web counter
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 2017

  • January 2017

    Public Participation:

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. While householders had now received the residents parking scheme consultation, some were struggling to understand it and, in particular, the annual £50 permit charge. This topic is dealt with in the main body of the meeting below.

    Rod Parker
    Rod Parker also spoke about parking, this time in Orchard Rise. This has worsened over the last ten years. The main problems are safety (there’s no pavement), reduced road width (due to the line of parked cars) requiring larger vehicles to mount the grass verge, and lack of access to driveways (due to poor parking). Residents formed a small committee around a year ago and, keeping the residents informed throughout, it’s looked into various solutions and discussed the issue with both Olney and Milton Keynes Councils. Yellow lines were suggested and rejected due to them being too expensive and restrictive. A residents parking scheme was then suggested. The Committee liked the idea so a petition was sent to Milton Keynes Council (MKC). Again, this topic is dealt with in the main body of the meeting below.

    Election of Deputy Mayor

    With Ron Bull having left the Council, a vacancy has arisen for the post of Deputy Mayor. There were two candidates: Sally Pezaro (in her absence) and Desmond Eley. Votes were taken and Sally was elected Deputy Mayor with six votes, with Desmond having four.

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    The consultation document has now been sent to those living in the Crescent plus the houses in the immediate vicinity, first online (not ideal for the elderly residents) then printed. If 70% or more respondents are in favour, the scheme will be in place within six months. While parking permit schemes within Milton Keynes Borough are free in the current financial year, there is a proposal for an annual £50 permit charge starting April 2017 – hence it being raised as a concern in the Public participation part of this meeting.
    Deidre Bethune felt it was not ideal that pensioners would have to pay for parking permits. Peter Geary replied that this point had been raised for a number of schemes and that there was a proposal for them to be free for pensioners, although it was uncertain if or when this would be agreed. He also noted that the advantage of residents paying was that the schemes would likely be better enforced. Martine Stoffels asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) should be trying to help the residents understand the scheme, though Jeremy Rawlings noted that it had no jurisdiction in the matter – it could only comment and suggest.
    Joe Stacey said that the issue was a ‘bit of a mess’, ‘disgraceful’ and had ‘gone on and on’. He suggested that OTC write a strong letter to MKC’s Chief Executive to get this remarkably long running issue sorted out. Peter felt the Council should hold back on that option for now, explaining that writing now could provoke the easy response that ‘a process was underway’, as the parking scheme for which OTC had pushed was moving forward. He felt the time to write would be if less than the required 70% of the respondents were in favour of the scheme, in which case further thought would be needed.

    Parking in Orchard Rise

    This item required a decision on whether the Council would support a consultation on the requested residents parking scheme in Orchard Rise. The debate on this was comparatively brief since, while Joe Stacey wanted to know more about the issue before the Council expressed its opinion, the general view appeared to be that sensible investigations had already taken place, there was no financially viable alternative and it didn’t seem democratic to ignore the views of the residents and MKC. The Council voted all in favour of expressing a positive opinion, bar one abstention.

    Stacks Image 1041

    Orchard Rise parking problem

    Hanging baskets

    The hanging baskets mounted on the lampposts along the A509 in the Summer have been organised by Ron Bull for the last 11 years, and his wife Sheila for around five years before that. He’s stepping down from this task, and has asked the Council if it would take over. Colin Rodden thanked him for his hard work over this long period. Tony Evans noted that the time needed for basket planting and subsequent growth meant that a decision was required in the next month or so. Councillors agreed to see if another organisation, for example Olney Events, would take on the task with the proviso that, if not, the Council would take it on with Councillors doing the organisation so as not to create more work for Council staff.

    Market Place Christmas tree

    Deidre felt that the tree had insufficient impact in its current position South of the toilet block near the High Street, and suggested it be moved to the High Street side of the grass area behind the war memorial. She’d talked with some members of the local Royal British Legion (RBL) and they were content provided the tree was not too close to the memorial. The general view was that the idea was good, so it will be investigated further and the RBL contacted for an official response.

    Milton Keynes Council budget consultation

    As reported previously, MKC needs to find £20m of cost savings next year plus a further £60m by 2020. Peter Geary spoke about a few of the ways in which this will likely affect local Councils. The effects on landscape maintenance, the filling of grit bins and weed spraying have been reported previously. He added another two planned cuts: MKC’s Emergency Planning Service (which swings into action in the event of a major incident such a gas explosion) may soon operate only 9-5 Monday to Friday, and the subsidy given to bus companies for Junior Tripper bus passes may reduce causing their price to increase. It was also noted that the precepts charged by local Councils would almost certainly increase as a result of responsibilities they took over from MKC.
    John Boardman was unsure how MKC could achieve the 60m savings, noting that the Council Tax from the planned additional dwellings would nowhere near cover the shortfall. Peter Geary noted that growth was actually much of the problem: Councils have to provide services, such as schools, to new housing areas before they’re fully built and generating Council Tax revenue. He also noted that MKC’s current cutting and slicing of services could not continue and that what was really needed was a radical change to the way it functions and provides services. He felt that the Government would not stop cutting until Councils bit the bullet and transformed, for example by empowering the people at the bottom of the organisation. Finally, Peter noted that OTC would pretty much have to ‘stomach’ the changes for this year, but plan ahead for which cuts it will accept and which it will fight over the coming three years.
    The increasing importance of developing a two sided good and cooperative relationship between OTC and MKC was noted.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Pinders Circus will be held on the Pyghtle from Thursday 27th to Sunday 30th April.
    As reported previously, Kevin Viney was concerned about the colour of light which would be provided by the new LED lighting units when the lamp posts on the High Street were replaced. A verbal response has now been received but, being quite technical, has been requested in writing. Separately, the lighting units on all lamp posts in Olney and Newport Pagnell are due for replacement in the next financial year.

    Olney Wine Bar and Brasserie

    As reported last month, the MKC Licensing Committee considered an application from John Shayler on behalf of the Olney Wine Bar and Brasserie to align the hours permitted for the sale of alcohol, performance of music and performance of dance. After noting OTC’s objection to the later hours requested, the Committee voted to curtail these hours, and approved the application with the sale of alcohol permitted 10am – 11pm Sunday to Thursday, and 10am – midnight Friday and Saturday. It is also a condition of the licence that drinks must not be consumed in the outside area after 9pm.

    Yardley Road Solar Park

    Tony Evans reported that construction of the Yardley Road Solar Park was now well underway. There are 2-300m of field track leading from the turning on Yardley Road and, while some attempt has been made to keep this track in good condition, it has not been successful, so mud is being pulled onto the road by vehicles exiting the site. He felt this was a safety risk, particularly with the exit being on the crest of a bend which is taken quickly by many drivers. Jeremy Rawlings noted that it was a statutory duty not to bring mud onto the highway from such sites and Peter Geary concurred, saying it was an issue for planning enforcement.

    Next Meeting - 6th February

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

  • February 2017

    Olney Council report for February 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. The results of the residents parking scheme consultation have now been published and as this was an item on the main agenda it will be covered in the main body of the report.

    Co-option of new councillor

    A vacancy had arisen on the council, following the resignation of Ron Bull. There had been no request from the electorate for an election so it fell to the council to fill the post by co-option. There was only on applicant for the post, that being Kevin Viney, who was therefore elected unopposed. In his letter of application Kevin stated that he had lived and worked in the town since 1994 and been the director of two companies that created eight part-time vacancies drawn from Olney and four from neighbouring villages. He had also helped successfully fight the closure of the local day centre at the Kitchener Centre.

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    The parking scheme consultation document was sent to all residents of Oakdown Crescent and those of 70-92 Weston Road (even numbers only). The latter are houses that face the grassed area of The Pyghtle and back on to Oakdown Crescent, with no parking outside their homes so are effectively ‘land-locked’. A total of 33 surveys were sent out of which 31 were correctly completed and returned and the result was 61% against the introduction of a resident parking scheme, although 87% agreed that parking was either a problem or a serious problem. This was below the 70% required for the scheme to go ahead. The main objection to the scheme appeared to be the likely £50 per permit charge recently announced by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for all such schemes in the borough, although there is a possibility that this might be waived for elderly residents. Sue Warren, whose mother lives in Oakdown Crescent, expressed her disappointment at the result and said that the MKC officer who had visited the residents expressed the opinion that the charge would probably not be applied. If that were the case the vote would almost certainly have gone the other way, she felt. She was critical of Olney Town Council (OTC) for not getting sufficiently behind the scheme but accepted that the vote meant it would not now happen. Her sister now has a blue disabled badge, she said, and so would be campaigning to ensure that a disabled space was provided. As a resident of the Weston Road houses, Bryan Rice expressed his frustration at the length of time it had taken to get to the current stage and said that the right questions had not been asked of the right people. He felt that the market value of his house had been adversely affected by the delay and was considering legal advice on compensation. Some of the children of the ‘land-locked’ residents would soon be getting cars of their own, so the situation was only going to get worse, he said.
    John Boardman and Mayor Jeremy Rawlings felt it was unfair to criticise OTC as the members and Town Clerk Liam Costello had done a tremendous amount to find a resolution. A discussion took place about what the next step should be, as the issue remains that the existing layout is unsatisfactory and the surface is breaking up. Joe Stacey was of the opinion that OTC should decide on a way forward and ask MKC to implement it, but Colin Rodden thought that MKC should identify the most cost effective solution, as they have experts who are paid to know such things. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said it was unlikely that MKC would take the initiative on any further action, since they would only progress projects where there was agreement of those impacted and the survey had proved that there wasn’t. The next step would be for OTC to agree on a layout to maximise the available space and to get it resurfaced, he said.

    Community Skate/BMX Park

    An Invitation to Tender document has been produced by the committee that was working to provide this facility, but it had only been sent to the council on the morning of the meeting and many members felt that they hadn’t had time to fully study it. Although absent from the meeting, Desmond Eley had provided written comments. His main points were around the fact that the document appeared to be placing the main responsibility for the tendering, planning, construction and ongoing maintenance of the park with OTC. At a previous meeting OTC had agreed to support the project with funding. Tony Evans reminded members that the final position relied on the successful relocation of the existing zip wire and was concerned that it was still too close to the cricket pitch. He wondered how a tender date could be declared if the full funding was not yet available. It needed to be ‘sitting in someone’s account’ he thought. Peter Geary said it was good that the document had been produced but the location needed to be agreed by all affected parties before the request for planning permission could be submitted. It was agreed that a weekend site meeting should be set up to include representatives of the Cricket Club, Bowling Club, Tennis Club, Football Club including Colts, skaters, and parents of children who use the play equipment.

