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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 2014

  • January 2014

    Olney Council report for January 2014

    Public Participation

    Mrs Holsten
    Local resident Mrs Holsten was the only member of the public to speak in this slot. Mrs Holsten said that she had lived in Olney for all of her 80 years and said that in years gone by there had been a public footpath to the left of ‘The Goosey’ where she had played as a child, but in recent years the sign had been taken down. Mayor Steve Clark said the current map does not show the existence of an official path. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that if it was not on the current map then in is not an official path. He said he would look at the 1929 map to see if was shown on there and if it can be proved that the public have had unrestricted access for at least 20 years it can be reinstated.

    Erection of 33 properties off Warrington Road

    The council had been asked to consider what Section 106 contributions should be requested in case this application should be approved. Planning obligations under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, commonly known as Section 106 agreements, are often referred to as ‘developer contributions’ and are a mechanism which make a development proposal acceptable in planning terms, that would not otherwise be acceptable. The contribution for this site is expected to be £467k. Olney Town Council has already formally objected to this development which is along the path of the old railway line, behind the Stilebrook Road industrial estate. Some years ago this land was designated for B1 (office) development and permission granted for the erection of 23 units. However, only six of these units have ever been built and the developer now wishes to convert it to C3 (residential) use. The council have objected on the basis that the site:

    • Is a departure from the adopted plan and is outside the town development boundary
    • Is incompatible with the existing land use
    • Is disconnected from the rest of the residential development in the town
    • Will be accessed via the existing office development
    • Has poor access onto Warrington Road towards the town centre
    • Was a speculative development by the developer and just because it has turned out not to be financially viable for commercial use this is not justification for a fragmented housing development
    • May be required for future employment building for Olney to develop as a sustainable town

    It was also noted that the site will back on to the unattended sewage works and when the sludge is collected the stench can last for several days. This will inevitably lead to complaints from the residents, thought councillors. Jeremy Rawlings will attend the next MKC Planning meeting to reiterate OTC’s objection to the plans and recommend a site visit so that officers can see how isolated it is.
    Returning to the matter of the matter of the S106 contribution, Ron Bull noted that the site would be dangerous to access for pedestrians, particularly students attending the Ousedale Campus and wondered if the contribution should be used for safer access. Peter Geary said that this would be the responsibility of the developer under Section 278. It was important that the S106 contribution does not go into the MK pot but should benefit Olney, he said. He proposed that the recommendation should be for £138k to go towards education, £6k towards allotments and burials and the rest be ring-fenced for social infrastructure. A vote was taken and Steve Clark declared it unanimous, but from where Mercury was sitting some members appeared not to vote for, against or abstain. Perhaps they couldn’t make up their minds?

    Access to land at rear of 61 Moores Hill

    Councillors Peter Geary, Debbie Brock and Ben Brock left the meeting at this point. The issue of development in the large rear gardens of the houses in Moore’s Hill has been a subject of considerable debate, controversy and accusations in recent years and Mercury does not intend to go over old ground here. In March 2012 OTC were made aware of MKC’s intention to grant an easement of access over a strip of land in Dinglederry at the rear of 59 Moores Hill to facilitate development on land at the rear of number 61. OTC expressed their concerns at the time so the matter did not proceed, although it ‘remained on the table’. The applicant now wishes to proceed and OTC will once again object. Tony Evans observed that this will probably be followed by another, and then another until access is eventually available for the single house and garden which remains in the ownership of MKC.

    Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG)

    A resident has asked, via the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page, if the minutes of NAG meetings could be made public. Mercury understands that this is in connection with the recent spate of burglaries just before Christmas, although the NAG website states that their three top priorities are 1. Traffic, 2. Parking and 3. Dog Fouling. Steve Clark said that under Thames Valley Police rules put in place when the NAGs were created, all minutes must be published.

    Cattle Market car park

    Although the Market Place car park is owned and controlled by OTC, the old Cattle Market car park, beyond Punch Opticians, remains in the ownership of MKC. OTC has discussed applying for ownership under the Community Asset Transfer scheme in the past but it has not been progressed. Peter Geary reminded members that if they want to proceed with this they need to start things moving soon, as the window of opportunity may not be open forever. It was agreed that this should be an agenda item next month.

    Traffic management training

    As reported last month, the Police are generally no longer providing assistance with closing roads for local events and two-three hour training courses were run in December, which qualified those who completed them to be able to close roads with speed limits of 30mph and below. Jeremy Rawlings reported that he had attended one and declared it ‘a complete waste of time’.

    Rugby posts at Johnsons Field

    Clerk Liam Costello reported that the posts had that day been erected on Johnsons Field as part of the Rugby Football Union’s Posts in the Park initiative. The information on the OTC website states:
    ‘Across England the build-up to Rugby World Cup 2015 has begun with the Rugby Football Union’s Posts in the Park initiative. Under this programme up to 100 posts will be installed in the 10 English RWC 2015 host cities.
    Aimed at broadening the appeal of the Game and reaching out to new audiences, Posts in the Park launched nationwide on the 18 September 2013, and has already inspired youngsters from all walks of life to get down to their local park and try their hand at rugby.
    Over the coming months Milton Keynes Sports Development team will be running activities aimed at getting more people interested in the sport.’

    Events Diary

    In responses to a number of requests from residents, OTC has created a diary of local events on its webpage. Organisers of any events are asked to contact the council office on (01234) 711679 or email TownClerk@OlneyTownCouncil.gov.uk to get them published. The diary can be viewed at www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk on the Events tab.

    Next Meeting - 3rd February

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd 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 2014

    Olney Council report for February 2014

    Public Participation

    Ian Stokes was the only member of the public to speak in this slot. He was concerned about the Pelican Crossing on the A509 near Midland Road, noting that many times he’d seen cars cross the lights at red. He felt this was due to a combination of inattention and plain not wanting to stop, and that, especially since the crossing is used by School children and elderly people, the problem needed attention. Debbie Brock said she’d highlight the issue with Milton Keynes Council (MKC).

    Neighbourhood planning

    Joe Stacey reported that the current status of MKC’s housing requirements for the borough’s rural areas is that 326 additional houses are required. While that’s considerably less than its previous figure of 1760, he noted that Woburn Sands had indicated it would like no further houses, having already taken significant numbers.

    Dickens of a Christmas

    Jeremy Rawlings gave a brief update on what was a successful Dickens of a Christmas Day. The weather on the day was very good, and it was generally thought to be one of the best since the event’s inception.

    Finance Committee

    Deidre Bethune explained that the Council’s accounts had been internally audited and received a glowing report. She then noted a couple more points from the Committee’s last meeting. The Committee had recommended that the Council take out its insurance with AON, which came in considerably cheaper than competing quotes, and this was agreed by full Council. The Committee had considered a three year draft budget and precept for the accounting period 2014 – 2017. It had voted to approve this budget, which will set the precept for the first year at £166,000, a 2.67% increase on the previous year. It would then rise by 1.2% for each of the following two years.
    Peter Geary felt that planning a three year budget was proving a useful exercise, helping the Council take a long term view of its finances. He also asked Deidre if the budget took into account the planned reductions in Government funding over the next few years. She confirmed it did, meaning that, in spite of the rise in precept, the Council’s overall income would barely rise at all.

    MKC budget consultation

    MKC had drawn up a detailed consultation document on its budget for 2014-2015 and sent it to its local Councils for review. Olney Town Council (OTC) discussed it at this meeting. Various Councillors felt that the document was so long and detailed that it made it hard to find the parts on which it’d be useful to comment. Peter Geary explained that the detail had been provided in order to allow Councils to see exactly the information they needed, rather than risking hiding information by, for example, gathering too many figures together under one total or summarising too heavily.
    Jeremy Rawlings noted that, like many other Councils, it was likely that MKC would in the coming years stop its Youth Services budget. As Chair of Olney Youth Centre, Jeremy felt it’d be beneficial for this budget to continue. Councillors agreed that OTC’s feedback would be that Youth Services should be retained, that some of the previously cut bus services should be reinstated, and that it did not wish to see a reduction in library opening hours.

    Community Asset Transfer (CAT)

    OTC had asked MKC whether it would be possible for the Cattle Market and Fountain Court car parks to be transferred to OTC under the CAT program. MKC had replied in the negative – that it would retain these car parks. From the comments of some Councillors, it wasn’t completely clear why the question had been asked in the first place.

