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Olney Town Council Reports

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 the minutes of the meetings here. Earlier ones are available.


Mercury's reports for 2020

  • January 2020

    Olney Council report for January 2020

    Introduction

    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings welcomed members to the first meeting of Olney Town Council (OTC) of 2020. He explained that the council had recently migrated to a new email system, which seemed to be working well. One of the individual members to reply to emails as OTC, which gives a ‘unified voice’. Unusually there were no members of the public wishing to speak at this month’s meeting, and with a short agenda Mercury looked forward to an early night.

    Approving the minutes

    Jeremy Rawlings noted that concern about the state of the Dennis Timpson stand had been raised under public participation by Martin Allen and not Dennis Timpson himself. Chris Tennant pointed out that under Members Matters, minuted as ‘None’, he had raised the issue of poor visibility at the new Sainsbury’s entrance and also the fact that the developers had not replaced the 30mph turrets.
    Additionally, the land beside the development (Site R) appeared to be being used as a rubbish dump. Colin Rodden noted that he had reported that there were drainage problems at the side of the High Street both outside Brocks and the old Natwest building, but that had not been minuted.

    Policy on charges for use of The Olney Centre

    Jeremy Rawling introduced this item saying some groups use the centre who have a verbal agreement with previous Town Clerks or mayors that get free or reduced rates, and none of this is documented. The proposal is to charge all groups the same amount and certain approved groups would get a grant to offset this. In the interests of transparency, the amount of the grant would be made public. Milton Keynes Councillor (MKC) Peter Geary declared an interest saying that he and his fellow Ward Councillors use the centre free of charge for their monthly surgeries, although he was happy for MKC to be charged. Steve Clark said that there had been a long-standing arrangement that had been agreed by OTC for over 20 years. Paul Collins felt that the core policy should be to charge the full fee for commercial use but a reduced rate for local groups. Peter Geary agreed, pointing out that local residents pay for the upkeep of the centre through the precept in the Council Tax. Desmond Eley noted that substantial remedial work will be taking place in the near future and the council needed to decide if the costs would be met through the precept, Section 106 grants or the hire charges.
    Joanne Eley noted that OTC gave free usage or reduced rates to a number of worthy organisations, but the people of the town are unaware of it. If grants were made to offset the charges, these could be documented in the report which is presented at the annual town meeting. Jeremy Rawlings proposed that all users are notified of the standard charge but advised that they could apply for the offset grant and Olney Centre Management and Recs and Services Committees be asked to investigate a realistic commercial charge. This generated considerable discussion as to whether it is just simpler to maintain the status quo and charge a reduced rate. Joanne Eley pointed out that OTC already make some grants to groups that also get a reduced or nil charge, so it was essential to have a more transparent policy. Peter Geary proposed that the Clerk should be empowered to make a decision for one-off booking situations which would be notified to the Olney Centre Management Committee but where a regular booking is requested then the committee would make the decision. It was agreed to adopt the policy from the start of the new Financial Year.

    Community Infrastructure Fund

    The Community Infrastructure Fund allows parish and town councils to submit applications for their own community improvements or enhancements. It enables a variety of different public realm schemes that have a positive impact on a community to be implemented. These can include projects related to highways, community buildings, environment, landscaping etc. MKC has a total pot of £200k, and each parish/town can apply for a maximum of £20k to be match funded, which will be awarded in the current financial year for projects that must be completed within the next two years.
    The deadline for applications is 7th February.
    Jeremy Rawlings invited ideas as to what projects should be considered and where the additional funding should come from. Paul Collins said it should be a project to benefit the whole community and suggested outdoor gym equipment similar to that installed in Emberton Park. He had identified a number of potential suppliers, he said. Deirdre Bethune said the equipment in Harrold Country Park was of much better quality.
    Town Clerk Andrea Vincent had already suggested a drinking fountain, as discussed at previous meetings, which then lead to something of a tangential conversation regarding the merits of drinking fountains versus refill points.
    Acknowledging that OTC had already discussed the provision of fixed drinking fountains, Steve Clerk suggested a scheme whereby local businesses could be encouraged to provide free water refills, as Phonebox Magazine already does. This would be preferable to a fixed physical structure with all the cost of connecting it into the water mains, he thought. Deirdre Bethune thought it was not so inviting as having something that was ‘available and physical’, and not everybody would have the app showing the locations of refill points.
    Paul Collins supported Steve’s idea, saying that people should be treated as adults are were quite capable of carrying a bottle and refilling it. Bringing things back on track, Desmond Eley wondered if the grant could be used towards the refurbishment of the public toilets on the market Place. Deirdre Bethune pointed out that the last time costs for the refurbishment were obtained it was in excess of £30k so did not get done. It was now more likely to be £50k, she thought. Peter Geary was of the opinion that the grant awarded to individual councils was likely to be less than £20k and would be better put towards a project that was already agreed.
    Colin Rodden suggested asking for public input to decide a suitable project, but this was generally thought to be unfeasible, given the short timescale for submission and the likelihood of requests for a swimming pool. It was decided to investigate Paul Collins’ suggestion of outdoor gym equipment. Chris Tennant suggested that the equipment could be spread around the town to provide a ‘Trim Trail’.

    Reindeer at Dickens of a Christmas

    Colin Rodden raised the issue of live reindeer being kept in a small pen at Fountain Court on Dickens of Christmas day and referred to a Times article condemning such displays. For information, the article stated that animal rights activists had been picketing events where live reindeer were present in an attempt to persuade the public to boycott them.
    The protesters claimed that transporting and displaying the sensitive animals around noisy crowds caused them great distress and said they were not props to be paraded around for human entertainment. Colin wondered if it was appropriate for reindeer to be present at an event organised by OTC.
    Jeremy Rawlings rejected the claims, saying that the display was organised by a private individual on private land, not part of Dickens and therefore in no way connected with OTC. He had seen the animals himself, and they did not look at all distressed. He said Steve Clark had refuted the article as it was extremely one-sided and not backed up with any qualifications.
    Graham Harrison noted that the reindeer had been displayed at the property for a number of years previously and it just happened that this year coincided with Dickens. Steve Clark concluded by saying that if anyone had any concerns at this year’s event, then they should phone the RSPCA who will send out an inspector to investigate.

    Stacks Image 86918

    Accessibility problems to public buildings

    Newly-elected councillor Debbie Whitworth, who suffers from MS and is herself a wheelchair user, raised the issue of difficult access to shops and other public buildings in the town for physically impaired people and wondered if the council could do anything to improve matters. Jeremy Rawlings said that where a planning application was made to improve access, then it would be looked on favourably by the council.
    Steve Clark noted that when the Disability Discrimination Act was passed, it became incumbent on all businesses to take reasonable steps to enable accessibility, but in some premises it was just not practical. He noted that where wheelchair access was not possible, some businesses had made alternative arrangements, such as provision of an external bell button, but such arrangements had not always continued when the businesses changed hands. It was agreed that the council will initiate a communications campaign to actively promote improved accessibility to shops via a number of channels.