    Financial matters

    MKC needs to make savings of £56m over the next four years and had proposed reducing the previously agreed grant for Devolved Landscape Service for the next financial year by a third. This grant covers litter picking, grass cutting and play area maintenance. Following submissions made by OTC and other parish councils MKC has agreed to defer the decision for a further year in order to gain agreement as to how the savings can be made.
    The OTC budget for 2017/18 was presented to the meeting, including the Parish Precept, which is the portion of the MKC Council Tax that is allocated to the parish councils in order to provide the services that they are responsible for. The precept for Olney will be increased from £177,081.76 to £185,050.00, an overall increase of 4.5%. The figure usually used to benchmark average Council Tax is for a Band D property, the precept portion which will see a rise from £70.79 to £73.57 – a rise of 3.93%. It was noted that this considerably less than the average rise across the rest of Milton Keynes. The budget was proposed and passed unanimously.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    A Neighbourhood Plan is document that sets out planning policies for the neighbourhood area which is written by the local community, rather than the Local Planning Authority and is a powerful tool to ensure the community gets the right types of development, in the right place. The Planning Authority, in this case MKC, is obliged to use it to decide whether to approve planning applications. Joe Stacey reported that the Olney plan had completed the consultation stage and had been submitted to MKC. The next step would be an independent examination before going to a public referendum. Liam Costello explained that, although it is not formally adopted until approved in the referendum, it is supposed to gain weight as it progresses. However MKC have indicated that the recommendations therein will not be taken into account in the forthcoming planning decision about housing development on existing land earmarked for employment.

    Emberton Park PLUG

    Until a year ago stakeholders with an interest in the park were able to raise issues of concern with MKC at regular Park Liaison User Group (PLUG) meetings. Due to staff reductions brought about by budget cuts MKC are no longer able to resource these meetings, relying instead on their online portal for raising concerns and complaints. At the request of OTC they have offered to hold six monthly meetings with stakeholders to explore strategic suggestions and improvements to the park. Peter Geary was in favour of the offer and suggested that OTC and Emberton Parish Council should work together to agree a joint approach. Colin Rodden thought that the park was starting to deteriorate quite badly and it was important for MKC to have some sort of strategy for its future. He wondered whether it would be possible for OTC and Emberton PC to run it between them, in a similar manner to Harrold Country Park. Steve Clark said that Harrold Country Park was supported by a massive subsidy from Bedford Borough Council.

    Local Events

    The council granted permission for the following events:
    Motorama on the Market Place – Sunday 11th June
    Fun Fair, Recreation Ground – 19th to 26th June
    Riverfest – Sunday 2nd July
    It was noted that BOTO (formally Booze on the Ouse) has been cancelled for this year.

    Dumping of waste on Goosey Island

    Although not a formal agenda item, having occurred after the agenda was published, it was raised under Members Matter by Rosemary Osbourne. Over the previous weekend members of the public had observed and photographed a van driver unloading waste material on to Goosey Island via the narrow wooden bridge and were up in arms about it, she said. Liam Costello said it had been reported to the Environmental Agency as commercial waste being stored without permission. It appears that a ‘Mr Chan’ purchased the island and bridge some years ago when the tannery closed down. He claims to own the land at the other end of the bridge and says that the public have no right of access. He also claims that he has stored a greenhouse on the island which has been vandalised. Steve Clark was of the opinion that it was waste, not storage, and the owner required a licence to transport and deposit it.

    Stacks Image 1140

    Goosey Rubbish

    Odds and Sods

    Age UK are planning to close the Tuesday lunch club held at Clifton Court due to declining numbers. OTC currently pays for the transport of residents that cannot make their own way. The Thursday lunch club at the Olney Centre will continue, so OTC will transfer its funding to the Thursday club.
    An agreement has been reached with all interested parties to relocate this year’s Christmas tree to the north end of the Market Place by the war memorial.

    Next Meeting

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

  • March 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent, remaining unhappy about the negative outcome of the residents parking scheme consultation. Frustrated that properties near the Crescent had been included in the survey – the ‘land locked’ even numbers from 70-92 Weston Road – and even claiming Council bias in the way they were chosen, she felt the result would have been positive had they not been included. She also felt that the £50 per household cost, which would in fact have been waived for elderly people although that was unclear at survey time, impacted the result. Noting that on most nights and weekends at least 18 cars were parked in the Crescent, she also stated that emergency services vehicles could not get near the houses. She cited an example of a recent ambulance arrival, where it could not reach the house it needed to visit. She finished by vowing to continue fighting for a solution to this parking problem.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Now that the consultation result had gone against the introduction of a residents parking scheme, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had asked Olney Town Council (OTC) to send it a list of options to help resolve the situation. Deidre noted that the surface of the Crescent was in very poor condition and unsafe to walk on, the holes patched by MKC having quickly reappeared. OTC has drawings of two proposed layouts for parking in the Crescent, one with parking around the edges and one with parking in a central rectangle, and these will be sent as a possible basis for a plan moving forward.

    Skate and BMX park

    Although the park was not discussed as a formal agenda item, it was raised during a review of the minutes of last month’s Council meeting. Colin Rodden disagreed with this section of the minutes, but the resulting discussion didn’t really clarify the current state of the project. Since readers may be interested to learn how preparatory work towards the park is progressing, Mercury asked for and the Council provided a brief update: “The Council initially approved in principle a location for the Skatepark, subject to detailed plans being prepared, where the zip wire is located. It has become clear that siting it there will compromise the operation of other clubs and facilities. Consequently, the Town Clerk has been tasked to review and assess alternative locations. The Council has earmarked £33,000, from future developer contributions, towards the project. The Skate park group need to raise the remaining funds.”

    Yardley Road/Aspreys development

    As reported before, a large new housing development is planned on the land to the West of Yardley Road and Aspreys. A Preplanning Application has now been received for a proposed development of up to 250 houses, plus the associated community facilities and public open space.

    Yardley Road development

    A Planning Application for up to eight houses with detached garages on a parcel of land to the West of Yardley Road, which was refused last July, has now been appealed and a new application submitted. A member of OTC spoke against it at a recent MKC Development Control Committee meeting, but the application was granted by the Committee by one in favour and four abstentions. One cited reason was that there was no realistic chance of the land being passed back into employment use. OTC felt this was surprising, given that local business Scorpion Mouldings had tried to buy the land four times before and still wished to do so now. Using a little cited clause, the Council has asked MKC to look again at the process to see if it had been performed incorrectly, and thus it will have been considered by the time this is published.

    Goosey Island

    As reported in the previous article, a van driver has been unloading rubbish on Goosey Island. Rosemary Osborne again raised concerns about this but it appeared that, having informed the Environment Agency and MKC that waste was being stored on the land without permission, there was little more OTC could do other than wait. Specifically, it is MKC which has the enforcement powers; OTC does not.

    Standing orders item 23

    Item 23 of OTC’s Standing Orders (those being the rules which govern how a Council works), states:
    Unauthorised activities:
    (a) Unless authorised by a resolution, no individual Councillor shall, in the name or on behalf of the Council, a committee or a sub-committee:
    (i) inspect any land and/or premises which the Council has a right or duty to inspect; or
    (ii) issue orders, instructions or directions.
    Colin Rodden reported that he’d received art designs from Olney Middle School to include in the circular walk around Olney. He also mentioned that Milton Keynes Council had offered to do some public artwork for the walk. Joe Stacey replied stating that Colin’s emails on this topic and on a Section 106 matter were in breach of Standing Orders item 23 because he was effectively ‘going solo’, without the knowledge and agreement of the Council. Colin, explaining that he’d not been looking to take any decisions in this way, apologised if he’d done anything wrong.
    The resulting discussion went on for some time, with nearly all Councillors who contributed speaking along similar lines to Joe. Peter Geary put forward a differing view, that Councillors can seek advice (on Section 106 and other matters) and that, in any case, there was effectively no way to enforce Standing Orders. He also felt that the only way for the Council to work effectively was together: Olney Council was nowhere near a split but, having seen the effect of splits in other Councils, he didn’t want to see one happen here. Colin rounded off the discussion, stating that he’d not been “trying to go behind anyone’s back” and that it was the “first time he’d heard about it”, which was “very disappointing”. Finally, Peter noted that the Council must resolve this issue outside this meeting, and that it would “need change from all of us”.

    Next Meeting 3rd April

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

  • April 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent, saying that she was upset that it was not an agenda item, having been assured some years ago that it would be a monthly agenda item to keep the momentum going. ‘Where was the feedback from the Highways Dept and Ambulance service?’ she asked, following her statement last month that an ambulance had been obstructed by parked cars. The poor condition of the pathways has still not been resolved, which is becoming more of a problem as the better weather means the residents are getting out and about. If one of them falls there would be a ‘huge compensation claim’, she said. Oakdown crescent is not a quiet or nice area for senior citizens and they are paying exorbitant rents just to live in a car park, she said. She finished off by asking the councillors if they would let their mothers live in a car park?
    Note: later in the meeting when reviewing outstanding actions it was noted that the ambulance service has no record of the alleged incident of obstruction and resurfacing is due to commence this month.

    Public Realm Services

    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings, Milton Keynes (MKC) Ward Councillor Peter Geary, Olney Town Councillor (OTC) Helena Newbould and Town Clerk Liam Costello recently attended a conference of MK Association of Local Councils, to look at how local councils can work with MKC in order to deliver important services at lower cost. To date MKC has cut £111m from its budget, but needs to find another £22m next year and £60m by 2020. In order to do this it is looking to transfer responsibility for a number of services to the local councils. Olney has already taken over responsibility for landscaping and has the necessary equipment and staff, but this is not an option for some smaller parishes. However, OTC could sell its services to smaller neighbouring parishes. MKC currently has two separate contracts with Serco to provide Landscaping (including play areas) and Street Cleansing, which still have some time to run. It is able to negotiate a ‘bulk’ price to cover the whole of the borough, but at the expense of excluding smaller companies that could not service on such a large scale. However, individual councils would now be at liberty to engage with smaller companies directly and might be able to negotiate a more favourable price. Possible future service options are:
    ● Councils take over management of MKC’s contract with Serco in their Parish, pay them directly and top up to the standard they want. MKC provides them with base level funding.
    ● Councils provide their own contractors. MKC provides base level funding to them directly.
    ● MKC provide base level service and councils pay MKC for any top up they want.
    ● MKC provides base level service and councils provide their own contractor for any top up they want.
    Parish councils have until August 2017 to decide how they want to move forward, which Joe Stacey did not think sufficient. Peter Geary said it was important for OTC to decide what it would and wouldn’t be prepared to take on and then produce a strategy, since environmental services such as landscaping and street cleansing were much less complex than ‘people services’ (presumably such as education and welfare).