    Olney Town Colts FC

    As reported before, Olney Town Colts FC is moving towards obtaining planning permission to build changing rooms in an extension to the left of the tractor shed, approximately symmetrical with the toilet blocks to its right. Councillors were broadly in favour of this development, noting a few issues. Deidre Bethune questioned whether sufficient space would remain available for the Council’s tractors and other machinery. Tony Evans confirmed that it would. Peter Geary, aware of ongoing occasional problems with the sewage drainage from the building, asked if the existing drainage capacity was sufficient. Tony felt it probably was not, and that the Council should request plans for both surface and foul water drainage. Tony noted the need to end up with a machinery compound as safe as the current one and with suitable access, without any cost to OTC. Finally it’s likely that, once planning permission is obtained, the land will be passed to the Colts on a long term lease for a peppercorn rent, much as happens for other Clubs’ buildings.

    June events

    The Council gave permission for the Newport Pagnell & Olney Lions to hold Motorama on Sunday 8th June. Permission was also given for Booze on the Ouse to be held on Saturday 28th June, this year with the marquee located between the tennis and all weather courts, close to the Colts’ planned new building.

    Community transport

    MKC is consulting about how it should in future provide transport for those who are disabled or have difficulties using public transport, and had sent a consultation document to its local Councils to discover their views. The suggested options included on-demand shared taxis and various volunteer driver schemes. Debbie Brock noted that the existing service was creaking under the weight of demand and not able to fulfil expectations. The Council will feed back its wish that any changes should not result in Olney suffering a reduction in this service.

    Wicker runners

    Two wicker pancake race runners have been ordered and will shortly be installed in one of the Market Square flower beds.

    Next Meeting - 3rd March

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd 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 2014

    Olney Council report for March 2014

    Public Participation

    Andrew Harris
    The only member of the public to speak at this month’s meeting was Andrew Harris of Olney Brass, in support of a funding application which had recently been submitted. Andrew explained that the band is a registered charity that charges adult members £180 a year but is free to under 18s. The band had raised its profile in the last 12 months he said, having given a number of public performances and taken part in competitions. They had also become more financially prudent, but there are number of costs to be met, particularly with respect to running the junior band. Last year they had received a grant from Olney Town Council (OTC) of £2500 but controlling costs meant that they would only need to apply for a £1250 grant for the coming year.

    Goosey Fields footpath

    At the January meeting local resident Mrs Holsten had asked about the sign identifying a footpath across the Goosey Field which had been removed at some time in the past. The path is not marked on any current maps but the council agreed to look at the 1929 map to see if it was shown on there. John Smail said he recalled that a stile used to exist over the fence on the right hand side before the bridge and the path ran across the field parallel to Weston Road, but it is now blocked and overgrown. Milton Keynes (MKC) ward councillor Peter Geary said that unless there was evidence that the path had been accessed within the last 20 years then the right of way would have lapsed and in order for it to be reinstated the council would need to make a Definitive Map Modification Order. It was agreed not to proceed with such an application.

    Parking restrictions

    Debbie Brock reported that she had had an email from a resident of Timpsons Row complaining of a number of ‘near miss’ traffic accidents caused by inconsiderate parking at the Coneygere junctions with Palmers Row and Church Street and also at the junction of the one-way system in East Street. The resident had requested that consideration be given to providing double yellow lines at these junctions. John Boardman thought that this was further evidence of a growing trend of inconsiderate parking in the town and Ron Bull agreed, but didn’t think that the Coneygere junctions were particularly bad. He agreed that East Street visibility could be a problem, but didn’t think it warranted double yellow lines. Deidre Bethune was of the opinion that parking in the whole Coneygere/Timpsons Row area needed addressing, saying that she had received complaints from the allotment holders. Joe Stacey observed that Church Street was effectively a single track road for much of the time, due to cars parked on both sides. Jeremy Rawlings said that double yellow lines were not always the best solution as they simply moved the problem elsewhere. Peter Geary said the council must consider if there is an issue that needs addressing and if so it should go through the correct process. Joe Stacey proposed that the council should not take any action and the proposal was passed by a majority. While sympathetic to the problem, the general feeling seemed to be that the resident could take up the issue directly with MKC if they felt so minded.

    Thursday Market stall charges

    Town Clerk Liam Costello reported that he had received a complaint from the Market Traders’ Association about the recent 5% rise in charges. John Sharp said he thought that 5% was a large increase. There had been seven traders give up their pitch recently, he said, although it was pointed that some of those had been before the rise was announced. Peter Geary reminded members that the rise had been approved by the council as part of the annual budget. Deidre Bethune felt that in future the charges should go up by a small amount each year rather than have occasional, but larger, increases. Debbie Brock wondered how Olney prices compared with other local markets. An important part of being a market town was that we should have a market, she said, so it should be supported.

    Veterans’ Day

    The Town Council will once again be running this very popular event. The date this year will be Friday 27th June and will take place in the Carlton House Club.

    Next Meeting - 7th April

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th 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 2014

    Olney Council report for April 2014

    Public Participation

    Lesley Viney
    Lesley Viney was first to speak in this slot, looking at the recent bus service changes from the perspective of Olney youngsters travelling to and from Milton Keynes. Residents under 19 in the MK Borough can apply for an All In One card, which allows them to travel on pretty much any MK bus for 45p. Some of the service changes have resulted in two separate journeys being required when previously only one was needed - this doubles the price. A example is the journey between Olney and Bletchley. Debbie Brock said she’d be happy to follow this up.

    Mike Totton
    Mike Totton of the Olney Allotment Holders Association (OAHA) was last to speak. Starting by criticising communication with Olney Town Council (OTC) as ‘ineffectual and inefficient’, Mike then reached the nub of the matter – that the Council has raised allotment rents from £2 to £3 per pole, an increase of 50%. He felt this was unfair and also, having taken legal advice, illegal. He felt the decision had been taken without discussion with the OAHA Committee, representing a break in the agreement with the Chair of the Recreations and Services Committee. He asked that the Council reconsider its decision and concluded by saying that, if it did not, the OAHA Committee would recommend its members not pay the increase.

    Tony Evans
    Tony Evans replied briefly, stating that OTC had done its homework and Olney allotment rents were at the bottom of the scale compared to other local councils in the area. For example, Bletchley and Fenny Stratford Parish Council charged £10 per pole. Far from satisfied with this response, Mike and his supporters left the Council Chamber.

    Allotment Rents

    A Council meeting is driven by an agenda circulated a few days before. As the allotment rent issue had only just come to the fore, it wasn’t on the agenda and, therefore, couldn’t be discussed in detail. However, it was covered very briefly. In summary, Tony Evans appeared genuinely surprised at what Mike Totton had said. He had felt unprepared to respond, and that the way in which he and the Council had handled the situation immediately after Mike’s speech had not been ideal. Peter Geary felt the allotment holders should discuss the issue with full Council.
    A pole is a traditional agricultural measure of area, equivalent to around 25 square metres. There’s significant variation in the yearly pole rent charged around Milton Keynes Borough. From 2014 – 2015, Emberton Parish Council is charging £2.75, Olney £3, Campbell Park £5 and Bletchley and Fenny Stratford £10 – £12. Looking at what the increase means to allotment holders, an average sized Olney allotment is five poles in area, so the rent has increased from £10 to £15 per year. As John Boardman noted, it’s the 50%, rather than the £5 increase, which appears to be the issue.

    Neighbourhood Planning

    Joe Stacey reported that land agents Bidwells are representing the owners of various fields West and North West of Aspreys. As part of the Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Local Planning process, Olney will be expected to take in the region of a 250 additional houses over the period to 2031. Through the Neighbourhood Planning process, OTC will be looking to identify where that additional housing could go. Bidwells would like the site comprising the two fields adjacent to Yardley Road, just North West of Aspreys, to be allocated for development, as it could accommodate all 250 future homes. Bidwells is looking to have the site allocated as the location for housing growth, then plan to sell the land to a developer.

    Community Asset Transfer (CAT)

    Back in June 2013, and after various debates about the current ownership of the Olney Centre, OTC voted for the building’s ownership to be transferred from MKC to OTC (under the CAT programme). Alan Richardson reported that this transfer had moved significantly closer to fruition. After the transfer, the library would become a tenant of OTC. Following negotiations, OTC had agreed a rental figure with the library and, at a later meeting, expected it to be finalised. Alan hoped, at the next full Council meeting, to be able to report that (subject to legal agreement) OTC would be the new owner of the Olney Centre. Tony Evans and other councillors thanked Alan for his hard work on this task.