    Odds and Sods

    Peter Geary noted that Grounds Café in Emberton Park had now closed and the Park Liaison User’s Group (PLUG) would need to decide what was required as a temporary replacement so that MKC could start the procurement process.
    Steve Clark reported that a member of the public had complained about the ‘chaos’ caused by contractors currently working on the extension to Broomfield residential care home in Yardley Road. They arrive early in the morning and fill all the available parking spaces and have totally trashed the grass verge, he said. Clerk Andrea Vincent said she had received a number of similar complaints and had contacted the manager at Broomfield who assured her that remedial work would take place once the construction work was completed.
    Colin Rodden asked why Lime Street is currently closed. Peter Geary explained that it is due to a wall having fallen down and the road is expected to be closed for three to four months.
    Colin Rodden reported that the previous Saturday a number of youngsters had been seen cycling at speed on the pavement in the High Street and wondered if it was possible to have some sort of ‘shared use’ arrangement for pedestrians and cyclist.
    Paul Collins reported that the Olney Masonic Club would be sponsoring the Graham Fulford Trust to offer free PSA testing for prostate cancer in The Cherry Tree between 10.00 and 13.00 on Sunday 1st March.

    Next Meeting

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

  • February 2020

    Olney Council report for February 2020

    Introduction

    Prior to the main meeting, Victoria Southern from Bovis Homes presented the outline plans for the new development off Yardley Road to the members of Olney Town Council (OTC). One point of discussion was the large area of land allocated for recreational use at the north end of the site. It appears that the landowner is only prepared to sell part of the land, initially, and will fence off the remaining one Hectare section which was expected to remain as publicly accessible open space (effectively retaining it as a ‘ransom’ strip as leverage to get permission for a second phase). Any future development would be beyond that which is currently agreed in the Neighbourhood Plan (NP). Chris Tennant observed that this would be outside of the ‘red line’ town boundary agreed in the NP. One member wryly observed that the fence might not stay up very long. Peter Geary requested that a meeting be arranged between Bovis, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Planning Officers and Ward Councillors, and residents of adjacent properties to address any concerns that they may have.

    Public Participation

    Two residents wished to speak at this month’s meeting. First was Catherine Rose from Olney Sustainable Futures group (OSF) and also a member of the Climate Emergency Working Group, who was attending with fellow member Jane Varley. Catherine thanked the members and staff of OTC that had been involved in their work so far and said that much of the proposed action would go through the council’s Recreation and Services Committee, but she wanted to bring the rest of the council up to speed. She said they would be attending the Pancake Race to provide some plant-based recipes and are looking at organising a free Eco fair, hopefully in the Olney Centre. This event was an item on the agenda of the main meeting. Catherine went on to say that the Rugby Club has developed its own sustainability strategy, and the group are looking to them to be a model for other community organisations in the town.
    Next to speak was James Cooper who talked about the problems of parking in Conygere, particularly on market days. With parking on both sides of the road, there is very little room for traffic to pass and it is an accident waiting to happen, he thought. He had personally seen several near-misses and asked if double yellow lines could be provided. His second point was about prohibitively expensive property prices in Olney preventing young people from getting on the property ladder. His own daughter had been affected, he said, and quoted an example of a town similar to Olney where preferential treatment was given to local people who could show an ‘attachment’ to the town. If Olney had some land that could be used in a similar manner could a deal be done with a local trust to build such houses in the town? Olney will be a town without young people if something isn’t done, he said. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings, whilst having some sympathy, said that OTC does not have any building land. Peter Geary and Chris Tennant explained that of the 250 new houses that will be built at the north end of the town, 75 will be ‘affordable housing’ with shared ownership and 10% of those will be for local people, managed via a Housing Association.

    Eco Fair

    This item followed on from Catherine Rose’s input to the public participation section. The proposal is to hold the event in the Olney Centre on Saturday 18th April. It would be a ‘co-production’ between OTC for which it satisfies a number of its aims for the Climate Emergency plans, and Olney Sustainable Futures which would undertake the planning and execution. It would consist of a number of elements: The food section would promote plant-based catering with snacks and cakes being available, along with tasting, demonstrations and recipes. The activities section would consist of games, non-food products, and information on climate plans, waste and recycling and grow your own. The repair section would cover gadgets and small white goods, and furniture and clothing. The Library might also be involved. Colin Rodden and Deidre Bethune supported the idea of having a joint OTC/OSF event. Deirdre suggested that OTC should waive the hire charge for the event. Paul Collins asked if the stallholders would be commercial entities, in which case consideration should be given to the rental aspect. Joanne Eley was concerned about the partnership aspect of the event, since OTC would be seen to be endorsing everything that happened at it, and suggested that it should be supported by way of a grant in line with the discussion about rental fees at the previous month’s meeting. The Climate Emergency Working Group of OTC is a separate entity to the Sustainable Futures group, she pointed out. A vote was taken and passed by a majority of 9 to 2, with those who voted against saying they did so only because they did not know enough about OSF as an organisation. Jeremy Rawlings said that the Climate Emergency Working Group would be tasked with providing a plan to be presented to full council at next month’s meeting to enable OTC to endorse the entire event.

    VE Day Celebrations

    The government have moved the date of the traditional ‘May Day’ bank Holiday from Monday 4th of May to Friday the 8th in order to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Chris Roberts was in attendance representing the Royal British Legion. Steve Clark said that in the past similar events have been marked by the lighting of the beacon on Barnfield. It appears that other local organisations are waiting to see what OTC organises before making plans. It was agreed that OTC would work with them to come up with a plan. Peter Geary noted that although it will be a Bank Holiday, it will be the day following the election for members of OTC, and the count will be taking place.

    Mayor's Statement

    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings read out the following statement:

    “Some councillors have breached the code of conduct by discussing confidential matters with individual members of staff and with others. They have commented disrespectfully and incorrectly on member colleagues and staff by name outside the realm of confidential council business. Some councillors are also misrepresenting council policies and decisions. This is of detriment to the council as a whole and must cease. In the same vein, I have asked the town clerk to speak to staff to remind them that they are not to discuss council matters or individual councillors in or outside work in such a way as to the detriment of the council, which is covered in the Staff Handbook, as this will result in disciplinary action.”

    He explained that this has come about because a specific incident which is ongoing has been made more difficult by comments that certain councillors have made. He said he did not propose to hold any further discussion at the meeting but invited councillors to speak to him individually, if they wished.

    Annual Town Meeting

    This will take place on Friday 24th April at 7pm in the Olney Centre and is your chance to find out what the council have been doing during the past year and question them on any matters you wish.

    Budget 2020/2021

    This is the time of year when OTC produce the budget proposals for the next financial year, which in turn determines how much the precept (the portion of the Council Tax collected by MKC for local services and returned to OTC) will rise. Chair of Finance Paul Collins reported that the budget will increase from £243K to £260K which, allowing for the additional 27 taxable dwellings, will be an overall increase of 12.36%. The Band D ‘baseline’ figure will rise from £89.79 per month to £100.89. Desmond Eley said that it was important to have clarity as to what Section 106 money would be available from MKC now and in the future. Section 106, commonly known as ‘planning gain’ is a mechanism which makes a development proposal acceptable in planning terms, that would not otherwise be acceptable. It is focused on site-specific mitigation of the impact of development, and a proportion is usually made available to local/parish councils for capital projects. This can be a considerable amount of money in the case of major developments, such as that proposed for Yardley Road. Desmond said that he understood that MKC would be retaining this money in the future rather than passing it to the parishes. In this case, the precept is the only income that would be available for capital projects. Jeremy Rawlings thought that this was an ‘absolute disgrace’ particularly when MKC are looking to off-load more and more service provisions to the parishes. He pointed out that it had been necessary to significantly increase the fees that the council charges for things such as hire of the Olney Centre and market stalls. Burial fees have almost doubled, but that still made Olney almost 50% cheaper than Milton Keynes, he said. The budget was passed on a unanimous vote.

