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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 2022

  • January 2022

    Mercury report for the Council Meeting of January 2022 as printed in our February Edition

    January’s Olney Town Council meeting was shorter than usual due to Government guidelines on public meetings, which state that they should only be held where absolutely necessary and where they are held, they should be kept as brief as possible.
    The meeting was held in a larger room than normal in the Olney Centre and councillors’ chairs were well spaced out around its perimeter. Here is a summary of proceedings.

    Public Speaks

    The Mayor wished everyone a belated Happy New Year and started proceedings, asking if anyone from the public had anything they wished to say. Mr and Mrs Andrew Prosser from Olney said the pathway that connects Dinglederry to Rivetts Close had collapsed and appeared sunken where there are two traffic bollards. The sunken area is wet and full of leaves and they said they knew of people who had slipped over there. It was only a matter of time, said Mrs Prosser, before someone breaks a hip. Phil Geach said the matter would be referred to Milton Keynes Highways Department.
    Mr and Mrs Prosser also noted the dirty state of most of the town’s street name signs and said their son Marcus, also from Olney, would be prepared to get a team of volunteers together to wash them – would that be allowed? Mayor Geach said the idea would be considered and the Clerk would respond accordingly.
    Mr Prosser also noted the brightness of the street lights in his road. His house is illuminated by ‘daylight’ lights all night, he said, which even keeps the local blackbirds awake. Could they be turned down at all? The Mayor noted the address and said it would be referred to Milton Keynes Highways Department.

    Apologies for absence

    These were received from Chris Tennant, David Pibworth, Debbie Whitworth, Debbie Hall, Jane Varley and Colin Rodden.

    Previous minutes

    The Mayor requested that the minutes from the previous meeting in November (December’s gathering was cancelled due to Covid) be approved by councillors and asked if anyone had any points to raise. There were no points, and the minutes were approved.

    Schedule of meetings

    The Mayor said there was a draft schedule of forthcoming meetings to be approved. Deirdre Bethune said she would prefer it if the schedule was done half yearly and revisited after the May Annual Meeting. She said that the chairs of various committees might change during the year so it would make more sense to plan later meetings throughout the year. Phil Geach asked if there was any statutory reason why that can’t happen. The acting clerk Sarah Kennedy said that she would look into the options and schedule meetings accordingly.
    Ian Stokes asked if some Joint User Group (JUG) meetings could be scheduled in. Phil said the acting town clerk would look into the proposal.

    Budget 2022/23

    Phil Geach said that the next motion was to approve the Annual Budget and precept for the Following Year. He then invited Ben Brown, Chair of the OTC Finance Committee to speak.
    Ben wished to highlight some acknowledgements. He said Sarah Kennedy needed thanks for working on the budget papers over the last few months. It’s been a difficult job, he said, but he believed she had produced a good budget. He also wanted to thank those involved in budget setting last year. It was a difficult time with many uncertainties but it’s a budget that got us through that time with a projected surplus for the year, Ben said, adding thanks to all committees who have fed into the budget.
    On then, to this year’s proposed budget. The headline figures show they are projecting an income of £159,640.03 and expenditure of £466,825.49. This means the precept request will be £307,185.46 an increase of 3.4% on last year. Throughout the process, Ben said the feedback he received from councillors and residents was that they need to be mindful of the increased cost of living and to keep any increase in the precept minimal. The increase of 3.4% is below inflation and in line with the council tax increase by Milton Keynes Council.
    The headlines from income are that they are predicting slightly increased income this year on the assumption of no further restrictions. We have very generously held rents and rates flat for this year, he said. This includes recreation ground rents, allotment rents, market stall fees and cemetery fees. They have also held flat pricing of room hire at the Olney Centre for local groups. This was a reflection of the feeling that sports clubs, social clubs and residents have experienced difficult times and it would be inappropriate to increase fees at this time. However, it is worth signposting now that having been held for two years, he said, an increase is likely across the board next year.
    On income, Ben Brown said that this budget should not stand still. There will be work by the office to look at increasing revenue, particularly for services provided by the council to people outside the town.
    On expenditure, the biggest cost as ever is staffing costs, Ben said. OTC are proposing an increase in the staffing budget this year, due to consideration of engaging two additional members of staff. This is in response to increased demand for services. That is a message across all our expenditures, he said, adding that they are seeing increased demand. They have had to increase the budget for dog bins, waste collection at the Rec and also security for the Rec in the summer months.
    As with income we’re not standing still and actions will be taken to ensure the public are getting value for money, added Ben. Where grants are available to replace revenue expenditure he will seek to do so.
    Reserves currently stand at £251,571. This is broken down as follows:

    * earmarked reserves £116,122;
    * restricted reserves £75,643.56;
    * general reserves £59,806.

    As part of putting this budget forward we are proposing that the finance committee urgently review reserves policy which will include reviewing the risk register, making an assessment of assets and making a recommendation to the council for reserves levels, said Ben.
    He added that he will also be proposing, as earlier mentioned, that they formulate plans to increase revenue and monitor spending so the projected surplus for 2021/2022 is realised.
    Deirdre Bethune asked how Ben’s report states extra staffing when none had been approved. Ben replied that the staffing proposal would go before the HR committee and that to include it in budgeted items was prudent.
    Peter Geary said there had been some recent changes to the budget following a meeting last month, and asked what they were. Ben said there was a change relating to refurbishing the Market Place toilets. That was £10,000 and was originally going to come from the reserves but that had now been changed.
    Deirdre Bethune said some income had come from the town’s hanging baskets. It’s £1,000 of income, she said. Ben agreed that it was £1,000 of income that they weren’t expecting. Peter Geary asked if the council’s budget would have a surplus or a deficit at the end of the year. Ben said that they were £80,000 better off than they were at the same time last year so they were projecting surplus, but he couldn’t say by how much right now.
    Peter Geary said that it’s good practice to monitor budgets throughout the year. It won’t be a straight line, he said, adding that the council should put forward how it wants to spend money. This expenditure is for the good of the town, he said, and if we are not spending it, we are not benefitting the town. Deirdre said the reason why there was a surplus was because of the unusual year last year in which not all the money was spent.
    Mayor Geach said that it had been a difficult budget for the committee to prepare during Covid times in which they did not know what was happening in the future. They had no idea on income or expenditure he said, adding that Ben and Sarah had done a great job for which he gave his thanks. The Mayor also acknowledged that the previous Council had set a realistic and prudent budget and thanked the previous Finance Committee and Chair.
    Peter Geary agreed that it had been a difficult budget to report on. We look for savings, he said, and we look at extra costs against the things we wish to do.
    Trevor Aldred added that he thought they should look closely at the whole reporting process.
    Deirdre also offered her thanks and asked if the council accept the budget and the precept budget. Both of these were voted in favour.

    The Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 7th February 2022 at 7pm in the Olney Centre. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk: townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk

  • February 2022

    Olney Council report for February 2022 as printed in our March edition

    The February gathering of Olney Town Council (OTC) was well attended, with councillors, invited speakers and members of the public all present. With no December 2021 meeting taking place and a shortened version arranged for January, the agenda for this session was much longer with a long list of items on the agenda.

    The Olney Centre’s large meeting room was once again the venue for this meeting. Here is a summary of proceedings.

    Mayor Philip Geach opened by mentioning the passing of Jock Smail, saying he would be sadly missed, and passed on his condolences to Jock’s family.
    The Mayor mentioned a letter received from resident Nigel Richards about lack of visibility for motorists at the zebra crossing near the One Stop and also up near the new Sainsburys where, he suggested, vegetation should be removed to improve visibility for traffi c turning towards Sainsburys. He also stated that the road closure on Lavendon Road from 12-23 February ‘will be awkward’ and are there any implications of Francis Jackson Homes residents wanting to park on the Olney side of the works?

    Apologies for absence

    These were received from Jane Varley and Colin Rodden, while Chris Tennant had signalled that he was going to be late attending.

    Declarations of interest

    These were noted from Ian Stokes (Olney Town Football Club), Trevor Aldred (Community Orchard) and Peter Geary (Landscaping).

    Previous minutes

    The Mayor requested that the minutes from the previous meeting in January be approved by councillors and asked if anyone had any points to raise. Deirdre Bethune said the resolution of the January meeting was subject to the clerk obtaining certain advice and that the minutes should refl ect what happened in the meeting, not what advice was obtained afterwards. Deputy Clerk Sarah Kennedy said advice had been obtained from the SLCC (Society of Local Council Clerks) and had been noted. Peter Geary proposed that the minutes be accepted as they stand. This was approved by all of the meeting except Deirdre, who declined.

    Landscaping Services Agreement with Milton Keynes Council

    Kay Pettit, Programme Manager for Parish and Town Councils at MK Council was invited to speak about the landscaping services in Olney for the next few years from 2023 when a new arrangement will have to be agreed. Pre-2014 landscaping in the town was paid for and carried out by MK Council. It was then decided to put it out to tender. MK Council were willing and happy for the devolution of landscaping services and Olney Council agreed to take it on. A similar decision was made in 2018. MK Council continued to sign up parish councils to deliver their own landscaping and in 2020 Olney signed up again. A new agreement is now being sought from April 2023 but ideally Milton Keynes Council is looking for an agreement by March. Maps and a list of service requests has already been sent to OTC, said Kay, but until Olney agrees, nothing can move forward. Deirdre asked if the grant from MK for landscaping actually covers the cost of the work. Kay said the amount was based on what Serco, a public services provider, charged MK for work which was then broken up across the borough. This figure, though, would not be known until later in the year. Ian Stokes noted that OTC was being asked to agree to sign up in March, but the actual cost would not be known until October or November. What if we don’t like the actual fi gure when that point arrives, he asked. Kay said OTC could still withdraw from the agreement at that time if they didn’t like it. Debbie Hall asked if it was possible to take over the maintenance of Olney’s play areas without actually owning them, adding that Olney’s play areas were ‘tattier’ than many of those in Milton Keynes. Peter Geary said that if OTC took them over, they would need to be in a useable state. Debbie said that if we were responsible for the play areas, we would have more immediate control over them.
    Ian Stokes said there was lots of growth coming in the area, but the current maps don’t show that. Kay answered that MK Council would pay more for that upkeep if it was necessary. Phil Geach mentioned Whirly Pit Roundabout which Kay said had now been added to MK’s mapping system, although not in the current agreement, adding that ‘some very fast roads lead into it’. MK would like Olney to take on Whirly Pit Roundabout, but Phil Geach felt that, as they had the appropriate equipment and that it was not currently part of the existing agreement, MK should keep it, and at a safe level. Peter Geary said trees and foliage on the roundabout should be kept at low level, while Deirdre added that the rules seems to change between lots of growth to stop drivers ‘dashing through’ to cutting it all back. What will it be next year, she asked.
    Peter Geary said they really should make a decision before March and Ben agreed, saying it would be useful to know the costs.

    Hedging around the Amazing Grace Community Orchard

    Elaine Herniman and Rohan Wedge from the Community Orchard committee attended the meeting. They had fi rst asked if they could create an orchard in January 2019 and it was agreed in January 2021 that they could – and that it should be tied in with the Amazing Grace (AG250) celebrations this year when the town will start commemorations of the 250th anniversary of the world-famous hymn. They asked to change the lower end of the Allotment Field and had received funding from the MK Community Foundation and the Co-op Community Fund. They plan a 25 tree-planting session on 19th - 20th March which will include the planting of hedgerows to mark the orchard with a natural boundary and create an environment for wildlife too. There would also be a log circle erected, they plan to buy two large picnic benches and there would be two information boards and possibly some sculptures. The committee wanted to ask OTC if they could move ahead with this planning. Trevor Aldred asked if the two hedgerows would cause problems for existing growth, but Elaine said there would be no confl ict in putting hedgerows near the trees. Peter Geary asked if the equipment such as spikes used to protect the hedgerows would contain plastic. Elaine said equipment had been secured from the Woodland Trust but she was not sure if it was plastic.
    Ian Stokes said he loved the whole idea but was worried about vandalism: would people hang around at night and turn the place into a fi repit? Elaine said that the area was near a well-trodden path and that there would be an element of self-policing by local people. She hoped residents would help to keep the area free of litter and look after it. Debbie Hall added that she thought teenagers tended to discipline themselves.
    The planting of hedgerows was agreed in favour, and the other equipment discussed would be presented and decided upon at a later date.

    Mayor’s Update

    Phil Geach said that last summer a ‘Data Point’ had appeared at the Market Place bus stop. He has had a meeting with Milton Keynes Council to discuss moving the equipment to the right of the bus stop or even put it inside the shelter. Deirdre asked if he could look at re-siting the ‘horrendous’ waste bin next to it. The rehousing programme on the Yardley Manor estate was going well. OTC had a good relationship with MK Housing , Phil said. There are 19 houses on the estate which MKC have agreed will be kept for Olney residents forever, he said, and added that further meetings are planned to discuss families that need help.
    Two lifebuoys are ready for positioning by the water down at the Rec, said the Mayor.
    He asked what plans are being made for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. Dan Rowland, who is the Chair of the Working group responsible for Jubilee events, said that there were plans for celebrations on 4th June possibly using the Football Club. There might also be some staging where some events involving children could be held, such as singing ‘Amazing Grace’. People could also be encouraged to wear 1950s style costume or red, white and blue clothing. It would, he added, be like a town picnic and might encourage people to socialise with each other. There was also talk of a play about John Newton (the Olney-based cleric who wrote Amazing Grace). David Pibworth said that they had not received the rights to do this yet and this could take time to achieve and might not be possible. Better, perhaps, to ask people what they wanted to see.
    Dan Rowland said if residents wanted to take part in the celebrations the town could do something similar to the annual Dickens of a Christmas event, with stalls around East Street. He said vintage vehicles might be possible to arrange. They were also looking at lighting the town’s beacon. Ian Stokes said the ideas were very ‘weather-reliant’ and that there should be a ‘Plan B’ to weatherproof it. Debbie Hall pointed out that Newport Pagnell’s Vintage Event was planned for 4th June, so there could be a clash there. Deirdre Bethune said Olney’s event was a local aff air with the people of Olney performing. Debbie said local people would organise their individual street parties themselves, although Naomi Brock, while adding that there was a May Ball planned at the Rugby Club, asked how many people would prefer to organise a street party against coming to a town event.
    Ben Brown said nothing had been budgeted for yet, causing David Pibworth to say that time was against them so they should move now more swiftly. Mayor Geach said they should perhaps plan one big event and plan a smaller one, as a ‘Plan B’ including lighting of the Beacon.

    Deputy Town Clerk Report

    Sarah Kennedy said she had received an email seeking approval to use the Market Place for the annual Motorama car event on 12th June. The River Festival was another event seeking permission. They want to use the Rec, said Sarah. The main part of the event would be on the rugby fi elds with the nursery fi eld being used as a marshal-controlled parking area. Deirdre Bethune was concerned that if the weather was bad this arrangement could ruin the fi eld, but Ian Stokes said no other events were planned there so it would probably be OK. He did though, ask for proper control of that parking area adding that when glass bottles are left there it can be dangerous for players using the pitch afterwards. Mayor Geach said approval could be granted subject to checks on the weather.
    The Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) was another request to consider but was approved in theory. Organisers were asking for permission to put a marquee on the Market Place, similar to that used for the Pancake Race. Peter Geary asked how the tent would be secured to which Deirdre replied it would be with stakes, which had not caused a problem in the past. Any holes were always fi lled in afterwards she added. Phil Geach said he had asked if fi xed pilot holes could be installed with some grant funding but was told ‘no’ because they were considered permanent.
    Sarah Kennedy also said that St Peter and Paul Church asked to use the Glebe Field for parking. Deirdre said she did not think they should allow parking there and Ian said it would create a diffi cult access point. But Debbie Hall said this was literally for one or two days in the whole year – ‘yes’ the clerk added: 16th and 17th July. The Mayor said that allowing the parking would be setting a precedent, but Debbie thought they were objecting for nothing. Naomi Brock believed that access would be diffi cult and Church Street could end up ‘rammed’ and dangerous. The Mayor wanted to know if the fi eld would be matted and marshalled. Clarifi cation would be sought from the organisers.
    The clerk said that an interim internal audit took place in December. The report concluded that ‘there has been a signifi cant improvement over the course of the year’. The Mayor said that our thanks to Sarah for her hard work should be minuted.
    Sarah reported that discussions were taking place with the Cricket Club to arrange using OTC’s equipment during the forthcoming cricket season. The council have been making insurance arrangements for this initial trial period. Sarah added that arrangements will be reviewed again after the initial trial period.
    The clerk said that a safety report on the MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) had come back fi ne. The goalposts needed securing and there were some problems with broken glass and mould on the surface but once this was sorted, the MUGA would re-open.
    A number of grant applications had been made: £40,000 was available for certain work. Application had been made in respect of the redecoration of the Market Place toilets, and the planting of trees around the Market Place; and lights for next Christmas. She added that the Olney Centre was busy and had received many requests about holding birthday parties.

    Tennis Club new floodlights

    Phil Geach said the Tennis Club wanted to renew its fl oodlighting. LED lights have been asked for, he said, and OTC can have a say as they are the landlords. It could be approved in principle subject to any planning application and conditions. He asked if OTC accept the proposal and that was carried.

    Policing in Olney

    Mayor Geach said that, following an informal meeting with the police, they have said that policing, including spot checks will be increased during the summer on the Rec. Their approach will be more robust and tickets will be issued. There will be a general increased visibility of PCSOs. Phil said he spoke to Matthew Barber (Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner) recently but was waiting for a response from him. Naomi Brock said that she had been hearing about the increase in PCSOs for some time and asked if anyone knew what their shift patterns were.
    Phil said they don’t usually work during the night. Naomi said OTC really need to keep a closer eye on what the police actually do this year – she didn’t believe anything would change. Phil said the police wanted to change the way they do things, but, at present, are limited to the hours in which the neighbourhood team operate. The hours, he said, are the problem. David Pibworth complained that the police say they are going to do something more and then they don’t. The police are not good enough, he added, and we have to address that. Leanne asked that OTC really try to produce ‘something different’ this year to show they are trying to change things. Peter Geary said he could ask Milton Keynes Council for another PCSO. Phil asked if he would take that plan forward and Peter said he would ‘certainly ask’. Debbie Whitworth said Olney was not on the police radar because the town is ‘too nice’ and Ian Stokes agreed saying we do have to do something ourselves.
    David Pibworth asked if councillors thought residents would pay more to have ‘their own police force’ even though they are already paying for one (in their Community Charge).
    Debbie Hall said we don’t need to pay for a full year’s policing. We need more police in the summer, for example down at the Rec, along with security personnel, but we don’t need it all year. Naomi disagreed: ‘we need it all year round’ she believed. David Pibworth said some people don’t know how to report issues to the police on-line. Could we get a liaison councillor of some kind, he asked. Phil said that he didn’t believe that the police will accept reports of crime from “third parties”. Debbie Hall said she tried to report an issue on the ‘101’ police line and it just rang out. Police should be going into schools, talking to teenagers, investing time in the local area. Children would respond well if they had talks with the police, she believed, adding that if the police were increasing giving out tickets the teenagers would know something was happening in the town. Leanne said OTC should concentrate on the policing side of it. Having people on the ground generally does disperse groups. The key to it, she said, was providing a feeling of security for residents.

    Football Club building update

    Deputy Clerk Sarah Kennedy said she was hoping for a report on the building in the next few days. We have done all the investigative work, she said, and soon we can make a decision on it. The tenant of the building was aware of this and would be kept informed, she added.

    Johnsons Field ownership

    Phil Geach said he discovered that OTC has a 999 year lease arrangement on the fi eld and was waiting now for a report about what the intentions are for the playing area there.

    Possibility of hybrid OTC meetings

    The word ‘hybrid’ is a bit of a misnomer – in this context it means fi lming or recording the meeting so that more people can follow what’s happening even if they are not there. David Pibworth asked if OTC would allow a camera to show the meeting going on or even just recording equipment so that residents could listen in. Mayor Geach said that it might make it easier for residents to follow and take notes.
    Ben Brown said that the cost should not be a problem but that there was a chance councillors might say different things when they were being recorded than if it was an unrecorded meeting. They might be worried that something could be taken out of context, he added. Leanne said she would object for that very reason: that things are misunderstood, it gets put on to social media and then councillors feel the backlash of that from residents. It has happened to her in the street before, she said.
    Debbie Hall said she would be against filming meetings but is not so concerned about recording them. Phil Geach said it might be useful for people who can’t attend a meeting to at least know what’s going on, even though councillors doing so could not vote in that way. However, he said it had potential subject to further investigation and costs being established.
    Dan Rowland accepted the point about views being misunderstood but he added that councillors are only there because the people of Olney have put them there and they agreed to take on the role. Peter Geary said if it cost £500 to organise some kind of recording equipment all well and good, but if it was £5000, he would not be so agreeable. Let’s get the costs, he said. Sarah Kennedy said that the scheme would involve a lot of internal work for council staff. Sarah pointed out that when meetings were live streamed during Covid that the average number of listeners was three.

    Constitution of committees

    Discussion was had over possible splitting of the Recs and Services Committee into two due to its large size and also combining HR with fi nance. Due to the crossover of decisions it was agreed that further work be done on this. The HR committee was discussed in which Naomi Brock and Debbie Whitworth were considered for inclusion. Deirdre said it was the only committee limited in numbers. Ian Stokes said he was happy to resign from the committee to allow Naomi and Debbie in. Colin Rodden can not take his place currently as he is injured and unavailable. It was proposed that Naomi and Debbie replace Ian and Colin, which was carried.

    This is my header

    Next Meeting - March

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday, 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 2022

    Olney Council report for March 2022 as printed in our April edition


    Ian Stokes and Trevor Aldridge. Phil Geach arrived later to the meeting which was initially chaired by Naomi Brock. Office minutes were taken by Jane Brushwood in the absence of the town’s Acting Clerk who was sick.