    High Street Parking

    Deidre Bethune raised the issue of poor parking on the High Street. In essence, she felt OTC should consider marking out parking bays in order to make drivers park more uniformly, thus making better use of the space available. Debbie Brock (noting that it seemed like Groundhog Day) said that this issue had been included in the traffic review, but the Council had done nothing about it. She also explained that painting lines may introduce a legal hurdle, by giving tacit approval to drivers reversing out into the road.
    That this issue keeps arising, but has not been addressed, implies that High Street parking is a real problem, but it’s hard to solve. Joe Stacey said the issue was noted in the Neighbourhood Plan, to be surveyed in the summer. No obvious conclusion was reached in this meeting.

    High Street Traffic Speed

    Recently, the Council received an email expressing concern that a high proportion of the vehicles travelling along the High Street appeared to be exceeding the 30mph speed limit. It cited a clear link between Santa Pod events and speeding vehicles, noting that, while speed checks were often performed on the A509 outside Olney, they were not performed on the stretch in the town.
    Deidre Bethune was not convinced there was a problem to solve. Speed checks have been performed and, in general, speeding on the High Street was not an issue. Councillors briefly discussed having a 20mph limit but, as Peter Geary noted, the A509 is a trunk road. Various groups, such as the Highways Agency and the Freight Transport Association, would likely oppose it. He suggested installing speed detector tubes or a Speed Indicator Device (SID) on the High Street to gather evidence.

    Olney Rugby Club Extension

    The rugby club has submitted plans, prior to formally applying for permission, for a small extension to its entrance area.


    A defibrillator has been installed at the recreation ground, and operation training will be given on Tuesday 13th May. To ensure it’s only used in emergencies, a potential user must dial 999, give the unit’s location and, in exchange, will be given a code to unlock it.

    Market Place Parking

    Liam Costello reported that eight penalty tickets for Market Place parking violations were issued in January and nine in February, The figures for both months are close to the average.

    Summer Fun

    The Council gave permission for the fun fair to visit the Olney recreation ground from June 18th to the 21st, the Cherry Fair will be held on Saturday, June 28th and the Duck and Raft Races will be (provisionally) held on Sunday, July 6th.


    Alan Richardson reported that the sewer which serves the football club, bowls club and toilet block has continued to cause problems. The route immediately starts South of the Football Club and runs West beneath the grass, alongside the roadway. About halfway to East Street, it then turns South under the roadway, under a fence and into a privately owned residential property. The Council is responsible for the length of six inch diameter pipe under the recreation ground, while Anglian Water becomes responsible as it passes under the fence and into private property.
    The roots of the private property’s willow tree have forced their way into the sewer, and this is believed to be responsible for much of the problem. Anglian Water are undertaking a site visit, and bringing a camera to feed along the pipe to allow the extent of the problem to be seen. The problem isn’t new and, as Tony Evans noted, will probably take a few years to solve.
    Alan stated that the bowls club had recently installed a macerator, something the Colts will be required to do in the new building. In engineering terms, the ideal solution would be to run a new pipe from the football club, heading West, deep beneath the grass alongside the roadway to the main sewer under East Street. However, the position of that sewer, 5.4 metres below the middle of the road, makes this a difficult task to achieve.

    Weston Road Play Area

    The issue of land slippage in the Weston Road play area continues. Debbie Brock reported that it will be addressed as part of a larger plan to rework the area, making it more sensitive to the environment.

    Town Meeting

    The annual town meeting will be held at the Olney Centre on Thursday May 8th, starting at 7pm. Members of the public are welcome to attend. It’s your opportunity to have your say, and find out how Olney works.

    Next Meeting - 12th May

    The following meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday, May 12th, in the Council Chamber at 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 the mayor decides it is appropriate.

  • May 2014

    Olney Council report for May 2014

    Public Participation

    Lawrence McCartney
    There were two members of the public wishing to speak at this month’s meeting. The first was Cherry Orchard resident Lawrence McCartney, who wished to speak about a traffic issue. He said that there is a footpath at the top of Cherry Orchard that is used by children walking to school, and recently he had noticed an increase in speeding cars driving across the footpath as a short-cut to Sillswood. He asked what Olney Town Council (OTC) could do about it. Mayor Steve Clark explained that it could not be discussed at this meeting as it was not a formal agenda item, but the council would investigate and create an agenda item at a future meeting, if appropriate.

    Susan Hughes
    The next person to speak was Susan Hughes on behalf of Olney Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG). Susan said the NAG had noted that OTC was considering placing CCTV cameras in the Market Place and said that funding could possibly be made available if it were considered as a NAG initiative. As this was already an agenda item for this meeting, The mayor agreed that the item could be brought forward in the running order for Susan to participate in the discussion.

    Election of Mayor and Deputy

    Steve Clark indicated his willingness to stand for another year as Mayor and, as there were no other candidates, was duly elected on a vote. Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rawlings said he was happy to stand for another year and was also re-elected.

    CCTV on Market Place

    The mayor said that this matter had been the subject of some considerable debate at the previous week’s annual Town Meeting. Local police officer Andy Perry had suggested that cameras could be erected and linked to the police control room at MK police station, where they would be continually monitored so officers could be dispatched to incidents. Where it was not possible to get an officer to the scene in time, the pictures would be of sufficient quality to be used as evidence, he said. The images are normally retained for a minimum of 28 days, as members of the public have the right to request any CCTV pictures that they suspect may exist of themselves in that time.
    Debbie Brock recognised that some people might be uncomfortable with the idea of placing cameras but said there were “powerful factors” in favour of it. She said it was also important that the equipment should be sympathetic to the area.
    Deidre Bethune said careful consideration would need to be given to the number of cameras and the area of coverage. It was important to understand the cost, she felt, as PC Perry had indicated it might be expensive. For information, he explained that the majority of cameras in other locations were linked to the central monitoring room via relatively cheap microwave links, but because of the hill between Olney and MK it would need to be connected via more expensive fibre link.
    John Boardman asked what recent incident had occurred that the cameras might prevent or assist in identifying the culprits. The specific incidents that members could recall were the very recent arson attack on the wicker pancake figure, a ram-raid on McColls, burglaries to shops around the Market Place and damage to the door of the public toilets. The mayor said the council needed to decide if it wished to progress with the scheme without committing if the cost turned out to be prohibitively expensive. It would then be necessary to look at funding options, he said.
    Ben Brock wondered if it would be worth approaching the businesses around the Market Place to see if they would contribute to the funding. Tony Evans said that when cameras had been installed in the East Street (rugby club) car park the effect had been immediate and dramatic. No prosecution had been necessary because the antisocial behaviour had ceased. He supported the proposal, saying that many people felt intimidated by the large groups that congregated on the Market Square, although there was no suggestion that they might be involved in any criminal activity. The council agreed to continue the investigation.

    Stacks Image 882

    A Van at Emberton Park

    Councillor Colin Rodden leave of absence

    Under Section 85 of the Local Government Act, any councillor who does not attend meetings for a period of six months automatically ceases to be a member of the council unless granted a leave of absence. Colin Rodden is current working abroad and, although due to return to the UK in May, has found it necessary to delay his return until July and has thus requested a leave of absence. One of the factors to be considered when granting such a request is whether the individual is able to continue performing ward functions by phone or email, and in his letter of request Colin explained that he had been doing just that. Whist agreeing that Colin was still actively engaged in council business, Tony Evans said he was not comfortable with council business being conducted by email. Discussion should take place in open meetings, he felt. The council agreed by a majority to permit the leave of absence.

    DOFF’s Field parking

    Olney has some funding available from MKC for a community parking scheme, which was intended to go towards providing a parking area at the top of the recreation ground and additional spaces in the East Street car park. Instead, the council have been considering an alternative plan to allow limited parking on Doff’s Field, owned by the rugby club. However, this would mean applying for a variation of the planning permission originally granted for use of the field. To that end, OTC had approached MKC for pre-application advice on providing access via Austen Avenue.
    A response had been received from a planning officer saying that, having discussed the matter with the Senior Highways Engineer, there was not sufficient justification to apply for a variation and they would not support such an application, due to the disruption it could cause to residents of Austin Avenue and Carey Way. If OTC wished to proceed with the application it would need to submit substantial background information relating to the parking problems in the area that had led to the application.
    Jeremy Rawlings said it was clear that this officer had no idea of the situation and had ignored a request from OTC, who fully understood the matter.
    Tony Evans expressed his desperate disappointment that MKC had adopted such a standpoint and suggested that OTC and the rugby club now get together to submit the application.
    John Sharp reminded members that it was MKC that had ordered that Crouch’s Field must not be used for organised sport until the parking situation was resolved, and now they were rejecting a parking proposal which would contribute to that resolution.
    John Boardman suggested that a meeting should be held with representatives from MKC to make them fully aware of the issue before progressing with the application, which was agreed.

