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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 2015

  • January 2015

    Olney Council report for January 2015

    Public Participation

    Mike Hughes
    Mike Hughes spoke first in this slot. Mike represents Olney on the Petsoe End Wind Farm community fund, which provides grants for locally based energy efficiency projects in public buildings or spaces. Examples of grants awarded so far include energy efficient lighting in the Olney Centre and solar panels at Clifton Reynes Church. He said that the fund is looking for new projects to provide grants for, and invited Councillors to consider if there were any projects which would meet its criteria.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke briefly on the subject of Oakdown Crescent, focusing mainly on the poor state of its pathways. This topic is covered in more detail below.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Following on from Sue’s point above, Councillors discussed the state of Oakdown Crescent’s pathways. Some Councillors, particularly Joe Stacey and Deidre Bethune were frustrated with the poor state of the pathways and, likely, the lack of progress on the parking problems. Peter Geary explained that the criteria used by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) to decide when pavement needs replacement are independent of its location and use. For example, the criteria for pavement outside an old people’s home would be just the same as that in a general residential area. He advised Olney Town Council (OTC) to attempt to persuade MKC’s Highways Department that the generic criteria cannot be suitable for every scenario and that, in this case, an exception needs to be made and some of the pavement replaced. Liam Costello will request that Highways Department representatives accompany Councillors on a site visit.
    As a side note, Steve Clark noted that he’d seen the parking issue mentioned in minutes from a Tenants’ Association meeting... over 20 years ago.

    Consultation on parking charges in Olney

    MKC is conducting a parking consultation for the Borough, and one of its proposals is relevant to Olney: “(To) introduce charges to outer area long stay off street car parks in the older towns, at 40p per hour, capped at £2.40 per day, with the first two hours being free parking for Shop and Go.” It’s believed that such charges would be collected via Pay and Display. If implemented, they could apply to the three Olney car parks run by MKC: Silver End / Cattle Market (33 spaces), Silver End / East Street junction (six spaces) and Fountain Court (38 spaces). Specifically, they would not affect the car parks on the Market Place, at the Rugby Club and beside the Coop. MKC is consulting so it can learn and take into account local views before making any decision.
    Peter Geary explained that the idea was not a new one, and was aimed at plugging a gap in MKC’s budget – more of which later. He suggested a possible tie in with the Oakdown Crescent parking problem, for example that OTC could respond saying that, if the Pay and Display measures went ahead, the additional parking near Oakdown Crescent must be provided immediately. There were various discussions on the possible effects on local businesses. As background, Councillors also discussed an issue in Central Milton Keynes, where the increased price of the red premium bays has pushed people into the purple bays, price increases in turn pushing some shop workers into the local estates, in turn requiring the introduction of residents’ parking schemes: Overall, had any money been made by these increases? Steve Clark noted that Pay and Display car parks need policing and enforcement, which cost money. Finally, Peter noted that, if this scheme did not go ahead around the Borough, MKC would need to find a £207,000 saving elsewhere in its budget.
    The general, though not unanimous, view appeared to be against the introduction of Pay and Display. Thus, Liam Costello will draft a response in that vein and also talk with Stony Stratford Council, which is strongly against MKC implementing Pay and Display in its town.

    MKC budget consultation

    OTC had been asked to comment on MKC’s consultation for its 2015/16 budget. This was discussed for some time, and just the main points are covered here.
    According to the consultation document, MKC has cut its spending by £68m since 2011 and needs to cut it by a further £70m by 2020, an equivalent of £1,300 per household. Central Government is cutting the funding it gives MKC by over 40% and this year MKC needs to cut its spending by over £22m. While some Councillors picked on certain of the many spending reductions, the overall feeling was that it was not possible for OTC to analyse every line of the very long document. In particular, it was felt difficult to disagree with cut X without proposing a similar cut Y to take its place. Some Councillors felt it may be sensible not to submit a response if it wasn’t possible to perform sufficient analysis of the figures. Peter Geary felt OTC should respond but that the vast majority of the cuts would go through: MKC is running at a deficit now and has no spare money to avoid them. Peter also felt that the internal side of MKC had not been looked at, with middle management, for example, having actually increased.
    As an idea of the magnitude of the cuts, regular readers and bus users will be aware of cuts made already to local bus services. Peter noted that MKC had so far cut £207,000 of its bus subsidy. It has another £900,000 of bus subsidy cuts still to make.
    Peter, who as a Ward Councillor is more acquainted with the budget detail, will provide further information to Liam, who will then draft a response and work with Councillors to review and submit it.

    Underwriting BOFF

    In recent years, OTC has agreed to underwrite the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF), but those decisions have been far from unanimous. Until a few years ago, it has also underwritten TOG’s Fireworks Night. In this item, Councillors discussed how OTC would approach underwriting future BOFF events. Peter Geary wanted to generalise the discussion, setting guidelines for what events the Council would underwrite.
    John Boardman and Tony Evans felt OTC should not underwrite BOFF because it’s a commercial operation over which OTC has no control. Tony also mentioned that, after claiming once on the Fireworks Night underwriting due to extremely poor weather, TOG had given money back to OTC and had played it very fair. Colin Rodden felt that BOFF was a very positive event for the town and that its organisers should have the opportunity to give a presentation to Councillors. Deidre Bethune, a member of the Chamber of Trade, explained that this year’s BOFF had been run differently and, while some in the Chamber were unhappy with this, it had made a good deal of money. She felt that BOFF was gradually separating from the Chamber, hoped BOFF could hold back enough money to underwrite itself in future, and noted that the Chamber had little money of its own. Peter Geary felt that once an event ‘has legs’ it shouldn’t need OTC underwriting on an ongoing basis.
    Councillors voted on a proposal by John Boardman and Tony Evans to consider not underwriting BOFF: Eight voted in favour and one, Peter Geary, against. OTC will write to the BOFF organisers explaining its intention not to underwrite BOFF in the future, and encouraging them to put money aside for a rainy day.

    Sports pitches and parking

    A Planning Application has now been submitted to move the ‘no organised sports’ restriction from Crouch’s Field to the Allotment field immediately to its South, with the aim of bringing organised sports closer to the clubhouses and car parks.
    OTC has appointed David Smith Associates to investigate the feasibility of providing additional parking spaces in the car park adjacent to the Rugby Club, on the Club side of Doff’s Field and in the Nursery Field adjacent to East Street.

    Swimming Steps

    Tony Evans reported that a gap of two to three inches has again opened up at the bottom of the Swimming Steps. On previous occasions this gap has been filled with concrete but, clearly, that does not appear a viable long term solution. He noted that fixing the problem could be expensive.

    Next Meeting - 2nd February

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd 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 2015

    Olney Council report for February 2015

    Public Participation

    Stan Wicks spoke first in this slot about the problems of congestion at the Coneygere and Church Street junction. He said that cars were regularly parked on both sides of the junction meaning that lorries very often had to back up. He asked that the council consider requesting double yellow lines to be provided on the junction. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) will be informed of the situation.
    Next to speak was Donna Derby, Director of Transformation and Delivery for Milton Keynes NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), on the subject of the MK Healthcare review. Although Donna was subject to the strict three minute rule which Olney Town Council (OTC) imposes for public participation she managed to impart a huge amount of information and did not read a pre-written statement, so Mercury hopes that the information has been captured correctly. Donna explained that the review had been set up nine months ago to address the clinical and financial sustainability of Bedford Hospital and Milton Keynes Hospital and generate options for delivering high quality, sustainable health services for the residents of Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes does not have the same growth profile as other towns, she said. The population is growing (+15% by 2021) and ageing (+45% over 65s in MK from 2012 to 2020). The incidence of long-term conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, dementia, coronary heart disease is increasing as the existing population ages, but increasingly elderly people are moving in to the area to be closer to their families. Without change, Milton Keynes Commissioning Care Group and hospital could have a combined deficit of £56m by 2018. The next phase of the review will:

    • Develop plans to offer more care closer to home, i.e. move services away from hospitals into GP surgeries or the home;
    • Carry out further detailed work on the preferred options for the future provision of hospital services;
    • Develop a detailed plan outlining the practical steps that need to be taken to prepare for public consultation. This plan would be delayed till the end of the year, due to the need to avoid any activities which could be deemed as publicly sensitive in the run up to the general election;
    • Keep clinical, public and patient engagement at the heart of the Review.

    The review of hospital services had generated two options, she said.

    • Milton Keynes Hospital to retain its role as a Major Emergency centre and expand to include other services, while Bedford Hospital would lose some of its existing services and become an Integrated Care centre.
    • The reverse of the above.

    Joe Stacey said that the Neighbourhood Plan had already identified the need for expanded medical facilities in Olney and this made it more pressing. Donna agreed, saying that a way forward would probably be the multi-purpose health campus providing long term care for conditions such as dementia and diabetes. Steve Clark asked why chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) continued to be such a drain on services. Was it because of historic smoking, he wondered? Donna agreed, but said it was also down to a high immigrant population in Milton Keynes.
    For further information on the review go to www.shapingmkhealth.co.uk/about/

    Oakdown Crescent

    Town Clerk Liam Costello reported that Olney Town Council’s (OTC) bid for funding from the MKC 2015/16 Capital Programme for improved parking in the area had been approved and a scheme would be produced for consultation. Rosemary Osbourne hoped that it would include repairs to the pathways as well. Deidre Bethune agreed, reminding members that MKC had already stated that the pathways met their generic safety standards, but OTC did not believe that this was sufficient for an area housing elderly residents.

    Windfarm Fund

    Mike Hughes was present to discuss with the council any projects of a sustainable nature that might be appropriate to be paid for out of this fund. Tony Evans reported that the Recreation and Services Committee had suggested that a suitable use might be to replace some of the existing Christmas lights with energy efficient LED lights at a cost of about £5,000. There appeared to be no other suggestions and Mike was of the opinion that it would probably qualify, so OTC will make an application to the fund committee for funding.

    Mayor’s Prize for Ousedale School

    As reported previously, Mayor Steve Clark had attended the awards ceremony at Ousedale School and had been very impressed with the attainment of the students and the range of awards made. He had been in discussion with Mike Barry, the mayor of Newport Pagnell, regarding the award of a Mayor’s Prize for students at the campus within their respective parishes. Colin Rodden supported the idea, saying that anything that forged links with the school must be a good thing. Jeremy Rawlings suggested that the award should take the form of a trophy and a cash prize. Ex-Ousedale teacher Ron Bull expressed the opinion that the awarding of prizes did not actually encourage students to work any harder and Steve Clark agreed, but thought that it might be the ‘icing on the cake’. Steve said he would consult with Mike Barry and the Ousedale Head and report back.

