web counter
Ron Hall Editor of Phonebox Magazine

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

Mercury's reports for 2012

  • January 2012

    Olney Council report for Monday 9th January 2012

    New Town Clerk

    Mayor Steve Clark opened the meeting by wishing all present a happy New Year and welcomed the new Town Clerk, Liam Costello. As reported last month, Liam has seven years' Council experience, previously holding the post of Clerk to Marlborough Town Council.

    Public participation

    Gerald Wilson
    The first person to speak was Gerald Wilson of C.T. Wilson and sons who spoke about the issue of parking in the High Street. This was discussed at last month's meeting with comments being made about the fact that the parking spaces are not marked out, leading to some vehicles parking so as to not make the best use of the spaces available. Gerald said that during the winter months it is necessary to park his coal truck outside of his shop sideways on, due to the length of the vehicle. Although this occupies more than one space it does create a layby of sorts, he said, enabling customers who wish to load coal and other heavy purchases into their cars to pull in. In the past there had been discussions about 'A' boards and displays of goods outside of some shops, he said. Whilst agreeing with Milton Keynes Council's (MKC) ban on 'A' boards, he felt Lhat his display added to the aesthetics of the High Street and it was necessary to display goods to show that the shop was open. He reminded the council that 30 years ago, via the Chamber of Trade, he had obtained an agreement with Bucks County Council, forerunner of MKC, to have a display and as far as he was concerned that arrangement still stood.

    Roger Mann
    Second to speak was Roger Mann, who also wished to express his opinion about High Street parking and in particular the suggestion made at last month's meeting to realign and mark the spaces so that vehicles would have to reverse in to them and then drive out forwards. He reminded the council that last lime markings had been discussed they had decided that it would not be appropriate in the conservation area. The current alignment enabled drivers to spot a space and indicate, albeit belatedly, and pull in lorwards. If the parked cars were 'slewed' the other way it would not be possible to see a space until the driver was level with, or even past, the space. This would lead to drivers looking out of their passenger windows or rear view mirror, rather than the road ahead, he felt. Assuming the following vehicle had left space for the driver to reverse they would then need to complete the manoeuvre quickly so as not to hold up the traffic. A lot of drivers have considerable trouble with reversing and not particularly the elderly, he said. The danger was that the alignment of the traffic on the opposite side of the road would now present a better view of spaces, so drivers would probably pull across and park front-ways in to a space. When they subsequently backed out they would either have to reverse across both lanes ol traffic or find themselves lacing oncoming traffic. In conclusion he said that anything that improves the parking or traffic situation in the town is to be encouraged, but this would do neither, possibly making the latter worse. Gerald Wilson observed cryptically that his truck was probably the only vehicle parked legally in the High Street, anyway, as he left the meeting!

    Olympic Games - Olney Celebration

    Tony Evans reported on plans by the Baptist and Parish Churches to hold a combined event on the Recreation Ground to celebrate the opening of the Olympic Games on the evening of Friday July 27th. It would be a celebratory, family friendly, community event by the people of Olney for the people of Olney that reflects the aims of the Olympic Village in terms of its sporting and cultural agenda running from 4:30pm to 11 :30 pm. The council agreed to support the event so long as the sports clubs are in agreement but if significant financial support is required then an approach would need to be made to the council in the proper manner. Finance was a recurring theme during this month's meeting.

    Cobbs Garden Surgery - Specialist Nurse for the Elderly

    For a number of years the surgery employed an ex-District Nurse funded by Milton Keynes PCT. Last year the PCT withdrew the funding and it looked as though this valuable service would be lost. At the request of Cobbs Garden Patient Participation Group the Olney Town Council (OTC) had agreed to fund the post for a year at a cost of £13,500. Steve Clark noted with some concern that a journalist from BBC Three Counties Radio had recently visited the surgery and interviewed one of the partners who had given the impression that OTC had declined to renew the funding, due to budget constraints. Steve said that no such decision had been made and ii the journalist concerned had bothered to contact the council or visit the offices whilst he/she had been in town then they could have clarified the situation. Mike Hughes suggested that the partner had probably assumed that funding would not be renewed since the original decision had just been to fund it for a year with no obligation to fund on an on-going basis.

    Continental Market

    Traditional Markets Ltd has applied to hold a continental market In Olney on Sunday 18th March. Debbie Brock recalled that there had been a few complaints from the public about lack of pricing signage on some of the stalls when a similar event was held last year. Mike Hughes said that some of the businesses around the market had complained that they had lost most of their trade that day to the market. The general feeling was that the council would support the event but the ofler of £250 from Traditional Markets was insufficient and
    £450 should be charged. This was agreed by a majority. After the vote Tony Evans said that he assumed the ban on the selling of hot food would apply, as it did for the Sunday and Thursday markets. Debbie Brock said she thought ii was reasonable to relax this rule for a one-off event but Tony said this would send out the wrong message to the existing market traders and the ban should apply to all such events on the Market Place. Andrew Dooley asked if Tony thought it should also apply to the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) in that easel He proposed that the council agreed to the sale of hot food and the vote was carried by a majority.

    Localism Act - Council Code of Conduct

    Jeremy Rawlings explained the changes that would be necessary for councillors to meet their obligations to promote and maintain high standards of conduct. The key tasks that OTC has to achieve before 31 st March are:

    • Adopt or amend a Code of Conduct
    • Adopt or amend a Register of Interests for publication
    • Set rules (standing orders) for disclosure of interests
    • Manage standards and ethical governance as part of the wider corporate governance of the Council

    MKC have an existing code which meets these requirements and considers that parish councils will have met their obligations ii they adopt MKC's Code, Register and Rules. Jeremy said that the new rules were considerably more stringent than those currently in place and it would be a criminal offence not to declare an interest in matters coming before the council. A number of councillors round the table will be obliged to be much more open in the information they provide regarding properties and land that they own etc, he said.

    Finance Committee

    The Parish Precept (the amount of Olney residents' Council Tax which goes directly to OTC) has been retalned at the existing rate of £147,610 for the last 6 years. This has been achieved by using a reserve of funds that OTC has built up over the 'good' years and Mercury assumes that it was an effort to ease the burden on Council Tax payers during what, at the time, was thought to be an economically difficult period. However, these reserves have now exhausted and the current financial crisis means that there will actually be a deficit next year. Deidre said that the Finance Committee were proposing that the Precept should now be increased by 10%. Ron Bull suggested that it should be less that 10% so that the rest could be recouped in future years and Andrew Dooley said he would find it hard to support any increase, as the council should be cutting expenditure in the same way as householders are having to. Steve Clark closed down the conversation by saying that since this was the recommendation of the Finance Committee the full council and the full council should only be voting on it and questioning discussing it again. A vote was taken and passed by a majority.
    Mercury is grateful to Town Clerk, Liam Costello, for providing the following information:
    The total Precept will rise by 10% from
    £147,610 to £162,371. However, due to an increase in the Council tax base figure
    (which is the number of equivalent Band D Households in the parish) the actual increase to households will be 9.30%. This equates to 10p a week for a Band D property.

    Odds and sods

    A quote of £2602 for the planting of summer bedding plants (red, white and blue) to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee had been received. Colin Rodden suggested that in the light of the previous item that an alternative quote should be obtained.
    (Perhaps it would only be one third of the cost for a single colour, such as red, mused Mercury.) Tony Evans said that there were considerable cost savings obtained by continuity of the existing contract and any alternative contractor would need to do a considerable amount of pre-work which would be bound to be reflected in the quote. The council voted by a majority to accept the quote.
    Debbie Brock said that MKC have served notice through the High Court in London to The Planning Inspectorate, Npower and the various Land Owners that they (MKC) have lodged an appeal agalnst the Planning Inspectors Decision to grant permission for the Nun Wood Windfarm .
    Rosemary Osborne said that the issue of the path which runs between the bottom of Wagstaff Way and the play park and is liable to flooding should have been discussed at a meeting of MKC on 4th January but was missed off the agenda. She has been assured that it will be discussed in the February meeting.
    Tony Evans said that he thought the banks on Driftway were looking 'better' at the moment but doubted that it would continue. The maintenance by MKC had been erratic last year, he said, and he would like a meeting with Rob Ward, MKC Neighbourhood Manager, to find out what the schedule is for this year. It would be a tragedy if what has been done so far is not maintained, he said.

    Next Meeting - Monday 6th February

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

  • February 2012

    Olney Council report for Monday 6th February 2012

    Public Participation

    Paul Watson
    The first person to speak was Paul Watson, a former Mayor of Olney. Paul had read in last month's Mercury that the Council had Increased its precept, the part of your Council Tax which goes to Olney Town Council (OTC), by 10%. He'd been astonished by this, given that he believed the Council's reserves to be very healthy. During the six years ended 31st March 2009, he stated that Income and expenditure had been under strict financial control, resulting in increases in the cash and bank reserves every year from £195,000 on 31st March 2003 to £386,000 on 31st March 2009, not including the money provided by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for planning gain and land purchase.
    He stated that this financial discipline appeared to have been abandoned and, in each of the years ended 31st March 2010 and 31st March 2011, cash and bank balances had fallen, by in total almost £80,000. Whilst current numbers were only available to the end of December 2011, an extrapolation of those figures to a 12 month period to 31 March 2012 suggested that the same downward spiral was continuing: Even with the 10% Increase in the precept, the Council was staring at an overspend or more than £65,000. Further, he noted that, if the Council had approved the Market Place Toilet renovations, which seemed to be so strongly supported by the Chair of Finance, that would have required a further £38,500, based on OTC's estimates.
    Paul felt this was in stark contrast to OTC's staff having been on a pay freeze for three years, bar one Government allowance of £250 paid some time ago. He s1ated that OTC's current spending level was profligate, and that it wasn't too late to reduce spending by instructing the Chair of Finance to rescind the budget approved last month, eliminate the precept increase and prepare a budget which balanced income with expenditure.

    Members of the Public speaking in this slot are allowed a maximum of three minutes and, in this meeting, the limit was enforced vigorously by Steve Clark. So, Paul didn't get to finish his contribution.
    Later In the meeting, Mike Hughes spoke to express his concern about this, and register his disgust at how harshly Steve had called time on the former Councillor's contribution. He felt It was a disgrace. Steve noted his comment.
    For information, the minutes of December's Finance Committee meeting show that, of the eight people on the committee, two were absent and, at the vote to set the level of the precept, three voted in favour, one against and two abstained. This proposal was then brought to full Council and finalised.

    Carole Russell
    The second person to speak was Carole Russell, asking the Council to continue part• funding a Specialist Nurse for the Elderly at Cobbs Garden Surgery. The Friends of the Surgery had been campaigning to raise funds but, while they'd raised nearly £2,000, this was nowhere near enough to fund the post. Carole felt that the nurse was a lifeline for the elderly in the area and that, particularly with Olney having a higher than average proportion of elderly people, it would be a travesty if the post could no longer be funded. She concluded by saying that the Friends would not give up raising funds in future and that she was sorry to have to tall back on the Council.

    Terry How
    The third speaker was Terry How, expressing his concerns about the disposal of the land to the rear of 57 - 59 Moores Hill, a topic also covered later in this meeting. Terry felt that c􀁴rtain individuals had pocketed vast sums of money over the sale or the land. He stated that there'd been no representation from Olney's Ward Councillors, who seemed to know what was going to happen in advance of It happening. He was sure that the disposal of the land could have been handled better - it seemed to him to be a case of collusion al MKC, with Olney's Ward Councillors having something to do with ii. He slated that the situation stunk and asked that, If some individuals have made £200,000 to £300,000, how much would go back to Olney residents? He felt that the correct procedures had not been followed by MKC, who are under investigation by the Ombudsman about the issue. Terry fell strongly that a similar situation should not be allowed to happen again, and that OTC had a duty to make sure it didn't. For information, Olney's Ward Councillors are Debbie Brock, absent from this meeting, and Peter Geary, present and seated in the public viewing area.