    Events

    Motorama, run by the Newport Pagnell and Olney Lions, will be held on the Market Place on Sunday 14th June. The Olney Group (TOG) will run Riverfest on Sunday 5th July on the Recreation Ground with the Riverfest Rocks musical event the night before in the marquee. Olney Rugby Club will be holding the annual 7s Tournament on Saturday 20th June.

    Odds and Sods

    Kevin Viney noted that council website is now considerably out of date. A recently elected councillor had submitted their profile information, but that had still not been added. The most recent set of minutes were from June last year, and he had received complaints from residents who wanted to check that details of planning discussions had been faithfully recorded. The clerk reported that this is due to be addressed in coming weeks.
    Graham Harrison said he had received complaints from residents of Timpson’s Row that car parking by people using the sports facilities was causing problems. Also, the pavement by the gate is now a ‘sheet of mud’ due to players removing their boots and scraping the mud off. He noted that the new LED street lighting was failing earlier than expected, particularly along Aspreys. Peter Geary responded that in some case it was the sensors that had failed, rather than the LEDs.
    Colin Rodden noted that a bench on Weston Road had been removed for repair over a year ago and still not replaced. He also reported that he’d recently had to use the public toilets on the marketplace and wondered if there was any money in the budget for air-freshener? Desmond Eley said he had been carrying out some research as to how much refurbishment would cost, which was in the region of £50K, and every member of the public he had spoken to had said that they would rather the money was spent elsewhere and they would prefer to use the facilities of the nearby pubs and cafes.

    Next Meeting

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

  • March 2020
    Meeting held March 2020


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


Mercury's reports for 2019

  • January 2019

    Olney Council report for January 2019

    Public Participation

    Susan Warren was the first to speak on the ongoing subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She said she was disappointed and disgusted that having emailed all the recently elected members of Olney Town Council (OTC) regarding a letter sent to all residents of Weston Road telling them that they would lose their tenancy if they parked in Oakdown Crescent, not one had had the courtesy to reply or comment. They were supposed to ‘be there’ for the residents according to the OTC web site, she said. At this point, Graham Harrison interjected to say that he had certainly replied. A recent article in the MK Citizen reported on how the Fenny Stratford ward Councillors had obtained £22k to sort out a parking issue for their senior citizens, and Susan asked why OTC could not do the same. Although Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had published a draft proposal plan which includes provision for a reserved ambulance parking space it did not meet the needs of the residents as it was too far away from the majority of properties and should be located more centrally, she felt. Sue concluded by saying that it was now two years since she had applied for a residents’ parking permit scheme so she was now able to start the process again, which she would be doing the following day. This matter was discussed later as a formal agenda item.
    Next to speak was Ian Stokes, on behalf of Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC). Ian said the colts now comprised 26 teams, including an adult team and he had on two occasions stated his interest in acquiring certain assets from the now-defunct Olney Town Football Club (OTFC) and taking over the lease of the building. He said he had been in discussion with members of OTC, OTFC and was keen to work with BodyForce, current occupiers of the premises to reach a mutually agreeable solution. He explained that he wanted to retain the town’s 115-year footballing heritage and ensure that the football club, which was originally built by its members, remains a community asset primarily for the benefit of local non-profit making sports clubs. This matter was discussed later in the meeting under confidential items after the press and public had been excluded.

    Stacks Image 86927

    Market Place Surface

    Changes to Standing Orders

    Standing orders are the written rules of a local council. They are used to confirm a council’s internal organisational, administrative and procurement procedures and procedural matters for meetings. They are not the same as the policies of a council, but they may refer to them. As reported last month, Standing Orders due to be agreed in May still haven’t been, with drawing up of ones on which Council could agree having been delegated to a working group – Paul Collins, Des Eley and Peter Geary. At last month’s meeting, it was agreed to defer the review to the January meeting, due to the complexity of the changes and the short notice councillors had to review them. During the section of the meeting to approve the minutes of the previous meeting, Des Eley asked for the recording of the previous meeting to be reviewed as he did not think the minutes accurately reflected what was said. He introduced the item this month saying that a working group had reviewed the existing Standing Orders and produced a revised set. Peter Geary said it would be necessary to review the document line by line as the majority of changes would not cause any problems, but some might. Des was clearly frustrated and said that the document had been widely circulated in advance and should not contain any surprises if councillors had read it. He said it had been produced using the model produced by the National Association of Local Councils, rather than basing it on the existing OTC Standing Orders to reduce the risk of ‘errors and inconsistencies’. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings expressed his opinion that the council were mainly interested in the differences between what previously existed and what was being proposed. The tone of the meeting was becoming considerably heated by this stage, and Tony Evans reminded members that one of the existing Standing Orders stated that only one person should speak at a time and members should abide by it! Peter Geary suggested that it should be put to the bottom of the agenda and discussed if time allowed, but Kevin Viney thought that a separate meeting should be held as it would take too long to debate, given the time constraints of regular OTC meetings. Joanne Eley pointed out that the item had been pulled from last month’s agenda and needed addressing. Eventually, a vote was held as to whether to defer to a future meeting with seven for and seven against. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings used his casting vote, and it was agreed to hold a separate meeting on January 14th.

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    Barclays Bank in Olney

    Traffic Regulation Orders

    MKC have completed the required 21 day consultation period for two Traffic Regulation Orders in the town. The first is ‘To introduce ‘no waiting at any time’ restrictions (double yellow lines) in front at the crossing point on Market Place, Olney (opposite the war memorial)’. This will have the effect of making it an enforceable offence to park in front of the drop-down kerb by McColl’s. Colin Rodden observed that there are a number of other broken yellow lines which need to be repainted. Deirdre Bethune noted that the hatching outside the old Nat West Bank is widely ignored and thought that the installation of bollards was the only Solution. Peter Geary said that this was being investigated.
    The second Traffic Regulation Order referred to the location of the ambulance space in Oakdown Crescent. Although it is not in the position that Susan Warren had requested MKC advised that it is the most central to service all properties in Oakdown Crescent, being less than 50 metres from any property and adjacent to a drop-down kerb. Peter Geary said it would be completed this financial year, assuming weather conditions permit.

    Planning Matters

    At the recent meeting of the Planning Committee concerns were raised about the advertising on the new Smart Gents Turkish Barbershop in the Market Place. As the shop is in a conservation area it was felt that a planning application should have been submitted to MKC. The matter was referred to the MKC Enforcement Officer, but no response had been received.

