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Ron Hall Editor of Phonebox Magazine

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

Mercury's reports for 2016

  • January 2016

    Olney Council report for January 2016


    There was a full house of members of the public at this month’s meeting, eager to have their say on the proposals by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) to close the Kitchener Day Centre for older people as part of its financial challenge.

    Public participation

    Four people spoke about the closure of the Kitchener Centre:

    Kathleen Wilson
    Kathleen Wilson said that Olney Town Council (OTC) had been involved in the building of the centre with money donated by Harry Kitchener. She said it enables service users to maintain their independence and that her husband attends two days a week. The proposal to relocate the service to a single centre in Milton Keynes was ill thought out and the centre is as essential a service to the town as the schools, baby clinics and doctor surgeries. We might all need it one day, she said.

    Keith Gould
    Keith Gould is a volunteer mini bus driver for the centre and said on a good day it takes him over two hours to collect and deliver clients to the centre. Sometimes it can take longer if carers have not got them ready. If the collection for the new centre started at the same time as now then the clients would spend so long getting to and from Milton Keynes that they would not have time for any activities once they got there. In an emotional plea he explained that his wife uses the centre, which provides respite for himself and he did not think he would be able to cope without it.

    Kevin Viney
    Kevin Viney said that the centre had proved to be a vital and local link for a very vulnerable group of people who often have no voice. They and their families value both the core and extra voluntary services such as outings and Christmas treats. To bus them through the rush hour into Milton Keynes would be both cruel and wrong, he said, particularly given that the centre had shown flexibility to live within its means following successive tight budgets.

    Tom Horne
    Tom Horne said his mother has been using the centre for the last four years and gives him and other carers the opportunity to get work done during this time. He would not like to see his mother spending two to three hours each way travelling on a bus as this would cause her even more confusion and probably shorten her life.

    The issue of the Kitchener Centre was discussed as an agenda item later in the meeting.

    Oakdown Crescent

    There has been no update from MKC on the matter of parking or poor state of the pavements. Sue Warren observing from the public area made it clear that she was very angry at the lack of progress and asked where the money had gone that MKC had allocated to a solution. The pavements are in a very dangerous state for the elderly residents, she said. Joe Stacey declared the situation to be ‘ludicrous’ and thought it was now time to start ‘throwing bricks’ (figuratively, no doubt) in order to get things moving. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that the MKC Chief Executive was aware of the situation and that there were reasons why it had not been progressed, which he was not prepared to discuss in the meeting, although constant staff changes was a contributory factor. He admitted that mistakes had been made which had slowed the process down but throwing bricks would not help. It was now time for OTC to work with MKC to ensure that the same mistakes were not made again.

    Youth Centre Community Asset Transfer

    OTC has applied to take ownership of the Youth Centre under the C.A.T. programme. The stage 1 process has completed and confirmation that OTC has met the eligibility criteria received. It will now move to Stage 2 and can hopefully be fast-tracked.

    MKC Budget Consultation

    As has been widely reported MKC need to make budget cuts of £21.7m in 2016/17 due to a combination of increasing demand for services and reduction in funding from Central Government. Council Tax will increase by the maximum permitted figure of 3.95%, meaning that the average band D property will pay £1206.06. A document listing 130 proposals, together with the likely impact and cost saving has been produced and comments are being invited from councils and members of the public. This document can be downloaded from the OTC website www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk by clicking on the link in the rolling Latest News menu. Peter Geary gave a brief outline of some of the proposals, including: Removing the warden from sheltered housing at Clifton Court; Closing the Kitchener Centre; Reduction of Bus subsidies, resulting in even fewer busses; Closure of some children’s play area; Replacing pink recycling sacks with reusable hessian sacks. It was agreed that councillors needed more time to look at the various proposals in detail before compiling a formal response.


    OTC are acting as the principle body in formulating a response to the proposals to build an additional 10,000 homes each in Olney, Sherington and Castlethorpe and Jeremy Rawlings reported that the group have appointed Shoosmiths as solicitors to represent them. The consultation will start on 13th January.

    Development adjacent to sewage works

    Last year MKC granted planning permission for a developer to build 30 new homes on land adjacent to the sewage works that previously only had permission for business (employment use). OTC objected on a number of grounds and Anglian Water commented that any development close to the pumping station would be subject to some noise and odour, suggesting a condition that development does not take place within 15 metres. However, this comment was not included in the MKC document recommending that permission be granted. OTC raised a complaint that the decision was based on flawed and incomplete information and should be overturned. A letter has been received from the MKC Head of Spatial Planning and Implementation partially upholding the complaint and apologising for the omission, but not agreeing to review the decision since he did not believe that a different conclusion would have been reached, even if the comment had been included. Members decided it would not be a good use of their funds to take this to the next level so reluctantly agreed to accept the partial victory.

    Kitchener Centre

    There are currently three centres in Milton Keynes providing day services for older people, all of which are working below capacity. Redwood in Bletchley is in a poor state of repair, Manor Road in Netherfield is reportedly ‘falling down’, while the Olney Kitchener Centre is around 10 years old and well maintained. The original proposal was to close all centres and relocate the service in a new centre to be built in Simpson. This was expected to achieve a saving of £200k but unsurprisingly caused a public outcry. MKC then put forward a second option of creating two geographical hubs by closing Redwood and Manor Road and relocating to the new Simpson Centre (the Southern hub) and retaining the Kitchener Centre and extending its catchment area (the Northern hub). This second option would also achieve a saving of £200k. A number of members of OTC had attended the MKC meeting where this proposal had been put forward and Ron Bull said he got the feeling that the MKC officers present knew they had made a mistake. Chris Shaw observed that it was a bad day if Olney could not look after its elderly residents. Peter Geary advised caution saying that although the second option had been put forward and was cost neutral, the budget consultation was still going ahead so it was not a done deal. Sally Pezaro asked if there were any plans to increase the capacity of the Kitchener Centre. Mayor Steve Clark explained that in February 2013 the centre was working at its full capacity of 15 people and had a waiting list. Dr Brian Partridge from Cobbs Garden Surgery had expressed concern at this situation and had suggested that consideration should be given to an extension of the building. Since then, Steve explained, there had been a ‘raising of the bar’ to qualify for its services and it was now operating below capacity.

    Town Meeting

    This year’s Town Meeting will take place on 12th May, after the OTC elections. It was agreed that this should be widely advertised in an attempt to persuade residents to attend and have their say.

    Next Meeting - 1st February

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st 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 2016

    Olney Council report for February 2020

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke again on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She’d been speaking with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about the possibility of introducing a permit parking scheme there. In order to be considered by MKC this would, amongst other criteria, require the support of over 70% of the properties in the Crescent. Sue felt this level of support would be achievable and said she would canvas opinions.

    Susan Hughes
    Susan Hughes spoke to report that, after nine years, the Olney Neighbourhood Action Group had ceased in its current form due to the withdrawal of support from MKC and, because of restructuring, Thames Valley Police. She explained that she was sad to see it go, but felt it had helped the town a great deal. She also thanked John Boardman for chairing its meetings, Liam Costello and Sandra Grummit (the Town and Deputy Town Clerks), and said she could not have wished for a better representative from Olney Town Council (OTC) than Rosemary Osborne. Steve Clark, on behalf of the Council, thanked Sue for the Group’s work.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Liam reported that he’d attended a site meeting in the Crescent, along with a new person at MKC who’d be in the job for only the next six months. While that doesn’t sound like a great start – the Mercury report from July 2015 noting stalled progress due to the person looking at the issue being reassigned without MKC telling OTC who, if anyone, was continuing with it – it is a step in the right direction and at least the length of his ‘stay’ is known. Peter Geary explained that a plan had been proposed: To make interim repairs addressing the worst of the uneven surface, to produce an options paper on which OTC would consult with residents, then to show the results to MKC who would decide what action to take.

    Circular Walk

    As reported before, a Circular Walk is being planned, and MKC has proposed that the section which runs parallel to and south of Weston Road alongside one of the streams be diverted to instead run in the same direction along the northern bank of the River Great Ouse. Tony Evans preferred this route as, with it being fenced, there was a degree of separation between walkers (and their dogs) and the nearby sheep. Peter Geary felt OTC should ask for it to be a permissive right of way, this being different from a public right of way in that, although anyone could use it, the Council could ban particular people from doing so if the need arose. As noted by Jeremy Rawlings, permissive rights of way are not shown on Ordnance Survey maps although, as Liam explained, good signage could partially negate this concern.

    Citizens Advice Bureau

    For the past few years, the Council has made a yearly payment to Citizens Advice Milton Keynes in order to provide an outreach service in Olney, amounting to four 45 minute appointments every fortnight. Citizens Advice has proposed leaving the amount unchanged this year, at £5,198. Councillors discussed this, the key points being that the sessions were, on the whole, fully booked but that less statistical information, for example the number of people helped, was available than in previous years. Councillors voted all in favour, bar two abstentions including one due to this lack of information, of making the payment to retain the service for
    another year.

    Budget 2016-2017

    Based on a recommendation from the Finance Committee, Councillors voted unanimously to accept the proposed budget. Looking at the income side, the Council Tax Base – the equivalent number of Band D properties in the Parish paying Council Tax – has increased by 0.8%. But, the Council Tax Base Reduction Grant for Olney – a government grant given to Parish Councils to compensate them for the reduction in Council Tax Base due to various welfare changes – has been reducing every year and will eventually disappear. Looking at those issues, plus the predicted spend, OTC has increased its precept to £177,000, a 4.1% increase, resulting in it taking £68.54 per year from the illustrative Band D Council Tax, a 3.28% increase.