    Pinder's Circus is due to visit Olney, with the likely time and place being 7th - 9th May on The Pyghtle. The Council will inform local residents.

    Grant Application for Nurse post

    Following on from Carole Russell's contribution, this agenda item was for the Council lo decide whether or not to accept a Grant Application for £11,550 which, added to the money raised by the Friends, would fund the Nurse post for another year. Tony Evans and Mike Hughes thought the post was important, were in favour of funding it but nervous that the commitment was open ended. Deidre Bethune S1ated that the Council had budgeted for the funding. Colin Rodden felt that there were certain things that the Council needed to do, but that it mustn't duplicate things that should be done by the Health Authority.
    The Grant Application went to the vote, with all voting in favour bar one abstention - the Council will fund the position tor another year.

    Land to rear of 57 - 59 Moores Hill

    First, some background on this long running issue. Over the years, a number of Planning Applications to build houses on the land to the rear of 57 - 59 Moores Hill have been made and rejected. Now, an Application has been accepted by MKC and, contingent on that acceptance, a developer has purchased two thirds of the garden of one of the Council houses in Moores Hill from MKC, which has also granted an easement for access to the site via a thin strip or its land off Dinglederry. In addition, the developer has purchased part of the garden of a nearby privately owned Moores Hill property, a key area which Joins the access strip with the Council house garden area. The purchase of the two areas of garden, the granting of easement for access and of Planning Permission all come together to create an area of land on which houses may be built.
    There were questions as to whether MKC has handled this process correctly, so a complaint was raised In order to discover what happened. MKC complaint investigations can pass through a number of stages - surf to http://bil.ly/z98jJZ for further information. The main findings of Stage two or the investigation were:

    • There was no evidence of MKC consulting with OTC or OTC's Ward Councillors about the land disposal;
    • The land was not advertised for sale in an appropriate publication. This was because MKC's Valuer felt that sale to this developer was the only viable option for achieving a development rate for the land, since this developer had already secured the key area of private garden. The Valuer should have set out the justifications for not advertising the land in writing, but appeared not to have done so.
    • MKC used independent expertise to value the land at a development rate, and secured a price higher than this valuation.
    • Summary: "In my opinion, the Council ... disposed or the land in accordance with relevant law and largely in compliance with Council Policy, There were some procedural issues which appear to have been missed but in reality these issues are unlikely to have resulted in any different outcome in the disposal."

    Presumably, the investigation had been escalated further, as the Council had received the following letter from MKC: "The outcome of the stage three investigation Into the Council's processes surrounding the disposal of the above property interests concluded that Property Services had not properly administered the processes ln regard to consultation with Town and Parish Councils and their respective Ward Members. Although this maladministration occurred during the time of my predecessor (2010) I should like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to each of you. The protocols put in place ensure that evidence or timely consultation is included as part of the sign-off procedures, such that there Is now no scope for error or omission in the future.

    Jeremy Rawlings spoke first, having followed the land disposal issue from the start. He felt that Terry How was right - the support given to affected residents had been abysmal. He summarised the letter as saying that, yes, MKC had made a mistake, but that they weren't planning lo do anything much about it. He felt that OTC must make sure the issue gets raised to a higher level. Jeremy stated that the way the land disposal had been handled was wrong, but didn't know how to proceed further. He concluded by saying that the sale of the land was alter an MKC Planning Meeting in which most of the comments were against It yet, when it came to the vote, most Councillors abstained.

    Mike Hughes asked Steve Clark, as Mayor, for his views and perhaps an undertaking to investigate possible ways to proceed. Steve agreed with Jeremy but, again, lei! it unclear what the Council could do. Tony Evans stated that OTC needed legal advice, MKC having operated Improperly and against its own protocol by not advertising the land sale. He also noted rumours that the land had since been sold on by the original purchasers lor a massive profit. He explained that OTC had said the situation was wrong from the start, that It should seek legal advice and, perhaps, that it should sue MKC.

    Colin Rodden, a lone voice, questioned the validity of one public body suing another in these money-saving times. He also lelt that Olney had to be allowed to grow - houses had to be built somewhere.

    Jeremy Rawlings stated that, while one Olney Ward Councillor is related to one of those who'd purchased the land from MKC, there was emphatically no suggestion that either Ward Councillor had done anything wrong.

    Investigations after the meeting confirmed that the residents have raised the complaint to the Ombudsman and discovered that, while the Council was unable to raise it in this way, it's investigating other options, including whether it could support the residents' complaint.
    Mercury thanks Jeremy Rawlings and other Councillors who've provided background for this section and helped ensure its accuracy.

    Grant Application for Youth Centre

    Jeremy Rawlings gave a brief introduction, saying that the Youth Centre was applying for a grant or £1,250, the salary of a professionally qualified Youth Worker for two sessions per month, for the year starting April 2012. The Council funded the post last year and the sessions have proved very popular with around 50-60 children attending.
    Mike Hughes asked if the Youth Centre had tried to obtain funding elsewhere. Jeremy said that ii hadn't, noting that MKC doesn't fund these sessions tor Under 13s. Mike suggested that perhaps the session entry fee should be increased from 60p to £1.60 per person, thus covering the cost. Tony Evans felt that the Grant Application was very good value for money and that, with some people spending time criticising young people In the area, the Youth Club was doing something positive to help. Deidre Bethune concurred, saying that OTC needed to fund the sessions. A vote was taken and passed with all in favour bar two abstentions - the Council will pay the grant.

    Bits 'n' bobs

    MKC is running meetings to explain the process of Community Asset Transfer, in which it plans to transfer some of the assets it owns lo more local ownership. Peter Geary spoke briefly from the public gallery to clarify the purpose of these meetings. As Alan Richardson noted and Peter Geary confirmed, the Olney Centre is not one of these assets - it's not MKC's to transfer.
    Some funds arising from the Petsoe End Wind Farm development are becoming available. with £7,000 assigned to the Olney Parish. This money must be allocated towards schemes "for the promotion, installation and education of renewable energy or energy saving measures" in the Parish. OTC will send a representative to the next meeting of the Community Development Liaison Committee, set up to administer these funds.


    The Council had received a letter from a local business asking that the Market Place Car Park time limit be increased from three to five hours. The Council refused this request for reasons including three hours being long enough, there being longer stay spaces in the town and the cost of changing the signage.
    In the Cattle Market Car Park, a single parking bay is reserved for turning. However, Mike Hughes noted that it's often heavily encroached on by the vehicle in the next space, thus leaving insufficient angle for vehicles to turn. This results in cars having to back out of the Car Park onto the main road - hardly ideal. MKC has suggested increasing the reserved area to two bays, thus allowing cars to turn more easily. The Council ag.reed with this suggestion.

    Olympics event

    As reported in earlier Mercury articles, the local Churches are organising an event on 27th July to coincide with the Olympics· Opening Ceremony. Tony Evans noted that this was progressing and that, once the finances had been estimated properly, the organisers must be encouraged to put a proper proposal to OTC. He felt ii would be a fantastic event, if it could be made to work.

    Next Meeting 5th March

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 5th 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 2012

    Olney Council report for March 2012

    Public Participation

    Terry How
    The only person to speak at this month's meeting was Terry How, once again speaking about the disposal of the land to the rear of 57-59 Moores Hill. Much of Terry's statement was a reiteration of what he had said at last month's meeting and he noted that while the Ombudsman was now looking into the handling of the matter, none of his questions from last month had been answered. He repeated his assertion that the whole matter ·stinks" and said there appeared to be no transparency from the councillors who should be representing the residents. Mercury assumed that this was directed at the Milton Keynes (MKC) councillors, rather than Olney Town Council (OTC). He said that this was the "thin edge of the wedge for Olney" and, noting that the matter was on the agenda to be discussed when the public and press had been excluded, said that he thought it should be discussed in an open forum. Deidre Bethune asked why It was being discussed in private session and Town Clerk Liam Costello explained that OTC had sought advice from their solicitors which was confidential, at present. Although no discussion normally takes place in the public participation slot, Mayor Steve Clark said that he would allow some discussion to take place, but not regarding the solicitor's advice. It might be possible to communicate this advice to the residents once this had been discussed in the closed session, he said. Jeremy Rawlings said he had spent some lime working with the residents and MKC officers and, while the third and final stage of MKC's complaints procedure had found some shortcomings, it was by and large legal. OTC is not permitted to formally support the residents' complaint to the Ombudsmen, he said. Tony Evans noted rumours that the developer was now looking to buy additional land and build up to six houses. There had been no response to OTC's concerns about drainage, Highways impact in Dinglederry, loss of trees subject to Tree Preservation Orders and overlooking of houses in Moores Hill, he said. Steve Clark said that there were some questions around the procedures adopted for the land sale. When previous planning applications for the land had been submitted the MKC Planning Officers had agreed with OTC's recommendation that It should be rejected. However, this time round an officer had recommended approval and under such circumstance the Planning Committee is obliged to have good reason to ignore the advice of Its own officer in order to overturn this recommendation. Even ii this were to happen an appeal by the developer would usually be successful, he said.
    Mercury is grateful to Steve Clark for providing the following Information regarding the Solicitors' advice: The gist of the legal advice was that it would be very unwise for the Town Council to contemplate Instigation of a judicial review into the matter as it would prove lo be extremely expensive and risky and would be hard to justify on the basis that MKC had 'generally followed the correct procedure'. Members were all of the opinion that they could not possibly justify spending a massive sum of public money to pursue this case given the very high risk that it could go against Olney Town Council.

    Hot food at Thursday and Sunday Markets

    In the past OTC has always rejected requests from market traders to sell hot food on the Sunday and Thursday markets, not only because they didn't want to see things like burgers and hot dogs on sale but also in order to protect the interests of the businesses around the Market Place. Following a recent market where one of the traders had apparently ignored this rule, there had been some feedback at the Recreations and Services Committee meeting about how popular the product on sale had been because it was something different that was not regularly available In the area. Tony Evans reported that the Recreations and Services Committee was now recommending that this rule should be rescinded, subject to certain conditions. Deidre Bethune questioned the actual proposal from the R&S meeting, saying that she thought the recommendation from that meeting was to ·consider· rather than to
    'allow'. (For information, the minutes of that meeting show that no vote was actually taken). Tony said that any trader wishing to sell hot food would have to apply in advance and comply with strict conditions. Mike Hughes was in favour of the proposal and said if anyone flouted the new conditions they would be ordered to leave immediately. A vote was taken and passed by a majority with two members voting against.
    As an aside, Town Clerk Liam Costello suggested that sub-committees should be more autonomous and not be obliged to take every decision to the full council in order to get it approved. Mercury understands that this is common practice with many other local councils, such as Newport Pagnell, and would certainly overcome the frustration expressed by councillors in the past that, having fully discussed and agreed a course of action at a sub-committee, it is then discussed again at length by the full council.

    Milton Keynes wind turbine policy

    The council has been sent a copy of the document Draft Wind Turbines Supplementary Planning Document and Emerging Policy: Wind Turbines Planning Applications for comment, and also a request from the Chair of Castlethorpe Parish Council, Philip Ayles, to support the policy. Philip's letter noted that the existing policy is over 10 years old and was written when turbines were half the height they are today, which is typically 125m (the height of the local turbines at Petsoe End). In fact 200m turbines exist and plans for the first 1000m turbines were recently announced. Much of the policy is around the minimum separation distance between wind farms and housing. The policy is available at www.millon-keynes.gov.uk/wind-turbines and the public are invited to comment, although the consultation period officially ends on 28th March 2012. Unfortunately these documents were sent out in early February and were on the OTC agenda in March but this report will not appear until the end of that month.