    Milton Keynes Eastern expansion

    Desmond Eley said that the MK Eastern expansion is ongoing and in the latest plan Olney and Woburn are identified as ‘Key Settlements’ for expansion, although all expansion will be via Neighbourhood Plans (NPs). There is no further expansion planned for Olney outside of the current NP as MK now has a Five Year Land Supply. Chris Tennant was certain that Plan MK, the new Local Plan for Milton Keynes, will be adopted so it essential that the existing Olney NP be reviewed in 18 months’ time as the National Planning Policy Framework published in 2018 will take precedence. Desmond Eley said that any modification to the NP must include growth and would need a further public referendum so funding would be required. Town Clerk Liam Costello replied that it depended on the nature of the modification.

    Connie’s Colander – The Human Story Theatre

    A request has been received from Michelle Herriman of MK Libraries asking for the council’s support in staging a short play entitled Connie’s Colander which explores the subject of dementia, in the Olney Centre in May or June 2019. The 50-minute play would be followed by a 20 minute post-show Q&A session with a dementia expert. More information can be found by searching ‘Connie’s Colander’ on YouTube. The council agreed by a majority to support the production.

    Olney Rugby 7s

    Olney Rugby Club has informed the council that they will be running the hugely popular 7s festival on Saturday 22nd June. The council agreed that the football pitch can be used for parking, like last year, and also the strip of land outside the clubhouse itself, subject to weather conditions.

    Silent Soldier benches

    Following considerable interest on The Olney Noticeboard Facebook group, the council have purchased two Silent Soldier benches, which will be placed adjacent to the war memorial. There were many offers of funding support from members of the public, so that a JustGiving page is to be created.

    Market Place surface

    Tony Evans reported that the surface of the Market Place is in a bad state and sooner or later OTC will need to ‘bite the bullet’ and repair it. This could be in the form of:
    ● Patching up
    ● Digging out the worst parts and resurfacing
    ● Resurfacing the entire Market Place
    Steve Clark agreed, noting that it was a trip hazard and, in wet weather, deep puddles were forming. He suggested the council obtain rough costings so that the work could be budgeted for in the future. Joanne Eley reminded members that the council was still in dispute with EON over the poor quality of the workmanship when the new electric posts were installed, and they should wait until that was resolved before rushing into any repairs.

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    Broken play equipment in Johnsons Field

    Odds and Sods

    The CCTV in the Market Place is now working again. If it proves to be stable then the council will consider moving to a centrally monitored system, rather than the on-request retrospective access to footage that is currently in place.
    The resurfacing of the footpath between the tennis courts and the council compound came in considerably over budget due to the inaccurate information shown on the marker posts installed by Anglian Water. Des Eley suggested that Anglian Water should be asked to make up the difference.
    The footpath between Olney and Weston Underwood is once again navigable since MKC cut back the bushes. However, it was noted that the footpath is getting progressively narrower as soil spills down the banks.
    Colin Rodden asked what was happening about the damaged play equipment on Johnsons Field, which is the responsibility of MKC. Peter Geary replied that MKC had suggested that Section 106 funding could be used, but that was not appropriate since it is supposed to be used for new locations.
    Kevin Viney noted that the repairs to Barclays Bank seemed to be taking a long time. Liam Costello said he had written to Barclays asking about their plans but had received no response. The contractors on site have been told that the bank will reopen.
    Malcolm Messenger said he had received a complaint about the configuration of the baby changing facilities in the Olney Centre toilets which could result in a baby being knocked off by an opening door.

    Next Meeting - Monday 4th February

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 4th 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 2019

    Olney Council report for February 2019

    Public Participation

    There were 11 members of the public present for the public participation section of the meeting this month, with six of them wishing to speak. Normally this section of the meeting is restricted to five participants, each being permitted to address the council for a maximum of three minutes, but Mayor Jeremy Rawlings agreed to make an exception this month.

    Stuart Dorrill
    First to speak was Stuart Dorrill, owner of Bodyforce who have used the Olney Town Football Club (OTFC) premises for the last nine years and are now looking to take on the full lease on a permanent basis since the demise of the Football Club. Stuart presented letters of support for the work he is doing from a number of organisations and individuals, including Cobbs Garden Surgery, Ousedale School, Dr Ian Fletcher (Principle Lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire School of Sport Science & Physical Activity), and Phil Pask (Consultant Physiotherapist England Rugby). Stuart said he had asked his members to send emails of support for his application to OTC but had not anticipated that around 150 would do so, which he said he found humbling to read and sent a powerful message of what is possible with commitment and vision. He finished by saying he was looking forward to working with other sports clubs and the wider community for many years to come.

    Danny Whitington
    Next to speak was Danny Whitington. Danny said that seven years ago he was recently divorced, leading an unhealthy party lifestyle and was very unfit. With his responsible and stressful job, he said his life could easily have imploded, but after meeting Stuart and starting to train with him within three months he’d had a drastic change in body and mind and changed his entire lifestyle and diet. Three years later he and his partner trained until she was 34 weeks pregnant and after an emergency C Section at 42 weeks was back training three months later, under Stuart’s careful guidance. The clubhouse was not just a training facility but a home to 650 members of the Bodyforce family, he said. Danny then handed over to his son Tom, aged 13. In an at times emotional speech Tom said that he enjoyed Caveman (a Bodyforce class) because it made him feel more prepared for a rugby match and more confident in sport. Without Caveman he wouldn’t have achieved his current athletic abilities, now being the fastest 100m sprinter at Ousedale and playing in the rugby A team. Caveman and Stuart mean a lot to him and his family, he said.

    Steve Price
    Next was Steve Price who explained that his son, Alden, had died suddenly in May 2017 from Young Sudden Cardiac Death. Subsequently, Stuart and the Bodyforce family had raised over £11k for the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) and organised a heart screening day in Olney where 211 young people had been screened for the condition. As a result, one of them had been referred to their GP, potentially saving their life.

    Peter Gage
    Next was Peter Gage who spoke on behalf of Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC) and their application to take over the lease of the clubhouse. He explained that he had been a keen supporter of the colts for many years and they had started with just three teams and now had 26. He said the colts would like to retain the history and legacy of football in Olney and lease at least part of the building. If this didn’t happen it would be akin to ‘air-brushing’ out the history of football in the town, he said. The likes of Denis Timpson and the final committee members, which he named individually, had devoted their entire lives to the club would be ‘air-brushed’ out, he believed. He concluded by going around the table, naming councillors and asking them if they would be prepared to meet those individuals and tell them of such a decision.

    Ian Stokes
    Finally, on this matter, Ian Stokes spoke on behalf of Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC). Ian said he was ‘wearing three hats’: First as Chairman of OTCFC, secondly as a life member of OTFC but thirdly, as someone who is passionate about local sport. Ian said he wanted to work with Stuart and Bodyforce to build and maintain a legacy (of football) and suggested the matter ought to be opened to form a wider debate. It was not right that the matter of the building lease was only discussed by OTC in the confidential items part of the agenda when public and press had been excluded, he said.

    Mike Totton
    Mike Totton spoke on behalf of the Allotment Association regarding the educational cabin on the Community Allotment Plot. Mike said that at the November OTC meeting the council had agreed to provide 50% of the funding for the cabin, which was assumed to include installation of electricity and water. However, the cost of installing electricity had turned out to be an extra £13,000, for which a £10,000 lottery grant was being sought. The association wish to push forward with the erection of the cabin as soon as possible so Mike asked if the council would sanction handing over the funds to build the base and cabin alone, which would amount to approximately £10,000. The association will then take responsibility for raising the funding for the rest of the work, he said.