    Lavendon Road Section 106 requirements consultation

    Having previously declared an interest, Peter Geary and Ben Brock left the meeting for the duration of this item.
    This refers to a Planning Application to build 50 houses on the triangular parcel of land South of Lavendon Road and immediately South East of the Whirly Pit roundabout, stretching around half way to the river. Section 106 refers to a legal agreement between a Local Authority and a Developer, linked to planning permission and also known as a planning obligation. A new development can place extra pressure on local infrastructure, for example healthcare, and the agreement aims to balance that pressure with improvements to the surrounding area such that, where possible, the development will make a positive contribution to the local area and community.
    Liam started the discussion, noting that this was prior to planning permission being decided and that the estimated amount payable under Section 106 would be £985,220, equating to £19,704 per house. MKC had calculated this estimate in accordance with its Supplementary Planning Guidance, and were asking for comments on it, along with whether any additional projects or requirements were needed in order to make the development agreeable in planning terms.
    While this sounded a large figure, Deidre Bethune and Joe Stacey each noted that the money would go to MKC and that Olney wouldn’t get to see a lot of it, perhaps 25%, OTC effectively having to bid for local projects. A lengthy discussion followed, much of which centred on what OTC could, in principle and reality – which, the feeling appeared to be, may differ significantly – actually affect. Councillors agreed to respond noting the amount, showing a few illustrations of local projects and offering further information in due course.
    While not discussed during this meeting, on the same night, the Sainsbury’s Planning Application was rejected by MKC. This was for a number of reasons, but it’s worth noting that they included the supermarket site being outside the existing settlement boundary and in open countryside. This 50 house Application is outside but almost adjacent to that boundary and just over the road from the proposed Sainsbury’s site. If this Application is agreed, would the ‘open countryside’ reason for rejecting the Sainsbury’s one carry less weight?


    As reported before, Olney and other Parish Councils had won various concessions from MKC in terms of the content of the Plan, for example that the map showing satellite settlement ‘bubbles’ surrounding Olney and certain other nearby villages would be removed. MKC had released draft one of the document without making this change, then draft two with the ‘bubbles’ removed but the associated text continuing to state the names of these towns and villages, then finally draft three with those also removed. It was believed that one Council had already provided its response to the plan based on draft one. Olney and associated Parish Councils are arguing via Solicitors that the process has therefore been tainted, is flawed and should be withdrawn. A Solicitor’s letter has been written and, come the Public Examination some time 2016 – 2018, this will be mentioned.
    Peter Geary and other Councillors felt that option three, ‘one or more satellite settlements in the rural area’, would be a disaster wherever they were located, as it would separate people from their work and cause more travel, for example in and out of Milton Keynes via the already congested M1 crossings. He also noted that option four, ‘intensification and redevelopment of the urban area’, which had seemed attractive, meant building on various parcels of employment land within Milton Keynes, and that alternative land for employment must then be provided elsewhere, for example to the East of the M1.
    Councillors are keen to get the Plan:MK information out to the Public, and you’re much encouraged to read and respond to it. Please surf to this link www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/PlanMK.

    Purchase of new mower

    Councillors voted unanimously to spend £15,000 to purchase a new Kubota mower. This was interesting mainly because it highlighted a case where the usual recommendation that all purchases must go out to three tenders was, with reason, not followed. In summary, this was because all Kubota agents tend to charge remarkably similar prices, and it’s hard to
    compare one dealer with another like-for-like when you consider location, standard of service, trust, etc.

    Town Meeting

    This year’s Town Meeting will be held on 12th May in the Olney Centre. Noting with irony that last year’s meeting was ‘our usual show of dynamic excitement’, Steve Clark asked for ideas to make it more interesting and worthwhile for people to attend. Councillors agreed with this sentiment and, in practice, these meetings tend to attract a tiny attendance unless a particular controversy is in progress at the time. For example, a few years back, issues surrounding Doff’s Field led to a good attendance. In order to attract more people, Councillors decided to provide drinks, including wine, to advertise the meeting more widely and to look into the possibility of providing some entertainment.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    A permanent CCTV camera has been installed covering the Market Place. The Recreation Ground play area improvements should be well underway or complete by the time this is published. The Council is getting a full condition report for the Youth Centre, as part of the process to decide whether it wishes to apply for the Centre under the Community Asset Transfer scheme. MKC is starting formal action against the owner of Westlands due to their use of the building outside planning consent, and the owner has submitted plans to convert it into flats.

    Next Meeting 7th March

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

  • March 2016

    Olney Council report for March 2016


    Mayor Steve Clark welcomed the newly appointed Deputy Clerk Debbie Eason to her first full council meeting.

    Public participation

    Sue Warren and Brian Rice were the two members of the public who wished to speak at this month’s meeting, both on the same subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent, but with widely opposing views. As this was a formal agenda item it will be covered under that item.

    Oakdown Crescent

    As reported last month, Sue Warren had consulted Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about the possibility of introducing a permit parking scheme there. In order to be considered by MKC this would, amongst other criteria, require the support of over 70% of the properties in the crescent. Sue said of the 16 properties, one was currently empty but the remaining 15 occupants were in favour of the scheme. Once the three ward councillors had expressed support for the scheme then MKC would write to the residents to fill out a survey. Sue said that some of them were worried about filling out the necessary forms but she would provide assistance. On other matters, she said that the pot holes still hadn’t been filled in but the seat had been painted, which was a waste of time and money as no one used it so it might as well have been removed.

    Brian Rice then spoke against the suggestion in what became a very heated exchange. Brian lives in a house near to Oakdown Crescent and has no parking outside his house so parks in the crescent. He said that if the scheme went ahead he would not only mount a legal objection but would also drive a JCB through ‘that wall’ (which presumably blocks vehicular access to his own property). He thought the scheme was a waste of time for just 16 people and Sue was ‘lucky’ that two residents had died over Christmas as he knew they were against it. He said he was sick and tired of being made out to be the bad guy and was disgusted by what was happening. Colin Rodden attempted to calm the situation but was shouted down by Brian. At this point Steve Clark ordered Brian to stop speaking and sit down as he was not prepared to have councillors spoken to in that way. Brian then left the meeting. Sue said she felt personally threatened by what had happened.

    Once the atmosphere had returned to normal Colin Rodden said that if the scheme went ahead the council needed to recognise that it would move the parking problem elsewhere. Deirdre Bethune agreed but said it was important to do one thing at a time. John Boardman said that there needs to be a second stage and consideration needs to be given to demolishing the nearby garages. Peter Geary said that MKC must recognise that the parking permit scheme would only be stage one and the overall issue must not be allowed to disappear from their agenda. Deirdre agreed that the poor state of the pavements and pot holes pose a danger to young people, let alone the elderly.

    Leave of Absence

    Under the council’s Standing Orders if a member has not attended a meeting for six months they cease to be a councillor, unless they are granted a Leave of Absence. Councillor John Smail has not attended a meeting since 15th September due to illness and has requested Leave of Absence up to the forthcoming elections in May. This was agreed.


    For detailed information on the proposals read Jeremy Rawlings’ article on page 16 of the March Phonebox. OTC, along with a number of other Parish Councils, has issued a formal legal challenge to the consultation document which was issued by MKC in January. The basis of this objection was, amongst other things, that there was no evidence of the population growth claims and there had been no consultation with neighbouring authorities. MKC have now responded rejecting the claim. Jeremy said that the parishes will not raise any more legal objections at this stage but pointed out that the leaflet delivered to all houses in the borough contains a number of errors. This will doubtless be a subject for discussion at this year’s town meeting on April 14th.

    The Olney Centre

    Deirdre Bethune said that three quotes had been obtained for installing UPVC or Aluminium double glazed windows in the Olney Centre. She said she was not happy with the quality of what was being offered for such and old building and had already contacted another company which specialised in heritage type glazing. Advice as to what might be required as part of the planning process will be sought from MKC planners before any decision is taken.
    Following the recent spate of break-ins quotes are being obtained for an upgrade of the Centre intruder alarm.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    Joe Stacey presented the consultation version of the plan to the council and it was agreed that it could now move on to the pre-submission stage. The plan will shortly be available on line and sets out a vision for development in Olney up until 2031 and will eventually be the subject of a local referendum. Joe thanked the many volunteers who had spent a great deal of time in preparing the plan.

    Circular Walk

    At last month’s meeting it was decided to create a permissive right of way for the section that currently runs parallel to and South of Weston Road alongside one of the streams but would be diverted to instead run in the same direction along the Northern bank of the River Great Ouse. Advice had been obtained from Rosie Armstrong, MKC Assistant Rights of Way Officer. Rosie said that a permissive path is one which the landowner permits the public to use, with the intention that it should not become a public right of way. The permission can be granted for a stated period and Rosie said that MKC would expect this to be in excess of 10 years since they would be investing time, effort and expense into it. She suggested that a public right of way would be the better option and this was passed on a vote by the council.

    Riverside right of way

    OTC is claiming a right of way along the top of Doff’s Field from Austen Avenue to Clifton Bridge and a Public Enquiry will be held on May 19th. MKC have asked OTC for suitable residents to give evidence at the enquiry. John Boardman expressed his surprise at this as considerable evidence had been collected and documented on a previous occasion, although it had not all been made public. MKC should have access to this documentation, he said.

    Youth Centre Community Asset Transfer

    The council is considering taking ownership of the Youth Centre as part of a C.A.T. as happened last year with the Olney Centre. An inspection of the state of the building had been carried out by a firm of chartered surveyors which reported that the building is in a generally poor state, having been maintained to minimum standards. The estimate for the repairs was in the region of £150k, although the report carried a number of caveats. Tony Evans thought the estimate unreliable and Joe Stacey suggested it might need a full structural survey. The main issue seemed to be with the flat roofs which require complete stripping and re-covering, but there are a number of other problems which need to be fixed. John Boardman said OTC needed to form a medium to long term business plan to decide how the building would be used and how it could be made to pay its way. Steve Clark was of the opinion that MKC should be asked how much they are prepared to contribute to the repairs, presumably because the poor state of the building is due to their neglect. Colin Rodden reminded the council that the Youth Centre was not just the building but also the considerably sized plot of land which might be of interest to a developer. Peter Geary said that if OTC did go ahead with the purchase it would have to continue to be used for its original purpose, otherwise MKC could buy it back for £1. The only exception could be if it was sold and the resulting funds used to directly finance a replacement.