    Milton Keynes Transport Strategy Review

    MKC has written to the council asking for comments on the Transport Strategy Review. The policy is available at
    www.millon-keynes.gov.uk/transport/ and the public are Invited to comment, although the consultation period is even lighter, officially ending on 23rd March 2012.

    Parish Partnership Fund

    This fund is granted by MKC to local councils to enable them to apply for funding of up to 50¾ for improvements or facilities which they wish to provide in their local area, and applications are now being invited. Tony Evans noted that the path into the cemetery needed upgrading, while Deidre Bethune suggested improvements to the roadway to the allotments. Mike Hughes suggested the current hedge laying work that is taking place on Crouch's Field (previously known as 'The New Field'). John Boardman noted that some items of play equipment had been removed from the recreation ground for safety reasons, although Steve Clark said that a similar scheme, the Play Area Improvement Scheme existing specifically for such reasons and MKC was also inviting applications for funding under that scheme. It was agreed to get quotes for the suggestions which will presumably be discussed at a future meeting.

    Parish Meeting

    This has traditionally taken place in April so that in an election year, such as this, the outgoing council are able to present the annual accounts prior to the start of the new council year, although Uam Costello said that this is not actually a formal requirement. The election for the new council will take place on 3rd May so it was decided to hold the Town Meeting on 26th April. Liam questioned whether the closeness of the two events might impinge on the members ability to 'go knocking on doors' but the opinion of some councillors was that if the electorate could actually be bothered to turn up at the meeting then it would save them the trouble! Mercury is usually almost as lonely at the Town Meeting as he is at the monthly OTC meetings, so ii you want the chance to meet your councillors before the election and question them on anything you like, please come along.

    Odds and Sods

    Tony Evans reported that Crouch's Field is looking good and the council workers have done an excellent Job, particularly with the fencing, The hedge laying is coming along well, also. He invited any councillors (and presumably the public as well) to go along and have a look.
    Steve Clark reported on the recent meeting of the Emberton Park Liaison Group. There is concern about car movements in the park and the 10 mph speed limit is not well observed. A one way system is being considered, with two way traffic being permitted up to the cafe, he said. The downside of this would mean that access to the Sailing Club would result in a large circuit of the park, though. Consideration is also being given to extending the season for the static caravans, he said.
    Rosemary Osbourne reported that MKC had now approved the work required to resolve the Issue of the path which runs between the bottom of Wagstaff Way and the play park that is liable to flooding. Work would commence in May and is due to be completed by August.
    Mike Hughes reported 1hat a recent survey conducted by the Neighbourhood Action Group showed that the main issues concerning the residen1s of Olney were:

    1. Traffic congestion
    2. Parking
    3. Dog fouling

    all of which came as a surprise to precisely no one, suspected Mercury.

    Next Meeting - Monday 2nd April

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd April in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, ii they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides Is appropriate. The Town Meeting will take place on Thursday 26th April and members of the public are invited to attend and question the council on any matters concerning them. Remember. it's your opportunity to make your voice heard and it's no use complaining that you don't know any of the people behind the names on your ballot paper or you don't agree with what your hard earned money is being spent on ii you don't attend.

  • April 2012

    Olney Council report for April 2012

    Filled to capacity

    The council chamber was filled to capacity by members of the public this month, many eager to speak about the plans to build houses on land to the rear of two houses in Moores Hill or listen to the council debate on the matter. The possibility of two more properties to the rear of a further house has inflamed the situation even further.

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    The first person to speak was Sue Warren, once again addressing the council on the matter of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Sue said that the situation had worsened as two more nearby residents had recently passed their driving test. She asked Mayor Steve Clarke why he had not responded to a request for action some years ago from MP Mark Lancaster's assistant to himself and Graham Mabbutt when they had been Milton Keynes Council (MKC) ward councillors. (For information, Steve has informed Mercury that neither he nor Graham have any record or recollection of such a request being made). She criticised the council for addressing parking issues elsewhere in the town, quoting the erection of signs to dissuade drivers from parking near Crouch's field, whilst ignoring the plight of the residents of Oakdown Crescent. She criticised the Town Clerk for not following up a letter written in November to Richard Duffill, MKC Traffic and Parking Team Leader, and also Richard himself (who was not present) for not responding to any of her letters or emails, but suspected that the reason for that was her mother giving him a 'hard time' when he had visited to investigate the situation. Finally she criticised MKC Councillor Debbie Brock for not following up a request for information from the Ambulance Service after an incident where an ambulance had not been able to park close to the house of a sick resident. She challenged the councillors to take action and reminded them that it is an election year and there are 20 elderly residents who need their support to have a good end to their life instead of living in a car park.

    Chris Kitchener
    Chris Kitchener spoke on behalf of the residents of Dinglederry about the plans to build additional housing using the rear gardens of some houses in Moores Hill with access via Dinglederry. Chris said that a number of applications had been made over the years for two houses, five houses and lastly three bungalows, all of which had been rejected. The latter had been the subject of an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol. The residents had been supported by both OTC and MKC in those objections and in July 2002 MKC had placed a preservation order on trees in the gardens. In July 2004 she and her neighbours in Dinglederry had been approached by a firm of property developers with a request to purchase eight metres of their gardens to enable access to the gardens in Moores Hill but had turned down a considerable offer because they loved their existing rural outlook. She concluded by saying that the Government have stated that they want local people to have more say in the development of their localities and asked that they be listened to.

    Nick Shipton
    Next to speak on the subject was Nick Shipton. Please note that the following transcription is based on a statement read by Nick and The Phonebox cannot vouch for the accuracy of its content. Nick stated that as a result of the Stage 3 complaint which the residents had raised with MKC, they now had a letter and apology which stated that the sale of the council land and the easement of the 'ransom strip' was not carried out according to policy and process and was unlawful. He said that MKC had admitted that the land was sold illegally to the developer and was now considering compounding the situation by allowing further houses to be built. The original developer had since sold on the gardens on to a builder at a huge profit, he said, but local government law does not allow ex-council land to be sold on undeveloped. He also had a letter from Peter Smettem, Valuer to MKC, which stated that the easement over the council owned strip would be limited to three dwellings and another letter from Richard Jenden, Estates Manager, confirming this to be the case. This commitment should be upheld as promised, he said. The granting of the previous application will have a devastating consequence to many families living in Dinglederry and any further building in the area would ruin other families' home lives, including his own. The developer was not providing valuable services to Olney through the building of social housing, but was merely looking to make money. Due to the family relationship of the original developer to both of Olney's MKC ward councillors (Debbie Brock and husband Peter Geary) the residents will, again, not have the benefit of a ward councillor to support them, he said. With the previous application they were only able to secure the services of a 'proxy' councillor (i.e. a councillor with no interest from another ward) a week before the meeting at which the planning permission was granted.

    Terry How
    The last person to speak was Terry How, who had spoken at the two previous meetings. He was highly critical of the two ward councillors, making a number of accusations, and called for them both to resign. In view of the forthcoming MKC elections and libel laws of this country, The Phonebox has decided not to report these accusations.

    Easement to rear of 59 Moores Hill

    This was the formal agenda item for the council to discuss this matter. The interested members of the public were still present for this item and some attempted to join the debate, but Mayor Steve Clark was strict in imposing the Standing Order which forbids this. Jeremy Rawlings informed the council that an application had been received for a further easement of the MKC owned access strip, as discussed in the public participation section of the meeting. This was not unexpected he said, as previous applications had included development to the rear of 61 Moores Hill. He said the whole thing was steeped in mystique and bad dealings and felt that MKC should be bought to account. He was frustrated that no one at MKC was being brought to account for the original mistakes in the consultation process. Deidre Bethune said that there was no point in objecting as MKC would just ignore the recommendation of OTC. Mike Hughes thought that the Mayor and Town Clerk should make an official and personal representation stating OTC's objection rather than proffering it in a 'limp' way. He felt it was time that OTC was listened to prior to the easement being debated. Background details should be provided pointing out that MKC has admitted previous wrong doing, he said. Town Clerk, Liam Costello, reminded members that MKC had admitted its previous mistakes but has been advised by its solicitors that it had not acted illegally so the only subject currently up for debate was the extension to the easement. Jeremy said that if OTC had a spare £1 00k it could take on MKC and probably win, but unfortunately it didn't. Steve Clark compared the situation with the strategy of a certain major supermarket chain when dealing with objections to planning permissions. Ron Bull suggested harnessing the power of the local media to point out that MKC had broken its own rules and the general consensus was that this was a good idea and should be investigated.

    Church Community Festival for Olympics

    As reported previously, the combined Baptist and Parish Churches plan to hold an event on the Recreation Ground to celebrate the opening of the Olympic Games on the evening of Friday July 27th. It would be a celebratory, family friendly, community event by the people of Olney for the people of Olney that reflects the aims of the Olympic Vision in terms of its sporting and cultural agenda, running from 4:30pm to 11 :30 pm. The intention is that the event should be self­financing through proceeds from takings, together with sponsorship and donations from organisations. To that end the organisers have requested a grant of £2056 from OTC and an underwriting sum of £660 to cover the hire of toilets. In view of recent criticism of council spending the council decided not to agree to the grant outright but agreed on a majority vote to underwrite the event to the value of £2,716 to cover the costs of the marquee and toilets. The money will be paid by instalments to cover any costs when they incur, and is to be repaid if the event generates a surplus.

    Community Parking Fund

    This fund is managed by MKC with the aim of providing additional parking availability in established residential areas and is delivered in partnership with Parish and Town Councils. The maximum award is normally £30k per Parish/T'own Council per year and a maximum of three applications may be made by each Parish, although the Parish is expected to contribute 50% of the costs. Tony Evans reported on two plans, the first to increase the number of spaces in the East Street (Rugby Club) car park and the second to provide a new car park at the East Street end of the Nursery Field (football pitch). At the moment there is a central dividing kerb, with two rows of perpendicular parking either side of it. There is a considerable amount of space between the rows of bays which often results in cars parking in the middle blocking access to and from the marked bays. It is proposed to remove the central kerb, moving the rows towards the pitch with the bays at 45 degrees, which should allow one, or possibly two, rows of additional parking. The second plan involves the creation of a new parking area behind the football pitch at the East Street boundary, to provide an additional 36 spaces. Mercury understands that a six foot high fence will be erected for protection. A vote was taken with a majority voting in favour of making two applications for funding under the scheme. The council is keen to hear views of residents and details of the proposals, including plans, can be viewed at the offices in the Olney Centre during normal offices hours of 9:00am to 4:00pm Monday to Thursday, and 9:00am to 3:00pm on Friday.

    Market waste skip

    Councillors had noted that little waste is placed in the weekly skip and that the automatic sweeper is no longer used. This is an annual cost to the OTC of £16750. The last meeting of the Rees and Services Committee had recommended that the provision of a skip be discontinued and the market traders asked to clear their pitch at the end of the day and take their rubbish away. Tony Evans reported on a subsequent meeting with the market traders to discuss the issue where Neil Bowditch had managed to obtain a quote for a basic open top skip for £8060 per year. The council voted by a majority to have a six month trial and Debbie Brock thanked Neil for his initiative.

    Emptying of dog waste bins

    There are currently 39 dog bins in Olney which are emptied on Monday each week, with a second collection on Thursday between the months of April and September (Mercury assumes this is in order to avoid unpleasant odours, rather than the impact of hot weather on the canine metabolism). The current contactor has quoted £2.69 plus VAT per bin for the first empty and £1.34 plus VAT for the second empty for an eight year contract running up to March 2020. The council consider this good value for money and agreed to renew the contract.