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    Olney Town Football Club

    Closure of Barclay’s bank

    Barclays Bank have informed OTC and customers that the Olney Branch will not re-open following the ram-raid on the cash machine last year. Kevin Viney said that the letters had said that the decision was made on the single criteria that fewer members of the public were using it. However, all banks have signed up to a code to fully consult with communities should they propose a closure for the ‘last bank standing’ and a robbery should not alter that prior sequence of discussion. OTC had written to Barclays offering any help it could after the raid but had not received a reply, he said. The nearest branch would now be Milton Keynes, but many small businesses in town need cash facilities, he added. A meeting will take place in March between Kevin and Deirdre Bethune on behalf of OTC, Barclays, and MP Mark Lancaster, where the case will be made to save the bank from closure by reminding them of the future growth and wealth creation in Olney, with new houses and businesses that have already received planning permission. Peter Geary said it was important that the council’s standpoint was clear, otherwise Barclays would simply walk out of the meeting. Deirdre Bethune said the bank provided an essential service for the elderly, some of whom do not use ‘plastic’ or on-line banking.

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    Last Bank Standing

    Proposed charge for use of Market Place

    The council is considering making a charge for events that use the Market Place, such as The Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF), Motorama and Dickens of a Christmas. Town Clerk Liam Costello noted that the charge for commercial events, such as the special food markets is £400 per day. Jeremy Rawlings pointed out that there is usually an actual cost to the council in hosting these events. The fact that a new electricity distribution system has recently been installed and that the surface is now in urgent need of repair or replacement is seen as justification. Peter Geary pointed out that this might impact the rates that OTC pay (presumably to MKC) for the Market Place and Kevin Viney observed that most of the events mentioned were community events which also raised money for charity. Steve Clark noted that such events bring people into the town and a charge in the region of the commercial cost of £400 might make organisers think twice about the viability of the events. It was agreed to discuss with the organisers of these events before making a decision.

    Closure of Emberton School

    Emberton School currently has no pupils on its role, and the Governing Board have asked MKC to consult on closure. This eight-week consultation is currently underway and will end on 17th March. After this, the necessary Statutory Notices will be published followed by a representation period before a final decision is made. Birth data indicates that a small number of children in the catchment area are due to start school in 2019, but there are sufficient places at other local schools to accommodate them and parental choice in recent years has shown that the school is not a popular choice for parents. There is currently no demand expected from new housing in the local area.

    Budgetary matters

    Paul Collins reported back from the Finance Committee, summarising the draft budget proposals and proposed increase in the precept (the element of the Council Tax collected by MKC and paid to OTC to provide certain services). A number of factors such as increased staff costs, essential refurbishments and lower than predicted income from various sources meant that to avoid a shortfall it would be necessary to increase the precept by approximately 20%. This equates to a £15 increase per year on an average Band D property. It was also agreed to increase the schedule of fees that OTC charges for allotments, market stalls and venue hires etc. in line with CPI. A vote on the budget proposals was taken and passed unanimously.

    MK East Local Stakeholder Group

    Steve Clark reported that he had recently attended a meeting of the MK East Local Stakeholder Group where a presentation on Traffic Modelling had been given. The (obvious) context was that the existing highway network is not and will not be sufficient to accommodate the MKE expansion without new strategic infrastructure investment. Minimal infrastructure investment would lead to massive and unacceptable delays to journeys, so a number of options have been considered:
    ● Improvements at Junction 14
    ● Enhanced capacity through A422 Corridor
    ● Widening of the Willen Road Corridor and bridge over M1
    ● A new Bridge over the M1
    Of these, a new bridge is considered the best option and six possibilities have been considered, although all but one ruled out and that is subject to a bid for Housing Infrastructure Funding. Modelling of all schemes predicted ‘tidal flow’ rush hour traffic increases through Olney of 5%.

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    Roundel painted on the Road along Aspreys

    Odds and Sods

    The amended Standing Orders, discussed at length in previous meetings, are being drafted and will be discussed at a future meeting.
    The Lions will be holding Motorama on Sunday 9th June in the Market Place.
    The ‘One-Stop’ pedestrian crossing is due to be improved with illuminated posts and improved street lighting but no confirmation from MKC that it will be in this financial year.
    The 30mph ‘roundel’ painted on the road along Asprey meant that police could not legally enforce the speed limit since that is no longer legal signage. It has recently been removed, meaning that enforcement will now be possible.

    Next Meeting - Monday 4th March

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 4th 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 2019

    Olney Council report for March 2019

    Public Participation

    For the first time in many a year there were no members of the public wishing to speak at this month’s meeting. A reminder that any resident can choose to address the council at the start of each meeting, by giving prior notice to the clerk, and will be given three minutes in which to speak. Officially there should be no discussion on matters raised in this section and any items requiring further discussion would be added to the formal agenda of the next meeting. In reality the mayor will often apply common sense and allow a limited response, if appropriate.

    Minutes of previous meetings

    There has been considerable debate at previous meetings on proposed amendments to the Standing Orders of Olney Town Council (OTC). The minutes of the January meeting document these changes in considerable detail and approval of the minutes of that meeting would presumably be deemed as acceptance of those changes. Paul Collins said that he had many comments on the revisions and felt that the council would have benefited from a meeting between the dedicated working group and Liam Costello, the Town Clerk, before this meeting. Peter Geary thought that there was a need to listen to the audio recording of the January meeting to ensure that the minutes were an accurate reflection of what was discussed and agreed. Liam said that in his opinion the minutes were an accurate record of what was agreed, and he had advised members that some of the proposals were not legally sound, but his advice had been ignored. Deirdre Bethune asked that her displeasure that the Clerk’s advice on the legality of the amendments had been ignored to be formally recorded.

    Closure of Emberton School

    As reported last month Emberton School currently has no pupils on its role and the Governing Board have asked MKC to consult on closure. This eight-week consultation is currently under way and will end on 17th March. OTC have decided not to comment on this matter, the feeling being that the school is going to close, anyway. It was noted that the Emberton Neighbourhood Plan includes new housing on the existing School playing fields.

    Closure of Barclays Bank

    Kevin Viney reported back on the meeting between OTC, Mark Lancaster MP and representatives of Barclays Bank. He felt it had been constructive but Barclays definition of what constituted ‘a customer’ when determining the amount of business, and therefore justification to remain open, was rather suspect. Barclays had claimed that the Olney Branch had only 140 active customers, but their definition of a customer is someone who is dependent on that branch alone and has no access to an alternative branch. By definition, even if you are a regular user and your account is registered elsewhere or you have the ability to travel to another branch you are not a customer. They claimed there had been only two complaints about the closure. Deirdre Bethune said it was clear that Barclays had no intention of reopening in Olney but might consider setting up an office where they could assist customers by providing advice on alternative ways to access their accounts, but there would be no transactions of any type. Peter Geary said that 800 ‘customers’ had used the bank in the month previous to the closure and there had been 23,000 transactions in the previous year. He was also concerned about the state of the building and said pressure must be maintained to ensure that Barclays comply with their obligation to repair the frontage.