    B.O.F.F. Indemnity

    Deidre Bethune presented a request, on behalf of the organisers of the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF), that the council consider indemnifying them in case of financial loss. A number of members were not happy with this.
    John Sharp was of the opinion that it was a commercially run event and pointed out that OTC does not charge the organisers for use of the Market Place. It does not indemnify the market traders on the Thursday market if they have a bad day, he said.
    Debbie Brock emphasised her support for the event, saying it was a very good event for the town. She recalled that the council had provided indemnity previously but with the caveat it would not be on a permanent recurring basis.
    John Boardman said he could not support the request and thought that the organisers should build up their own contingency fund.
    Tony Evans asked if BOFF had presented its accounts to OTC, saying he would not be comfortable granting the application until he knew how much it had made last year, which was considered a success. Ron Bull wondered in the event of a loss, who would cover it? And, if there was a profit, who would receive it?
    Deidre replied that some of the profit goes to charity, some towards the cost of Dickens of a Christmas and some to building up a reserve. The council agreed that the event could now be extended to three days, but delayed a decision on the indemnity request, pending further information about finances.

    Allotment fee increase

    As reported last month, OTC has increased the rent it charges allotment holders from £2 to £3 per pole, an increase of 50%. An average-sized Olney allotment is five poles in area, so its rent has increased from £10 to £15 per year. Last month, a small delegation of the allotment holders had attended the OTC meeting and it had also been the subject of comments at the Town Meeting. Tony Evans said that Olney had not increased its rents for several years and had now fallen behind most other councils.
    Rosemary Osbourne said that one of the main concerns of the holders seemed to be that they were not consulted, but Tony Evans said the council was not obliged to consult and wouldn’t necessarily do so with other groups. He pointed out that it costs the council £5 per pole to administer the allotment so it was effectively losing £2 per pole. Only four holders out of 140 had attended last month’s meeting, he said, so there was no reason to believe that the majority were not content to accept the increase. Ben Brock said he had not appreciated that the council actually made a loss on the allotments, and proposed that they increase the rental still further to at least cover costs. The proposal was not supported by any other member. The mayor proposed that the council increase the rent, as recommended by the Recreation and Services Committee, which was carried.

    Odds ‘n’ sods

    Debbie Brock reported that MKC had recently appointed Carole Mills as its new Chief Executive. Carole has held a number of roles in local government, most recently as Deputy Chief Executive and Corporate Director for Resources at Nottingham City Council.
    The Parish Remuneration Panel of MKC has increased the allowance payable to members of OTC from £742.23 to £750 a year. However, no member of OTC has ever claimed the allowance. Tony Evans said that he believed that councillors should give their time free of charge and would consider his position on the council if any members claimed the allowance.
    Steve Clark, reporting on behalf of Emberton Park Liaison Group, said that plans to transfer the leasehold of the park to the Parks Trust were ‘bubbling along in the background’. The park had recently been the venue for a celebration of the Sikh Festival of Vaisakhi, a harvest and a New Year celebration. The authorities were not made aware of the event and it was probably advertised by social media, he said. A lot of litter had been left, and there were reports of excessive noise and speeding, although one nearby resident claimed not to have heard a thing. Emberton resident Debbie Brock said it was great to see the park being used by such a diverse group of visitors.
    Steve Clark said comments had been made on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page about the bad state of the Whirly Pit, and some residents were offering to clean it up themselves. Steve had suggested that they attend that night’s OTC meeting and present their case, but none had. The Whirly Pit is actually the responsibility of MKC, although Ron Bull said that a sign there referred to both OTC and MKC. Debbie Brock said she would refer the matter to Andy Hudson, MKC Head of Environment and Waste.
    The fence and hard standing around the football pitch has now been completed, but it appears that it is not universally popular with residents. Tony Evans wondered who would be responsible if it was damaged by the fair, for example. Would it be OTC, the football club or the Fair?

    Next Meeting - 2nd June

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd June in the Council Chamber at 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 2014

    Olney Council report for June 2014

    Councillor vacancy

    At the recent elections, Debbie Brock stood down as Olney’s Ward Councillor for Milton Keynes Council (MKC). Therefore, she felt it appropriate to stand down from Olney Town Council (OTC) as well, so OTC started advertising a casual vacancy for a new councillor.
    Members of the public could call for an election for the post and, if ten or more did that, an election would be held. This is highly unusual and, by the time you read this, OTC will probably be co-opting to fill the vacancy.

    Berrell’s Court

    As noted in earlier Mercury reports, quotes to resurface Berrell’s Court have been obtained, and the council is seeking financial contributions from interested parties. A planning application to erect a pair of two bedroom houses next to 8 Berrell’s Court has a condition attached to it. The roadway must be completed before construction of the dwellings is started.
    The developer has asked for this condition to be varied to prevent damage from construction vehicles. As a result, the new road would be completed after the dwellings have been fully constructed but before they’re occupied.
    The intent behind the condition was likely to ensure that the developer makes the agreed contribution and that the road will be resurfaced. When speculating on the likely reason that a condition was thought necessary, consider the background behind the delay building Driftway.
    After discussion, and some disagreement on the details, Peter Geary proposed that OTC ask the developer to pass his contribution to OTC. The council banked it and sent a letter supporting the variation to MKC. This should achieve the same aim, while preserving the new road surface. It was met with a general in favour consensus

    Bus shelter

    A member of the public has requested that a bus shelter be added to the existing bus stop adjacent to Brock’s Garage, on the East side of the High Street. Councillors did not generally seem convinced that this bus stop, or the one opposite, was well enough used to justify the expense. However, the issue will be added to the forthcoming review of the recently modified Yardley Road junction.

    East Street parking

    As reported before, MKC is not in favour of the proposal to add an additional car park at the West end of Doff’s Field. Liam had since asked for a meeting with MKC to discuss it, but their planning officer had rejected the request. There was some frustration, as the need for additional parking was real and clear. Peter Geary felt such reluctance to meet was normal, a meeting was required and the Ward Councillors would offer their support to help achieve it

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    The transfer of ownership of the Olney Centre to OTC, under the Community Asset Transfer scheme, is progressing. The Council Chamber hearing loop system, as temporarily provided by Jeremy Rawlings for last month’s meeting, proved successful, and Tony Evans thought it essential as a permanent fixture. The wicker lady from the Market Square has been sent off for repair and is expected to return in July.

    Pink sacks

    As reported in the local press, the availability of pink recycling sacks continues to be patchy. The mayor explained that Olney used to have three outlets – the Co-op, the library and the OTC office, with the latter piggybacking off the library’s supplies. Now, the only outlet is the Co-op and its supply is patchy. He asked if Olney’s Ward Councillors would support getting the supplies residents need. Peter Geary felt it was wrong that the library no longer had an outlet and said he’d follow up on this. He would also ask that supplies be delivered to OTC’s office.

    What emergency?

    Ron Bull reported that progress on preparing Olney’s Emergency Plan had stalled due to most of the three person committee being abroad or unavailable, due to work commitments. He stated that he didn’t want to continue on the committee without more help. This will be an agenda item at next month’s meeting.

    Table tennis

    An outdoor table tennis table, with free bats and balls, will be placed on the Recreation Ground near the children’s play area for a six week program. If the council want, it may be kept. The issue will be passed to the Recreations and Services Committee.

    Next Meeting - 7th July

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday, July 7, in the Council Chamber at 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 2014

    Olney Council report for July 2014

    Public Participation

    Steve Axtell
    There were two members of the public wishing to speak at this month’s meeting. Steve Axtell spoke on a matter that was a formal agenda item, so Mayor Steve Clark invited him to stay for that item and speak then.

    Brian Rice
    The second was Brian Rice, who reminded the council that the parking problems in Weston Road and Oakdown Crescent had been going on for two and a half years now, and he felt it was time something was done.
    He said the situation was getting worse and felt the proposed Sainsburys’ store would only make matters worse. Brian also said that the only solution put forward by the council so far was ‘laughable’ and it was time that they ‘pulled their fingers out’ and got it sorted. Deidre Bethune proposed that the issue was made a formal agenda item at the next meeting.