    Public Participation

    A 15 minute forum open to the public.
    Two members of the public wished to speak:
    The first was Stuart Dorrill who gave a talk regarding the leased premises used by his company Caveman Conditioning and discussed later in the agenda. He asked two questions:
    • How passionate are Olney Town Council in supporting the health and well-being of residents?
    • How important to OTC are local businesses to the town?
    He reminded councillors that Caveman now employs nine local people from Olney.

    The second speaker and resident was Andrew Prosser who wanted to thank OTC for progressing a street lighting issue in Dinglederry.

    Declarations of Interest

    Declarations of interest were stated by Peter Geary (knowledge of a land agent) and by Chris Tennant (trains with Caveman Conditioning) regarding items discussed later in the meeting.

    Approve minutes of 7 Feb 2022

    Debbie Whitworth stated that she and David Pibworth were incorrectly recorded as not attending the last Full Council meeting.

    Expression of town’s solidarity with Ukraine.

    After discussion on this subject it was proposed that OTC would put Ukrainian fl ags at both the Olney Centre and the Market Place to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Dan Rowland additionally suggested that the Clerk check that there are no fi nancial or energy links with Russia and it was agreed to investigate this.
    Debbie Hall said that posters showing solidarity were also available from the Phonebox Magazine, which have been produced by Orchard Press at no charge, and that she and Alex Thomsen would be organising Ukrainian flags down the High Street as a private initiative.
    Deirdre Bethune suggested fl ags could also be put on existing High Street Christmas tree brackets should residents wished to do this.

    Speed Watch initiative

    Information was given by Keith Wheeler (MK Council) and Lee Turner (Thames Valley Police) regarding Speed Watch initiative. This was a partnership (paid for by a grant from the Police & Crime Commissioner) that allows local councils to participate in gathering data about speeding problems in a more coordinated way for the benefi t of residents.
    It permits hand-held devices to be used by authorised volunteers at ‘hot spots’. Speeding drivers will be checked rapidly for valid road tax and MOT and will receive graduated warning letters followed by enforcement action. Evidence of persistent speeding will start the process of looking at suitable traffic management such as road signs, speed indicators, calming etc.

    Napier parking and parking management in Olney

    Napier parking presented outline proposals for the East Street sport’s club car park covering structural matters such as pot holes, white lining, signage. payment (such as pay and display, permits and exemptions) and legal enforcement including using ANPR cameras and wardens. This would be for a possible fi ve year contract. It was confi rmed Napier had no power to remove a vehicle. Total income generated for these 100 spaces was estimated at around £60-70,000/year with a proportion of this going to OTC.
    Ben Brown suggested that OTC should consult with users as parking charges were always controversial amongst both visitors and residents. Chris Tennant asked that in the interests of procurement transparency, more than one tender be sought. Jane Varley would work up a proposal and put this to a full committee of OTC.

    Mayor’s update

    New trees were now being planted around the edge of the Market Place that were due to bloom shortly. It was noted by Mercury that these trees were coupled to fi rm posts and protected by a steel ornate cage to hopefully give protection from careless parking. Work on completely refurbishing the toilets had begun which will include a mother and baby/disabled user push-button access. This was fi nanced with the help of a grant.
    The Cherry Fair was now going ahead after all. New grant-funded Christmas lights for the High Street/Market Place had been obtained.
    Another two families had benefi tted from the new aff ordable housing in Olney, although it was noted that help had been requested with regard to fl ooring and white goods that was not initially supplied in these properties.

    Landscape Services Agreement

    It was agreed that from April 2023, existing arrangements would stay in place, but it was noted that this would not include any local council work on the Whirly Pit roundabout (for example cutting down vegetation) which would have been prohibitively expensive. That work would continue to be done by MK.

    Review proposed changes to OTC’s reserves policy

    Ben Brown proposed that the reserve policy document changes would put the duty on the Responsible Financial Offi cer (Town Clerk) to make a recommendation on reserve levels. This should be reviewed every year. It was also proposed that full council accept a reserve of a 35% target for net revenue expenditure by March 2025. This was agreed.
    MK Northeast Rural Community Forum
    Phil Geach agreed to represent Olney at the MK Northeast Rural Community Forum formally named the Neighbourhood Action Group. User groups, police and parish councils meet quarterly.

    Live streaming meetings

    Phil Geach had investigated possible costs for making council meetings available to the public after they had taken place. In particular, he had looked at the example and costings of Stantonbury that had successfully introduced a video system for later playback. It was estimated that in Olney, the cost would be around £5000.
    It was noted by Mercury that such a system was proposed at the previous council meeting by David Pibworth and others in the interests of transparency, openness and democracy. After much discussion about the numbers of people who might want to watch meetings after they had taken place (Deirdre Bethune controversially suggested three!), it was emphasised by Naomi Brock and Colin Rodden that it was important to put this to the town via both an OTC page and in the Phonebox so that a meaningful level of support was obtained. This proposal was supported unanimously.

    Reports on the condition of the fabric of the council premises, formally the Football Club

    Following a recent OTC report on subsidence together with costings for building and roof repair, there were additional possible costs reported by Jane Varley on drainage issues. As a business was currently operating on the premises (Caveman Conditioning), costings would be provided to councillors at the end of the council meeting where the public were excluded with regard to demolish, repair or demolish and rebuild.
    It is understood by Mercury that this item was again deferred to a future meeting given the large potential costs involved, estimated to be nearly half a million pounds, for full demolish and rebuild.

    Queen’s Jubilee

    Queen’s Green canopy

    A discussion took place on a number of potential locations for seven trees representing seven royal decades of service. Sites especially considered included the Community Orchard (near the allotments) and Barnfi eld (at the town’s beacon location off Aspreys).
    Although the trees were now ready to be planted, Peter Geary said that the council needed to understand the eventual height of tree and soil type to determine a suitable position and, if Barnfield was chosen, to ensure that rare fl ora that included orchids, were not damaged in the process.
    The final decision was delegated to Jane Varley as Head of Recs and Services who would consult with the arboreal expert at Milton Keynes for advice, location and design.

    Jubilee event

    Dan Rowland as head of the Jubilee event working party explained that he and his team had put in considerable work on this and had had enthusiastic off ers of help and participation from the schools, Cowper and Newton (Amazing Grace 250th celebration) and Royal British Legion as well as a number of arts-based contributors such as the Saltmine theatre company.
    The event, including stage hire, had been fully costed and potential funds found from a Milton Keynes Arts Council grant covering the cost of £8,800. This ensured there would be no cost to Olney Town Council.
    Given the interest and demand for such an event after two years of Covid restrictions, Dan believed there was great enthusiasm to celebrate the Jubilee and requested that the above funds be underwritten by the council in the unlikely event that the grant application were to fail.
    However to the surprise of shocked councillors and visitors, the news was revealed that Olney Town Council office had pre-emptiveley withdrawn the application without adequate explanation to the working group.
    As a result, one working group councillor, David Pibworth, had resigned.
    Dan added that while the office had mysteriously and embarrassingly blocked the resubmission of the application, he understood from MK that it would still be possible to resubmit if there was suffi cient goodwill and support by the council.
    Phil Geach said as the Clerk’s line manager that while he had no information about the reason for the withdrawal, he would find out what had happened and report back

    [STOP PRESS: Application rejected]

    It was agreed that there would be a further discussion to resolve this critical Jubilee event agenda item on Thursday 10th March 2022. The meeting ended with two remaining agenda items where there were no comments on items reviewing OTC Expenditure or Representations at external meetings.

    Special adjourned council meeting to discuss the Jubilee event held on Thursday 10th March

    Phil Geach said there may have been some ‘confusion’ over the application process and thanked the working group team for their hard work, adding that their on-line submission had been very detailed. The Mayor added that there had been much heated discussion on this subject and everyone owed a duty of courtesy to each other. He then invited further comment.
    Dan Rowland agreed that there had been much misunderstanding but it was time now to put that behind us, move forward and put the application back on track for the sake of the town. He proposed resubmitting the application.
    Debbie Whitworth stated that a huge amount of eff ort had been put into this event to date and Chris Tennant and Naomi Brock believed OTC should now look positively at this important town occasion. The Head of fi nance, Ben Brown, admitted that it had been a mistake to not include this event in the budget and while he could not agree to underwriting the occasion itself he did support it in principal.
    He added that in any case the Queen’s green canopy and tree planting should be considered by the public as a signifi cant contribution by the council.
    Jane Varley believed that this event was rather ‘niche’ but this was strongly challenged by Dan Rowland and Naomi Brock who pointed out that up to 1000 school children and their families were involved as well as expected visitors to the cultural acts and the ‘picnic in the park’ celebration.
    Peter Geary however believed that a reference to 2000 people should be downgraded just in case this fi gure was not realised as this might affect future applications. Ian Stokes also believed that a successful event might dilute attendance to the town’s pubs! Colin Rodden felt that such talk was rather negative and suggested that councillors should get behind this application more enthusiastically and patriotically. Colin added that as the event falls in next year’s budget, perhaps some finances could be found from there. Peter Geary recommended that the Amazing Grace participation be removed to cut down on costs but it was pointed out by Dan that the submission included a requirement to include two or more cultural partnerships.
    In the meantime Phil Geach outlined his own separate attempt to organise an evening Jubilee event at Barnfi eld (involving fi reworks and beacon lighting) and was confident in fi nding sponsors in due course. At this stage no grant application had been made and it was simply at the ‘expression of interest’ stage. The quoted cost of fi reworks alone was in the region of £3000-£6000 and there was some discussion – previously led by Deirdre Bethune – whether loud explosions were appropriate at this sensitive time of invasion in Europe. It was agreed to consider ‘quiet’ fi reworks as a possible alternative.


    The Mayor, Phil Geach, stated that he now supported the event and given that children would be key participants, said that he was probably able to off er £2000 of sponsorship money. Mercury understands this cash was generated by local egg sales earlier in the year by school children. He added that more volunteers might need to be co-opted to the working group as well as on the event itself which was agreed.
    Finally while a proposal to underwrite this event by Colin Rodden was rejected by a majority of councillors, a second proposal agreeing to urgently resubmit the application itself was supported unanimously.

    Next Meeting of Olney Town Council Monday 4th April

  • April 2022

    Olney Council report for April 2022 as printed in our May edition

    Opening Statement

    Mayor Phil Geach opened the meeting by explaining that normal procedure would be for the meeting to commence with the 15 minute open forum Public Participation item but this month he would be suspending a particular Standing Order (3F for those that follow such matters) so that an item not on the agenda could be discussed. Mercury assumes that this means the following will not appear in the o fficial minutes of the meeting.

    Standing Order suspended

    Phil said a letter had been received from a member of the public which he felt was of such importance that he was happy for it to be read out and he would also answer the questions raised therein. Deputy Clerk Jane Brushwood then read out some extracts from the letter. The correspondent said she was perplexed by what she had read in Phonebox Magazine regarding the application for a grant from Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for the Queen’s Jubilee and the fact that a councillor had resigned over the matter.
    Why was the application withdrawn, she asked, and if it was due to an administrative technicality this was not an acceptable reason as any grievances should have been ‘ironed out’ before the application was withdrawn. Why had the item vanished from the agenda of the current meeting?, she asked. Phil explained that he hadn’t personally withdrawn the application and nor did he instigate the withdrawal. The Clerk, otherwise known as the ‘Proper Offi cer’, is the only person authorised to submit grant applications on behalf of the council, he said. The Clerk is also responsible for ensuring that the council does not commit any act which might leave it legally exposed. He went on to say that members of the Jubilee working group had requested that the Acting Clerk submit an urgent application, due to the impending deadline. The Acting Clerk contacted the mayor and asked if the application could be submitted and retrospectively approved at the next council meeting, to which he agreed. Two members then asked the Acting Clerk to assist with the application, which she did by email but made clear to the members that they should not submit the application themselves as they did not have the authority to do so, and all such matters should go through her.
    Milton Keynes Community Foundation then replied via email saying that the application should be submitted online. The working party, being keen to meet the deadline, submitted the online application but neglected to inform the Acting Clerk. Two days later the Acting Clerk received a copy and noted that not only had it been submitted without her knowledge or approval it had now been amended to include a statement which could be misleading as it stated that the council intended to work with other named community groups in the future, which had never been discussed or agreed by the council.
    Following independent legal and professional advice the Acting Clerk concluded that whatever the motivation it would be wholly inappropriate for the application to proceed so she withdrew it. Dan Rowland, a member of the working party, attempted to interject at this stage saying that was one side of the matter and asked for the right to reply but Phil refused, saying it was not part of the meeting.

    [The reason neither Dan, nor indeed any other councillor, was able to speak at that time was that the letter was only able to be answered as it was addressed directly to the Chair not the Council as a whole. As it was not an agenda item discussion was not allowed under Council Rules.]

    Phil said he had no doubt that the working group acted with the best of motivations and the Acting Clerk did what she thought was right in terms of legal procedure and governance. There was no judgement, those were just the facts, he said. In answer to the question of why it had been removed from the agenda Phil said it had never been on the agenda, so it had not vanished.
    Dan Rowland once again attempted to interject but Phil said he was just responding to questions asked in the letter. He concluded by saying that he hoped the questions had been suffi ciently answered and people would now move on and try to do something that was right and worthwhile for the town. The correspondent had also made a comment about Phil personally, saying he didn’t know ‘how the town ticks’. Phil admitted that he wasn’t born in Olney but moved here after careful consideration and had grown to love the town, fi nding the residents kind, supportive and considerate. He said he disagreed with the author, listing several things that he considered made Olney tick whereby people give their time freely to the community.

    Public Participation

    Joanne Eley asked why the Union Flag was not fl ying alongside the Ukraine fl ag by the war memorial in the Market Place. Phil said the council would reply in writing as the item was not on the agenda.

    Nigel Richardson said he moved to the town seven months ago and living near Sainsbury’s was aware of the problems concerning the Whirly Pit roundabout. He said that the roundabout was too big and should ideally be completely reprofi led but recognised that that would be expensive. As a minimum the vegetation which was currently preventing a clear view of the pedestrian crossing outside of Sainsbury’s should be removed. Referring to the crossing outside of One Stop, he said it is impossible to see pedestrians waiting to cross at night because the white lights on the poles are too bright and there are too many bollards nearby. Moving on to the various sets of roadworks that had taken place in the locality, he said there were problems with the protocols operated by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) which were evident in other villages too. Contractors shut the roads for far longer than necessary and do no work for much of the closure. He asked that residents complain to MKC and suggested there should be penalties for overrunning. Lastly, he said that when the MK East development starts there is a potential closure of the A509 between J14 and Newport Pagnell for up to six months which OTC needs to be aware of.

    Whirly Pit Roundabout Public Consultation initiative

    Debbie Whitworth reported that following on from a visit from herself, Ward Councillor Keith McClean and an MKC Safety Officer, MKC had confi rmed that they would continue to review and monitor the situation regarding the pedestrian crossing on Lavendon Road. Many members of the public had expressed their dissatisfaction with the CCTV footage and survey, and the fi ndings of the report that there were no problems regarding pedestrian safety. Debbie said she had emphasised that there had been major changes since the roundabout had been installed, with new housing, retail outlets, supermarket and a future nursery which would all have a huge impact on the dangers associated with more traffi c and higher footfall. MKC are aware of the poor sightlines caused by the vegetation and will regularly cut it back, but Debbie said that was insuffi cient and she will push for total removal of the vegetation. She said in that past week she had been made aware of three ‘near misses’ and as a result parents were not happy for their children to walk to school, which was in turn leading to more cars in the vicinity of the school. Debbie suggested that there should be a public consultation questionnaire on the matter and asked that the council support the suggestion. She said that the MKC Safety Offi cer was fully supportive of a survey but when questioned by Deirdre Bethune as to whether MKC would fund it she replied that they wouldn’t. A discussion then took place as to the best format of the questionnaire to gain the maximum exposure that wouldn’t be totally web based. Deirdre felt that it was important to understand the costs involved and Phil Geach said the wording would need to be chosen carefully so as not to include leading questions which could infl uence the outcome. It was agreed to seek the views of the public regarding the Whirly Pit roundabout and traffic management. A small working group will defi ne the questions which will then be agreed by the full council.

    Odds and Sods

    Stuart Dorrill had written to ask that the minutes of the previous meeting be amended to include the correct name of his business Caveman Conditioning, not Bodyforce. The Rugby Club’s annual 7s tournament will take place on Saturday 18th June and the club have asked for permission to use the Nursery Field (football pitch) for car parking, which was granted.

    Council co-option procedures

    Following the resignation of David Pibworth, a vacancy now exists on the council. Phil Geach explained that an election would be called if within 14 days of a vacancy being declared 10 members of the electorate requested an election. No such request had been received so the vacancy will now be widely advertised and fi lled by co-option at the June meeting. Advertisements will be placed on the town noticeboard, the OTC website and in the Phonebox. A policy document for co-option exists which had been sent out to all councillors for review and none had any comments.

    Exclusion of press and public

    ‘To consider exclusion of Public and Press Representatives pursuant to the Public Bodies (admission to meetings) Act 1960 on the basis that publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest by the confi dential nature of the business to be contracted.’
    The items on this part of the agenda were:
    • An update on personnel matters
    • To discuss and approve a proposal relating to the future of the Football Club building at the recreation ground.
    The motion was proposed and passed so Mercury and the seven members of the public present duly excluded themselves.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 9th May, at 7.00pm in the Olney Centre. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

    Annual Town Meeting

    The Annual Town Meeting will take place at The Olney Centre on Friday 20th May at 7:00. All Olney residents are permitted to attend and question their Town Councillors, Ward Councillors, and police representatives.

  • May 2022

    Olney Council report for May 9th 2022 as printed in our June edition

    Annual Meeting with elections of officials, etc.

    This sitting was the Annual Meeting of Olney Town Council – an important gathering which included the election of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor among the items on the agenda. New Town Clerk Jane Brushwood also took a place at her fi rst OTC next to Mayor Phil Geach.

    The Mayor started the meeting by saying that as usual there would be a 15-minute open forum Public Participation section and that, as with last month, he was suspending Standing Order 3F which meant that an item not on the agenda could be spoken about.

    Public Participation

    Resident Kevin Viney gave mention of how proud he was that Olney has shown its support for the people of Ukraine by fl ying their fl ag in solidarity and of the town’s residents who have given generously to this cause.
    He also had a point to make about the Annual Veterans’ Dinner, saying: ‘I’d like to make a small mention of how proud I feel for our town which has shown its support for the people of Ukraine by fl ying their fl ag in solidarity and of course for the many residents who have given generously to this cause in other ways.
    ‘I was however taken aback to hear a proposal that the Annual Veterans’ Dinner should be downgraded from a full meal with drinks to simply tea and cake in order to save money. Is that really the best we can do for those who have served this country and to remember in some cases people who gave their lives?
    ‘I listened to a lone voice, councillor Rodden, who argued for the main meal to be restored and who wondered, in comparison, how it was that OTC could spend tens of thousands of pounds on legal fees following a grievance complaint from a former member of staff . He was told to keep quiet despite this fi nancial information being in the public domain. As it happens, the Head of the Finance sub-committee later confi rmed that at least £4,000 of hospitality money went unspent during the Covid years and a veterans’ full meal would be a small fraction of this.
    ‘So, could I ask the council to reconsider this rather mean-spirited decision – and to do so by the 20th May for the Town Meeting – where I note incidentally that wine will be served by the council to the public seemingly without any embarrassment or irony.’
    The points made were noted by the Council.

    [Editor’s note: following this OTC meeting, the council decided that the Annual Veteran’s Event will include a buff et, consisting of sandwiches and wine, along with tea and cake.]

    Election of the Mayor

    Before moving on to the election procedure, Phil Geach asked the Council to bear with him for two minutes. As you know, he said, I’m not standing. But I want to say thank you so much for doing me the honour this time last year of electing me to be Mayor. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable year for the most part, he added to a hushed room, even with a few trials to overcome. But overall it had been a great honour and whoever took over from him would do an ‘even better job’, he said.
    If there was not a clear majority on the fi rst vote, Phil said he was unwilling to use his ‘casting vote’ and would put the vote back to Council. If, after a second vote though, the situation was the same, he said he would reluctantly use his vote. As it turned out, that was not going to be needed. Ian Stokes thanked Phil for his time as Mayor. It was a very diffi cult year, he said, but he wanted to thank Phil for ‘everything he had done for the town’.
    Only two council members were put forward for the vacant post: Ben Brown, nominated by Ian Stokes and seconded by Jane Varley, and Debbie Whitworth, nominated by Dan Rowland and seconded by Debbie Hall.
    Members voted and Ben Brown was elected Mayor by a clear majority. Ben accepted the decision with thanks and best wishes from the outgoing Mayor. He thanked Debbie Whitworth for standing, saying ‘it’s always good to have a choice’. He thanked Phil for his year in offi ce and acknowledged the work that the Mayor had put in.

    Election of the Deputy Mayor

    Dan Rowland nominated Debbie Whitworth for this position which was seconded by Naomi Brock. There were no other nominations so a ‘paper’ vote was not deemed necessary. Councillors were happy to agree the appointment with a show of hands and it was carried unanimously.

    Apologies for Absence

    Moving on to business, there was one apology for absence, Leanne Ward. Nobody had a declaration of interest to register, and the minutes of the last meeting in April were deemed an accurate record.

