address problems in those areas. It isMKC's intention to form closer relationships with Parish and Town Councils who may be able to assist in providing information on local water and flood risk management issues, said Bruce. Mayor Steve Clark said that councils were frustrated that developers were allowed to put in planning applications for floodplains and Bruce replied that any applications with flood implications would now be submitted to him.

    Localism Bill

    The Localism was introduced to Parliament in December 2010 and seeks to shift much of the decision making of central government to local authorities. Part of the bill deals with the right of communities to submit an 'expression of interest' to the local authority to provide or assist in providing a relevant service on behalf of that authority and that could lead to a transfer of assets from the authority. Steve Clark said that OTC already manages many of its own assets but the bill would widen the scope when it became law. MKC might come under pressure to dispose of some of its local assets such as car parks, the Olney Centre and Emberton Park, he said. In the event of the latter it was unlikely that Emberton Parish Council would be able to afford to manage the park but OTC could consider a joint venture, he suggested. MKC will be running a series of workshops during August and OTC will send representatives with a view to forming a sub-committee. This will doubtless be the subject of discussion at future meeting since in Steve's view it is a massive subject at which OTC should "nibble gently".

    Recreation ground sewage pipe (continued)

    As reported last month the sewage pipe connecting the four sports club houses to the main in East Street has collapsed, which is why there is regularly an overflow when functions take place at the clubs, necessitating rodding by the council staff. Alan Richardson said that since the last council meeting he had had two meetings with Anglian Water and they had confirmed that from October 1 st 2011 the section of pipe which had collapsed would become the responsibility of Anglian Water under the new proposal to adopt private sewers and lateral drains. Although any work that Anglian Water deemed necessary would be done free of charge the replacement would not happen immediately, he said. The first time a blockage was reported Anglian Water would attend and rod the drain to unblock it. If it then became a regular occurrence then the gang would report it with a recommendation to consider replacement work. Eventually it would get replaced, he said. Deidre Bethune asked if the council would now reconsider the refurbishment of the Market Place toilets now that this particular problem would be resolved at nil cost to the council.

    Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF)

    Deidre Bethune reported that this hugely popular event would take place for the third year running on Saturday September 12th. Last year's event had made a slight loss, she said, and since then the membership of the Chamber of Trade had reduced. In view of these facts she asked if the council would consider underwriting the event in case of financial loss, as they do for the Firework Night run by TOG (The Olney Group). A figure of £1200 was suggested. Ron Bull said that the Fireworks organisers had only found ii necessary to call on the underwriting once in the 20 year history and he was concerned that BOFF might regularly make a loss. Deidre said that BOFF does not have the funds to absorb the loss themselves. Tony Evans said that he had been a member of the BOFF organising committee for its first two years but felt that there was a big difference between BOFF and the Firework Night, which was organised for the Town. BOFF is a commercial event and stall holders make a profit. Although he agreed that it is a fantastic event he said he felt uncomfortable with the request for underwriting. Should the organisers not be looking to the stallholders themselves to make up any loss, he wondered. Mike Hughes said he felt OTC's role should be to encourage trade and visitors to the town and BOFF should be encouraged so he would not want to be part of any refusal. Eventually the requested for underwriting was agreed by a majority vote.

    Stoke Goldington wind turbines application

    As reported last month, an application has been received to build 15 wind turbines at Stoke Lodge Farm, Stoke Goldington. Deidre Bethune said in her opinion MKC was in no position to consider this application at present because it does not have a current or adequate policy. Last month Jeremy Rawlings reported that the existing policy had not been updated for some time and MKC had been asked to update it to bring in line with national guidelines. In particular, there was no reference to consideration being given to the proximity of existing installations. There then followed a general discussion about the merits of wind power, in general. Colin Rodden said that he believed sustainable energy is required but wondered if data was available to support it. Deidre said the operating companies refused to publish data about the output of such installations, claiming that it was 'commercially sensitive', so it was impossible to know if they were efficient or not. Jeremy Rawlings said that when there is too much power in the grid it is easier to switch off wind turbines than coal fired power stations so the operators are paid to keep them stationary. Tony Evans said that the incentives to farmers to allow wind farms to be sited on their land were enormous so OTC needed to act quickly if they wanted to stop every farmer around having them. Alan Richardson said that if past experience was anything to go by, once an application was submitted there was nothing that OTC or anyone else could do to stop it. Steve Clark disagreed, saying that the Wind Farm at Petsoe End had been the first application submitted to MKC and that had only been passed by a narrow margin, so it was not a foregone conclusion. Although no formal vote was taken, an informal vote showed that the members were overwhelmingly against the proposal. Full details of the planning application, ref 11/01193/FULEIS can be found at http://publicaccess.milton-keynes.gov.uk/

    Odds and sods

    The newly acquired field next to the Charity Field has been sprayed and ploughed and needs to be seeded as soon as possible after the end of August. A number of quotes for seeding have been received and the council agreed to a local quote of £1800. At the moment it is just known as 'the new field', so if anyone has a suggestion for a better name please contact the Town Clerk, or send your suggestion to The Phonebox.
    Mike Hughes said that a resident had reported human excrement at the top of the children's slide on Johnson's Field the previous Friday. He had personally attended with cleaning equipment and removed it, but the incident had been repeated the next day.
    Rosemary Osbourne asked Debbie Brock what was happening about the provision of double yellow lines at the entrance to Chantry Rise, as turning right on to Weston Road was extremely dangerous. Debbie replied that the consultation had recently taken place as part of the process, which was ongoing.
    Jeremy Rawlings reported that after 24 years of loyal service Cheryl Wilson's position at the Youth Club had been 'outsourced' by MKC. The promised administrator was yet to appear though.
    Steve Clark reported that as of that day Ousedale School had become an academy. Mercury assumes that The Phonebox's invitation to the celebrations got lost in the post.
    Tony Evan said that the grass banks on Driftway were a mess and asked that they be strimmed. In fact, all local landscaped areas that are the responsibility of MKC are in a similar state, he said.
    Steve Clark said that the inaugural concert by the Olney Community Choir at the Parish Church had been incredibly well attended. Also, the inaugural concert of Olney Brass at the Carlton House Club had been a great success, with a specially commissioned piece of music 'The One and Olney' being played for the first time. In recognition of their support OTC had been presented with a framed copy of the music, which would be hung in the Olney Centre.


    Next Meeting - Monday 5th September

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

  • September 2012

    Olney Council report for September 2012

    Public Participation

    Simon Barker
    First up was Simon Barker of Olney Baptist Church, speaking on behalf of all the Churches of Olney. He thanked Olney Town Council (OTC) for its support for the recent Olympics event In the town - the Council had agreed to underwrite the £2,700 cost of the marquee and toilets. He stated that the event had been by the people and for the people of the town, and also thanked the Sports Clubs, The Olney Group, Best Seat In The House, Mike Hughes and others for their contributions towards the day. The event had enjoyed good weather and was well attended, with perhaps 2·3,000 attending through the day. Although its accounts are still provisional, the organisers expect to be able to pay around £1,200 back to OTC, meaning the Council will effectively pay only around £1,500 of the underwriting costs.

    Leonard Lean

    Next to speak was Leonard Lean, complete with his own stopwatch to lime the three minutes for which participants in this slot are allowed to speak. As interim coordinator of the Bedford-Olney-Northampton Rail Link Forum, he spoke about its alm to get the track bed of this long closed route restored to full commercial use for both passengers and freight The Forum has been performing a survey of the track bed and believes restoration would be possible. The passenger service would essentially contribute towards a link between Birmingham, Coventry, Luton and Gatwick airports and he envisaged two trains per hour for daytime services.

    Sue Warren
    Last up was Sue Warren, on the familiar topic or parking in Oakdown Crescent. A few weeks before, she'd been advised by Richard Duffill, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Traffic and Parking Team Leader, that he'd appointed a person to carry out a feasibility study on two sites which had the potential to help with the parking issue: 102 Weston Road and the unused garages at the bottom of the Crescent. She felt this represented progress, a feeling reinforced by her receiving an email saying that a parking scheme had been agreed, but then couldn't understand why an auction sign had been erected on the Weston Road site. She concluded by thanking Deirdre Bethune for her previous comments on the Issue,

    As background, note that last month's Mercury reported that 102 Weston Road was due to be sold, and that one of the by-products of the sale might be a partial solution to the parking problems in Oakdown Crescent since the property has a large front garden, some of which could be retained and used for parking.

    Debbie Brock

    Debbie Brock responded briefly to Sue, noting that there was a draft plan containing several options but that it had not yet been approved. She explained that all aspects of any scheme had to be considered - Oakdown Crescent did not exist in isolation - and that, while matters were progressing, a scheme had not yet been confirmed. She also noted that, should Jack's land be sold, the Council would retain part of its garden.

    High Street Bench

    Following on from a topic aired in last month's Public Participation, the Recreations and Services Committee has recommended that a two-seat bench be placed on the pavement outside the United Reform Church, mainly for the benefit ol the elderly. Councillors discussed this, and decided by a majority that the bench would be installed on a trial basis, with reviews after six and 12 months, to which Its two main opponents - the United Reform Church and the Carlton House Club - would be invited to contribute their views.

    East Street Car Park

    As reported before, OTC has applied for funding to improve the East Street car park. The applications for both phases of this 50% match funding - £32,500 and £25,000 - have been successful.
    There was some discussion over whether the dimensions of the proposed additional parking area were adequate, and a small group of Councillors look an action to confirm this. OTC will arrange and advertise a public meeting, likely in October, to explain the proposals.

    Rights of Way

    Back In 2004, OTC submitted an application to MKC to add a lootpath around the Northern and Eastern edges of Doff's Field, plus one from around the centre of its Northern edge running ,diagonally to Its South Eastern corner. Much later, OTC advised MKC that it wished to remove the diagonal path from the application.
    The whole matter seems to have progressed slowly, with OTC having just rnceived an email indicating that MKC would shortly be considering the application, and asking OTC to confirm whether it did Indeed wish to remove the diagonal path. After a brief discussion, Councillors agreed that this path should be removed, leaving just that round the two edges.

    Bits 'n' bobs

    As discussed in June's meeting, funds arising from the Petsoe End Wind Farm would soon become available. Olney now has £7,000 which will be used to install low energy lighting in the Olney Centre and the Market Place toilets.
    Tony Evans reported that, having had to postpone their residents' Jubilee Lunch in June, the Ann Hopkins Smith trustees held the lunch late in August and it was a great success.
    Jeremy Rawlings reported that the new Youth Leader is Terry Isles, filling the post vacated by Darren Smith.
    Ron Bull raised the issue that parking in Spring Lane was sometimes preventing buses from travelling along it as, in one section, pari

    Next Meeting - Monday 1st October

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

  • October 2012

    Olney Council report for October 2012

    Prior to the Meeting

    Also in attendance for most of this month's meeting was Richard Duffill, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Traffic and Parking Team Leader.

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    First to speak was Sue Warren, on the regular topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Sue said she was pleased that Richard Duffill was present but disappointed that over a year had passed since she flrst made the council aware of the situation and it was still not resolved. She said the wheels of local government obviously turned very slowly but this was of no consolation to the elderly residents who wanted a nice place in which to live, not a car park. She also thanked Deidre Bethune for her efforts in seeking a resolution.

    Kim Cupper
    Olney resident Kim Cupper said that he rented two of the garages at the bottom of the crescent and frequently had problems gaining access to them, the problem having worsened in the last few weeks. He pointed out that he pays over £100 per month for the privilege of parking, whereas everyone else parks for free.