    Olney Library closure

    Do you care if Olney library closes? Well it probably will do, unless you do something about it. A review of Community and Cultural Services is currently being undertaken by MKC in the light of unprecedented pressures on its budget. The review aims to save £2.75m by the end of March 2016 and will cover services such as libraries, services for young people and children’s centres. It will look at how the public and stakeholders can engage with MKC to explore ‘innovative and alternative approaches to service delivery’. This might include transferring assets such as buildings to community groups or parishes and joining with other local groups to pool resources. No services will be closed immediately as £1.5m has been set aside to fund them while the review takes place and MKC Ward Councillor Peter Geary explained that in previous years a clear pledge had been given that no libraries would close. However, that was no longer the case and unless OTC ‘does something’ then there is a real possibility that the Olney library could close. He suggested a consultation with a sub-group to find out if the residents of Olney really want to keep their library. This was only the first of many similar requests that are likely to come from MKC, he said. Ward Councillor David Hosking was also present and he emphasised that the base budget was being replaced by the temporary transition funding, meaning that the library could close in 12-18 months if OTC does not assist.
    The OTC purchase of the Olney Centre from MKC under the community asset transfer scheme is progressing and OTC would like completion by the end of this financial year, but OTC solicitors have some concerns which they have raised with the MKC solicitors.

    Annual budget and precept

    OTC is intending to increase the fees it charges in line with the Retail Price Index for the next financial year. Mercury assumes that this is to avoid accusations of unreasonable hikes when fees have remained the same for several years, as happened this year. This proposal was agreed on a majority vote with no declared abstentions but a few apparent ‘no votes’. The Council Tax Precept (i.e. the amount from the Council Tax allocated to OTC by MKC) will rise from £166,000 to £170,150, an increase of 2.5%. This will equate to an increase in the Band D Council Tax (commonly used as the benchmark) of 1.76%. This was again passed by a majority with one vote against.

    Sports pitches and parking

    As reported last month OTC has appointed David Smith Associates to investigate the feasibility of providing additional parking spaces in the car park adjacent to the Rugby Club, on the Club side of Doff’s Field and in the Nursery Field adjacent to East Street. Initial plans have now been received and it was clear that there is much disagreement between members on the various options. Ron Bull was of the opinion that the entire thing was money badly spent, when for 95% of the week the existing car park is empty. Why spend so much for 5%, he asked. Colin Rodden thought that OTC should be encouraging people to park in the existing car park and walk to the shops. Tony Evans disputed these arguments, saying that the improved parking would benefit everyone and not just the sports clubs. The plans had the potential to provide over 100 additional spaces, he said, and proposed that the next step should be to draw up a proper specification and get competitive quotes for the work. Peter Geary supported the proposed layouts and said that OTC should consult with residents once proper plans are available.

    Ousedale School Admissions Policy

    Although not part of the agenda, this was raised by Deidre Bethune under the item of Member’s Matters. Deidre said she was concerned that the school was intending to introduce a new admissions policy that would give priority to students attaining grade 2 in music for 10% of the places. The Neighbourhood Plan had already identified concern that the school was reaching capacity and local children might not get places and this latest proposal increased that possibility. David Hosking said the criteria seemed to be based on ‘aptitude’ rather than ability but because Ousedale is now an academy it is outside of MKC control. Peter Geary said he was not against the proposals so long as Ousedale intends to expand by 10% to cope with it, as local children will be disadvantaged. Colin Rodden expressed disappointment that the school had not consulted with OTC before publishing the proposals. Steve Clark noted that the consultation period ends on 24th February and proposed that a holding letter be sent requesting that the proposal is not implemented. A member of the governing body and a member of staff will be invited to the March OTC meeting to discuss the proposed changes

    Odds and Sods

    A request from Newport and Olney Lions to hold Motorama on the Market Place on 14th June was approved.
    A request from John Scarrott and Sons to hold the annual fun fair on the recreation ground from 17th to the 20th of June was initially approved, until it was pointed out that the council had already given permission to Olney Town Colts to hold their annual BOTO on the same weekend. Liam Costello said he would discuss with the various parties involved to reach agreement.
    The owner of 15 Kippell Hill has applied to MKC to purchase a plot of land to the front and side of his property. OTC agreed to support the request with the proviso that it is not used for building.
    Three members of staff have now received Speed Indicator Device training. This includes correct ladder climbing techniques so they will be able to install the Speed Indicating Devices discussed last month.

    Next Meeting - 2nd March

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd 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 2015

    Olney Council report for March 2015

    Public Participation

    Richard Freeman
    Richard Freeman spoke on behalf of Sport for Willen Hospice. A group of riders aim to cycle an 800 mile route from Paris to Nice in eight days starting on the 18th September. The target is to raise £100,000 for Willen Hospice, itself facing a £500,000 deficit this year. He asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) would consider a contribution towards the group’s target. The Council discussed this later in the meeting and, in a vote proposed by Deidre Bethune, voted unanimously to donate £1,000. For more information, including how to donate, surf to rideforwillen.co.uk.

    Brian Rice
    Brian Rice spoke next, on the long running topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. He asked when, now that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) has allocated a sum of money to address the problem, consultation with nearby residents was going to take place. This was discussed later in the meeting, with Liam Costello reporting that MKC Officers have recommended that a scheme for improvements in Oakdown Crescent be included in their Capital Schemes for 2015-16. This recommendation is subject to Cabinet Member approval scheduled for 17th March. Peter Geary explained that, once approved, Officers will design one or more schemes, and consult OTC and the Public prior to implementation.

    Ousedale admissions consultation

    As reported in last month’s Phonebox, the original admissions proposal will be amended to give priority to children within the catchment area, with only those from outside and applying for one of the limited number of musical aptitude places needing to sit a separate test. This change was announced in a meeting held at Ousedale’s Newport Pagnell Campus on 24th February. The change and the way the consultation was conducted raised a few issues which Councillors now discussed.
    During the meeting at the School, Sue Carbert, head teacher, appeared to say that Olney’s Ward Councillors had made ‘illegal’ comments in relation to the issue. Having taken legal advice and believing they’d done nothing wrong, the three Ward Councillors followed this up with a letter to Sue asking her to clarify her comments. Since this Council meeting took place, the School has replied saying that the Councillors had not done anything illegal.
    In terms of the proposal itself, Councillors appeared relieved that it’d been amended, although there was frustration at what they saw as the poor quality of the consultation, and concern that the School perhaps did not appreciate the scale of expansion planned within its catchment area over the next 10 years and the effect this would have on pupil numbers.
    Finally, David Hosking explained that the musical test would specifically measure aptitude as opposed to ability, measurement of the latter for admissions purposes being illegal under that Schools’ Admission Code. So, for example, the test may involve questions about and appreciation of music, but will not take into account grade exams.


    As reported in an earlier Mercury, Westlands, on the A509 opposite the Market Place, has been sold. There’s been a good deal of rumour concerning its future use, much centring on it becoming a ‘half-way house’. The building is now owned by the Marks Trust who, as well as assuring OTC that it was not responsible for the rumours, wishes to convert the building into apartments. MKC was apparently not supportive of the idea, citing the lack of nearby residential parking. The Trust had asked OTC for its view and, after a brief discussion, the Council decided to defer expressing an opinion until a Planning Application was received.

    BOTO and fair date clash

    John Scarrot had asked OTC if he could bring the fair to the Recreation Ground for the long weekend of Friday 19th to Sunday 21st June. This period coincides with Booze on the Ouse (BOTO) and concerns were expressed about the clash, mainly that the sound of the fair would affect BOTO’s Friday Comedy Night. Due to these concerns, OTC will respond that the fair can be held on the Recreation Ground but on a different weekend or, subject to later consultation, on the same weekend but on Johnson’s Field or, scaled down, the Pyghtle.

    Community Asset Transfer

    As reported before, the Olney Centre is being transferred to OTC under the Community Asset Transfer scheme. This is taking a while, mainly due to legal wrangling between solicitors, but the aim is to complete the transfer in March. As such, and in order to avoid a further delay until the next full OTC meeting, Councillors agreed that a small group of Councillors would have authority to make the final decision then report back to full Council.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    Joe Stacey reported that the returned questionnaires, containing over 5,200 comments on 27 different subjects, were now being analysed and that, for each subject, a summary will be written.
    He then explained that the number of new houses planned for Olney was based on the town’s share of the total number planned for rural areas by the MK Core Strategy. It now appears that Newport Pagnell may take considerably more than its planned number of new houses and, as such, there may be some flexibility in the number of such houses required in Olney.
    Finally, he noted that the Bedfordshire Railways and Transport Association (BRTA) has, over the years, kept an eye on the original track bed of the long closed Northampton-Olney-Bedford line, objecting to developments which could prevent it from being reopened. Joe explained that, as both the Government and Northampton County Council had contacted BRTA, rejecting its proposals to reinstate the line, there was no point in referring to the matter in the Neighbourhood Plan.

    East Street car park

    As reported before, OTC is investigating the provision of additional car parking spaces, primarily to reduce the parking problems which arise at times during weekend sports events. Detailed drawings have now been received for the proposed changes to East Street car park, adjacent to the Rugby Club.
    In summary, the drawings show that 161 marked spaces could be provided in five rows running East to West, 49 more spaces than currently. The changes required to achieve this include removing the row of trees along the North side of the car park (33 spaces), removing the row of trees along the West side (11 spaces) and removing the central raised area. Joe Stacey questioned whether further spaces could be accommodated if the car park was made one way.
    Residents living immediately to the West of the car park have already expressed concern about the trees on that side being removed. Also, another nearby resident has requested that MKC widely publish its proposals for both the East Street car park and the additional car park on the West side of the Recreation Ground.