    Co-option of new a member

    As reported last month, there is a vacancy on Olney Town Council as Debbie Brock has resigned her seat. There had been no requests for an election from the public, so the post could be filled by co-option. Mayor Steve Clark said that there were five candidates for the post, anyone of which he thought would make an excellent councillor.
    The candidates were Chris Shaw, Cassie Knight, Malcolm Messenger, Ben Peters and Sally Pezaro. Each of them submitted a résumé and was invited to briefly address the council as to why they wished to be co-opted, except Ben Peters who was not present. Town Clerk Liam Costello explained that the council’s Standing Orders had changed so the previous ‘first past the post’ method had been replaced by a requirement for the winning candidate to have an absolute majority. A ballot would be held and at each stage the candidate with the least votes would be struck off the list, until one candidate would be declared the winner.
    In the first round, Ben Peters had the least votes so was struck off. In the second round, Malcolm Messenger and Cassie Knight tied, so it fell to the mayor to have the casting vote. Steve Clark said that as Malcolm Messenger had polled higher in the first round, it was only fair that he should progress to the next. In the next round, Chris Shaw gained an outright majority and was declared the winner and took his seat at the table. Chris has lived in or close to Olney for nearly 22 years and is currently part of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group. He is a recently retired chartered surveyor with more than 40 years in the residential market. He is a trustee of Milton Keynes Parks Trust and Chair of Whitecap Ltd, a subsidiary of the trust, which is responsible for all leisure activities in and around Willen Lake. He is a trustee of Greensleeves Homes Trust and has been both Chair and Clerk to the Tyringham and Filgrave Parish meeting. He has played rugby for the Olney Rugby Club Vets.

    BOFF indemnity

    At a previous meeting, the council received a request to indemnify the Big Olney Food Festival against financial loss, but had voted not to do so. This month, Steve Axtell presented the request again and answered questions on behalf of the organising committee. He explained that BOFF is organised by the Olney Chamber of Trade with the objective of promoting food retailers and producers of the town and to bring visitors to the town. Over the past five years, it has grown in size and in cost, with the majority of revenue coming from business sponsors, fees charged to stall holders and bar sales.
    He stressed that it is not a commercial event in the sense that the chamber does not make a profit. All income received is used to fund the event, with any surplus going to charities, Christmas trees and other events in the town. As the event is weather dependent, and there are no ticket sales, Steve requested that the council consider providing insurance indemnity against any losses. He said that last year’s event had made a profit of £3500, but this year it would run over two days and would incur additional costs. For that reason, the organisers were requesting cover of £5000.
    John Boardman asked what funds the organisers currently had in the bank and Steve said he would provide it after the meeting. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Councillor Peter Geary wondered what impact the £5000 would have on OTC’s budget if it should be called in, and Clerk Liam Costello replied that there was currently £16000 in the reserves. Peter then proposed that the council indemnify the event, which was passed by a vote of three for and two against. This means that the majority of members declined to vote for either.

    Draft Minerals Plan

    Peter Geary explained that the current plan proposes a new extraction site in Lavendon Parish, towards Cold Brayfield. It is a ‘dry site,’ so would not naturally fill with water during the extraction process. Therefore, it would need to be back-filled with inert material such as clay, soil and rubble. The rate of extraction would be 70-80 tonnes a year, which would be transported through Olney town centre and the continual backfilling process would effectively double the amount of lorries.
    Peter expressed his surprise at the choice of this site, as the guidance recommends extraction south of the River Ouse. Chris Shaw said it is important to find out why this site has been selected against this guidance. MKC are expected to take the plan to public consultation for a 12-week period from July to October but there was some concern from members that over the summer holiday period when many parish councils, including Olney, would not be meeting.

    Recreations and services

    On behalf of the committee, Tony Evans said that the new fence surrounding the football pitch on the Nursery Field was not universally popular, with complaints being made that it prevented the public accessing town owned land. He asked the council whether the gates around the field could be left open, but also impose a dog exclusion order.
    John Sharp noted that during the recent Rugby 7s tournament, cars had parked at the bottom end of the football pitch in a similar manner that had originally been proposed as a permanent arrangement, but now abandoned, by OTC. He noted that it had passed without incident.
    There were reports that Olney Town Football Club has been sub-letting pitches to the Colts in contravention of their lease. The council felt that any such income should go to OTC and not the club and will investigate.

    New parking restrictions

    MKC have proposed a number of changes to waiting restrictions around the town, mainly around Weston Road, The Knoll, West Street and East Street. The council agreed to support the proposals, so the next step will be advertising the necessary Traffic Regulation Order on which members of the public will be able to express an opinion.

    Emergency plan

    Months ago, the council embarked on the creation of an emergency plan to be bought into operation in the event of flood, plague or pestilence etc. It set up a sub-committee under the chairmanship of Ron Bull.
    He reported that it had been very difficult to engage people in the plan and felt there was very little interest in it. He said he was very disenchanted with the whole matter. Deidre Bethune proposed that the council drop the plan and this was passed by a majority.

    Hearing loop

    As reported last month, the Council Chamber hearing loop system provided temporarily by Jeremy Rawlings for previous meetings had proved successful, and Tony Evans thought it should become a permanent fixture. Jeremy Rawlings noted that for the equipment to be installed, it would be necessary to drill through the wall of the council chamber. This was followed by a protracted (though not entirely serious) debate about how the hole should be drilled, by whom, at what level and which picture of past distinguished mayors would need to be moved to enable it (readers might like to Google ‘Parkinson bike shed’ for an explanation of this phenomenon).

    Highly Commended Clerk

    Steve Clark announced that Town Clerk, Liam Costello, had recently been awarded a Highly Commended certificate by the Society of Local Council Clerks. Steve presented Liam with his framed certificate.

    Stacks Image 1032

    Town Clerk Liam Costello receiving a Highly Commended certificate by the Society of Local Council Clerks

    Odds and sods

    Steve Clark reported that more than 100 veterans had attended the annual Armed Forces Day held at the Carlton House Club and much appreciation had been expressed by those present. However, he was disappointed to note that only two members of OTC were present.
    Joe Stacey reported that the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group were progressing with the questionnaire that would shortly be sent out.
    Ron Bull noted that a number of private premises had trees and shrubs extending into footpaths, causing problems for pedestrians. He suggested that members of the public contact the highways department of MKC, where discussions with the property owners had not resolved the matter.
    Tony Evans said there had been reports of loud music being played on the recreation ground late at night. The police had been called but seemed reluctant to take action. It had been repeated the next night near the old reservoir at the top of Long Lane, where the police had attended and confiscated the equipment.

    No Meeting in August

    Next Meeting - 1st September

    There being no meeting in August, so the next one will be held at 7.30pm on Monday September 1st 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 2014

    There was no Olney Council report for August 2014

    No Meeting in August

    As usually is the case, there was no meeting in August.

  • September 2014

    Olney Council report for September 2014

    A Minute's Silence

    At the start of this month’s meeting Mayor Steve Clark requested that all present stand for a minute’s silence to pay their respects to Police Officer Kevin Leaney, who was tragically killed in a road accident in July.

    Public Participation

    There were two members of the public wishing to speak at this month’s meeting. The first was Susan Warren regarding the ongoing problems of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Susan said that her husband’s illness and subsequent death had not given her time to pursue the issue but had now ‘got her Mojo back’! She pointed out that Brian Rice had been told at the last meeting that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Ward Councillor Peter Geary would approach MKC for an update and report back at this month’s meeting.

    The situation had worsened because part of the pathway had now become broken up which could cause the tenants to fall
    Susan Warren

    It was not on the agenda, she said, and was appalled that the elderly tenants had been pushed into the background. She said the situation had worsened because part of the pathway had now become broken up which could cause the tenants to fall. If it happened to her mother she would have no hesitation in taking Olney Town Council (OTC) to task by presenting them with a very large bill. In recognition of the council’s omission from the agenda Steve Clark said he would permit Peter Geary to give an update after the next item of public participation.