    Phil Gilbert

    Next to speak was Phil Gilbert of Beans Cale, responding to recent complaints about tables and chairs encroaching on the footway and blocking mobility scooters. The chairs are 0.6m wide and the pavement is 2.5m wide at that point so there should be plenty of room to pass, he said. However, he recognised that customers sometimes moved the furniture and apologised for the Inconvenience this causes. He also spoke on the issue of the application by Real Estate Advisors Savills, on behalf or Caffe Nero, to open a branch in the building previously occupied by Derby House Saddlery. He said he runs six businesses around the country and loved Olney because it is full of smaller, bespoke shops. He felt that people travel from elsewhere in Milton Keynes because Olney is so different. He contrasted Olney with Stamford which is a town of similar size that has allowed the 'mulltiples' to move in.
    Mayor Steve Clark responded saying that the application for conversion or the top floor into flats had been passed and Peter Geary noted that the request for the change of use for the ground floor was still on-going but he remained hopeful of a satisfactory outcome.

    Update from Richard Dufflll on highways Issues

    Richard started by apologising to Sue Warren for appearing to be so elusive but explained that his was a small but highly stretched team. He said he had been made aware of the Oakdown Crescent situation a year ago and ward councillors Debbie Brock and Peter Geary had been constantly on his back for a resolution! He had also consulted colleagues in the Housing Department, as the problem stemmed from a lack or parking spaces on Weston Road. He was looking at how the land retained from the sale by MKC of 102 Weston Road might be used, as well as a number of other possibihlles. One option would be to make a few additional spaces available in Oakdown Crescent, itself, and he is considering three different schemes to generate up to eight additional spaces although there is a BT pole which would need moving. Most of the land is not adopted and the garages are In private ownership, he explained.
    However, none would work without some form of restrictions, i.e. residents' parking permits. since most of the cars currently parked there belong to residents of Weston Road. With regard to the possibility of using the retained land from 102 Weston Road, he said there were issues with the level or the land but none of them are insurmountable. He thought that marked bays could provide parking for eight vehicles but if unmarked could possibly result In a couple more, due to the often discussed 'imaginative parking' techniques adopted elsewhere in the town.
    The next steps would be lor all of the schemes to start the consultation process, the result of which could see the approved option being completed this rlnancial year. The use of 102 Weston Road might take a little longer, though, depending on opposition from nearby residents. Jeremy Rawlings didn't think just creating a car park would solve the problem which prompted Richard to ask what problem he was being asked to address, as his understanding was that issue is around access for emergency vehicles and parking for residents. John Sharpe asked ii the proceeds from the sale of 102 Weston Road could be used to fund the scheme but Peter Geary said this was not possible as it had to be used for housing.
    Debbie Brock asked Richard for an update on the remodelling of the junction of Weston Road with High Street South (Halleluiah lamppost). Richard said that the original proposals were being revised to include improvements to the Co-op entrance and to make rt more pedestrian friendly. The revised plans will go to full consultatlon before the end of the year with work starling in the next financial year. Likewise, the original Yardley Road plans are being reVlsed to include well laid out parking spaces and Richard said he would return with the plans within the next two months, prior to consultation.

    Crossing point at Bridge Street/High Street South

    An email had been received rrom a member of the public pointing out the difficulties of crossing the street with a buggy to get to Emberton Park. Crossing Weston Road by the Co-op means having to negotiate traffic coming from three directions, she said, and the Island near Church Street is not large enough for pedestrians plus buggy so is not sale. An elderly relative had been killed on this stretch of road, she said, and did not want ii to happening again. Richard Dufflll said that the revised scheme would look to address this issue.

    East Street parking proposals

    Richard Duffill stayed on for this item, saying that anything that lakes place on East Street has an impact on his department. As reported before, OTC has applied for funding to improve the East Street car park. The applications for both phases of this 50% match funding-1:32,500 and 1:25,000 -have been succ,essful. One scheme is to reconfigure the layout of the existing car park at the front of the Rugby Club to create add11lonal spaces. There are currently 121 marked spaces which would increase 132 or 129 plus 2 disabled spaces, depending on the scheme adopted. Ron Bull quest10ned the need for any changes saying that an additional 46 cars had managed to park for a recent sporting event {presumably using the lore mentioned 'imaginative parking' techniques!). Tony Evans said that was precisely why changes were needed, since that had resulted in a number of correctly parked cars being blocked in.
    The second and more controversial plan is to provide 36 spaces on a new parking area on East Street behind the goal posts of the lootball pitch. There then followed a discussion on whether this was the best location for the new area. It was suggested that perhaps the current grassed area to the north of the Football Club might be better. {Mercury was seen to reooil In horror at this suggesllon, since this is the site for 'Booze on the Ouse', highlight of Olney's social and musical calendar).
    Fortunately, Tony Evans said that this would not be appropriate since this area ,s used for training and would also present problems for access. Mercury wondered if the perfectly flat grassed area behind the nearby hedge might prove a better location but since at least one member or the Bowls Club was present, decided to keep his own counsel.
    Tony Evans was keen to emphasise that both schemes were not just for the benefit of the sports clubs but would alleviate some of the parking problems in the town. Jeremy Rawlings disagreed, saying that the sports clubs would be the main benefactors. The proor of this is that the East Street car park is empty for most of the week. Tony replied saying that the council need to educate the public that the car park Is there and available. People do not like to park 'round the back' and walk to the shops but at least having the additional spaces directly on East Street would make them more visible.

    Odds 'n' sods

    Rosemary Osbourne reported back from the NAG (Neighbourhood Action Group) on the Dog Control Order proposals which had prompted some correspondence to The Phonebox, emphasising that the intention was not to stop people walking dogs but to do It more responsibly.

    MKC have suggested that OTC might like to take over the running of the Youth Club as part of the Community Asset Transfer Scheme.

    John Sharpe noted that a number of pathways are becoming overgrown by hedges, particularly by Emberton Park. Peter Geary replied that most of the overgrowing hedges are not owned by MKC and cutting them could set an expectation that MKC would continue to do so, although he admitted that the one by the park is under their ownership.

    Deidre Bethune said that comments had been made to her about the purple colour scheme adopted by the shop that has replaced 'Aubergine'.

    Mercury - what do you think? Just because the High Street is a conservation area should MKC planners be able to dictate the colours that owners can paint their properties, or does a splash of colour make it more interesting?
    Your thoughts are welcome through The Phonebox.

  • November 2012

    Olney Council report for November 2012

    Public Participation

    Mark Luckin
    First to speak was Mark Luckin of The Olney Group (TOG). He explained that Fireworks Night was due to be held on Sunday 4th November but, due to heavy rain and the resulting very poor ground conditions, TOG had decided to postpone it until Saturday 10th November - felt to be the best date available while avoiding Remembrance Day. Mark ended with a call for more helpers on the night, as the postponement meant it was proving hard to get marshals and gate people at such short notice.

    Elaine Herniman
    Second up was Elaine Herniman from the Olney Allotment Holders Association. She was disappointed that the Council's Recreations and Services Committee had recommended, without consultation, that on­site bonfires be banned. She explained that Royal Horticultural Society guidelines recommended that burning was the best way to dispose of plants affected by blight, club root, etc. Elaine concluded by saying that this had the potential to undermine the relationship between the allotment holders and the Council.

    Steve Clark
    Steve Clark spoke briefly at this point to say that, while the issue had indeed been discussed by the Recreations and Services Committee, its decision was to consult first with allotment holders. It hadn't done so yet and so had not recommended anything to full Council.

    East Street parking proposals

    Tony Evans reported that, as a result of the recent Public Meeting, the Recreations and Services Committee was recommending to full Council that the planned alterations to the existing East Street Car Park should go ahead. Although the total was not yet costed, 50% of it would be paid for by Milton Keynes Council (MKC).
    However, Tony explained that the Public Meeting found the additional car park area at the top of the Nursery Field adjacent to East Street to be much more controversial, with around half the those attending being in favour and half against. In any case, it would likely need planning permission, so the Committee recommended that Olney Town Council (OTC) seek pre-planning advice from MKC, at a cost of around £200.
    Councillors all voted in favour the alterations to the existing East Street Car Park bar one against - Ron Bull, who noted that the resulting number of spaces, while greater than that currently marked, was less than that currently achieved in practice. Councillors also voted in favour of seeking pre-planning advice about the additional parking area.

    Allotment bonfires

    Tony Evans introduced this topic, saying that the Recreations and Services Committee would consult with the allotment holders, as was said in its last meeting. There followed a somewhat arcane discussion on how this information had been passed to the allotment holders. The main point is that they will be consulted.

    Hedge laylng

    OTC had received a quote for £2,300 to hedge the boundary between the Allotments Field and the newly purchased Crouch's Field. Tony Evans noted that the right time of year to do the job would be between now and the end of February.

    Rights of way

    As reported in an earlier Mercury, back in January 2004 OTC submitted an application to MKC to add a footpath around the Northern and Eastern edges of Doff's Field, plus one from around the centre of its Northern edge running diagonally to its South Eastern corner. Later, OTC advised MKC that it wished to remove the diagonal path from the application.
    Continuing apace, it has now been resolved that there is no evidence that the diagonal path across Doff's Field should become a public right of way. The decision on the status of the path around the Northern and Eastern edges of Doffs Field and continuing South along the riverbank to the bridge to Clifton Reynes has been deferred until January 2013, to allow any further evidence to be collected.

    Youth Centre

    Steve Clark explained that MKC owns the Olney Youth Centre building, and provides a yearly grant towards its running costs. Councillors discussed whether OTC should express an interest in obtaining the building and, it was assumed, the land behind it under the Community Asset Transfer scheme. Peter Geary stated that this could move quite quickly, perhaps being concluded in around six months. A small group of Councillors will be set up to progress this issue.

    Traffic Issues

    Debbie Brock introduced this item. She'd corresponded with a local resident about traffic issues in the West Street area and noted that, if the Council was minded, it could redirect MKC officers to consider the traffic issues there. At the same time, she acknowledged that it was far from being the only awkward traffic area in the town. This started a wide ranging discussion and, summarising, there were two outcomes. First, the Council would re-assess the Yardley road junction plans, due from MKC shortly. Second, it would consider producing a Neighbourhood Plan, as this would give local people more say over the town's development.

    Berrells Court

    The extremely poor condition of Berrells Court, off East Street, is causing concern. Councillors passed around pictures of the road and it was clear that things were far from satisfactory, with huge areas of standing water covering much of the surface.
    Dedire Bethune felt passionately that it was dangerous and a "disgusting tip". She felt the situation had to be sorted out, in spite of difficulties about who owned the land. Other Councillors backed up Deidre in her view. She noted that uncertainty over who owned the land was a problem, and that there was some dependency on a Planning Permission granted nine months ago, and which remained valid for another two years and three months.
    Peter Geary noted that a condition of this Permission was that the road surface should be brought up to standard, with tarmac and drainage, before construction could start. Liam Costello believed that this condition was effectively stopping the development -presumably due to the expense of improving the road. John Boardman concluded the discussion by suggesting that OTC initiate a meeting of all the interested parties. Councillors agreed with this.

    Market Place toilets

    Liam Costello
    Liam Costello reported that work on the toilets was progressing well, and that delivery of the stainless steel furniture was awaited. Tony said it appeared that the hot and cold water sink for the Market traders had been removed from the store room and, as the specification didn't say it should be removed, it needed to be returned.

    Traka

    Steve Clark had been invited to Traka, www.traka.com, a local business, in celebration of it being awarded its third Queen's Award for Enterprise. He'd most enjoyed the day, feeling the tour was "stunning". As background, he explained that the company had been founded in 1995 with four people, and had now grown to around 100.