    Annual Business

    We have lots to cover here, said new Mayor Ben, now in the chair with the offi cial chain around his neck. Let’s do it line by line, he said. Receive the minutes of the last meeting by various committees: There were no comments or amendments so Ben suggested the minutes for Finance, Planning and ODG (Olney Development Group) were acknowledged as received.
    Many of the items on the agenda had come direct from Standing Orders said Clerk Jane Brushwood, so they were unlikely to attract comments or amendments from Councillors. ‘Consideration of the recommendations made by a committee’, for example, brought no comments. It was the same for ‘Review of delegation arrangements to committees, staff and other local authorities’ and ‘Review the Scheme of Delegation and Terms of Reference’. Appointment of Members to Committees: The next agenda point concerned councillors joining various bodies. The Dickens Committee currently contains Phil, Deirdre Bethune, Naomi, Ben and Debbie Whitworth. Did anyone want to leave that group or join it, asked the Mayor. There were no changes.
    The Finance Committee currently includes Trevor Aldred, Phil, Peter Geary, Debbie Hall, Colin Rodden and Ben, and there were no changes. The HR Committee’s Jane Varley decided to leave while Colin nominated himself to join. The Olney Centre Management Committee, the Olney Development Group, Planning Committee and Recs and Services Committee all remained the same.
    There were no appointments of any new committees so the agenda moved on to the review and adoption of Standing Orders. Ben suggested that, as the current Standing Orders might be out of date, the council should accept them now with a view to reviewing them and bringing them back for adoption at the council’s July meeting.
    Jane Varley asked if the whole committee could get involved with that and Ben said that a working group should do it. Peter Geary said that the recommendations that were being made for changes and those things that were up for discussion for change, should be explained, as that would cut down a huge amount of time for other council members.
    No issues could be seen in terms of the review and adoption of Financial Regulations apart from bank signatories which would be dealt with later.

    Review of representation on or work with external bodies: Councillors make themselves available to sit on other bodies, such as charities. Chris Tennant volunteered to take a place on the Ann Hopkins Smith Almshouses Charity, Trevor Aldred and Dan Rowland volunteered themselves to help with the Cowper & Newton Museum, Deirdre Bethune volunteered for PLUG ([Emberton] Park Liaison Users Group), Debbie Whitworth for the Olney Ward Forum and Ben Brown put himself forward for Milton Keynes Association of Local Councils.
    Ian Stokes volunteered for the Olney Pre-School, and Debbie Hall said she would be the link between the council and Olney Senior Citizens. It was agreed that nobody from the council has sat on the Olney Chamber of Trade for some time, and the Clerk said the Parishes Forum was one for the Milton Keynes Council to deal with. Peter Geary said that was relatively important because it dealt with matters that aff ected all parishes. Ben and Debbie Whitworth agreed to be the points of contact for that. For the Wind Farm Fund Committee, former Councillor Mike Hughes has in the past attended on behalf of OTC. It was proposed that he be asked to continue in this role. Keyholders were confi rmed as Phil, Deirdre and Naomi with Naomi and Deirdre as emergency contacts.
    For inventory of land, buildings and equipment, Ben said this was postponed last year and put under review while the assets were inspected and he proposed the same was done this year. Last year that work was done by the Recs and Services Committee. Ian Stokes asked if the work could be broken down into sub-sections within the assets. Ben wondered if two months (up to July’s meeting) was long enough to carry out the reviews but it was agreed that the Clerk would coordinate the various reviews in time for July.
    Reviews of arrangements for insurance cover, staff subscriptions, the Council’s complaints procedures, and the Council’s freedom of information and data protection legislation brought no objections. The policy for dealing with the media should be combined with a policy for dealing with social media said Jane Varley and that was agreed.
    There were no amendments to the Council employment policies while the review of the Council’s expenditure incurred under section 137 of the local Government Act (which concerns donations to charity) should be looked at said Peter Geary, to make sure the Council is complying with it.
    The fi rst Monday of the month at 7pm is the agreed time for OTC meetings. Can that stay the same, asked Ben. Peter said 7.30pm used to be the normal time which was more convenient for those councillors who have a daytime job. Some councillors didn’t agree with this though, saying 7pm was more convenient, and it was agreed that the start time would remain the same. Approve the schedule of payments: This concerns the rates the council charges each year for buildings such as the Olney Centre and the East Street building. Ian Stokes wondered how there was a fi xed fee for electricity charges at these premises when the Council doesn’t know what the bill is, adding that the bill will have gone up by 60% over last year.
    Ben suggested that they adopt and approve the schedule of charges, notwithstanding a review that is going on concerning the East Street building, and this was agreed.
    The next point on the agenda was the AGAR (Annual Governing Accountability Return) which Ben said they could not do that evening but he could supply a timeline of what was happening. The end of year internal audit would happen mid-May, the end of year audit report would be signed off on 6th June (the next OTC meeting), when certifying of the accounts would also take place. There will be an extraordinary fi nance committee meeting before 6th June.
    The council needs bank signatories. Currently these are Ben Brown and Phil Geach, as former Mayor. For continuity, said Ben, they would need another signatory to take the place of Phil and that should be the Chair of Finance. But as Ben is currently the Chair of Finance it was agreed that another signatory would be required. Clerk Jane Brushwood was suggested, as was another member from the Finance Committee and, as the Clerk suggested, would it be sensible to have the new Deputy Mayor also listed as a signatory? This was agreed and Debbie Whitworth was added to the signatories list.
    CCTV quotes for the Recreation Ground and East Street car park: The Clerk said there were no quotes yet. But I can assure you, she added, my offi ce will get some.
    Jane Varley said the Council had not determined what they were trying to achieve with CCTV. Do we want CCTV, she asked, and what will it achieve? Colin Rodden said they are trying to reduce anti-social behaviour at the Rec while Naomi added that it has become an on-going issue. Almost every evening there is vandalism at the Rec she added.
    But what will CCTV prevent do you think, Jane continued to probe. Do we want to say we’ll have a monitoring service, she asked, adding that there is no electricity supply for the cameras and it hasn’t been budgeted for. Ian Stokes said he has some experience of this because of his involvement with the town’s Colts football club. They have involved the police and security fi rms in the past and, although CCTV fi lm is not enough to prosecute, the police say that CCTV was a deterrent to signifi cantly reduce crime. They also say a monitoring service is worth having because the police ‘just don’t come out to Olney’. He said crime had become more regular and ‘more aggressive’. We know security guards have been challenged with dogs for example, said Ian. There have been fi res in the stand and dugouts and they fi nd smashed glass regularly. If we do nothing it’s negligent, he added. If cameras can cover the car park, the access road and the rear of the Colts club it would be useful.
    Jane said that’s a good start as ‘we need to know where the issues are occurring so we can decide where we want any cameras sited’. She said she would rather see personal patrols out there rather than relying on CCTV but it was pointed out that this would be even more expensive. Naomi said the Council has got to be proactive and sort this out. Let’s be seen to be doing something, she implored.
    Ben suggested they go ahead and get quotes and Ian added that once the quotes were in, the Council should write its own specifi cation and then ask the security fi rms to re-quote against that spec. He added that any fi lming should be of good enough quality that perhaps can be used in court as evidence.
    The Clerk said that without a plan in place she had made inquiries about security at the car park, the MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) and the access road. Start high and come down to what we can aff ord, she suggested. Colin asked if the Rec would put up some money too if the system was upgraded. Ian said there was a case for charging a fee for parking in the East Street car park during private events. It’s a revenue opportunity that we have not been using, he added. Naomi asked if the police would give recommendations on CCTV equipment but Clerk Jane said they wouldn’t. It was agreed that Jane would meet with security companies while Naomi off ered to talk to Crime Prevention Offi cers.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 6th June at 7pm in the Olney Centre. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, contact the Town Clerk: townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

    Extraordinary meeting of OTC

    Mercury was unable to attend an extraordinary meeting of OTC held at the Olney Centre on 27th April, to discuss proposals for the Jubilee event. It was agreed that schools will participate in baking and painting, bunting would be left up for the summer, and additional bins were required. A Picnic in the Park event, beacon lighting, and the fl ying of flags used in the Christmas tree brackets, were all mentioned as ideas. Hanging baskets will be put up before the Jubilee week.
    Naomi Brock proposed that the same security fi rms be employed as last year, Friday evenings, Saturday and Sunday, starting at the Jubilee weekend until mid-September and that CCTV be investigated.

  • Town Meeting as reported in the Phonebox Magazine

    Olney Town Council met for the Town Meeting, which is held once a year.

    Mayor Opens Meeting
    Recently elected Mayor Ben Brown welcomed the audience of 25 members of the public and councillors to the meeting, explaining that it would be very different to the meeting held last year online, due to Covid restrictions.

    Olney Development Group Report
    On behalf of the Olney Development Group (ODG) Chris Tennant gave the first committee report explaining that the role of the group was to monitor and review the implementation of the neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) responding to changes in national and Milton Keynes Council (MKC) policies, plus liaising with local businesses, schools, healthcare providers and others to enhance the social and community infrastructure and environment by use of the Section 106 funds received from developers.
    He gave a short update on the sites identified in the ONP (Olney Neighbourhood Plan)

    Lavendon Road (site A). A 50 house development is progressing well with occupation, including affordable homes underway.

    Warrington Road (Olney Park, site B). New offices, warehouses and 66 bed care home is underway and OTC is currently liaising with MKC and the developers for a potential new Aldi supermarket.

    Osier Way (site C), Construction of 66 houses and flats is underway with many occupied.

    Yardley Manor (sites D and E). Construction of 250 homes, including 75 affordable properties for rent or shared ownership of which 10% are allocated through the Local Connections policy.

    East St Community Centre or Youth Club (site H). Site H is earmarked for a new health and community hub and negotiations continue with the various partied involved, including Cobbs Garden Surgery. It appears that a decision has been made to refurbish the existing community building, rather than demolish it and build a new facility, as originally proposed.

    Site R is the Sainsbury’s site (now open) and the McCarthy and Stone retirement village, the latter of which is in contravention of the NDP, but for which the developers successfully appealed against planning refusal.

    Site S is Stilebrook Road Industrial area where three new warehouses have been completed and the rest of the site is safeguarded for employment use.

    The new council have commenced the five year review of the ONP to reflect changes of site allocation and planning policy.

    Finance Report
    Ben Brown presented the finance report, as Chair of Finance. He said the council had faced a difficult year with the income from the precept almost being wiped out and reserves having to be drawn upon very early on. Building a budget in normal times was difficult enough but almost impossible in the middle of a pandemic. The year had ended with a surplus of nearly £52,000, since income from bookings and markets returned quicker than anticipated.

    The council had made a number of grants including to the Rugby Club for new changing rooms, to the church for Amazing Grace 250 celebrations, and to Ousedale School for the 5G all-weather surface.

    Olney Centre Management, HR and Dickens of a Christmas Committees Reports
    Deirdre Bethune gave a combined report for the Olney Centre Management, HR, and Dickens of a Christmas Committees. The council had called upon former Deputy Clerk Jane Brushwood to help during this period and following a competitive recruitment process Jane had been appointed Town Clerk.

    The full report of this special meeting appears on our website [appears below]:

Olney Town Meeting - Full Report

  • Town Meeting Full Report

    Olney Town Council meeting - Mercury

    Opening the Meeting:
    Recently elected Mayor Ben Brown welcomed the audience of 25 members of the public and councillors to the meeting, explaining that it would be very different to the meeting held last year online, due to Covid restrictions.

    Olney Development Group Report
    On behalf of the Olney Development Group (ODG) Chris Tennant gave the first committee report explaining that the role of the group was to monitor and review the implementation of the neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) responding to changes in national and Milton Keynes Council (MKC) policies, plus liaising with local businesses, schools, healthcare providers and others to enhance the social and community infrastructure and environment by use of the Section 106 funds received from developers. He gave a short update on the sites identified in the ONP.

    Lavendon Road (site A) 50 house development is progressing well with occupation, including affordable homes underway.

    Warrington Road (Olney Park, site B) for new offices, warehouses and 66 bed care home is underway and OTC is currently liaising with MKC and the developers for a potential new Aldi supermarket.
    A member of the public later noted that despite the overwhelming public support for the building of Sainsbury’s, MKC had initially refused planning permission and hoped that the same would not occur for the proposed Aldi.
    Chris responded that there is ‘latent demand’ for retail capacity and spend in the town, but there is a paradox in that the neither the outline planning permission granted by MKC for site B or the NDP allocate that site for retail, so although OTC supports the principle of more retail it could not support the plan in totality.

    Mercury notes that the same developer who claimed there was insufficient support for additional retail on the Sainbury’s site, and successfully overruled the NDP and MKC planning refusal to build the new McCarthy and Stone residential homes at a public enquiry during Covid, now finds that there is sufficient demand to build an Aldi on the other side of the road. Money talks? You decide…

    Osier Way (site C), construction of 66 houses and flats is underway with many occupied.

    Yardley Manor (sites D and E), construction of 250 homes, including 75 affordable properties for rent or shared ownership of which 10% are allocated through the Local Connections policy. This initiative was championed by former mayor Phil Geach. Regular meetings take place between OTC, MKC, the developers, and two local residents. The ODG continues to liaise with the developers on the design of the community building which they are obliged to deliver before the 125th dwelling is occupied early next year.

    The site of the East St Community Centre or Youth Club (site H) is earmarked for a new health and community hub and negotiations continue with the various partied involved, including Cobbs Garden Surgery.
    It appears that a decision has been made to refurbish the existing community building, rather than demolish it and build a new facility, as originally proposed.
    Chris was later asked about the timeframe for this, as Cobbs Garden Surgery appears to be struggling to meet demand now and would not be able to cope with the demand generated by the new houses, particularly the retirement homes.
    A long discussion took place and Chris said MKC has allocated £750K of Section 106 funding, appointed a Project Manager and agreed a land transfer deal in principle. It had always been recognised that the new developments would need to have social infrastructure improvements running in parallel but currently there is a time-lag.
    A member of the public asked if Cobbs Garden Dental Practice would be relocating to the new hub, as suggested at a previous OTC meeting. Was it right that a private practice that does not accept HNS patients should reside in a publicly funded building? Chris said that OTC agreed, and the dental practice may be reconsidering its view on accepting NHS patients.

    Site R is the Sainsbury’s site (now open) and the McCarthy and Stone retirement village, the latter of which is in contravention of the NDP, but for which the developers successfully appealed against planning refusal.

    Site S is Stilebrook Road Industrial area where three new warehouses have been completed and the rest of the site is safeguarded for employment use.

    Five Year Review of the ONP
    The new council have commenced the five year review of the ONP to reflect changes of site allocation and planning policy. Other projects include the new full sized Astroturf pitch at Ousedale campus, replacement of the surface of the Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) at the recreation ground, a skate park, repair and refurbishment of the former Football Club building (which will be subject to public consultation), regeneration of the Market Place, enhancement of OTC’s own buildings as part of drive to become carbon neutral by 2030, allotment enhancements, installation of new cycle stands, enhancements to East Street (Rugby Club) car park, and enhancements to play areas.

    A question was asked if it is possible for OTC to have any influence over the carbon neutrality of new houses being built and the refurbishment of the East Street Community Centre.
    Chris answered that the current building work complies with existing building regulations, but new and more stringent standards will come into effect in June this year. However, the final decision on planning policy rests with MKC. As regards the East Street Community Centre, he said the building is ‘of it’s time’ and the best thing that OTC can do is to influence such things as the upgrade of the heating and insulation. He said OTC would push for the new community building at Yardley Manor to be built according to the new standards that will be in place when building commences, not when planning permission was granted as suggested by the developers.

    Finance Report
    Ben Brown presented the finance report, as Chair of Finance. He said the council had faced a difficult year with the income from the precept almost being wiped out and reserves having to be drawn upon very early on. Building a budget in normal times was difficult enough but almost impossible in the middle of a pandemic. However, the previous council had set a good budget which had steered the new council through a difficult period and this year the finance committee had been able to build on this good work.
    The year had ended with a surplus of nearly £52k, since income from bookings and markets returned quicker than anticipated. The surplus had been added to the reserve funds which had enabled the council to exceed the target of reserves being 35% of expenditure two years ahead of expectations.
    Ben said he understood that reserves can be a divisive subject, but his view is that reserves exist to protect the council’s future and the past two years had shown that they need to be prepared for unexpected events. He agreed that OTC need to be more dynamic with their reserves and ensure that they are fit for purpose and used when necessary.
    The precept increase had been maintained below inflation at 3.4%. The council had made a number of grants including to the Rugby Club for new changing rooms, to the church for Amazing Grace 250 celebrations, and to Ousedale School for the 5G all-weather surface.
    Ben was asked about the size of grants available and said that it varied from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds. The maximum is £10k but it is usually nearer £3k and application forms are available from the council office. He thanked all the OTC staff and particularly former Deputy Clerk Sarah for her attention to finance and the significant improvements noted in the recent audit.

    Olney Centre Management, HR and Dickens of a Christmas Committee Reports
    Deirdre Bethune gave a combined report for the Olney Centre Management, HR, and Dickens of a Christmas Committees. She said the new council had ‘lost the plot’ very early in its tenure which had created a great deal of work for former deputy clerk Sarah Kennedy who had been left on her own in the office as the council attempted to recover from the pandemic and had done an awesome job. Unfortunately, she had now moved on but has maintained contact and continues to provide assistance.
    During the time that Sarah was acting clerk the council had employed Laura on a temporary basis, who was now a permanent member of staff. The council had called upon former Deputy Clerk Jane Brushwood to help during this period and following a competitive recruitment process Jane had been appointed Town Clerk.
    The Olney Centre had been closed during Covid and the caretaking and cleaning contracts had not been renewed so staff and councillors came in to open up. Initially hirers had been reluctant to return but now things have picked up and a cleaner and caretaker had been appointed. A quieter Dickens had been organised last year.

    Planning Committee Report
    Trevor Aldred presented the Planning Committee report. MKC are the Planning Authority and OTC participate in the consultation process, having no actual powers. They can support, object, or pass no comment. Objections can only be justified on planning policy grounds such as non-compliance with the NDP.
    The MKC planning portal exists to allow viewing of and commenting on planning applications, but it is not very user friendly so Trevor said he has prepared a user guide for anyone who wishes to use it. It is possible to email MKC so that a member of staff enters the comments on the portal, but he said there appeared to be little Quality Assurance of that process, so it is better for residents to enter comments themselves.
    Social media comments were unlikely to influence decisions, he said. Of the 150 applications considered in the last year 20% were supported, 15% objected and the rest ‘no comment’.
    Some applications which OTC have objected to have been overruled and supported by MKC but none of those supported have been objected to by MKC. The Planning Committee had assisted a resident in an Enforcement Order. [The full report is available below]


    Summary of Activities for the Past Year

    The OTC Planning Committee participates in the overall Consultation process, developed by MKC, relating to all Planning Applications received by them. As such, the OTC Committee’s role is primarily a consultative one – and it has no real decision making powers. However, it is allowed to Comment, Support or Object. Objections must be based on the relevant planning policies – i.e. objections must be made on the grounds that the particular Planning Application does not comply with those policies. Objections cannot be based on anything else: e.g. a Facebook posting: “I don’t like that development very much – it should have been a Harrods, not a Woolworths”.
    There is an online system, provided by MKC, for individuals to raise a comment or an appropriate objection to a particular application. Interested parties are encouraged to make their feelings known via this online system. (You can write or email MKC, and they will key your opinions in, on your behalf). A ‘crib-sheet’ is available on request to assist in this regard. Note: Social Media posting may influence the opinion of Planning Committee members – but they are unlikely to influence the decisions of MKC!

    During the year, the Committee has met once a month, and considered around 150 Planning Applications. This has involved reading / reviewing c. 1,000 technical papers, drawings and other documents, some of them very dense and written in a language that only approximates to sensible English! They have ranged from the very large (e.g. the Warrington Road development) – to the very small (replacing a house window). We have ‘Supported’ around 20% of these - and ‘Objected’ to approximately 15%. The remainder we have Commented / No Commented - (i.e. we do not wish to Object or Support).

    Our main focus has been to try to protect and enhance our buildings estate and to preserve the amenity values of our residents - wherever we can.

    There have been some cases where we have objected - but MKC have permitted the application. There have been no occasions when we have supported an application but MKC have declined the application.

    In addition, we have assisted a member of the public requesting an ‘Enforcement Order’ – and have attended an MKC Development Panel, to better articulate an objection that we had made.

    We have also worked alongside our colleagues on the Olney Development Group – in particular, monitoring the Warrington Road development, hosting a public participation event on the Aldi development, and developing an update to the Olney Neighbourhood Plan.


    Recreation and Services Committee Report
    The report from Recreation and Services Committee Chair Jane Varley was read by Ben Brown in Jane’s absence. The committee had commenced the year by approving the re-siting of the Amazing Grace 250 Community Orchard and approving the continued use of the allotment field as a wildflower meadow (additional sports use had been considered).
    The market place toilets have been refurbished and trees around the market place renewed. Quotes are being reviewed for resurfacing the Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) on the rec. Two speed guns have been purchased for the Speedwatch Group.
    An open day is being planned to demonstrate what the public can do to reduce carbon waste later this year.
    A question was asked as to why the planting of the Jubilee tree canopy had not received more publicity. Ben explained that the trees had arrived unexpectedly early and had to be planted in a hurry. Naomi Brock said there would be a public opening ceremony involving local school children and a commemorative plaque.

    Mayor's report
    In his Mayor’s report Ben Brown said since the last town meeting there had been an election many new faces appearing and two experienced councillors returning. He thanked the past Mayor Phill Geach and Deputy Naomi Brock for their hard work over the year, much of it unseen by the public. The new council had listened to concerns of residents, particularly on the matter of visitors to the recreation ground and security guards had been employed to enforce the rules already in place. The council will monitor the situation during the coming summer, he said. It was good to see town events such as Dickens, Pancake Race, Riverfest and BOFF returning, and he looked forward to the forthcoming Jubilee celebrations.
    He thanked all the councillors for their hard work over the year and said it had been a learning process for them all, but he believed that everyone who puts themselves forward does it for the right reasons. Ben said he was looking forward to his year as Mayor and was very proud to be able to represent the town.