    OTC Communications Policy

    The first draft of a document setting out OTC’s policy for internal and external communications was presented for discussion. It sets out the council’s commitment to use a multi-channel approach to communications including public announcements, email alerts, their website, printed material and social media. The policy is based 90% on the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity issued by central government and 10% bespoke additions from OTC. Peter Geary questioned the statement that ‘Any public communication from councillors or staff (in their official capacity) should reflect current council policy and not a personal view.’ The job of a councillor, he said, is to represent people not council policy. OTC is not a cabinet with collective responsibility. Steve Clark agreed, using the example of OTC charging event organisers for use of the Market Place. Until a decision on that matter is made, he is free to express his personal opinion, he said. Peter responded that even after such a decision individual member have the right to express their own opinions. Council staff have a responsibility to back council policy but councillors do not, he said. The document lists examples of face to face negative body languages which may be viewed as undermining the council’s compassionate workplace cultures including eye rolling, tutting, sighing, glaring, finger tapping, finger pointing, and aggressive gesturing. Peter asked that excessive sarcasm also be included.
    Mercury can only hope that once this policy is adopted we will see an end to the difficult atmosphere that has been apparent at some OTC meetings in recent months.

    Riverfest and Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF)

    Requests to hold the following events were received and granted:
    Riverfest on July 6th and 7th.
    Big Olney Food Festival on 14th and 15th September. Deirdre Bethune, as a member of the BOFF committee, reported that the exact nature and duration of this year’s event was still under discussion.

    Olney hanging baskets

    Each year the lampposts through the centre of the town are adorned with floral hanging baskets, which are erected by a team of volunteers. This popular feature was initiated many years ago by the Floral Fiesta committee and continued by successor groups, including The Olney Group (TOG) and Olney Events helpers. The baskets have always been provided by C.T. Wilson and Sons, who have now offered to fully fund the provision of the baskets. Previously this funding was obtained by offering local businesses, groups and individuals the opportunity to sponsor a basket, but the cost of watering and ongoing maintenance fell to OTC. This sponsorship will still be sought but it will be used to fund the ongoing maintenance.

    Olney Development Group

    This is the sub-committee that has been set up to implement the proposals set out in the Neighbourhood Plan. It was confirmed that the ‘Site R’ (corner of Lavendon Road) will be occupied by Sainsburys with completion due in September/ October. The future of the remaining two acres is uncertain, since it is earmarked in the Neighbourhood Plan (NP) for retail use but the developer, Angle, has been unable to find a retail tenant to occupy the site. As a result, it has entered into a partnership with McCarthy and Stone to develop the site for age-restricted and assisted living accommodation use, contrary to the NP. A public consultation event will take place at the Olney Centre on 27th March. Deirdre Bethune expressed the opinion that such a development would not provide much in the way of employment since there would be very little care support. Steve Clark said it was obvious that Angle had set up the relationship with McCarthy and Stone in order to push through the development and members should be careful when expressing an opinion on the matter. Kevin Viney agreed, saying that there was an element of ‘railroading’ taking place and he was disappointed that one Ward Councillor had already posted information on social media without stating that it was in violation of the NP. John Boardman was concerned that Angle might use the event to take an unofficial ‘straw poll’ to gauge public support which might be used in support of their application. Peter Geary said regardless of this the public had voted for and adopted the NP which allocated the site for retail and that McCarthy and Webster were proposing a large development on a small plot of land. They would not have come on board unless they were reasonably confident of success, he thought, and any planning application would test Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) planning policy with regard to NPs.

    Liam Costello

    It was announced that Town Clerk has tendered his resignation and is currently working out his notice. Deirdre Bethune said she would like to record her gratitude for his work with OTC, a view that was echoed by other members.

    Recycling sacks

    Since the sacks have ceased to be obtainable from local outlets many residents have experienced difficulty in obtaining new sacks. Peter Geary said it was clear that some residents were managing to obtain supplies, but others were not. Clerk Liam Costello said that when the sacks had been obtainable from the council office in the Olney Centre it had caused considerable disruption to the staff. He felt that a better solution would have been for the sacks to be held in the library, which is open and weekends and is staffed by MKC employees. Steve Clark was of the opinion that MKC is employing an element of rationing. Deirdre Bethune said she had observed sacks that were not being filled efficiently because large items such as cardboard boxes were not being broken down. There was also evidence that people are using the bags to take donations to charity shops, since they are considered to be ‘free’.

    Odds and Sods

    Malcolm Messenger said that he had noticed many examples of bad parking on the High Street with large vehicles sticking out into the road or overhanging the kerb, and felt that the police and PCSOs should be ticketing such vehicles. John Boardman reminded members that some years ago a similar approach was proposed but MKC had advised that overhanging the kerb was permissible due to the wide pavements in Olney.
    The ‘One-Stop’ pedestrian crossing is due to be improved with illuminated posts but there is still no confirmation from MKC that it will be in this financial year. Peter Geary said that additional lighting will be provided by ‘turning up’ the brightness of the adjacent street lights. It appears that when the new LED street lights were installed, they were deliberately ‘dulled down’ to avoid causing annoyance to nearby residents.

    Next Meeting - Monday 1st April

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st April in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.
  • April 2019

    Olney Council report for April 2019

    Public Participation

    Elaine Herniman was first to speak, following up her November 2018 meeting contribution about creating a communal area within the allotments. The plan is to remove two old sheds and replace them with a modular cabin building. She was unclear what kind of grants and support Olney Town Council (OTC) could offer towards the project, and asked if a discussion on this could be added to the agenda of the next Recreations and Services Committee meeting.
    Nigel Birrell was last to speak. He’s planning to hold a silent vigil in front of the War Memorial starting at 1pm on Thursday 27th June and ending 24 hours later on the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles signing. He asked the Council’s permission to do this.

    Absence

    Des and Joanne Eley were absent from this meeting.

    Minutes

    The minutes of January’s meeting to consider the proposed changes to Standing Orders were, following a significant number of amendments, finally approved.

    Silent Vigil

    Council quickly agreed to Nigel’s request, thinking it an excellent idea.

    One Stop zebra crossing

    The safety of pedestrians using the zebra crossing near One Stop continues to cause concern for Councillors and the Public. Kevin Viney, noting that he was still receiving residents’ complaints on the matter, started the discussion by showing Councillors a picture of one large lorry overtaking another parked lorry, which was delivering to One Stop. He explained that delivery lorries parking there meant that pedestrians crossing from the One Stop side were unable to see Northbound traffic, with that traffic also unable to see them, until they started to cross. A Facebook survey conducted by OTC, and with around 800 responses, saw about two-thirds in favour of a traffic light controlled crossing, the remainder preferring improvements to the existing zebra crossing. As noted by David Hosking on Facebook, these improvements would amount to “a high performance illuminated post system featuring a robust high-strength design with low energy and low maintenance light sources, available with either a post-top beacon or a mid-post beacon with a post extension enabling floodlight fitting.”
    Steve Clark explained that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) was not prepared to install a traffic light controlled crossing, but would install the illuminated post system and increase the brightness of the surrounding street lights. He felt it would be silly to lose this opportunity, so OTC should agree with MKC’s proposal, reserving the right to ask for an alternative if safety problems persist.
    Councillors noted a number of problems associated with the crossing: Delivery lorries parking near One Stop causing overtaking and reduced visibility, excessive speed of traffic, the curve of the road naturally reducing Northbound drivers’ visibility, a nearby tree further obscuring visibility, and the presence of a number of perhaps distracting vertical bollards installed to stop parking on the pavement immediately South West of the crossing.
    Some Councillors including Chris Tennant felt OTC should fight for the traffic light controlled crossing, others feeling it should accept the illuminated poles then fight for the traffic lights if needed. Peter Geary noted that, on zebra crossings, most pedestrians don’t cross until the traffic has stopped, unlike on traffic light controlled crossings where they cross the moment the green man illuminates. Neither can be completely safe, he said. He explained that MKC’s decision was not driven by cost, but instead by its safety audits that found the zebra crossing safer than a traffic light controlled one. The Council decided to agree with MKC’s recommendation for illuminated poles and associated works, reserving the right to ask again if those improvements didn’t help.