    Odds and sods

    Next Meeting - Monday 3rd December

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

  • December 2012

    Olney Council report for December 2012

    Public Participation

    Peter Gage
    First to speak was Peter Gage on the subject of dog fouling. Peter said he attended a recent Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) meeting in order to dispel some of the myths around the issue. The NAG was claiming that a recent survey had shown this to be the biggest concern in the minds of the people of Olney, but this was ʻnonsenseʼ, he said. The survey had only interviewed 80 people, which is around 1.6% of the population. An inspection of the recreation ground by enforcement officers from Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had concluded that it was as clean as anywhere in Milton Keynes. Peter said that he regularly refereed football matches for Olney Town Colts and had personally only experienced one occurrence of dog fouling on the pitch, but he did concede that it was more of a problem on the main pitch in front of the Football Club. He did not think that a Dog Control Order (DCO) forcing owners to keep their dogs on a lead would make any difference. This subject was a later item on the meeting agenda.

    Carol Barrett
    Next to speak was Berrells Court resident Carol Barrett on the subject of the poor state of the road surface in that area, following the discussion at last monthʼs meeting. She said she had raised the issue a year ago but nothing had happened, apart from the fact that it had actually got worse and one resident had had a fall due to the problem. She reminded the council that planning permission for building had been granted, subject to renovation of the surface, but that could be a long time coming, she felt.

    Berrells Court

    Although this did not appear to be a formal agenda item this month, it was discussed at last monthʼs meeting so the discussion continued under Matters Arising. Deidre Bethune said the situation was a ʻcrying shameʼ and she fully supported Carol Barrettʼs efforts. John Sharp said that the Land Registry show that Berrells Court has not been adopted as part of the public highway. He had spoken to a number of property owners, some of whom had indicated a willingness to pay for the repairs but, equally, there were those who would not. No formal estimate appears to exist to indicate how much the remedial work would cost but MKC Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that in his opinion one should be obtained in order to ʻmop upʼ any unclaimed grants from MKC. If a simple covering of tarmac was laid it would probably need doing again in two to three years, he said, and thought the best option would be to lay proper drainage and seek adoption by MKC. Deidre Bethune pointed out that the required standards for adoption are very high but agreed that it should be the preferred option. Carol Barrett spoke again, saying that adoption and repair would mainly benefit the developer who would be building and then selling the proposed new property and she, personally, would be happy for remedial work short of adoption.

    Dog fouling on recreation ground

    Following the recent inspection and report by MKC about the issue, Tony Evans said it was news to him that there is NOT a problem! He thought that getting the MKC enforcement officers involved would identify persistent offenders, with possible prosecutions. Jeremy Rawlings wondered that if the ʻprofessionalsʼ said there was no problem and Peter Gage was of the same opinion then perhaps it was not an issue. Deidre Bethune disagreed, saying that even if responsible dog owners picked up their dogsʼ mess it often got ʻsmeared aroundʼ leaving some behind. Jeremy wondered if dog faeces is actually more dangerous than that of the wild animals that would naturally use the field. Mayor Steve Clark said that the problem is Toxocara Canis and Toxocara Cati that is present in dog and cat faeces, respectively. John Sharp suggested that the solution might be to ban dogs altogether from marked out pitches and fines could be imposed for offenders. Peter Geary observed that the enforcement officers cannot be there all of the time and it was no surprise that owners cleared up while they were there observing. He suggested that there could be three distinct areas:

    • Dogs not allowed
    • Where dogs are allowed on a lead
    • Where dogs are allowed to run free

    Peter Gage interjected, saying that a DCO was not appropriate, considering that most pitches were only used for two to three hours a week during three or four months of the year. Tony Evans pointed out that the recreation ground is used for other events, such as the highly successful Olympic Opening celebration, when two to three thousand people had sat down on the grass. He described dog fouling as an ʻevil thingʼ. Peter Geary said there would be no point in imposing a DCO if it was not enforced. Deidre Bethune said that unless something is illegal the police would not be interested in enforcing it and Jeremy Rawlings was of the opinion that dog fouling is not actually illegal unless it is on the public highway. John Sharp suggested using the Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) but Peter Geary said that would only be possible if Thames Valley Police agree and the Chief Constableʼs view would no doubt be that PCSOs should concentrate on crime prevention. He recommended that the council press ahead with seeking a DCO otherwise the issue would continue to go ʻround and roundʼ with no resolution. Steve Clark closed the subject by saying that Rob Ward from MKC Environmental Services would be invited to the next meeting of the Recs and Services Committee.

    Market Place parking

    This issue is frequently discussed at meetings of OTC. The council have always resisted the idea of formally marked out parking spaces because it would reduce the theoretical number of spaces that are available due to ʻimaginativeʼ parking. However, this relies on the first cars that park each day doing so in a manner that allows two rows down the middle. If this does not happen then the number of spaces is considerably reduced for the rest of that day. John Sharp said that the council had previously suggested the marking of a single white line down the centre of the car park to show where cars should park nose to tail. Ron Bull suggested that this should be done on a temporary basis to see if it is adhered to. It was agreed that a small group of councillors will investigate this option.

    Farmersʼ Market hot food

    As reported previously, the council have agreed to overturn the ban on hot takeaway food being sold at the market and as a result have had a request from a start-up Olney company wishing to sell Paella. Tony Evans suggested that before giving them the go-ahead on a permanent basis they should be invited to have a ʻguest spotʼ so that they can be audited to ensure that they use locally sourced ingredients, where possible. Mercury understands that they use poultry from a local farm, so presumably this wonʼt be an issue.

    Model T Ford Rally

    A letter had been received from the organisers of this event on Friday June 7th 2013, requesting reserved parking spaces for about 45 cars. Councillors agreed that the obvious place for this would be the Market Place but recognised that closing the Market Place for any length of time could impact trade. The upside could be that it might attract visitors and the exhibitors would possibly eat in the town. John Boardman said that it would only attract visitors if the event was sufficiently well advertised and hoped that the organisers would do so. It was suggested that the market would be closed until 3.00pm and Deidre Bethune would consult the Chamber of Trade.

    Booze on the Ouse

    A letter had been received from Olney Town Colts informing the council that this popular event would be taking place on Saturday June 29th 2013. This was noted and agreed, but also pointed out that this should have come in as a request because it is held on OTC land. Tony Evans said that he really did not like the title of the event as it sends out completely the wrong message.

    Odds and sods

    Steve Clark reported that the refurbished toilets on the Market Place were now open, but did not say if he had performed an official opening ceremony.
    Andrew Dooley has resigned from the council due to work commitments, so a vacancy now exists. The period during which residents can demand a by-election was due to expire at midnight on the day of the meeting so it is assumed that the vacancy will be filled by co-option. Any resident wishing to stand should get in touch with the Town Clerk at the Olney Centre.
    Rosemary Osbourne asked when the issue of extending the yellow lines at the entrance to Chantry Rise would be resolved and Peter Geary said that the process of consultation is on-going, but he had received a letter asking that the existing lines are NOT extended.
    John Sharp noted that the overhanging hedges by Emberton Park had still not been cut back by MKC and Peter Geary replied that it was on the list of work to be done but the recent bad weather had caused a back-log.


    Next Meeting - Monday 7th January

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


Mercury's reports for 2011

  • January 2011

    Olney Council report for January 2011

    Public participation

    Tim Regan
    Coneygere resident Tim Regan spoke at the start of this month's meeting. Tim explained that he was there to present a 'human face' on an issue which has been the subject of some discussion at council meetings over the last few months. This matter was an item later on the agenda but for information, Tim has a large tree growing outside his house, number 6, which is threatening lo undermine the foundations and he wants to have It removed. Olney Town Council's (OTC) position has been that this is a matter between him and the builder, since the tree was there when the house was built and the builder should have provide the house with suitable footings.
    Tim was at pains to point out that he is not 'anti-tree' and if it were possible to put the offending tree on wheels and move it elsewhere he would be delighted, but the fact is that it is knocking down his house. Due to the age of the house (some 20 years, believes Mercury) Tim said he did not think it practical to go back to the builders and, although he would be sad to see it go, removal is the only option.

    Drlftway

    It is possible that an end to the long running saga of the Drittway landscaping may be in sight. Attending the meeting was John Price Millon Keynes Council (MKC) Neighbourhood Manager for Environmental Services for Rural Areas and his assistant, Rob Ward. John said that there were a number of options available to resolve the problem:
    1. Do nothing and continue with efforts to establish wild flowers on the existing banks. Cost to be met by developer.
    2. Keep the exlstlng profile, remove the wild flowers, and establish topsoil and amenity grass. Cost approx £10,000 to be met by MKC.
    3. Reshape the Mound and establish amenity grass. Full cost in region of £120,000 to be met by MKC.

    John explained that the original problem with option 2 had been that the banks were too steep to be maintained by traditional mowing equipment, but as a result of an accident elsewhere MKC had been obliged to purchase equipment which could mow the banks. He said some preliminary investigations had been done into option 3 and presented the plans to the council. The reshaping would have the effect of reducing the overall height of the bank by 1.5m and the soil removed would be used to fill the existing gap. The downside was that some residents would now have a view across to the industrial estate opposite, which the mound currently blocks. Dave Price was concerned that OTC should consult the affected residents, but Steve Clark said any reshaping would require planning permission which would necessitate notification to the residents who could then express their opinion. Tony Evans said that the options presented were no different to those offered by MKC six months ago. The situation had now changed in that it would be possible to leave the profile of the banks as they are and sow with grass which could now be mown, although he thought that £10,000 to 'sow grass on a heap of soil was very expensive!'. He thought it a waste of lime to even consider the more expensive plan which had no chance of getllng approved. If a decent sward could be grown on the existing banks without invasion by weeds and thistles then that was the obvious choice, he said. Jeremy Rawlings felt that to spend £120,000 of MKC's ratepayers' money on what was essentially cosmetic work was "obscene" in the present financial climate. At this stage Mayor Mike Hughes reminded the meeting that it was not OTC that had bought the proposals to the table, but MKC. Rob Ward said that the costs quoted were worst case scenarios and agreed tha1 they appeared very expensive but warnted to ensure that all options were put before OTC so that they could make an informed decision. Dave Price once again suggested that local residents should be consulted but Mike Hughes believed that this would not be necessary for the preferred option 2, since there was now no intention to reshape the mound which had been constructed in line with the original planning permission. Steve Clark proposed that the council progress with option 2 and the vote was passed unanimously.

    Planning Items

    Steve Clark reported that a notification had been received from MKC concerning development of land to the rear of 57 and 59 Moores Hill. At this point Tony Evans declared an interest, having relatives living nearby. One of these houses is privately owned and the other is owned by MKC. The property owned by MKC has a covenant preventing further building taking place on the plot, which it will be seeking to relax. The intention then would be to apply for planning permission to build three new houses on the combined plot, with access from Dinglederry, although that would be subject of a separate request for Planning Permission. Steve reminded the council that such infill requests had been rejected in the past and said they would need to decide whether or not to object to this one in principle. Deidre Bethune said that this appeared to go against government policy ol not splitting up gardens for development. She also noted that intention appeared to be to limit the number of houses to three and wondered if that would be fair on other residents in the area who might then wish to sell ol land in a similar lashion. Ron Bull asked if the scheme would help towards MKC's quota of new houses but Deidre said that infill does not count towards the quota Mike Hughes, possibly playing devil's advocate, asked if OTC should not be supporting what appeared to be a workable plan which would raise money for cash-strapped MKC and was likely to go ahead in any case. Tony Evans emphasised the need to consult the nearby residents, since 15-20 houses in total could be seriOusly impacted. He felt that it was important that the matter should be dealt with correcuy by MKC, since they own part of the land, will sell it to a developer and will be responsible for granting planning permission. Mike Hughes reminded the members that the plans before them only related lo the disposal of the land and not any subsequent building and that residents would get the chance to comment when planning permission was requested. He proposed the motion that the council should thank MKC for the consultation and reserve comment for any subsequent planning request, which was passed on a vote.
    The matter of the tree outside number 6 Coneygere was discussed under this agenda item. Tony Evans said it was clear that the tree had been there when the house was built but if the owner asked for permission to remove It and replace with two trees in the cemetery that would be acceptable. Mike Hughes said that OTC would not wish to be seen as intransigent on the matter and suggested that the council should allow the tree to be removed, so long as It was not at a cost to MKC. Della Cheal wondered if the owner's insurance would cover the cost of removing the tree. At this point Standing Orders were suspended and Tim Regan was invited to speak. Tim confirmed that he had building insurance and hoped that ii would cover such costs. Standing Orders were then reintroduced and a vote taken recommending that MKC be requested to remove the offending tree, which was passed unanimously.