    Thames Valley Police Report
    The Thames Valley Police report was read out by Ben Brown, firstly from the MKC Road Safety Office. Parishes are starting to sign up for local Speedwatch schemes and need volunteers. They are continuing to monitor the situation at the Whirlypit Roundabout, High Street pedestrian crossing and parking outside schools. The PCSO report for the last month identified 2 reports of unsocial behaviour (community), 1 criminal damage, 2 shoplifting, 2 theft, 1 burglary (business), 4 concerns for safety, 2 suspicious persons, 2 suspicious persons (vehicle), 1 RTA no injury, 1 RTA minor injury, 1 fraud.

    Ann Hopkins-Smith Charity Report
    Chris Tennant gave a report on behalf of the Ann Hopkins-Smith Charity, saying that the finances were in good shape, despite a heavy maintenance schedule for the Alms Houses in 2020. The welfare of the 12 residents is always of major concern to the trustees, particularly during the pandemic. Should a vacancy occur, eligible residents will be invited to apply to the trustees.

    Cowper and Newton Museum Report
    Paul Collins gave the report from trustees of the Cowper and Newton Museum, starting with a history of the museum for the benefit or new residents. The museum attracts over 5000 visitors from all over the world but was obviously impacted by the pandemic. The ‘Quackery and Enlightenment’ display, Dickens stall in the courtyard and spooky walks have proved popular and many maintenance and development projects have taken place or are underway. A number of heritage boards will be provided around the town. Three trustee vacancies and the two OTC nominated trustee positions remain unfilled. The Heritage Lottery grant for AG250 celebrations has been successful.

    Newport Pagnell and Olney Lions Club Report
    Trevor Aldred presented the report from Newport Pagnell and Olney Lions Club. The club had run several successful fundraising events, including a Hoe Down, Motorama, Whisky Tasting, and raised other funds through selling the town calendars and an easter egg raffle. Donations had been received from several sources, including Olney Classic Car Club and The Olney Group (TOG), the latter for assistance at their events. This had enabled them to donate around £10,000 to good causes locally, nationally, and internationally including Ukraine. [The full report is available below] and on their Facebook page.


    Newport Pagnell & Olney Lions Club (CIO)
    Registered Charity Number 1184025



    It’s been a difficult year again for the Club in terms of our low Membership – and this has been magnified by the effects of the Covid pandemic. But we have recruited a wonderful new Member, and we have had some fantastic support from new Friends – which is hugely encouraging.
    With this re-charge of our energies and resources, we have ‘doubled-down’ and worked really hard. In these difficult times, we have tried even harder to bring our humanitarian aid to those in need.

    Lion Angela actually joined us a little while ago. She brings enthusiasm, energy, bags of ideas and a real positivity. Angela is a real asset to our Club - and we are all delighted to have her on board. Also joining us recently are Friends Terry and Chris, who have hit the ground running, organising and participating in a number of our events. We welcome all three to the Club and hugely appreciate their fantastic contribution to our meetings and fund-raising activities.

    Hoe Down Event: We held our very first Hoe-Down Event. This went extremely well – despite it pouring down with rain all day! There were lots of smiley faces in attendance! I think we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, despite the best attempts of the met office to throw a spanner in the works. There was a great community feel to the event, which I believe everyone enjoyed.

    Motorama Car Show: We were delighted to announce the return of Motorama, to the Market Place in Olney, on Sunday 12th September 2021.This was the 25th year of running Motorama, having started back in 1996 on the Olney fields as part of Fiesta celebrations - and moving to the Market Place in 2008. Our proceeds from Motorama 2021 (around £1,500) were used to donate to Cancer Research UK and The Princess Poppy Rainbow appeal – with, a little also going to our Charity Fund, which has been badly hit this year – with no money coming in, but requests for funds/grants still being supported.

    Lions Toast Event: Our latest ‘Lions Toast’ whisky tasting event took place at the Carlton House Club. We were running the event to support DrugFAM, a charity that supports families, friends and relatives of those who are coping with someone with a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction. The speaker for the evening was Simon Coughlin, CEO of Remy Cointreau (Spirits Division) who gave us a true insider’s view of the whisky industry and the development of Bruichladdich (pronounced Brook-Laddie) distillery, one of the main employers in the Scottish Hebridean Island of Islay.
    £1,000 was donated!

    Town Calendars 2022: Again, we produced and sold two town calendars, in Olney and Newport Pagnell. I’m delighted to report that the profit of the whole campaign was around £4,300 – which is a fabulous result. Thank you so much to all who helped – the people of Newport Pagnell and Olney; the retailers of both towns, and our very generous sponsors!

    Easter Egg Raffle: For various reasons, we didn’t feel that we could go for our full-blown Easter Egg Raffle event this year, so we came up with a slightly cut-down version of things. Our good Friend, Terry, made us up a beautiful Easter Chocolate Hamper - which we sold raffle tickets for, in Olney and Newport Pagnell. As a result of this event, another £500 will go local Lions Clubs in Ukraine and adjacent countries to help the Ukrainian people.

    Sundry Donations Received: We received a number of donations during the year – in particular from the Olney Classic Car Club and The Olney Group – who presented us with a handsome cheque which was very gratefully received! A big ‘THANK YOU’ to all who have supported us.

    We have conducted nearly 1,000 hours of community service, including:
    Distribution of Christmas Parcels: We were delighted to re-introduce our Christmas parcels, after being forced to cancel last year. We purchased and distributed around 300 tins of yummy-ness to some of the local senior citizens in Olney, Newport Pagnell and surrounding villages. The whole Club, including some ‘retired’ members, pulled together to deliver the parcels, over the Christmas period.

    Olney Fireworks: Again we helped out at the Olney Fireworks display - a really great show, well organised and very professional. Saw a lot (and I mean a lot) of happy faces! WELL DONE to The Olney Group for organising this fantastic event. Many thanks must go to our small army of Friends, who worked on the main gate with us - we couldn't do it without you - Great teamwork and fantastic spirit of friendship!

    Amazing Grace Community Orchard Planting Event: Lions and Friends had a great day, helping out at the Amazing Grace orchard planting event, held in March. We:

    • ran the reception desk for all the volunteers checking in
    • planted a few trees ourselves
    • sold a great many of our raffle tickets (and everyone loved the prize)
    • ‘flew our flag’ and engaged with our local community
    • collaborated with another local organisation - (Amazing Grace Community Orchard)
    • mingled with the Town Mayor and other OTC Councillors
    • had a great deal of 'fun and fellowship’
    • It was immensely satisfying to be a part of a really nice, worthwhile, community event!

    Tree Maintenance – Avenue of Oaks: In this period, a small team of Lions and Friends, led by our resident tree expert Martin Ward, did a bit of maintenance on our ten oak trees – mulching, and replacing the tree spirals that protect the base of the trees. We also carried out some work on our trees in Newport Pagnell. The young trees - well, saplings really - seem to be growing quite happily! - despite the recent windy weather.

    We have donated around £10,000 to charitable causes, including:

    We made several designated donations to the Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF) – including responding to appeals for Haiti, European Floods, USA Tornado, Tonga Tsunami, Madagascar and Ukraine. In turn, LCIF has made considerable donations to global causes including around $1.4m in humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The Club also donated £800 to ‘Advantage Africa’ – (a locally based charity).

    Our Club made a donation of £1,400 to the Milton Keynes Hospital Cancer Ward, Lions Family Room (As did several other local Clubs in our Zone). This room provides a private space for patients and their families in sometimes difficult times.

    We also made a number of other donations – including Lifelites, Cancer Research, Kids Cancer Charity, South Central Ambulance Service Charity, MK Food Bank and The Woodland Trust.

    During the year, the Club continued to work hard to build on the successful relationships it has with the local community, local businesses and with other organisations in the town – who the Club tries to help on a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ basis. For example, as noted above, the Club has assisted The Olney Group (TOG) at their fireworks event.

    The Club has a regular feature in the Olney Phone Box magazine, that provides information about what we are doing in the current period – and we are grateful for that support. We also make a regular contribution to Turvey News.

    The Club would like to sincerely thank the local community, shops, businesses, OTC Councillors and other organisations for their continued and extremely generous support for our activities – and with which we could not do without! In addition, the Club would like to make a special ‘thank you’ to the small army of Lions Friends, that also help us out when we are a little short of hands – throughout the year.

    We urgently need new Members and Friends - (an easy, low commitment, way of helping support our work). If you can help, just fill in your details on our Contact Page, (on our website), or reach out to us on our Facebook page - and we’ll take it from there!

    As previously noted above, the Club is always on the look-out for new members. We have some great ideas and bags of experience. But we urgently and desperately need extra help (Members and Friends) to boost our team if we are to take advantage of this. There is a real danger that we will be forced to scale back on some of our activities if we cannot secure more ‘hands-on-deck’. To contact the Club, you can visit our website or leave a comment/message on our Facebook page:



    Many thanks to all the members of our local communities, our shops, pubs, councillors, and other businesses and organisations – and especially, to our group of Friends for their support. We really could not do it without you!

    Thank You


    MKC Ward Councillors' Report
    The MKC Ward Councillors’ report was given by Keith McClean. Keith started by saying he wasn’t sure if he was now a City Councillor following the overnight news that MK had finally been granted City Status by The Queen. Keith noted that the No 21 bus service had been considerably reduced and the replacement MK Connect service was rather ‘Marmite’ – love or hate it.
    The ward councillors continue to work with MK on improvements to safety at the Whirlypit roundabout and he noted that the Aspreys/Yardley Road roundabout had had the signage replaced and wondered how long it would last. He discussed progress on Yardley Manor, the proposed medical centre, and efforts to prevent traveller incursions.
    Keith forewarned that by this time next year residents with a single green recycling bin will have another three to go with it as MKC move away from the current bag/box policy to wheelybins. He said he had personally argued a year ago that all planning decision should allow space for the additional bins but that had not happened, and applicants were reluctant to do it retrospectively. This caused considerable discussion amongst those present, and it was pointed out terraced houses, particularly those in the High Street would not have space or access to store the extra bins. Keith said alternatives were being investigated elsewhere in MK but he did not know the result of those trials yet.
    Debbie Whitworth noted that single bins degraded the visibility at the OneStop pedestrian crossing but another three per resident will be absolutely lethal and something needs to be done now before an accident occurs.
    Chris Tennant asked if MKC had any plans to address the pressure that the MKEast development would place on the A509 and particularly Olney High Street over the 15 years of construction. Keith replied that MKC would be working with the developers to look at the routing of construction vehicles but the A509 is a trunk road and traffic restrictions would be difficult. Ideally, they would use the M1, he said. There are several imminent scheduled road closures, he said, and MKC were working with the developers to minimise delays and ensure that the duration of closures was limited to that which was strictly necessary to complete the work. He confirmed that there is no provision in the MKEast budget to finance a bypass around Olney.
    Naomi Brock asked that in the absence of a bypass could traffic calming schemes be considered and Keith undertook to raise the matter with the MKC Road Safety Office and head of highways to consider schemes similar to those introduced along the A428.
    Chris Tennant asked about once proposed Rapid Transport System that would link Central MK with MKEast and on to Olney. Keith replied that the original plan for MK included a four armed monorail but the latest he had heard suggested it might be a driverless autonomous vehicle on the road but there were currently no funds for it.

    Town Meeting Closed
    Ben Brown thanked everyone for attending and closed the meeting at 8:45pm.

  • June 2022

    Olney Council report for June 2022 as printed in our July edition

    There were absences aplenty and one new arrival in this month’s sitting of Olney Town Council. The Mayor was away and the Deputy Mayor was unavailable following a busy Platinum Jubilee weekend.

    Town Clerk Jane Brushwood asked the gathering – which was quite depleted – if anyone would be happy to chair the meeting in Mayor Ben Brown’s absence. Deirdre Bethune stepped forward, a former mayor and therefore well qualified for the task. She took the chair at the head of the table and started by congratulating the Jubilee Committee for a job well done.

    Public Participation

    There is always a 15 minute Open Forum at the start of any OTC meeting: were there any members of the public wishing to speak, asked Deirdre. A deathly silence signified that there were not.

    Apologies for absence

    Moving on to business then, Deirdre asked if there were any apologies for absence. The half empty table in the Olney Centre told its own story: there were quite a few. The Clerk read through the list – Trevor Aldred, the aforementioned Ben Brown and Debbie Whitworth, Leanne Ward, Phil Geach and Debbie Hall were all absent. Mercury noted that Peter Geary wasn’t there either – he had presumably not sent his apologies.
    There were no declarations of interest from the table and Deirdre reminded everyone present that if they suddenly remembered they have an interest to make it known immediately.
    Item number 3 on the agenda was to approve the minutes of the OTC meeting of 9th May and the extraordinary meeting of 27th April. Ian Stokes had a query about a schedule of payments on the East Street building (the former football club) being approved from the May meeting. It says there’s a fixed fee on utilities, he pointed out, but that can’t be the case because it’s not a set amount, it had to be the actual bill that had been paid. That was noted by the Clerk.
    Colin Rodden brought up the statement read out by resident Kevin Viney at the May OTC meeting about the Veterans Lunch and the flags reported in Phonebox Magazine and the expenditure that had been paid out for those. But he shouldn’t have known what that expenditure was, queried Deirdre. No, said Jane Varley, fanning the flames of intrigue… someone’s been talking. The Clerk intervened and said that the minutes are only a summary of what was said and so they should move on. They did, and therefore the minutes for both meetings were approved.

    Co-option of one additional Councillor

    It was time to consider a new member for the council, to fill the seat vacated by the departed David Pibworth who resigned earlier this year. There were four applicants, reported the Chair: Frederick Parkinson, Mary Prosser, David Tyler and Zoe Westbourne. A tick box form was sent around the table from which Mary Prosser (pictured) was announced by the Clerk as ‘the winner’. She took her place at the table and immediately sat next to Jane Brushwood who offered to share her papers. Welcome to the team, said Deirdre. Mrs Prosser beamed delightedly.

    Mary Prosser

    On with business, the next item on the agenda was to review and approve the OTC Risk Management Register. Has anybody got any comments on it, asked the Chair. I have, said Colin Rodden. In fact, I’ve got quite a few so maybe I should send them to you. They were mainly comments and suggestions, he said. As it’s a work in progress document you can add to it as you go, said Jane Brushwood, adding: Are they additions? Yes a little bit, Colin replied, they are about accidents – if we have an accident book – and near-misses as well which you don’t mention in there. Near misses? asked an incredulous Naomi Brock. But isn’t that why we have a risk document in the first place? It’s all part of the reporting procedure said the Clerk and she was happy to accept Colin’s notes to add to it.
    Reports from Councillors who represent the council at external meetings was the next topic up for discussion. Has anyone been to anything other than the Jubilee meetings which are external anyway. It would just be the PLUG (Park Liaison Users Group) meeting, said Jane Brushwood.
    On receiving an expenditure report Deirdre said she should declare an interest because she had received some money. But that was only refunding, interjected the Clerk. I know it’s only refunding but I just think it should be declared in case anyone saw my name and thought ‘what’s that about?’. It was only a refund – it wasn’t for your benefit, the Clerk reinforced. Ian Stokes asked if they could see the expenditure figures listed cumulatively against budget. Can we see how each sub-heading is working against the budget?, he asked. I will find a way to do that, said the Clerk.
    The next item was concerning a review of the Council’s expenditure under a particular part (section 137) of the Local Government Act. It’s asking why we have reported as ‘nil’ expenditure under that section, explained the Clerk. It’s because we have to put it in there, you can’t put it anywhere else. That was the explanation I was given, she said, and it was an explanation that was accepted by all around the table.
    The Council then considered a £100 grant or donation to FOLIO (Friends of the Library in Olney) to help them provide Zoolab, an organisation that allows children to see and handle furry animals for £229. Is it a one-off visit, asked Naomi. Well, it’s an annual paid-for event, the Clerk cleared up. Has anyone got any objections, she asked. There were none.
    The Amazing Olney Heritage Trail was also discussed. Tom Jones, from the Olney Archaeological Society, had been in touch with Jane Varley about putting up new heritage trail signs around the town. We can’t say yes to putting up signs on pavements, for example, because they don’t belong to us, said the Clerk. We can only approve on places that belong to us. I have a problem with it, said Deirdre because we haven’t been told how many there are going to be or anything. I don’t want to be negative about the Heritage Trail but I would like to have some more information about how many signs are being planned.
    Colin Rodden said he thought it was only around five additional signs. It’s a tremendous thing, he added, and said that the organiser was only looking for the Council to show that they are positive about the idea so that he can then apply for funding. Jane Varley said she thought one is being planned for the Market Place bus stop and one at The Knoll landmark. But I don’t know where the rest of them are going, she added. Chris Tennant said he would be happy to support the idea, adding that the more we can say to help educate visitors to the town the better. It’s a good thing in principle, so let’s get some more detail he added. Naomi suggested they ask Tom to present to them at the next OTC meeting and check if there is any current signage that is out of date. So Chris summed it all up by proposing that the Council support the endeavour subject to the applicant coming to the OTC and giving a five minute update. If he’s unable to get into us he could send details, suggested Deirdre, otherwise could be stuck waiting for another month. It was all agreed.
    The next consideration was for the funding of an e-bike for Olney’s PCSO. The Clerk told the committee that the PCSO’s sergeant had rung her to say she was concerned about the idea, adding that there was more to this than just buying an electric cycle. There was the matter of looking after it, housing it safely, health and safety, training, insurance and other items that had not been budgeted for and were beyond this group.
    Why are we providing this to the police, questionned Jane Varley. To give it to the PCSO so that he can get quickly from one area of the town to another if he had to, said the Clerk. Naomi said he’s not just our PCSO though, he’s not here 100% of the time. In fact, she added after a moment’s thought, he’s not even here 50% of the time.
    Ian Stokes asked how much this bike would cost. The taxpayers already pay for the police service, he added. He had further questions: Is it solely for use in Olney? I’ve never seen the PCSO on a pedal bike, let alone an e-bike – don’t we already pay for police vehicles? Is there really a benefit to the town?
    Colin said he loved the idea of having a bike over a car. Ian said it was worth looking at if it was a real benefit to the town and proposed they come back with more details. He added, tongue in cheek, that they could put the officer on a normal bike for six months and if he looked after it they might consider an electric one.
    That got a chuckle from the room, but Deirdre trumped him with the pun of the evening: Shall we just park it then? She meant the idea, not the bike. She went on to propose that the Council does not fund this e-bike and wait until they receive more information and a request from the police service rather than the PCSO himself before they reconsider it. That was agreed.

    Olney Bypass

    Deirdre said that MK Council has been asked about an Olney bypass and councillor Keith MacLean has gone to the planning policy manager at MK and asked about whether or not we are likely to get one. She said they don’t really need to comment at the moment but just be aware that this is happening. Chris Tennant said that the matter was sitting in the policy framework to which Deirdre said it’s been sitting there for 17 years. Colin Rodden asked if OTC needed to ask the town and its people whether they wanted a bypass and take that to MK. If there is a big surge of support, he said, they could go back to MK Council but at the moment we don’t know if Olneyites want a bypass or not, he added.
    Chris Tennant said the emissions data was falling so the argument for having a bypass also fell away. Is the counter-argument, such as is childhood asthma getting worse, enough to get a new bypass? We must continue to propose that safeguarded routes (within the Neighbourhood Plan) are
    kept just that: safeguarded. He said this was a regional issue. To get to Milton Keynes from Wellingborough or Kettering for example you have to go through Olney. If lorry drivers want to get from Corby to the M1 that’s the way the satnav will take them. The MK East construction will go on for the next 20 years, he added with a hint of doom. And all the suppliers for that project are going to come through Olney. Is that the lever we can use to get the bypass, he asked.
    Deirdre asked if there was anything else they can do at the moment. We have been positive said Chris, we have safeguarded the route. We need to discuss Weston Underwood too, said Colin, and Emberton. Ian Stokes asked if this matter already sits in ODG (Olney
    Development Group) to which Chris replied yes. Ian said that Chris’s points about the MK East construction is hard hitting stuff and a game changer.
    We have made active representations to make sure the bypass stays in the transport plan, said Chris. Deirdre suggested they go back to Milton Keynes Council with their thoughts and Chris said that he would do that as chair of ODG.
    Finally to the update on the council’s Annual Return. This needs to go to the Finance Committee said Jane Brushwood after which we will have a short extraordinary Full Council meeting. I need to go through it with the Mayor (who is also on the Finance Committee) and before it is sent to external auditors, and this needs to be done before 1st July.