    Plan MK

    MKC has now entered into a 12 week public consultation, from 17th March to 9th June, on the Draft Plan. When it is adopted it will be the new Local Plan for Milton Keynes, setting out how and where developments will take place up to 2031. Jeremy Rawlings said it wasn’t particularly controversial for Olney yet, and Peter Geary said that Olney would have its own adopted Neighbourhood Plan, so would not be required to accept more houses than it had already signed up to. The proposed expressway from Buckingham to M1 J13 is an important pre-condition to any development on the east side of the M1 though, he said. The draft plan is available at https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/planning-and-building/planning-policy/plan-mk or Milton Keynes and Olney libraries.

    Yardley Road development

    As reported last month, a Planning Application for up to eight dwellings on a parcel of land to the West of Yardley Road was refused last July, was appealed and a new application submitted and subsequently passed. OTC invoked Para 51 of the MKC constitution to review the decision making process and see if it had been performed incorrectly, since the land is currently earmarked for business use in the draft Neighbourhood Plan. An adjacent company wished to purchase the land for employment purposes but had been refused. Once again the MKC planners have ignored the wishes of OTC and the draft plan, despite representations from OTC members present, and apparently voted along party lines to reject the call to review the decision.

    Replacement street lighting

    As reported previously, the lamp posts in the High Street have reached the end of their life and are being replaced by MKC, using a similar design to the existing ones. At the same time the familiar yellow sodium lights will be replaced by high efficiency LED lights. In December, prior to becoming a member of OTC, Kevin Viney spoke at a council meeting about the impacts of the much brighter white LED lights that will be used. He also wrote a letter to MKC outlining his concerns about the visual impact of what he considered the ‘morgue like’ 4000°K white lights and associated health impacts to those who were exposed to the light. At the time he also suggested that warmer 3000°K lights could be used instead. A rather wordy reply was written, but has only just been received from the Street Lighting Manager of Ringway Infrastructure Services, who manage the street lighting for MKC. It stated that the proposed LED lights would provide savings of at least 50% over the existing sodium lights on energy alone, although the warmer 3000°K lights requested by Kevin are 15% less efficient than the 4000°K white lights. Added to that, the current lamps have to be replaced every four years, whereas the LEDs would last in excess of 25 years. The yellow lights were only introduced in the 1950/1960s, the previous lighting being white and prior to that gas lighting existed, which would also have been white. Thus, it was claimed the new white lights would create a more historically accurate look. The letter also denied that there is any known risk to human health, including disturbed circadian rhythms, when LED lights are employed. LED lighting has major benefits to facial recognition and colour rendition leading to safer streets in terms of crime reduction and a better lit environment for both pedestrians and vehicles. The letter said that change is often seen as a negative but LED is the future of all road/footpath and public lighting and is something that the public will not only get used to but also embrace.

    Stacks Image 1229

    Sodium Light v 4K LED Light - Oundle Town Centre (April 2017) © Kevin Viney

    Kevin presented a picture that he had taken in the historic town of Oundle which has been fitted with the Woburn style lamp posts that are due to replace the similar ones in Olney and where one sodium light had been left. This enabled comparison of the intensity and colour with the modern LED lamp replacements. On the left of the picture is the warm yellow light (see illumination on pavement) and to the right is the somewhat harsh intense light from the 4K LED fitting, along with the similar colour of the fluorescent white of the shop front illuminating the ground. On a wet surface the white light would give a lot of glare, he said. Replacement in Olney is due to commence at the beginning of April, but Kevin suggested that OTC request MKC to delay for a period of six weeks until Holophane, the supplier, can obtain the warmer 3000°K lights. These are the norm in the USA, he said. John Boardman wondered if MKC had had any feedback from other parishes where LED lighting had been deployed and thought that High Street residents would be the first to complain when it happened in Olney. Joe Stacey asked if OTC actually have any authority to delay the deployment and Jeremy Rawlings questioned whether as a council they wanted to. Sally Pezaro was of the opinion that the yellow lights are part of the Olney atmosphere, particularly with the Christmas lights. The council agreed to request the delay.
    Update:A response has been received from MKC refusing to agree to the delay and stating that the replacement of lighting in the High Street will commence on 18th April and then continue to the rest of the town. The reply stated that “the design of the lights has already been reduced from the 5000k that have been used on the grid road network that has formed part of our overall replacement programme. It has been proven that the temperature of the proposed units replicates moonlight, which is the best type of light source for the human eye to view at night.” A number of the lights already exist in the town for residents to compare for themselves. They are the top of Spring Lane, the footpath on Aspreys between Sillswood and Hollow Wood, and The Knoll close to the (A)Maya restaurant. Any comment should be addressed to MKC Street lighting on 01908 252353 (Mon-Fri).

    Fun Fair

    John Scarrott and Sons will be bringing the funfair to Olney between 19th and 26th June. As Chairman of the Recs and Services Committee, Tony Evans has requested that it is not located on the Nursery Field (football pitch) due to damage that has been caused previously and is now repaired (note: last year Scarrotts voluntarily cancelled at the last minute, for fear of causing damage as the ground was so wet). Joe Stacey questioned whether the damage had actually impacted the football club and suggested that if damage is caused then Scarrotts should be asked to pay for it. Jeremy Rawlings said that there really was nowhere else it could be held and suggested that it go ahead this year with a review in July, which was agreed.

    Town Meeting

    The Annual Town Meeting will take place on Thursday 18th May at 7.00 pm in the Olney Centre, with cheese and wine after. This is your chance to come and meet your councillors and police representatives and question them on any matters concerning the town and its future. Perhaps you have an opinion on LED street lighting? Are you in favour of the growth of the Town? Are you happy with the level of policing? Alternatively, you could just have a moan on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page….

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

  • May 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She’d been in contact with Milton Keynes Council (MKC), who’d stated that the footpaths in the Crescent would not be repaired, even though Olney Town Council (OTC) had claimed this would happen in May. She also noted that MKC would have been happy to survey just Crescent householders for the residents parking scheme, it being OTC who insisted that those nearby also be surveyed. She asked why OTC had not insisted on the same treatment for Orchard Rise which, in pretty short order from the idea being put forward, will very likely have a parking scheme. She also noted that MKC told her no money had ever been ring fenced for improvements to the Crescent, which she felt contradicted an assurance given to her by OTC. Sue concluded by asking Councillors if they’d let their mothers live in a car park.

    David Chennells
    David Chennells spoke about the poor state of the Long Lane bridleway section heading West from the crest of the hill. That and the section to its East have suffered damage due to vehicle movements associated with g2 Energy connecting the Yardley Road solar farm to the grid. However, while the Eastern section has been very well reinstated, the Western section has not. Instead, while a broken land drain has been repaired and a French drain installed, the surface appears simply to have been flattened using a road roller. David felt this inadequate because the grass which used to grow there, providing a surface mat and stabilising the ground with its roots, had been chewed off by the vehicles and was no longer present. He was particularly concerned about this from a horse riding perspective, as horses’ gaits puts them in danger of injury from boggy ground. He concluded by saying that as soon as we saw some sustained wet weather, this section of the bridleway would turn into a quagmire

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    As reported before, there are two proposals for providing marked parking spaces in the Crescent, one sighting them at the edges of the central area and one in its middle. Councillors continue to prefer the latter. The Council had received an email from MKC stating that it was happy to look at either option but that OTC must apply for it through the Community Parking Fund, which would see MKC and OTC each pay half the cost. OTC must apply for this before 23rd June, at which point MKC will consider the application. The email also stated that the footpaths in the Crescent would not be repaired, as the surface was not sufficiently poor to meet the intervention level criteria and there was little or no budget for housing footpaths.
    Responding to points raised by Sue and by MKC’s email, Peter Geary explained that money had been earmarked for the Crescent rather than ring fenced, and suggested OTC challenge why the paths had not been resurfaced since he’d been told they would be. Responding to Sue’s question about whether Councillors would let their mothers live in a car park, he stated that this was just what would be happening if either of the proposals was enacted.

    Mayor and Deputy Mayor

    Jeremy Rawlings was elected unopposed as Mayor and Sally Pezaro was appointed, also unopposed, as Deputy Mayor.

    Long Lane bridleway

    Councillors suggested that a working party, including a representative from MKC, have a site meeting with David Coles so he could show them the extent of the problem.

    Orchard Rise parking

    The survey to see if Orchard Rise should have a residents parking scheme has found that 87% of the households were in favour so, this being well above the 70% threshold, a statutory consultation will take place shortly and the scheme is expected to be introduced within six months.

    Waste on Goosey Island

    As reported before, there is a growing problem with the landowner depositing waste on Goosey Island. He has been served with two notices in an attempt to remedy the situation: The first was to remove the waste within 14 days, a time which has now expired. The second was to remove the structures, for example containers, within 28 days. At the time of writing, it’s part way through this period yet more structures continue to appear.
    It was noted that Goosey Bridge has two owners, the Council and the landowner each owning up to half way across. With it being an old bridge and there being vehicle movements associated with this issue, the Council will ask a Structural Engineer to assess its safe weight limit, with the aim of then placing a sign to display it.

    Air quality

    Kevin Viney met with MKC’s Air Quality Officer. A few years ago, the roadside pollution monitoring cabinet near the Church Hall was installed in response to the NO2 levels being above the permitted maximum. It is now becoming unreliable and reaching the end of its life. During that time, pollution levels have dropped to below the permitted limit but remain significant, with the Officer noting various issues which may cause further concern: traffic increase due to the economy and the proposed additional houses in Olney, windless days leading to a pollution hot spot in that location, and the possibility that the Government may tighten regulations to include smaller particles which the current equipment cannot measure.
    All that said, there was cost pressure to remove the unit along with a similar one in Newport Pagnell, with the only one remaining in the area being at MKC’s office. The criteria for that choice were interesting, the latter unit being chosen to remain more to continue a long running data collection than in response to high pollution levels at its location. The Officer suggested that OTC consider replacing the unit with a more modern type funded from Section 106, for example money from the developers of the forthcoming new houses near Yardley Road and Aspreys. Modern monitoring units can, in addition to the measurements captured by the exiting unit, also measure the smaller particles from diesel engines, and can make their readings available near real time. So, for example, a run could be planned to avoid the area if current pollution levels were unduly high. Councillors will consider this although, with money being tight, it was not obvious that the unit will be replaced.