    Elaine Herniman spoke on behalf of the Allotment Holders Association regarding the recent increase in monthly rents from £2 to £3 per pole. Elaine said that nationally there have been press reports of instances of increased rents, which range from successful high court cases where rate increases have been revoked, to rents which are only increased in line with inflation. In November 2013 the Recreations and Services committee voted to increase all other fees by 5% and the allotment rents to £3 per pole but the meeting minutes did not state the existing rate, which could have led members to believe this this would also be a 5% increase. It was, in fact, a 50% increase, she pointed out. Elaine said the Allotment Act 1950 states that rents should cover the associated overheads only and be non-profitable. Since the land for the Olney allotments was bequeathed by the Earl of Dartmouth many years ago there was no cost are associated with the purchase of this land. She asked the council to provide a breakdown of the cost to serve of the allotments, as a figure of £5k per annum had been muted but not substantiated. If the increase in the rent per pole means the allotments are actually subsidising the other amenities, this increase could be deemed to be unfair. She asked that any future rent increase is kept in line with the rate of inflation and more importantly in line with other leisure amenities in Olney.

    Oakdown Crescent parking

    Peter Geary said that two years ago OTC had put in a bid for funding and had been allocated £10k for traffic orders. It was accepted that this was never going to be enough and if double yellow lines were marked in Oakdown Crescent it would need to be in conjunction with additional parking elsewhere. MKC had considered a number of possibilities including a roadway round The Pyghtle, demolition of nearby garages and creating additional spaces on land known as ‘Jack’s garden’. He said there is an opportunity to apply for funding from the current round of capital schemes, which is open until the end of September and recommended that the Recs and Services Committee put forward a proposal to MKC. It would need a significant amount of money though, he warned.
    Tony Evans was of the opinion that it should be discussed and agreed by the full council, not just Recs and Services and John Boardman agreed, saying that it was important for all members to be aware of and fully understand all of the options. Joe Stacey said that regardless of who was responsible for the issue OTC should drive the solution and solve the problem once and for all. Peter suggested a site meeting with all three ward councillors plus Steve Clark.

    Market Place CCTV

    Susan Hughes from the Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) was present to give an update on the project. She explained that the Police and Safer MK Partnership have purchased a number of cameras and were prepared to give OTC a month’s free trial in order to assess which of the two models to consider. Deputy Mayor, Jeremy Rawlings, asked if costs were available and was told that one was £4k and the other £6k. Colin Rodden thanked Susan for her work so far and asked if a cost for the full surveillance system could be obtained. Peter Geary felt that OTC was right to continue, with the proviso that funding can be made available either by cutting expenditure elsewhere or increasing the Parish Precept.

    Stacks Image 1091

    Olney Skate Park Request

    Berrells Court resurfacing

    In 2011 local resident Roy Turner obtained planning permission to erect two dwellings in Berrells Court on the site of some garages. One of the conditions of the planning consent was that the applicant lays a tarmac surface along Berrells court before development commences. The court is a public right of way but is not registered as belonging to anyone, has not been adopted by MKC and the surface is currently in a very bad state. OTC has agreed to take the lead in the resurfacing and will take contributions from interested parties, including Mr Turner who will make the major contribution. Recently Mr Turner obtained a variation in the planning consent to require him to resurface the road before occupation of the properties, rather than commencement of the building. OTC have obtained an agreement from Mr Turner to pay two thirds of his contribution up front to enable OTC to commence the work, with the remaining one third to be paid upon completion. Once again the matter of long term maintenance was raised, although Deidre Bethune cut the discussion short by saying that OTC had agreed to progress with the project, subject to agreement by Mr Turner and it was not a matter for discussion now.
    Town Clerk Liam Costello said that because it was not adopted the owners of the adjacent properties would be responsible for the upkeep.
    Peter Geary pointed out that the surface was being laid to a high standard so there will not be a problem of pot holes appearing for many years. He added that OTC would be making up the shortfall of the funding as not all residents and businesses in Berrells Court were prepared to contribute.
    John Boardman asked if OTC could apply to have it adopted once resurfaced but Peter said the drainage via soakaway would preclude this.
    Ben Brock asked what would happen if Mr Turner sold the properties before completion. It was agreed that in that case the final third should be payable on point of sale and the agreement would be modified accordingly.

    Tesco deliveries

    Concerns have been raised by residents of East Street about the impact of lorries delivering to the rear of Tesco in the Market Place. It appears that Tesco have honoured the promise made to only use small vehicles for deliveries, but other suppliers are using large lorries which are not suitable for such a narrow access. One resident had suggested placing bollards on the pavement to ease the situation. Peter Geary thought that provision of bollards could be requested as part of the current capital scheme but wondered if it was now time to revisit the original request from Tesco to have timed loading bays at the front of the store. Joe Stacey suggested that OTC contact these other suppliers directly, pointing out the problem but Peter thought it was up to Tesco to resolve the matter themselves.

    Draft Minerals Plan

    As reported in July, in order to meet the required provision of aggregates the emerging MK Minerals Local Plan should identify specific sites for extraction. As part of the ‘call for sites’ process the industry has put forward a total of 14 potential sites for allocation in the plan. Peter Geary pointed out that the Manor Farm and Lavendon Mill sites could result in an extraction rate of 70 to 80 thousand tonnes per year and not the 70 to 80 Tonnes stated in the July Mercury report. He said that MKC had done a poor job in approaching landowners and also the process plants are situated in Wolverton, so it would have made more sense to consider sites closer to there. He suggested that the actual demand might be less than estimated in the plan, so it might be possible to remove one or more sites. Peter will draft a response on behalf of OTC.

    Odds and Sods

    The existing wi-fi system provided by MKC to the library will be extended to the rest of the Olney Centre, although OTC will have to foot the bill of £3.8k. There was some discussion of whether this ought to go out to tender but Liam Costello said that the extension of the library network from the existing provider would be considerably cheaper than a new standalone system. He pointed out that corporate bookings for the centre had been lost due to the lack of wi-fi.
    The new fence round the football pitch has reduced dog fouling but Jeremy Rawlings said that it had increased on the Youth Club field.
    Tony Evans said that there did not seem a great desire from the Rugby Club to support the proposal to allow limited parking on Doff’s Field on match days.
    Tony Evans said that MKC were not fulfilling their obligation to maintain the public play areas. An officer from MKC had recently made an unannounced inspection and will be producing a report.

    Next Meeting - 6th October

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th 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 2014

    Olney Council report for October 2014

    Public participation

    There were two people speaking in this slot, both on the topic of Oakdown Cresecent.
    Sue Warren, whose mother lives in Oakdown Crescent, started by thanking Deidre Bethune for her support throughout this long running issue. A site meeting held in the Crescent, which some of the Councillors had attended, had allowed many of its residents to air their views. She hoped that Councillors could now see how upset the residents were. She also asked if the agreed resolution had been sent to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) and, if so, who was going to chase to ensure it was implemented.
    Brian Rice spoke next, stating that people in Weston Road wanted their say. He felt that the best solution would be to provide road access to the houses and provide additional parking along the new road.
    This topic is covered in more depth below.

    Healthcare Review

    Wayne Rabin, from Healthcare Milton Keynes, gave a presentation on the Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Healthcare Review. The quality, consistency and effectiveness of local health services need to improve, and changes in demand, for example due to population increase, need to be catered for. Alongside these, there are financial challenges. While funding is set to increase, if Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group doesn’t change the way services are commissioned, it will start running at an increasing deficit, predicted to be £25m in 2018/19. Similarly, Milton Keynes Hospital Trust, running a £13m deficit in 2013/14, would run at a deficit of £31m in 2018/19. Broadly speaking, the strategy is to provide care closer to home, work with Milton Keynes Hospital to help it become more efficient, and look at ways the General Practice (GP) services could be configured to serve patients better. In spite of being asked by various Councillors, in various ways, if there was a plan to reduce the number of employees in healthcare, Wayne insisted that there was not.

    Oakdown Crescent

    First some background. In a meeting held a couple of weeks before, Councillors had discussed various potential solutions to the parking problem, and decided to put forward the following for inclusion in MKC’s capital programme scheme:

    • Additional parking to be provided on the land adjacent to 102 Weston Road, and resurfacing the parking spaces along the track from Dagnall Road.
    • Demolish the garages in the Crescent and redesign the area to provide additional parking.
    • Introduce a residents’ parking scheme in Oakdown Crescent, not to be implemented without both the above.