    Human resources

    The Human Resources Committee had met twice since last month’s full OTC meeting. Colin Rodden felt that, in the interests of transparency, the minutes of those meetings should, like those from other Committees, be available for all Councillors to read. The Committee was happy for that to happen, he explained. Jeremy Rawlings disagreed, offering to discuss another time, perhaps during the busy programme of confidential items covered later in this meeting after exclusion of Press and Public. These items included the Town Clerk’s finishing date, recruitment of a new Town Clerk and staff grievances.

    Olney Centre office changes

    The Olney Centre office is being reconfigured, with plans prepared and quotes sought by the Olney Centre Management Committee. It had not proved possible to obtain three quotes, so just the two received were discussed. Councillors preferred the first quote and voted by majority – seven for, two against and one abstention – to accept it. Colin Rodden felt unable to express a preference without seeing the plans and, again noting lack of transparency, was one of those voting against.

    East Street

    As reported before, pedestrian safety on the narrow section of East Street immediately South of the Recreation Ground gate continues to be a problem. Chris Tennant reported that he and John Boardman had attended a site visit with a representative from MKC, and the following options were considered:

    • Installing priority traffic signs (one way has priority) – not viable due to limited visibility;
    • Installing traffic lights – not viable due to dwelling exits on the affected stretch of road;
    • Add speed cushions along the affected stretch, and a zebra crossing adjoining the path from the High Street – viable;
    • Change the whole of East Street to one way Northbound with associated traffic calming, and add a new 1.2m wide footpath along the affected stretch – viable, but a very significant and likely unpopular step.

    As a short term measure, MKC plans to install ‘pedestrians in road’ signage in the next month or so.

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    East Street

    Speed Watch

    Colin Rodden reported that various concerned residents had contacted him to ask if Olney Community Speed Watch could target specific roads in the Town. He explained that resourcing these extra requests would require additional volunteers, which he’d be happy to have trained to perform the checks. Feeling that the community needed to ‘own’ the Speed Watch effort to an extent, he planned to encourage interested residents to assist.

    Dickens stalls decision

    The Dickens of a Christmas Committee had decided and minuted that there will be no stalls to the shop side of the road along the South side of the Market Place; a controversial issue with last year’s event.

    Market Place lines

    The South and North East sections of the Market Place road will be re-lined, yellow lines conservation yellow, to see if parking improves. As reported before, this has been causing concern, particularly where it blocks dropped kerbs installed for those with reduced mobility. This is expected to happen soon.

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    Market Place Road Markings

    Olney Town Football Club Lease

    One of the confidential items discussed after exclusion of Press and Public was related to the Football Club. Although this news came after the meeting, it was likely discussed during that item: OTC has unanimously decided, subject to successful negotiations, to lease the entire Olney Town Football Club building to BodyForce, the new Northern extension remaining with Olney Town Colts.

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    Olney Town Football Club

    Next meeting - 13th May

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 13th May in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

  • May 2019

    Olney Council report for May 2019

    Public Participation

    One person spoke in this slot. They’d been informed that family decorations made to a close relative’s grave fell outside those allowed by the rules, but had discovered those rules only on being told of their breaking them.

    Election of roles

    Each May, the Council’s various roles and responsibilities are decided. This year saw two candidates for Mayor, Jeremy Rawlings and Des Eley. Jeremy won the resulting vote seven to six, and is thus Mayor of Olney for a third year. Thanking those present, he told those who voted for Des that this would be his final year as Mayor. On to Deputy Mayor, Sally Pezaro was elected unopposed for another year. She thanked those present.

    Apologies for absence

    During the review of last month’s minutes, Joanne Eley asked they be amended from noting “Absent: Desmond Eley and Joanne Eley” to state that these absences had been apologised for in advance. The minutes will be changed accordingly. Last month’s Mercury report covered this in a similar vein to the minutes, and the Phonebox Magazine regrets any concern caused regarding the wording.

    Standing Orders

    Last month’s minutes were also challenged by Des Eley, who felt the wording “Standing Orders – are finished with” conflicted with three clauses having been referred to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for advice. While that advice had now been received and the opportunity to discuss and conclude the wording had become available, the clauses had not yet been resolved, he said. The minutes will be amended to reflect that these clauses remain outstanding.

    Crossing near One Stop

    Colin Rodden raised the issue of the High Street crossing near One Stop. Work is due to be performed to improve safety, but Jeremy Rawlings noted this would not be the whole solution. He’d seen a person with three children start to cross while traffic was flowing in both directions. Education on safe use was also required, he felt.

    Remaining annual business

    This part of the meeting centred on reviewing the Scheme of Delegation, the membership of the various committees, the Council’s representation on various external organisations, the Standing Orders and the Financial Regulations. Sometimes mundane, it was at times chaotic, reflecting a Council on its way through a period of significant change and with much to do, and with the vacant Town Clerk position expected to remain unfilled until August or September.
    Summarising a lengthy discussion, the key points were: The Human Resources (HR) Committee will be disbanded and replaced by full Council, with Standing Orders updated to match. In theory, the Public could attend these HR
    meetings but, given the content, much of the discussion would be after exclusion of Press and Public so there’d be little to hear. Peter Geary noted it had been a turbulent year for the HR Committee, due to its failings over the three or so previous years – missed appraisals, etc. Joanne Eley suggested a rota be arranged for HR training to fix some misunderstandings apparently brought out by a report which had been conducted.
    The Standing Orders were approved, bar the pending changes for the HR Committee and the three clauses noted earlier. This represents an important step forward, it having taken many months to get this far.
    Des Eley noted that Standing Orders require that a review of Olney Town Council (OTC) land, other assets and insurable risks be conducted in this meeting, yet it was not on the agenda. Jeremy said it would be added for next month. Finally, the Council representatives attending the Milton Keynes Eastern Expansion meetings, Steve Clark and Des Eley, will be included in its list of representation on various external organisations.

    Receiving minutes of committee meetings

    The Council often spends significant time discussing the minutes of its subcommittees, under a recurring agenda item to ‘receive’ them. This will change, minutes of future meetings remaining in Councillors’ briefing packs but their reception no longer
    appearing as an agenda item – so they’d no longer be discussed. This month, they were discussed briefly, a couple of amendments being requested including one by Paul Collins to the Finance Committee meeting minutes, the content of which was not expressed.