    Warrington Road development

    As previously reported, MKC has granted Outline Planning Permission for the small parcel of land, immediately North West of the Warrington Road office development and South East of the sewage works, to be changed from employment use (category B1, office) to residential (C3). OTC was, as usual, asked for its views on the Application, and gave various reasons it thought it should be rejected.
    Anglian Water runs the sewage works and was thus consulted on the Application. It responded thus: “Our initial odour risk assessment indicates that there is potential for loss of amenity at sensitive property within the proposed development due to odour emissions from the operation of the Water Recycling Centre (WRC). This WRC is operated in compliance with the appropriate regulatory standards and in accordance with established best practice; however, the process is inherently prone to short periods of relatively strong odorous emissions, against which there is little practical mitigation.”
    However, the MKC Officers’ report on the application, in its Consultations and Representations section, stated simply that Anglian Water had cited “No objection”. Joe Stacey felt this was a misrepresentation of their response.
    Peter Geary stated that the Planning Permission could not be overturned because it has been more than twelve weeks since the decision was made, that being the limit before which any Judicial Review to challenge it must start. He suggested instead that OTC make a formal complaint to MKC. What would happen then is unclear, though post meeting questions suggested that MKC does have powers to overturn the decision if it felt that there was something significantly wrong in the way it had been taken, but that may expose them to paying compensation to the applicant.


    Martin Ward, Head Groundsman, has retired and OTC is recruiting for his replacement.
    MKC has withdrawn its proposal to impose charges for using its car parks in the outlying areas of Milton Keynes Borough, and is developing a parking strategy. Peter Geary believed that, while this proposal was unlikely to reappear in next year’s budget, there was no guarantee that it would not re-emerge after that.
    The Police Office closed for the last time on Monday 16th March, and there’ll now be a mobile Police Office visiting Olney on Mondays and Fridays, 10.30am - 12.30pm starting on Friday 20th March.
    Steve Clark reported that plans for the Sainsbury’s store are still moving forward.
    Peter Geary gave a brief outline of some of the anticipated MKC budget cuts. A review of Libraries and Children’s Centres will start in April, and although there’s been no pledge on Library opening hours, there is a pledge that no Library will close. The bus service cuts, initially a very significant £900,000, will now be £150,000. Council tax is expected to increase by around £1.95%, and black bin bags will no longer be provided.


    Steve Clark explained that Mick Rogers, from Burton Latimer, has just started the 5,500 mile walk from Kettering to Kilimanjaro. He’s aiming to average around 25 miles per day, then climb up Mount Kilimanjaro itself. He expects this to take around five and a half months and is hoping to gain the record for a person of his age, 50 years, for the climb. He’s doing the walk with the aim of raising £55,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support. Steve had met him in Olney on his first overnight stop.

    Next Meeting - 13th April

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 13th 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 2015

    Olney Council report for April 2015

    Public Participation

    Shaun O'Reilly
    First to speak was Shaun O’Reilly on the subject of proposed expansion of the Olney Town Council (OTC) owned car park, known locally as the Rugby Club car park. A number of improvement schemes have been suggested and Shaun, whose house backs on to the car park, was concerned about one of them which involves removal of some trees. The houses in East Street benefit from the privacy and security that these trees provide, he said. The area is also a meeting point for skateboarders and the trees provide a noise barrier to the ‘shrieking’ which can often go on to the early hours. The trees had a more aesthetic quality than a fence, he suggested. Town Clerk Liam Costello replied that OTC had been back to the consultants responsible asking for an increase in car parking spaces that would not involve removal of the trees. Joe Stacey said that the various options will be considered at a future meeting of the Recreations and Services committee.

    Elaine Herniman
    Second to speak was Elaine Herniman regarding the Community Allotment which has been running since the end of last year. The Community Allotment is run by a volunteer committee with the aim to give people who would not normally work on an allotment, such as children or disabled people, a chance to experience it. The committee have already been successful in obtaining grants for the first phase and now want to move on to the second phase, which involves building a poly-tunnel to provide a multipurpose environment to grow produce all year round, but also to have a warm and protected area for education and environment projects. The tunnel would be slightly larger than the 8’ x 10’ limit which currently applies to erections on the allotment. The matter was later discussed as a formal agenda item and unanimously agreed.

    Alan Richardson

    Before the start of the formal section of the meeting a minutes silence was held for Councillor Alan Richardson who had recently passed away. Apart from being a councillor, Alan was a local historian and popular member of the community. Mayor Steve Clark said that there had been a large attendance at Alan’s funeral and in recognition of his huge commitment to the Olney Centre Steve thought that it would be fitting to provide some sort of memorial there, perhaps a plaque on the wall in the Garden Room. The members agreed unanimously to proceed with a suitable memorial.

    Recreation ground play area

    Liam Costello reported that there had been little progress on the plans for Milton Keynes Council (MKC) to replace the play equipment and that MKC had fallen behind with the work. Deidre Bethune said that OTC must push for a resolution and Colin Rodden agreed, saying that the young people of the town do not ask for much and with summer approaching it was important to have a target date for completion.

    Austen Avenue parking problems

    John Boardman reported on his recent experience of the thoughtless and selfish parking by some users of the sports facilities on the recreation ground and Charity Field. On a recent Sunday the entrance to the pumping station was blocked, despite a sign saying 24 hour access required and cars were parked head to tail on the grass and the pavement and in the turning area at the bottom of the Task. John said he had observed a police officer giving out tickets who told him he had almost run out of tickets and had not yet dealt with the cars parked on double yellow lines. John said he had been approached by mothers with prams and mobility scooter users frustrated and annoyed that nothing is being done to resolve the problem. John said he didn’t think it was enough for OTC to rely on the provision of extra parking spaces to resolve the problem and people are looking for action now, possibly by more police involvement. Jeremy Rawlings thought that the sports clubs need to take more responsibility for informing their users about correct parking and said it had been discussed many times at the Joint User Group. Colin Rodden said it was great that the sports clubs were so successful and popular, but maybe if the police continue ticketing then the word may get around. Deidre Bethune said that an ‘A’ board is often displayed by the allotments and maybe consideration should be given to providing some in Austen Avenue. Ron Bull wondered whether a leaflet campaign on windscreens might help. Chris Shaw felt that the proposed addition 74 spaces would help as users would want to park as close as possible to the sports facilities, but John Boardman was not convinced, saying that people will tend to park where they know spaces exist, having seen the same cars in the same position each week.

    Sainsbury’s planning gain

    Sainsbury’s have now formally applied for planning permission to build a new store at the north end of the town. Planning obligations under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, commonly known as s106 agreements, are a mechanism which makes a development proposal acceptable in planning terms that would not otherwise be acceptable and are often referred to as ‘developer contributions’ or ‘planning gain’. Although MKC specifies a number of services on which the money is to be spent, there is scope to seek an additional contribution for out of town supermarkets to mitigate the impact on existing town centres. Before he and Ben Brock left the meeting, having declared an interest, Peter Geary said that OTC should ensure that as much of the social infrastructure funding as possible should stay within Olney and is not used in the wider MK. The MKC Passenger Transport Manager has requested £20k be spent towards provision of two real-time bus information displays and two bus shelters on Lavendon Road. Deidre Bethune thought the displays to be a waste of time and money as there are no longer enough buses to justify them, although Chris Shaw disagreed. One of the categories specified by MKC is for public art, which Jeremy Rawlings suggested could be used for some decent art on Whirly Pit roundabout. Steve Clark proposed that a bid should be made to retain the voluntary sector and public art contribution to be spent within Olney which was agreed unanimously.

    Cleaning the war memorial

    It is some years since the war memorial was given a ‘wash and brush-up’ and it is now in need of cleaning again. An estimate of £2.7k has been received, which some members questioned and Deidre Bethune wondered if the British Legion might be asked to contribute. Joe Stacey wondered if it could be done with a pressure washer but Deidre said it needs to be carefully and professionally done in order to protect the lettering. Peter Geary said that the British Legion exists to support veterans and their families and this would not be a correct use of their funds. John Boardman agreed, saying that the memorial is an important part of the town and OTC would be expected to pay for the cleaning. £2.7k is a reasonable price, he felt. Steve Clark proposed that OTC pay for the cleaning, which was passed unanimously. A short discussion followed concerning the MKC policy of using weed killer to prevent the grass growing in areas where it would be difficult to cut. Peter Geary thought that it looked unsightly, particularly around the war memorial. He said OTC should consider using the trainee groundsman to strim in such areas to avoid the ‘scorched earth’ appearance.

    Housing development near to sewage works

    Last year MKC approved a planning application for 33 dwellings with access from Yardley Road in Olney on the Land at Warrington Road and Osier Way, despite a number of objections from OTC and comments from Anglian Water, who operate the sewage works adjacent to the land. Anglian Water stated that the treatment process at the sewage works is inherently prone to short periods of “strong odorous emissions” (translation: Stink!) and the noise from the pumping station would affect properties within 15 metres and suggested a condition there be no development within 15 metres of the boundary. OTC’s objection included the fact that the proposed houses would be remote from the rest of the town and its services and that enquiries by the developer as to the need for further employment development had taken place during a recession and subsequent building of houses on the land would preclude any future business development when the recovery came. The land previously had planning permission for business use but the applicant successfully argued that there was no demand for additional employment use and permission was thus granted for residential use. The planning officer had ignored OTC’s objections and summarised Anglian Water’s comments as ‘No Objection’. The developer has now submitted an application for a further 33 residential properties on the site, which has been refused by MKC, primarily because it is outside of the planning boundary, but the report also apparently used some of OTC’s objection to the initial development as justification. Ward Councillor Peter Geary suggested that OTC make a formal complaint to MKC as to the manner in which the initial application was dealt with, since the refusal will probably be subject to an appeal which could go to a public enquiry. If the appeal was successful it could open the flood gates to a number of similar applications, he thought. He noted that the planning officer and management team who passed the original plans were no longer employed by MKC so it was unlikely that there would be any comeback. Chris Shaw felt that it was important to get an admission from MKC that an error had been made in granting the original application, as that might influence any appeal on the second phase. Steve Clark proposed that OTC lodge a formal complaint, which was passed unanimously.

    VE Day 70th anniversary

    The council have received a government request to participate in celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of VE day. The beacon at the top of Barnfield will be lit at 21:30 on Friday 8th May and the public are invited to attend.

    Town Meeting

    The Annual Town Meeting will take place on Thursday 14th May at 7:00 in the Olney Centre and all registered electors of the Parish are invited to attend. It is your chance to meet your councillors and quiz them on any local matters of concern you may have.