    Disclosure of Interest

    Town Clerk, Liam Costello, provided a summary of a document issued by the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) regarding members' conduct and the registration of and disclosure of their interests, as defined in the Localism Act 2011. The Act provides that every relevant authority in England is under a duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by its members and co-opted members and in doing so must adopt a code of conduct. The definition of co-opted member covers non­councillor members of sub-committees and joint committees who are entitled to vote at meetings. This would include such groups as the Dickens of a Christmas Committee, said Liam. The lack of a declaration of interest is now considered a criminal offence, he said. Mercury noted that the offence carries a potential fine of £5000 and/or disqualification for up to five years.

    Odds and Sods

    Representatives of OTC will in future be entitled to issue parking tickets themselves for parking violations on the Market Place on days when parking is prohibited, such as market days. The tickets will be enforced by its contractor, Napier Parking.
    Deidre Bethune said she thought the thick yellow bus stop markers painted by MKC are an eyesore and noted that complaints had been received from members of the public.
    Alan Richardson noted that parking around The Knoll was becoming a problem and suggested that double yellow lines should be provided.
    Mike Hughes reported that he would be standing down at the forthcoming elections and thanked the council for an enjoyable time, including his two years as Mayor. Steve Clark thanked him for his valuable contribution.
    The recent continental market was not judged to be a success. The food was of very poor quality and the whole event was described as scruffy and down at heel. Jeremy Rawlings noted that the German Sausage vendor was a burger van and Tony Evans said that the traders left all of their rubbish at the end.

    Next Meeting - Monday 14th May

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 14th 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. The Town Meeting will take place on Thursday 26th April and members of the public are invited to attend and question the council on any matters concerning them

  • May 2012

    Olney Council report for May 2012

    Public Participation

    Kevin Osborne
    The first person to speak was Kevin Osborne, representing lhe Olney and Clifton Reynes Fishing Association. Over 30 years ago, the Association built a set of walkways and small bridges alongside the river between the Mill and Doff's Field in order to improve access for its members. Over time, the riverside walk has become taken for granted by the Public and, while the Association has no problem with non­members using the structures, this usage increases wear and tear. As such the Association is asking if they could contribute towards what has become a town facility, either by supplying materials or reducing the Association's rent.

    Mike Hughes
    Mike Hughes, who's just stepped down as the Councillor, spoke very briefly to wish the Council and residents of Olney good fortune and a successful year.

    Samantha Tomlin
    Samantha Tomlin, of the Olney Chamber of Trade (CoT), had asked the Council for permission for the CoT to use the Market Square on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th September for the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF). This topic and that of the next speaker were to be discussed later In the meeting.

    Paul Collins
    Finally, Paul Collins, a Trustee of the Cowper and Newton Museum, noted that ii was hosting a number of events starting on Sunday 16th September. On that day, the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire will be starting a Charity horse ride from the North to the South of the County and. with Olney being pretty much at the Northernmost lip, the ride is starting from the Museum.


    This was the first meeting of this year's Council, so ii started with various elections. Steve Clark was re-elected as Mayor with Jeremy Rawlings continuing as his deputy, both posts being uncontested. The committee Chairs stayed as last year although Deidre Bethune, absent this evening, had noted that, If anyone else wished to lake over as Finance Committee Chair, she'd be more than happy for them to do so. The Committee will elect its own Chair at its first meeting.

    Storage unit licences

    The storage units on the Recreation Ground are rented to The Olney Group (TOG), Olney Rugby Club and Olney Colts Football Club. The licences are due for renewal and, following advice from a Solicitor, they've been tightened up somewhat and, to reduce administration, now have a five year upper limit on their duration.

    Big Olney Food Festival

    As you may have noticed, the High Sheriff's horse ride will be starting one day after the BOFF. As such, the CoT and the Museum plan to coordinate and, after a brief discussion involving Councillors and, with Standing Orders temporarily suspended to allow it, Samantha and Paul, it seemed like this would work out well. The CoT offered either to have the BOFF Marquees taken down on the Saturday night, leaving the Square free for the ne-xt day, or to leave them up for the Sunday, allowing the Museum to use them with, if desired, some food stalts. This item concluded with the CoT being given permission to use the Market Square for 48 hours from midday Friday 14th September.

    Chantry Rise play area

    As reported before, the lower footpath in the Chantry Rise play area is liable to flooding. To alleviate this problem, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) has proposed building a boardwalk over much of this path, similar to those in Emberton Par1<. Councillors liked this and, after a short discussion, it was approved. Debbie Brock concluded by thanking the Neighbourhood Action Group for its help pushing this through.

    Olney Middle School Car Boot Sale

    The Friends of Olney Middle School have asked the Council for permission to use the East Street Car Park to host a Car Boot Sale in the summer to raise funds for the School. Tony Evans started by noting that, while he didn't want to be a killjoy, the Council had always refused requests to use this Car Park for non-parking purposes. Steve Clark asked where people attending the Sale would park. Other possible nearby venues included the area between East Street and the nearby goalposts on the Recreation Ground - that which may in any case soon become a Car Park. After further discussion, a consensus was reached. The Council agreed in principle to support the event, and to hold discussions with the School about precisely where to hold it.

    Dickens of a Christmas

    Introduced by Alan Richardson, this item was to request a budget increase for Dickens of a Christmas (DoC). In essence, Alan wanted to increase the entertainments budget from
    £3,000 to £4,000 in order to provide more to see along the High Street - the aim being for the event lo be continuous between the Amaya restaurant and the Market Square. Councillors voted to accept this request - this was a major event which deserved the backing.
    Peter Geary, while in favour of the increase, noted that it must be round without increasing the overall budget for the current financial year, currently projected to overspend by
    £65,000. In other words, other things would have to be trimmed to compensate. Liam Costello noted that recent budgets had underspent compared with initial projections. Peter replied that the budget should be redrafted in order to make It realistic.

    Sound and lights

    Alan Richardson noted that the Olney Centre sound system, around 20 years old, had failed and, with that affecting bookings, the amplifier had been replaced by local company Impact.
    The Council had budgeted £2,250 this year towards the ongoing replacement of the lamppost-mounted Christmas light curtains with more efficient LED versions. Councillors approved this expenditure and, with some local shops offering to make contributions to the local community, will see if that could make it possible to replace them more quickly.
    The Jubilee Beacon lighting is being organised by a group of Councillors and one of the TOG members. It will be Iii at 10.1 Spm on 4th June. For more information on the Beacons Which will be lit around the UK, surf to http://bit.ly/Kg6YVX.

    Development publicity

    Following on from Terry Howe's question at the Town Meeting, Ron Bull asked Liam Costello for the latest information on the Moores Hill development issues. Much as before, Liam replied that the Council was still waiting on MKC for an update and that, while publications had been made aware of the issues, he couldn't force them to publish them.

    Long grass

    Tony Evans noted that the last lime MKC had cut the grass around Olney was 6th April, with the next cut being due for 18th May, six weeks later. He felt this was totally unacceptable. He concluded by comparing the schedule with those of previous years: Last year there were eight cuts, one every four weeks, while In the year before there were 13.

    Next Meeting - Monday 11th June

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 11th 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 2012

    Olney Council report for June 2012

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    First to speak was Susan Warren. chasing for progress with the ongoing parking problems in Oakdown Crescent, asking about the outcome of the site meeting held on the 8th May and for any news on a letter concerning the issue sent to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) last November. She also brought some old letters, including one from Newport Pagnell RuralDistrict Council to Weston Road _ residents dated November 1968 which stated that the "tuming space, in Oakdown Crescent, is not to be used for long term parking and your cooperation to ensure this is so, is requested'. Susan concluded by saying that the Oakdown Crescent residents deserve better and that she would not give up.

    Debbie Brock
    Debbie Brock responded that the site meeting had been on behalf of MKC officers working on several proposals to improve parking in the area but that the process would take time. Susan claimed that Debbie was not informing people of progress. Debbie concluded thisitem by explaining that there was nothing - to say but. when there was, she'd say it.

    Barry Edwards
    Last to speak was Barry Edwards of Dodo Antiques, giving background on road closures he'd requested for consideration in this meeting. In summary, the closures are for the length of road between 2 and 8 Silver End for the daytime of various weekends over the summer for the purpose of charily fundraising antiques fairs.

    Bits n Bobs

    Tony Evans and Ben Brock were not present, having sent their apologies.
    Tony had sent a letter explaining that, following recent rainfall, the pitch between the Football Club and East Street was too soft for heavy vehicles and, thus, unsuitable for the fair due lo arrive on Monday 18th June. So, regrettably, his letter recommended that the Council cancel the fair In order to avoid the risk of serious damage lo the ground. Councillors agreed.
    Debbie Brock noted that the April grass cutting date given In last month's meeting, and
    reported by Mercury, was incorrect. e correct dale ls in fact 16th - 17th Apnl, ,:ti ten days later than given, meaning that the lime between cuts was shorter than claimed.
    Councillors briefly discussed then agreed Barry's request for Silver End road closures over the summer.

    Moores Hill development - part one

    This item was to discuss correspondence from MKC regarding the easement to the land to the rear of Moores Hill from Dinglederry and, having earlier declared personal and prejudicial interests, Debbie Brock and Peter Geary left the meeting.
    Jeremy Rawlings started the discussion, feeling that the decision, at Peter Geary's request, to split the single agenda item covering the development Into two parts was not ideal because the parts were not separable. He noted that John Bint, the Ward Councillor who'd represented residents' views at the Development Control meeting, had done a good job. After further discussion In which every Councillor who contributed appeared unhappy with the whole issue, bar Steve Clark who took more of a chairman's role, Councillors decided to note their displeasure and to make furtherrepresentations If and when a Planning.
    Application for the land is received.

    Moores HIii development - part two

    Having earlier declared only a personal interest in this item, which was to discuss the Ombudsman's Reports, Debbie and Peter retumed to the meeting.
    As background, there were two Reports. The first responded to a nearby resident's complaint that MKC had failed to properly process a transaction involving the sale of Council owned land and that, as a result, he missed out on the opportunity to bid for the land. The second responded to another nearby resident's complaint that in addition to a similar MKC failing, MKC was at fault for the grant of an easement over the access to that land. He'd also claimed that a survey of Great Crested NeW1s should have been arranged and that incorrect information about Tree Preservation Orders had been presented to the Development Control Committee.
    The Ombudsman's decision on the first Report was that there was no requirement !or MKC to advertise the land for sale but that rt should have consulted with Olney Town Council alternative (OTC) uses and for its the Ward Councillors about alternative uses for the land, a failing which MKC had acknowledge,cL The Ombudsman felt that the complainant had not suffered significant injustice because, even if his views on alternative uses for the land had been heard, the price obtained by the Council for the land reflected its development value and took into account the easement and, thus, would have exceeded and provided better value than any otter made by the complainant. The decision concluded with the Ombudsman saying that he needn't be further involved with the complaint.
    The decision on the second Report was broadly similar, though also noting that MKC had behaved correctly regarding the ecological points. This decision concluded with the Ombudsman discontinuing his office's involvement in the complaint.
    Back to the meeting, Jeremy Rawlings felt that, once again, the Reports had indicated errors in MKC's handling of the land sale but that the Ombudsman had ignored them. Peter Geary felt differently and, starting with "I wasn't going to say anything but...", gave his views. He felt that OTC had received a one sided recollection of what had taken place. The facts were that the Ombudsman had
    identified some failings, for which MKC hadapologised, but concluded that these _failings
    had not changed the overall outcome. Pet r felt there'd been one main failing - that 􀂡neither OTC nor them as Ward Councillors had been notified - but that much debate had taken place in OTC and in the town. However, the Obmudsman's Reports were from an independent, unbiased body with no axe to grind. He concluded by noting a concern that, with OTC having taken legal advice in this case due lo requests from concerned residents, a precedent could have been set for how it handles similar requests in future.
    Andrew Dooley pointed out that this planning issue was different from others, as neither Ward Councillor had been allowed to represent the town. People thought they'd been abandoned by OTC and it could not change their views. Peter replied that he'd spent many hours on the phone to Nick Shipton, who'd spoken as a member of the public in April's OTC meeting, but that when it became clear they could no longer take part in the issue, he and Debbie had backed out. Going further, Peter slated that people had not been abandoned: This was a myth and not part of the complaints. In fact, someone had taken on representing residents' views a few days later. He noted that one complainant was an aggrieved developer who'd also wanted to bid for the land.
    Debbie gave some background, some of which was in answering a post-meeting question from Mercury. She explained that Peter had been due lo speak In a Planning Meeting as a member of the public against the Planning Application. He'd declared a prejudicial interest and so was allowed to do this but would have had to leave before the debate had taken place. However, a day or two before the meeting, MKC received accusations about Debbie's conduct along with a strong view that neither she or Peter should have anything to do with the Application. As a result, they backed away from it apart from, when asked, helping lo arrange an alternative Ward Councillor to represent residents' views. She said that they'd never abandon people in the town, "we just wouldn't", and that the whole episode had been regrettable. She fell that OTC had been manipulated to an extent: One of its members, not present at this mooting, should not have been part of some conversations in this Chamber - not good news.