    Whirly Pit roundabout

    The long standing issue of the Whirly Pit roundabout was brought up again. The Clerk said that Debbie Whitworth had been ‘harassing’ ward councillors about the roundabout. Deirdre said there are pictures of how the roundabout might look and it’s all a question of whichever is this year’s safety fashion because there was a time when the council made sure things grew up on roundabouts so that drivers would have to be more careful when looking. Now they are taking vegetation away, she said, and then probably in three years’ time they will want to put it all back again. It’s about removing all the high level vegetation, she said, adding that she didn’t think OTC were even meant to comment on it at this stage. Well I think we need to comment to MK Council, said Naomi. I thought the discussion was about the danger coming down Drift Way but it seems to be about that coming from the other side of the road. Chris Tennant said this had a wider implication of taking a strimmer or chainsaw to the middle of every roundabout which he was happy to support if it improved visibility. However it doesn’t help with the safe crossing, which is still an issue, he added. And vehicles still approach that roundabout at speed, it’s still quite a way to cross that road and we should be doing a bit more lobbying to get a pedestrian crossing installed at that location.
    Colin Rodden said it was worth looking at more ideas, citing the roundabout in Milton Keynes near the main Tesco superstore where fences had been put up so that motorists physically had to slow down to look properly as they arrive. They need to look at speed indicator devices, while variable speed limits, 50 to 40 to 30, should be looked at for when you come into the town. People still think Drift Way is 40 limit, they think Aspreys is a 40 he said. We should get MK Highways with Thames Valley
    Police together for a meeting to talk about a speed initiative.
    Naomi added that the council should go back to MK and tell them this roadway now does need to be completely reconsidered because it is exceptionally dangerous. There is no way to get across the junction from Osier Way. It probably needs to be a traffic lighted junction she added, saying let’s go back with all our arguments.
    Chris added that a four way traffic lighted junction would be expensive, but eminently safer. Deirdre wondered if they could ask for a smaller roundabout and Ian asked what were their chances of getting the junction changed. Slim to none at this moment in time, said the Clerk. Ian said we must keep plugging away for safer crossing and junctions, there are children crossing, families crossing – you can’t get across that road safely, he lamented. And if you have dogs with you it’s even worse. Colin agreed saying that we need to address not just this roundabout but the whole of Olney. Jane Brushwood asked for Councillors comments to be sent to her urgently.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 4th July at 7pm in the Olney Centre. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting contact the Town Clerk: townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

  • July 4th 2022

    July 4th 2022

    Public participation and letters to the council

    There were two members of the public present at the start of the meeting but neither of them indicated a wish to speak in the public participation section. Another entered after the meeting had started. At the end of the meeting he raised an issue regarding the eviction of an allotment holder. Mayor Ben Brown let him speak and then Town Clerk Jane Brushwood said the allotment holder had been into the office to speak to her and the matter had been resolved.
    Ben Brown said several letters had been submitted by members of the public, all thanking the council for the recent Armed Forces day. It had been pointed out that all attendees were over 70 years of age so Ben asked that if anyone knew of any service personnel in the town who wished to be added to a register they make them known so that they can be invited to future events. He thanked the councillors that attended and the office staff for making it a successful day.

    Apologies for absence and declarations of interest

    Apologies were received from Debbie Hall, Phil Geach, Dan Rowland, Chris Tennant, Keith McLean and David Hosking. The latter two are Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Ward Councillors who are now invited to Olney Town Council (OTC) meetings to present a report, along with Peter Geary who is also a Town Councillor.
    There were no declarations of interest at this stage.

    Ward Councillors report

    Peter Geary said that this was the first time there had been a ward councillor report to OTC for 14 years, although it was a regular agenda item for other local parish councils. Mercury recalled that this was a regular feature when Steve Clark and Graham Mabbutt (who sadly passed away recently) were Ward Councillors.
    Peter gave an update on the new footpath along Aspreys which is being constructed to provide connectivity to Yardley Manor. It had been noted that the existing lampposts are currently situated in the middle of the path, but he said new ones were on order and would be provided in the correct location and MKC would not adopt the path until the work was completed to their satisfaction. Naomi Brock said there had been much discussion about the path on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook group and asked if there was any cost to the Council. Peter replied that although it appeared that the work might be being done twice there was a certain logic to the order of the work, since the existing lights could not be switched off until the new ones were available and ready to be installed. There would be no cost to the council, he said, and admitted that he didn’t look at the Olney Noticeboard much as it was ‘too depressing’.
    He gave an update on the proposed new doctors surgery on the site of the old youth club (now East Street Community Centre). There had been something of a ‘log-jam’ with MKC regarding the purchase of the site over the last six months, which the ward councillors were working to clear. Colin Rodden asked if some timescales could be provided, since MP Ben Everitt had been chasing MKC but had not had a response. Peter replied that much of the information was commercially sensitive, but they hoped to be able to provide more information in the next six to eight weeks.
    MKE (East) will be an issue for the next 15 years said Peter. Work has started and the A509 road closure between J14 and the ‘Land Rover’ garage for two weeks from the end of July and will have an impact. It will then be closed for six months from the end of October to March 2023. The Holiday Inn will remain open and there will be access in either direction, but Moulsoe will effectively be cut off. With one of the main arterial routes into MK closed more traffic will go down the H3 past Newport Pagnell, causing significant congestion. Ward councillors were challenging the need for the duration of the closures but very little could be done, he said. Ian Stokes noted that this would have an impact on emergency vehicles getting to the hospital and Peter agreed.

    PCSO's report

    Town Clerk Jane Brushwood said no Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) report had been received, although a response had been received to a question raised last month as to why an incident of arson in the football pitch dugout was not included in the crime stats. She explained that the dugout did not qualify as a business premises so it would have been included elsewhere in the stats, although councillors said it would have been nice to know under which category.
    Ben said he and Jane had recently attended an informal meeting with the policing team and it was the same old story of lack of resources. The area north from Newport Pagnell is geographically 57% of Milton Keynes but is currently policed by one full time PC and three PCSOs. He emphasised the importance of reporting incidents to the police so that they could decide if a crime had been committed. The issue of antisocial behaviour on the recreation ground had been discussed, particularly the lack of police presence to issue fines for violation of the alcohol exclusion zone. The Chief Constable can give powers to private security firms to issue the fines, and this will be investigated. Peter Geary noted that in MK the Parks Trust have employed wardens to carry out this function and suggested that advice was sought from them as to how that was working and even the possibility of them coming out to Olney. Jane Brushwood said training could be given to locally appointed wardens to do this but felt that they should work in teams of no less than two. Ian Stokes asked if it would be possible to claw back funds (presumably from MKC), since Olney residents were paying the police (through the council tax) for a service they were not providing. Ben said they could ask but he was pretty sure what the answer would be.

    Expenditure report

    Ben said it was difficult to get an accurate picture of the council’s finances three or four months into the financial year, but a better picture would emerge in the next couple of months. Jane Varley asked if the costs of the Jubilee event had been covered by S106 contributions to which Deirdre Bethune replied that they had been more than covered. Trevor Aldred questioned the costs of IT and Jane Brushwood said that a revised quote had arrived that day on which she would be seeking Trevor’s advice.

    Reports from External Meetings

    Debbie Whitworth reported on the recent Parish Forum and North East Rural Community meetings, the highlights of which were:
    • Central Government support for bus services will cease in October and routes may see minor adjustments.
    • MKC has produced a bus service improvement plan but did not receive any government funding.
    • The MK Connect service is growing and on the whole MKC consider that it is working well but residents are still advised to email or ring 01908 252526 with any issues or complaints.
    • Emberton residents have problems with the No. 21 bus service and are unable to use MK Connect.
    • MKC will be demonstrating the new wheelie bin scheme later in the year and answering residents’ concerns.
    • SABA parking enforcement attend Olney three times a week and in future will also visit the OTC office weekly for a list of parking ‘hotspots’ which they will then target.
    • There is no longer any central funding for Speed Indicating Devices (SIDs) and in future each parish will need to fund their own devices at a cost of £3000 to £6000 each.
    The subject of SIDs caused considerable discussion. Thames Valley Police (TVP) will only consider deploying mobile speed monitoring cameras once six months’ worth of SID data has been provided to them and it was not clear to members what the criteria for further action would be. Naomi Brook thought that this was contrary to what TVP had previously advised. Peter Geary said the first point of collecting data was a local speed watch initiative with speed guns, then ‘truvelo strips’ which monitor traffic 24/7 for 2-3 weeks. His experience was that TVP would only then deploy mobile units if there was a likelihood of 15-16 offenders per hour. He noted that the closure of the A509 would lead to an increase in traffic along Aspreys and through Weston Underwood as motorists attempted to avoid the resulting congestion. Ian Stokes asked what the process was for getting average speed monitoring cameras installed. Peter Geary noted that along the Bedford to Northampton road there were such cameras in several places. There needs to be a request from the local authority and the police to kick the process off, he said, and while Bedford and Northampton police and councils were ‘on it’, Milton Keynes and TVP were not. It will be an agenda item for the next meeting.
    Deirdre Bethune reported on the recent Emberton Park Liaison User Group (PLUG). Consideration is being given to closing the two existing roadway gates to prevent cars driving all the way round, although exemption is likely to be given to fishermen. Park Manager Sam Flowers had received an award from MKC for his prompt action in saving the life of a heart attack victim and is a true asset to the park, she said.

    Section 106 allocations

    A list of headings for Section 106 proposals has been created in what appears to be an attempt to identify which committee is responsible for applying for each category of the overall pot of funds. Jane Brushwood felt that it should not be the responsibility of a single committee. It was agreed that each committee would consider proposals within their own remit and then bring them back to full council for ratification in order to avoid lengthy discussions at full council. Peter Geary said it was essential that OTC identified the priority areas to allocate this one-off sum of money which would not be repeated, since there was no appetite for further significant growth in the town. Trevor Aldred said it was important for residents to know how to apply for S106 funding and Peter agreed, saying that this was community money, not just OTC money. Most of it will be ‘hived off’ for services such as schools, universities, and health long before it ever reaches parish level, he said, so it is not actually a huge amount that will come to OTC.

    Committee membership review

    New member Mary Prosser has already joined the Finance Committee and will decide which others she wishes to join. A discussion took place about the term of reference of the various committees, as there was felt to be some overlap. Ben Brown said Phil Geach had written to say that he wished to be on all committees. Deirdre Bethune pointed out that the HR Committee had a limited membership so that other councillors could be consulted in the event of a dispute, although it appears this limit is not documented in Standing Orders. Peter Geary agreed, saying he thought it had been documented previously. Deirdre expressed her opinion that Phil Geach’s request should wait until he attended a meeting since he had not attended any since he stood down as mayor. A vote was taken with only three members voting in favour and one (Deirdre) against. Ben asked if there were any abstentions, which resulted in what appeared to be an embarrassed silence, and no one put their hand up, effectively abstaining to vote to abstain! Mercury was concerned that the fence might collapse with so many members sitting on it… Deirdre then said she would ‘decline to vote’ and expressed her dissatisfaction with the result. Ben said the vote had been taken and passed and Ian Stokes said assumptions had been made without knowing why Phil had been absent.
    Update: Phil Geach has subsequently resigned from the council. This means that two vacancies now exist, following the resignation of Leanne Ward. Most often vacancies are filled by co-option but 10 residents have written to the MKC Returning Officer requesting an election (at a cost of £7000 to the pubic purse) for Leanne’s vacancy, so Mercury assumes that this will only be required if more than two people put their name forward to fill both vacancies.

    The recreation ground

    A long discussion around the problems caused by visitors to the bathing steps on the recreation ground took place, a brief summary of which follows and not in chronological order: Ben Brown said there had already been one day where there had been a large number of visitors which had led to complaints about BBQs, consumption of alcohol, and traffic congestion including blocking of emergency access in the East Street car park. Naomi Brock said she had observed a PCSO’s vehicle blocking the emergency access. The problem will not go away, she said, and thought the council should look at how it could make money from the situation by charging for parking during the summer months, charging ice cream vans, and providing portaloos. She requested that white lines marking the parking bays should be repainted which would lead to more cars being able to park. Jane Varley felt that it was the responsibility of OTC to provide parking for visitors, for which it could charge to cover the costs of rubbish collection, security etc. and wondered if local businesses might like to make their car parks available. Debbie Whitworth suggested providing additional car parking on the football pitch for around 250 cars, as had recently happened for the Rugby 7s and Riverfest. There was no point in attracting more people until the parking issue was resolved, she said. Ian Stokes immediately declared an interest as Chairman of Olney Town Colts FC, saying that additional parking should be on an area designed for parking. Naomi Brock asked what the objection was to cars parking on the football pitch and Ian replied that the Colts rented the pitch from OTC and their season started in August so there was an overlap. There were also concerns around health and safety. Riverfest and Rugby 7s organisers had done a brilliant job in litter picking but who would remove every bottle top, which could cause horrendous injuries to players, he asked? Cars constantly driving over the pitch would damage the surface and it was a pitch, not a car park. There is an area between the pitch and East Street which had been used for the Rugby 7s parking and had room for around 30 cars, he said. Peter Geary said that MKC had previously approved plans to use that area for parking and had provided a grant for the mesh membrane, but it had not been popular with residents and had been dropped. Ian Stokes suggested it could be marshalled or locked and used for visiting sports teams in the event of charging being introduced to the rest of the car park. Peter Geary said the whole issue was a problem which had been discussed by the previous council in the first lock-down and could not be resolved in half an hour. A plan needed to be drawn up to decide whether to stop [the problem] or monetarise it and then consult with the public. Charging would bring problems of visiting sports teams having to pay to park, he said. Trevor Aldred said the council had no strategy on the issue, but Ben Brown said the solution to that is for members to bring proposals to the meeting for discussion. The discussion eventually moved on to the issue of antisocial behaviour and it was agreed that this was more of a problem in the evening after family groups had left, so the private security patrols will be increased.

    Odds and Sods

    Jane Varley has updated and circulated the Standing Orders so the agenda item was deferred to the next meeting. Likewise, the Employment Policy and Procedures document will be reviewed at the forthcoming HR meeting and brought back to full council at the next meeting.
    The Risk Register has been updated and individual actions will be identified and allocated to individual members.

    Exclusion of Public and Press

    Mercury had to leave for this section, but the council’s draft minutes reported: ‘An update on personnel matters: Rob Mungham has been appointed as Deputy Clerk. We were lucky enough to have several excellent applicants who we would be happy to work with, but Rob stood out and we’re looking forward to him starting 1st August.’

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 1st August, at 7.00pm in the Olney Centre. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, or any time the mayor deems appropriate, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

  • August 2022

    Olney Council report for August 2022

    Public Participation

    There is always a 15 minute Open Forum at the start of any OTC meeting where the public can ask questions or make a comment. The Mayor opened proceedings by asking if anyone wished to speak. Up stood Damon Flynn, from Olney’s fishing club. He had been to the recent extraordinary meeting about the trouble down at the Rec and said the council had his admiration because he felt ‘everything was being thrown at them’. He added that his, and other people’s view, was that the recreation ground issues will only be sorted out by the police, through fines, car towing and similar action. But his main point was about the potential move to charge people to park at the Rec. I think that’s one of the worst decisions you could make, he said. There’s only a problem in that area for 15 or 16 days a year, he added, why start thinking about charging people to park there? The rest of the year would affect local people who never cause any problem there such as dog walkers and the sports clubs including his fishing association. The plan would not stop the people they don’t want parking there, he added. They will just go off and park somewhere else. The Mayor thanked him for his thoughts.
    Jan Oates stood up next and, as if to confirm Mr Flynn’s assertion about the council having everything thrown at them, fired off a litany of complaints. First, Long Lane’s drains are blocked with weeds so water won’t run away when it rains. Second, a leak in West Street has resulted in a pile of mud being left in the middle of the road – when would it be cleared up? Third, we don’t have any police presence anymore. Fourth, she had heard about Olney houses getting four bins each – was that really going to happen? Fifth, there is pavement widening going on in Long Lane – when is that going to be finished? Sixth, the pavements generally need clearing.
    It was as if a Medieval caterpault had been released: the complaints came raining down on the beleagured council.
    When the tirade finally ended, it was Peter Geary who popped his head above the parapet. The bins programme is definitely going ahead, he said. Well, only a small percentage of people want that, returned Mrs Oates, her anger barely concealed. Why don’t we have any say in it?
    The bins issue is a borough council matter, explained Deirdre Bethune. Clerk Jane Brushwood attempted to douse the flames of discontent by asking for Mrs Oates’ email address. She said she would contact MK Council on her behalf. Mrs Oates wasn’t finished yet though. Will I get any response, she asked. We pay our council tax but don’t seem to have much of a say.
    Peter said the wheelie bin consultation had been going on for two or three years. Trials have been on-going and you either love it or hate it but it is happening so people need to get used to the idea. But what about people who live in flats, pressed Mrs Oates. There are other options for people in flats said Peter. As for the weeds issue he said, that’s got a place on the agenda all of its own later.
    Debbie Hall said that the bin system works well in the vast majority of councils in Britain including the Wirral, where she comes from. Not many areas have four bins to deal with though, pointed out Peter.

    Apologies for absence

    Ben asked if there were any apologies for absence. The Clerk said she had received them from Naomi Brock, Trevor Aldred, Dan Rowland, Colin Rodden, Chris Tennant and MK Ward councillor Keith MacLean. The table looked quite empty and, of course, Phil Geach and Leanne Ward had recently resigned, explaining two more of the empty seats. However new Deputy Clerk Rob Mungham boosted attendance by one.
    Ian Stokes suddenly intervened and asked, with an air of intrigue, if item 15 on the agenda, an update on the ‘Astro Project’, could be moved to ‘Confidential Matters’ as there was something he could not disclose publicly. Everybody’s ears pricked up at that. Ben agreed that he could. Next, the Mayor asked if there were any declarations of interest to be made. There were none. OK, does anyone have any comments about the minutes from the last OTC meeting? Silence. Right, I propose we approve those minutes – any objections to that, asked Ben. Nope.

    East Street Parking

    One item was moved up the agenda, and it had already been raised of course – the parking charges in East Street Car Park. Matt Croft from Napier Parking was there to offer a service to the council. Operating since 2006 Napier have worked in Olney before, on the Market Place. He said he would be happy to work with the council to help generate income from parking, being fully aware of the issues at the Rec. How long would the contract be, asked Ian Stokes. Napier would be happy to do a trial period but they would expect to agree a long-term relationship, said Mr Croft. Is it a standard ticket machine or ANPR, Ian probed. We have used ANPR before said Mr Croft, but we like to use standard machines, either coin operated or pay by card. The deal would include a uniformed presence for extra security – using ANPR relies solely on the technology. Additionally, Napier would offer a litter picking service for the car park too – although that wouldn’t include the whole of the Rec. That would be a lot of litter, agreed Ian.
    What about people with exemptions, asked Debbie Hall. There is a management system which handles all that, said the Napier man. We can do discounted permits, residents permits, whatever the council needs. Do you take all the profit from this, pressed Debbie. No we take a percentage, 35%, of the income generated from the car park, said Mr Croft.
    But if we exempt sports club members, that means you might get very little income and might not make a profit to cover your costs for the year, said Deirdre, clearly relishing her new role as a harbinger of doom. We would have to discuss exemptions and if we made them available for a lot of people, you wouldn’t make a penny, she added. Mr Croft tried to ignore that bombshell and carried on manfully, explaining how clubs could pay a small annual fee and for that they would get parking permits to display at East Street.
    Peter Geary said that the council’s Recreation and Services committee would need to discuss this matter fully and then work up a business model to understand how much to charge for parking. But he added that at some point OTC would have to consult with people in the town as to what they would like to see. The people in favour of parking charges to help run the Rec and the people against the idea both have perfectly reasonable arguments, Peter added. Ben summed up proceedings: do we want to take this forward? Do we want Napier to come up with a proposal? The Mayor agreed that the matter should go to Recs and Services and Peter reiterated that the matter should be made known to local people adding that he didn’t think the idea would go down well in the town.
    Ian Stokes said the council had to address the wider issues of anti-social behaviour at the Rec. What is stopping us charging a day rate in that car park, he asked. Nothing said Deirdre. OK, so let’s not not consider it, he said. That spectacular double negative meant that he felt the plan was worth thinking about at least, as it could help combat the anti-social behaviour. The consultation is a longer-term and more robust thing, he said, but there’s nothing stopping us, on the occasional day, invoking parking fees there. Let’s not kick it two months down the line to the Recs and Services meeting who might or might not make a decision.
    You’d be lucky if you get something from Recs and Services this summer, said Peter Geary grimly,
    we’re looking at next summer now.
    If we’re willing to use the cash reserves that we have to pay for security and other things, without seeking to recoup any revenues from what is potentially a fee-charging car park, that’s fine, but we shouldn’t not consider it, said Ian. A second double negative – he was on a roll.
    We also need to take into account the standard of parking there on busy days, said Jane Varley. People park badly, they are knocking people’s wing mirrors off, and essentially it’s dangerous. We’re overcrowded, people can’t get in and out, blocking the emergency exit so even if we’re saying this car park is full we need to do something about it. Napier sensed an opportunity here. We can repair and double yellow line that entry service road and we can mark the car park too, their spokesman offered. Temporary parking would mean temporary signs, is that possible, asked Debbie Hall. A nodding round the table suggested that it was.
    There were two proposals:
    1. A short term one to address parking on problem days and charge a day or hour rate for parking and;
    2. Investigate whether OTC proceeds with handing over supervision of East Street car park to a management company. Both were carried.
    Ben continued with the Rec issue by asking Ian to give an update on how volunteers might be able to help at the sports ground. Ian said there would have to be a risk assessment first, which Jane Varley was looking into, and then the plan is for a group of volunteers to get together on hot days with a view to preventing people bringing alcohol and
    barbecues to the Rec. We are trying to address the anti-social behaviour, the barbecues, the booze and the drugs, said Ian. There have been threats and abuse down by the river when trying to move visitors on. Once people have been drinking for several hours, Ian said, that becomes a problem. The volunteer idea is to discourage visitors from bringing those things with them to the Rec. We would ask people very nicely and politely if they knew that barbecues were not permitted on the Rec, but we can’t enforce it. I suggest we have private security there at all times, and we have already put up posters discouraging alcohol, litter and (you guessed it) barbecues. They had not had a chance to properly trial the idea yet but Ian had politely spoken to three people and they had all put their barbecues back in their car. There is a request out for volunteers he said and he hoped that the passion that townsfolk had shown about the Rec would turn into volunteering.
    Peter Geary said they need to understand what is enforceable and what isn’t – alcohol use comes under a PSPO (Public Space Protection Order) for example, while barbecue usage comes under bylaws and he would like to know where that bylaw actually sits and what its wording means. The Clerk said she’d had a meeting with the Parks Trust who had given her some guidelines on policy but that the wording of that policy would take some time to get through so that they can understand what’s expected of them.
    Jane Varley said that as the various sports clubs will have things organised on the hot days, could the council contact JUG (Joint User Group) and find out where and when specifically those events were taking place and perhaps issue them some parking permits so that the council are not penalising them.
    Ian Stokes said there were other places to park during the summer months, near to the tennis club for example or by the MUGA (Multi Use Games Area), so there are areas that OTC can provide without penalising anyone or diluting revenue that could come from the car park.