    Odds and Sods

    The transfer of the Olney Centre to OTC under the Community Asset Transfer scheme is being delayed due to ongoing discussions between the solicitors representing OTC and MKC. Peter Geary thought it a travesty that the late Councillor Alan Richardson, who did so much for the centre, did not live to see it completed.
    Colin Rodden said he had been in discussion with MKC about the siting of the green cabinets used to provide high speed broadband outside the building previously used as the police office. He felt that the larger of the two presented an obstruction to people using the crossing point and should have been placed against the wall, not in the middle of the pavement. It appears that the MKC officer responsible had been out of the office when Colin first contacted him and as a result the contractors had placed it in its present position. As Openreach had now connected all of the infrastructure it would now be very difficult to move and would likely be in position for the next 10 years or more. Of course, if a large vehicle were to accidentally hit it, mused Mercury…..
    A presentation on the trial of the Market Place CCTV trial was due to be given at the June meeting, but Peter Geary requested that it should happen at the May meeting instead, due to the impending retirement of Community Policeman Andy Perry. If any members are wavering in their support of the scheme they should visit the MK police control room to see it in action, he suggested.
    Martin Ward will be retiring as Head Groundsman in May and the council have appointed Bob Marshall as his replacement. He will work with Martin during May to ensure a smooth handover.
    John Scarrot has been invited to visit Johnson’s Field with a view to deciding whether it is a suitable alternative venue for the annual fair, but has not yet done so.
    Planning permission has been granted for Crouch’s Field to be used for sporting activities.
    Saturday June 6th marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Emberton Park and there will be a public open day running from 10:00 to 16:00, Steve Clark reported.

    Next Meeting - 11th May

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

  • May 2015

    Olney Council report for May 2015

    Public Participation

    Ian Stokes
    Ian Stokes spoke on behalf of Olney Town Colts Football Club, which has around 320 children in teams from under six to under 18 years. As reported before, the Colts had originally planned to build their changing facility on to the South end of the toilet block and tractor shed compound and had obtained Planning Permission from Olney Town Council (OTC) to do so. Then, the Colts had proposed an alternative: Olney Football Club (OFC) has senior teams, and the Colts could build on to OFC’s existing Club building. But, after around six months of planning and associated expense, on 5th May OFC advised the Colts that it could no longer afford to continue with its part of the project. The associated delay means that the Colts are facing the potential loss of the associated grants and sponsorship, and are thus keen to move quickly while the funding remains available.
    Ian outlined three options: revert back to the original compound site, seek an alternative location, or postpone the project. Since further delay would risk the existing funding, and it had taken significant effort to get that funding, he felt neither of the latter options was viable. So, he now sought OTC’s confirmation that it was still acceptable for the Colts to build on to the compound, under the Planning Permission they had obtained originally.
    Ian was aware that, due to how recently the situation had changed, there was insufficient time for this item to appear on this month’s agenda and, thus, Councillors did not discuss it in full. However, in terms of the key point – whether the Colts still had the go-ahead to build on to the compound – Steve Clark appeared to say that they did not. Following up after the meeting, the Council said that, although the original Planning Permission for the Colts to build on to the compound remains valid, Olney Town Council withdrew its permission for them to do so when the Planning Permission for building on to the existing Football Club was given. Further, it felt that some calm reflection on the changed circumstances and different views, including its own changed needs, was required rather than to rush into a decision which might not be the best way forward for all concerned.
    Despite being asked if he’d like to speak, Tony Evans, Chair of the Recreations and Services Committee, was silent on this issue. Presumably, we’ll hear more next month.


    OTC has a vacancy for which four candidates had applied. Of these, one had withdrawn and the remaining three each gave a brief talk to explain why they should be co-opted onto the Council.
    The first, Malcolm Messenger, had been a Policeman in Olney and then Alderney and, having served on OTC before, was keen to do so again. Sally Pezaro, with background as a midwife, was young and felt she could help OTC serve that demographic better. Catherine Rose, a local musician, business owner and Green Party member, focussed on education and the arts, and had fundraised for Cobbs Garden Surgery.
    Councillors voted and, of the 12 present, eight voted for Sally Pezaro who, being the clear winner, signed up and took her seat alongside the other Councillors.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Although, unusually, none of the interested parties was in the Public area to hear it, Liam Costello updated Councillors on progress towards alleviating the parking issues in Oakdown Crescent. Liam had spoken with Rob Ward, Milton Keynes Council (MKC), and confirmed that approval to spend the money had been given. A scheme is now being designed, which will then need to be consulted on before any work was done.
    Along with Deidre Bethune, Joe Stacey was frustrated with the slow progress, and pushed Councillors to ask for firm dates. Peter Geary explained that Rachel Kingsley, Head of Highways Services at MKC, was now on long term sick leave and that her role had been taken over by David Hall, who was now trying to get a grip of various capital projects which appeared to be ‘going nowhere’. He suggested OTC contact him to arrange a meeting and get firm dates for the preliminary design to be completed and the consultation to start, and an anticipated date for the construction to start.


    As reported before, the informal right of way, from Austen Avenue alongside Doff’s Field to the river bank then South to the Clifton Reynes bridge, will likely become a Public footpath. The Order to make this change has been submitted to the Secretary of State for consideration. Anyone who wishes to make any comment or objection, even one they’ve made before, needs to submit it by 21st July, in writing to Jean McEntee, The Planning Inspectorate, Rights of Way Section, Room 3/25 Hawk Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN.
    Ron Bull asked if the Fishing Club, which currently maintains some footbridges on which the path relies, would receive any financial recompense for this work. Peter Geary replied that, when the footpath was agreed, the Club should contact MKC to see what it proposed. Apparently a typical arrangement is that the Council provides the materials while the landowner, or in this case the Fishing Club, provides the labour.


    Steve Clark was re-elected Mayor and Jeremy Rawlings his deputy, both unopposed. Elections complete, the main part of the meeting could get underway.

    Olney Centre

    Deidre Bethune reported that the Community Asset Transfer of the Olney Centre was now complete and, thus, it was now Olney Town Council’s. She, along with other Councillors, noted how sad it was that Alan Richardson, who’d done much of the work to reach this point, didn’t live quite long enough to see the result.

    Swimming Steps

    A gap has been opening up in the Swimming Steps, between the bottom and next step, due to the flow of the water past them. It’s now reached around four inches and, as reported before, the Council has been investigating how to repair it. The option being discussed is sheet piling, where a group of piles is driven into the ground close together to resist the pressure of the water.

    Susan Hughes

    Susan Hughes has been awarded a Local Policing Area Commander’s Commendation for her role and work in connection with the Olney Neighbourhood Action Group and MK Safer Neighbourhoods Delivery Group, both of which have made a significant contribution to the residential and business communities of Olney. The award ceremony will take place on 11th June at Milton Keynes Police Station.

    Recreation Ground play area

    As reported late last year, OTC hopes that improvements can be made to the Recreation Ground play area. The approx. £100,000 of improvements originally planned relied on MKC receiving half the amount as matched funding. This was expected to come from a Waste Recycling Environmental (WREN) Grant but, as there are no applicable, for example landfill, sites close enough to Olney, that source is unavailable. Instead, and after some delay, MKC has recently applied to Biffa Waste Services for the matched funding. This application may or may not be successful and, if not, it’s possible that Section 106 money could be used instead, but there remains some risk that no funding can be found.
    Councillors were acutely aware of the delay in making the improvements, and explored the idea of consulting the Public for its view on how the play area could be improved, in parallel with the funding being obtained. Given that the funding is not guaranteed, this approach carries some risk. After some discussion, Councillors agreed by majority to push ahead with the consultation, being open about the fact that the associated funding is not guaranteed.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Steve Clark thanked The Olney Group for its help with the VE Day beacon lighting event, for which it provided lighting and marshals, while Tony Evans provided the fire. He noted that, as well as the event being planned rather at the last minute, the publicity was restricted deliberately in order that the number of people attending would not overwhelm the limited marshalling and facilities in place.
    Continuing from the VE Day publicity discussion, OTC is considering whether to have a Facebook page.
    Peter Geary noted that he’d read of some cowslips on Driftway being destroyed before they’d flowered which, them being a protected plant, should not have happened. Liam explained that, due to the gradient of the grass mounds on Driftway, OTC employs a contractor to cut the grass. Peter explained that OTC must make sure its contractor was aware of the cowslip’s protected status. Tony Evans felt that, while a few cowslips may have been cut, the majority were still there. Finally, he noted that, if anyone wished to see cowslips, they should head up to Barn Field and take a look at the sea of yellow. As a postscript to this topic, OTC contacted Mercury shortly before publication to say that, according to their post meeting research, cowslips are not a protected species under any legislation.
    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st 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 2015

    Olney Council report for June 2015


    Mayor Steve Clark welcomed new elected mayor of Milton Keynes, ward councillor Keith McLean to the meeting.

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren and Ron Mihill
    Sue Warren and Ron Mihill were present to speak in the public participation section of the meeting. Sue spoke about the parking issue in Oakdown Crescent which, being a meeting agenda item, will be reported later.

    Ron Mihill
    Ron said he was chairman of the Pegasus Residents’ Association but was also speaking on behalf of Clifton Court residents and was concerned about the ability of elderly and disabled people to cross the roads around the Market Place, particularly by Silver End where the traffic comes from three directions. Traffic is getting faster, he said, and requested a facility to enable safer crossing. Ideally that would be a pedestrian crossing but he thought that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) would say that it would cost too much. In that case, how much did it cost to provide the electric vehicle charging point, he wondered? Mayor Steve Clark said that the matter would be put on the agenda of a future meeting of Olney Town Council (OTC) so that it could be fully discussed.

    Market Place CCTV

    PC Andy Perry was present, along with Susan Hughes from the Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) to present the proposals for a CCTV scheme. Andy explained that they had looked at other schemes in and around Milton Keynes to see what is most suitable for Olney. Milton Keynes had cameras connected to the Command Suite at Central MK Police Station by dedicated fibre links and Newport Pagnell had the same but provided over a microwave link. Because of its location Olney would need a repeater at the top of the hill between Olney and Newport Pagnell, which would add to the cost. He thought that the best option would be via a broadband link to Newport Pagnell police station which would not be permanently operated and monitored in real-time, although it could be when resources allowed. The main use would be for historic monitoring and review up to twenty eight days after incidents had occurred, he said. Andy then showed a number of clips of video to demonstrate a number of high and low definition options, including some footage from the recent CCTV trial in Olney. Ward Councillor Peter Geary asked why it wasn’t possible to provide a broadband link back to CMK Police Station and Andy thought that although it was probably technically possible there may be capacity and resourcing issues. A few councillors asked if some dummy cameras could be installed, since the current proposal was for a single camera. Andy said he was not convinced of the effectiveness of dummy cameras and because the single camera would be mounted in a darkened glass dome it was not possible to tell which way it was pointing. Steve Clark thanked Andy and Susan for the presentation and said the decision whether to progress with the scheme would be an agenda item on next month’s meeting. Colin Rodden wondered if the intervening month could be used for a public consultation. Steve closed the item by wishing Andy a long and happy retirement.