    Odds and Sods

    OTC has been approached by local companies Profit Rocket and SSHY Creative Ltd with a view to producing an updated town map to be displayed in the Market Place bus stop and also leaflets. Joe Stacey agreed that the current map is out of date but said he would like to know what the council would be getting for their money with examples of previous work.
    The former Westlands is no longer being used as a House In Multiple Occupation and planning permission has been submitted for conversion to flats.
    Rosemary Osbourne reported that funding had now been obtain for heritage signs announcing Olney as the home of Amazing Grace to be placed at the entrances to the town.
    Colin Rodden expressed his frustration that MKC Development Control Committee had refused planning permission for the new Sainsbury’s, against advice from its own officers. For information, the committee had been tied on the vote so retiring chairman Brian White had used his casting vote to vote against, based on the environmental impacts to the surrounding countryside and also the impact on local shops. Peter Geary said his feeling was that Sainsbury’s would appeal at a cost of about £200k to the council tax payers

    Town Meeting

    This year’s Town Meeting will now be held on 14th April in the Olney Centre, not 12th May, as previously advertised. Cheese and wine will be available afterwards.

    Next Meeting - 4th April

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

  • April 2016

    Olney Council report for April 2016

    Public Participation

    The Public area was packed for this meeting, with the vast majority wishing to speak about Oakdown Crescent. This took a while so it’s covered first, followed by the issues raised by the few who spoke about anything else.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren, first to speak, noted that there were continuing parking problems in the Crescent and that the potholes remained, still to be filled in. She asked Councillors to ‘carry on the fight’ after the local elections. Elizabeth White spoke next. She’s lived for 25 years in one of the ‘landlocked’ houses just behind Oakdown Crescent, her mother lived in the Crescent until her death last year, and her husband is registered disabled. Noting the ‘knock on’ effect on nearby parking if a Residents’ Parking Scheme was introduced in the Crescent, she questioned how those with disabled family were meant to get to the ‘landlocked’ houses.

    Nick Taylor
    Nearby resident of 15 years Nick Taylor spoke next, explaining that he’d only rarely experienced parking problems and that, if there was really a problem to solve, part of the solution could be to improve the surface in Oakdown Crescent and mark out parking bays there. Noting that Sue Warren’s offer to help residents fill in forms (those for the forthcoming consultation Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had planned regarding the proposed Residents’ Parking Scheme) was ‘not entirely appropriate’, he said he generally had a good relationship with residents of the Crescent and that people needed not to get carried away or emotional.

    Ian Scott
    Ian Scott, a Weston Road resident, spoke next, wholeheartedly agreeing with Nick’s views, and noting that the proposed Residents’ Parking Scheme would simply move the parking problem elsewhere.

    Julia Scott
    Last on this topic, Julia Scott spoke briefly, saying that she was aware it was unfair for her and others to clog up parking spaces in Oakdown Crescent, but they had no choice.

    Carl Clennet
    Carl Clennet spoke about the proposal for a Skateboard Park. The first preferred location, between the All Weather Surface and the Tennis Courts, had seen objections from the Tennis Club and The Olney Group (TOG). With the Recreation Ground seeming comfortably the best choice, the current preferred location is to site the Park in place of the zip wire, moving the wire elsewhere, hopefully not far away. He concluded by thanking the Recreation and Services Committee for its help, and noting that the Park would be a benefit to the community as a whole.

    Andrew Leicester
    Andrew Leicester spoke last. He lives in Near Town Gardens, and a lorry associated with the electrical works being performed near the allotments had damaged his wall and nearby protection post. While noting that discussions with the company involved were amicable, he explained that this was at least the fifth time where damage had occurred due to lorry traffic in the road, and asked if a sign could be erected to warn large vehicle drivers of the issue.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Now on to the main meeting, Brian Rice intervened before the Oakdown Crescent item began, handing a petition, presumably against the proposed Residents’ Parking Scheme, to Councillors. He went on to say that he had been upset by Sue Warren’s ‘hurtful defamatory remarks’ at the previous meeting, for example her saying that he was threatening her. He had contacted the Phonebox Magazine to express his views about the way the meeting had been reported, and stated that he’d never physically or verbally accost anyone in Olney. Elizabeth White also spoke, stressing that this issue was not personal.
    For a minority of the Public present, this was an emotional and spirited part of the meeting. It was not easy to watch and required Steve Clark, for the second meeting in a row, to intervene strongly as Chair to silence them, restore order and allow calm, logical discussion.
    Deidre Bethune, noting that this issue will (and surely by now has) ‘run and run’, asked if MKC could at least fix the potholes in the Crescent as it had said it would, as they made it a ‘dangerous place to live’.
    Peter Geary explained the story. In 1968, the houses in Oakdown Crescent and those ‘landlocked’ houses behind, were owned by Newport Pagnell Rural District Council. It sent a letter to its Weston Road tenants saying that, if they parked in the Crescent, they’d lose their tenancy. However, nowadays no Court would enforce such a rule so it’s become irrelevant. He thanked the members of the Public present for their proposed solutions to the problem. For the last few years, Olney Town Council (OTC) had accepted that there was a parking problem in the Crescent, but realised it could only be addressed in parallel with the provision of more parking in the area – perhaps on the site of the existing garages, on land near 102 Weston Road or by allowing more on-street parking nearby. He stressed that the proposed Residents’ Parking Scheme would not happen on its own, MKC having ‘put a brake on it’, and that the Councils would work to
    understand the problem and try, together with affected residents, to solve it in a ‘holistic’ way.
    This last sentence much reduced the tension in the room, as most of those in the Public area relaxed visibly, with various saying ‘thank you’. If only, Mercury reflected, the format of the meeting had allowed this point to be made at its start.

    Skateboard Park

    The Recreation and Services committee had, at its last meeting, unanimously agreed to recommend to full Council that ‘subject to a suitable new site for the zip wire being identified on the Recreation Ground and approved, the committee agreed to the current zip wire site as the best one for a Skateboard Park’. There ensued a brief discussion, with Peter Geary suggesting that OTC have a pre-planning talk with the Planning Officer to discuss the most likely sites, thus uncovering any potential problems early on. Colin Rodden noted that the Cricket Club wasn’t keen on the zip wire site, preferring instead that between the All Weather Surface and Tennis Courts. John Boardman felt that, based on the Committee’s recommendation, those working towards the Skateboard Park should start raising funds towards seeing it realised, while Sally Pezaro was concerned about the ethics of raising money before the site was certain. Councillors voted unanimously to accept the Committee’s recommendation.


    The Council had been preparing its response to the Plan:MK Strategic Development Directions Consultation form, essentially 20 questions designed to gauge its views. The response was tweaked a little during this meeting, before Councillors agreed it was good to send.

    Youth Centre Community Asset Transfer (CAT)

    In the previous meeting, it was explained that an inspection of the building had found it in a generally poor state, having been maintained by MKC to minimum standards. It estimated repairs in the region of £150k. Much of the discussion was similar to last month’s, so just the new points are covered here. Jeremy Rawlings noted that the Youth Centre has around £30k in its coffers, and John Boardman that the building had outlived the era of its current use so a new approach was needed. The possibility, as contained in the draft Olney Neighbourhood Plan, of some of the Centre’s land being used for a larger Doctors Surgery was also mentioned. In summary, while many Councillors are clearly worried about taking on the building, the Council is continuing with the CAT process on the bases that it can pull out at any time and that, in terms of who pays for the building to be repaired, the Council’s leverage with MKC can only increase as the process continues.

    Swimming Steps

    As reported before, the Council had paid for a professional specification to be drawn up for the work required to make good the wide crack near the bottom of the Swimming Steps. Three quotations had been received to do the work and, following a short debate, the lowest was chosen. The work should be completed before Riverfest, where the raft racers exit the river up these steps, on Sunday 3rd July.

    Bits ’n’ bobs

    The brown information signs discussed in previous meetings are now up. It was noted that their wording, ‘Welcome to Olney, Home of Amazing Grace’, had attracted a Photoshopped alternative, posted in the Olney Noticeboard Facebook group and worded ‘Welcome to Olney, Home of Sainsbury’s and Moaning’.
    Ron Bull explained that preparations for this year’s hanging baskets had started, with them now being available to sponsor. Peter Geary noted that Thames Valley Police had offered to spend a day in Olney to advise people on how to security-harden their houses. He suggested it would be good to have them in the Olney Centre on the same day as the local elections.

    Next Meeting - 9th May

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 9th May in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • Annual Town Meeting April 2016

    Olney Annual Town Meeting


    Olney Town Council (OTC) hosts a yearly town meeting which provides an opportunity for members of the Public to come along to find out what the Council, and other local groups, have been doing. Attendance at these meetings has been sporadic, ranging from very high in years when controversial items were forward in people’s minds to near zero in others. This year, with a second Sainsbury’s Planning Application ongoing and Plan:MK progressing, there are at least two controversial items and, whether due to them, the usual interesting reports or, just perhaps, the recently introduced free cheese and wine, it was pretty busy with around 40 people all told. This small article gives you a taste of what went on.


    Steve Clark is not standing for Mayor of OTC this year, leaving the way open for a new Mayor to be elected at the next full Council meeting on Monday 9th May.