    Jeremy Rawlings concluded the discussion, saying that MKC had made an arbitrary decision not to advertise the land on the open market due to it not being possible to use standalone. He felt this had been glossed over.

    Code of conduct and declaration of Interests

    As regular readers will know, Councillors are obliged to declare ii they have an interest in any items being discussed. Peter Geary explained that not doing so will shortly become a criminal offence. This meant that Councillors must understand what constituted personal and prejudicial interests or else, in theory at least, they could end up appearing before a Court.

    Local boundary review

    Differences in the rate of population expansion across M1lton Keynes Borough mean that some Ward Councillors now represent many more people than others and, thus, MKC ls performing a Ward boundary review. First of all the Electoral Commission is asklng how m􀃘ny Councillors should sit on MKC. Once it knows this, the ratio of Ward Councillors lo people is known and the resulting Ward boundary positions will then be decided.
    This raises the possibility of Olney, plus some surrounding villages, being split into two Wards and, thus, each Olney Town Councillor being elected to represent one or the other. Historically, OTC has not believed this to be a good situation, and discussion tonight confirmed this view. As a result, OTC's opinion was that the number of MKC Councillors should be increased to around 67 - 70, thus keeping the ratio of Ward Councillors to people about the same and, it hoped, avoiding Olney being split into two Wards.
    Mercury thanks Debbie Brock and Peter Geary for providing background on this issue.

    East Street car parking

    OTC noted in this year's Town Meeting that it's looking to provide additional parking near the sports fields by changing some of the grass area between the westernmost Recreation Ground goalposts and East Street for use as a car park. Details of this proposal have been on display at Olney Town Council but, in summary, a reconfiguration of the existing nearby car park would provide an additional 25 spaces while the additional area would provide a further 36. The MKC Community Parking Fund may help fund this work.
    liam Costello Introduced the Item noting that there'd been some opposition from local residents and suggesting that, since both parts of the scheme were feasible, OTC could apply for funding for the two, then make firm decisions later on which, if any, to implement. Noting that, in spite of the Council having sent consultation letters to nearby residents, some had first heard of the proposals from the Phone Box, Debbie felt that they were very much hypothetical - they may never happen. She also stated that the devices added to the existing East Street car park to reduce antisocial behaviour mustn't be removed by any changes. Councillors decided to submit formal applications to the Community Parking Fund, listing the reconfiguration of the existing car park as the priority.

    Football Club fence

    Olney Football Club has informed the Council of plans to erect a perimeter fence around its main pitch on the Recreation Ground. Paul Tough, Chair of the Club, was present and, at various points, standing orders were lilted so he could answer questions.
    Summarising, Paul explained that the fencing would be low, likely green in colour, and was required to meet new Football Association rules and thus allow the Club to continue to operate. It was not the intention to stop the public, or indeed the fair, from using the area. As such, the plans included two areas where the fencing would slide back to allow access, and that these would be closed just between Friday and Saturday evenings. An additional benefit would be the reduction of dog fouling on match days. Finally, given the earlier discussion on parking, he noted that, if the area between the westernmost goal and East Street did become a car park, it could be possible to have a temporary high net behind the goal, to be erected only on match days, thus avoiding a permanent, and likely less pleasing, high fence there.

    Councillors voted in favour of the plans, with six voting for, two against and three abstalning.

    Bobs 'n' bits

    liam said that the Jubilee Beacon lighting had been very successful, and thanked The Olney Group (TOG) and Neill Elliot for helping organise it. He also reported that a new head groundsman has started at the Council. Finally, all Ann Hopkins Smith Alms Houses are currently lull but the waiting list is empty, so any elderly Lady with strong Olney connections can apply for an Almshouse by writing to Tony Evans at Olney Park Farm, Yardley Road, Olney, Bucks.

    Next Meeting - Monday 2nd July

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd 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 2012

    Olney Council report for July 2012

    More Public than Members

    There were more members of the public than councillors present at the start of this month's meeting, so Mercury was looking forward to an evening of lively debate.

    Public Participation

    Jim Middleton
    Five members of the public spoke at this month's meeting. First to speak was Jim Middleton on the subject or the Olney bypass. Jim read from a statement he had submitted to the Milton Keynes Core Strategy examination hearing. Jim said as a resident of Olney he attended the MK South Midlands Panel but was not allowed to say anything at the examination. The point he had made in the written submission was that all the development of urban areas north, south, east and west of Olney was having a hugely detrimental effect on Olney with traffic getting ever worse. Jim said he was ignored, and the panel in fact allowed no transport schemes, other than those in the then government's short term plans. This was a pathetic response from so called professionals to a long term planning exercise, he said, and in his opinion there can be no stronger case for a bypass anywhere in the country than Olney. Jim's full submission can be downloaded from http://www.milton­
    3_MiddletonMKlnqdoc1 OlneyBP.pdf

    Karen Gilbert
    Next to speak was Karen Gilbert, owner of Beans Cate in the Market Place, on a subject that was obviously of concern to a number of members of the public present, namely the application by Real Estate Advisors Savills, on behalf of Calle Nero, to open a branch in the building previously occupied by Derby House Saddtery. Karen said hers is a small, independent business which would struggle to compete against a large, national chain. The rates in Olney were the highest of the lour locations where she had branches and while Caffe Nero could absorb high business rates, she could not.

    Elaine Baxendale
    Elaine Baxendale also spoke against the application. She has been an Olney resident for nine years, she said, and one of the attractions of the town is Its small 'quirky' establishments. Local businesses would be certain to suffer, she feat. and questioned whether Olney needed another big concern. There was a need to consider the environment, she said. The planning application was discussed as an agenda item later in the meeting.

    Brian Rice
    Next to speak was Bryan Rice on the continued problems of parking In Oakdown Crescent.

    Richard Stone
    Richard Stone, Bar Manager of The Carlton House Club (formerly Olney Working Men's Club) spoke about the proposal to position a bench outside of the club. For Information, this has been the subject of discussions by the council for many years. Many elderly people have complained that there is no where to sit and rest whist making the long walk along the High Street and the council have been looking to find a suitable location for a bench. Richard said that one of the license conditions of the club was that members should leave the club in a quiet and orderly manner. Although the club has a smoking area within the grounds he was concerned that a bench at the front would encourage members who wished to smoke to sit on the bench and also take drinks with them, which would be against the terms of the license. As a previous licensee of The Bull he knew what problems a bench outside would attract, he said. Added to that he and his family lived above the club with bedrooms facing out on to the High Street and they would be bound to suffer disturbed nights, he said.

    George Horncasltle
    George Horncastle, Secretary of the club spoke next and said whist he accepted that the bench was for the benefit of elderly members of the community it would be bound to attract other people and the club would be blamed for disorderly behaviour of customers leaving adjacent licensed premises.

    Best Kept VIiiage 2012

    Although Olney is a town it is eligible for entry to this competition and this year won the Michaelis Cup for small towns. The competition awards are for Best Kept towns/villages, not beautiful villages, and care, cleanliness, maintenance and community effort were what the judges were looking for when they visited in June. There will be a brief presentation ceremony at the Olney Centre on 8th September. Mercury noted, somewhat ironically, that Savills Is one of the sponsors of the competillonl

    Planning application for Derby House

    For information, this building has been empty since the Derby House Saddlery vacated the premises a year ago. It is a building of significant local importance and history, having been the site ol J.W. and E. Sowman which was established as an ironmongers in 1888 and went on to become a large emporium, finally being sold to Burgess' In 1962. Burgess' left the town in 1984. Real Estate Advisors Savllls have lodged two planning applications with respect to the premises. The first is to convert the upper floor into four two bedroom residential apartments. The second is for a change of use from a shop (use Class A 1) to a cafe
    (mixed A1/A3) for occvpation by a branch of Calle Nero. In the Planning Statement Savills referred back to similar change of use applications which had been granted in Olney over the last 12 years. They also listed a number of natJonal appeal decisions which had established the justification for change to mixed A 1 /A3, which some councillors found somewhat intimidating. MKC ward councillor Peter Geary reminded the members that objections could only be made on planning grounds rather than the impact it would have on local businesses. However, the council might decide that there are already enough similar businesses nearby and any more would change the character of the town, in which case an objection might be justified. Multi-national companies like Savills and Caffe Nero have huge financial resources to appeal against any rejections he said, pointing out Tesco had successfully taken over two shops in the town. Mayor Steve Clark felt that Caffe Nero could not be regarded as a quality outlet and would not increase footfall in the town. He said it was regrettable that Derby House had closed the branch, since he knew of customers who travelled over 100 miles to shop there. Jeremy Rawlings thought it most unlikely that anyone would travel 100 mile to visit Caffe Nero, although he pointed out that if the application was rejected the building could be empty for many years. Peter Geary suggested that the council should support the application for the flats since it would reduce the size of the shop and make it more marketable. He also reminded councillors that if Gaffe Nero were so minded they could buy up one of the existing coffee shops in the town and would not need to apply for a change of use. Colin Rodden was concerned that the plans did not allow for sufficient car parking for the cafe and flats. Debbie Brock said that it was important that the Integrity of the front and rear of the building Is maintained so the proposed UPVC windows were not appropriate. Alan Richardson noted that the plans Included retlling of the entrance but pointed out the existing tiling is of historical importance.