    Oakdown Crescent

    At last month’s meeting Town Clerk Liam Costello reported that progress was being made towards alleviating the parking problems in Oakdown Crescent. Liam had spoken with Rob Ward of MKC who confirmed that approval to spend the money had been given. A scheme was being designed, which would then need to be consulted on before any work was done. None of the interested members of the public were present at last month’s meeting to hear this news. Sue Warren used the public participation section of this month’s meeting to express her annoyance that she and the other interested parties were not at last month’s meeting and launched an attack on Liam, saying that he had let down the tenants and his reply to her was an insult. The council should have chased MKC on the financial situation and just because the relevant person at MKC was on long term sick this was no excuse for lack of progress, she felt. Liam replied that he had arranged a meeting with MKC on 8th June. Deidre Bethune said the council do care about the residents’ plight and had been working to move things forward. It was unfair of Sue to attack Liam, she said, and was supported by Steve Clark.

    Colts Clubhouse

    As reported previously, the Olney Town Colts FC had originally planned to build their changing facility on to the end of the toilet block and tractor shed compound and had obtained support from OTC to do so. Then, the Colts had proposed an alternative scheme to build on to Olney Town FC’s existing Club building. But, after around six months of planning and associated expense OFC advised the Colts that it could no longer afford to continue with its part of the project. The associated delay means that the Colts are facing the potential loss of the associated grants and sponsorship, and are thus keen to move quickly while the funding is still available. Tony Evans, as chair of Recs and Services Committee explained that he didn’t speak when this was raised in the public participation section last month because it was not a formal agenda item. He expressed his bitter disappointment that the combined scheme had progressed so far before stalling. All sports clubs in the town embrace youth, with the exception of OTFC, he said. Since agreeing to support the original plan to build on the council compound, the council’s own position had changed, he said, and they had realised that they needed the space to store new equipment. Peter Geary was of the opinion that OTC should sit down with all parties and try and find a way forward and to ensure that the promised funding is protected. Ian Stokes, representing the Colts, said he was not convinced that OTFC will commit to the project and believed that the Colts were now bound to lose some of their sponsorship. He emphasised that the Colts comprised 320 local children of all ages who would directly benefit from the scheme, as opposed to some of the senior sports clubs where a large number of players came from outside of the town.

    Library and Cultural Services Review

    MKC needs to make significant savings over the next three years and the library service is one area which initially appeared to be under threat. MKC are looking for ideas from community groups, businesses, parish and town councils and local people who both use and do not use the service. Colin Rodden wondered what the footfall was for users of the Olney Library and wondered if residents really wanted it. A session was due to be held at Olney library on 25th June for MKC to present some current proposals and also for residents to put forward any ideas of their own. Peter Geary replied that figures have not been provided and thought it important to know the proportion of users that are Olney residents or come from the surrounding villages, and also the demographic of those users. Keith McLean said that he had recently been to a meeting in Stony Stratford where a group called the Friends Of Stony Stratford Library Service, known as FOSSLS had been formed. Mercury wondered if was now time to mobilise the Friends Of Olney Library Society.

    Communication and Publicity Strategy

    Steve Clark said there had been a complaint made at the recent town meeting regarding OTC’s Co-option process for new members. For information, when a vacancy occurs it must be advertised and if ten members of the electorate request it an election will be held. If no request is made then the council will co-opt from eligible applicants. Steve said the same system had been in use by OTC for many years and that if people were really interested in the workings of OTC then they would read the Mercury report in The Phonebox and get to know what was going on, an opinion echoed by Jeremy Rawlings. The fact that four candidates had put themselves forward for the latest vacancy was very good, he thought. Deidre Bethune wondered if vacancies should be advertised more widely. Ron Bull suggested using a strong visual impact on noticeboards where people are likely to see them, such as shops in the town. Joe Stacey suggested that there should be a formal procedure in the council’s standing orders for publicity and candidates’ statements. Sally Pezaro informed members that there was now an OTC Facebook page to counter criticism that the Olney Noticeboard had been used to publicise the recent vacancy. Anything on there would be considered ‘official’ she said, pointing out that the profanity filter had been set to ‘high’!

    Stacks Image 488


    Objection to new dwellings adjacent to sewage works

    As reported in the April edition, MKC last year approved a planning application for 33 dwellings with access from Yardley Road in Olney on the Land at Warrington Road and Osier Way, despite a number of objections from OTC and comments from Anglian Water, who operate the sewage works adjacent to the land. A similar application for another 33 dwelling was recently refused planning permission by MKC primarily on the basis that it is outside of the planning boundary. OTC have complained to MKC about the inconsistencies in the decision-making surrounding the two applications and also that the comments made by Anglian Water about the potential impact of the sewage works had not been included in the report which recommended acceptance of the first application. A letter of response has now been received from MKC denying that there had been any inconsistencies in the two decisions but accepting that comments made by Anglian Water had not been included in the first report. However the report went on to say that Anglian Water had not actually recommended that the application be refused so the summary of ‘no objection’ was factually correct. Jeremy Rawlings said he would not have expected MKC to admit to any wrong doing and Peter Geary said he thought it was a ‘whitewash’. The complaint regarding the inconsistencies had been answered robustly, he thought, so there was no use pursuing that aspect but suggested that OTC should now raise the issue of the Anglian Water comments to the second tier of the complaints process. Steve Clark said it was not Anglian Water’s role to formally object, but to raise issues to be considered in the overall planning application. He noted that pumps do not run all of the time so the noise may have not been present when MKC made their assessment. Jeremy Rawlings said the smell was only present at certain times so the same would apply. Steve Clark said he was fed up with MKC not listening to recommendations made by OTC and proposed that the complaints process be raised to the next level.

    Odds and Sods

    Joe Stacey reported that a meeting had taken place between the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, doctors and Practice Manager at Cobbs Garden Surgery, and Donna Derby of the MK Clinical Commissioning Group to discuss future provision of services on new premises in the Town. Investigations had also been carried out into the capacity of the local schools.
    Liam Costello reported that there will be no funfair in the town this year. The date proposed by John Scarrott had already been promised to the Colts for BOTO and no alternative date or location had been agreed.
    Colin Rodden said he thought that the litter problem in town is getting worse and adults seemed to be worse offenders than children.
    Ron Bull reported that his band of willing volunteers had put up the baskets round the lamp-posts recently.
    Jeremy Rawlings observed that there were an increasing number of advertising boards appearing around the sports facilities on the recreation ground, some of them very large. He didn’t express an opinion on the matter but pointed out that such signs need planning permission and the various clubs had been warned last year that MKC could issue an enforcement notice to have them removed. Chris Shaw expressed a view held by many that the associated income is an important source of revenue for the clubs.

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th 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 2015

    Olney Council report for July 2015

    Public Participation

    Dana Green
    First to speak in this slot was Dana Green, on the subject of ragwort. Originally covered under the 1959 Weeds act, ragwort had an act all to itself when the Ragwort Control Act was introduced in 2003. Dana keeps horses in the area and, as a result, has been removing ragwort from the local area when she sees it. She believed the problem was getting worse, saying for example that there were four plants on Driftway when the road was built and that she’d recently seen 50 there. She asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) could remove it from the ditches on Driftway and those between the playing fields. Steve Clark, also Chairman of Trustees at Redwings Horse Sanctuary, explained that ragwort was toxic to many animals, causing liver damage. Although animals tend not to eat it when in flower, the plant then dries out, gets mixed up in hay and then eaten with their feed. Steve said OTC would attempt to deal with ragwort on its property.

    Sue Warren and Brian Rice
    Sue Warren and Brian Rice both spoke on the topic of Oakdown Crescent. Summarising, Sue liked the idea of there being marked parking bays in the Crescent, each with its own lockable post, thus allowing residents’ relatives to park when visiting. Brian felt this idea would be rejected if it went out for consultation and, instead, wanted a roadway to be built to provide both additional parking and road access to the nearby houses which have none. Along with Sue, he was frustrated at the lack of progress. This subject was covered further later in the meeting.

    Lesley Weston
    Lesley Weston spoke about the bus fare increases seen by local under 19s. Judging by the letters page of the 9th July MK Citizen, this is an issue affecting other parts of Milton Keynes also. There are two issues affecting Olney under 19s, the second affecting those in Milton Keynes Borough as a whole. First, as of last year, the #1 bus to Newton Leys via Bletchley starts from Newport Pagnell rather than Olney and, thus, Olney students educated at Bletchley now have two legs to their journeys: Olney to Newport Pagnell or Central Milton Keynes, change, then on to Bletchley. Second, the pricing structure of the All-In-One MK under 19s bus card has changed. Previously, each bus trip cost 50p and now, following a change on 28th June, each trip costs half the adult fare, although ten trip and weekly tickets are available with All-In-One for £10.
    As background, it’s worth looking at the Olney-Bletchley journey in more detail. The All-In-One card price was originally 50p each way (one bus trip, 50p fixed fare) and now, as a result of both changes, is around £2 each way (two bus trips, half adult fare). However, since it’s possible to buy a weekly ticket, with All-In-One, for £10, that means £1 each way for a typical five day a week school/college commute, limiting the increase to just 100%. Given the change in the All-In-One pricing structure, the change in the #1 service and general fare increases, some confusion about what is the correct fare would be unsurprising. Further, and as always with journeys requiring a connection, a delay in the first bus results in a long wait for the next. Peter Viney also spoke on this topic, and it may be that the unreliability he reported has some connection with the 9th July MK Citizen news story “Arriva ‘caught out’ by lack of city bus drivers” – Arriva is recruiting, email recruitment@arriva.co.uk for info.
    Looking at the Olney-Newport Pagnell journey, which many Ousedale Sixth formers will be taking, the situation is clearer. It was originally 50p each way with All-In-One (one bus trip, 50p fixed fare) and is now around £1 each way (one bus trip, half adult fare). Given that some posts to the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page have reported up to £1.15 being charged for this trip, it again seems sensible to purchase the weekly or ten trip ticket, with All-In-One, for £10 to cover the usual five day a week school commute. This overall topic, including the ambiguity as to the correct fares, was discussed further later in the meeting.