    Sainsbury’s Planning Application

    This was discussed during Steve Clark’s Planning Committee presentation. In summary, the first Sainsbury’s Application was not opposed by OTC, which had the right to recommend refusal but instead was in favour, was recommended for acceptance by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Officers but refused by their Development Control Committee. Sainsbury’s has since
    submitted a revised Application with additional parking spaces, a limit of 15% on the sales area which can be used for non food items, and an agreement that the store would not include any non-retail concession space. If this second Application is refused, Sainsbury’s would likely appeal, putting MKC’s Officers, who had previously recommended acceptance, in the unenviable position of having to stand up in Court explaining why the Council had been right to refuse it. An appeal seems non ideal because, if Sainsbury’s was to win it, MKC would have to pay the court costs, and the Planning Gain associated with the Application may be reduced.

    Bits ’n’ bobs

    The Plan:MK Action Group is a set of Parish Councils including Olney which has banded together to fight the option within Plan:MK to build satellite towns around certain towns and villages, Olney included, in northern rural Milton Keynes Borough. A representative attended this meeting and gave a good summary of the current position. This is quite a tale and has all been covered before by the Phonebox, both in OTC and Mercury articles, so is not covered further here. If you’re concerned about large scale local development and want to know more, Google for “Plan:MK”.

    Andy Hipkin of Thames Valley Police reported that, this year, there’d been 45 (19 last year) burglaries in Olney, around half domestic, 14 (29) thefts of or from motor vehicles, 16 (20) assaults including those without injury but none classed as grievous bodily harm or worse, 18 (31) counts of shoplifting and 3 (4) sexual offences. The Police, currently low on Officers in this area, are recruiting to replace this shortfall.

    The Cowper and Newton Museum had a good year, and is aiming to make itself more self sufficient in order to ensure its long term viability. The Newport Pagnell and Olney Lions Club has around 18 members, is doing well but would welcome more – Google for “Olney Lions” if you can help. The Olney Group is also doing well, planning to significantly increase the range and size of entertainments and attractions at this year’s Riverfest, the new name for Raft Race.

  • May 2016

    Olney Council report for May 2016

    The First Meeting

    The first meeting of the Council Year is known as The Annual Meeting of Olney Town Council (OTC), not to be confused with the Annual Town Meeting, and is largely given over to administrative functions, such as electing a new Mayor and Deputy Mayor, reviewing membership of sub-committees and reviewing standing orders and financial regulations. Before the start of the formal proceedings Mayor Steve Clark welcomed Councillor John Smail back to the chamber after his recent illness. John thanked Steve and said he’d be passing the hat round later!

    Public Participation

    As is usual recently, this section was entirely devoted to the issue of parking in Oakdown Crescent and Sue Warren was the only person wishing to speak.

    Sue Warren
    Sue pointed out that the minutes of last month’s meeting were incorrect as they stated that Elizabeth White’s mother currently lives in the crescent when she in fact died last year. She pointed out that, contrary to the belief of Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) Highways Department, the footpaths still have not been repaired and if any resident has a fall, there will be a huge compensation claim. She then asked Ward Councillor Peter Geary why the money that had been ring-fenced for a solution last year was no longer available and why, despite a request under the Freedom of Information Act, he had not told her the reason for the delay. Although the matter was an agenda item later in the meeting Peter chose to answer the question at this stage. He said that the money is still available but the reason that things had not progressed was because the ‘water was getting murkier and murkier’ and events at last month’s OTC meeting had set things back considerably. MKC officers would be looking for a consensus in order to progress any scheme and it was obvious in this case that there is not one. It will be necessary to work together as a community to find a solution, he said. Sue said that MKC had suggested a residents parking scheme which had been supported by the residents and was progressing but when it was discussed at the March OTC meeting other people had come out of the woodwork and stopped it. Clearly frustrated, Peter said that was not the case. The other parties had contacted officers at MKC six to nine months ago, when the resident’s scheme was first suggested, and as a result the officers had stopped it as there was obviously no consensus. Sue said she thought Peter was being unsympathetic but he responded that he was not anti the scheme and was on record as having successfully supported similar schemes elsewhere, where there had been a consensus.

    Election of Mayor

    Steve Clark, having been mayor for the past five years, had previously announced his intention not to seek re-election. He thanked everybody for their support during his time in office, particularly Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rawlings and his daughter Tamsin for their assistance. He then invited nominations for the new mayor and Jeremy, being the only nomination, was elected unopposed. Steve handed over the chain of office and Jeremy took his seat at head of the table. Ron Bull was the only nomination for Deputy Mayor and was also elected unopposed.

    Co-option to fill vacancies

    There were insufficient numbers of people wishing to stand for election to OTC this time so no election was necessary. All those who registered were elected unopposed but three existing members John Sharp, Ben Brock and Chris Shaw had stood down. Under these circumstances the council can co-opt eligible residents to fill the remaining spaces. Deirdre Bethune was concerned that the vacancies had not been widely advertised and said that the normal course of events would be to hold a full council meeting prior to advertising the vacancies. Town Clerk Liam Costello said that there was a statutory duty to fill the posts within 35 days of the election and there had been advertisements on the MKC website, the OTC website and posted up on the Town Council noticeboard. Ron Bull shared Deirdre’s concern that there were only three applicants for three posts. Rosemary Osbourne said that normally all applicants would be required to give a presentation to the council in order that members could judge their suitability. Tony Evans was of the opinion that it would be ridiculous to delay as everybody in the town was aware that the entire council was up for re-election, having been notified of the forthcoming election which was subsequently not required. Deirdre proposed that the co-options be delayed till the next meeting but this was narrowly defeated in a vote, so all applicants were co-opted on to the council. Although not strictly necessary, each co-optee was invited to give a brief statement about themselves. Desmond Eley said he was a Chartered Quantity Surveyor and had been a resident of Olney for over 40 years. His Father, the late Bert Eley was a past Mayor of Milton Keynes and had been an Honorary Alderman. Heléna Newbold, a nurse by profession, explained she had been an Olney resident for 17 years, had served as a Middle School governor and is the manager at the Kitchener Centre. Martine Stoffels is a Consultant Psychiatrist and has been a resident for three years. All three then took their places at the council table.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Liam Costello said he had been working on a consultation document which would shortly be sent out to impacted residents in Weston Road, The Pyghtle Weston Road, and Oakdown Crescent. It would include a questionnaire to identify where the residents currently park and how many cars there are in each household. Colin Rodden said any scheme would have a knock-on effect to other areas, such as Chantry Rise, and thought it should be more widely circulated as part of the consultation. Peter Geary repeated his oft expressed opinion that any solution will move the problem on elsewhere unless additional parking spaces are provided. He said he was being publicly criticised for being negative and as a ward councillor had a choice on what he wants to be involved with. He could decide to withdraw and have nothing more to do with Oakdown Crescent, he said. Ron Bull said he thought that Peter had been very balanced in a climate that hasn’t been balanced. Jeremy Rawlings and Colin Rodden expressed similar support.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    Joe Stacey reported that there had been very few comments on the draft plan and the drop-in session had had a low attendance. He said things really needed to get moving and progress made between meetings. One of the barriers, he said was that the Highways Department of MKC still seemed to be in disarray and he was not getting the required level of support. Peter Geary said that a new Service Director had been appointed, who came with a very good track record, so things should improve. The draft plan is available at olneyplan.com

    Sainsbury’s withdrawal of planning application

    As everybody knows by now, Sainsbury’s have withdrawn their application for a supermarket in Olney, citing the refusal of planning permission and the uncertain outcome of an appeal as the main reasons. Ron Bull suggested that perhaps there was an anti-Olney feeling in MKC, quoting a number of instances where MKC planners had gone against the advice of OTC. OTC, MKC planning officers and 84% of respondents to a survey had supported the application yet it had been turned down on the vote of one MKC Councillor, Brian White, who had since retired, he said. He felt that Brian should be held to account for his decision. Colin Rodden agreed, saying there had not been much evidence of partnership with MK, where the MK Partnership was concerned. Jeremy Rawlings said he hadn’t bothered to attend the meeting as a member of the public as he thought it was a foregone conclusion that the application would be passed. Steve Clark said that whatever exceptionally good grounds for the appeal may have existed, Sainsbury’s had decided to withdraw and that was the end of the matter. Deirdre Bethune said it was quite possible that the building might not have gone ahead even if the application was approved, owing to Sainsbury’s current financial situation. There then followed a discussion around the need for OTC to work much more closely with MKC in order for them to understand the requirements of local communities.
    For information, the application was refused by a majority vote of the MKC Development Control Committee, not just the chairman’s casting vote. The reasons for refusal were proposed by Brian White and passed by his chairman’s casting vote. The reasons were:

    1. There is a parking shortfall, which will be displaced outside the boundary,
    2. There is an impact on the Surrounding Countryside, Contrary to Policy S10, and,
    3. That there is an impact on the non-retail part of Olney Town Centre as a consequence of the 30% reduction to trade in the food-stores.

    Disturbance at the Bull

    This item had originally been placed on the agenda to discuss the recent disturbance which had resulted in a large-scale fight spilling out on to the High Street and Market Place. However, since then the building had been badly damaged by fire and was now closed. Steve Clark proposed that discussion be widened to cover the current state of the building. He said the feeling was that what on earth have Charles Wells, the owners, done to allow the building to get into such a decrepit state. It was not that long ago that the Bull and its managers played a very active role in the community and it should be a flagship of the Charles Well’s empire. The decisions that have been made and the clientele attracted had now driven the whole establishment downhill. He said he would like a meeting with Charles Wells at a reasonably high level to find out what their plans are. They have promised major refurbishment in 2017, but have been saying that for years, he said. Deirdre Bethune was concerned that the resolution could drag on some time, as the Saracen’s Head next door had also been extensively damaged. What Risk Assessment had been done into allowing a wood burning pizza van into the courtyard, she wondered. Peter Geary said OTC should offer to work with the brewery in order to assist them with whatever plans they have.