    Ben asked Ian to give an appraisal of how CCTV plans were progressing. Ian said that cameras will be going up on the Rec in early September. They are fixed cameras which will be recording for 30 days and in the event of an incident the data can be retrieved. All except one of the sports clubs has opted in to support the idea and the one that hasn’t is still awaiting a vote from their committee. He believed it would be a low cost solution for the council with possibly some grant funding. It benefits everyone, he said. A camera near the cricket club for example would be able to pan and zoom into the area near the river and will be good for data gathering while being a deterrent. All sports clubs have been informed that they will have to make a contribution towards the cost of the CCTV, the more that get involved the lower the cost for everyone. Ben said he hoped Olney people can see what the council are trying to do for them at the Rec.
    Jane said it’s important that when clubs are using the Rec field, someone is marshalling the entry gate and closing it behind them adding, ominously, that there were travellers in the area. It should be a condition of contract when using the field that people must shut the gate. That gate is really for emergency vehicles, council vehicles and access for maintenance, said Ian. Driving up to the football club is totally unnecessary and people shouldn’t be driving there as a matter of course. Ben said they would review who were the keyholders for the gate.

    Ward Councillors report

    MK Council’s David Hosking had been invited to speak, his first opportunity to do so. He talked first about the road closures between the Tickford roundabout and junction 14 of the M1 motorway reminding everyone that a number of closures will be in place until March next year as part of MK’s plan to build 5000 new houses and industrial units in that area. He said that they have been working with Highways officers to reduce the impact on road users over the coming months. Work will begin shortly on Olney’s Whirlypit Roundabout, including the roundabout itself and an installation of a traffic island on Warrington Road to improve pedestrian safety.
    The issue of the new bins also came up in David’s presentation but most of what he said had already been covered earlier so he whizzed through that section. Ben asked if a decision had been made over whether petrol or diesel cars could park in this area’s designated electric vehicle bays and David said they could – there was currently not enforced EV parking only.
    Jane Varley brought up the issue of bins again. What happens if people don’t have enough space on their property to store four bins? Without access to the rear, some people would have to wheel the bins through their house and out of the front door. Boxes similar to what we already use and, in some cases, brown bags could be issued said David, with help from Peter Geary.

    Reports from external meetings

    The Clerk said she had attended an interesting talk by an ecologist which also discussed bio-diversity and flooding on footpaths in certain areas. Ben Brown said he had been to a launch event for the Amazing Grace AG250 celebrations at Olney’s museum.

    Standing Orders

    Jane Varley has been working on this document with Deirdre Bethune and Trevor Aldred. There are not any major changes she said, but we have taken all the gender references out. No you haven’t, interjected Deirdre. Oh are there a few we have missed, Jane asked. Yes there were but the Clerk would put it right. The changes we have made are largely to the wording where it made no sense in the first place, said Jane Varley. Amendments had also been made to things that are out of date such as Covid regulations and we were also asked to limit the number of councillors that sit on each committee, said Jane. For Recs and Services for example we might as well have had a full council meeting as 13 of the 15 councillors were on this committee, and that is barmy.
    Peter suggested that they go through the document page by page and made detailed changes, too many to list here. These were all agreed by the council and Ben’s proposal to adopt the new document was carried.
    Jane was also responsible for the Employment Policy and Procedures document which had been reviewed by the HR committee. She proposed that they were accepted as read, and all were in favour.

    Section 106 allocations

    The Clerk said that the council is totally refurbishing the MUGA area at a cost of £79,000 and that all of that will be spent this year. Ian agreed and said that if the council move quickly now they can get the repairs done in 2022. The Clerk also had one quote in for the allotment drive which at £23,000, the council can afford to do with the funding available. No approval was made about the allotment quote as The Clerk is waiting to get three estimates. Ben said that the council continued to identify S106 pots of funding they can use and was pleased that the MUGA work could go ahead.
    Speed detection equipment for Olney roads were also discussed with potential funding from the CIF (Community Infrastructure Fund). There is no money in our budget for it, said the Clerk. If we wait until next year’s budget and put some money aside for it, we will then have to wait another year to apply for funding for the cameras (up to 50% of the cost), so it wouldn’t hurt to put in an application now, she added. What are we actually looking for, asked Peter. We’re not looking for speed cameras are we? No, we’re looking for SIDs (speed indicator devices), said The Clerk. So should we apply this year, asked Ben. This is one where you do apply and you also use your reserves and then rebuild that cost back into your budget for the following year if you feel you need to, explained Peter. So there’s no issue applying for grants even though you have spent the money, queried Ian. No you can’t do it if you have spent the money, said Peter. What you do is you apply for the grant now then you spend the money as soon as you get the grant, then you rebuild it into your budget. We need to decide how many SIDs we want, and where we want to put them. The council agreed to think about that and then put it to the Services Committee to decide where the equipment is going.
    Weeds reared their ugly heads again. The Clerk said there were two departments responsible here: general waste and street cleaning personnel deal with the weeds on the road and pavement while the gutters are the Highways Department’s responsibility. Two different departments, two different problems, she said. The guttering people have a real problem getting access to the drains in the High Street, she added, as there are always parked cars there. There was a proposal that all the cars down one side of the High Street are removed and cleared out and the next day they do the other side. They have asked us how we can help them with that. They are looking at different ways of dealing with weeds in the gutters but they also asked if people could clear the weeds from outside their own houses. Ian brought up the plan by Anglian Water to flush through the town’s pipes. If we have blocked drains we are going to have standing water everywhere, he said. Should we tell Anglian about the problem with our drains?
    A blocked drain should be reported through the proper channels, said Peter. Weeds in the gutter are a different issue and ever since the council stopped regularly clearing the gutters this has become a more regular problem. Scraping it all up is hugely labour intensive and there’s not a lot of spare cash for local authorities currently, he said. Highways are asking for help specifically to access the drains. If they want access then it means don’t park any cars on the west side of the High Street one day and the east side the next day.
    If they want to do that, said the Mayor, then we could do a letter drop telling people. I think they need to put bollards around the drains rather than stopping parking and affecting trade in the town, said Deirdre. If the Highways department allocated two days for drain clearing should we help them, asked Ben. That’s great for people who live here, but what about visitors to the town, asked Ian. The proposal to do the letter drop and use cones to keep visitors’ cars away from drains was approved.


    Ian Stokes was having a busy night. He now wanted to make a proposal that the council authorises the Clerk to agree the specification, costings and the location for a skatepark in the town with the budget limited by Section 106 funds available and community fundraising. Ian has already met with skatepark users and people who understand how to run them and was anxious to get things moving this time, rather than talking about it again and again. In other words, he was asking the council to get their skates on.
    The location is difficult here, said Peter, and it will require planning permission so we would have to start consulting with people, because these things do cause problems. A park in Broughton was barricaded up and closed because people were driving 50 or 60 miles to use it and then there was anti-social behaviour there.
    The reason why this discussion has been going on for seven years is because there was always one or two people on this council who did not want it, said Peter. It’s much easier to stop something than it is to get it moving and that’s what one or two people did at every opportunity, they would filibuster it and that’s why it kept getting kicked out.
    That’s what we’ve got to change, said Ian. We need to give the Clerk the authority to go forward and bring a proposal back to the council. Peter wanted to make sure the construction of any park gave them the lowest maintenance and running costs so they don’t end up with a large liability for it.
    What are the costs involved here, asked Debbie Hall. Earls Barton is a benchmark, said Ian, and that was about £80,000. Let’s remember this isn’t about the preconception of 14 year old boys using this. It’s about families, parents, kids, all skating together, and people
    using their bikes. We should be encouraging those things.
    We need to provide something that is good for the residents of the town, not one that is the ‘best in the country’, said Peter. That’s what draws in enormous amounts of people into the town with all the anti-social behaviour that brings and we will end up firefighting another problem. All points were considered and Ian Stokes’ proposal was agreed.

    Allotment Association

    The town’s Allotment Association has offered to take over the management of the allotments in Near Town. Debbie Whitworth thought there might be a GDPR data protection issue as the council still have legal ownership and that would need to be investigated. Ben said that notice would need to be given to every allotment holder and if they allowed the Association to take over the day to day management of the allotment the council would not divest itself of its responsibilities. Peter Geary said that he thought the council should offload as many responsibilities as they can, although the council could continue checking that areas such as health and safety were carried out properly. Considering how much the Allotment Association has achieved so far, said Debbie Hall, I think it’s worth giving them that opportunity to let them look after their own area. How long would any agreement be, asked Deirdre. They haven’t decided that but Peter said that there should be a break clause in any agreement just in case
    things were not working out and the council could ‘take back’ the allotments if necessary. Ben summarised the plan: they were agreeing to the proposal subject to all the details being acceptable. Jane Varley, Debbie Whitworth and the council office were delegated to begin discussions to iron out those details. That was carried.

    Exclusion of public and press

    Mercury was asked to leave at this point along with any remaining members of the public because of the confidential nature of business to be conducted.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday, 5th September at 7pm in the Olney Centre. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting contact the Town Clerk: townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

  • Olney Town Council Extraordinary meeting 26th July

    Extraordinary Meeting 26th July

    More than 100 members of the public attended this extraordinary meeting to discuss concerns about the recreation ground in Olney.

    Locals residents expressed their anger at what was happening at the Rec and their dismay that seemingly nothing was being done. The police can’t be relied on to get involved, one resident said. It was time to ‘take back our town’, said another. Witnesses had seen gangs of youths, drug dealers, people turning up in vans with pillows and quilts, gas canisters and alcohol.
    Someone’s car had been keyed, while another resident came across a group of about 20 people wandering around as if lost. Cars were parked badly on pavements so that children had to walk in the road, someone reported.
    There was a call for the Rec to be completely closed on certain days with a police presence to enforce this. Another resident suggested that a dossier of complaints is built up to be presented to the police for review.
    One Olney person said that respectful visitors are welcome but others need to be dispersed by the police.
    Mayor Ben Brown said the three main areas of concern are anti-social behaviour, parking and litter. All of these can be monitored but that comes at a cost to the council and therefore residents.
    It was proposed that until further talks with Thames Valley police have taken place security firms be employed to help with policing of the area. Volunteers are also being called upon to assist, although they will need training before they do anything.
    Residents were asked to continue monitoring the situation so that the police are aware of potential mass gatherings.

  • September Meeting as in the October issue

    Olney Town Meeting report for September 2022

    Public participation and letters to the council

    There were several members of the public wishing to speak at this month’s meeting, three of them on the same subject of the Johnsons Field play area development. For information, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) have submitted proposals to develop Johnsons field with tree planting and enhanced play equipment and this was a formal agenda item discussed later in the meeting. The first person to speak said the existing open layout of the field and play area was one of the things that attracted him to the area 24 years ago. He said he was delighted that Olney Town Council (OTC) were investing in facilities for young people to meet their needs. He pointed out that the existing zip wire and skate park had been in a poor state for a long time, due to lack of funds he assumed, and hoped that they would be fixed before investing in any new equipment. He hoped that funds would be put in place for the ongoing maintenance of the existing and any new equipment. He observed that placing any equipment or tarmac in the centre of the field would dissect the existing area which is well used for many formal and informal sporting activities, thus reducing the available space and flexibility. He welcomed the provision of new equipment but thought the obvious location would be around the outside of the field. The current open site lines across the field meant that children could play safely within clear view of their parents. Adding trees might create a ‘Parisian’ park type feel but the amazing view and spaciousness would be lost. Sadly, the trees might also create an environment for antisocial behaviour, including alcohol consumption, which would reduce the appeal as a play area to young children and parents. He asked that residents should be consulted about the plans and thought it was a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ but please fix what’s broken.
    The next person spoke on the same subject and covered much of the same ground, saying that the plans seemed to show significant change to the character and layout of the field which the public were unaware of. She asked that the council should not make a decision at this meeting but delay until more detail was available, and residents had been consulted, particularly with regard to the extension to the paved football and basketball area, the amount and height of the additional tree planting, location of re-wilding area, seating and new signage.
    The next person to speak said he had lived in the area for almost 30 years and the large open space had been a major factor in his moving there. The community make good use of the facilities as they are, he said, but agreed that the play equipment was in poor condition, with much vandalism over the years. The proposed path through the middle would dissect the field and lose much of its unique character.
    Bill Morgan then raised the matter of air quality in Olney. He said he was shocked to read in the Air Quality report for 2021 that the Air Quality Management Area for Olney declared in 2008 had been revoked. He thought this a travesty and the reason that MKC had given was that levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) have fallen over the years. However, the most dangerous pollutant is particulate matter (PM2.5) which gets deep into the lungs and bloodstream and comes from exhaust fumes and brake pad dust. The only place that MKC measure PM2.5 is outside their own office in MK which is not representative. He urged that the council investigate further and consider placing their own monitoring equipment in the High Street. Ben Brown said he was unaware that the 2008 area had been revoked and would follow it up.
    James Cooper spoke about the application by Hutchinson 3G to place a 5G mast outside the Maya restaurant within the conservation area. He said he had spoken to a number of people who were not aware of the application and thought it ‘outrageous’ and an eyesore. It would be better located on the industrial estate, he suggested. Ben Brown said that OTC had formally objected to the application.
    Brian Pollock then spoke on the same subject, agreeing that it would be an eyesore. He listed what he said were a number of specific valid planning reasons for objecting, including key policy in the MK Local Plan. The Conservation Officer of MKC appeared to agree, having stated that it conflicts with policy in Plan:MK and the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Brian said he was pleased to see that internally to MKC there was an officer prepared to say ‘Don’t let this happen’ and hoped the Planning Officer would heed this advice, but if he or she didn’t then OTC and he as an individual should go to MKC and state their case.

    Apologies for absence and declarations of interest

    Apologies were received from Ian Stokes, Naomi Brock, Deirdre Bethune and Trevor Aldred. Chris Tennant declared a non-pecuniary interest in the agenda item regarding future use of the Football Club building as a member of Caveman Conditioning and Olney Town Colts FC. Ben Brown declared an interest in the phone mast proposal as he lives opposite the site, although it was not a formal agenda item.

    Ward Councillors report

    Peter Geary started by speaking about the previously mentioned phone mast application. This differed to most applications that come through OTC as it is actually a notification and objections must be raised within 56 days or it automatically goes through, he said. Objections must be made on specific planning grounds rather than objectors saying they just don’t like it. The government, backed by industry, have implemented the notification process to hasten the deployment of 5G infrastructure. The details of how this relates to ‘Higher Level’ conservation areas has been the subject of a consultation, the result of which is not clear however, so Peter has asked Ben Everitt MP to seek clarification from the Planning Minister. His concern is that resulting emerging policy could become statutory policy very shortly, overriding all previous policy such as MK Local Plan and NPPF. Even if the current plan was rejected this time round it could still be resubmitted if the policy was subsequently changed by the incoming Planning Minister. OTC and individuals have responded with quality planning objections, but more are required before the decision is made at the end of September. Peter said he was not opposed to 5G but thought there were better locations for the infrastructure, particularly as The Knoll is ‘almost sacrosanct’ to many residents and development there has been resisted in the past. Chris Tennant said that Hutchinson 3G had consulted with OTC prior to submitting the notification and had listed all the other sites they had considered. OTC had responded that any site within the town, particularly in the conservation area in a setting of listed buildings, would be considered inappropriate and it should be on the edge of the town. That recommendation had obviously fallen on deaf ears, and they had submitted the notification anyway. Debbie Hall asked who owned the land and Peter replied that it was MKC but that would not be an influencing factor in the decision as the annual rent would be in the region of £1000 per year.
    The second issue he reported on was the proposed new doctor’s surgery in East Street. The delegated MKC cabinet member would be making a decision on 3rd October as to whether the partners can purchase the site from MKC. If that was approved, then the next step would be to apply for planning permission. OTC should work to ensure that any money MKC make from the sale of the land are reinvested in the town, most likely on the existing building on the site, i.e. The East Street Community Centre.

    PCSO's report

    PCSO James Andrews was absent for the first part of this item as he was attending an incident, so Ben Brown read out the crime stats for the past month. There had been three reports of unsocial behaviour, two thefts, two criminal damage, three public order, three suspicious persons (two concerning a person and one concerning a vehicle), one road traffic collision. James joined the meeting later and reiterated that the only way he could justify asking his superiors for additional resources in Olney is if the public report all incidents and suspicious activity, which is not currently happening. It is important that people continue to report suspicious vehicles, he said, because burglaries by out of town ‘tourists’ are very often preceded by a scouting mission. He understood the issues that resident have with long waits on the 101 phone service but said that people should also use the online service https://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/ as half the call handlers will be answering phone calls and half will be monitoring and reacting to online reports at any one time.

    Expenditure report

    Peter Geary noted that the monthly report had only been sent out earlier that day and, while some councillors may have had time to read it, other people present may not have done. He asked that should this happen in the future then the mayor should give a brief overview of anything that stands out and Ben agreed to do that. It was early in the financial year and a difficult economic climate, he said, but he appreciated the importance of the finance committee and full council monitoring spend, as the time to set the next budget was approaching.

    Section 106 allocations

    Town Clerk Jane Brushwood listed the projects currently being funded by S106. These included play areas, pre-school resurfacing, allotments, East Street car park, and replacement windows for the Olney Centre. Ben Brown explained that these were all improvements that OTC would normally fund but they were looking at allocating S106 funds from MKC. The Multi-Use Games area (MUGA) would be completely upgraded at the beginning of October and would comprise resurfacing, new fencing, and low energy floodlighting.

    Johnsons Field development

    Ben explained that Johnsons Field is owned by MKC who had sent the first draft of a proposed plan to OTC for comment. The Clerk said that Phil Snell, Project Manager - Landscape Services had visited the site and spoken to residents and had observed that there is a large volume of pedestrian traffic across the middle of the field, which was why the proposals included a made up footpath. The existing skate park area would be enhanced, and the play area replaced by gym equipment. A new play area is proposed in the centre of the field. Chris Tennant thought it important to engage with the community and agreed that the route across the middle to the Infant School is well used and becomes muddy in the winter. He said MKC had put forward a similar proposal a few years ago and he appreciated the attempts to increase biodiversity and to address the poor state of the existing equipment. Peter Geary suggested that Phil is thanked for the proposal and invited to give a presentation and discuss with residents. He suggested an article in Phonebox Magazine which would be paid for by MKC. Ben Brown proposed that OTC respond to MKC and will run a consultation with residents, which was passed unanimously.

    Additional project meetings

    There are several projects taking place in the Olney Centre, particularly the Pre-School area, which require regular and rapid decisions to be made. As the management committee only meets four times a year the Clerk suggested a smaller sub-group could be formed to meet on an ad-hoc basis as and when required. Peter Geary said the council was elected on being open and while meetings of the OC Management Committee are open to the public the same could not be said of ad-hoc meetings. Ben Brown proposed that the OC Management Committee are asked to meet more regularly, which was agreed.

    Splitting of Recs and Services Comittee

    At a previous meeting Ian Stokes had proposed splitting this very large committee into two separate ones, as follows. Environment & Community Services would cover Environmental Impact, Climate Emergency, Cemetery & Church, Defibrillators, Dog Bins, litter and grit bins, Events supported by OTC, Markets, Maintenance & management of OTC buildings except TOC, Parking, Public Toilets, Speeding, Wildlife sites, Barnfield, Goosey, Glebe Field. Sports and Recreation would cover Allotments, Joint Users Group, Landscape except wildlife sites, Landscape Machinery, MUGA, Parks & Recreation, Play Areas, Schools Liaison. Ben Brown said the existing Recs & Services committee had very narrowly voted in favour of the proposal by one vote and it had now come to full council for ratification. He said he was nervous about proceeding with the split but noted that in its present form it had become unproductive because of the sheer volume of matters it had to deal with. Peter Geary said whatever decision was taken should be reviewed next May. After much discussion a vote was taken and the proposal rejected by five to two with two abstentions.

    The recreation ground

    Ben Brown reported that the volunteer scheme had been a success, whereby volunteers stood by the entrances reminding visitors that alcohol and BBQs were not allowed. The Clerk reported that the lines in the car park had been repainted and CCTV installation would start the next day. The regular private security patrols will be suspended as visitor numbers have decreased and the allocated budget almost spent. Peter Geary said the council needed to assess whether the security patrols had made that much difference and build into next years budget, as there still appeared to have been lots of issues and litter still being left. Jane said since the various measures had been introduced the litter had reduced. Deputy Clerk Rob Mungham reported that there was now a team of 20 volunteers, mostly from the community and not council members or employees and they would be having a ‘mop up’ meeting in October. Ben proposed that the private security patrols be suspended forthwith (unless there was a peak in visitors before the end of September) which was agreed.

    Flag flying policy

    This item caused much debate and frayed tempers. Ben Brown reported that over the last few months there had been several emails into the office regarding the flying of flags for events such as the Jubilee and in support of Ukraine. Newport Pagnell has a very good policy for flag flying whereby the council staff know exactly when various flags should be flown, he noted. An outline model document was presented to members which Ben said he would like to consult with various people on and bring back to the next meeting. Debbie Hall asked why it was necessary to have a policy and thought it ‘over the top’. She thought it had been precipitated by complaints about flying of the Ukrainian Flag (Mercury noted that there had also been comments on social media and a question asked at a previous meeting under public participation). Although Ben said this was not the case, she said she thought it too much of a coincidence. Debbie Whitworth said that High Street residents flying the Ukrainian flag had had them removed with no warning or explanation. Debbie Hall noted that this [the Ukrainian flag in the marketplace] had been taken down the day before Ukrainian Independence Day. Ben replied that it had been done after consultation with the Royal British Legion regarding the Jubilee, with no malicious intent and was precisely why a policy was required. This had been a mistake. Peter Geary said comments had been made that if the Ukrainian (or any other nation’s) flag was flying above the war memorial then the Union flag should be flying as well, which was perfectly reasonable. David Tyler said that when the Queen eventually dies there is a strict protocol which will need to be followed – prophetic words, in the event.