    Alleyway between High Street and East Street

    This item concerns the alleyway which runs from the High Street to East Street, emerging near the football pitch. In spite of the existing pedestrian chicane, concerns have been raised for the safety of those exiting the alleyway into East Street. Cars often mount the pavement there and, with it being a narrow stretch of road, often parked on and close to a corner, visibility is poor. OTC will see if MKC can place bollards on the pavement either side of the alleyway exit.


    Late last year, MKC’s Licensing Subcommittee voted to restrict the opening hours of Olney Wine Bar to below those which the business applied for, OTC having objected to the times in the application. The Wine Bar appealed this decision, so MKC sought legal advice as to whether to fight this. Given the facts of this particular case, the advice was that it could not be defended so MKC felt compelled to agree to the licence as applied for.
    More Than Just Coffee (Taylors old premises) has applied for a licence to supply alcohol on the premises from 12.00 - 23.00 Monday to Sunday, with late night opening, from 23.00 - 01.00, on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. Councillors did not raise any objections.

    High Street lamppost replacement

    As you’ll no doubt be aware, MKC’s contractors are working to replace the lampposts on the High Street, at the same time upgrading their lighting units to LEDs which emit a whiter light than the existing lamps. Kevin Viney explained that the new posts were not as ornate, and noted that the swan fittings had not so far been transferred to them. The Council will ask MKC about this, having been told they would be retained. Kevin also noted that residents can complain if the new posts light areas which, previously unlit, are now troublesome. Although there’s a £130 charge for rectifying this, it can be waived under certain circumstances.

    Next Meeting - 5th June

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

  • June 2017

    Public Participation

    Residents are permitted to speak on any subject they wish at the start of Olney Town Council (OTC) meetings. They are allocated three minutes and the councillors are not obliged to respond unless the matter is a formal agenda item. The matter can, however, be made an agenda item for a future meeting. The three minute rule was strictly enforced by Mayor Jeremy Rawlings at this month’s meeting.

    Bryan Rice
    First to speak was Bryan Rice on the subject of parking In Oakdown Crescent. Bryan lives in one of the ‘landlocked’ houses backing onto Oakdown Crescent and would not have been able to park near his house had the now abandoned residents’ parking scheme gone ahead. He said that he had being doing some historical research into the issue and had found a three-year business plan for Olney produced in 1963 which had included building the houses (presumably Oakdown Crescent). At this time there was a roadway to the rear of the now landlocked houses in Weston Road. The houses in Oakdown Crescent were built in 1968 and the car park built in the middle. When that car park was built it was intended to be for residents of Weston Road and Oakdown Crescent but the residents of Weston Road were subsequently informed that their tenancies would be terminated if they parked in the crescent. Finally, Bryan said that he had some ideas for the proposed layout of the new parking space that he would be happy to share with the council.

    Sue Warren
    Next to speak was Sue Warren on the same subject. She wanted to know why it was not a formal item on the agenda as it was resolved at the last meeting that three items should be pursued. Sarah Gonsalves, Head of Policy and Performance at Milton Keynes Council (MKC), was present at the meeting so Sue addressed much of her statement to her. She presented some photos taken the previous day, saying that the situation was ‘horrendous’.
    She repeated that her sister, also present, was registered disabled and there was no disabled bay, even though MKC are obliged to provide one. She said OTC had ‘interfered’ with the residents’ survey by insisting that residents of Weston Road were included, which had resulted in an overall vote against a residents’ parking scheme. Why had the residents of West Street not been included in the similar survey for a scheme in Orchard Rise, she asked? She repeated her statement that the paths were a disgrace and MKC had better be prepared for a huge claim if any of the residents had a fall as a result.

    Bryan Rice
    Bryan Rice attempted to respond but Jeremy Rawlings refused to let him speak, saying he’d had his allotted three minutes and bringing down the gavel several times to call the meeting to order.
    MKC Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that Bryan’s reference to historical events was irrelevant as there had been several changes in the local authority since 1963. Also the tenancy act had been introduced, which meant that tenancies could not be cancelled in such circumstances. Jeremy Rawlings said the reason that it was not an agenda item was because there was nothing new to report.


    A discussion took place regarding the proposal for 250 homes on Land West of Yardley Road and West of Aspreys. Peter Geary noted that the current plans show a single access from Yardley Road although OTC had expressed a preference that there should be a second access from Aspreys. He said that he would formally raise an objection to the plans as Ward Councillor, in order that the second access was included. Asked by Heléna Newbold to clarify comments made in the Councillor Corner column of The Phonebox, Peter said that the published plans are nothing more than a picture of what the site could look like and the minute details of what would eventually be provided cannot be controlled in planning. At a later stage in the meeting the member discussed the Section 106 contribution, which the developers have to pay to MKC as a ‘planning gain’ and will be in the region of £5m for the development. All agreed that it was essential that as much as possible of that amount is used to benefit Olney and not the greater Milton Keynes. Of particular interest was the £112.5k allocated to landscaping, all of which should come to OTC as it manages its own landscaping.

    Public Realm Services

    Kay Pettit and Sarah Gonsalves were present to speak about MKC’s plans to deliver Public Realm services under the current financial restraints. Sarah said this was one of a series of meetings with the parish councils to get an understanding of the issues they face, not just in public realm services. She explained that it had been necessary to reduce costs but not much more cutting could be done without services suffering. Landscaping and waste service had attracted most attention, she said, noting that OTC along with some other councils had devolved responsibility for landscaping, although MKC had little understanding of how this was working and agreed that the relationship between MKC and the parishes was not as good as it could be. MKC intend to produce a framework of methods to progress the various options, she said. There could be no more devolving of Landscaping, though, because MKC was tied into a contract with Serco till 2020.
    Kay Pettit, Programme Manager, spoke next, explaining that MKC was looking at best practice around the country and Bedford was one council that stood out. She had visited many parish and observed many different approaches, she said. Asked by Desmond Eley if the current Serco contract would be extended beyond 2020 she replied that it was under consideration. Deirdre Bethune expressed concern that MKC might again attempt to renege on the funding for devolved service. Jeremy Rawlings pointed out that although OTC manages its own landscaping, residents are still paying MKC for the landscaping of other parishes via the Council Tax. Peter Geary said that OTC had been ‘bluntly’ told at a meeting with MKC that the funding would be reduced, even though this could not actually be done due to the ongoing contract with Serco. A senior manager at MKC had assured OTC in February that the pathways of Oakdown Crescent would be repaired and then promptly left office leaving no record of the agreement, he said. This approach had caused much damage which would take years to repair and communication between the councils needed to be a two way street. Sarah responded that she was happy to look at decisions made by colleagues and recognised that it would take time for trust to build up. ‘Judge us by our actions’ she asked. Kevin Viney asked if anyone had calculated the real cost of cancelling the Serco contract. Peter Geary responded that it would be £2.5m for each remaining year and none of the contracted work would be done so it was not a viable option. Colin Rodden was of the opinion that litter was not being cleared up often enough. Sarah said that it was possible to reduce pick-ups in some areas to concentrate on areas where the problem was worse. Peter Geary noted that in Weston Underwood MKC were clearing litter more often outside of the village, since the villagers had volunteered to be responsible for litter pick up between the village signs. More use could be made of volunteer litter collection groups, such as the session recently organised by staff of local company MPA Group, he suggested.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    After three years of hard work by the steering group the Neighbourhood Plan for Olney is now ready to be presented to residents for adoption, but first the majority of the electorate have to vote in a referendum. For information, The Localism Act introduced a right for communities to draw up Neighbourhood Plans that can become part of the formal planning framework for the area. Once adopted, these Neighbourhood Plans form part of the statutory Development Plan for the area and give the local community more say and control over development in the area. The plan for Olney, if adopted, will guide development till 2031. Steve Clark said there had been lots of discussion and consultation during the evolution of the plan, but from comments on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page, it appeared that some people thought that it could be ‘tweaked’ to make it correct. All the tweaking had been done during the development of the plan, he said, and the referendum was a simple yes/no vote on whether to adopt it. Although individual members of the council could encourage people to vote ‘Yes’, as a council they could not. Desmond Eley asked what would be the implication if only 5% of the electorate bothered to vote. Peter Geary replied that it would be carried by a simple majority under normal election rules. The council will advertise through leaflets, The Phonebox and social media, encouraging resident to use their vote.

    Waste on Goosey Island

    As previously reported, there is a growing problem with the deposit of waste and illegal erections by the landowner on Goosey Island. He has been served with two notices, both of which have expired, with no remedial action being taken. Town Clerk Liam Costello reported on the current situation but in a statement reminiscent of the computer Deep Thought from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy said “You’re not going to like this….” However, rather than the answer to the Great Question being ‘42’ it is, in fact, ‘H&S’. It appears that the landowner has stated that it was necessary to erect the barriers on Health and Safety grounds. The Planning department appear to have accepted this and say they will review the situation in six months or so (it took Deep Thought Seven and a half million years!) The Environmental department have taken no action, saying they were leaving it to the Planning department. This obviously caused much outrage and Peter Geary said that the MKC Planning Enforcement Officer is not an H&S expert and it was essential to get the senior planning enforcement and environmental people round a table as soon as possible. Kevin Viney said it was hugely disappointing and implied that residents could not make cosmetic changes to their garages, for example, but could get away with such violations of regulations. He doubted that the environmental officer from MKC had even visited the site.

    Stacks Image 1343

    7th June - Two operatives were seen at the Goosey site, but were simply adding fencing to the structure, despite apparently having been served notices to remove the rubbish.

    Stacks Image 1349

    Pictured at the beginning of the year showing two otters on the bank of Goosey Island. Disturbing their place of rest is highly illegal and has been reported to Milton Keynes Council who have said they would look into the matter.

    Odds and Sods

    The Town Council’s annual financial statement has been prepared and may be inspected by members of the public between 11th June and 21st July.
    In May 2018 the Data Protection Act will be replaced by an EU directive known as the General Data Protection Regulation. The Government has confirmed that Brexit will not affect the UK implementation so councils are being advised to prepare now.
    Kevin Viney said that the replacement of the lights in the High Street is progressing and is due to be complete w/e 9th June. There has been a delay with some as they are adjacent to gas pipes. It is expected that those in the High Street in Newport Pagnell will be changed before the team return to Olney to start on the rest of the town.
    Tony Evans said that the recent Farmers’ Market had been the ‘best ever’ in terms of attendance by traders and the public and thanked Martin Ward for covering in his absence.
    Heléna Newbold thanked the volunteers from Olney Events for putting up the floral baskets in the High Street.