    Councillors' email addresses

    Jeremy Rawlings explained that OTC has use of the domain 'olneytowncouncil.gov.uk' which can be used as a suffix for members' personalised email addresses, e.g. JeremyRawlings@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk This provides a standard format which would make it easier for members of the public to contact their councillors, rather than the current collection of individual email addresses, he said. If they did not want a personal email published then members could opt for admin@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, which would go the Town Clerk for onward distribution. The proposal, whilst apparently acceptable to most members generated a surprising amount of anger and hostility from some, who appeared not to like having such a 'label' imposed upon them. John Sharp felt that councillors should be free to decide if they wanted to publish their existing personal email addresses and Deidre Bethune felt they were being treated like naughty school children and being told what to do. In any case, she never gets any emails from members of the public so what does it matter, she said. Eventually it was decided to allow members to publish their existing personal addresses If they really want to.

    Bits 'n' Bobs

    A letter had been received from Mark Luckin of The Olney Group (TOG) who organise the annual Fireworks Night. TOG has donated £500 to OTC in recognition of the fact that OTC underwrites the event every year in case of financial loss. The underwriting has only had to be called upon once in the entire history of this popular event.
    Tony Evans reported that a vacancy had arisen at the Ann Hopkins Smith Almshouses and any elderly female resident of the town wishing to take it up should contact him.
    Steve Clark reported that the Whirly Pit had frozen over in the recent cold spell, resulting in the loss or many, if not all of the fish. The pit is under the ownership of MKC, who had apparently made no effort to prevent it from freezing over or to remove the dead fish, resulting in something of a bad smell. Mike Hughes suggested an agenda item for a future meeting lo propose that OTC take ownership, enabling the council's own workers to maintain it.
    Deidre Bethune said that there had been much confusion about refuse collection over the Christmas period, resulting in refuse bags lying around for over two weeks. The MKC website slated that there would be a collection between Christmas and the New Year but it was not until Christmas Eve that an email had been sent to the Town Clerk confirming that the next scheduled collection would be Tuesday January 4th, which was then too late lo advertise. Jeremy Rawlings reminded the council that only last month they had decided not to progress with training for the Clerk on the use of Social Media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter etc.) which would have been an Ideal method of distributing such news.


    Next Meeting - Monday 7th February

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

  • February 2011

    Olney Council report for February 2011

    A Full but Brief Meeting

    Despite there being a very full agenda for this month's meeting. Deputy Mayor Steve Clark managed to keep the meeting moving at a brisk pace. This was In no small part due to locally produced ale 'Hopping Mad' being on sale at The Swan for £1 a pint on this particular evening!*

    Public Participation

    Although the council chamber was packed with members of the public, none of them were there to speak at the beginning of the meeting. II transpired that most ol them were there for the meeting referred to in the first agenda item and left as soon as it had been discussed.

    Future of Healthcare in Milton Keynes

    Present at the meeting was Gill Prager, Director of Quality and Governance for Milton Keynes Primary Care Trust Gill was there to present to the council the proposals set out in the consultation document 'Shaping the Future of Healthcare in Milton Keynes' and afterwards to hold one of a series of 'Tell Us' meetings at which the public would have an opportunity to speak to NHS staff about the specific proposals. Gill explained that the NHS is facing Its toughest financial challenge and most radical reorganisation since it was created in 1948. NHS Milton Keynes is responslble for providing healthcare service for all people registered with General Practitioner (GP) surgeries In Milton Keynes. as well as dentists, hospitals and community services. It has an annual budget of £360 million which rise by less than 0.5% per year over the next few years, despite the fact that the populalion Is rising and becoming increasingly elderly. It has been overspending for some time and as a result the hospital, alone, is £5 million in the red. II will not be possible to continue to provide the same level of services, so ways must be found or providing better services for more people with less money and to claw back some of the deficit. The reorganisation will see the end of Primary Healthcare trusts. she said, and in preparation for that NHS MK had already reduced its managers and administration statr by 40"/4. The consultation document refers to 'thresholds' which are guidelines for GPs to follow to when assessing patients· needs for treatment. Deidre Bethune asked Gill how sticking to these thresholds would save money? GIii said that GPs do not currenUy stick to the current guidelines and will refer patients for treatment according to their professional opinions, regardless of the guideflnes and cost. For many types of treatment new thresholds will be introduced which GPs will be obliged to comply with. This will reduce the number of patients undergoing those treatments, thus saving money, she said. Jeremy Rawlings said that this would lead to people suffering and singled out the new threshold for hip replacement patients lo be unable to walk more than 250 metres as rediculous. Gill acknowledged that in some cases it may mean more people having to suffer pain for longer. The consultation period runs untll Friday 25th February, so may well be over by the time you read this report, but the document can be downloaded from www.mlltonkeynes.nhs.uk/discussion2011.htm

    Driftway

    Tony Evans reported that he had had a meeting with John Prloe, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Neighbourhood Manager for Environmental Services for Rural Areas, and his assistant Rob Ward. It had been agreed that the mound would be left with the existing profile, although there were concerns about the quality of the existing topsoil. MKC are looking to see if they can come to a financial agreement with Wimpey's, the developers. Tony emphasised that !the work must be done this spring and said that John and Rob were keen to resolve the Issue.

    Infants School

    Jeremy Rawlings reported that as of February 1 st the school had obtained Foundation status, which Is the first stage to becoming an Academy. The Governors now own the land and buildings so the switch over to full academy status can happen any lime. with June 1st being the probable date.

    Olney Brass Band

    Tony Moroney, Chairman of Stantonbury Brass, presented a proposal to change their name to 'Olney Brass'. Tony explained that the band would shortly lose its main source of funding and would have to fold on April 1st unless an alternative source of funding could be found. The proposal was to change the name and form a closer allegiance to the town and request some funding from OTC. As a working band, they would look to be as self supportive as possible and raise money through member subscriptions, engagements and concerts. They would also apply for charitable status. which would also bring financial benefit through the gift aid scheme, he said. The band has 12 residents of Olney and Emberton amongst its strength of 25, 4 of whom are founder members. Throughout its 30 - 40 year existence Olney has featured more than anywhere else in !their regular performances, whether through its annual Christmas concert, Dickens of a Christmas, various fates and carolling. Over the years it would be lair to say that the band enjoyed a stronger affiliation with Olney, than with either Stantonbury or Milton Keynes, he said. Younger members of the band progress. both as Individuals and as musicians and often go on to study music at university. The band were particularly proud of two of their current young players, one of whom has been offered a place at The Royal Northern College, whilst his own 15 year old son has been accepted Into The National Youth Brass Band. As part of their commitment to Olney and the surrounding area it is also the intention to form an Olney Brass Development band, which would be available to all brass players who have attained at least grade 3 and it is hoped that they would be able to offer this opportunity free to members less than 18 years of age. The council members seemed generally happy to endorse the name change and the issue or funding was referred to the Finance Committee.

    Cobbs Garden Surgery - Specialist Nurse for the Elderly

    Carol Russell of Cobbs Garden Patient Participation Group was present to request OTC funding of a Specialist Nurse for the Elderly. Carol explained that that the surgery had employed an ex•Dlstrict Nurse for the past two years, funded by Milton Keynes PCT. This funding had now been withdrawn so the present incumbent would be made redundant. She said that a letter in The Phonebox requesting local businesses, charities and MKC to provide sponsorship had met with only a limited response, so It was vital that funding be found from elsewhere. The intention would be to separate the post from the surgery so that it belonged to the community rather than the surgery, but the surgery would continue lo provide racllities such as a desk, computer and phone. The current post holder was employed for 15 hours a week working with people who were soclally isolated, lonely and anxious. Many of these people need time to be listened to, and practical help In many ways, such as filling out forms to claim attendanoe allowance etc. Carol said that in order to keep the nurse employed for a year they would need £13,500. Deidre Bethune, as Chair of the Finance Committee, was concerned that It would need to be an ongoing grant and wondered if OTC could be liable for redundancy payments if the post could not be maintained. Carol said she was optimistic that funding might be forthcoming from elsewhere for future years. Deidre said that. Deidre said that the Finance Committee were minded to fund the post for a year at a cost of £13,500 and proposed that the full council approve the recommendation, which they did unanimously on a vote.

    Bits n Bobs

    The Parish Precept {the amount of Olney residents' Council Tax which goes directly to OTC) will once again be retained at the existing rate.
    The council agreed to purchase laptop for the Town Clerk and Deputy at a cost of £498+VAT to include relevant Microsoft software.
    A vacancy exists for the Chair of the Personnel Committee. New member Colin Rodden was nominated and selected but then deselected on a pint of order, possibly the shortest tenure of any committee chairman on the council!


    Next Meeting - Monday 7th March

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th March in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members ol 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.

    *It had sold out by the lime Mercury arrived.

  • March 2011

    Olney Council report for March 2012

    Public Participation

    Chris Talbot
    Chris Talbot, Treasurer of Olney Rugby Club, opened this month's meeting. He explained that Olney has enjoyed splendid sports facilities due to Olney Town Council (OTC) and the Sports Clubs. Olney Rugby Club now owns ten acres of land freehold and the Club's Management Committee has decided to proceed down a limited liability company route, splitting the Club into two parts: one to hold the assets and the other to run the activities and provide the facilities while maintaining the status required for gift aid, etc.
    He asked if OTC would let the Club acquire the freehold of the land on which the clubhouse stands in exchange for a suitable sum, thus giving it the freehold of both the clubhouse and the adjacent field. If this was approved, he noted that the Club would be happy for there to be a covenant restricting the land's use to being for a clubhouse.

    Census for England and Wales

    Richard Izzard. responsible for coordinating the Census for Olney, Newport Pagnell, Astwood and Stoke Goldington, gave a detailed talk about it. The main point is that, if you've not submitted yours by the time you read this - get a move on!

    Olney Rugby Club

    The first item to be considered in the meeting proper was Chris Talbot's request for the Club to acquire the freehold of the land on which the clubhouse stands. Two Councillors. Tony Evans and John Smail, had declared a personal interest in this item, meaning they could discuss but not vote on it.
    Mike Hughes introduced the topic, explaining that the Bowls Club owns its own clubhouse while the Tennis, Crick.et, Rugby and Football Clubs do not. He invited Councillors' views. Tony spoke in favour of granting the request, seeing nothing wrong with it. John Sharp spoke against ii. feeling that the Council should try to benefit the whole town and not Just the Rugby Club. Dave Price spoke in favour, noting that the Club does benefit the whole town - through sport and other community activities such as quiz and charity nights. Finally, Ron Bull asked how the Council would come to a decision as to what the freehold was worth, Gill Edmonson noting that, as achieving best value is a Council requirement, this would indeed have to be done properly. Ron believed it would have a high value, while Mike Hughes disagreed, due to the covenant which would be associated with the land.
    Councillors voted by majority of seven to one, with two abstentions, in favour of obtaining legal advice and furthering the discussion with the Rugby Club.