    Electoral Review of MIiton Keynes

    Mercury is grateful to MKC ward councillor Peter Geary for providing the background to this issue. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has undertaken discussions with MKC and consulted publicly on council size and has decided that the number of councillor should be increased to 57, from the current 51. Each councillor will cover 3,300 residents as opposed to 3,000 at present. What now has to be decided is the way the wards in Milton Keynes are constructed. The starting point is 19 wards, each represented by three councillors. In most of urban MK this is fine but in the rural areas this leaves very large geographical areas with many individual communities requiring individual attention from their councillors in attending parish council meetings etc. For example a merged Sherington and Olney ward would comprise around 18 parishes. With this in mind the two councillors. The boundary commission says that if a parish is split then it must be warded. Two years ago OTC campaigned against proposals by MKC to impose warding but these proposals mean that parish would be warded by stealth. Both the Sherington Ward and the Olney Ward currently have the correct representation for the new ratio of 3,300 electors per councillor so little change would be necessary and maintaining the status quo may well mean that better representation could be given to the areas. If, however, the areas are to be merged it would be better to have one three-councillor ward as opposed to single councillor wards which would see Olney Town Council warded. Peter said that in his opinion the two-councillor ward has worked successfully for many years, with the two councillors dividing up responsibility between them. Jeremy Rawlings questioned if this would work across the political spectrum, but Debbie Brock said that she and Steve Clark had managed ok. Steve Clark said that Olney Councillors have always expressed a desire to represent all of the people of the town.

    102 Weston Road

    The Town Council have received notification from the Housing Revenue Account Strategic Landlord Asset Management Group within MKC that the ground floor flat forming part of the property is to be removed from their housing stock and disposed of. It appears that when the previous occupant left it was no longer fit for habitation and has been empty for the last two years. MKC cannot justify the 'extensive financial investment to bring it up to a suitable standard for future beneficial occupation·. Peter Geary explained that the property has many issues and would cost an enormous amount to repair so the money would be better spent on building another, more easily maintainable property somewhere in Milton Keynes. One of the by• products of the disposal might be a partial solution to the parking problems in Oakdown Crescent since the property has a large front garden, some of which could be retained and used for parking. This would need consultation with the residents, he said.

    Odds and Sods

    A kebab van has applied to MKC for permission to operate from the old cattle market car park, owned by MKC. The councillors agreed not to support the application on the grounds of there being another establishment nearby catering for the need. Steve Clark said the applicant seemed to be under the impression that MKC had already granted permission and suggested that OTC apply to take over ownership of the car park as a Community Asset Transfer so that they could fully control it.

    Steve Clark reported that he had attended the Olney 2012 event to mark the start or the London Olympics and it had been a great success.

    Rosemary Osbourne reported that the boardwalk over the flood plane in Wagstaff Way should have started but had been delayed by the bad weather! It was now expected to be completed by 20th August.

    Next Meeting - Monday 3rd September

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd 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. Official minutes of all meetings and much more information can be accessed via OTC's revamped website at

  • August 2012

    Olney Council report for August.... 2011

    Public participation

    No members of the public present (Mercury plus one!) wished to speak at this month's meeting.

    Co-option of members

    A vacancy had arisen following the recent resignation of Nigel Birrell and there being no request for an election from the requisite number of the electorate, it fell to the council members present to fill the vacancy by co-option. The two candidates were invited to give a short address to the council to summarise their CVs.
    First to speak was David Rumens, who was standing again following his failure to be co­opted to fill one of two vacancies at last month's meeting. David was first elected to OTC in 2008 and served for two years before having to resign due to ill health. Now that his health issues had been resolved David said he would welcome the opportunity of serving the town again as a member of the council. His experience in local government dates back to 1979 when he was elected to South Beds District Council and he has held many positions since. During his last stint on OTC he represented the council at many meetings with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) as he has a keen interest in resolving the enduring problem of high traffic volumes through Olney. He was also instrumental in the battle to keep Olney as a single ward, against the wishes of MKC who wanted to split it into three. He is currently a member of the Neighbourhood Action Group and is proud of his reputation as a 'campaigning councillor', he said.
    The second candidate to speak was Tony Summerscales, a civil engineer in the water industry. Although he admitted he had no experience in local govennment he said that he had a young son and wanted him to grow up in a safe community and he was putting himself forward so that he could get involved in maintaining the town and its community for the enjoyment of the next generation.
    A secret ballot then took place with Tony Summerscales receiving the most votes and he was duly elected. Steve Clark thanked David Rumens for his interest. David left the meeting at this point.

    Flood Risk Management

    Bruce Stewart, Senior Planning Officer - Strategic Flood Risk Management for Milton
    Keynes Council was present to explain his role, which he has been in since March 2011, and the implications of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 which is gradually being implemented nationally. The current framework was largely established in the 1930s and 40s, he said and, although some updating had taken place, it did not comply with EU legislation and guidance. The new act meant that MKC as the Local Authority were obliged to take over certain flood responsibilities from the Environment Agency (EA) and Dept. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). MKC has set up a parent Cabinet-led management group and three officer lead working subgroups comprising Strategic Flood Planning, Flood Prevention and Flooding Emergency Response. The principle shortcomings identified thus far are a lack of in-house water, drainage and flood expertise and a shortage of available funding to address problems in those areas. It isMKC's intention to form closer relationships with Parish and Town Councils who may be able to assist in providing information on local water and flood risk management issues, said Bruce. Mayor Steve Clark said that councils were frustrated that developers were allowed to put in planning applications for floodplains and Bruce replied that any applications with flood implications would now be submitted to him.

    Localism Bill

    The Localism was introduced to Parliament in December 2010 and seeks to shift much of the decision making of central government to local authorities. Part of the bill deals with the right of communities to submit an 'expression of interest' to the local authority to provide or assist in providing a relevant service on behalf of that authority and that could lead to a transfer of assets from the authority. Steve Clark said that OTC already manages many of its own assets but the bill would widen the scope when it became law. MKC might come under pressure to dispose of some of its local assets such as car parks, the Olney Centre and Emberton Park, he said. In the event of the latter it was unlikely that Emberton Parish Council would be able to afford to manage the park but OTC could consider a joint venture, he suggested. MKC will be running a series of workshops during August and OTC will send representatives with a view to forming a sub-committee. This will doubtless be the subject of discussion at future meeting since in Steve's view it is a massive subject at which OTC should "nibble gently".

    Recreation ground sewage pipe (continued)

    As reported last month the sewage pipe connecting the four sports club houses to the main in East Street has collapsed, which is why there is regularly an overflow when functions take place at the clubs, necessitating rodding by the council staff. Alan Richardson said that since the last council meeting he had had two meetings with Anglian Water and they had confirmed that from October 1 st 2011 the section of pipe which had collapsed would become the responsibility of Anglian Water under the new proposal to adopt private sewers and lateral drains. Although any work that Anglian Water deemed necessary would be done free of charge the replacement would not happen immediately, he said. The first time a blockage was reported Anglian Water would attend and rod the drain to unblock it. If it then became a regular occurrence then the gang would report it with a recommendation to consider replacement work. Eventually it would get replaced, he said. Deidre Bethune asked if the council would now reconsider the refurbishment of the Market Place toilets now that this particular problem would be resolved at nil cost to the council.

    Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF)

    Deidre Bethune reported that this hugely popular event would take place for the third year running on Saturday September 12th. Last year's event had made a slight loss, she said, and since then the membership of the Chamber of Trade had reduced. In view of these facts she asked if the council would consider underwriting the event in case of financial loss, as they do for the Firework Night run by TOG (The Olney Group). A figure of £1200 was suggested. Ron Bull said that the Fireworks organisers had only found ii necessary to call on the underwriting once in the 20 year history and he was concerned that BOFF might regularly make a loss. Deidre said that BOFF does not have the funds to absorb the loss themselves. Tony Evans said that he had been a member of the BOFF organising committee for its first two years but felt that there was a big difference between BOFF and the Firework Night, which was organised for the Town. BOFF is a commercial event and stall holders make a profit. Although he agreed that it is a fantastic event he said he felt uncomfortable with the request for underwriting. Should the organisers not be looking to the stallholders themselves to make up any loss, he wondered. Mike Hughes said he felt OTC's role should be to encourage trade and visitors to the town and BOFF should be encouraged so he would not want to be part of any refusal. Eventually the requested for underwriting was agreed by a majority vote.

    Stoke Goldington wind turbines application

    As reported last month, an application has been received to build 15 wind turbines at Stoke Lodge Farm, Stoke Goldington. Deidre Bethune said in her opinion MKC was in no position to consider this application at present because it does not have a current or adequate policy. Last month Jeremy Rawlings reported that the existing policy had not been updated for some time and MKC had been asked to update it to bring in line with national guidelines. In particular, there was no reference to consideration being given to the proximity of existing installations. There then followed a general discussion about the merits of wind power, in general. Colin Rodden said that he believed sustainable energy is required but wondered if data was available to support it. Deidre said the operating companies refused to publish data about the output of such installations, claiming that it was 'commercially sensitive', so it was impossible to know if they were efficient or not. Jeremy Rawlings said that when there is too much power in the grid it is easier to switch off wind turbines than coal fired power stations so the operators are paid to keep them stationary. Tony Evans said that the incentives to farmers to allow wind farms to be sited on their land were enormous so OTC needed to act quickly if they wanted to stop every farmer around having them. Alan Richardson said that if past experience was anything to go by, once an application was submitted there was nothing that OTC or anyone else could do to stop it. Steve Clark disagreed, saying that the Wind Farm at Petsoe End had been the first application submitted to MKC and that had only been passed by a narrow margin, so it was not a foregone conclusion. Although no formal vote was taken, an informal vote showed that the members were overwhelmingly against the proposal. Full details of the planning application, ref 11/01193/FULEIS can be found at http://publicaccess.milton-keynes.gov.uk/

    Odds and sods

    The newly acquired field next to the Charity Field has been sprayed and ploughed and needs to be seeded as soon as possible after the end of August. A number of quotes for seeding have been received and the council agreed to a local quote of £1800. At the moment it is just known as 'the new field', so if anyone has a suggestion for a better name please contact the Town Clerk, or send your suggestion to The Phonebox.
    Mike Hughes said that a resident had reported human excrement at the top of the children's slide on Johnson's Field the previous Friday. He had personally attended with cleaning equipment and removed it, but the incident had been repeated the next day.
    Rosemary Osbourne asked Debbie Brock what was happening about the provision of double yellow lines at the entrance to Chantry Rise, as turning right on to Weston Road was extremely dangerous. Debbie replied that the consultation had recently taken place as part of the process, which was ongoing.
    Jeremy Rawlings reported that after 24 years of loyal service Cheryl Wilson's position at the Youth Club had been 'outsourced' by MKC. The promised administrator was yet to appear though.
    Steve Clark reported that as of that day Ousedale School had become an academy. Mercury assumes that The Phonebox's invitation to the celebrations got lost in the post.
    Tony Evan said that the grass banks on Driftway were a mess and asked that they be strimmed. In fact, all local landscaped areas that are the responsibility of MKC are in a similar state, he said.
    Steve Clark said that the inaugural concert by the Olney Community Choir at the Parish Church had been incredibly well attended. Also, the inaugural concert of Olney Brass at the Carlton House Club had been a great success, with a specially commissioned piece of music 'The One and Olney' being played for the first time. In recognition of their support OTC had been presented with a framed copy of the music, which would be hung in the Olney Centre.

    Next Meeting - Monday 5th September

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

  • September 2012

    Olney Council report for September 2012

    Public Participation

    Simon Barker
    First up was Simon Barker of Olney Baptist Church, speaking on behalf of all the Churches of Olney. He thanked Olney Town Council (OTC) for its support for the recent Olympics event In the town - the Council had agreed to underwrite the £2,700 cost of the marquee and toilets. He stated that the event had been by the people and for the people of the town, and also thanked the Sports Clubs, The Olney Group, Best Seat In The House, Mike Hughes and others for their contributions towards the day. The event had enjoyed good weather and was well attended, with perhaps 2·3,000 attending through the day. Although its accounts are still provisional, the organisers expect to be able to pay around £1,200 back to OTC, meaning the Council will effectively pay only around £1,500 of the underwriting costs.