    Next Meeting - 3rd July

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

  • July 2017

    Public Participation

    Peter Gage
    Peter Gage spoke on the subject of the upcoming Orchard Rise residents parking scheme. As someone who parks in the area and is employed nearby in The Works, he felt there was not a real problem – residents could park and they have driveways. He asked about the criteria by which these schemes are judged concerned that, if this application was approved, the floodgates could open and other roads with no real problem could end up controlled by such schemes. He concluded by noting that Riverfest was a great day and thanking those involved in running it – The Olney Group (TOG) and a band of volunteer helpers.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren was next up, speaking about parking in Oakdown Crescent. In summary, she asked whether the Council had applied to the Community Parking Fund for money towards the implementation of Option B, parking in a single block in the middle of the main square. This was confirmed. She also questioned why the potholes on the Crescent had still not been repaired, in spite of assurances that they would be.

    With there being no related agenda item, this topic was not discussed further.

    Neil Biggs & Phil Kermeen
    This meeting was held three days before the Neighbourhood Plan referendum so, particularly in view of the wide ranging discussion on Facebook, it was unsurprising that people wished to talk on it here. Neil Biggs and then Phil Kermeen both spoke about the issue. Neil, who works in traffic management with Thames Valley Police, understood that the developer for the Yardley Road estate would be re-applying for outline planning permission, this time with access from Aspreys, and he had some related concerns. Now, until a few days before this meeting, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) were due to attend for a discussion on this planning application, but they’d then pulled out, citing concerns about closeness to the referendum. Neil understood this, but noted it was not ideal because people wanted answers to planning questions before voting in the referendum. He also asked whether, in the light of MKC’s recent statement, that Olney is no longer required to build these homes, there was any longer a need for the development to proceed. Phil then spoke briefly, reiterating Neil’s last question then asking whether, in the event of a ‘no’ vote, piecemeal developments would occur around the town.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    Jeremy Rawlings spoke briefly to explain that, when MKC had pulled out of attending the meeting to discuss the Plan, the item had been removed from the agenda. That left no remaining item under which the Plan could be discussed, so it could not be talked about further. This left a rather odd situation where various members of the Public, who had attended to put their points of view and learn more about the Plan before voting, couldn’t interact with either their local Councillors who’d been involved in writing the Plan or with Peter Geary, the Ward Councillor present. So they left, perhaps with the impression that the Council simply didn’t want to discuss it with them.

    Council vacancy

    Olney Town Council (OTC) has a vacancy to fill, with Martine Stoffels having left the Council. Sally Pezaro returned to this later in the meeting, stressing the need to advertise the vacancy widely and offering to publicise it on social media.

    West Street residents parking

    This item covered the Orchard Rise residents parking scheme, concerns about which had been raised earlier by Peter Gage. Colin Rodden shared Peter’s concern that this scheme might lead to a cascade of applications elsewhere in Olney, although Peter Geary noted that OTC could only comment on applications, it being MKC which made the decisions. He also noted that concerns, including the narrow width of Orchard Rise and the need for large vehicles to mount the kerbs on occasion, had been raised when OTC was originally informed of the application.

    Stacks Image 1387

    West Street in Olney

    Nursery field and fair

    The fair had recently visited town, based as usual on the Nursery Field, the football pitch adjacent to East Street. The associated large vehicle movements had resulted in some damage to the field, and Tony Evans was asked to comment on this. He felt that the ground would recover in time for the football season, although did question how popular the fair had been. Helena Newbold noted that, the two times she visited, it had been packed with happy looking families. John Boardman explained that the Council collected around £900 from the fair, so there was some benefit there. Tony then noted that OTC had spent money reseeding and spiking the field, and it seemed odd to do so only to have the fair damage it each year. The item concluded with the Recreations and Services Committee being asked to discuss it and recommend the best way forward.

    Summer football camps

    The Council had received an email from Pete Lindsay, who runs the children’s summer football camps. These were started by Olney Town Colts FC but are now run as a private operation, although one which contributes to the Colts to cover costs of equipment and changing rooms. Liam, having provided that background, asked whether, now it was a private operation, OTC should start to charge for its use of the field. Tony Evans was concerned that the email stated when the camps would be held rather than asking permission for them to be held. Councillors decided to let the camps proceed this year free of charge, review, then consider charging next year.

    Licence applications

    OTC had received licence applications for the Bull Hotel and the Cherry Tree, both in the High Street, and Gabriella’s in the Market Place. All were supported, mostly because Councillors welcomed the new establishments and partly because they felt MKC didn’t really listen to OTC’s views on licensing anyway.

    Skate Park

    This item was to discuss the assessment of possible sites for the Skate Park. Tony Evans reported that the process had started a few weeks ago, but that work relating to the Neighbourhood Plan had delayed it. So, the item was postponed until the next meeting.

    Waste on Goosey Island

    As reported previously, there is a growing problem with illegal structures and the deposit of waste by the landowner on Goosey Island. Action on this is painfully slow, but the Head of Environment at MKC has agreed to look at the issue in detail. Peter Geary, noting that solving the problem would require action from both MKC and the Environment Agency, felt OTC needed to get the two bodies working together in order to address it.

    Deputy Town Clerk

    Jeremy Rawlings welcomed Jane Brushwood, the new Deputy Town Clerk.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    OTC will remind the Recreation Ground gate key holders that it’s meant to be kept locked, with vehicles limited to 5MPH on site.
    The yellow lines near the junction of Chantry Rise with Weston Road are faded and broken, leading to people parking on them. MKC will be asked to investigate.
    The open space off Stonemason’s Close is seeing some damage because, when it’s busy, cars are parking with two wheels on the grass. OTC’s groundsmen will investigate and recommend a solution.
    As reported before, The Youth Centre has now been withdrawn from the Community Asset Transfer scheme. Steve Clark noted that the Centre has a small pot of money to work from and that, with its only income being from local users, he didn’t know what would happen to the Centre when the pot was empty. Desmond Eley noted that the building required more than £100K of remedial work. Finally, Peter Geary explained that, if MKC wished to sell the Centre, they’d need to offer it to the local community to buy for six months before selling it elsewhere. He also asked whether MKC would wish to sell it for use as a Doctors' Surgery (as outlined in the Neighbourhood Plan).

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

  • August 2017

    There is not normally a Council Meeting in August

    True to form, there was no Council Meeting in August.

  • September 2017

    Public Participation

    Such was the popularity of this month’s meeting that Mercury had difficulty finding a seat. There were a record number of seven members of the public wishing to speak.

    Christine Platt
    First up was Christine Platt, who thanked the members of Olney Town Council (OTC) and Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Ward Councillors for their assistance in getting the pavements in Oakdown Crescent resurfaced. Despite their unsightly state, MKC’s Highways Officers had decided that they did not reach ‘intervention levels’ for repair. The MKC ward councillors have persuaded them otherwise and repairs should be carried out over the next few weeks.

    Mike Totton
    Next to speak was Mike Totton from the Allotments Association. Mike outlined the work of the society over the last 15 years and explained the dramatic development which occurred three years ago when the Community Allotment was set up. This had enabled mature, disabled and young people to get involved. An eco-toilet has now been installed, which was due to be officially opened by MP Mark Lancaster on 16th September. It was agreed that Mayor Jeremy Rawlings would also attend.

    Joanne Eley
    Joanne Eley asked what facts did OTC think that the MKC Ward Councillors had got wrong in their statement prior to the recent Neighbourhood Plan referendum. The question was noted.

    Lynda Batty
    Lynda Batty, on behalf of FOLIO (Friends of the Library) asked that the noticeboard at the back of The Olney Centre be moved, as it is hidden by rubbish bins on collection day. If it can be moved nearer to the post box it is more likely to be seen, she said.
    Sue Lamming said she had lived in the town for 35 years and thought the hanging baskets and flower beds were currently looking splendid. However, she also said that the bus shelter is full of cobwebs and is a disgrace, as is the town bridge and the estate where she lives is full of weeds and the pavements are in a bad state of repair. Peter Geary said that MKC are responsible for killing weeds and they only do this once a year.

    Andy Davis
    Andy Davis spoke about the Section 106 funding (‘Planning Gain’), which is due to be received as a result of the Yardley Road development agreed in the Neighbourhood Plan. He urged the council to find ways to fully engage with the public and pledged his own support in any way he could provide it.

    Anne Walker
    Anne Walker, MKC’s Service Manager for Older People spoke about the Kitchener Centre. She said a few years ago the centre was under threat of closure but is now running well. She said that she would like to find ways of using it during weekend and evenings in order to bring in more revenue. This was an agenda item later in the meeting where it was agreed that an article would be produced for The Phonebox. Like the majority of residents Mercury has never been inside the centre. Could an open day be used to increase awareness, he wondered?

    Stacks Image 1451

    Olney Allotments Toilet

    Community Circular Walk

    Colin Rodden gave an update on the project, assisted by Mike Totton from the Allotment Association as well as Tom Jones and Amanda Molcher from The Cowper and Newton Museum. The vision is to have a series of walks looking at all that Olney has to offer. The walks will provide a whole day’s experience, encouraging visitors to see the cultural attractions and visit the shops and restaurants.

    Neighbourhood Plan S106 agreements

    This is a sum of money that developers are required to pay to the planning authority (MKC) and is spread across such things as schooling, health, recreation, amenities and public art. Joe Stacey reported that now the Plan has been formally adopted the Steering Group will now be replaced by a Development Committee, the first meeting of which will take place on 25th September. It is likely that this committee will consist of six councillors and six lay members and will consider, amongst other things, how to allocate the Section 106 funding. Peter Geary felt it was important that the needs of the town resulting from the new development be considered. The money can be spent over a period of ten years and Peter said it was important that some should be kept in reserves so that OTC reserves are not used in launching projects. Helena Newbold suggested that the breakdown of how funds are allocated to the individual categories is made available to residents via the OTC website. Joe Stacey felt it important not to under-estimate the amount of work involved and suggested that it might be necessary to engage a consultant.