    Odds and Sods

    Progress on the circular footpath continues and discussions are underway with the land owner about a right of way to run along the north bank of the river opposite Goosey Island. The landowner has expressed a preference to sell a small piece of land and a discussion took place as to whether the purchase price plus legal feels would be value for money, as it is mostly under water.
    Work on repairing the bathing steps at the bottom of the recreation ground has now commenced.
    The hearing loop is now installed and working in the council chamber.
    Colin Rodden asked if the latest data from the environmental monitoring station outside the Church Hall could be obtained.

    Next Meeting - 6th June

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th 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 2016

    Olney Council report for June 2016

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    As has become the norm, Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She noted with some regret that Peter Geary had decided to ‘distance himself’ from this issue and that her emails to the other Ward Councillors had, thus far, gone unanswered.

    Multi Academy Trust

    Olney Infant Academy and Olney Middle School have proposed to convert to a Multi Academy Trust with Two Mile Ash and various other Schools. Jeremy Rawlings, previously Chairman of Governors at the Infant Academy, noted that the Multi Academy Trust is the Government’s preferred way of sharing expertise and that, over time, Schools may be forced to join such Trusts. Given that, he felt it was better for the Olney Schools to build this relationship now with Schools they know and like, rather than being forced later to link with other Schools. Councillors agreed to write a letter supporting this change.

    Oakdown Crescent

    A consultation document issued by Olney Town Council (OTC) had been sent to residents of the Crescent and nearby roads and, thus far, attracted 34 responses, around a third of the 101 properties to which it was delivered. The aims are to assess the parking issues and to seek residents’ views on possible improvements.
    The document outlined a possible phased approach to address the problems: In Phase one, parking in the Crescent would be reconfigured with bays marked out either around three edges of the main square (Option A) or in a single block in its middle (Option B). Some of these bays could be dedicated to carers and emergency vehicles, and some to a residents parking scheme for the properties in the Crescent. Phase two would involve demolishing the rented garages and redeveloping the area to provide parking for up to 16 vehicles. Phase three would be to resurface the track off Dagnall Road to provide better use of the available parking space, including the area adjacent to 102 Weston Road. Finally, Phase four would review nearby parking restrictions in an attempt to provide additional parking on Weston Road.
    Analysing the responses and giving approximate numbers, 50% felt there was sufficient parking available for their needs, 60% felt the document had identified all the issues, yet only 40% felt it identified all the solutions, 60% preferred Option B and, finally, around 80% would support the suggested phased approach. After a brief discussion, Councillors decided to ask Milton Keynes Council (MKC) to begin implementing Phase one Option B, and to send it a summary of the consultation responses.

    Stacks Image 472

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    Lavendon Road Section 106 Requirements Consultation

    Section 106 is a planning obligation under which developers pay money to Councils in order to mitigate the negative impacts of their development work. While there’s much variation in how locally and on what the money must be spent, typical examples include children’s play parks and increasing the capacity of local Doctors’ Surgeries. It was being discussed today because the recently refused application to develop 50 homes to the South of Lavendon Road has been resubmitted, leading MKC to ask OTC for its views on how, if this application was successful, the resulting money should be spent. It’s worth noting that OTC’s influence here will be somewhat limited.
    Joe Stacey, the Councillor who’s primarily been driving the Neighbourhood plan, was clearly frustrated as, when he’d previously sent a questionnaire to all Councillors asking for their views on how the Plan should drive the Council’s response to consultations just like this, he’d received just two responses. The questionnaire will be re-sent and, very likely, a good number of responses received this time round.
    David Hosking, one of Olney’s Ward Councillors, felt that Parishes and small towns tended to get a raw deal from Section 106, and that Councillors should go through the consultation, item by item, challenging each one. He stated that it was a negotiation and OTC needed to negotiate harder.

    Dickens of a Christmas

    Following an earlier suggestion, the Dickens of a Christmas Committee has been looking into closing the A509 for the event. This is clearly not a trivial task and the quote from Ringway, MKC’s approved contractor, to implement the diversion was £800. The idea continues to be discussed.

    Council audit

    The Council has just comfortably passed its latest internal audit. Deidre Bethune congratulated Liam Costello and Debbie Eason, the Town Clerk and his deputy. The accounts will be available for public inspection from 13th June to 22nd July.


    The pizza outlet at the Thursday Market has decided to take up a pitch in London instead, so will no longer be attending Olney’s Market. Councillors voted by a majority to have a Belgian Fries van occupy the vacant pitch.
    Perhaps already missing the pizza, Councillors approved the Italian Market to return on Sunday 16th October.

    One Stop deliveries

    As discussed before, and as covered extensively in various posts on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page, there is ongoing concern about lorries delivering to One Stop on the High Street parking on the zig-zag lines near the crossing. It was noted that, while PCSOs can issue a fine of only up to £30 for this offence, Police Officers can issue a fine of up to £1,000 plus driving licence points. This safety concern will be discussed at the next Council meeting.

    St Peter & St Paul churchyard wall

    The old stone wall of St Peter and St Paul’s churchyard is deteriorating and in need of repair. The wall is MKC’s responsibility, but OTC has received a letter asking it to contribute towards the repair. Tony Evans, noting that MKC has been looking after the churchyard since 1994, felt the wall was unsafe and carried the danger of a rock falling on a vehicle or, worse, a person. He asked if a site visit could be arranged to show MKC the problem. Peter Geary felt that this letter broke protocol in that individual MKC officers shouldn’t write directly to Parish Councils and that, as a result, OTC should reply to a person higher in the MKC management structure in order to progress the matter.

    WEEE and textiles bank

    MKC has asked if it can place a Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and textiles bank in the car park to the rear of the Library on West Street. Councillors were concerned about the location, and a small group will visit various possible sites in the town to see if a more suitable one can be suggested for a three month trial of the bank.

    Swimming Steps

    As reported before, the Swimming Steps are in the process of being repaired. Due to some recent spells of heavy rain, the works are taking longer than expected, but should still be completed before Riverfest, due to take place on Sunday 3rd July.

    Next Meeting - 4th July

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 4th 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 2016

    Olney Council report for July 2016

    Public Participation

    No members of the public wished to speak in the public participation slot this month.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Following the recent public consultation on the thorny issue of parking, Deirdre Bethune and Town Clerk Liam Costello had presented Olney Town Council’s (OTC) report to Milton Keynes Council (MKC). There being no OTC meeting in August, an update will be given at the September meeting.

    Stacks Image 542

    Oakdown Crescent, Olney

    Refusal of permission for 50 Houses on Lavendon Road

    MKC planners have refused permission for 50 houses to be built on land opposite the ‘Sainsbury’s site’ based on a number of points:
    ● The proposed access of a mini roundabout close to the bend in the road was not considered safe
    ● There was no sustainable drainage scheme included
    ● The applicant had failed to demonstrate that the scheme would not place a burden on or have an adverse impact on infrastructure, education and leisure facilities.

    The applicant has lodged an appeal against the decision which will now be dealt with by the Secretary of State. The council decided to concur with the reasons given by MKC for refusal but Steve Clark noted that the applicant had probably assumed that the Sainsbury’s development would go ahead and an extra spur could be built from their access roundabout.

    Community Skate Park Update

    Tony Summerscales attended with Committee members Francis and Tom to present a report on the current state of the project. Tony circulated a plan which showed the location of the proposed ramp in the position currently occupied by the Zip Wire. He said that the proposed structure would be lower than the existing ramp on Johnsons Field and would blend in well with the surrounding landscape. He explained that the project was still in the early stages but the committee were looking at three possibilities for a build partner, emphasising that the tender process will go through due diligence. The first fundraising event had taken place at the recent Riverfest where £178 had been raised. The next steps would be to produce a confident business plan to take to potential sponsors in the town and to seek a firm financial commitment from OTC. There then followed a discussion about how OTC might be able to assist with the funding. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings suggested Section 106 commonly known as Planning Gain which developers pay to secure planning permission. Peter Geary observed that funding could come from the Parish Partnership or Community Foundation, but would need to be applied for. If necessary it could be ‘forward funded’ from OTC reserves, he said. Helena Newbold said that some banks were prepared to match fund local projects so long as they are a charitable trust (which the skateboard committee currently isn’t). Tony said he didn’t want to lose the local interest and momentum gained from Riverfest and was concerned that the OTC Finance Committee was not due to meet again until October. It was agreed that an extra meeting of the Finance Committee would take place in order to discuss possible assistance with funding for the project.

    Riverbank footpath Carey Way to Clifton ‘Planks’

    There has long been doubt about the official status of the footpath that runs from Carey Way and along the riverbank to the bridge known as ‘The Planks’ at Clifton Reynes. The section that has been the main cause of discussion runs from Carey Way around Doff’s Field, which is now owned by the Rugby Club. In an attempt to clarify the situation MKC submitted an order to modify the definitive map by adding the footpath, thereby making it an official right of way. A local public enquiry was held in May, led by an inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The report has now been published refusing to grant MKC the order. An order can be made if there is reasonable evidence that a right of way exists but a higher standard of proof is required to confirm it, based on the balance of probability that it has been used by the public on foot for a period of 20 years. In this case it is presumed to have been dedicated as a public footpath unless there is sufficient evidence that there was no intention on the part of the landowner to permit public use. The supposed path has been diverted over the years and ownership of Doff’s Field has changed hands a number of times since Dorothy ‘Doff’ Kitchener passed away. The inspector decided that status of the route was brought into question in 2002 with the first change of ownership so decided to examine the claimed public use for the 20 year period from 1982 to 2002. MKC produced written evidence from 59 Olney residents supporting the claim that they had enjoyed uninterrupted access along the route, some from as far back as 1938. However, none of them were called to give evidence in person to the enquiry. Olney Rugby Football Club were the objectors to the order and their Counsel called nine witnesses to appear in person to support the assertion that a post and wire fence and a five-bar gate with barbed wire along the top were in place during that period which would have required forcible entry to the field. As none of the supporters were present to answer questions under cross examination the inspector concluded that their evidence was outweighed by that delivered verbally at the enquiry and concluded that the order should not be confirmed.
    This was obviously a great disappointment to OTC and Ward Councillor Peter Geary said they needed to learn from the mistakes that had been made but there was no appeal against the decision. Steve Clark suggested that representatives of the Rugby Club be asked to state the clubs reason for the objection at the next Joint User Group meeting.