    Environmental Services

    Rob Ward, Milton Keynes Council Neighbourhood Manager for Environmental Services, gave a presentation. Note that Rob's title is as stated here and not, as stated previously, the assistant to that post.
    In the first part of his presentation, Rob explained that he manages the delivery of Environmental Services in the rural parts of Milton Keynes (MK) Borough, covering waste collection, landscape, highway maintenance, play area maintenance and neighbourhood enforcement. Savings of around 30% would have to be made in the next lour years, which would require choices of what could and could not be achieved, alongside ensuring the best use of resources. Readers who wish to report a problem with any of the services Rob manages should call 01908 252570.

    Driftway

    The second part of Rob's presentation concerned the Drlftway banks. As background, note that in the previous meeting, John Price and Rob Ward had presented three options to resolve the problem ...
    1. Do nothing and continue with efforts to establish wild flowers on the existing banks. Cost to be met by the developer.
    2. Keep the existing profile, remove the wild flowers, and establish topsoil and amenity grass. Cost approx £10,000 to be met by MKC.
    3. Reshape the mound and establish amenity grass. Full cost in region of
    £120,000 to be met by MKC.
    ... and the Council had voted unanimously in favour of option 2. At the time, the Driltway banks were believed not to have been adopted by MKC.
    Since then, Rob had discovered that MKC's Highways department had in fact adopted the Driftway banks, although the Section 106 element relating to completion of the landscaping had not been signed off. The results of this were that MKC may not have as much negotiating power with the developer, Taylor Wimpey, as previously thought. However, independent of that. Rob stressed that MKC remained committed to completing the works on Driftway.
    Rob proposed two new options:
    A. Plant grass and shrubs in six inches of topsoil then cut approximately six times per year. Costs: £8,500 to Implement,
    £900 per year to cut. Summary: high potential for success, attractive, higher ongoing cost.
    B. Plant further mixed species and wild flowers In a thin layer of topsoil, providing new growth and encouraging what's there to develop, then cut twice a year. Costs: £3,200 to implement, £300 per year to cut. Summary: Higher biodiversity, fairly attractive, lower maintenance cost.
    Mike Hughes stated that option A was basically that agreed by OTC in its previous meeting, that this was what should be done and that suggesting a cheaper alternative was merely MKC trying to ease its way into doing less and less work.
    This was debated at length and the following is a just brief summary. Tony Evans felt that only option A was likely to be successful. Deidre Bethune suggested a compromise, planting mixed species and wild flowers in six inches of topsoil. Both Tony Evans and Mike Hughes wanted MKC to stick to the original agreement, option A, and commit to an ear1y planting date in order to increase the chance of a successful outcome.
    Rob Ward agreed to follow option A, with the work to be done 'in weeks' and certainly before the end of April.

    Market costs

    For each Thursday Market, the Council hires a skip and cleaning service to complete tidying up after the stallholders have left. This costs £322 per week which, put another way, represents 44% of each stall's weekly rent. As the skip doesn't get particularly full, the Council discussed whether it and the cleaning service provided were worth continuing with. No decision was made, though the issue will be explored further.

    More doggy do

    There'd been an incident during a Rugby match on Doffs Field where a player had fallen into some dog poo, which caused his eye to swell up. This raised the issue of dog fouling in general, which continues to be a problem on the Sports Fields. Although no decision was made, it's likely that around ten additional signs will be placed around the Fields to ensure there's no doubt that the practice is illegal.

    Personnel Committee Chair

    In February, Della Cheal stepped down from being Chair of the Personnel Committee. She was generally acknowledged to have been very good at this role, and Councillors were keen to fill the vacant position. As reported in last month's Mercury, Colin Rodden had been selected for the post and then immediately deselected on a point of order. The issue was that he wasn't a Committee Chair, Standing Order 16 stating that the 'Personnel Committee (is) to be formed from Chairpersons of Committees but to include one female Councillor if possible'.
    Councillors now considered whether the wording should be changed to 'Personnel Committee to be formed from Chairpersons of Committees or suitably qualified Personnel Officer and to include one female Councillor if possible'. John Sharp did not like this at all, standing up and stating that, if this happened, "I'll resign as of now. You are altering things to suit the Council. It's corrupt." Mike Hughes explained that the issue was being brought before Council for a decision, as per usual procedure. Deidre Bethune and Gill Edmonson also attempted to pour oil on troubled waters. However, all this seemed to make little difference and John left the Council Chamber.
    Ron Bull felt some sympathy with John, believing that Councillors setting the rules for the year then changing them arbitrarily part way through ii was starting down a slippery slope. Mike Hughes declared himself "staggered" by John's reaction. After further discussion, the Standing Order was not changed, the issue instead being deferred to the next annual meeting.

    Blooming competitions

    Councillors decided to enter Olney for the Tindal Cup, the only category in the Best Kept Village competition it can enter this time round, having won the Best Kept Town award last year. Then they decided, as last year, not to enter Olney for Britain in Bloom.

    Conygere tree

    As reported in last month's Mercury, 6 Conygere was built close to a large tree which is now threatening to undermine the building's foundations. The tree is on OTC's land and, as the Council has now received a solicitor's letter on the subject, it passed the issue to its own solicitors.


    Next Meeting - Monday 4th April

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

  • April 2011

    Olney Council report for April 2012

    Public Participation

    No member of the public present wished to speak at this month's meeting.

    Land Purchase

    Mayor Mike Hughes announced that the council had completed the purchase of a piece of land although no details of the land or the purchase price were provided. Subsequent enquiries by Mercury revealed that ii comprises seven acres of land to the south of the Charity Field used by the Football and Rugby Clubs and the aim is to use this for casual recreational use with no formal pitch markings. It is not known when it will be available for public use or what preparation needs to be done, apart from providing an entrance via the Charity Field.

    Conygere tree

    Mike Hughes reported that following the solicitor's letter received on the subject of the tree adjacent to 6 Conygere, the council's solicitor has responding pointing out "the error of their ways". No response had been received as of yet, he said.

    Fly the flag

    The existing flagpole on the front of the Olney Centre is no longer serviceable and needs to be repaired or replaced. One of the options being considered is to replace it with a new lightweight freestanding pole concreted Into the centre of the garden circular planting area, at a cost of approximately £600. Jeremy Rawlings asked why ii was necessary to have a flagpole at the Olney Centre when there are already two on the Markel Place, but Tony Evans pointed out that they are managed by the British Legion. Tony said that in his opinion ii the centre was to have a flagpole then it was important for the council to 'fly the flag'. Mike Hughes said he would like to see the flag flown on special occasions, such as Veteran's Day and the forthcoming royal wedding. One member suggested that perhaps it should be flown when the Clerk, Gill Edmondson was 'in residence'!

    Planning Applications

    Olney Town Council is not a planning authority but is consulted about any applications in the parish by Milton Keynes Council. An application has been made for the erection of two 2 bedroom premises at 8 Berrells Court. Steve Clark said that he saw no reason to object to the plans but that there were already issues with the access to Berrells Court from East Street and the council should ask for that to be taken into consideration when MKC consider the application. Deidre Bethune thought It sad that in his pre-application advice the MKC planning officer had found it necessary to comment on the standard of the existing buildings, since the planning authority had passed the plans for their erection in the first place. For information, the officer's actual comment was: "Given a situation where so much has already been given away to developers there is now little left that would amount to a sound basis for discouraging the proposals in this location on conservation grounds. One might argue that the general design or the proposed pair of houses has no discernible regard for context other than aping the general appearance of the existing poorly scaled and detailed terraced dwellings and hence further exacerbating the disintegration of local character, I suppose. As for context, the wider burgage plot form is still respected and some cluttering remnants of ramshackle sheds / garages that are of no discernible interest would be losl • For information, full details of this and all other planning applicaUons can be found at http://publicaccess.millon-keynes.gov. uk/def ault .aspx

    Driftway

    Last month Rob Ward, Milton Keynes Council Neighbourhood Manager for Environmental Services, attended the council meeting to give an update on the landscaping plans for the banks of Driftway. This ended with Rob saying that the work was to be done 'in weeks' and certainly before the end of April. Tony Evans said he was pleased to report that within days of that meeting the bank surfaces had been scraped and topsoil and seed applied. Tony suggested that the council write to Rob and thank him for his prompt action. However, pressure would need to be maintained to ensure the success of the scheme he said.

    Market costs (continued)

    As reported last montln, the council hires a skip and cleaning service to complete tidying up after the Thursday Market stallholders have left. This costs £322 per week which represents 44% of each stall's weekly rent. As the skip doesn't get particularly full, the Council discussed whether ii and the cleaning service provided were worth continuing with. The discussion resumed this month with Tony Evans explaining that the skip would never be filled to more than half capacity, since it was deUvered containing the sweeping machine which drove out at the end of the day to clear up the rubbish. As a result, the Market Place was always left clean and tidy and without this service the obligation would then rest with the stallholders to sweep up. Jeremy Rawlings asked if the stallholders had been asked if they would prefer to keep the skip and cleaner or have a rent reduction. although many felt that they would always opt for a rent reduction regardless of the consequences. Della Chea! asked If the rate charged by the skip supplier was competitive and Mike Hughes said he believed that it was. Tony Evans said he would like representative of the stallholders to attend a meeting with the council, since the council were currently getting very little direct feedback and the proposed stallholders committee had yet to materialise, he said. Eventually it was decided to keep the existing arrangement but review in the event of a price increase by the skip supplier.

    Market Place parking

    Napier Parking, the company that manages the parking restrictions on the Market Place, had informed the council that changes in legislation meant that the wording of the signage would need to be amended and quoted £1300 for the new signs. Tony Evans said that such legislative changes do not occur overnight and Napier should have known about them when they provided the original signs. He did not see why OTC should have to pay for Napier's mistake. Dave Price said he found it offensive that the new wording specifically stated that the parking restriction also applied to disabled drivers, although others though that it was necessary to provide clarification. There was concern from some members that the council are not gelling value for money from Napier and Mike Hughes wondered If they should investigate other contractors, but pointed out rather tongue in cheek that he was not connected with any such companies (presumably In response to a recent letter In The Phoneboxl)

    Dave Price

    Dave Price announced that he was standing down and handed his formal letter of resignation to the Clerk. For Information, Dave has served on the council for the last 15 years, including four years as Mayor from 1998 to 2002. Mike Hughes thanked Dave for his service to the council and noted that he would be sorely missed, prompting a round of applause from the rest of the members. Dave then donned a leather flying helmet and goggles (he really did! - Mercury) and walked out quietly into the night to begin a new life as an ordinary citizen of Olney, or possibly a poet ......

    Next Meeting - Monday 9th May

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 9th 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. Olney Town Council Annual Town Meeting will take place on Thursday 28th April 2011 at 7.30pm In the Olney Centre.

  • April 28th 2011 - Olney Town Meeting

    Olney Town Meeting report for May 2012

    The Meeting

    The Town Meeting is held yearly and is a chance for the public to learn what the local Police. Olney Town Council and local groups and charities have been doing. Members of the public are welcome to attend and free to ask questions.