    Skate park site assessment

    A number of sites have been considered, all with pros and cons, which have been identified in a document produced by Town Clerk Liam Costello. They are the recreation ground, the allotment field, Johnsons Field, The Pyghtle and Emberton Park. The site preferred by OTC is the allotment field, mainly due to its accessibility and distance from any housing. Colin Rodden was concerned about the remoteness of the site and Mike Totton, from the public gallery, expressed his concern at the impact on the small parking area available to allotment holders and that it might lead to a return of the vandalism experienced some years ago. Tony Evans said it was unfortunate that OTC had given the skateboard committee the impression that the current site of the zip wire on the recreation ground was the best location but further investigation had shown that it was not suitable. He thought that Emberton Park would be the best site, where a much larger facility could be built. Steve Clark reminded members that the park is actually owned by MKC and if there were any serious thoughts of locating the skate park there it was important to consult with Emberton Parish Council. Desmond Eley said that whatever site was chosen it was important that there is a water supply nearby, since OTC would be responsible for the upkeep and it would be necessary to regularly wash it down for safety reasons. Peter Geary was concerned that the allotment field is liable to flood and since much of the facility would be below ground it could fill with water. He suggested that OTC take pre-planning advice from MKC as there are planning regulations which might preclude some of the suggested sites. It was agreed to do this and discuss at the next meeting.

    Goosey erections

    Kevin Viney and Rosemary Osbourne have been in communication with Carole Mills, Chief Executive of MKC, about the unsightly scaffold, gates and rubbish on Goosey Island. The reply stated that because the gates are two metres in height they are classed as permitted development, even though the supporting scaffold is much higher, and therefore there is no action that MKC can take. The rubbish has now been put in builders’ bags, but the risk remains that flooding could result in it entering the river flow. This is the responsibility of the Environment Agency, who have no apparent concerns. The land owner also owns part of the larger southern island and Rosemary said that there was a possibility he may want to erect ‘no access’ signs. Peter Geary repeated his previous opinion that the only solution is to request that MP Mark Lancaster arranges a face to face meeting between MKC and the Environment Agency, since MKC seem to have ruled themselves out of any enforcement action.
    Additionally, OTC has been approached by solicitors for the land owner requesting that they sell their part of the Goosey. This was obviously rejected out of hand. It appears that he has divided his land into 21 plots that have been offered for sale as an investment for future building. Some of these plots have been sold and the aggregate value of the plots is believed to be in the region of £600k. Kevin expressed his opinion that this was a ‘shabby, speculative operation which was probably not even legal’. Desmond Eley asked if it would be possible for OTC to compulsory purchase the land. Peter Geary said yes, but it would need to be purchased for a particular reason, would be a five-year process and would involve paying the owner the market value. Kevin suggested that OTC should start the process of obtaining a public right of way along the entire bank of the southern island, which was agreed. The Clerk will write to the land owner’s solicitors formally rejecting their clients request to purchase the land and with a counter-offer of interest in purchasing his land.

    Parking outside One-Stop

    The MKC Ward Councillors have received a request from a resident requesting that a loading bay is provided outside One-Stop, to overcome the problem of traffic building up during deliveries. This way it could be managed in the same way as deliveries to the Carlton House Club. They passed it to the MKC Highways Dept who have considered the options and consulted OTC via an email. The email noted that any loading bay will require a Traffic Regulation Order, which would cost £2,056 and require consultation with all affected parties, including nearby residents who would lose parking outside of their properties and would probably object. Funding would be required for the implementation of the scheme. Peter Geary reminded members that this had been discussed by the council on previous occasions and if it was done for One-Stop, it would need to be done for all other businesses. There was a risk that Olney would end up with a High Street full of loading bays and no parking, he said. Colin Rodden suggested that One-Stop could be asked to make deliveries earlier in the day but Peter pointed out that there are deliveries from different suppliers during the day. Deirdre Bethune suggested that a loading bay could be situated outside of the Olney Centre, rather than outside residential properties. It was noted that the Carlton House Club does not have a formal loading bay, rather the manager cones off parking spaces the night before deliveries are due and removes them when complete, thus causing minimal disruption. It was agreed to seek the views of residents regarding provision of dedicated loading bays outside of the Carlton House Club and The Olney Centre.

    Joe Stacey

    Joe Stacey announced that he would be standing down from the council with immediate effect. He had notified the clerk of his intention to stand down in July but had stayed on to complete some outstanding work on the Neighbourhood Plan. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings formally thanked Joe for all his hard work on the plan and said he would be very sorry to see him go. As a result, a vacancy additional to that which will be filled by the forthcoming election now exists. If ten members of the electorate request that it be filled by an election, then it will be necessary to hold a further election, otherwise it will be filled by co-option.

    Market Place parking weight limit

    There has been considerable discussion on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page about the stated weight limit of 1.5 Tonnes, which would preclude a number of family cars and all market traders’ vehicles. The previous notice stated 50 cwt but it appears that Napier Parking set it at 1.5 Tonnes when they were engaged to enforce the time limit restrictions. The original limit was set to prevent parking by lorries so Napier will be requested to amend the notices to 3.5 Tonnes.

    Odds and sods

    Peter Geary asked if any comments had been received about the new street lights in the High Street. Liam Costello said there had been complaints that they were originally too dim, but had now been increased in brightness by 30% and no further complaints had been received. Kevin Viney said there are still locations where the lights are obscured by trees, since the horizontal sections are shorter on the new post. The contractors had now agreed that power points for the Christmas lights could be fitted, he said.
    Tony Evans reported that the grass cutting on Yardley Road by MKC stops half a mile short of the county boundary.
    The Pre-School have a requested a grant of £3,000 to assist with the £18,000 cost of resurfacing the play area and replacing equipment. The majority of the funding has been obtained from other community funds so OTC agreed to the request.
    Desmond Eley reported that a hearing-impaired resident had had a ‘near miss’ whilst crossing the road near the Hallelujah Lamp-post. This was due to the state of the pavement, but also due the speed of the traffic which is a particular problem late at night.
    Sally Pezaro reported that the location code of the defibrillator at the recreation ground has been scratched off. Liam Costello replied that anyone dialling the emergency services would be provided with the access code.

    Next Meeting - 2nd October

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

  • October 2017

    Public Participation

    Julia Clarke
    Julia Clarke was first to speak, explaining how hugely disappointing she found it that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had pulled out of the recent public planning meeting in which the 250 home development was due to be discussed. She asked for assurance that the planning process would not proceed further until the meeting had been rescheduled and held. Peter Geary noted that MKC’s absence was due to the Planning Officer concerned being taken ill, then a communications breakdown meaning that an alternative Officer did not attend. He was then pretty forcefully interrupted by Tony Evans, saying that Officers should have attended. Liam Costello noted that Olney Town Council (OTC) was trying to rearrange the meeting within the next few weeks and would publicise the date when it was finalised.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren, speaking on her usual subject of Oakdown Crescent, thanked the Ward Councillors for getting some of the pathways resurfaced. Explaining that her fight would continue, she noted that people were already driving over them, which would likely mean they’d not last long. She concluded by asking if there was any news on the application from the Community Parking Fund. Liam replied in the negative, Peter Geary noting that it’d be at least a month until there was some.

    Ralph Terry
    Ralph Terry spoke about a proposed development of four, four-bedroomed houses off Moores Hill with access through the gap between nos. 61 and 63. A meeting of nearby residents had been held, with all attending being against the development. He cited the narrow entrance to the new development (disputing the builder’s figures), the narrowness of the main section of Moores Hill and the associated danger to pedestrians caused by pavement parking, as reasons OTC should object to the development, and urged it to do so. He felt the development would change the character of the road, and be a ‘cul-de-sac off a cul-de-sac’. He also noted that various people living close to the proposed development, within the zone in which MKC should have informed residents, had heard nothing about it.

    Maria Tennant
    Maria Tennant spoke on the subject of traffic concerns near Olney Middle School. Noting that Aspreys is a fast road, she felt that a zebra crossing was required across Aspreys, around 20m West of Woodpits Lane. She also felt that a part-time speed restriction outside the School would be beneficial, slowing traffic while pupils were entering and leaving the site. As it stood, she did not think it safe to let her child walk to or from the school unaccompanied.

    Philip Geech
    Philip Geech spoke next, noting that Olney had character and charm, primarily due to it having the right balance of architecture, people, community spirit and shops. He felt these helped make it a ‘destination’ town, but was concerned about that changing with a gradual influx of chain stores tending to make the town ubiquitous. He questioned whether they were appropriate and asked what OTC could do in this regard. As an example, he noted the change in the McColls store frontage for the addition of Subway, also asking what planning use class had been applied for.

    Neil Biggs
    Neil Biggs, a Traffic Management Officer from Thames Valley Police, asked whether the zebra crossing, discussed earlier by Maria Tenant, was related to the nearby 250 home development. He said that the related traffic survey had noted that crossing assistance would be needed, but he hadn’t seen what was being done to address it.

    Alan Smedley
    Alan Smedley spoke briefly to reinforce Ralph Terry’s view on the proposed Moores Hill development, and to ask why there was often such a long wait between pedestrians pressing the button on the lights at the Wellingborough Road crossing and the lights changing to let them cross. Finally, Colin Cook spoke, also in support of Ralph Terry’s views, noting that fire engines would be too wide to enter the proposed new development.

    Subway at McColls

    This item was to discuss the planning issues associated with the new Subway branch opening inside McColls on the Market Place. Regarding the frontage change, Peter Geary suggested OTC speak with MKC’s Planning Enforcement team in order to find out whether it was allowed without a Planning Application. In terms of Philip Geech’s views on chains, Peter explained that the Council had to make its decisions based on policy, for example whether another perhaps-hot food outlet in the area was one too many.
    There followed a short discussion on whether a change of planning use would need to be applied for – A1 being for shops, A3 for restaurants and cafés and A5 for hot food takeaways. Colin Rodden, agreeing with Philip Geech’s views on chains, explained that, with Tesco having taken business from McColls, the latter was now presumably trying to maximise the revenue from its floor space by utilising its partnership with Subway.
    Peter Geary felt OTC should seek advice on how to develop a policy to protect the town’s character. Jeremy Rawlings concluded the discussion, noting that OTC would seek advice on the Subway and policy issues.