    Merchant Navy Day

    The council have received a letter from Seafarers UK informing them that September 3rd is Merchant Navy Day in recognition of the sacrifices made during the two World Wars, but also the vital part that the Merchant Navy plays in modern day commerce. OTC has agreed to purchase two Red Ensign flags to be flown in the Market Place and Olney Centre on September 3rd.

    Odds and Sods

    Due to the recent heavy rain, work has had to stop on repair of the bathing steps, but a temporary platform was put in place for the Riverfest raft race. Work will recommence soon.
    Councillors had been invited to a presentation by Charles Wells to show off their plans for the revamped Bull, following the recent fire. All were very impressed and a public exhibition is due to be held at the end of July. Peter Geary noted that the work would probably not start until the New Year, due to the complex planning requirements of a listed building.
    The street lamps in the High Street have reached the end of their life and need replacing. It is likely that they will be replaced with standard galvanised columns.
    Colin Rodden noted that the previous days Riverfest had been a huge success and thanked those involved in the organisation.
    Martine Stoffels suggested the use of digital signs at the entrance of the town to prevent some of the fly posting which currently takes place for local events. The Recs and Services committee will consider.
    Assistant Town Clerk Debbie Eason will henceforth be known as the Deputy Town Clerk

    Next Meeting - 5th September

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

  • August 2016

    Olney Council report for August 2016

    There was no meeting in August 2016 of the Council

    Stacks Image 586


  • September 2016

    Olney Council report for September 2016

    Public Participation

    Richard Hillier
    Richard Hillier spoke first, noting that the steps near the Co-op were dangerous due to a broken paving slab. Jeremy Rawlings and Steve Clark gave some background, noting that the ownership of the steps was unknown, although they appeared to belong to Milton Keynes Council or the Co-op. Councillors appeared sympathetic with this issue, and Jeremy noted that he’d reply later to Richard with further information.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the long-running topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent, this time a parked car needing to be moved in order to allow an ambulance to drive out of the Crescent. She also stated that various carers visiting people in the Crescent have formally complained to their managers about the parking situation.

    Martin Allen
    Martin Allen spoke about the litter problem on the Recreation Ground, suggesting the Council create a litter picking unit. This idea will be put to the Recreations and Services Committee.

    John Perkins
    Finally in this section, John Perkins spoke about the ongoing problem of delivery vehicles stopping on the High Street and thus slowing or blocking traffic. He felt that the A509 causes difficulty for Olney citing excessive speed, weight of traffic and injuries. He asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) had prepared an action plan to improve the situation. Covered by various Councillors, and in previous Mercury articles, the idea of de-priming the A509 was discussed briefly but is not easy, as the Highways Agency controls priming and such a change would have effects for miles around. Also, the lack of a bypass, a subject omitted from the Neighbourhood Plan because it may otherwise have dominated it, was noted as a related issue. The topic was discussed later in the meeting.

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    Councillors will shortly be meeting with MKC to get feedback on this issue and push again for action. Peter Geary suggested that OTC follow up with the Ambulance Service because, if a report had been filed on the incident, it would be useful to inform MKC of the fact.

    A509 congestion caused by lorry deliveries

    Various ways to improve the situation were discussed, including the provision of loading bays (though many would be required) and asking shops to cone off an area when deliveries were expected. Joe Stacey felt that increasing the width of the road by realigning the kerbs at certain key points, such as that near One Stop, would help greatly. Peter Geary noted that the problem was almost insoluble and that the kerb realignment idea had been presented around eight years ago but, admittedly as part of a set of traffic ideas, met with huge opposition and so was not progressed. Councillors decided first to approach certain key shops and, out of goodwill, ask for their help (e.g. using smaller delivery vehicles) and, if that didn’t work, to look again at the kerb realignment idea.

    Stacks Image 616

    A lorry


    Barnfield has been surveyed and is believed worthy of Local Wildlife Site status. Buckinghamshire County Council has contacted OTC to ask its permission for the field to be presented to a selection panel and thus have the chance of gaining this status. Councillors were broadly in favour of giving this permission, but wanted to understand all the implications first. A quick review of the paperwork suggests that the aims of this status are to encourage continued good land management and provide advice. OTC will invite a representative to the next Recreations and Services Committee in order to learn more.

    Skateboard Park and zip wire

    As reported before, the zip wire will need to be relocated if the proposed Skateboard Park goes ahead. Although measurements first need to be taken and approval sought from MKC, it’s likely the wire’s new site would be between the children’s play area and Doff’s Field.

    Recreation Ground toilets

    The sewerage system which serves the Tennis, Bowls and Football Clubs, public toilets and Council workshop runs under the roadway from the Bowls Club to the Football Club dugout, then through the adjacent private land to connect to the main Anglian Water system. For a good while now it’s been prone to blocking, and the Recreations and Services Committee voted to appoint a drainage consultant to perform a CCTV survey of the system and recommend solutions to this problem.

    Future direction of Local Services

    Ron Bull, along with Councillors from other local Parishes, attended a MKC meeting covering this topic. The basic premise was the increasing social care MKC needs to provide is much reducing its ability to spend on non-statutory local services such as grass cutting. For example, it was stated as near certain that MKC would not pay for this in three years’ time. It was also stated that a similar principle would apply to other services including play areas, dog bins, etc. The suggested solution was for OTC to increase its precept and take on the work itself. Based on the example of how Swindon is handling a similar scenario, it might lead to a Council Tax increase of £75 per year for a Band D property.
    Peter Geary, who is a Ward Councillor, explained that the underlying funding problem was real, but felt that the presenter of the meeting had overplayed the issue slightly. For example, MKC had just extended its grass cutting contract until 2023, so was unlikely to stop cutting grass any time soon. He felt OTC should push for a Service Level Agreement with MKC so both sides knew where they stood.

    Street lights

    The street lights along the High Street are standard columns, each fitted with an embellishment kit and a different top. Periodically, MKC perform ‘topple tests’ on them to ensure safety. The current embellishment kits were gifted to the town and, if any lamppost needs replacing, MKC would pay for the column but it’s likely that OTC would have to pay for the new embellishment kits and, if they can’t be reused, tops.

    Next Meeting - 3rd October

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd 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.

    Stacks Image 652

    A lorry

  • October 2016

    Olney Council report for October 2016

    Oakdown Crescent

    A small group from Olney Town Council (OTC) met with their colleagues from Milton Keynes to discuss the ongoing problem with parking in Oakdown Crescent. A two tier approach is to be taken: First, there will be a residents’ consultation to gauge views on a permit parking scheme for the Crescent. Second, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) will try to allocate enough money to create an organised parking layout, likely with cars in the middle of the Crescent.
    Peter Geary questioned whether, while the improvement in parking layout would help, the permit parking scheme would make much difference. This was because, once you’d allocated one permit per Oakdown Crescent and landlocked Weston Road households, plus one each for visitors, you’d overwhelm the parking capacity in the Crescent. Steve Clark suggested allocating Oakdown Crescent households two permits (fixed plus visitor) and landlocked Weston Road residents one fixed permit.
    Councillors decided to endorse the consultation. Is this, finally, a move towards at least a partial solution?

    Street lights

    As reported before, the condition of the street lights on the High Street is deteriorating. A structural survey has been conducted and, due to a combination of age, rot caused by dogs peeing near the base of the posts and the increased wind resistance caused by excessive ‘extras’ attached to the posts, all approx. 78 of them will be replaced between January and March next year. The replacements will be LED lit, appropriate for the area, for example black, and similar but not identical to the current posts. They’ll allow the Christmas lights and hanging baskets to be mounted, but the other signage that is kept will be moved to new posts sited nearby.

    Steps near Co-op and Oxfam

    Following on from Richard Hillier’s question last month, OTC is working towards fixing the steps leading down from the Co-op car park to Oxfam. In spite of looking back over old maps, OTC is little nearer discovering who owns them. In a pragmatic move, the Council will seek advice and approximate cost for a bricklayer to fix the problem. However, there was a concern that, should it have the work carried out, it may lead to the Council then assuming responsibility for the steps. It was also noted that it would be hard to get anyone to admit to owning them, due to the ongoing maintenance work that would entail. The Council will write to the Co-op, the company felt most likely to be the owner, asking for a donation towards the work.

    A509 congestion caused by lorry deliveries

    This topic was raised at last month’s meeting, and Liam Costello had arranged a meeting with One Stop in order to see if, for example, they could arrange deliveries by smaller vehicles. Councillors discussed the issue for a while, Martine Stoffels being keen to have representatives from MKC come to see the problem first hand and for Olney Councillors to try thrashing out a solution with them while there. The Council will ask MKC if their representatives can attend.


    Barnfield has been surveyed and is believed worthy of Local Wildlife Site status. Councillors have decided to give permission for the field to be presented to the selection panel and thus have the chance of gaining this status.

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    The Barnfield

    Johnson’s Field zip wire

    The zip wire on Johnson’s Field, currently partially dismantled, is in need of significant work to restore it to working order. It’s unclear whether MKC will decide to perform this work or to remove the zip wire completely, regarding it as having reached end of life.