    Chairman's report

    Mike Hughes started the meeting with his report. He praised the various events and organisations in the Town mentioning, amongst many, the Cherry Fair, Raft Race, Motorama, the Scouts and the Sports Clubs. He felt that the organisations and the volunteers behind them added greaUy to Olney's sense of community.
    Noting that Olney had won the Best Kept Town award, he thanked both the ground staff and those tending their private gardens. He also explained that Olney Town Council (OTC) had purchased seven acres of land, adjacent to the current sports fields and the allotments, with the aim of using it for recreational and sports use. This would take a few years to achieve due to the surface preparation required. In future years, he said, it also raises the possible return of the Fireworks Night bonfire.

    Environmental Services

    Rob Ward, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Neighbourhood Manager for Environmental Services. gave a brief summary of the Rural Neighbourhood Management team's work. It covers the entire rural area of Milton Keynes Borough, two thirds or its geographical area but with a minority of its population. It's the first point of contact for issues such as potholes, bins not being emptied and landscaping issues. When reporting a problem, ring the Environmental Services Helpline on 01908 252570 or surf to
    www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/street-care

    Police report

    Chris Ward gave the Police report. He explained that antisocial behaviour in Olney had declined generally, there'd been increasing numbers attending the Youth Centre and Offic.ers had given talks both there and at local Schools.
    The 'highlights' of the crime figures for Olney between Aprll last year and February this year were: 38 violent offences, 2 sexual offences, 8 burglaries, 11 crimes related to vehicles, 5 thefts of pedal cycles, 22 shoplifling offences, 59 theft offences, 57 incidents or criminal damage and 6 drug offences. Overall there were 203 offences, a 28.5% reduction over the same period the year before.

    Recreations and Services Committee

    Committee Chair Tony Evans gave this report. He started by noting that, although the changes made each year by OTC may seem small, the difference made over the approximately 25 years he's been Chair of this committee had been astonishing. This year, changes had included the new play equipment on the Recreation Ground and the new Tennis Court.
    Dog fouling continues to be a major issue, and Tony stressed the need to persuade dog owners to pick up their mess. He also gave a little more detail on the planned use of the newly purchased land adjacent to the current sports fields and the allotments. Over the next two to three years, it would be prepared as an area suitable for recreation - not necessarily a formal pitch area. He felt it might be used by Junior sides at the weekends and for kick-abouts, but hoped not to see permanent posts erected there. Take-up of the allotments continues to be very high and, due to vandalism, new gates and fences have been erected near their entrance.
    Tony thanked Rob Ward for picking up the issue of the Driftway verges and sorting it out. Six inches of topsoil have since been laid and seeded with grass although, unluckily, there'd been hardly any rain since. The Market Place had seen the addition of two new noticeboards and lour new bins, and Tony felt the parking scheme there continued to work very well.
    He concluded by thanking the groundsmen Ian and Richard, Reg Webster for his work on the Cemetery grounds, and Gill and Sandra, the Town and Deputy Town Clerks, for their hard work over the year.

    Planning Liaison Committee

    Steve Clark started by explaining that Olney Town Council can only advise on planning applications, this advice being passed to Milton Keynes Council which then makes the decisions. It had been a quiet year due to current economic conditions and the remaining parcels of land suitable for development running out.
    He noted that the landlocked area between the end of Moores Hill and Dinglederry had attracted various planning applications over the years. OTC had consistently opposed them, but ii now seemed likely that MKC may leave the way open for development by selling off some land and releasing a restrictive covenant. The details are beyond the scope of this report but are well worth a read so, for a comprehensive description, surf to stephenclark.mycouncillor.org.uk/2011/01/13/moores-hill-development. Either way, Steve concluded by saying that, until a new planning application had been received, there was nothing concrete for OTC to discuss.

    Finance Committee

    Deidre Bethune presented a very brief report noting that, again, there'd been no precept raise this year and that the 'Sydney Dix' fund would shortly be renamed the 'Olney Town Council Community Fund'. Its purpose, described by the new name. remains unchanged.
    From the handout, the following figures are for the year ended 31st March 2011, with the bracketed figures being for the year before. Total income was £272,000 (£.277,000) and total expenditure £442,000 (£300,000), resulting in an excess of expenditure over income of £169,000 (£23,000). Cash reserves are £363,000 (£526,000). The main difference between this year and last ls the expenditure on land capital of £125,000 (£0), this presumably being related to the purchase of land adjacent to the sports fields.

    Olney Centre Management Committee

    Alan Richardson gave this report, saying that the Centre was vibrant and well used. He explained wryly that, in line with the latest safety regulations, door furniture such as handles and crash bars had been replaced, finally making the doors safe after 137 years of continuous usel New presentation boards, projection screens and a flagpole had been purchased. He concluded by thanking Peter the caretaker, Rob the early morning cleaner and Gill and Sandra.

    Local Groups

    The Cowper and Museum report was very brief, noting that attendance had been higher than last year and thanking OTC for its support. From the handout, admission income was up 2.7% on last year and a surplus of income over expenditure of £800 was made, compared with a deficit of £3200 last year.
    The Ann Hopkins Smith Almshouse Charity had seen two properties become vacant, both now taken by new residents. All houses are occupied but a waiting list is maintained. Any elderly Lady with strong Olney connections can apply for an Almshouse by writing to Tony Evans at Olney Park Farm, Yardley Road, Olney.
    The British School Charity awards grants to people in Olney aged under 25 engaging in further education beyond A Level or in occupational training. The ongoing very low interest rates mean that, while It used to rely on an annual income in excess of £3,000, current income is less than £400. This makes the Charity effectively dormant.
    John Ferris gave a report on the Newport Pagnell and Olney Uons Club. The Club has around 16 members and has raised just over £14,000 and donated £10,000 during the year, the remaining £4,000 being in reserves. All money donated goes to good causes, administration costs being borne instead by club members. Just over half the donations were local, and included ones to the Brooklands Centre in Newport Pagnell and Willen Hospice.
    Neill Elliot reported on The Olney Group (TOG). It had been a successful year, with the Duck and Raft Races being well attended (bar the World Cup) and Fireworks Night going exceptionally well. Mainly as a result of the latter, the total income was £9,000 and there was a surplus of income over expenditure of £2,400. TOG also donated £500 to OTC in part recompense for the loss Incurred three years ago when Fireworks Night was hit by exceptionally wet weather. This year's Raft Race will include entertainment from Olney's Got Balls and the MK Friends of the Caribbean.

  • May 2011

    Olney Council report for July 2012

    More Public than Members

    There were more members of the public than councillors present at the start of this month's meeting, so Mercury was looking forward to an evening of lively debate.

    Public Participation

    Jim Middleton
    Five members of the public spoke at this month's meeting. First to speak was Jim Middleton on the subject or the Olney bypass. Jim read from a statement he had submitted to the Milton Keynes Core Strategy examination hearing. Jim said as a resident of Olney he attended the MK South Midlands Panel but was not allowed to say anything at the examination. The point he had made in the written submission was that all the development of urban areas north, south, east and west of Olney was having a hugely detrimental effect on Olney with traffic getting ever worse. Jim said he was ignored, and the panel in fact allowed no transport schemes, other than those in the then government's short term plans. This was a pathetic response from so called professionals to a long term planning exercise, he said, and in his opinion there can be no stronger case for a bypass anywhere in the country than Olney. Jim's full submission can be downloaded from http://www.milton­
    keynes.gov.uk/planning-policy/documents/REP-269971-
    3_MiddletonMKlnqdoc1 OlneyBP.pdf

    Karen Gilbert
    Next to speak was Karen Gilbert, owner of Beans Cate in the Market Place, on a subject that was obviously of concern to a number of members of the public present, namely the application by Real Estate Advisors Savills, on behalf of Calle Nero, to open a branch in the building previously occupied by Derby House Saddtery. Karen said hers is a small, independent business which would struggle to compete against a large, national chain. The rates in Olney were the highest of the lour locations where she had branches and while Caffe Nero could absorb high business rates, she could not.

    Elaine Baxendale
    Elaine Baxendale also spoke against the application. She has been an Olney resident for nine years, she said, and one of the attractions of the town is Its small 'quirky' establishments. Local businesses would be certain to suffer, she feat. and questioned whether Olney needed another big concern. There was a need to consider the environment, she said. The planning application was discussed as an agenda item later in the meeting.

    Brian Rice
    Next to speak was Bryan Rice on the continued problems of parking In Oakdown Crescent.

    Richard Stone
    Richard Stone, Bar Manager of The Carlton House Club (formerly Olney Working Men's Club) spoke about the proposal to position a bench outside of the club. For Information, this has been the subject of discussions by the council for many years. Many elderly people have complained that there is no where to sit and rest whist making the long walk along the High Street and the council have been looking to find a suitable location for a bench. Richard said that one of the license conditions of the club was that members should leave the club in a quiet and orderly manner. Although the club has a smoking area within the grounds he was concerned that a bench at the front would encourage members who wished to smoke to sit on the bench and also take drinks with them, which would be against the terms of the license. As a previous licensee of The Bull he knew what problems a bench outside would attract, he said. Added to that he and his family lived above the club with bedrooms facing out on to the High Street and they would be bound to suffer disturbed nights, he said.

    George Horncasltle
    George Horncastle, Secretary of the club spoke next and said whist he accepted that the bench was for the benefit of elderly members of the community it would be bound to attract other people and the club would be blamed for disorderly behaviour of customers leaving adjacent licensed premises.

  • June 2011

    Olney Council report for August 2011

    Public participation

    No members of the public present (Mercury plus one!) wished to speak at this month's meeting.

    Co-option of members

    A vacancy had arisen following the recent resignation of Nigel Birrell and there being no request for an election from the requisite number of the electorate, it fell to the council members present to fill the vacancy by co-option. The two candidates were invited to give a short address to the council to summarise their CVs.
    First to speak was David Rumens, who was standing again following his failure to be co­opted to fill one of two vacancies at last month's meeting. David was first elected to OTC in 2008 and served for two years before having to resign due to ill health. Now that his health issues had been resolved David said he would welcome the opportunity of serving the town again as a member of the council. His experience in local government dates back to 1979 when he was elected to South Beds District Council and he has held many positions since. During his last stint on OTC he represented the council at many meetings with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) as he has a keen interest in resolving the enduring problem of high traffic volumes through Olney. He was also instrumental in the battle to keep Olney as a single ward, against the wishes of MKC who wanted to split it into three. He is currently a member of the Neighbourhood Action Group and is proud of his reputation as a 'campaigning councillor', he said.
    The second candidate to speak was Tony Summerscales, a civil engineer in the water industry. Although he admitted he had no experience in local govennment he said that he had a young son and wanted him to grow up in a safe community and he was putting himself forward so that he could get involved in maintaining the town and its community for the enjoyment of the next generation.
    A secret ballot then took place with Tony Summerscales receiving the most votes and he was duly elected. Steve Clark thanked David Rumens for his interest. David left the meeting at this point.

    Flood Risk Management

    Bruce Stewart, Senior Planning Officer - Strategic Flood Risk Management for Milton
    Keynes Council was present to explain his role, which he has been in since March 2011, and the implications of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 which is gradually being implemented nationally. The current framework was largely established in the 1930s and 40s, he said and, although some updating had taken place, it did not comply with EU legislation and guidance. The new act meant that MKC as the Local Authority were obliged to take over certain flood responsibilities from the Environment Agency (EA) and Dept. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). MKC has set up a parent Cabinet-led management group and three officer lead working subgroups comprising Strategic Flood Planning, Flood Prevention and Flooding Emergency Response. The principle shortcomings identified thus far are a lack of in-house water, drainage and flood expertise and a shortage of available funding to address problems in those areas. It isMKC's intention to form closer relationships with Parish and Town Councils who may be able to assist in providing information on local water and flood risk management issues, said Bruce. Mayor Steve Clark said that councils were frustrated that developers were allowed to put in planning applications for floodplains and Bruce replied that any applications with flood implications would now be submitted to him.