    Stacks Image 1518

    Subway Frontage

    Section 106 consultation for 250 home development

    Peter Geary explained that the pictures in the Planning Application were illustrative only, the hard facts being limited to the development boundary, the entries and exits, and the Section 106 agreement. Thus, while a Community Centre had been mentioned, he felt clarification of who’d build it was required in writing before OTC gave its final view on the Planning Permission. Things like that needed to be tied down in the Planning Permission, he explained.
    Following on from the public meeting cancellation noted by Julia Clarke during the Public Participation section, Deirdre asked that OTC be given more time to compose its view on the development – the public meeting had not yet taken place and, in fact, its date still had to be agreed. Peter Geary said he’d be happy to request a delay to the planning decision but that, since it may result in MKC missing a Key Performance Indicator, it may prove unwilling to accede to the request. He noted that OTC should ideally submit its views to MKC by mid October, in time for MKC Officers to write a report for its November Planning Meeting. Colin Rodden sensibly noted that, with likely so little time available, some kind of project plan with milestones was needed. Jeremy Rawlings concluded the discussion, noting that OTC would request a delay.

    Aspreys zebra crossing

    This topic was to discuss the crossing issue raised by Maria Tennant earlier in the meeting. Colin Rodden noted that vehicle speeds on Aspreys were too high, with Thames Valley Police doing little to reduce them. He felt that a crossing would be a good use of part of the Section 106 monies from the nearby proposed 250 home development, although it may be required earlier than that money becoming available. Helena Newbold noted that she supported a crossing in this location. Continuing with his theme, Colin noted that, if people wanted to participate in reducing vehicle speeds, volunteers could be trained to use speed cameras under the Community Speedwatch programme. Neil Biggs, speaking briefly from the Public area, noted that an opportunity had been missed: When the traffic calming measures were agreed for the Ousedale build, they could have included the crossing. Peter Geary suggested the Council could ask Neil to look at any ideas or proposals.

    Public planning meeting postponement

    Mercury reports cover what happens during Council meetings, not outside them. However, every so often something is said, or not said, during a meeting which is worthy of further investigation. The postponement of the public planning meeting to discuss the 250 home development is a case in point.
    At a recent OTC Planning Committee meeting, it was decided to hold the public meeting. OTC asked the Ward Councillors to help it ensure that MKC officers attend the meeting, and was assured this help would be given. The meeting, organised by OTC, was due to take place on the evening of Thursday 28th September. That day Justin Booij, the MKC Senior Planning Officer due to attend, was unwell so he called and emailed OTC around midday to send apologies for himself and another Officer, Andy Swannel, and to say that “we will need to reconvene before the Council (MKC) determines the application”. Shortly after receiving that email, OTC decided to postpone the meeting and publicise its decision. But, if OTC had instead contacted MKC Officers or Ward Councillors, it would have learned that a replacement for Justin was in fact available and therefore the meeting could have gone ahead as planned.
    This has left both OTC and MKC frustrated, each seeing the issue in a different light. OTC contends that MKC did not make anyone else available, that it sent apologies for both Officers due to attend, and asked for alternative dates for the meeting to take place. MKC contends that OTC, as the organisers of an important time critical meeting, should have pushed back at MKC, for example talking with the Ward Councillors who’d assured it that Officers would attend the meeting, to see if other Officers were available.
    The new date for the public meeting is Thursday 26th October. While this will certainly be before MKC meets to determine the application, it’s unclear whether MKC will postpone that decision such that the MKC Officers’ report is written after the public meeting. So, both the choice of words in Justin’s email and the decision by OTC to postpone the meeting have turned out to be big calls.
    Thank you to Liam Costello and David Hosking for the above information.

    Now back to the Council meeting...

    Goosey Bridge

    Kevin Viney introduced this topic, asking the Council to consider listing Goosey Bridge. A survey of the bridge had been performed and its keystone found, dating the bridge at 1795. Most buildings of a similar age are listed and, with the bridge having links with William Cowper, he felt it should be recognised and retained for future generations. Peter Geary noted that achieving listed status would make the bridge more expensive to work on. Councillors agreed to work towards achieving listed status for the bridge. Neil Biggs noted that there was a related technical point they must consider, and Jeremy Rawlings asked him to raise it after the meeting.

    Skate Park

    Progress on finding a suitable location has been painfully slow and, while the latest idea to site it in Emberton Park appeared broadly supported by MKC, it seems likely that Emberton Parish Council will be strongly opposed to it.

    One Stop deliveries

    Deliveries to One Stop can cause traffic problems in the High Street. David Hosking has been collecting local views and, as before, some would like a loading bay while others think the resulting lack of parking would be too big a disadvantage. If an easy solution exists, it’s certainly not been found yet. Jeremy Rawlings noted that, albeit once a week, the Monday 7.30am waste and recycling pickups by the dustmen probably caused more traffic problems than the deliveries.

    Goosey Island

    As reported previously, the problems of unsightly constructions and rubbish on Goosey Island continue. Peter Geary explained that MKC is working on the issue and, thus, it wouldn’t be productive for OTC to keep pushing it for progress. This was a complicated issue so progress would be slow, he felt.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Colin Rodden asked why the Parish and small Town Councils don’t get together to keep the foot and cycle paths between them clear. This was felt a good suggestion, which will hopefully be followed up.
    Helena Newbold noted that, while canvassing house to house before the vote on the first vacant OTC position, Joanne Eley had often been told that OTC was too slow to respond to emails and letters. She felt the Council should have a Communications Policy, stating how soon responses could be expected.

    Next Meeting - 6th November

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

  • November 2017

    Ron Bull

    Before the start of the meeting, members stood for a minute’s silence to remember former councillor and Deputy Mayor Ron Bull, who had recently passed away.

    Public Participation

    Christine Platt
    Christine Platt provided some photographs of the pathways in Oakdown Crescent which have recently been resurfaced. Because the parking situation had not been resolved she felt that the surface will not last long, which would be a waste of time and money. She asked if there was any progress on the request for funding from the Community Parking Fund. Later in the meeting Milton Keynes Councillor (MKC) Peter Geary said that there wasn’t. She said that on a recent visit to Newport Pagnell she had observed Traffic Wardens everywhere and asked if parking could be prevented at the bus stop on Weston Road, as it was not easy for bus drivers to see passengers waiting at the stop due to parked cars.

    Bob Spray
    Bob Spray spoke next about the request to provide a loading bay outside of One-Stop in the High Street. He said he had visited the shop to discuss it with the manager and had been only the third person to do so. He said he was appreciative of the issues, but the problem was caused by a lorry that arrives three times a week and unloads for a period of one hour maximum. Small trucks deliver more frequently, but they manage to park off-road or elsewhere. He suggested that perhaps the lorries could park in West Street and then unload via the footpath through Cobbs Garden. If the proposal for a dedicated loading bay went ahead the main beneficiaries would not be Olney residents but through traffic, he said. The losers would be residents and shoppers. This issue was an item on the main agenda and the mayor agreed that it should be discussed next.

    Feedback on loading bay for One-Stop

    MKC Ward Councillor David Hosking explained that after a number of complaints from residents about traffic congestion being caused by unloading, an officer at MKC had suggested a dedicated loading bay and he was now able to provide feedback from an informal consultation which had recently taken place via Facebook. Some 116 comments had been received but, being the Olney Noticeboard, not all were relevant or repeatable. Of these, eight were in favour, but seven only mentioned safety and not congestion. 54 were not in favour, many of them suggesting other options. 28 were comments about the nearby pedestrian crossing so were not directly related. Many of the comments against concerned the removal of parking spaces and setting a precedent, and having dedicated delivery times outside of rush hour, which David thought would be difficult to enforce. He said that he and his fellow ward councillors would be meeting with the One-Stop Area Manager and Transport Team to agree a way forward.
    Dierdre Bethune said that if the lorries park directly outside of One-Stop it causes a visibility problem to users of the nearby pedestrian crossing. If they were to park the other side of the crossing that would not occur, she said, but recognised it would be a longer walk for unloading. Steve Clark reminded members that when Tesco was applying for planning permission for their Market Place premises, a condition was imposed that they used smaller lorries to prevent congestion. He wondered if One-Stop could be requested to do the same. Kevin Viney suggested that the problems with the crossing could be alleviated by replacing it with a traffic light controlled puffin crossing. Colin Rodden said that because the spotlights on the crossing are out of action, it is difficult for approaching drivers to see pedestrians waiting to cross at night, the problem having been reported to MKC who are responsible for repairs. This then lead on to an unrelated discussion about the slow response of the Whirly Pit crossing lights, which MKC has agreed to address. Bringing things back on track, Peter Geary was of the opinion that even if a loading bay was installed it would have to be enforced and therefore wouldn’t work. Dierdre Bethune tabled a proposal that the council do not proceed with providing a loading bay which was passed on a vote.

    Consultation on Proposed Submission version of Plan:MK

    The council had received an email from MKC regarding Plan:MK which is the new strategic development plan for Milton Keynes outlining how the Borough will grow through to 2031 and is MKC’s new Local Plan to provide homes, jobs and infrastructure that will be needed. It will be submitted to the Government in spring 2018 for independent examination and there is a period of public consultation from 8th November until 20th December. 26,500 new homes will be built over the next 15 years and land has been identified east of the M1 for 5,300 new houses, although those are not due to be built until after 2031. However, the plan states that this may come forward once decisions on the new Cambridge to Oxford Expressway are made and if the council are struggling to provide enough housing elsewhere. Peter Geary was concerned about this latter aspect and reminded councillors that a group of developers are pressing for a substantial industrial site at the top of Chicheley Hill, which is not included in the Sherrington Neighbourhood Plan and both would bring Milton Keynes much closer to Olney. Having said that, it was important that positive comments about Plan:MK should also be submitted, he said. The email offered parish councils an unstaffed exhibition explaining the proposals and also said that officers would be open to attending parish council meetings. It was agreed to accept both offers and start December’s meeting half an hour earlier at 7.00 pm in order accommodate the latter.

    Bill for by-election held on 5th October

    MKC has presented Olney Town Council (OTC) with a bill for £6,691 to cover the cost of the by-election held on 5th October. There is no budget for this, so if paid in the current F/Y would need to come out of reserves. Peter Geary said that when the charge was introduced it was agreed that it could be carried over into the next F/Y when the council can raise the precept (element of Council Tax) to pay for it. In view of the second forthcoming election, which had been requested by residents, a proposal was made to approve £13,382 and seek to delay payment until next year, which was passed on a vote. Tony Evans questioned the cost, asking was it really necessary to have 12 people manning the three polling stations for such a minor election with a predicted low turnout. Peter said that the main cost is in mailing out polling cards and postal votes.