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    Johnson's Field Zip Wire

    Neighbourhood Planning

    Joe Stacey reported that Historical England, a consultee on the process of deciding residential and commercial development sites, has requested that an Environmental Assessment be performed. MKC is thus considering reversing its previous tack that one would not be required. Councillors were against this request, Helena Newbold noting that only three or four Neighbourhood Plans in the area had conducted this Assessment, with Newport Pagnell having won an award for their Plan without doing so. The Council will write to MKC asking them to override this Historical England request.
    As background, a Strategic Environmental Assessment is required where a development plan, such as a Neighbourhood Plan, is being prepared which is likely to have significant environmental effects. Environmental effects include those on heritage, habitat and the environment. Its purposes are to identify these possible effects and use them to inform the choices made in plan preparation. To perform an Assessment, a detailed statutory process would have to be followed.

    Changes to MKC planning delegation

    MKC is attempting to reduce the number of Planning Applications placed before its Development Control Committee (DCC) and Development Control Panel (DCP) by deciding more strictly which should instead have been determined by its officers under delegated powers. Their analysis shows that the highest single trigger for applications to be considered by committee was from Town and Parish Councils yet, in most such cases, those Councils did not send a representative to the subsequent meeting to argue their case. The next most significant trigger was the number of representations from members of the Public and, with this being based purely on a threshold and with no triaging of the acceptability or policy compliance of the applications, often resulted in perfectly acceptable applications being agreed anyway after needless additional consideration by committee.

    The proposed changes are that speakers’ rights at both the DCC and the DCP be amended to:
    • Allow the Ward Councillor to speak without having to declare ‘Objection’ or ‘Support’;
    • Remove the ‘Right to Reply’ requirement and simply allow the Applicant or Agent to speak in support of their application, irrespective of the recommendation or objections received, for three minutes.
    • Reduce the numbers of speakers objecting to a scheme to one, three-minute slot per application;
    • Allow members of the public to speak in support of an application on the same basis as those objecting to an application with one, three-minute slot per application.

    These proposals are open to informal consultation and, as such, OTC is invited to respond with its view. After some discussion, Peter Geary suggested the Council write to MKC to suggest a longer speaking time for more members of the Public to object, and similar for the Town and Parish Councils though, having objected, they must then speak at the resulting meeting. Peter will work with Liam to compose a suitably worded letter.

    Thank you to Liam Costello for providing the above list of changes. This is quite a detailed issue and, for further information, of which there is much, surf to http://bit.ly/2e4YsFe where you can view all the information from the meeting in which it was discussed. OTC will not be
    the only Councillor or Council to object, as viewing the Collated Late Papers link on that page shows clearly.

    Hanging Baskets

    After a good display this year, the Hanging Baskets are now past their best and should have been taken down by the time you read this article.

    Next Meeting - 7th November

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th 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 2016

    Olney Council report for November 2016

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    First to speak in this section was Sue Warren on behalf of the Oakdown Crescent residents. She thanked the council for their efforts in the recent meeting with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) but expressed concern that the funding for the proposed residents’ parking scheme and changes to the parking layout was not currently available, since she was under the impression that it had been ring-fenced. This matter was an agenda item later on in the meeting.

    Gill Behari
    Next to speak was Gill Behari, owner of Leo Antiques in the Market Place who presented a petition requesting that the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) be relocated from the Market Place to the recreation ground, signed by 75% of businesses in the centre of the town. Gill said that the event had grown from the original one day event featuring Olney food providers and there were now food stalls occupying the roads and pavements around the Market Place. The roads and car park were now closed for almost three days, disrupting normal business practices resulting in loss of earnings for many retailers. Residents and visitors, particularly the disabled, have great difficulty in parking she said. Many of the shops have to close their doors due to food smells and deafening music and shop keepers had complained of finding people sleeping in their doorways, as well as vomit and general drinking detritus. The council had been due to discuss the request for next year’s event to be held, but decided to defer the decision pending further discussions.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Town Clerk Liam Costello reported that there was actually nothing to report at present, as MKC is yet to complete the consultation with the residents regarding the parking scheme.

    Community Skate Park

    This section was introduced by Councillor Colin Rodden who requested a commitment for financial support from OTC towards the total cost, expected to be in the region of £75k, so that the fundraising committee could approach local businesses for funding. Tony Summerscales was present with three young members of the committee. Tony explained that £145 had been raised from a stall at Riverfest but a firm commitment was required from Olney Town Council (OTC) in order to start the planning process, engage suppliers, and seek additional funding. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings reminded members that they had previously discussed using money obtained by Section 106 ‘planning gain’ for the project which was not currently available but could be ‘forward funded’. Liam Costello said that the proposed housing development in East Street would generate £33k and the Lavendon Road development £111k. However, the next Finance Committee meeting was not due till January. Tony was keen to move things forward, explaining that they wanted to start building in March 2017 so that the project was completed before the summer and not to disrupt the normal use of the play area and even a month’s delay would jeopardise that. Ron Bull suggested that if OTC was genuinely committed to supporting the skate park then it should provide the funding regardless, but Ward Councillor Peter Geary was adamant that the money must come from Section 106, otherwise it would have to come from the precept (the amount of Council Tax that MKC gives back to OTC to run services). He was 98% certain that the money would be made available, he said. Joe Stacey proposed that the anticipated £33k from the East Street development be earmarked to support the scheme and a vote taken which was passed unanimously. After the vote Tony Evans reminded members that the Recs and Services Committee had agreed to the location of the skate park, subject to relocation of the existing zip wire. It was possible that moving the zip wire might cause or identify damage which would need additional funding, he said. Also the play equipment on Johnsons field was due to be revamped and that would take a significant chunk of future Section 106 funds.

    High Street streetlights

    As reported previously, the existing lamp standards have reached the end of their life and are due to be replaced by MKC. There was concern that the replacements would be basic and functional, rather than aesthetically pleasing, but two designs have been submitted which are similar to the existing ones. OTC decided to opt for the designs produced by Holophane. It is expected that the full cost will be met by MKC with no contribution necessary from OTC

    Olney Wine Bar – license application

    Olney Wine Bar and Brasserie Ltd are owners of the Wine Bar and the next door premises, Cross Keys House, and have recently obtained planning permission to knock through the existing internal walls on the ground and first floors in order to link the two. The existing Wine Bar license covers opening hours, sale of alcohol, and music and dance all with slightly different timings. A new application has been made for the combined buildings which attempts to standardise the hours for the permitted activities although the finishing hours for the music is later than currently permitted. The nearby residents have expressed concern about the extended hours and OTC has formally raised an objection. A member of the council will attend the meeting of the MKC Licensing Committee on November 22nd to present their case.

    Changes to MKC planning delegation

    As reported extensively last month MKC is attempting to reduce the number of Planning Applications placed before its Development Control Committee (DCC) and Development Control Panel (DCP) by deciding more strictly which should instead have been determined by its officers under delegated powers. A survey has been sent to all parish and town councils for them to express their opinion of the proposed changes and identify what aspects of the planning process they consider most important. There was some concern at the ‘tick in box’ nature of the survey, since the importance of the various aspects and elements would vary from case to case and simple ranking was not appropriate.

    Devolved Landscape Maintenance

    Three years ago OTC agreed to take on responsibility for landscape maintenance from MKC, which covers litter picking, grass cutting and play area maintenance. In order to fund this additional work OTC received a grant from MKC. Due to the financial crisis MKC has had to cut £111m from its current budget, needs to find £20m next year and a further £60m by 2020. In view of this it proposes to cut the previously agreed grant for Devolved Landscape Service for the next financial year by a third. Peter Geary questioned what incentive is there for local councils to accept devolved services if this is the way they are treated. Liam Costello said that some council were proposing to raise the precept to cover the funding gap but Peter said The Council Taxpayer was already paying for the service and should not have to pay again through the precept. What would MKC do if a parish refused to fund the work, he wondered. Would it just not get done?

    BT removal of public payphones

    BT has informed MKC of its intention to remove 65 public payphones including all three in Olney, none of which are contained in the traditional red ‘heritage’ kiosks. The letter states that payphone use has declined by over 90% in the last decade and with 98% of the UK having either 3G or 4G coverage the use will continue to diminish. The phones in Olney which will be removed are:
    • Market Place – 101 calls in the year to 19/09/2016
    • Outside Amaya Dartmouth Road – 58 calls in the year to 19/09/2016
    • Junction of Dagnall/Weston Road – 0 calls in the year to 19/09/2016
    The council decided to raise no objections to the proposal, but Peter Geary said there should be a proviso that all the kiosks must be removed and the area made good, rather than just leaving them without being maintained.


    As reported last month Barnfield is being considered for Local Wildlife Site status. Tony Evans reported that in order to promote the growth of wild flowers the long grass had been cut and removed and thanked groundsman John Nichols for his hard work.

    Olney IndieGo Collective Festival

    Local musician Ian Roberts has contacted the council seeking support for the IndieGo Collective, which is a charity set up to help fund children’s music and drama lessons in Olney and the surrounding area. The plan is to have a weekend of fundraising, starting on Friday 21st July with art exhibitions, poetry reading and artistic workshops in the town, with comedy and acoustic music in many of the bars and restaurants. On Saturday 22nd July there would be a concert on a field of the recreation ground with a main outside stage and an acoustic stage inside a marquee featuring some ‘household names’. The event would relocate to the Market Place on Sunday 23rd for similar
    There was some concern that the event might be over ambitious and the recreation ground would not be suitable for such an event, particular as there is an existing parking problem in the area and it would probably bring in people from outside town. Steve Clark wondered if it might be more suited to Emberton Park where parking and camping is available.

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    The IndieGo Collective

    Steps near Co-op and Oxfam

    MKC have investigated the somewhat vague ownership of the steps, which are in a bad condition, and concluded that they belong to the Co-op. They have written to the Co-op informing them of this decision and instructing them to carry out the necessary repairs.