    Odds and Sods

    The Remembrance Sunday parade will take place on 13th November. It is ‘owned’ by OTC but organised by The Royal British Legion. The parade will probably commence from just outside of the Market Place, rather than the church as in previous years. In response to a question about stopping the traffic, Peter Geary replied that there should be a police officer present who is empowered to stop passing traffic for the duration of the minute’s silence.
    Permission was granted for The Olney Group (TOG) to hold the annual fireworks event on the recreation ground on Sunday November 6th.
    Out Of Office has applied for an alcohol licence and OTC have no objections.

    Committee membership review

    New member Ron Hall expressed a wish to join Dickens of a Christmas and David Tyler Planning. They will attend meetings of other committees before deciding which others to join. Deirdre Bethune and Debbie Whitworth will join the Finance Committee.

    Consultation on future use of the former Football Club building

    A draft public survey document was presented, the introduction of which read:
    “The East Street building is in a serious state of disrepair. It is yet to be decided whether to repair and restore or knock it down and start again. Any grant funding that is be available, will depend on the future use of the building, so Olney Town Council needs to determine what residents would like to see there.”
    Much discussion took place and members agreed that more information and detail would be required for the public to make informed comments. Colin Rodden observed that whatever decision was made would entail considerable expense, even with available grants, and at least there was current income from rent from the current tenant. Ben proposed that OTC obtained advice from a survey expert and Peter Geary agreed, saying it was important for the public to realise that it would be a consultation and not a binding referendum where the council would be obliged to implement the most popular suggestion. Whatever was decided it was essential to have flexibility for other uses in the future. It would be a huge project and a suggested figure of £120,000 was a fraction of what would actually be required, he thought.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 3rd October, at 7pm in the Olney Centre. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, or any time the mayor deems appropriate, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

  • October 2022

    Olney Council report for October 2022 as in the November edition

    They were talking rubbish again at Olney Town Council’s monthly gathering. The incendiary subject of wheelie bins was always going to roll up at some point in the evening. And, just like the pong that lingers in the air after the bin men have been round, it’s a topic that refuses to go away.

    Apologies for absence

    It was a busy night in the council chambers with only Deirdre Bethune sending apologies so the meeting table was pretty full. Councillors tend to head for their ‘usual’ place each month but that wasn’t an option for new boys Ron Hall and David Tyler. Ron squeezed into a slot halfway down the right hand side while David found himself at the far end among the grandees of Peter Geary, Chris Tennant and Ian Stokes.
    As no members of the public wished to speak, business could get straight on. Were there any declarations of interest, asked Mayor Ben Brown. Item 14 (Yardley Manor Community Building) brought two responses: Chris Tennant said he was a neighbour to that development while Trevor Aldred said he had a vested interest in another community building (the one in East Street).
    The Mayor moved on to item 3 on the agenda (Approving the minutes of the previous OTC Meeting) when Colin Rodden suddenly piped up with a declaration of interest query from that past gathering’s minutes: the Royal British Legion was mentioned and I’m a card carrying member, he said. Nobody quite knew what to do with that earth-shatterer, but Ben nodded graciously and then attempted to get the minutes approved. They duly were.

    PCSO's report

    The Mayor then moved item 5, the report from local police community support officer James Andrews up the agenda just in case James ‘gets called away suddenly’. He needn’t have worried: as the uniformed officer was about the tell us, he rarely gets called to anything. According to his latest stats in the last six months he has only had 11 calls for ASB (anti-social behaviour) which were mainly children seen smoking down at the Rec. Hardly the Brink’s-Mat heist.
    There was some discrepancy between these figures and those shown on the official police website because of the different definitions used for crimes or alleged assaults, but James was confident his were correct. The PCSO was thankful to the Council for setting up a tent on the Market Place recently where residents could go and report things they were unhappy with, such as ‘kids messing about on Johnson’s Field’, or ‘someone has parked across my driveway’. James needs all these reports for his stats – without them he said, he couldn’t respond and he therefore ‘didn’t have a leg to stand on’. So the message from the officer was ‘report stuff’ through the official channels. He added that some residents were surprised when James actually contacted them but he added he was happy to do just that as he had ‘time on my hands’. Debbie Whitworth asked what notice James can give that he is going to be at the Market Place, because many residents and traders there had told her they didn’t know the police were going and if they had known they would have been ready for him. Not much, was the PCSO’s reply.
    Colin Rodden asked, on that subject, if Olney could have a regular police visit to the Market Place so that the community could keep in touch and share ‘Intel’ to give him information. That’s fine said James but he added that he still wants people to call in with their issues because he needs to get his stat numbers up. I need names, he said, I need details, and then, with a touch of The Sweeney about him, he added, I need you to say: ‘I’ve got a victim’. Some people tell me about an issue that they’ve kept to themselves for nine or 10 days, James said. And, with his frustration just noticeable, he added: so why didn’t they tell me earlier?

    Ward Councillor's report

    Peter Geary started with some good news – the 5G mast destined for Olney’s High Street has been refused. He wasn’t really surprised, the plans put the mast right in the middle of a conservation area. However, he added, it’s not the end of the planning process as there is a right of appeal and also some changes to planning policy coming that will make it easier for developers to build them. So who knows what’s going to happen in the future?, he asked.
    Peter reported last month about the new medical centre and added this time that there were now opportunities to find out about plans and ask questions about this very important issue.
    The MKE project, which closed the A509 in the summer between Newport Pagnell and the M1 motorway for water services, was due to be closed for another six months. But he said those plans had been delayed now for at least six months because Milton Keynes Council have undertaken to deliver a bridge over the motorway and other engineering works but have discovered they can’t afford them now. A bridge too far? MKC are currently looking at ways to make the projects cheaper. The road closure is now expected next March, he said, adding, with the look of a man who has heard it all before, that it could well be ‘some time after that’.
    The other issue to discuss said Peter is wheelie bins. They’re a subject everyone is all too aware of as they are brought up in most parish council meetings that he goes to. The wheelie bins, said Peter without a hint of irony, are ‘rolling out’. The decision for them to come to Olney has been made and there is no turning back from that he added. Some people love it, some people hate it, he added, but the decision was made years ago (so it’s not going to be thrown out). The thing to do now is to understand which properties the scheme really is unsuitable for because collections start in less than a year’s time and it’s important to get those properties identified because it will otherwise be ‘a real mess’ at the start of the contract. Getting anything changed after it has started will be very difficult, he warned, so when council inspectors come round to finalise details it’s important that in the coming months people who can’t get their bins behind their properties are given another option.
    Jane Varley wondered if the consultation would take place during the day when people are out at work and not available to take part. The last part of the consultation now is understanding which areas are going to be problematic and which aren’t, said Peter. The High Street in Olney is potentially a problem, he warned, but a lot of it can be resolved if everyone works around it.

    Expenditure report and budget to date

    Everyone had been sent the expenditure report already as requested, said the Mayor. It takes them up to September which is about the halfway point in the financial year, and they could start to look at some projections he said.
    For example, said the Mayor, we are under where we would expect to be on cemetery income. I won’t dwell too long on that one said Ben, with a hint of the Grim Reaper, we’re expecting it to pick up towards the end of the year. That was a bold forecast to say the least. Ben also noted that even though the cemetery has had fewer new residents recently, it meant that expenditure was down too.
    The Market Place had more good news – it was over by 50% of their forecasted budget which demonstrates that trade generally there was good, with the projected number of traders in and they were getting reasonable feedback from them that the market was going well. The Olney Centre too brought good cheer – income from that was slightly up. Were fees paid in advance for users of the Centre, Ben asked the Clerk Jane Brushwood. They should be, but they haven’t been, came the rather cryptic reply. We are trying to get all fees paid in advance in accordance with the rules and regulations the Clerk added and it’s gradually getting up to where it should be. The Centre has hosted a lot of good groups and a variety of interests so that’s good news, Ben said.
    Total income was at 96% of where they expected to be which included preset money upfront – the bulk of their income. Specifically on expenditure, there were questions to be answered particularly about what has been spent on the Rec. Security, for example, was budgeted at £6,000 but the council had already spent £13,126 – more than double the budget, said Ben. Repair and maintenance were also over budget, there were additional costs of £1,417 on extra bins, and CCTV had cost £1,000. Some of the Rec money will be recouped from participating sports clubs, said Ben so overall on total expenditure, they were at 50% of what they budgeted and are looking at a surplus at the end of this year. Overall we are in a healthy space, said the Mayor, with the exception of the Rec, where we have massively overspent but we committed to the community that we would do many things there and we will get a final costing for it and look at further measures for next year.
    Peter Geary asked about how some expenditures were accounted for citing, for example, the cost of CCTV down at the Rec which is a capital expenditure and should not fall into the Revenue budget line. Ben wasn’t even sure the cost had been billed yet and the Clerk confirmed his fears – they haven’t had the final bill she said. Despite that, the Mayor reiterated the council’s budgetary situation. Without wanting to tempt fate, said Ben tempting fate, we’re in a pretty good position.

    Councillors who represent at external meetings

    Councillors had been busy last month turning up at meetings on behalf of the Council. Trevor Aldred said he had attended a Cowper & Newton Museum trustees meeting which he said was compromised a little because not all the trustees were there. Not that I know who all the trustees are of course, he added. There was an update on collections and new display cases and Trevor reported that the man who tends the vegetable gardens is retiring, the paths from the flower garden to the summer house need repairing and there was an update on the AG250 Amazing Grace campaign and a finance report with a discussion about increasing admission charges. Mary Prosser reported on a meeting with LCWIP (Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan) about a red route from the Industrial Estate down to Driftway. There is space for a route in that area, said Mary, but not once you get down to West Street and in other parts of the town where there is no opportunity to introduce the scheme due to current parking, pedestrian crossings and other safety issues. The proposal, said Mary, is in an embryonic state and is likely to take at least five years for it to go much further.
    Debbie Hall attended the Olney-Newton Link meeting about the Sierra Leone charity. Discussions centred around how the money raised was being spent in Newton, Sierra Leone. The Mayor had also been busy with external meetings – he attended the Proclamation in Olney’s Market Place, to officially announce the new King. And, from one form of pageantry to another, Ben was at the Justice Service hosted by Buckinghamshire’s High Sheriff. This one had been a long time coming to Olney – 1000 years in fact – and Ben was delighted to have been involved as he welcomed several mayors from around Buckinghamshire to the Cowper & Newton Museum. He also went to a coffee morning at the Carlton House club in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support with Deputy Mayor Debbie Whitworth, who helped with the organisation. More than 100 people attended, said Ben and over £1000 was raised for this good cause.

    Section 106 spending

    The Clerk reported that the tennis club have managed get their lighting completed. Works at the MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) are well underway. New lighting for the MUGA and for CCTV is being set up and will be done for November when the electrician will use a cherry picker to link in Christmas tree lights too. Although if the CCTV was linked to the posts that have the MUGA lighting it would only work when the lights were turned on, or as the Clerk brilliantly put it ‘when you put a coin in the meter’. She meant this literally: the MUGA lights are token operated and stay on for one hour at a time.
    Talking of coinage, there are quotes now for resurfacing at the allotment which will be discussed and agreed by the Recs and Services committee and plans for the Olney Centre have also been received. They include a package of measures including the pre-school mezzanine, door widening, double glazing and solar heating. Things are happening she said encouragingly. The Clerk is waiting for details from Milton Keynes Council on proposals for the Johnson’s Field play area before the next OTC meeting in November. Ben Brown said he was pleased that the council were accessing S106 money for good use. The MUGA for example with its upgrade, is now attracting bookings where in the past it had been neglected. Colin Rodden asked if there was any more news about the proposed skate park. Yes, that’s tied in with the Johnson’s Field work said the Clerk.

    Updates on the Rec

    The Mayor asked Ian Stokes to give a quick update on the CCTV situation if he had one. Ian said he didn’t – not an official one anyway – but he was able to give a brief summary from memory. With grants and contributions from the sports clubs benefiting from the new cameras, the project is ‘cost neutral’ to the council he reported. The deterrent is there, he said, as is evidence gathering which allows the council to use images to prosecute wrong-doers. Ian said that next year they should look at using portable cameras that can be moved around because if you put fixed CCTV on the Rec you simply move vandalism problems somewhere else. Trials continue and some CCTV images that Ian had seen were good quality and he was interested to see if they could act on some of the vandalism they have had down at the football club recently. This should not be a passive thing said Ian, getting tough. Whether we can pick up the CCTV images and publish them or get the police to take action we’ll have to see. Yes, the Mayor agreed, and it’s worth announcing to the town that the images we have are good quality. Colin Rodden said vandalism was regrettable but we must be careful that we don’t have trial by media, he added. We need to get images to the police and let them do their job. The only access to the images is through the council offices, said Ian, so it’s very tightly controlled. PCSO James suggested the council gets a CCTV book so that when he comes to collect any images he can sign for them. This indication of the police getting on board with the cameras idea went down well and was agreed. On a separate matter Naomi Brock said that litter is still a problem on the Rec and they needed to retain litter picker volunteers if possible.

    Citizens Advice in Olney

    Debbie Whitworth said she had been in touch with Ben Thomas, the director of Citizens Advice MK (they have dropped the word ‘Bureau’ from the title) who said he would be agreeable to bringing back the outreach service to Olney and specifically the Olney Centre. With Autumn approaching, said Debbie there are many residents who will be facing challenges. There are pockets of depravation in Olney which will be hit hard in the winter months and having access to the CA in the Olney Centre will make a real difference to their lives. Debbie proposed that they invite Ben Thomas to the council offices to discuss the CA’s return to the town. We’ve had Citizens Advice before so I don’t know why they disappeared the last time, said Debbie Hall. There was a 12 month contract before, said Jane Varley Varley, but I think they would be prepared to get a trial down to six months. The Mayor understood that previously there were not enough people using the service and the cost of the sessions was getting too high per person. However, he said he realised that in the current circumstances that might well have changed.
    It’s a great service, said Jane Varley. It’s a ‘nice to have’. But unless we’re seeing a massive benefit for CA to come out to people and it’s proving cost effective, residents might well want us not to overspend on our budget. Peter Geary was in favour of the plan. People from Olney used to have to go to central Milton Keynes to see the CA, he said. There was no booking service, you had to sit and wait your turn, sometimes for two or three hours. Some people had to get their bus back to Olney and never got a chance to see the CA. It was a big problem. He said he would support a six month trial at least, to see what the demand was like. We need a letter saying what it will cost, how many sessions we get for that, and what issues we are dealing with. Let’s start soon, it will give us a chance to understand whether we want to continue or not. Let’s kick it off as soon as possible agreed Ian Stokes, it’s going to be a tough winter.
    So how much will it cost, asked Peter. It’s around about the £2000 mark, said Debbie Whitworth. Is that every two weeks and for a full day?, pressed Peter. Well I don’t know the details of that, said Debbie, clearly realising she would have to get some advice of her own. There is some demand said Naomi, who runs the Olney is Kind community project, but I’m not sure someone coming and sitting in here is going to make much more difference than you or I sitting here. Most information can be found on-line she said, her far-from-high opinion of the agency gradually revealing itself. She wanted to know what service was being offered, but added she was still happy to give it a try. It was proposed that Ben Thomas visits the council and this was carried by a majority.

    Other items

    Late night opening dates in Olney have been set at 24th November, to coincide with the festive lights being switched on, and 8th December.
    A volunteer policy needed to be agreed and insurance for volunteers confirmed. Colin Rodden asked if a risk assessment had to be carried out first. That’s done for everything we do, said the Clerk.

    Community fridge

    The Clerk said there had been lots of talk about this service but she had been doing several grant applications which are not coming in quickly enough. I would like approval to spend the money needed beforehand and get the funds later, she said. It’s going to be needed more and more as we go into the hard times ahead. Jane Varley asked if the Co-op had been asked because she understood that they were anxious to put money into this project. Peter Geary was fearful that the vast majority of grants he had come across don’t allow retrospective applications so he thought a check was needed on the financial implications if the applications were rejected.
    A shed is proposed outside the Olney Centre with a fridge inside and some shelves and people literally just help themselves, explained the Clerk. This is not just for people who can’t afford food, it’s also for stopping waste. Costs would roughly be: shed £2000, fridge £1500, table, solar panels, electric supply, troughs outside for a herb garden, signage. That’s a total of about £4,700, she added.
    The proposal was made to set the project up with an initial budget of £2500 and the Clerk would check to see if a retrospective grant can be arranged later.

    Yardley Manor Community Building

    Ian Stokes said he had been concerned about the proposed community building on this new estate for some time. He said he didn’t think the proposed building was fit for purpose. The design changes that the council put in have been ignored. Are we going to end up being burdened with a building that we have no use for, Ian wondered. This should be a community building that will be used by the community he said. We should be making this a ‘wellbeing’ centre, we should be making it a ‘knit and natter’ centre, a ‘parents and toddlers’ centre, a coffee shop. We don’t need more sports facilities he added. It’s going to be in the middle of a new housing estate with lots of families there. I fear this building is being dumped on us by the developer: do we want to stop it and if so, how can we stop it?
    Ben said that at the recent planning committee meeting the council voiced their objection to the building. Chris Tennant agreed – we wrote a letter of objection against the building he said, with detailed comments which were checked by industry professionals. Since then there have been alterations to the plans, changes to the way they heat and light the building. That said the comments we made still stand. It’s got changing rooms that we don’t think are fit for purpose, it’s got a hall that is too small. We aren’t the only objectors to the building, added Chris. Milton Keynes Council have also objected so we need to try to get some amendments done and a building that is closer to our wishes.
    Can we refuse to take ownership of the building? It was fighting talk from Ian, met with silence. Good question, said the Mayor. More silence. I don’t know the answer to that one, he said. Even more silence. Actually, nobody knew the answer to that one.
    Ian was up for further fighting talk: We need to tell the developer ‘crack on if you want to’ but we’re not taking ownership of it, he boomed. We don’t want to get to that point though, do we?, countered Colin. There’s clearly a disconnect and I don’t know how we get around that.
    We told them what we want and they have clearly just carried on wholesale, said Jane Varley, joining Ian’s side in the fight. That’s why we have this problem. We have talked to them and they are not listening.
    Were the changes you wanted more expensive for the developer?, asked Debbie Hall. No, we know it’s affordable, the changes we were proposing were fundamental ones, said Chris. The rooms and layout, basic changes to make them usable for various groups, he added. The changes were not implying additional costs, confirmed Trevor. That’s right, because there were two versions, agreed Ian. There was the Rolls-Royce version, he said, adopting the tone of a car dealer, but this was the Mondeo version – it needed different wheels on it and different bumpers to make it roadworthy.
    Chris suggested that they pick up the conversation with the consortium and the Mayor proposed that the council writes a letter to the developers to re-engage with them over this topic.

    Ann Hopkins Smith charity

    Letters from the charity concerning the charges for the lease of the town’s Charity Pitch were accepted by the council. Ian Stokes abstained as he had a declaration of interest.

    Next meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 7th November in the Olney Centre. If you would like to contribute to the public Participation section at the start of the meeting, or any time the Mayor deems appropriate, please contact the Town Clerk:

  • November 2022

    Olney Council report for November 2022

    Apologies for absence and declarations of interest

    Apologies were received from Naomi Brock, Jane Varley and Trevor Aldred. Chris Tennant declared a non-pecuniary interest in the agenda item regarding an update on the Yardley Manor Community Building as a nearby resident. Dierdre Bethune questioned whether it was necessary for Chris to do this every time the subject was discussed but Mayor Ben Brown thought he should in the interests of transparency.

    Ward Councillors report

    Peter Geary gave the report on behalf of the ward councillors. The road closure in bridge street had been requested by Cadent to provide gas to the new properties in the ex-Wine Bar and it was expected that water and electricity services would be provided at the same time to avoid further road closures. It will be disruptive, he said, but one-way local access via Lime street will still be possible, as will access via Coneygere. The main diversion routes will be through Weston Underwood and Turvey, he said. The closure will commence at 09:30 on Monday 14/11/22 for 24 hrs a day and should be completed by the following Friday
    Milton Keynes City Council (MKCC) have created a funding package of £180K for ‘keeping people warm’ which will be distributed to parishes according to perceived need. Some parishes will get £12K, some will get £4K and the rest will get £500. As some smaller surrounding parishes will not be in a position to spend their allowance, he thought it would be a good idea for Olney Town Council (OTC) to pool funds with them and ‘do something sensible with it’ for their residents as well as Olney’s.
    The final issue was the much discussed issue of the changes to the No 41 Northampton to Bedford bus service. Contrary to popular rumour, MKCC has not cut funding for the service which they had subsidised for many years in order for it to divert from Lavendon to Olney and back out to Yardley Hastings, Peter said. The operator had declined to continue to do this, so MKConnect have been asked to consider crossing the border to connect with the service terminating at Turvey. However, this is not considered a reliable alternative and so far they have been reluctant to do so, although the ward councillors would continue to push them to so do. Colin Rodden noted that students at Bedford Sixth Form were suffering great inconvenience and wondered what else could be done. Unfortunately, it comes down to money, said Peter, as costs of fuel and driver wages were increasing and usage had gone down since Covid. He emphasised that MKCC would continue to offer the subsidy right up to the end of the current budgeting period but the moment the budget happens it would have to be withdrawn if it hadn’t been spent in the current period. That subsidy was £100K a year, he said, and noted that if the 1000 people who signed the petition to retain the service were prepared to pay £2 per week it could be maintained (but presumably not much use if the operator declined to accept it). Local authorities were restricted to a 2% increase in Council Tax Precept and with inflation running at 10% and MKCC was already calling on reserves to fill a £5M deficit and balance the budget. Debbie Whitworth said she had had a meeting with a representative from Stagecoach who had agreed to a further meeting to which representatives from the local authorities of MK, Bedford and Northampton would be invited, together with MPs for those area affected and the heads of the colleges in Northampton and Bedford and she said she truly believed that the collaborative approach would lead to resolution.