    Wicker Ladies

    As previously reported the two wicker ‘Pancake Ladies’ in the Market Place are being replaced by more substantial wire versions at a cost of £1,800 each, and the council hope that funding can be found from MKC’s Public Art budget. The first is progressing well, but the council decided to delay ordering the second so that the first can be reviewed. Tony Evans reminded members that while the wicker originals were flammable the replacements would be metal and portable, so it was important that they were well cemented in.

    Odds and Sods

    MKC is carrying out a review of polling districts and places. OTC are happy with their existing arrangements of two stations in the Olney Centre and one in the United Reformed Church.
    For the last two years OTC have paid £6,000 to MKC to fund six hours of library staff time per week. Dierdre Bethune said that OTC had originally said that they would only provide the funding on a one-off basis, but it was right and proper that they should continue to do so, so funding was approved for another year.
    McColls/Subway have submitted a retrospective planning application for the changes they have already made to the front of the premises.
    Gabriella’s Dolci and Cucina on the Market Place has applied for increased alcohol hours until 23.00 Tuesday to Saturday and 12.00 to 21.00 Sunday. The council raised no objection.
    Desmond Eley reported that the power sockets on the newly replaced lampposts still hadn’t been installed. These sockets are necessary to power the Christmas lights. It was agreed to chase MKC to ensure that the contractors complete the work in time for the late-night shopping and Dickens events.
    Colin Rodden thanked everyone who had been involved in organising the previous night’s firework display. He also noted that fly tipping was taking place at the lay-by on the way to Weston Underwood and that the road surface in East Street was in a very poor condition. Peter Geary said it was important that any hole deeper than 50mm was reported to MKC via their website.
    Kevin Viney reported that the Market Place toilets are in a bad state and suggested a deep clean.
    There has been no response from the owner of the Goosey to OTC’s request to purchase his land. Rosemary Osbourne said she had received a lot of feedback from residents which will help with the proposal to create a right of way along the riverbank.

    Next Meeting - 4th December

    The next meeting will be held at 7.00pm on Monday 4th December in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • December 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren was first to speak, on her regular topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Furious that Orchard Rise had been granted a Parking Permit scheme while the Crescent had not, she felt there was one rule for people with money living in expensive houses and one for the poor and elderly. She felt Olney Town Council (OTC) had interfered with the Oakdown Crescent scheme – presumably by broadening the set of homes to be surveyed beyond just those in the Crescent, an action not taken for the Orchard Rise scheme. She stated that the elderly people living in the Crescent deserved an apology from the Council, and suggested Councillors go and see them to ask what they think of the Council. Finally, she took the Council to task for laughing at her sister, Christine Platt, during last month’s meeting.

    Stacks Image 1625

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    John Bates

    Second to speak was John Bates, who made two formal requests to the Council. First, he asked for a full debate on the Neighbourhood Plan to establish its shortcomings and agree amendments to protect the town from excessive development projects through to 2031. Second, he asked the Council to withdraw support from the 250 home development to the West of Aspreys. He felt that this development fell short of the obligations required by the Plan: It would very likely result in the 300 home target being exceeded and would not provide sufficient funding for infrastructure and the promised community building.

    Welcome and congratulations

    Jeremy Rawlings opened the meeting by welcoming the two new Councillors, Chris Tennant and Paul Collins. Later in the meeting, he also read out a letter from David Hosking, absent from this meeting, which noted that those willing to stand and campaign for election deserved credit and that he looked forward to working with them. Jeremy congratulated Sally Pezaro, also absent, on the recent birth of her and Mike’s baby daughter.

    Plan:MK presentation

    Andrew Turner, a Senior Planning Officer at Milton Keynes Council (MKC) gave a talk on the proposed submission version of Plan:MK. Only a brief summary of the talk is given here but, to learn more, surf to https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/planning-and-building/planning-policy/plan-mk. Plan:MK contains the strategy to meet MK Borough’s development needs until 2031. He explained that part of the plan was to allocate more land to ensure a five year housing supply and that, while there was currently sufficient land for this purpose, that state of affairs was vulnerable because of appeals against developments and scrutiny over how the amount of land required was calculated. He noted Plan:MK would strengthen Neighbourhood Plans, and that a robust land supply was required to fend off speculative development.
    Across the Borough, 26,500 new homes are required until 2031, 19,725 of which are planned already, leaving the remainder, 6,775 homes, to be built in new allocations. The bulk of the development would be in the expansion areas East and West of Milton Keynes. Andrew explained that the Borough is short on land for large format warehouses but had enough land in general. A large area of land East of the M1 and South of Newport Pagnell is identified as a strategic reserve site for homes and businesses after 2031 – although government infrastructure funding to improve transport links across the M1 towards Milton Keynes will be required for this to move forward. Finally, he noted that planning for the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, although shrouded in uncertainty, was progressing, with a decision on the corridor it would follow from Oxford to Milton Keynes being due Summer 2018.

    Questions on Plan:MK

    Once Andrew had finished his presentation, he took questions, some of which are covered here. Des Eley asked if the Plan contained any intent to improve public transport between Olney and Milton Keynes. Andrew replied that this did not fall within Plan:MK’s remit, it being more relevant to the MK Mobility Strategy 2018-2036, out for consultation until the end of January. Peter Geary pointed out that Milton Keynes wanted industry other than ‘big automated sheds’ (large format warehouses), as these occupied large areas but provided few jobs – and providing jobs was the aim. Noting that a site near Sherington is being considered for a warehouse style development and thus would impact traffic on the A509, he asked what Councillors should do to oppose it. Andrew suggested they say that the current sites provide sufficient employment, that new ones are not required and that the additional A509 traffic would cause a problem.
    Kevin Viney asked if rural areas with ‘made’ Neighbourhood Plans, such as Olney, should feel a real sense of security, as there’d be no development ‘surprises’ there or in the surrounding areas. Andrew replied that Olney’s Plan would stand, up to 2031, irrespective of Plan:MK, with the latter taking the rug from under speculative developments. He also noted that both Plans will need to be reviewed in five years’ time. Peter Geary asked whether, for rural areas with no ‘made’ Neighbourhood Plans, there’d be no further housing allocation. The reply was neither a straight ‘yes’ or a straight ‘no’. Helena Newbold asked what would happen if, for example, a farmer owning land just beyond the proposed 250 home development west of Aspreys was to sell it to a developer. Peter Geary replied that they wouldn’t get planning permission unless Plan:MK changes or Milton Keynes suddenly has an insufficient five year land supply.

    Planning and Development Committees

    A decision was made recently to merge the Planning and Development Committees. Councillors now thought that was incorrect, so voted to separate them, with all in favour bar Deirdre Bethune against.
    The Development Committee, previously termed the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, has seen the balance between Council and Public membership skew towards the former as members of the public have left or, in one case, joined the Council. Councillors agreed that a ratio of 10 Councillors to five Public should be aimed for, with the detail of how to achieve it being left to the Committee.

    250 home development

    Jeremy Rawlings will attend the MKC planning meeting on 14th December to speak about the proposed 250 home development. People from the public area can’t speak in favour and, with OTC broadly pro the development, Jeremy’s contribution will instead be to promote the need to clarify the situation with regard to the proposed community building. The developer has stated it will create the building, but information on it, such as size and facilities, is scarce and it’s unclear how it will sit with the developer’s Section 106 contribution.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Deirdre Bethune opened the discussion, noting that the current situation was embarrassing and unfair. Peter stated that OTC needed to know when MKC was going to deliver funding for the parking improvements. Liam noted that he’d very recently chased MKC, and Peter said he’d do the same within the week. Peter also asked that the record be corrected: The Oakdown Crescent Residents Parking Scheme was rejected because it didn’t achieve the required 70% agreement from those polled.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Currently, the only electrical outlets on the Market Place are near the toilet block, resulting in a maze of overhead cabling on market days to supply power to all the stalls. OTC has been working towards providing outlets spread around the area, and it’s hoped the two weeks’ work can be completed in January. It’s possible that one or two Thursday Markets may be cancelled as a result, but any decision will be taken in consultation with the market traders.
    Tony Evans noted that the replacement wire version of the ‘wicker ladies’ looked very good – a fantastic job had been done.
    Progress on the structures and waste material on Goosey Island continues to be slow. Peter Geary explained that there were two relevant methods of enforcement – via the planning route and the Environment Agency. The first was acknowledged to be a slow process, but Kevin Viney will invite the latter agency to a site meeting, with Peter assuring him that an MKC planning enforcement officer will also attend.
    Kevin noted that the Goosey right of way application was progressing well.
    Deirdre stated that Dickens of a Christmas had been a very successful event. She thanked the Council staff, who organise much of the event behind the scenes, for their work.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    Although not specifically an agenda item, the level of controversy over the Neighbourhood Plan means it keeps ‘popping up’, this time within the Members Matters item, in which Councillors air areas of concern. Most of the discussion was centred on a contribution from Phil Geech. Although this wasn’t read out until part way through, it’s clearer to cover it first, followed by the resulting discussion. Phil had requested the statement be read verbatim. Joanne Eley did that and the full text is below:

    “There has recently been some consternation surrounding a proposed development at Aspreys and the Neighbourhood Plan that encompasses it. Whilst the planning application is within the purview of Milton Keynes Council and will be addressed elsewhere the Neighbourhood Plan falls within the remit of Olney Town Council. I submit that, given new information that is available and some concerns over the conduct of the campaign, that a review is not only desirable but essential to ensure that the will of residents is properly understood. I would therefore ask two things of the Council:

    Will you support a review of the Neighbourhood Plan?
    In the interests of transparency will you ensure that no party concerned in the original plan is part of such review and that a balance of membership is between Council members and interested residents?

    I would ask that the question and answers to both are formally minuted.”

    Jeremy Rawlings noted that only minor changes to the Plan were possible, the law not allowing major ones. He felt the Plan would have to be started again if significant changes were required. Peter Geary explained that, even if such work started now, it’d not be possible to remove items from the existing (and ‘made’) Plan. Chris Tennant noted that the locality website has a FAQ section where this point is dealt with, see the last question on mycommunity.org.uk/help-centre/faqs/np/. While there are various caveats, the main thrust of its answer is “Currently, to update a made Neighbourhood Plan it is necessary to go through the same process as done for making the original Neighbourhood Plan, including pre-submission consultation, submission to local authority, independent examination and referendum.” Joanne noted that Phil Geech had talked to a barrister about the issue, prompting Chris Tennant to reply that if Phil had legal evidence, “let’s see it”.

    Next Meeting - 8th January

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

Prickly Pear Icon

Made by Prickly Pear