    Leonard Lean

    Next to speak was Leonard Lean, complete with his own stopwatch to lime the three minutes for which participants in this slot are allowed to speak. As interim coordinator of the Bedford-Olney-Northampton Rail Link Forum, he spoke about its alm to get the track bed of this long closed route restored to full commercial use for both passengers and freight The Forum has been performing a survey of the track bed and believes restoration would be possible. The passenger service would essentially contribute towards a link between Birmingham, Coventry, Luton and Gatwick airports and he envisaged two trains per hour for daytime services.

    Sue Warren
    Last up was Sue Warren, on the familiar topic or parking in Oakdown Crescent. A few weeks before, she'd been advised by Richard Duffill, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Traffic and Parking Team Leader, that he'd appointed a person to carry out a feasibility study on two sites which had the potential to help with the parking issue: 102 Weston Road and the unused garages at the bottom of the Crescent. She felt this represented progress, a feeling reinforced by her receiving an email saying that a parking scheme had been agreed, but then couldn't understand why an auction sign had been erected on the Weston Road site. She concluded by thanking Deirdre Bethune for her previous comments on the Issue,

    As background, note that last month's Mercury reported that 102 Weston Road was due to be sold, and that one of the by-products of the sale might be a partial solution to the parking problems in Oakdown Crescent since the property has a large front garden, some of which could be retained and used for parking.

    Debbie Brock

    Debbie Brock responded briefly to Sue, noting that there was a draft plan containing several options but that it had not yet been approved. She explained that all aspects of any scheme had to be considered - Oakdown Crescent did not exist in isolation - and that, while matters were progressing, a scheme had not yet been confirmed. She also noted that, should Jack's land be sold, the Council would retain part of its garden.

    High Street Bench

    Following on from a topic aired in last month's Public Participation, the Recreations and Services Committee has recommended that a two-seat bench be placed on the pavement outside the United Reform Church, mainly for the benefit ol the elderly. Councillors discussed this, and decided by a majority that the bench would be installed on a trial basis, with reviews after six and 12 months, to which Its two main opponents - the United Reform Church and the Carlton House Club - would be invited to contribute their views.

    East Street Car Park

    As reported before, OTC has applied for funding to improve the East Street car park. The applications for both phases of this 50% match funding - £32,500 and £25,000 - have been successful.
    There was some discussion over whether the dimensions of the proposed additional parking area were adequate, and a small group of Councillors look an action to confirm this. OTC will arrange and advertise a public meeting, likely in October, to explain the proposals.

    Rights of Way

    Back In 2004, OTC submitted an application to MKC to add a lootpath around the Northern and Eastern edges of Doff's Field, plus one from around the centre of its Northern edge running ,diagonally to Its South Eastern corner. Much later, OTC advised MKC that it wished to remove the diagonal path from the application.
    The whole matter seems to have progressed slowly, with OTC having just rnceived an email indicating that MKC would shortly be considering the application, and asking OTC to confirm whether it did Indeed wish to remove the diagonal path. After a brief discussion, Councillors agreed that this path should be removed, leaving just that round the two edges.

    Bits 'n' bobs

    As discussed in June's meeting, funds arising from the Petsoe End Wind Farm would soon become available. Olney now has £7,000 which will be used to install low energy lighting in the Olney Centre and the Market Place toilets.
    Tony Evans reported that, having had to postpone their residents' Jubilee Lunch in June, the Ann Hopkins Smith trustees held the lunch late in August and it was a great success.
    Jeremy Rawlings reported that the new Youth Leader is Terry Isles, filling the post vacated by Darren Smith.
    Ron Bull raised the issue that parking in Spring Lane was sometimes preventing buses from travelling along it as, in one section, pari

    Next Meeting - Monday 1st October

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st 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 2012

    Olney Council report for October 2012

    Prior to the Meeting

    Also in attendance for most of this month's meeting was Richard Duffill, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Traffic and Parking Team Leader.

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    First to speak was Sue Warren, on the regular topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Sue said she was pleased that Richard Duffill was present but disappointed that over a year had passed since she flrst made the council aware of the situation and it was still not resolved. She said the wheels of local government obviously turned very slowly but this was of no consolation to the elderly residents who wanted a nice place in which to live, not a car park. She also thanked Deidre Bethune for her efforts in seeking a resolution.

    Kim Cupper
    Olney resident Kim Cupper said that he rented two of the garages at the bottom of the crescent and frequently had problems gaining access to them, the problem having worsened in the last few weeks. He pointed out that he pays over £100 per month for the privilege of parking, whereas everyone else parks for free.

    Phil Gilbert

    Next to speak was Phil Gilbert of Beans Cale, responding to recent complaints about tables and chairs encroaching on the footway and blocking mobility scooters. The chairs are 0.6m wide and the pavement is 2.5m wide at that point so there should be plenty of room to pass, he said. However, he recognised that customers sometimes moved the furniture and apologised for the Inconvenience this causes. He also spoke on the issue of the application by Real Estate Advisors Savills, on behalf or Caffe Nero, to open a branch in the building previously occupied by Derby House Saddlery. He said he runs six businesses around the country and loved Olney because it is full of smaller, bespoke shops. He felt that people travel from elsewhere in Milton Keynes because Olney is so different. He contrasted Olney with Stamford which is a town of similar size that has allowed the 'mulltiples' to move in.
    Mayor Steve Clark responded saying that the application for conversion or the top floor into flats had been passed and Peter Geary noted that the request for the change of use for the ground floor was still on-going but he remained hopeful of a satisfactory outcome.

    Update from Richard Dufflll on highways Issues

    Richard started by apologising to Sue Warren for appearing to be so elusive but explained that his was a small but highly stretched team. He said he had been made aware of the Oakdown Crescent situation a year ago and ward councillors Debbie Brock and Peter Geary had been constantly on his back for a resolution! He had also consulted colleagues in the Housing Department, as the problem stemmed from a lack or parking spaces on Weston Road. He was looking at how the land retained from the sale by MKC of 102 Weston Road might be used, as well as a number of other possibihlles. One option would be to make a few additional spaces available in Oakdown Crescent, itself, and he is considering three different schemes to generate up to eight additional spaces although there is a BT pole which would need moving. Most of the land is not adopted and the garages are In private ownership, he explained.
    However, none would work without some form of restrictions, i.e. residents' parking permits. since most of the cars currently parked there belong to residents of Weston Road. With regard to the possibility of using the retained land from 102 Weston Road, he said there were issues with the level or the land but none of them are insurmountable. He thought that marked bays could provide parking for eight vehicles but if unmarked could possibly result In a couple more, due to the often discussed 'imaginative parking' techniques adopted elsewhere in the town.
    The next steps would be lor all of the schemes to start the consultation process, the result of which could see the approved option being completed this rlnancial year. The use of 102 Weston Road might take a little longer, though, depending on opposition from nearby residents. Jeremy Rawlings didn't think just creating a car park would solve the problem which prompted Richard to ask what problem he was being asked to address, as his understanding was that issue is around access for emergency vehicles and parking for residents. John Sharpe asked ii the proceeds from the sale of 102 Weston Road could be used to fund the scheme but Peter Geary said this was not possible as it had to be used for housing.
    Debbie Brock asked Richard for an update on the remodelling of the junction of Weston Road with High Street South (Halleluiah lamppost). Richard said that the original proposals were being revised to include improvements to the Co-op entrance and to make rt more pedestrian friendly. The revised plans will go to full consultatlon before the end of the year with work starling in the next financial year. Likewise, the original Yardley Road plans are being reVlsed to include well laid out parking spaces and Richard said he would return with the plans within the next two months, prior to consultation.

    Crossing point at Bridge Street/High Street South

    An email had been received rrom a member of the public pointing out the difficulties of crossing the street with a buggy to get to Emberton Park. Crossing Weston Road by the Co-op means having to negotiate traffic coming from three directions, she said, and the Island near Church Street is not large enough for pedestrians plus buggy so is not sale. An elderly relative had been killed on this stretch of road, she said, and did not want ii to happening again. Richard Dufflll said that the revised scheme would look to address this issue.

    East Street parking proposals

    Richard Duffill stayed on for this item, saying that anything that lakes place on East Street has an impact on his department. As reported before, OTC has applied for funding to improve the East Street car park. The applications for both phases of this 50% match funding-1:32,500 and 1:25,000 -have been succ,essful. One scheme is to reconfigure the layout of the existing car park at the front of the Rugby Club to create add11lonal spaces. There are currently 121 marked spaces which would increase 132 or 129 plus 2 disabled spaces, depending on the scheme adopted. Ron Bull quest10ned the need for any changes saying that an additional 46 cars had managed to park for a recent sporting event {presumably using the lore mentioned 'imaginative parking' techniques!). Tony Evans said that was precisely why changes were needed, since that had resulted in a number of correctly parked cars being blocked in.
    The second and more controversial plan is to provide 36 spaces on a new parking area on East Street behind the goal posts of the lootball pitch. There then followed a discussion on whether this was the best location for the new area. It was suggested that perhaps the current grassed area to the north of the Football Club might be better. {Mercury was seen to reooil In horror at this suggesllon, since this is the site for 'Booze on the Ouse', highlight of Olney's social and musical calendar).
    Fortunately, Tony Evans said that this would not be appropriate since this area ,s used for training and would also present problems for access. Mercury wondered if the perfectly flat grassed area behind the nearby hedge might prove a better location but since at least one member or the Bowls Club was present, decided to keep his own counsel.
    Tony Evans was keen to emphasise that both schemes were not just for the benefit of the sports clubs but would alleviate some of the parking problems in the town. Jeremy Rawlings disagreed, saying that the sports clubs would be the main benefactors. The proor of this is that the East Street car park is empty for most of the week. Tony replied saying that the council need to educate the public that the car park Is there and available. People do not like to park 'round the back' and walk to the shops but at least having the additional spaces directly on East Street would make them more visible.

    Odds 'n' sods

    Rosemary Osbourne reported back from the NAG (Neighbourhood Action Group) on the Dog Control Order proposals which had prompted some correspondence to The Phonebox, emphasising that the intention was not to stop people walking dogs but to do It more responsibly.

    MKC have suggested that OTC might like to take over the running of the Youth Club as part of the Community Asset Transfer Scheme.

    John Sharpe noted that a number of pathways are becoming overgrown by hedges, particularly by Emberton Park. Peter Geary replied that most of the overgrowing hedges are not owned by MKC and cutting them could set an expectation that MKC would continue to do so, although he admitted that the one by the park is under their ownership.

    Deidre Bethune said that comments had been made to her about the purple colour scheme adopted by the shop that has replaced 'Aubergine'.

    Mercury - what do you think? Just because the High Street is a conservation area should MKC planners be able to dictate the colours that owners can paint their properties, or does a splash of colour make it more interesting?
    Your thoughts are welcome through The Phonebox.

  • November 2012

    Olney Council report for November 2012

    Public Participation

    Mark Luckin
    First to speak was Mark Luckin of The Olney Group (TOG). He explained that Fireworks Night was due to be held on Sunday 4th November but, due to heavy rain and the resulting very poor ground conditions, TOG had decided to postpone it until Saturday 10th November - felt to be the best date available while avoiding Remembrance Day. Mark ended with a call for more helpers on the night, as the postponement meant it was proving hard to get marshals and gate people at such short notice.

    Elaine Herniman
    Second up was Elaine Herniman from the Olney Allotment Holders Association. She was disappointed that the Council's Recreations and Services Committee had recommended, without consultation, that on­site bonfires be banned. She explained that Royal Horticultural Society guidelines recommended that burning was the best way to dispose of plants affected by blight, club root, etc. Elaine concluded by saying that this had the potential to undermine the relationship between the allotment holders and the Council.