    Public Art in Olney

    Members of OTC have had a meeting with the Public Art Officer for MKC, who was described as ‘very enthusiastic’. Steve Clark pointed out that every Section 106 ‘planning gain’ grant contains an element of funding intended for public art, none of which had ever been spent in Olney. Tony Evans noted that the state of wicker pancake figures continues to decline and reminded members that they had discussed having them remade in metal.

    Odds and Sods

    OTC has agreed to fund the provision of one member of staff for the library for a further year at eight hours per week.
    The five gang grass mower has reached its end of life and will be used for spares for the three gang mower. A new Trimax mower will be purchased for £15.5k which will be cheaper to service.
    A chain of beacons is to be lit across the country on 11th November 2018 to mark the end of the First World War. OTC plan to light the beacon on Barnfield as part of this act of remembrance.
    Des Eley passed on his thanks to TOG who organised the recent fireworks display, saying that he thought it was the best yet. Sally Pezaro, who is also a member of TOG reported that once again the recreation ground toilets backed up and became blocked and the gentlemen’s toilet light was not working. Tony Evans admitted that the toilets are ‘an embarrassment’.
    Steve Clark noted that the recently published Olney guide contained many errors and requested that assistance be given with the proof reading when the next edition is submitted for approval. The guide is published by a private company called Local Authority publishing and not OTC.

    Next Meeting - 5th December

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 5th 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 2016

    Olney Council report for December 2016

    Public Participation

    There was a full house of nearly 30 members of the public present for this month’s meeting. Most of these were there to support the application to hold the Big Olney Food Festival next year and as this was an item on the formal agenda will be covered there.

    Kevin Viney

    First to speak was Kevin Viney on the subject of the proposal to replace the existing street lights in the High Street which have come to the end of their life. He was concerned that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) prefers to use LED bulbs in replacement schemes but the proposed supplier, Holophane, do not provide this option on the ‘Woburn’ lamp post style. If the next most energy efficient option of fluorescent lamps was used this would produce a ‘morgue’ like white light as opposed to the warm yellow sodium lights which are used at present, he said. There is growing evidence that white light can disturb circadian brain rhythms and inhibit normal sleep patterns and many of the street lights are close to first floor windows in a residential area. He requested that Olney Town Council (OTC) write to MKC and asks for the traditional Metal Halide or Sodium lamps to be used instead. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings agreed to make representations to MKC.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Representing the residents, Christine Platt reported that someone had been ‘seen with a tape measure’ in the crescent recently, indicating that there may be some progress on the residents’ parking scheme. Town Clerk Liam Costello said that consultation with residents on the parking scheme was due to start that week. The recent budget announcement from MKC meant there would be a charge of £50 per annum for each vehicle registered with residents’ parking schemes across the borough, he said.

    Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF)

    At last month’s meeting Gill Behari, owner of Leo Antiques in the Market Place, presented a petition requesting that the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) be relocated from the Market Place to the recreation ground.
    Prior to this month’s meeting Sam McCallum, chair of voluntary group Olney Events who run BOFF, submitted a letter of response to the council. In the letter Sam explained the context of BOFF saying that originally it had been a one day event run by the chamber of Trade to showcases local food and drink retailers and entertainers. The aim was to cover the cost of the event and support the Chamber of Trade, which for many years it did.
    In 2014 the running of the event transferred to the newly created organisation, Olney Events, who since then had donated over £16,000 to local good causes and purchased the 150 artificial Christmas trees which decorate the High Street. It has now grown to a two day event of family fun to incorporate music, dance, entertainment and the Farmers’ Market and has become a fixed item in the town’s social calendar. The focus is still on local producers but in order to provide as wide a variety as possible selected retailers from outside of the town are allowed to trade. An estimated 3000-5000 people attend the event, a substantial number of whom are from out of town, to see what we have to offer and will visit on repeat occasions.
    Speaking in support of her letter Sam said that a number of the petition signatories had since retracted as it had not been clear at the time what they were signing. It appears that the covering letter that Gill Behari read out at last month’s meeting had been added after they had signed. It just would not be practical to run the event on the recreation ground, she said.
    John Leeks said he had spoken to the traders who had signed the petition to understand their concerns and see if they could be addressed. Matt Philcox, owner of Wildleaf Cookshop, Deli and Café said he had noticed a slight drop in sales over the BOFF weekend but attended the event handing out leaflets offering a discount which had resulted in lots of new business. Councillor Deirdre Bethune, who had already declared an interest as a member of Olney Events, spoke about the allegations of disorderly behaviour and food and vomit in shop doorways overnight. There was no evidence that this had actually happened, she said, and the organisers always had a thorough clean-up of the entire area at the end of the day. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings observed that BOFF is only one of four events per year which necessitated closure of the Market Place and is the only multi-day event. Steve Clark said that use of the Market Place had been discussed by the council many times and it was important to remember that it is a public space first and a car park second. The organisers and objectors should sit around a table and proactively resolve the issues, he said.
    Tony Evans, who had also declared an interest, agreed that BOFF would not work anywhere else but was concerned that it should not become a victim of its own success. It started as a food festival and is in danger of becoming a rock concert, he said. A proposal to hold the event on the 8th to 10th September 2017 was voted on and passed unanimously.

    Olney Youth Centre

    OTC have applied to take control of the building and associated land from MKC under the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) scheme. As part of the transfer process OTC commissioned a full survey of the building that identified faults which will cost £150k to correct. Although the faults are mainly due to MKC neglect it appears that OTC will need to provide funding for this and prove to MKC that it has the funds available. The process has now stalled because the emerging Neighbourhood Plan has earmarked the associated land for development of a new GP surgery. The general principles of CAT state that any transferred asset must only be used for the pre-transfer purpose and MKC is concerned that OTC could gain financially from the sale of the land for the development. For that reason they have proposed that the building only would be transferred. Peter Geary said it appeared that MKC had “seen the pound signs” but saw no reason for the building and land to be split, since the CAT rules allowed MKC to claw back any profit that OTC might make from sale of the land. Tony Evans was of the view that the two must not be split. If MKC want OTC to pay for their years of neglect of the building then the land must be included as well.
    Later in the meeting Desmond Eley said that a number of people had complained to him that they could never get hold of anyone to book the building, as the phone wasn’t answered or messages returned. Jeremy Rawlings said that there was an ongoing ‘admin problem’ and in the interim members of the public should contact him to make bookings.

    Recreation Ground Sewer

    There has long been a problem of the sewer backing up when events are held in any of the sports clubs or extensive use is made of the public toilets. This is due to a collapsed sewer where it diverts under the fence alongside the football pitch and under a private property before joining the main sewer in East Street. OTC commissioned David Smith Associates to conduct a survey which identified the location of the problem and proposed rerouting of the sewer to bypass it. It is likely to cost several thousand pounds to complete, but OTC is hopeful it would be paid for by Anglian Water. The regulations state that if the service is routed from one private property via another before joining with the mains then it is the responsibility of the utility company from that point and this sewer serves the tennis, bowling and football clubs.

    Olney Wine Bar and Brasserie – license application

    The November meeting of the MKC Licensing Committee considered an application by John Shayler on behalf of the Olney Wine Bar and Brasserie for a license amendment to align the hours permitted for sale of alcohol, performance of music and performance of dance. The requested hours were 10:00- 00:30 Sunday to Thursday and 10:00-01:30 Friday and Saturday. OTC had objected to the extended hours and had proposed 10:00-11:00 Sunday to Thursday and 10:00-00:00 Friday and Saturday. The objection was upheld and it appears that the request for extended hours during the week has been withdrawn. For information, Mr Shayler is involved in the running of lap dancing clubs in Ampthill and Dunstable and the application included a request for ‘Dance performers for the entertainment of customers’ but listed Adult Entertainment as ‘None’.

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    The Olney Wine Bar

    Devolved Landscape Maintenance

    As reported last month MKC has had to cut £111m from its current budget and needs to find £20m next year plus a further £60m by 2020. In order to do this it is proposing to devolve some local services to the parish councils. A letter has been received from Carole Mills, Chief Executive of MKC, attempting to provide an update on progress, although it seemed to cause more confusion than it did provide information. The services involved include weed killing and filling of grit bins. Peter Geary pointed out that MKC is currently able to benefit from bulk discounts of materials which would not be available to the individual parishes if they had to purchase individually. Tony Evans reminded councillors that when OTC took over the maintenance of open spaces from MKC it did not include responsibility for large trees. MKC has not carried out any maintenance for many years resulting in a potentially liability for OTC if it was forced to take over the responsibility. Bucks Association of Local Councils (BALC) will be holding a conference in March next year to hopefully gain consensus on a way forward but there was concern that this might be too late.

    Traffic on Aspreys

    In August OTC placed a Speed Indicating Device (SID) on Aspreys and the results are now available:
    10 MPH - 25 vehicles
    20 MPH - 403 vehicles
    30 MPH - 5970 vehicles
    40 MPH - 6852 vehicles
    50 MPH - 565 vehicles
    60+ MPH - 36 vehicles
    Colin Rodden was concerned about the excessive speed outside of the Ousedale campus (although this survey was carried out during the school holidays) and thought perhaps the current advisory 20 MPH limit should be mandatory.

    Odds and Sods

    The steps leading up to the Co-op from the High Street will be repaired but there has been no response yet from the Co-op regarding responsibility of the surrounding land in general.
    Peter Geary summarised the MKC budget proposals explaining that the bus operators grant had been reduced. Street cleaning frequency will be reduced, the rapid reaction street cleaning will be reduced from two teams to one, and the Noise Complaints team will only operate from 09:00-17:00 Monday to Friday.
    Rosemary Osbourne reported that dumping of waste on ‘Pebody Island’ had continued. Jeremy Rawlings said it had been reported to the Environment Agency but the matter would be reported again.
    OTC has completed the purchase of a small piece of land at The Goosey which was required to complete the Olney Circular Walk.

    Next Meeting - 9th January

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 9th 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.

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