    Ron Mihill
    Finally, Ron Mihill spoke about the poor state of the footpath around the Market Place, particularly between Tesco and Beans.

    Oakdown Crescent

    There’s been almost no progress since the last report, with Deidre Bethune reporting that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had reassigned the person who was dealing with the issue and not informed OTC of who, if anyone, was dealing with it now. Peter Geary, a Ward Councillor for Olney, recommended OTC send a letter to MKC asking who was dealing with the issue now and that it be kept in the loop in future. He, along with other Councillors, was keen to see progress and to get a proposed scheme out for consultation.

    School transport costs

    The bus fare issue raised earlier by Lesley Weston was now discussed at length and, in summary, Peter Geary will take up any incorrect fare charging with MKC. He explained that the #1 bus service had been changed due to budget cuts, which had been fought over strongly, that being a major reason why the budget was not passed first time. Even with all that, £150,000 had still been cut from bus services, and this was one of the ramifications: Budgets had to balance. Finally, OTC will post details of how to complain about incorrect charging on its Facebook page.

    Additional pedestrian crossings at the Market Place

    Ron Mihill presented a proposal to make it easier for people to get to the Market Place on foot, regardless of which direction they’re coming from. It was for two new pedestrian crossings, one across each road at the Eastern end of the Market Place just West of where the roads join. Most Councillors seemed keen on this proposal, and Peter Geary suggested OTC nominate it for a small capital scheme – a way to find funding for the work. A few Councillors, for example Deidre Bethune, were not convinced there was a problem to solve.


    Liz Gifford gave a brief talk on MKC’s Libraries and Cultural Services Review. She felt libraries were part of the fabric of an area, a good place to meet and learn, and she was keen to see more community involvement with running them. The question was how to sustain them in the long term. While MKC was committed to keeping them open, what did that actually mean? For example, how many hours, at what times and run by how many staff?
    Peter Geary was concerned about MKC’s ‘end game’ in terms of Olney Library, particularly because they’d previously had a plan to close it and he believed that may still be lurking in the background. Noting that the shared back office costs dominated Olney Library’s overall costs, he and Jeremy Rawlings felt that these costs were unusually high for Milton Keynes’ back office and that, as a result and given its location, Olney Library could likely get these shared services cheaper from Bedfordshire or Northamptonshire Councils. As background, it appeared that the reason for these costs being high was that, while shared Library services are usually provided on a County wide basis, here they are provided for Milton Keynes Borough which is a comparatively small geographical area and, thus, similar economies of scale are not achieved.

    Market Place CCTV

    After a long debate, Councillors voted by majority to install a permanent CCTV camera on the Market Place, as recommended by the Olney Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) and Thames Valley Police (TVP). This will cost around £6,000 up front then £600 per year. It will be recorded continuously and monitored as required by TVP.

    Olney Town Colts FC clubhouse

    The Council gave its unanimous approval for Olney Town Colts FC to build its clubhouse on to the Northern end of the Olney Football Club building.

    Ousedale Olney annexe

    Joe Stacey had met with Sue Carbet of Ousedale School. OTC is being contacted by Ousedale’s planning consultants to discuss the possibility of expansion to cope with the expected additional housing in Olney. He noted that, clearly, this expansion was based on a long term look at capacity requirements because, currently, children were being bussed in from Bletchley to fill a surplus in the existing capacity.

    Pre School LED lights

    The lighting in the Pre School area of the Olney Centre needs replacing, and the Olney Centre Management Committee had recommended this be done with LED lighting, providing a yearly saving of around 35% (£126) compared with running the current lights. The choice of LED lighting was uncontroversial, but the fact that only one rather than the usual three quotes had been obtained for the work was less so. Peter Geary noted that OTC, as well as doing the right thing, must be seen to be doing the right thing and, as this view appeared to be shared more generally, the lights were approved along with a note of the need to obtain three quotes in future.

    Goosey track

    Ron Bull reported that the Fishing Club maintains a track for vehicles across the Goosey by periodically laying down hardcore and, as that soaks into the ground, laying more. This time round, as well as restoring the track, the start of an additional parking area had been laid also. After some discussion with Tony Evans about exactly whether this addition was or was not allowed, Steve Clark asked that Tony and Ron resolve the issue outside the meeting.

    Litter control

    Colin Rodden felt that the litter problem in Olney was getting worse. This was discussed, with ideas including a possible repeat of the community litter pick, which has worked well before, and posting on OTC’s Facebook page.

    East Street parking

    Tony Evans explained that the Recreations and Services Committee had recommended that the area on Nursery Field between East Street and the football pitch be used as a car park. The area would have gates at both ends, and would be opened for busy days only. Councillors approved this, paving the way for a full specification to be drawn up and the job to be put out to tender.

    Swimming Steps’ repair

    As reported before, the bottom Swimming Step is gradually subsiding, with a gap opening between it and the next step. The plan is to provide a long term fix for the problem by installing contiguous steel piling with timber capping, then pump out the water and fill the area behind the piling with concrete. This will be specified in detail and put out to tender.

    Market Place electrical points

    The Market Place currently has all its electrical outlets near the toilet block. The Council is investigating the provision of multiple points around the area, thus reducing the amount of cabling required on Market days and, in particular, improving safety due to fewer overhead cable runs being required on those days. Councillors voted to obtain quotes for this work.

    Duck and Raft Races

    Colin Rodden reported that the Duck Race had been fantastic, and Sally Pezaro that the Raft Race had been excellent. Regarding the Raft Race, she explained that people had been mentioning Floral Fiesta and how great it used to be. She felt there was potential to do more at this event and was keen to talk with the organisers.


    By the time you read this, the Weston Road play area will have reopened. Also, Tony Evans reported that the most recent Farmers’ Market had attracted a record 32 stalls.

    Olney River Palooza

    As publicised on Facebook, and unrelated to Olney Duck and Raft Races, the Olney River Palooza is planned for 12:00 on Sunday 26th July. Councillors, not convinced that this would be a planned and safe event, were concerned about it. The Council planned to inform other interested parties, such as MKC, the Environment Agency and the Police, but otherwise felt powerless to act.

    Next Meeting - 7th September

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th 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 2015

    There was no Olney Council report for August 2015

  • September 2015

    Olney Council report for September 2015

    Public Participation

    Peter Gage
    Peter Gage drives a School minibus for Brocks and spoke of his safety concerns regarding parking around Olney Middle School when it closes at the end of each day. He explained that, at 3.10pm, it’s impossible to park near the School and the closest he can get requires that pupils cross Moores Hill unsupervised to reach his minibus. He asked if it’d be possible to have a parking spot near the School reserved for a short period each day to allow pupils to walk from the School to the bus without needing to cross the road.

    Sam Jacobs
    Sam Jacobs was last to speak in this slot. Following on from his well received post on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page, Sam spoke about there being little to do for teenagers in Olney. His suggested solutions included sustainable sports facilities, a small skateboard park (think of that in the Buszy, Milton Keynes), a musical area where drums and amplified instruments could be played, and a safe basketball court.
    This topic was covered further in the main part of the meeting.

    Tennis Club extension

    The Tennis Club wishes to build an extension, effectively a pergola, to the side of its clubhouse over the paved area to provide an undercover viewing area for the courts. Councillors appeared in favour of this, and the next step will be for the Club to see if planning permission is required.

    Play equipment for youngsters in Olney

    Steve Clark introduced this item explaining that, having seen Sam Jacobs’ post and Sally Pezaro’s response to it on Olney Noticeboard, Sam and Sally had been interviewed on air by BBC Three Counties Radio presenter Jonathan Vernon Smith. Sally asked why the skateboard ramp kept being covered in graffiti, for example whether it was because people disliked it. She also explained that, with land in Olney being expensive, it would be hard to get a building for music practice. In summary, she felt that a group of like-minded teenagers needed to get together to put forward their collective views, so all their views would be heard.
    Jeremy Rawlings provided some context. Around 15 years ago, there was a project to build a skate park in Olney. A piece of land around the same size as a tennis court was required and, at that time, the expected cost was around £18,000. The park was never built. An issue which would need to be considered for any new attempt is its location: It needs to be close to homes to allow ease of access, provide a safe environment and discourage vandalism, yet be far enough away not to upset people living nearby. He also explained that the Youth Centre is geared up to host music practice sessions, but that legalities mean that adults have to be present. That means, really, that parents need to get involved and that’s not always proved easy to achieve. He concluded by noting that, if the possible Community Asset Transfer (CAT) of the Youth Club to OTC does go ahead, the Council would have more influence over the services it provided.
    Steve Clark proposed that a working group of Councillors and children be set up. Sam thought this was a good idea.

    Stacks Image 644

    Olney Skate Park Request

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    Following a site visit in July, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) has suggested that a possible solution would be to introduce a residents’ parking scheme in Oakdown Crescent, with parking in the affected bays being restricted to residents and visitors. It asked what Olney Town Council (OTC) thought of this, and whether it would make a Community Parking Scheme application to help fund the scheme.
    Peter Geary felt that the scheme would not work in isolation, and that funding was for MKC rather that OTC to find. Deidre Bethune felt frustrated that, with some progress having been made in June, the process now seemed to have moved back to square one. OTC will request that David Hall, of MKC, come and present the scheme to OTC.


    Steve Clark introduced this item, explaining that Westlands is being used illegally as a House In Multiple Occupation (HIMO). MKC is aware of this and is treading carefully with its response. Peter Geary explained that there are many illegal HIMOs across Milton Keynes Borough and that there’ve been no reports of antisocial behaviour from this one so far. Its previous use, a care home, suggests that safety there, for example the provision of fire doors, is probably ok. He noted that if MKC served an enforcement notice for the HIMO to be closed, the building owner could lodge an appeal which, should the Council lose, would effectively be an application for a HIMO. Noting that its use as a HIMO followed MKC’s rejection of the owner’s planning application to convert the building as flats, he speculated that maybe the owner was trying to annoy the Council. Finally, he explained that the best solution might be to talk with the owner to come to some agreement for an acceptable, sustainable use for the building.
    Colin Rodden asked if there was a time period for which it could operate unchallenged as a HIMO, after which this use would become legal. Peter replied that this limit was four years, but that it would not apply in this case because MKC, having already serviced a notice to elicit more information from the landlord, had already started action. OTC will write to MKC expressing its support for its action and requesting monthly updates.