    Steve Clark
    Steve Clark spoke briefly at this point to say that, while the issue had indeed been discussed by the Recreations and Services Committee, its decision was to consult first with allotment holders. It hadn't done so yet and so had not recommended anything to full Council.

    East Street parking proposals

    Tony Evans reported that, as a result of the recent Public Meeting, the Recreations and Services Committee was recommending to full Council that the planned alterations to the existing East Street Car Park should go ahead. Although the total was not yet costed, 50% of it would be paid for by Milton Keynes Council (MKC).
    However, Tony explained that the Public Meeting found the additional car park area at the top of the Nursery Field adjacent to East Street to be much more controversial, with around half the those attending being in favour and half against. In any case, it would likely need planning permission, so the Committee recommended that Olney Town Council (OTC) seek pre-planning advice from MKC, at a cost of around £200.
    Councillors all voted in favour the alterations to the existing East Street Car Park bar one against - Ron Bull, who noted that the resulting number of spaces, while greater than that currently marked, was less than that currently achieved in practice. Councillors also voted in favour of seeking pre-planning advice about the additional parking area.

    Allotment bonfires

    Tony Evans introduced this topic, saying that the Recreations and Services Committee would consult with the allotment holders, as was said in its last meeting. There followed a somewhat arcane discussion on how this information had been passed to the allotment holders. The main point is that they will be consulted.

    Hedge laylng

    OTC had received a quote for £2,300 to hedge the boundary between the Allotments Field and the newly purchased Crouch's Field. Tony Evans noted that the right time of year to do the job would be between now and the end of February.

    Rights of way

    As reported in an earlier Mercury, back in January 2004 OTC submitted an application to MKC to add a footpath around the Northern and Eastern edges of Doff's Field, plus one from around the centre of its Northern edge running diagonally to its South Eastern corner. Later, OTC advised MKC that it wished to remove the diagonal path from the application.
    Continuing apace, it has now been resolved that there is no evidence that the diagonal path across Doff's Field should become a public right of way. The decision on the status of the path around the Northern and Eastern edges of Doffs Field and continuing South along the riverbank to the bridge to Clifton Reynes has been deferred until January 2013, to allow any further evidence to be collected.

    Youth Centre

    Steve Clark explained that MKC owns the Olney Youth Centre building, and provides a yearly grant towards its running costs. Councillors discussed whether OTC should express an interest in obtaining the building and, it was assumed, the land behind it under the Community Asset Transfer scheme. Peter Geary stated that this could move quite quickly, perhaps being concluded in around six months. A small group of Councillors will be set up to progress this issue.

    Traffic Issues

    Debbie Brock introduced this item. She'd corresponded with a local resident about traffic issues in the West Street area and noted that, if the Council was minded, it could redirect MKC officers to consider the traffic issues there. At the same time, she acknowledged that it was far from being the only awkward traffic area in the town. This started a wide ranging discussion and, summarising, there were two outcomes. First, the Council would re-assess the Yardley road junction plans, due from MKC shortly. Second, it would consider producing a Neighbourhood Plan, as this would give local people more say over the town's development.

    Berrells Court

    The extremely poor condition of Berrells Court, off East Street, is causing concern. Councillors passed around pictures of the road and it was clear that things were far from satisfactory, with huge areas of standing water covering much of the surface.
    Dedire Bethune felt passionately that it was dangerous and a "disgusting tip". She felt the situation had to be sorted out, in spite of difficulties about who owned the land. Other Councillors backed up Deidre in her view. She noted that uncertainty over who owned the land was a problem, and that there was some dependency on a Planning Permission granted nine months ago, and which remained valid for another two years and three months.
    Peter Geary noted that a condition of this Permission was that the road surface should be brought up to standard, with tarmac and drainage, before construction could start. Liam Costello believed that this condition was effectively stopping the development -presumably due to the expense of improving the road. John Boardman concluded the discussion by suggesting that OTC initiate a meeting of all the interested parties. Councillors agreed with this.

    Market Place toilets

    Liam Costello
    Liam Costello reported that work on the toilets was progressing well, and that delivery of the stainless steel furniture was awaited. Tony said it appeared that the hot and cold water sink for the Market traders had been removed from the store room and, as the specification didn't say it should be removed, it needed to be returned.


    Steve Clark had been invited to Traka, www.traka.com, a local business, in celebration of it being awarded its third Queen's Award for Enterprise. He'd most enjoyed the day, feeling the tour was "stunning". As background, he explained that the company had been founded in 1995 with four people, and had now grown to around 100.

    Odds and sods

    Next Meeting - Monday 3rd December

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd 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 2012

    Olney Council report for December 2012

    Public Participation

    Peter Gage
    First to speak was Peter Gage on the subject of dog fouling. Peter said he attended a recent Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) meeting in order to dispel some of the myths around the issue. The NAG was claiming that a recent survey had shown this to be the biggest concern in the minds of the people of Olney, but this was ʻnonsenseʼ, he said. The survey had only interviewed 80 people, which is around 1.6% of the population. An inspection of the recreation ground by enforcement officers from Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had concluded that it was as clean as anywhere in Milton Keynes. Peter said that he regularly refereed football matches for Olney Town Colts and had personally only experienced one occurrence of dog fouling on the pitch, but he did concede that it was more of a problem on the main pitch in front of the Football Club. He did not think that a Dog Control Order (DCO) forcing owners to keep their dogs on a lead would make any difference. This subject was a later item on the meeting agenda.

    Carol Barrett
    Next to speak was Berrells Court resident Carol Barrett on the subject of the poor state of the road surface in that area, following the discussion at last monthʼs meeting. She said she had raised the issue a year ago but nothing had happened, apart from the fact that it had actually got worse and one resident had had a fall due to the problem. She reminded the council that planning permission for building had been granted, subject to renovation of the surface, but that could be a long time coming, she felt.

    Berrells Court

    Although this did not appear to be a formal agenda item this month, it was discussed at last monthʼs meeting so the discussion continued under Matters Arising. Deidre Bethune said the situation was a ʻcrying shameʼ and she fully supported Carol Barrettʼs efforts. John Sharp said that the Land Registry show that Berrells Court has not been adopted as part of the public highway. He had spoken to a number of property owners, some of whom had indicated a willingness to pay for the repairs but, equally, there were those who would not. No formal estimate appears to exist to indicate how much the remedial work would cost but MKC Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that in his opinion one should be obtained in order to ʻmop upʼ any unclaimed grants from MKC. If a simple covering of tarmac was laid it would probably need doing again in two to three years, he said, and thought the best option would be to lay proper drainage and seek adoption by MKC. Deidre Bethune pointed out that the required standards for adoption are very high but agreed that it should be the preferred option. Carol Barrett spoke again, saying that adoption and repair would mainly benefit the developer who would be building and then selling the proposed new property and she, personally, would be happy for remedial work short of adoption.

    Dog fouling on recreation ground

    Following the recent inspection and report by MKC about the issue, Tony Evans said it was news to him that there is NOT a problem! He thought that getting the MKC enforcement officers involved would identify persistent offenders, with possible prosecutions. Jeremy Rawlings wondered that if the ʻprofessionalsʼ said there was no problem and Peter Gage was of the same opinion then perhaps it was not an issue. Deidre Bethune disagreed, saying that even if responsible dog owners picked up their dogsʼ mess it often got ʻsmeared aroundʼ leaving some behind. Jeremy wondered if dog faeces is actually more dangerous than that of the wild animals that would naturally use the field. Mayor Steve Clark said that the problem is Toxocara Canis and Toxocara Cati that is present in dog and cat faeces, respectively. John Sharp suggested that the solution might be to ban dogs altogether from marked out pitches and fines could be imposed for offenders. Peter Geary observed that the enforcement officers cannot be there all of the time and it was no surprise that owners cleared up while they were there observing. He suggested that there could be three distinct areas:

    • Dogs not allowed
    • Where dogs are allowed on a lead
    • Where dogs are allowed to run free

    Peter Gage interjected, saying that a DCO was not appropriate, considering that most pitches were only used for two to three hours a week during three or four months of the year. Tony Evans pointed out that the recreation ground is used for other events, such as the highly successful Olympic Opening celebration, when two to three thousand people had sat down on the grass. He described dog fouling as an ʻevil thingʼ. Peter Geary said there would be no point in imposing a DCO if it was not enforced. Deidre Bethune said that unless something is illegal the police would not be interested in enforcing it and Jeremy Rawlings was of the opinion that dog fouling is not actually illegal unless it is on the public highway. John Sharp suggested using the Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) but Peter Geary said that would only be possible if Thames Valley Police agree and the Chief Constableʼs view would no doubt be that PCSOs should concentrate on crime prevention. He recommended that the council press ahead with seeking a DCO otherwise the issue would continue to go ʻround and roundʼ with no resolution. Steve Clark closed the subject by saying that Rob Ward from MKC Environmental Services would be invited to the next meeting of the Recs and Services Committee.

    Market Place parking

    This issue is frequently discussed at meetings of OTC. The council have always resisted the idea of formally marked out parking spaces because it would reduce the theoretical number of spaces that are available due to ʻimaginativeʼ parking. However, this relies on the first cars that park each day doing so in a manner that allows two rows down the middle. If this does not happen then the number of spaces is considerably reduced for the rest of that day. John Sharp said that the council had previously suggested the marking of a single white line down the centre of the car park to show where cars should park nose to tail. Ron Bull suggested that this should be done on a temporary basis to see if it is adhered to. It was agreed that a small group of councillors will investigate this option.

    Farmersʼ Market hot food

    As reported previously, the council have agreed to overturn the ban on hot takeaway food being sold at the market and as a result have had a request from a start-up Olney company wishing to sell Paella. Tony Evans suggested that before giving them the go-ahead on a permanent basis they should be invited to have a ʻguest spotʼ so that they can be audited to ensure that they use locally sourced ingredients, where possible. Mercury understands that they use poultry from a local farm, so presumably this wonʼt be an issue.

    Model T Ford Rally

    A letter had been received from the organisers of this event on Friday June 7th 2013, requesting reserved parking spaces for about 45 cars. Councillors agreed that the obvious place for this would be the Market Place but recognised that closing the Market Place for any length of time could impact trade. The upside could be that it might attract visitors and the exhibitors would possibly eat in the town. John Boardman said that it would only attract visitors if the event was sufficiently well advertised and hoped that the organisers would do so. It was suggested that the market would be closed until 3.00pm and Deidre Bethune would consult the Chamber of Trade.

    Booze on the Ouse

    A letter had been received from Olney Town Colts informing the council that this popular event would be taking place on Saturday June 29th 2013. This was noted and agreed, but also pointed out that this should have come in as a request because it is held on OTC land. Tony Evans said that he really did not like the title of the event as it sends out completely the wrong message.

    Odds and sods

    Steve Clark reported that the refurbished toilets on the Market Place were now open, but did not say if he had performed an official opening ceremony.
    Andrew Dooley has resigned from the council due to work commitments, so a vacancy now exists. The period during which residents can demand a by-election was due to expire at midnight on the day of the meeting so it is assumed that the vacancy will be filled by co-option. Any resident wishing to stand should get in touch with the Town Clerk at the Olney Centre.
    Rosemary Osbourne asked when the issue of extending the yellow lines at the entrance to Chantry Rise would be resolved and Peter Geary said that the process of consultation is on-going, but he had received a letter asking that the existing lines are NOT extended.
    John Sharp noted that the overhanging hedges by Emberton Park had still not been cut back by MKC and Peter Geary replied that it was on the list of work to be done but the recent bad weather had caused a back-log.

    Next Meeting - Monday 7th January

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

Prickly Pear Icon

Made by Prickly Pear