    Back to this meeting, Jeremy Rawlings introduced this topic by summarising the above. Deidre felt it important to make the area safe, noting the poor condition of the pathways due to cars driving over them. Peter Geary explained that, due to what sounded to Mercury like an administrative anomaly, the Crescent and its pathways had not been invested in for some time. However, it had been adopted by MKC a year ago and, thus, defects could now be reported and repaired in the normal way.
    Standing Orders were suspended in order to allow the Public to discuss the issue with Councillors. Brian Rice explained that, while he felt for those who live in the Crescent and didn’t want to park his cars there, he did need to. He was against the proposed changes because he felt the new parking areas would be a haven for thieves. Instead, he felt that an access road would be the proper solution. Peter Geary explained that a new road around the South and East boundaries of the Pyghtle had been discussed, but rejected due to the reduction in green space and its high cost: MKC wouldn’t build a new road for five or six houses. To get something done, Olney Town Council (OTC) had to be reasonable in what it asked for.
    The discussion concluded with Peter saying that any scheme would be consulted on before implementation – agreement was needed from local residents. Brian said that agreement on the solution proposed would probably not be forthcoming. One Councillor was heard to mutter ‘Oh dear’ before discussion moved on.

    Draft minerals plan

    MKC had produced a Draft Minerals Local Plan, and invited OTC to respond to it. Peter Geary had drafted a letter in response, and this was discussed now. The aim of the Plan was to select the sites from which minerals should be extracted, and decide how much from each. Peter felt the estimated amount of aggregate required overall was unrealistically high, and suggested some reasons for this. He also felt that more recycled aggregate should be used, thus reducing the figure further. Finally, he explained that extraction should be as close as possible to the developments for which it was required, meaning that it should be focussed South of the River Ouse. As the Lavendon Mill site is North of the river and there are other suitable sites nearer to Milton Keynes, he suggested the Lavendon site be removed from the Plan. There was general agreement, and Peter’s letter will be sent.

    More housing in Olney

    Peter Geary and Ben Brock left the meeting for this section, having earlier declared an interest.
    The MKC Site Allocations Plan is out for consultation until 5th November, and OTC has been asked for its views on the proposed sites for new housing development in Olney. It expects Olney to take around 300 new homes by 2030, and proposes five possible sites:

    • The strip of fields to the West and North West of Aspreys, excluding Ousedale School, the field immediately to its North, the School sports field and the public field to its West. Indicative capacity 825 houses.
    • The proposed Sainsbury’s site plus the field over the road to the South. Indicative capacity 74 houses, 46 excluding the Sainsbury’s site.
    • The field to the North and West of Ousedale School. Indicative capacity 252 houses.
    • The field between Warrington Road and the Sewage Works. Indicative capacity 117 houses.
    • The strip of dismantled railway between Yardley Road and Osier Way. Indicative capacity 59 houses.

    All this information is available for you to see. So, for more detail, surf to http://bit.ly/119osnu, click Site Allocations Plan, download the pdf and go to page 98.
    After discussion, Councillors decided to wait on the outcome of the Neighbourhood Plan, which will be sending a questionnaire to Olney residents at the end of October, with responses required by the end of November. Results will be compiled by the end of the year, and OTC will submit its response to the consultation then, some two months after the consultation period has ended. Views differed about whether or not this delay would be a problem. Chris Shaw concluded discussions, saying that there’d been no nasty surprises and that the decisions taken soon would define developments well after 2031.

    Berrells Court

    As noted in earlier Mercury reports, OTC has wanted Berrells Court to be resurfaced and has been seeking financial contributions from interested parties. OTC has now received the first part of the developer’s contribution, so a subcontractor will be engaged to do the ground work for the new road surface, with the surface itself being completed after the dwellings have been fully constructed but before they’re occupied. Councillors voted to accept the quote of £41,550, and to cover its liability of around £5,050 from Section 106 monies. The vote was unanimously in favour, bar Jeremy Rawlings voting against. Peter Geary thanked Jeremy for chairing the discussion so impartially.

    Weston Road play area

    As reported before, the Weston Road play area was removed due to a mixture of rot and technical issues. The landscaped area that replaced it looks good, but a consultation of nearby residents was strongly in favour of new play equipment being installed. MKC will propose a new play scheme, consult and hope to implement it in 2015. Peter Geary stressed the need to obtain concrete acceptance from MKC that, as well as building, they’d maintain the play area.

    Olney Town Colts

    Olney Town Colts Football Club have planning permission to build a clubhouse on the left of the toilet block on the Recreation Ground. They had some financial issues related to the VAT treatment of the build which delayed them from building over the summer. That gave them the opportunity to consider whether the location chosen was the best one. Subsequently, they had discussions with the Rugby Club about an extension to the Club building, but these proved not to be feasible due to the location of the main sewer pipes, which run to the pumping station in Austen Avenue through Doffs Field. They are now exploring the feasibility of building adjacent to the Football Club on the Nursery Field.

    East Street parking

    The need to provide additional parking on East Street has been clear for a while, and plans are being drawn up for parking on two strips, one to the West side of Doff’s Field and one to the West side of Nursery Field. The two sites would stay grassy, with a system such as Grasscrete or Ecogrid being used to toughen up the surface.

    Crouch’s Field

    When the council obtained planning permission to use Crouch’s Field as parkland a few years ago, there was a restriction that it could not be used for organised sports activity. This was, as reported before, because of the sport-related traffic problems at the weekends. The logic was that more pitches would generate more traffic and more parking problems.
    OTC is currently exploring with MKC whether the restriction could be transferred from Crouch’s Field to the Allotment Field, thus moving the pitches on to Crouch’s Field and concentrating sporting activity closer to the clubhouses and main car park. At the moment OTC is getting pre-application advice from MKC, and waiting for its response.

    Name change

    The Council had received a request for permission to hold Booze on the Ouse on the weekend of 20-21st June 2015. Ron Bull stated that he was offended by the name and that Tony Evans, absent from this meeting, agreed. He’d prefer it to be called ‘Blues on the Ouse’ and wanted OTC’s agreement for the event being held to be conditional on a name change. This was put to the vote and lost narrowly: four yes versus five no with one abstention. Therefore, permission to hold the event was granted, with no condition placed on the name.

    Next Meeting - 3rd November

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd 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 2014

    Olney Council report for November 2014

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren was the only person to speak in this slot, again on the topic of Oakdown Crescent. Sue asked if there’d been any update since last month’s meeting. Liam Costello replied that there had not, with Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC’s) Highways Department saying that the issue wouldn’t be dealt with until 2015.

    Sainsbury’s Planning Application

    As reported before, Sainsbury’s has submitted a Planning Application to build a store on the land immediately North East of the A509 roundabout with Lavendon Road. This Council meeting had been held in a larger room than usual in order to allow more of the Public to attend and, given the number of people present for this item, that proved a good decision.
    Ben Brock, who’d earlier declared an interest in this item, left for its duration. Peter Geary and Ron Bull had sent their apologies and were thus absent from the whole meeting.
    David Lazenby of Sainsbury’s, backed up by Maria Allaway of GKA, a property consultancy which has been representing Sainsbury’s for this Application, gave a short presentation outlining the proposed development. The site would include, from West to East, a 20,000 square foot store, a car park with 200 spaces, and a six pump petrol station. Customers’ vehicles will enter and leave the site from a new roundabout on Lavendon road, around two thirds of the way from the roundabout to the left hand bend. Coloured high friction road surfacing will be installed at key points, and there’ll be a bus stop on each side. In response to public feedback, Sainsbury’s has added more windows to the store and more trees on the site. There are various environmental measures including the use of LED lights and, for non-potable purposes, harvested water.
    The Public Consultation, sent to all households in Olney and Lavendon, achieved a 30% response. Apparently, 10% is typical. The responses yielded 79% in favour of the development, 20% against and 1% undecided. The store would compete primarily with Coop and Tesco Extra, and would sell day to day food products and stationary, for which there’d be some overlap with existing shops.
    Steve Clark explained that, as with all Planning Applications, the decision was not for Olney Town Council (OTC) to make. Instead, OTC would give its views to MKC, which would then make the decision. There was a good discussion on the topic, including some input from Jackie Fitzmaurice for which, being a member of the Public, Standing Orders were suspended. A much summarised version is included here.
    Jackie, who lives close to the proposed store, raised the issue of the site’s water table being high in Winter, and was sceptical as to whether the fact that the stream overflows across much of the field during that season had been considered. David responded that the water flow had been analysed, the stream could perhaps be dredged if required, and the Environment Agency would in any case state and enforce its view if needed. Councillors asked about night time lighting for the car park (LED lights, 60% off during the night) and how the site would look from various aspects.
    Chris Shaw drew the discussion to a close, stating that the proposal was pretty good, that the consultation had enjoyed significant support and that Sainsbury’s seemed to have gone the extra mile to accommodate local concerns. He felt that, while there would always be some difficulties around any new development site, overall it would be beneficial to Olney. He proposed that Councillors vote on the issue, and Jeremy Rawlings seconded the proposal. Councillors voted ten in favour of the scheme with one abstention (Rosemary Osborne). So, OTC will write to MKC stating its positive view, subject to various comparatively small caveats.