    Localism Bill

    The Localism was introduced to Parliament in December 2010 and seeks to shift much of the decision making of central government to local authorities. Part of the bill deals with the right of communities to submit an 'expression of interest' to the local authority to provide or assist in providing a relevant service on behalf of that authority and that could lead to a transfer of assets from the authority. Steve Clark said that OTC already manages many of its own assets but the bill would widen the scope when it became law. MKC might come under pressure to dispose of some of its local assets such as car parks, the Olney Centre and Emberton Park, he said. In the event of the latter it was unlikely that Emberton Parish Council would be able to afford to manage the park but OTC could consider a joint venture, he suggested. MKC will be running a series of workshops during August and OTC will send representatives with a view to forming a sub-committee. This will doubtless be the subject of discussion at future meeting since in Steve's view it is a massive subject at which OTC should "nibble gently".

    Recreation ground sewage pipe (continued)

    As reported last month the sewage pipe connecting the four sports club houses to the main in East Street has collapsed, which is why there is regularly an overflow when functions take place at the clubs, necessitating rodding by the council staff. Alan Richardson said that since the last council meeting he had had two meetings with Anglian Water and they had confirmed that from October 1 st 2011 the section of pipe which had collapsed would become the responsibility of Anglian Water under the new proposal to adopt private sewers and lateral drains. Although any work that Anglian Water deemed necessary would be done free of charge the replacement would not happen immediately, he said. The first time a blockage was reported Anglian Water would attend and rod the drain to unblock it. If it then became a regular occurrence then the gang would report it with a recommendation to consider replacement work. Eventually it would get replaced, he said. Deidre Bethune asked if the council would now reconsider the refurbishment of the Market Place toilets now that this particular problem would be resolved at nil cost to the council.

    Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF)

    Deidre Bethune reported that this hugely popular event would take place for the third year running on Saturday September 12th. Last year's event had made a slight loss, she said, and since then the membership of the Chamber of Trade had reduced. In view of these facts she asked if the council would consider underwriting the event in case of financial loss, as they do for the Firework Night run by TOG (The Olney Group). A figure of £1200 was suggested. Ron Bull said that the Fireworks organisers had only found ii necessary to call on the underwriting once in the 20 year history and he was concerned that BOFF might regularly make a loss. Deidre said that BOFF does not have the funds to absorb the loss themselves. Tony Evans said that he had been a member of the BOFF organising committee for its first two years but felt that there was a big difference between BOFF and the Firework Night, which was organised for the Town. BOFF is a commercial event and stall holders make a profit. Although he agreed that it is a fantastic event he said he felt uncomfortable with the request for underwriting. Should the organisers not be looking to the stallholders themselves to make up any loss, he wondered. Mike Hughes said he felt OTC's role should be to encourage trade and visitors to the town and BOFF should be encouraged so he would not want to be part of any refusal. Eventually the requested for underwriting was agreed by a majority vote.

    Stoke Goldington wind turbines application

    As reported last month, an application has been received to build 15 wind turbines at Stoke Lodge Farm, Stoke Goldington. Deidre Bethune said in her opinion MKC was in no position to consider this application at present because it does not have a current or adequate policy. Last month Jeremy Rawlings reported that the existing policy had not been updated for some time and MKC had been asked to update it to bring in line with national guidelines. In particular, there was no reference to consideration being given to the proximity of existing installations. There then followed a general discussion about the merits of wind power, in general. Colin Rodden said that he believed sustainable energy is required but wondered if data was available to support it. Deidre said the operating companies refused to publish data about the output of such installations, claiming that it was 'commercially sensitive', so it was impossible to know if they were efficient or not. Jeremy Rawlings said that when there is too much power in the grid it is easier to switch off wind turbines than coal fired power stations so the operators are paid to keep them stationary. Tony Evans said that the incentives to farmers to allow wind farms to be sited on their land were enormous so OTC needed to act quickly if they wanted to stop every farmer around having them. Alan Richardson said that if past experience was anything to go by, once an application was submitted there was nothing that OTC or anyone else could do to stop it. Steve Clark disagreed, saying that the Wind Farm at Petsoe End had been the first application submitted to MKC and that had only been passed by a narrow margin, so it was not a foregone conclusion. Although no formal vote was taken, an informal vote showed that the members were overwhelmingly against the proposal. Full details of the planning application, ref 11/01193/FULEIS can be found at http://publicaccess.milton-keynes.gov.uk/

    Odds and sods

    The newly acquired field next to the Charity Field has been sprayed and ploughed and needs to be seeded as soon as possible after the end of August. A number of quotes for seeding have been received and the council agreed to a local quote of £1800. At the moment it is just known as 'the new field', so if anyone has a suggestion for a better name please contact the Town Clerk, or send your suggestion to The Phonebox.
    Mike Hughes said that a resident had reported human excrement at the top of the children's slide on Johnson's Field the previous Friday. He had personally attended with cleaning equipment and removed it, but the incident had been repeated the next day.
    Rosemary Osbourne asked Debbie Brock what was happening about the provision of double yellow lines at the entrance to Chantry Rise, as turning right on to Weston Road was extremely dangerous. Debbie replied that the consultation had recently taken place as part of the process, which was ongoing.
    Jeremy Rawlings reported that after 24 years of loyal service Cheryl Wilson's position at the Youth Club had been 'outsourced' by MKC. The promised administrator was yet to appear though.
    Steve Clark reported that as of that day Ousedale School had become an academy. Mercury assumes that The Phonebox's invitation to the celebrations got lost in the post.
    Tony Evan said that the grass banks on Driftway were a mess and asked that they be strimmed. In fact, all local landscaped areas that are the responsibility of MKC are in a similar state, he said.
    Steve Clark said that the inaugural concert by the Olney Community Choir at the Parish Church had been incredibly well attended. Also, the inaugural concert of Olney Brass at the Carlton House Club had been a great success, with a specially commissioned piece of music 'The One and Olney' being played for the first time. In recognition of their support OTC had been presented with a framed copy of the music, which would be hung in the Olney Centre.


    Next Meeting - Monday 5th September

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 5th 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.

  • July 2011

    Olney Council report for August 2011

    Public participation

    No members of the public present (Mercury plus one!) wished to speak at this month's meeting.

    Co-option of members

    A vacancy had arisen following the recent resignation of Nigel Birrell and there being no request for an election from the requisite number of the electorate, it fell to the council members present to fill the vacancy by co-option. The two candidates were invited to give a short address to the council to summarise their CVs.
    First to speak was David Rumens, who was standing again following his failure to be co­opted to fill one of two vacancies at last month's meeting. David was first elected to OTC in 2008 and served for two years before having to resign due to ill health. Now that his health issues had been resolved David said he would welcome the opportunity of serving the town again as a member of the council. His experience in local government dates back to 1979 when he was elected to South Beds District Council and he has held many positions since. During his last stint on OTC he represented the council at many meetings with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) as he has a keen interest in resolving the enduring problem of high traffic volumes through Olney. He was also instrumental in the battle to keep Olney as a single ward, against the wishes of MKC who wanted to split it into three. He is currently a member of the Neighbourhood Action Group and is proud of his reputation as a 'campaigning councillor', he said.
    The second candidate to speak was Tony Summerscales, a civil engineer in the water industry. Although he admitted he had no experience in local govennment he said that he had a young son and wanted him to grow up in a safe community and he was putting himself forward so that he could get involved in maintaining the town and its community for the enjoyment of the next generation.
    A secret ballot then took place with Tony Summerscales receiving the most votes and he was duly elected. Steve Clark thanked David Rumens for his interest. David left the meeting at this point.

    Flood Risk Management

    Bruce Stewart, Senior Planning Officer - Strategic Flood Risk Management for Milton
    Keynes Council was present to explain his role, which he has been in since March 2011, and the implications of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 which is gradually being implemented nationally. The current framework was largely established in the 1930s and 40s, he said and, although some updating had taken place, it did not comply with EU legislation and guidance. The new act meant that MKC as the Local Authority were obliged to take over certain flood responsibilities from the Environment Agency (EA) and Dept. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). MKC has set up a parent Cabinet-led management group and three officer lead working subgroups comprising Strategic Flood Planning, Flood Prevention and Flooding Emergency Response. The principle shortcomings identified thus far are a lack of in-house water, drainage and flood expertise and a shortage of available funding to address problems in those areas. It isMKC's intention to form closer relationships with Parish and Town Councils who may be able to assist in providing information on local water and flood risk management issues, said Bruce. Mayor Steve Clark said that councils were frustrated that developers were allowed to put in planning applications for floodplains and Bruce replied that any applications with flood implications would now be submitted to him.

    Localism Bill

    The Localism was introduced to Parliament in December 2010 and seeks to shift much of the decision making of central government to local authorities. Part of the bill deals with the right of communities to submit an 'expression of interest' to the local authority to provide or assist in providing a relevant service on behalf of that authority and that could lead to a transfer of assets from the authority. Steve Clark said that OTC already manages many of its own assets but the bill would widen the scope when it became law. MKC might come under pressure to dispose of some of its local assets such as car parks, the Olney Centre and Emberton Park, he said. In the event of the latter it was unlikely that Emberton Parish Council would be able to afford to manage the park but OTC could consider a joint venture, he suggested. MKC will be running a series of workshops during August and OTC will send representatives with a view to forming a sub-committee. This will doubtless be the subject of discussion at future meeting since in Steve's view it is a massive subject at which OTC should "nibble gently".

    Recreation ground sewage pipe (continued)

    As reported last month the sewage pipe connecting the four sports club houses to the main in East Street has collapsed, which is why there is regularly an overflow when functions take place at the clubs, necessitating rodding by the council staff. Alan Richardson said that since the last council meeting he had had two meetings with Anglian Water and they had confirmed that from October 1 st 2011 the section of pipe which had collapsed would become the responsibility of Anglian Water under the new proposal to adopt private sewers and lateral drains. Although any work that Anglian Water deemed necessary would be done free of charge the replacement would not happen immediately, he said. The first time a blockage was reported Anglian Water would attend and rod the drain to unblock it. If it then became a regular occurrence then the gang would report it with a recommendation to consider replacement work. Eventually it would get replaced, he said. Deidre Bethune asked if the council would now reconsider the refurbishment of the Market Place toilets now that this particular problem would be resolved at nil cost to the council.

    Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF)

    Deidre Bethune reported that this hugely popular event would take place for the third year running on Saturday September 12th. Last year's event had made a slight loss, she said, and since then the membership of the Chamber of Trade had reduced. In view of these facts she asked if the council would consider underwriting the event in case of financial loss, as they do for the Firework Night run by TOG (The Olney Group). A figure of £1200 was suggested. Ron Bull said that the Fireworks organisers had only found ii necessary to call on the underwriting once in the 20 year history and he was concerned that BOFF might regularly make a loss. Deidre said that BOFF does not have the funds to absorb the loss themselves. Tony Evans said that he had been a member of the BOFF organising committee for its first two years but felt that there was a big difference between BOFF and the Firework Night, which was organised for the Town. BOFF is a commercial event and stall holders make a profit. Although he agreed that it is a fantastic event he said he felt uncomfortable with the request for underwriting. Should the organisers not be looking to the stallholders themselves to make up any loss, he wondered. Mike Hughes said he felt OTC's role should be to encourage trade and visitors to the town and BOFF should be encouraged so he would not want to be part of any refusal. Eventually the requested for underwriting was agreed by a majority vote.