    OTC will consult via its Facebook page to see if a local event should be held to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, to coincide with the main celebrations being held on the weekend of 10th to 12th June 2016.
    The Olney Group will be holding Fireworks Night on Sunday 1st November.

    Recreation Ground play area

    As reported a few months ago, MKC had applied to Biffa Waste Services for matched funding for improvements to be made to the Recreation Ground play area. This application had failed, but MKC had some spare play equipment, in good condition, which it now proposed to relocate to Olney at no cost to OTC. Tony Evans felt that the Council should ask MKC for a layout plan and timescale. Noting that OTC had been right not to consult early on the previously planned improvements, Peter Geary asked whether it should now consult on the new ones or whether it should just accept the equipment and not “look a gift horse in the mouth”. Steve Clark concluded this item, saying the Council would push MKC for a firm commitment on what they’d deliver and when.

    Youth Centre Community Asset Transfer

    OTC is considering applying to acquire the Youth Centre under the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) scheme. Introducing the topic, Jeremy Rawlings explained that the Youth Centre Committee and Local Scout Group had submitted a joint CAT bid for the Centre some time ago, but then had to pull out because the National Scouts would not support the application unless it was sole. Feeling that the Youth Centre was an important asset to the town, Jeremy asked if OTC would consider taking it on under the CAT scheme, the idea being that OTC would own the building and rent it to the Youth Centre and other groups. Tony Evans felt it was important to pursue this, as another organisation had previously shown an interest and its aims could be very different from those of the Council. Peter Geary agreed, saying that OTC should start to consider the transfer and, if it later decided that it shouldn’t go ahead, pull out of the process. In preparation, Jeremy Rawlings agreed to produce a business case for the building.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    The Market Place CCTV installation has stalled due to the local Police Constable having changed. MKC’s initial response to Ron Mihill’s proposal last month for additional pedestrian crossings on the Market Place was sceptical, as it felt there was already too much activity outside the row of shops near Costa Coffee.

    Elwyn Lack

    Elwyn Lack, Deputy Mayor of Olney some years ago, sadly passed away on 7th August 2015 aged 89. A minute’s silence was held for him, and concluded the meeting.

    Next Meeting - 5th October

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

  • October 2015

    Olney Council report for October 2015

    Prior to the Meeting

    Prior to the meeting the members assembled for the annual Olney Town Council (OTC) official photograph so they were in their best bib and tucker and posh frocks. Some were even wearing clean jeans and t-shirt!

    Public Participation

    There were no residents wishing to speak at this month’s meeting but Peter Gage was present to check up on progress of the school minibus parking issue.

    Oakdown Crescent

    It would appear that no progress has been made on solutions to alleviate the parking problems since the site visit in July by officers of Milton Keynes Council (MKC). Deirdre Bethune said that Sue Warren had been trying to speak to David Hall of MKC on behalf of the residents but had been unable to make contact. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said he would investigate and report back.

    School minibus parking

    As reported last month in Public Participation, Peter Gage drives a school minibus for Brocks and spoke of his safety concerns regarding parking around Olney Middle School at the end of the day when he cannot park close to the school to pick up his passengers. This month a discussion took place as to what could be done to resolve the problem. Town Clerk Liam Costello wondered if a parking space could be found away from the school and a ‘walking bus’ implemented so that the students walk to it in a single group. Deirdre Bethune noted that this was what happened in the past when busses parked in Moores Hill and staff would escort the students to them and wondered why it had stopped. It was noted that parents very often park in the space reserved for the larger buses so there was no guarantee that the same thing would not happen in any space reserved for the minibus. Colin Rodden said that nationally some schools are training staff to give out parking violation tickets and wondered if MKC might consider implementing this. Peter Geary felt that it was unlikely that OMS staff would want to do this and also thought it unlikely that MKC would be able to get existing traffic wardens to attend regularly enough to make any difference. He suggested that the school should be encouraged to adopt a Walk to School scheme in order to change the culture of parents driving their children to school. Eventually it was agreed that the school Head was best placed to appeal to parents to obey the existing parking restrictions.

    Youth Centre Community Asset Transfer

    As reported last month OTC is considering applying to acquire the Youth Centre under the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) scheme, the idea being that OTC would own the building and rent it to the Youth Club and other groups as a community building, rather than just a Youth Centre. Jeremy Rawlings was actioned to put together a Business Case so that OTC is fully aware of the financial implications and any liabilities. As a precursor to this Jeremy presented the Income and Expenditure Account for last Financial Year, together with a list of regular club users and hirers. The main point to note, he said, was that currently the centre receives a grant from MKC of £13.7k which would be lost if the transfer goes ahead. He also noted that during the summer many hirers preferred to use the large playing field but also hired the building in case of inclement weather. Joe Stacey pointed out that the draft Neighbourhood Plan had earmarked land in this area for health and community use, which could include a new GP surgery. This started something of a heated discussion with some members saying that this was by no means a done deal and Jeremy said that Joe was the only person who seemed to think that it was. Joe reiterated the point that the Neighbourhood Plan had identified the need for additional surgery space and that the land in question would appear to fit the bill as a possible site as it was proposed to be for health and community use. Peter Geary observed that if the transfer of the building took place it would be on the basis of use solely as a youth centre and if OTC chose to use it for anything else then MKC might decide to ‘claw back’ some of its contribution to the transfer. In the end it was agreed to start the transfer process and, if it was later decided that it wasn’t financially viable, pull out of the process.

    Planning gain from Sainsbury’s development

    Although the planning application process has not yet been completed OTC has been in discussion with MKC about how the Section 106 Developer Contribution might be spent. A Town Centre Improvement Fund of £90k is proposed, which would be used to offset the impact of the development on the Town Centre by providing improvements such as car parking, traffic improvements and physical and social infrastructure improvements. Peter Geary explained that the money would become available in phases and does not need to be spent all at once but OTC need to make plans now as to possible projects. Tony Evans suggested a public consultation to ask residents for suggestions and Mayor Steve Clark agreed but thought that clear limits need to be set in order to avoid the usual flood of swimming pool requests. A working party will be set up to progress. An additional sum of £20k is being proposed to provide real-time bus information displays at bus stops, which Deirdre Bethune thought a waste of money bearing in mind the poor bus service that Olney receives and also the fact that not all operators provide the necessary data. However, other members thought that it would be a useful facility.

    Wind and Solar Farms

    MKC is inviting comments on its draft Landscape Character and Landscape Sensitivity to Wind and Solar PV Developments document. The objective, it says, is to evaluate the Landscape Character Types and Landscape Character Areas of MK and identify particular areas which may have a greater or less capacity to accommodate such development, i.e. where to put them! The consultation period runs till 4th November but there will presumably be a delay before it becomes a policy. In June this year the government announced that onshore wind and solar farms would be excluded from the subsidy scheme from 1 April 2016, a year earlier than planned. Peter Geary said he believed that this would lead to no more planning applications being made from next April so members decided not to take part in the project.

    Odds and sods

    OTC’s proposal to provide match-day parking on the recreation ground between East Street and the football pitch has received a setback because the MKC planner has asked for a hedge to limit the visual impact from East Street. This would severely reduce the amount of parking spaces, making the scheme unworkable.
    The scheme to put CCTV cameras on the Market Place has stalled due to the retirement of PC Andy Perry. Susan Hughes from the Neighbourhood Action Group has not been able to get any interest in progressing it from anyone else at Thames Valley Police.
    The owner of the former Westlands care home has said that the current occupiers will be leaving by Christmas so MKC will not be taking action to stop it being used illegally as a House In Multiple Occupation (HIMO). OTC has agreed with this course of action so long as the owner complies. It was pointed out that the present occupiers had not caused any problems and were spending money in the town.
    Planning permission has been granted for Olney Town Colts FC to build their new club house and groundworks will soon commence.
    Colin Rodden reported that the illumined central reservation bollard by the Church Hall had been damaged for some time and wondered when MKC would get round to replacing it. Steve Clark said that all such bollards in MK are being replaced by the reflective knock down and spring up type so it would probably be replaced as part of that project.

    Next Meeting - 2nd November

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd 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 2015

    Olney Council report for November 2015

    Public Participation

    Susan Hughes
    There was only one resident wishing to speak at this month’s meeting. Susan Hughes reported, on behalf of the Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG), that she now had a contact within Thames Valley Police who will support the provision of CCTV in the Market Place and the scheme would now progress.

    Oakdown Crescent

    No progress has been made on solutions to alleviate the parking problems since the site visit in July by officers of Milton Keynes Council (MKC) but Rob Ward, Highways and Planning and Transport Business and Liaison Manager at MKC had suggested that Olney Town Council (OTC) put in a bid to the Community Parking Scheme when funding opens next year. A number of councillors expressed their frustration at this, with John Sharp asking how long it was going to take. Mayor Steve Clark replied that it had been 35 years already! Ward Councillor Peter Geary expressed the view that although Rob Ward’s approach was unacceptable, berating MKC officers would not help as OTC would need to work closely with them. That particular department is understaffed as many experienced people have left and OTC already has a number of ongoing issues, some of which could be considered ‘failures of service’. He said that the ward councillors would be meeting with the newly appointed Head of Department and suggested that other members of OTC should attend.

    School minibus parking

    Following recent OTC discussions about the parking problems at the Olney Middle School, Headteacher Glenn Young was present to introduce himself to the council and to give an update. He explained that his role does not end at the gate and is all about working with the community of which the school is part. The school is popular and oversubscribed and the parking problem is a consequence of this, since many parents need to drive their children to school from out of the town. He emphasised, however, that safety is his number one priority and he wanted to work with OTC to resolve the problem. Glenn agreed that there needed to be a dedicated area for school bus parking but did not see his staff becoming parking enforcers, rather they should be concentrating on teaching. He said there were currently no parking restrictions on the prow of the hill, but expressed concern that doing so might move the problem elsewhere. Deirdre Bethune reminded members that when Driftway had been opened there was a proposal to close off the top end of Yardley Road by the school. Could that be resurrected, she asked? Jeremy Rawlings said he had been against the original closure plan but was now reconsidering. He was concerned that it might make the parking problem worse and vehicles would then need to turn in the road to exit. In conclusion Glenn said he would try to find the percentage of children who currently walk to school and suggested a joint school and OTC letter to parents to impress the need for sensible parking.