    Neighbourhood Planning

    You should all have received a Neighbourhood Plan questionnaire with the previous issue of the Phonebox. To be counted, it has to be completed and returned back to OTC’s office in the Olney Centre by the new date of Tuesday 9th December. A team will collate the returned questionnaires, plus those filled in online – surf to olneyplan.com and click consultation.


    The Olney Centre now has a public access Wi-Fi system, installed on 27th October.


    Steve Clark introduced this topic. Local radio station MKFM, www.mkfm.com, has been broadcasting on the internet for several years and has supported various Olney events. It has the opportunity to bid for an FM radio licence and Steve asked if OTC would like to send it a letter of support. It’s notable that, since Horizon was taken over by Heart FM and BBC 3CR has seen various cuts, there is no FM station genuinely local to Milton Keynes. Councillors voted in favour of sending the letter.

    The only Town Council website?

    OTC’s website is olneytowncouncil.gov.uk. Jeremy Rawlings explained that there was another similarly named site, olneytowncouncil.co.uk, which, while unconnected with OTC, was presented in such a way as to make it appear to be associated with the Council. After a short discussion, Councillors decided that Jeremy should write to the site’s registered address, asking to open a dialogue.

    Emberton Park

    Steve Clark reported on a recent meeting of the Emberton Park Liaison User Group. The transfer of the park leasehold from Emberton Country Park to the Parks Trust appears to be making no progress.
    Emberton Park was opened on 5th June 1965, meaning that its 50th anniversary is mid next year. Built on an area which was previously a gravel works, it was the first country park to gain accreditation from the Countryside Commission.

    Loud Music

    You may remember that, earlier this year, there were a few incidents of loud music being played antisocially at various locations around Olney, including in the playing fields by the river. The person responsible pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance and had to pay a £1,250 fine plus costs.

    Next Meeting - 1st December

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st 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 2014

    Olney Council report for December 2014

    Public Participation

    First to speak was Timpsons Row resident, Dave Hoyland. He said that residents were suffering from inconsiderate and ‘illegal’ parking and were concerned about the proposed switch of sporting use from the allotment field to Crouch’s Field which they felt would only increase the problem. 90% of the vehicles causing the problem belong to Olney residents ignoring the existing notices, he said, and painting yellow lines would not be an effective solution. On three occasions he had not been able to get his car off of his drive and was concerned that emergency vehicles would not be able to get through to old people’s accommodation.
    Mayor Steve Clark said the matter would be an agenda item at the next Recreations and Services sub-committee.
    The next speaker was Mike Richardson. Mike explained that he was a previous owner of the property that until recently had been Westlands care home. Mike said that there has been considerable speculation about the future of the building which has recently been sold, particularly on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook group. Mike said the new owners were a company that owns a number of properties in the Bedford area that have been converted into ‘half-way houses’ for prisoners to be reintegrated in to the community. His own enquiries had identified that CCTV and security equipment was being installed and the existing residential layout of the building had been retained containing a bed and a single chair. New mattresses had also been provided, all of which indicated that the future use could be as a half-way house. The building currently had class 2 Planning Permission and this would need to be changed to class 2A for such a use, although this could be done retrospectively he said. He said that in his opinion two or three ex-prisoners was acceptable, but up to 20 in the centre of town was a complete “no-no”. He finished by asking if Olney Town Council (OTC) could contact the new owners to find out what was happening. Steve Clark said that OTC would not normally get involved until planning permission was applied for. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Ward Councillor Peter Geary confirmed that there had been no pre-planning enquiries yet but said that it was possible to apply a stop notice if it appeared that planning permission was being breached. He said that in his opinion Olney was a long way from the services that newly released prisoners would require and this would be made worse with the reduction in the bus service that was Mercury report Olney Town Council likely to happen in the new financial year as a result of budget cuts. Steve Clark concluded the debate by saying that it was sad that it could not continue as a care home, as one of the parties that had expressed an interest in buying the property had wanted to do. The last person to speak was Susan Hughes on behalf of the Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG). Susan said that the free trial of the CCTV in the Market Place was ready to start. The lamp post at the side of the bus shelter had been identified as the best location for two cameras with full tilt, zoom and pan capability with a third just aimed downwards. The council will discuss the trial at a future meeting.

    Oakdown Crescent parking

    There were no updates to report but Town Clerk Liam Costello said that an officer from Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Highways Department had visited to investigate the reported poor condition of the pavement and found it to be satisfactory so no action would be taken.

    Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF)

    This year’s event was a financial success, so there will be no need to call in the much discussed indemnity provided by OTC. Sam McCallum was present at the meeting to present the accounts and request permission to hold the event on 11th to 13th September 2015. Although this meant that the event would not coincide with the Farmers’ Market the Chamber of Trade believed a two day event would still be viable. She said that if next year’s event was financially successful they would look to invest in more Christmas lights to run the entire length of the High Street. In the light of the successful collaboration with other voluntary organisation in the town, Sam said she was looking to create an ‘Olney Events’ sub-committee of the chamber which would act as an umbrella organisation to share resources and the first meeting would be held in January.

    Olney Town Colts changing rooms.

    Present were Ian Stokes, representing the colts and Malcolm Thomas, representing Olney Town Football Club (OTFC). Ian explained that planning permission had already been granted to build changing rooms adjacent to the existing council building on the recreation ground, using part of the council compound. However, he had recently been in consultation with OTFC and Olney Rugby Club (ORFC) about building a combined facility which would allow the RFC under 18 ladies use of the changing rooms. (A number of councillors expressed surprise and delight at this news and Mercury wondered if Satan had also been seen ice skating down the High Street!). The plan is to build an extension on the southern end of the football club so that it forms an ‘L’ shape. In order to benefit from the various grants that had already been obtained it would be necessary to have clear construction timescales in place by March 2015, so the intention was to apply for planning permission before Christmas.
    Because of this the RFC had reluctantly decided to step away, given that the RFU grant process would almost certainly extend beyond this deadline. Colin Rodden wondered if the combined facility would be likely to exacerbate the already difficult parking situation but Peter Geary was of the opinion that the combined facilities may help with the previously discussed parking problem in Timpsons Row. He was concerned that the MKC planning process might cause delays, though. The discussion then deviated to cover the various proposed parking schemes for the sports facilities, until Steve Clark brought the discussion to a close by proposing that OTC support the revised planning application. The motion was passed unanimously.

    Speeding Traffic on Driftway

    A complaint had been received about traffic exceeding the speed limit on Drift way, between Wellingborough and Yardley Road, and the correspondent asked if it would be possible to provide 30 MPH repeater signs as a reminder. Jeremy Rawlings said that distance between the lamp posts meant that repeater signs could not be provided. Peter Geary suggested that a Speed Indicator Device (SID) could be installed for a short while. This would have the effect of slowing vehicles down and also recording speeds to prove that a problem does exist. Ben Brock wondered if it would be possible to provide school signs. Liam Costello will investigate both options.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    Joe Stacey reported that to date 601 responses had been received and the two drop in sessions had been reasonably well attended. He said that a £5k grant is available to cover the cost of a Housing Needs Analysis and suggested that the results of the housing location survey be sent to MKC, but Chris Shaw was concerned that OTC should not commit to a policy based on the results of a small survey return.

    Odds and sods

    The council gave permission for The Pancake Race to be held on February 17th 2015 and the Duck and Raft Race on 5th July. Tony Evans reported that the gate at the entrance to the recreation ground was frequently being left open. He also pointed out that vehicular access was strictly for loading and unloading and not for parking. The Tennis Club were particularly poor at observing this rule, he said. Steve Clark reported that he had recently attended the Ousedale Awards for Achievement, along with various other civic dignitaries, and the standards get higher every year. He said he had sent pictures of the event to the MK Citizen and was disappointed that they only appeared to be interested in printing stories about badly performing schools.
    Rosemary Osbourne reported that residents of Chantry Rise were not receiving the MK Citizen. She had contacted their office and been told that a conscious decision had been made not to deliver to the area, although it may be reinstated next year. Peter Geary said that MKC’s forthcoming budget for the next financial year would be the toughest ever and there would be cuts in the provision of waste bags, library services and public transport, amongst other services.
    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 5th January 2015 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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