    Stoke Goldington wind turbines application

    As reported last month, an application has been received to build 15 wind turbines at Stoke Lodge Farm, Stoke Goldington. Deidre Bethune said in her opinion MKC was in no position to consider this application at present because it does not have a current or adequate policy. Last month Jeremy Rawlings reported that the existing policy had not been updated for some time and MKC had been asked to update it to bring in line with national guidelines. In particular, there was no reference to consideration being given to the proximity of existing installations. There then followed a general discussion about the merits of wind power, in general. Colin Rodden said that he believed sustainable energy is required but wondered if data was available to support it. Deidre said the operating companies refused to publish data about the output of such installations, claiming that it was 'commercially sensitive', so it was impossible to know if they were efficient or not. Jeremy Rawlings said that when there is too much power in the grid it is easier to switch off wind turbines than coal fired power stations so the operators are paid to keep them stationary. Tony Evans said that the incentives to farmers to allow wind farms to be sited on their land were enormous so OTC needed to act quickly if they wanted to stop every farmer around having them. Alan Richardson said that if past experience was anything to go by, once an application was submitted there was nothing that OTC or anyone else could do to stop it. Steve Clark disagreed, saying that the Wind Farm at Petsoe End had been the first application submitted to MKC and that had only been passed by a narrow margin, so it was not a foregone conclusion. Although no formal vote was taken, an informal vote showed that the members were overwhelmingly against the proposal. Full details of the planning application, ref 11/01193/FULEIS can be found at http://publicaccess.milton-keynes.gov.uk/

    Odds and sods

    The newly acquired field next to the Charity Field has been sprayed and ploughed and needs to be seeded as soon as possible after the end of August. A number of quotes for seeding have been received and the council agreed to a local quote of £1800. At the moment it is just known as 'the new field', so if anyone has a suggestion for a better name please contact the Town Clerk, or send your suggestion to The Phonebox.
    Mike Hughes said that a resident had reported human excrement at the top of the children's slide on Johnson's Field the previous Friday. He had personally attended with cleaning equipment and removed it, but the incident had been repeated the next day.
    Rosemary Osbourne asked Debbie Brock what was happening about the provision of double yellow lines at the entrance to Chantry Rise, as turning right on to Weston Road was extremely dangerous. Debbie replied that the consultation had recently taken place as part of the process, which was ongoing.
    Jeremy Rawlings reported that after 24 years of loyal service Cheryl Wilson's position at the Youth Club had been 'outsourced' by MKC. The promised administrator was yet to appear though.
    Steve Clark reported that as of that day Ousedale School had become an academy. Mercury assumes that The Phonebox's invitation to the celebrations got lost in the post.
    Tony Evan said that the grass banks on Driftway were a mess and asked that they be strimmed. In fact, all local landscaped areas that are the responsibility of MKC are in a similar state, he said.
    Steve Clark said that the inaugural concert by the Olney Community Choir at the Parish Church had been incredibly well attended. Also, the inaugural concert of Olney Brass at the Carlton House Club had been a great success, with a specially commissioned piece of music 'The One and Olney' being played for the first time. In recognition of their support OTC had been presented with a framed copy of the music, which would be hung in the Olney Centre.


    Next Meeting - Monday 5th September

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

  • August 2011

    Olney Council report for August.... 2011

    Public participation

    No members of the public present (Mercury plus one!) wished to speak at this month's meeting.

    Co-option of members

    A vacancy had arisen following the recent resignation of Nigel Birrell and there being no request for an election from the requisite number of the electorate, it fell to the council members present to fill the vacancy by co-option. The two candidates were invited to give a short address to the council to summarise their CVs.
    First to speak was David Rumens, who was standing again following his failure to be co­opted to fill one of two vacancies at last month's meeting. David was first elected to OTC in 2008 and served for two years before having to resign due to ill health. Now that his health issues had been resolved David said he would welcome the opportunity of serving the town again as a member of the council. His experience in local government dates back to 1979 when he was elected to South Beds District Council and he has held many positions since. During his last stint on OTC he represented the council at many meetings with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) as he has a keen interest in resolving the enduring problem of high traffic volumes through Olney. He was also instrumental in the battle to keep Olney as a single ward, against the wishes of MKC who wanted to split it into three. He is currently a member of the Neighbourhood Action Group and is proud of his reputation as a 'campaigning councillor', he said.
    The second candidate to speak was Tony Summerscales, a civil engineer in the water industry. Although he admitted he had no experience in local govennment he said that he had a young son and wanted him to grow up in a safe community and he was putting himself forward so that he could get involved in maintaining the town and its community for the enjoyment of the next generation.
    A secret ballot then took place with Tony Summerscales receiving the most votes and he was duly elected. Steve Clark thanked David Rumens for his interest. David left the meeting at this point.

    Flood Risk Management

    Bruce Stewart, Senior Planning Officer - Strategic Flood Risk Management for Milton
    Keynes Council was present to explain his role, which he has been in since March 2011, and the implications of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 which is gradually being implemented nationally. The current framework was largely established in the 1930s and 40s, he said and, although some updating had taken place, it did not comply with EU legislation and guidance. The new act meant that MKC as the Local Authority were obliged to take over certain flood responsibilities from the Environment Agency (EA) and Dept. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). MKC has set up a parent Cabinet-led management group and three officer lead working subgroups comprising Strategic Flood Planning, Flood Prevention and Flooding Emergency Response. The principle shortcomings identified thus far are a lack of in-house water, drainage and flood expertise and a shortage of available funding to address problems in those areas. It isMKC's intention to form closer relationships with Parish and Town Councils who may be able to assist in providing information on local water and flood risk management issues, said Bruce. Mayor Steve Clark said that councils were frustrated that developers were allowed to put in planning applications for floodplains and Bruce replied that any applications with flood implications would now be submitted to him.

    Localism Bill

    The Localism was introduced to Parliament in December 2010 and seeks to shift much of the decision making of central government to local authorities. Part of the bill deals with the right of communities to submit an 'expression of interest' to the local authority to provide or assist in providing a relevant service on behalf of that authority and that could lead to a transfer of assets from the authority. Steve Clark said that OTC already manages many of its own assets but the bill would widen the scope when it became law. MKC might come under pressure to dispose of some of its local assets such as car parks, the Olney Centre and Emberton Park, he said. In the event of the latter it was unlikely that Emberton Parish Council would be able to afford to manage the park but OTC could consider a joint venture, he suggested. MKC will be running a series of workshops during August and OTC will send representatives with a view to forming a sub-committee. This will doubtless be the subject of discussion at future meeting since in Steve's view it is a massive subject at which OTC should "nibble gently".

    Recreation ground sewage pipe (continued)

    As reported last month the sewage pipe connecting the four sports club houses to the main in East Street has collapsed, which is why there is regularly an overflow when functions take place at the clubs, necessitating rodding by the council staff. Alan Richardson said that since the last council meeting he had had two meetings with Anglian Water and they had confirmed that from October 1 st 2011 the section of pipe which had collapsed would become the responsibility of Anglian Water under the new proposal to adopt private sewers and lateral drains. Although any work that Anglian Water deemed necessary would be done free of charge the replacement would not happen immediately, he said. The first time a blockage was reported Anglian Water would attend and rod the drain to unblock it. If it then became a regular occurrence then the gang would report it with a recommendation to consider replacement work. Eventually it would get replaced, he said. Deidre Bethune asked if the council would now reconsider the refurbishment of the Market Place toilets now that this particular problem would be resolved at nil cost to the council.

    Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF)

    Deidre Bethune reported that this hugely popular event would take place for the third year running on Saturday September 12th. Last year's event had made a slight loss, she said, and since then the membership of the Chamber of Trade had reduced. In view of these facts she asked if the council would consider underwriting the event in case of financial loss, as they do for the Firework Night run by TOG (The Olney Group). A figure of £1200 was suggested. Ron Bull said that the Fireworks organisers had only found ii necessary to call on the underwriting once in the 20 year history and he was concerned that BOFF might regularly make a loss. Deidre said that BOFF does not have the funds to absorb the loss themselves. Tony Evans said that he had been a member of the BOFF organising committee for its first two years but felt that there was a big difference between BOFF and the Firework Night, which was organised for the Town. BOFF is a commercial event and stall holders make a profit. Although he agreed that it is a fantastic event he said he felt uncomfortable with the request for underwriting. Should the organisers not be looking to the stallholders themselves to make up any loss, he wondered. Mike Hughes said he felt OTC's role should be to encourage trade and visitors to the town and BOFF should be encouraged so he would not want to be part of any refusal. Eventually the requested for underwriting was agreed by a majority vote.

    Stoke Goldington wind turbines application

    As reported last month, an application has been received to build 15 wind turbines at Stoke Lodge Farm, Stoke Goldington. Deidre Bethune said in her opinion MKC was in no position to consider this application at present because it does not have a current or adequate policy. Last month Jeremy Rawlings reported that the existing policy had not been updated for some time and MKC had been asked to update it to bring in line with national guidelines. In particular, there was no reference to consideration being given to the proximity of existing installations. There then followed a general discussion about the merits of wind power, in general. Colin Rodden said that he believed sustainable energy is required but wondered if data was available to support it. Deidre said the operating companies refused to publish data about the output of such installations, claiming that it was 'commercially sensitive', so it was impossible to know if they were efficient or not. Jeremy Rawlings said that when there is too much power in the grid it is easier to switch off wind turbines than coal fired power stations so the operators are paid to keep them stationary. Tony Evans said that the incentives to farmers to allow wind farms to be sited on their land were enormous so OTC needed to act quickly if they wanted to stop every farmer around having them. Alan Richardson said that if past experience was anything to go by, once an application was submitted there was nothing that OTC or anyone else could do to stop it. Steve Clark disagreed, saying that the Wind Farm at Petsoe End had been the first application submitted to MKC and that had only been passed by a narrow margin, so it was not a foregone conclusion. Although no formal vote was taken, an informal vote showed that the members were overwhelmingly against the proposal. Full details of the planning application, ref 11/01193/FULEIS can be found at http://publicaccess.milton-keynes.gov.uk/

    Odds and sods

    The newly acquired field next to the Charity Field has been sprayed and ploughed and needs to be seeded as soon as possible after the end of August. A number of quotes for seeding have been received and the council agreed to a local quote of £1800. At the moment it is just known as 'the new field', so if anyone has a suggestion for a better name please contact the Town Clerk, or send your suggestion to The Phonebox.
    Mike Hughes said that a resident had reported human excrement at the top of the children's slide on Johnson's Field the previous Friday. He had personally attended with cleaning equipment and removed it, but the incident had been repeated the next day.
    Rosemary Osbourne asked Debbie Brock what was happening about the provision of double yellow lines at the entrance to Chantry Rise, as turning right on to Weston Road was extremely dangerous. Debbie replied that the consultation had recently taken place as part of the process, which was ongoing.
    Jeremy Rawlings reported that after 24 years of loyal service Cheryl Wilson's position at the Youth Club had been 'outsourced' by MKC. The promised administrator was yet to appear though.
    Steve Clark reported that as of that day Ousedale School had become an academy. Mercury assumes that The Phonebox's invitation to the celebrations got lost in the post.
    Tony Evan said that the grass banks on Driftway were a mess and asked that they be strimmed. In fact, all local landscaped areas that are the responsibility of MKC are in a similar state, he said.
    Steve Clark said that the inaugural concert by the Olney Community Choir at the Parish Church had been incredibly well attended. Also, the inaugural concert of Olney Brass at the Carlton House Club had been a great success, with a specially commissioned piece of music 'The One and Olney' being played for the first time. In recognition of their support OTC had been presented with a framed copy of the music, which would be hung in the Olney Centre.


    Next Meeting - Monday 5th September

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 5th 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.

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