    Cherry Fair

    Tim Haskell, Senior Warden at St Peter and St Paul’s church, was present to request that OTC grant permission for the Cherry fair to be held on The Glebe on 18th June 2016. Tim explained that traditionally the Cherry Fair had been held on the last weekend in June. In recent years attendances had been falling, partly due to clashes with other events in the town. These clashes, particularly BOTO, also had the effect of reducing the pool of volunteers who were able to help with the setting up and running of the event. Last year it had been necessary to move the date due to a longstanding wedding booking in the church. Even though the weather had been inclement the result had been that more helpers had been available and more people attended on the day. The council agreed to the request to hold the Cherry Fair on June 18th 2016.

    East Street Nursery pitch parking

    This is the proposal to provide additional match-day parking spaces behind the goal posts at the East Street end of the football pitch. As reported last month the scheme has received a setback because the MKC planning department has asked for a hedge to limit the visual impact from East Street. This would limit the parking spaces to a single row. They have now carried out a tree survey and identified a ‘no dig’ area to prevent root damage which would reduce the length of the bays to 4.4m from the standard size of 4.8m. It was pointed out that the particular trees do not have a Tree Preservation Order so OTC would be within their rights to simply remove the trees to solve the problem. Tony Evans was disappointed that MKC are not being supportive of OTC’s attempts to provide additional parking spaces and seemed to be putting obstacles in the way. Steve Clark pointed out that since the land belongs to OTC they could just lay some plastic paving grid and open the gate, if they were so minded, but they were being penalised for trying to do it properly. Peter Geary was of the opinion that the planning officers were just following policy by commenting on the proposals, which is what they are paid to do. He suggested continuing with the existing planning process as money had already been spent on drawing up the plans. It would not commit OTC to implementing them, he said.

    Plan MK: Vision for the future growth of Milton Keynes

    For details of the four options put forward in the plan see pages 26 and 27 of the November edition of The Phonebox. The option which would have a major impact on Olney is Option 3: One or more Satellite Settlements in the rural areas. Also impacted would be Sherington, North Crawley, Moulsoe, Hanslope and Castlethorpe. Some or all of these sites could be developed with between 5,000 and 10,000 new homes. Peter Geary opened the discussion by saying that he had been accused of being both pro and anti the plan, which was the most serious issue impacting the area for a generation. He said that the proposals had come out of a series of workshops held earlier in the year and very little feasibility had been carried out into any of them. Any such development would require a number of new bridges over the M1 and River Ouse, for which there was no government funding. He thought the proposals ‘do not stack up’ and wondered why the ‘impossible’ options had even been put forward instead of being dismissed. An additional 10,000 house for Olney was ‘crazy’. He suggested working with the other impacted villages to gain a collective view and provide a unified response. Steve Clark said that Olney has grown organically for 30 – 40 years so that newcomers had integrated into and felt part of the community. Jeremy Rawlings pointed out that there are times when it is almost impossible to get to Central MK and without major infrastructure improvement things could only get worse. Tony Evans asked where this left the emerging Olney Neighbourhood Plan?
    The three month consultation period was due to commence on 9th November when the Planning Cabinet was expected to approve the publication of the options document. Mercury has since learnt that the cabinet did, indeed, approve the publication but that decision was subsequently ‘called in’ so will now be considered by the Executive Scrutiny Committee meaning a delay to the start of the consultation.

    Odds and sods

    As reported last month, planning permission has been granted for Olney Town Colts FC to build their new club house. OTC has posted notice of their intention to dispose of the land by way of a long term lease and the notice period has now expired with no comments being received.

    Next Meeting - 7th December

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th 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 2015

    Olney Council report for December 2015

    Public Participation

    Francis Smith
    Francis Smith spoke on the subject of providing a Skate/BMX Park in Olney. This issue was discussed later in the meeting and is covered below.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Councillors had met with the Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) Corporate Director for Place to discuss the lack of progress on the issue of parking in Oakdown Crescent. He’d promised an update on the situation but, the meeting having taken place only recently, this has not yet been forthcoming.

    Skate/BMX Park

    Colin Rodden, who along with Carl Clennett had been assisting Francis and friends with the proposal, introduced this topic. Four possible sites for the Park had been investigated – Barn Field, Johnson’s Field, the Recreation Ground and the Youth Club – and graded in terms of distance from where people live, distance from existing sports facilities, and ease and suitability for installation. Based on these criteria, the Recreation Ground had come out on top with around 50% more points than Johnson’s Field, its nearest competitor. Thus, the Recreation Ground is the only location being pursued for this proposal, the currently chosen position there being immediately South of the All Weather Surface – covering around half the often muddy area where BOTO places its marquee and Fireworks Night its fair and stalls.
    Resurfacing the existing All Weather Surface may also be included alongside the proposal. The cost of a new tarmac surface had been estimated at £18,000, allowing the usual mix of sports, for example football and basketball, to still be played there. Alternatively, Olney Football Club had expressed an interest in laying an artificial grass surface and feels it could likely raise the significant funding required to do so. However, if that option was chosen, use of the area would be for football only and it would likely be kept locked when not in use in order to protect the surface.
    The Sports Clubs have been asked for their views and, based on the subset of responses received so far, the results are positive with some questions about noise levels. Also, the topic has been posted on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page and received positive responses. Not all parties contacted have yet responded, and further views will be sought.
    Peter Geary was very positive about the proposal, his only concern being that Council Planning guidelines for the minimum allowed distance from the nearest residential property be followed. Tony Evans felt that any All Weather Surface resurfacing work should be separated from the Skate Park and, that being said, noted he’d prefer to continue with a tarmac surface as that was the most likely to keep the area well used. Steve Clark was also keen to split the projects, noting that he didn’t want to see both put at risk due to the larger amount of money that would have to be raised to complete them as a pair. Ron Bull noted that the Skate Park proposal would stand and fall by how much money the proposers could raise themselves – for example, from local businesses and individuals – which would need to be significant else the project would be a non starter. In summary, Councillors were broadly in favour of the proposal.

    Market Place CCTV

    After a delay caused primarily by personnel changes at Thames Valley Police, Olney Town Council (OTC) approved the purchase of the CCTV camera system for £5,500, with an annual running cost of £590, subject to confirmation that the system has the best available specification for the price.

    Tourism signage

    Summarising what was quite a long discussion, Councillors voted by majority to support having two signs, likely coloured brown as per regular Tourist Information signs, one at each entrance to Olney on the A509, carrying the wording ‘Welcome to Olney Home of Amazing Grace’. The notable abstention was from Peter Geary, who, while agreeing with the need for the signs and their wording, felt strongly that brown was an inappropriate colour.


    Plan:MK, one of whose options involves very significant housing development in Olney, is due to be consulted on shortly. As the plan has been reported extensively in the local press, it’s not covered in detail here. OTC, along with various other Parish Councils and individuals, had called in the decision to consult on the development options document. The reasons for this were that:
    • The consultation document was flawed because there was no check on the feasibility of the development options before it was proposed to go out for public consultation, a feasibility check being an essential part of the consultation process;
    • The process to produce the document was flawed in various ways, including that the workshops were poorly run and that the views of developers attending were over represented;
    • While the Local Plan, Plan:MK, follows a process for estimating housing demand over the next 10-15 years which is both rigorous and evidence based, the MK Futures 2050 Commission’s forecasts are neither, yet will, over time, override those in Plan:MK. Combining Plan:MK with the MK Futures 2050 Commission is a flawed use of the Local Plan process.
    The call-in was debated by the Executive Scrutiny Committee on 2nd December which, voting along party lines, decided to proceed with the consultation but with some changes. Principally, they will remove all references to specific rural areas and instead have a general option along the lines of ‘development in the rural area’. They also agreed that certain aspects of the initial consultation were flawed, specifically the communication of the process and the lack of representation at the vision workshops. Finally, they agreed there would be more engagement with rural Parishes and neighbouring Planning Authorities (e.g. Central Bedfordshire Council). But, the consultation will proceed.
    OTC and other nearby Parish Councils are considering clubbing together to take legal action as a group against MKC. Colin Rodden felt it was a sad day to see two public bodies suing each other, but that it was justified since MKC had not properly consulted with the Parish Councils. Chris Shaw asked what OTC’s mandate was to reject the plan – for example, should the Council poll local residents for their opinions? The resulting view, with which there was broad agreement, was that the option to add 10,000 houses to each of Olney, Sherington and Castlethorpe by 2050 was too obviously ludicrous to justify the expense of a public consultation.
    Overall, Councillors’ views were broadly summed up by Peter Geary, who noted that the Parish Councils had to let MKC know they were watching it on this issue, and that it should not be over-influenced by the developers. He felt this issue would take a lot of people’s time over the next few years.
    The Council voted unanimously to authorise £3K expenditure for legal services against MKC, and to hold funds and provide administrative support for these services on behalf of Olney and other smaller nearby Parish Councils, for example Castlethorpe and Sherington.

    Water bill

    The Council has received a water bill for £5,500, substantially more than the usual £500 per year. This appears to be caused by a substantial leak which occurred during the Summer in the pipe supplying the Tennis Club where it passes under one of the tennis courts. The leak has been addressed by running an alternative pipe from the tractor shed around the tennis courts to the Club house and, unlike the previous supply,
    this one is metered albeit at the Club house end. Councillors will meet with the Tennis Club to decide how to meet the cost of the additional bill.

    (Not) giving blood

    The regular sessions run by the National Blood Service at the Youth Club for people to give blood have been stopped, apparently due to the team which organised them losing a member. Councillors decided to write to the Service asking it to reconsider, and to ask if Mark Lancaster, our local MP, would table a written question on the topic in Parliament.

    Events in 2016

    The Pancake race will take place on Tuesday 9th February, the Barn Field beacon will be lit for the Queen’s 90th birthday on Thursday 21st April, John Scarrott’s Fair will be in Olney from Wednesday 15th to Saturday 18th June, TOG has asked to hold Raft Race on Sunday 3rd July, BOTO will be held from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th July, and there’ll be a Retro Car Tour visiting the town on Wednesday 7th September. That lot should keep you busy.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Dickens of a Christmas was thought to have been a very successful event. The Council may publish an article explaining who runs which parts of this pretty substantial undertaking and how it’s paid for.
    Ron Bull noted that, while the letter from Richard Pill in last month’s Phonebox Magazine implied that the Sainsbury’s planning application had been delayed indefinitely, this was not in fact the case and it was simply waiting on additional information being provided. He asked if OTC could refute the view, as some people had taken it seriously.

    Next Meeting - 4th January

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