    PCSO’s report

    There was no PCSO report this month, so Ben Brown read out the crime stats for the month. Ron Hall asked if there was indication where the reported incidents had taken place. Ben said it wasn’t possible to break the stats down to that level but would ask PCSO James Andrews if there were any particular areas of concern.

    Expenditure report

    Ben Brown presented the monthly expenditure report for October and although it was not discussed, Mercury noted a sum of £9339.77 to MKCC for ‘election costs’. This is presumably for the recent OTC election where Ron Hall and David Tyler were elected and was necessary because 10 residents had written to the Returning Officing requesting an election, rather than have the vacant posts filled by co-option. Ben said that the budget setting for next F/Y was currently underway and meetings of the finance committee and would be finalised at the December meeting so that it could be presented to full council in January. Last year was the first time that many of the ‘new’ members had been involved in this exercise and there were items of expenditure that had been missed, so he urged all councillors to ensure that their sub-committees identified any items that need to be included in the budget.

    Reports from External meetings

    Ian Stokes reported that he and Town Clerk Jane Brushwood had been to the Pre-School AGM and said there had been a good turn out of supportive parents to what was obviously a dedicated team. The main issues appeared to be capacity and the limited floor space available but there were limits to the numbers that could be accommodated due to child/helper ratios and number of toilets. It is a well-run facility managing on a tight budget and a valuable tenant, he said.

    Section 106 allocations

    Jane Brushwood reported that the Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) at the recreation ground was currently being refurbished. Laying of the surface was due to be completed by the end of that week but subsequent marking out of the lines was very weather dependent, she said. The booking diary of groups wishing to use it was already full, she said. Colin Rodden noted that it had been in a dilapidated state for some time and the return to use was some that should be communicated to the public and celebrated as a success.
    Although not Section 106 funded, jane said that the provision of a Community Fridge was underway with a shed on order, so she hoped it would be up and running within the next 3-4 weeks.

    Recreation ground and volunteer scheme

    During the summer the group had been set up with the intention of advising visitors of the restrictions that apply to the consumption of alcohol, use of barbecues and to discourage the leaving of litter. Deputy Town Clerk Rob Mungham presented a report of the recent meeting with volunteer marshals, where all bar one had said they were willing to participate next summer. The current group number 16-18 but many more were needed, he said. Ian Stokes interjected to say that to effectively cover the three entrances to the recreation ground for two hours at a time ‘hundreds’ of volunteers were required. Given the size of the population and the number of comments on social media he hoped many more people would come forward and join the rota. Rob agreed, saying it was unrealistic for the current group, however committed, to manage the period from the end of May to September. The intention is to commence in time for the May half term holiday and school year 11/13 study leave as they could be busy times if the weather was good, particularly during the evening which had not previously been covered. Ian said the main purpose was to help and advise rather than confront, and those that participated had found it a positive experience. There had been some abusive and threatening behaviour, he said, but that had been directed to the paid security controls down at the river, not the volunteers on the entrance. It was important to continue with those patrols he thought, but they could be reduced if more volunteers were in place. Peter Geary said the cost of those patrols would need to be built into the budget for next f/y.
    Ben Brown said there had been recent reports of antisocial behaviour at the recreation ground, but all of the CCTV cameras were now working 24/7 and were providing very clear pictures enabling the identification of individuals which will be passed on to the police, when necessary. Jane Brushwood said she had printed off some pictures of individuals seen climbing on the roof of the football stand and stuck them to the wall (with faces pixelated) with the caption “Hi guys, we’re watching you – smile for the camera”. They had been removed but those individuals now knew they had been identified, she said. Colin Rodden wondered if in the event of the individuals falling through or off the roof if OTC could be held liable and Ian Stokes suggested there might be a duty of care to display warning notices. There was little sympathy expressed around the table for such an occurrence.

    Flag flying policy

    At the September meeting Jane Brushwood had presented a draft flag flying policy which had been the subject of much discussion and some disagreement and this month the updated version was resented. Deirdre Bethune noted that it wasn’t mandatory to have such a policy and Jane agreed but said it was advisable. She said there were some Olney specific considerations, such as Pancake Day when it has been a tradition to fly the Kansas state flag alongside the Union flag. Debbie Hall noted that the Ukrainian flags had been removed from the OTC flag poles and wondered if they would be reinstated after Remembrance Sunday? Peter Geary said that if any other flag was flying in front of the war memorial in the Market Place, then the Union flag should always be flown alongside it. Information on which flags should be flown and when are readily available, he said, including the flag of St George on St George’s Day. Would that be flown during the football World Cup, her wondered? Jane said there was simple answer to that as OTC did not possess one. Returning to the subject of the Ukrainian flag, Debbie hall wondered if it should also be flown on Remembrance Sunday to remember conflicts around the world but David Tyler interjected to say that Remembrance Sunday was specifically to remember British Service personnel, not other nationalities, and Peter Geary agreed saying it was the one day that the Ukrainian flag should not be flown.
    One particular paragraph caused much discussion:‘From Summer 2021 government guidance states that UK Government building flagpoles should not remain empty – the default should be flying the Union Flag if no other flag is being flown. This guidance is aimed at UK Government buildings, however, they encourage local authorities and other local organisations to follow suit where they wish to fly flags.’
    Deirdre asked if the Olney Centre was considered a government building in that context? She proposed that the paragraph be removed and OTC could decide if they wanted to fly a flag. Colin Rodden was of the opposite opinion, saying that OTC needed to be patriotic. Jane pointed out that the policy also stated ‘Flags are normally flown from sunrise to sunset but they may also be flown at night, when they should be illuminated’. There then followed a lengthy discussion about the merits of paying someone or raise and lower the flag at various time of the day and night vs the cost and environmental impact of providing floodlighting, particularly, as Jane pointed out, there is currently no power supply where the flagpole is located. Eventually the proposal to remove the paragraph was defeated by a majority but it was agreed to remove the paragraph referring to sunrise, sunset and floodlighting and the updated policy was agreed unanimously.
    Returning to the issue of the Ukrainian flag, it was agreed that it could be flown after Remembrance Sunday and then reviewed periodically. Dan Rowlands asked about the flags along the High Street and Ben said they were the responsibility of individual households and not OTC. Debbie Hall said there had been amazing support for this action and although some people had been against it, the vast majority of right thinking people were really happy to see the flags. Although some had become ‘tatty’ the householders were committed to renewing them.
    It was further agreed to fly the Kansas State flag on Pancake Day.

    Outdoor nativity

    A request had been received from the combined St Peter & St Paul and Baptist Churched to put on an Outdoor Nativity on Sunday December 11th in the Guinea Orchard park (around the back of the museum/The Swan/old Rectory). There would be two performances of around 30 mins mid-afternoon. This would be a great event for the community, open to all and bringing the original Christmas story to life in a fun and yet meaningful way. The request was granted.

    Yardley Manor community building

    Chris Tennant reported that planning permission for the building had now been passed with a raft of conditions attached that address the majority of points that OTC had raised, including energy efficiency, landscaping, cycle and electric vehicle parking. The internal design had not changed, and it would have a ‘barn aesthetic’, he said. Local residents were pleased that they would be getting a community facility, together with sports pitches and play areas. Ben Brown said that there were lots of groups interested in booking it and it would be an asset to the community. Ian Stokes said in his opinion the building was still a white elephant, albeit a more environmentally friendly one, but would be a burden on public funds as the design did not address the issue that OTC had originally raised. The changing rooms and floor footprint are not suitable for sports teams. The developer was building what they wanted to build, not what OTC wanted, he thought. Chris said he fundamentally disagreed with that view as the Yardley Manor community are desperate for the building. Colin Rodden said that the building was not just for the Yardley Manor residents, but the whole community and he hoped it would take some pressure off the recreation ground. Peter Geary said decisions would need to be made as to whether it was run by OTC and its staff or another community group. Debbie Hall thought it would be a great asset to the community and would be a ‘marvellous’ facility.

    Johnsons Field development

    At the September meeting a first draft of the proposals from MKCC for enhancing Johnsons Field had been discussed, following a number of representations from residents in the public participation section. The updated plans have not yet been produced by MKCC so the item was deferred to a future meeting. However, Peter Geary thought it worthwhile to decide how OTC would consult the public on the plans now, so that a detailed response could be provided at the earliest opportunity, since the present council had been elected on a promise to consult with the public. Members suggested stalls on the Thursday and Sunday markets and at Dickens of a Christmas, as well as a consultation evening and permanent display at the Olney Centre, social media and online surveys

    The next meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 5th December, at 7.00pm in the Olney Centre. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, or any time the mayor deems appropriate, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

  • December 2022

    Olney Council report for December 2022


    It was a bitterly cold December night when Olney Town Council gathered for their monthly get-together and councillors turned up stamping their feet and blowing into their hands. Thankfully someone had turned the Olney Centre’s heating system up to full chat to take the edge off, but even that over-worked boiler wasn’t prepared for the frosty atmosphere that was to come. Milton Keynes Council were not happy…

    Apologies for absence and declaration of interest

    Maybe it was the freezing weather or perhaps just that busy time of year but there were several absences. Trevor Aldred, Deirdre Bethune, Naomi Brock, Ian Stokes, Jane Varley and deputy mayor Debbie Whitworth all sent their apologies. The council chamber echoed with emptiness. Mayor Ben Brown asked if anyone had any declarations of interest. There were none. The minutes of November’s meeting had to be approved next, and they duly were. So, it was all going smoothly.

    Ward Councillor's report

    But here’s where the good cheer and bonhomie of a pre-Christmas council get-together took a turn for the worse. Ward Councillor David Hosking was in town to deliver his council’s regular report and you could see there was something troubling him. The body language was all wrong: there was a slight shaking of the hand that gripped his notes, he moved from one foot to the other, and there didn’t seem to be any eye contact.
    Councillor Hosking started with a reference to an item that was further down the agenda: seeking feedback on the MKC proposal for electric vehicle (EV) charging points on Olney’s Cattle Market car park. He and his colleagues wanted to know if local people think the site, near Market Place, is suitable for additional vehicle chargers. Olney already has some electric plug-in points at the other end of town plus one on Market Place. The focus of the Cattle Market chargers, said David, was on Olney residents, rather than people who come in from outside of town. They would be useful for residents who need to charge their cars but don’t have their own chargers at home. Eight bays are considered to be economically viable, he said. The Ward Councillors’ role is to listen to residents and represent their views as best as possible, he reminded everyone, and to find the best solutions he would also like to hear the views of OTC as part of that process.
    His second update concerned another service provided by MKC, namely the Highways. I’ll touch briefly on the A509 closure (near The Swan pub), he said, as the icy atmosphere returned to the room. We did our utmost to reduce disruption here, he boomed. There was gas, electric, and water utilities all at the same time along with a number of other improvements to the road, and the problems were exacerbated by contractors finding a sink hole, which meant the road would have to be closed for a further three days to try to minimise disruption to residents and visitors to the town.
    He stopped for a pause and the room knew that this was the root of David’s unrest. On he went: it was disappointing that there were some people that took it upon themselves to speak to retailers in particular and to offer advice about how they should deal with that particular problem. And all I say to that, he added, the anger palpable in his voice, is that four out of five roads into Olney during that eight day period were open. Candidly I say to the town council that criticism of our officers – many of whom live in the town by the way and who have social media accounts and look at what’s going on – has not gone down well.
    Hindsight remains a very inexact science doesn’t it, he asked without requiring an answer. It was a strange comment but, whatever he meant, David’s message was clear – MK council felt very aggrieved.
    Barely pausing for breath he continued: secondly, we have published a number of upcoming closures on the Noticeboard because one of the criticisms that we took was that communication was poor. Just to confirm that doesn’t include any emergency closures. OTC had taken criticism not just for the A509 issue but for other issues too and David agreed that residents are now confused about who is responsible for various services in Olney. It’s not just highways, he said, it extends to a number of services provided by MK Council – planning for example, 5G masts, waste and recycling collections to housing and social care services. All of those are the responsibility of MK City Council. So please, said David looking directly now at the Mayor, between us can we make it clear about who is responsible for what in the town so that we can serve our residents – the people we are supposed to be serving – together.
    Colin Rodden jumped to OTC’s defence. A number of retailers have contacted me about that closure. I think it might have been helpful if we had said businesses were still open even when the road was closed, he suggested. There are lessons to be learned from that, if the A509 was ever closed again. We should let the businesses know that we are working together. I feel that for councillors in situ who speak to retailers and so on, on a daily basis, there is going to be some criticism. Yes countered David the fury still blazing in his eyes, but I would not go on to the Noticeboard and criticise your Clerk for example, I would do it in a different way.
    So, the problem is councillors posting things on the Noticeboard, is that what you are saying, asked Colin. Yes, said David, at the end of the day, our officers are human beings and nobody likes being criticised do they? Especially when they have tried to make sure things were done well and, in my opinion, taken good decisions.
    People don’t understand the legislation behind these closures, Peter Geary waded in. They don’t realise that if there is going to be a closure you try to co-ordinate it so that the three services can be done together. Peter agreed that signage does need to be discussed but added that very few people read signs these days anyway.
    Well, there must have been something wrong, said an incredulous Debbie Hall. There are pictures of enormous lorries going through Coneygere (the narrow road at the back of Olney). Yes, repeated Peter, people don’t read signs. Debbie added that a day into the roadworks and with so many roads closed, Olney had the feel of a town that wasn’t open. Colin Rodden agreed: the town was incredibly quiet he said, and shops’ takings were considerably down.
    And there is the problem, said Peter, his hands raised in dismay. You’re criticised if lorries come into the town trying to get through and then you are criticised when the road closures are working and the town feels empty. You will never, ever get it right, he added with the shake of the head.
    The Mayor said it was obvious that education, and learning from this, was an important part of the process. He said he appreciated that MK Council had done what they could to minimise the disruption in what he described as ‘one of the hardest places in the Milton Keynes area to close a road’. He said he had been contacted by local businesses and that some of the emails were ‘not pleasant’ but he added that his council were not criticising MK officers – on the contrary they were supporting them. He proposed that both councils get together and have a meeting to discuss ways to improve the situation in the future.
    Residents don’t know who is responsible for which services, he said, and it was noted that OTC are not responsible for example, for planning, waste management, housing and the highways and should not be responding to residents on these matters. The Ward Councillors should be dealing with these. Chris Tennant said it might be useful if OTC and MKC agreed a schedule of who does what concerning town matters. People in the street don’t know what’s going on, he said, and it would be good if people could be directed to a website perhaps, with information on what’s happening in the town, then everyone is clear, he said. Yes said Ben, there are lessons to be learned here and the main one is communication. Let’s get a date in the diary for that meeting to discuss improvements. Councillor Hosking had another meeting to attend and left the table in a flurry of annoyance. He must have kicked himself then, that he had to return to the room because he had forgotten his car keys. Have a Happy Christmas David, Colin Rodden called after him.

    PCSO's report

    PCSO James Andrews was unable to be present at the meeting but he had sent in crime figures for November to the Clerk. The Mayor read through the gory details: two cases of stalking and harassment, three suspicious persons, two suspicious cars, two suspicious ‘other’, three thefts, two public orders and four road collisions. Overall said Ben cheerily, there was a decrease in crime and if there are any questions James can be contacted.

    Expenditure report and budget to date

    The Mayor gave a summary of the main points: they are projected to exceed budget on income he said, for the Thursday Market and the Farmer’s Market, which is held once a month. The Farmers Market might be affected for the next couple of months because December’s one was Dickens of a Christmas and there is no Farmers Market planned for January. There are a good number of stall holders he said. The Olney Centre has also generated good income, with many rooms being booked out throughout the day and into the evenings. The MUGA (Multi-use games area) was likewise – there are already nine regular bookings during the week and targets for that are expected to be exceeded.
    On water rates and utilities, expenditure is up but they are often not used much in some areas as consumption hasn’t been as high as expected. Expenditure for maintenance on the Rec is up but that’s to be expected, he said, considering the extra work they had to do there controlling visitors and ensuring extra waste collections on the recreational space. Staffing is a big use of budget and there was a slight increase in payments to temporary staff and contractors said the Mayor. We are in a healthy place, though, and let’s ensure we retain that position.
    Councillors who represent at external meetings
    There were no external meetings by councillors to report but Ben had been busy. He attended a past players lunch at Olney Rugby Club where they also unveiled a memorial at which Mary Prosser attended in her capacity as British Legion Standard Bearer. There was also the Remembrance Sunday event which was well attended by councillors (and Mary was Standard Bearer again), he opened the Christmas Tree Festival at the church and was hosting at the annual Dickens event, for which he had already received great feedback including praise and thanks from towns-people.

    Section 106 spending

    Work on the MUGA has been halted, said the Clerk, because of the colder weather. It hasn’t had its final top surface coat she said and it hasn’t got its lines yet but it is useable as it is she added. That will all be done when the weather gets a bit drier, added the Mayor.
    One thing that does use up money is the Rec and a separate report was given about this land. The newly-installed CCTV cameras have been very successful said the Mayor and are providing excellent coverage of the area. There are other security issues to be covered including getting more volunteers to help keep an eye on the Rec and advertisements asking for people’s help will go out for that.
    Related to that was an agenda item to approve annual events on OTC land. They get asked for permission throughout the year said the Mayor on events such as the March Pancake Race, Motorama on the Market Place, the River Festival, Fireworks at the Rec, BOFF food festival and the Dickens event in December. There is a one-off request for July for an AG250 (Amazing Grace) event on the allotments field. Chris Tennant said that there will also be a Rugby Sevens match which uses Rugby land, of course, but also OTC land for parking. It’s a potential income generator he said, for parking. Five pounds a car, 200 cars, he added with a glint in his eye and the cash registers clearly ringing in his ears. There were nods of agreement all around the table for that little enterprise.
    The Farmers Market at Dickens will be discussed at a later date, said the Clerk because some people think the first week of December is too early for this festive event. However, if it’s not held on the 3rd or 4th of December, some of the market stall holders could be elsewhere, she added.

    Proposal for twinning with Olney, Illinois

    This is the most interesting item on the agenda this evening said the Mayor. It was certainly quite an unusual topic to be discussing at an OTC meeting. The Clerk had received a letter and some information from the US town asking for the two Olneys to become ‘sisters’ as the word ‘twinning;’ isn’t actually used. There are three other Olneys in the States, said the Clerk but is this something that we would like to do? Has anyone ever been to Olney Illinois, asked Peter Geary. No, said everyone around the table. Well, I have, said Peter proudly. The jet-setter had passed through the town and knew all about its rare albino squirrels. He thought the ‘sistering’ idea was a good one, well worth exploring further. Ben agreed, he would like to explore this – there’s a unique connection with the name, he said, and it could open up opportunities such as visits and education for local schools and the museum. He proposed that the matter is further investigated and everyone agreed. Peter said that Milton Keynes had been twinned with a city in Belgium but that had ‘fizzled out’ as ‘nothing had happened’. The council would not want the same happening with the two Olneys.

    EV charging points on the Cattle Market car park

    The Mayor said he was in favour of more EV (electric vehicle) points in the town but that the parking bays should not be exclusively set aside for EVs, which is similar for other parts of Olney. The council has not historically been in favour of EV-only parking.
    Peter Geary said he thought the charging points could work well during the day for visitors and then double up as chargers for residents who do not have their own power point at home. It should be a reliable and secure site, he added, and said that what the town needs is fast-chargers which power up cars at a much quicker rate than the trickle charge of home units. It’s time also to change the one on the Market Place for a fast charger, he added. For residents using the car park overnight, a slow charger would be fine but not for visitors looking for a quick power boost.
    David Tyler is an EV owner and he agreed that fast chargers are definitely needed and that ‘EV-only’ parking should be enforced only overnight when local people want to make use of them. Debbie Hall said she thought electric charging bays should be for EVs only as visitors want to be sure that there is a good chance of a bay being available for them if they come into the town. Peter Geary said the Market Place bay is often empty even though there is no enforcement against petrol cars there. In fact, he said the person who uses it most is the traffic warden when he comes to do his regular inspections. There might come a day when it is enforced, he said, but that’s not now. The main aim of this latest plan is to help local people who need to charge their cars overnight, not for visitors who require a boost for a couple of hours. Chris Tennant proposed that the council support the installation of new chargers but then add afterwards (and here is the kicker, he said) that they want to see some more fast chargers and also ensure that there’s more security at that car park.
    Talking of charging, another item on the agenda was a proposed art installation on the new Yardley Manor estate. Peter Geary was straight in, asking if there was a charge for ownership and upkeep. It will have a running cost for the maintenance of it and there needs to be a debate about who owns that artwork, he said. There’s potential for vandalism too, and what happens if someone runs over it and knocks it flat: is there insurance? Usually, said Peter, developers give councils a sum of cash and say: go and sort out some public art. But this developer has decided that they are going to organise the art themselves and they have commissioned an artist who has the backing of the MK arts officer.
    It was proposed that the council takes ownership of the sculpture, subject to negotiations. That commits them to nothing but demonstrates their interest and allows the Clerk to start negotiations.

    The next meeting

    The next meeting will be on Monday 9th January at 7pm in the Olney Centre. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, or any time the Mayor deems appropriate, please contact the town clerk: townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

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