    Bits ‘n’ pieces

    Section 106 agreements are arrangements made between local authorities and developers that can be attached to a planning permission to mitigate the impact of development on the local community and infrastructure. For example, new houses imply more use of local parks. Chris Tenant has prepared a Section 106 Contributions Tracker, to allow Council to keep an eye on the money available to draw on, and how it would be spent.
    Certain events happened in Emberton Park over Easter Weekend which will result in the resurrection of the currently defunct Emberton Park Liaison Users Group (PLUG) as a body to better manage such problems. Councillors felt this a welcome move.
    Following a couple of break-ins to the tractor shed over the last few months, Councillors discussed various security measures and will obtain quotes.

    Citizen’s Advice

    Each year, Councillors decide whether to continue to fund the Olney based Citizen’s Advice community outreach programme. Deidre Bethune felt it an easy ‘yes’, while Joanne Eley disagreed. An interesting debate followed. Joanne felt it was a pure duplication of services also available from MKC and for which Citizen’s Advice is bidding. Peter Geary disagreed. Noting it was a difficult issue, he said the service was crucial for those who receive the benefit, the alternative being a bus trip to Milton Keynes, a few hours queuing for the service, and a bus trip back – the best part of a day. He felt it a real benefit, MKC having cut all funding to Citizen’s Advice and saying the Parishes could support it. Joanne asked if MKC had changed its tack, Peter noting it had cut funding in October 2018. Des Eley questioned this, claiming that MKC had a duty to provide these services, and Peter responded that perhaps that was relevant to homelessness prevention rather than the outreach being discussed here. The decision went to a vote, in favour by majority of continued funding.

    Olney Middle School parking

    Colin Rodden raised the issue of parking on Yardley Road near Olney Middle School at pick-up and drop-off times, noting the context of a recent lively discussion of the topic on the Olney Noticeboard. Jeremy Rawlings explained that parents’ parking was a tricky issue for many schools, having direct experience of it at Olney Infant Academy. Joanne Eley felt the nearby bus stop had to be safe for bus drivers to use, a topic raised by one of the drivers in a recent Council meeting. Jane Brushwood noted that MKC had been asked to look into the issue.

    Next Meeting - 3rd June

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd 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 2019

    Olney Council report for June 2019

    Public Participation

    Amanda Molcher
    First to speak was Amanda Molcher, volunteer and trustee at the Cowper & Newton Museum. Various local walking routes have been created and, if you’re interested in local history, surf to http://www.mktrails.org/olney.html to see a couple of them.

    Catherine Rose
    Catherine Rose spoke next. In January, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had declared a climate emergency as part of its new Sustainability Strategy, promising to make Milton Keynes carbon neutral by 2030. She encouraged people to join the Olney Sustainable Futures Facebook group, and asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) was willing to host a discussion to see what action it could take to help save the planet. Des Eley suggested that the Olney Ward Forum might be the best place to discuss it.

    Two members of the public spoke regarding decorations they’d placed on their families’ graves. These had apparently fallen outside the usage rules for the Cemetery, and each criticised OTC about the rules themselves, their lack of visibility, and how the subject had been communicated to them.

    Brian Rice
    Brian Rice was last to speak, on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Noting it’d been two years since he last spoke about this, he said parking had reached saturation point, with ever more vehicles competing for the same space. He said it was affecting property values and quality of life, yet appeared to have dropped from OTC’s agenda. He said that, if the Council was doing nothing about it, he and other affected residents would initiate legal action against OTC and MKC due to the impact on their property prices. Joanne Eley noted that he needed to take this up with MKC, it being the responsible body. Brian claimed that when he’d spoken with MKC, it’d put the ball back in OTC’s court. Jeremy Rawlings noted this was not an agenda item, could not be discussed in this meeting, and reiterated that MKC was the body responsible. Brian walked out of the Council Chamber.

    Cemetery rules

    This item was brought forward due to the significant number of the public attending to hear it. It was a tense, awkward part of the meeting. Jeremy Rawlings opened the discussion, noting the strength of feeling and explaining that OTC had two broad choices – to implement the rules as they were or to change them. He’d recently visited three other cemeteries in the Milton Keynes area and seen no evidence of similar decorations. Des Eley drew Councillors’ attention to a notice on the cemetery gate which stated it was an offence to remove anything from the site, and he noted there appeared to be a change in how the public viewed grieving, so maybe a review of the rules might be appropriate.
    Peter Geary suggested to Jeremy that this was not the right forum for such sensitive discussions – a smaller, less time constrained meeting would be more appropriate. Jeremy agreed, Colin Rodden noting that he’d made a similar suggestion previously but seen it rejected. Colin explained that the individuals concerned had talked with him about the issue, that it was very raw and perhaps personalised. Tony Evans spoke in support of the Deputy Town Clerk – she had correctly pointed out the rules as they currently exist, he said.
    The members of the public who’d spoken on this topic appeared a little happier that their concerns would be listened to, and agreed to a subsequent private meeting with a smaller set of Councillors.

    Rugby Club purchase

    Olney Rugby Club is planning significant investment to extend and improve its clubhouse and, as the land it occupies is leased by OTC to the Club, it’s expressed an interest in buying that land to give it more security over that investment. OTC selling that land appeared somewhat complex, Des Eley stating that solicitors would need to be engaged to move the process forward and Jane Brushwood that a referendum would be required. Deirdre Bethune suggested resetting the lease to its original 99 years, subject to the Club paying any associated costs. Noting that this may set a precedent, Councillors agreed to write to the Club suggesting it as the way forward.

    Stacks Image 86987

    Olney Town Football Club

    Fireworks on the Goosey

    Joe Wheeler, organiser of last year’s display on the Goosey had contacted Brian Reynolds, the farmer working that land, to ask his permission to hold the display again. Brian refused the request then contacted the Council. After a brief discussion, Councillors agreed to write to both parties refusing permission for any fireworks display on the Goosey.

    Aspreys parking permits

    Residents of 1-12 Aspreys, the two cul-de-sacs to the Northern end of that road, have applied to MKC to implement a residents only parking scheme for their cul-de-sacs, optionally plus the nearby Flaxlands Row. As per procedure, MKC will start an informal consultation with nearby residents and, provided at least 50% respond with 70% or more expressing support, they will implement it. MKC had asked OTC for its view, so it was discussed. Joanne Eley was concerned about how such a scheme would be enforced, and Deirdre Bethune suggested OTC not support the application. Colin Rodden, agreeing, felt that Olney residents instead needed to work as a community – people had to park somewhere. It went to a vote, Councillors voting by majority to object to the scheme.

    Amazing Grace 250

    Stacks Image 87554

    Paul Collins reported that, on 1st January 2023, it will be 250 years since the hymn Amazing Grace was written. Starting this year, a mix of organisations, businesses and residents had come together to explore how to raise the profile of Olney’s unique international heritage story as ‘The home of Amazing Grace’. He asked for, and was given, the Council’s support for this initiative.

    Standing Orders

    As the Council inches towards creating Standing Orders it can approve, Des Eley introduced the latest round of discussions. First, he noted that the previous meeting had agreed that a set of clauses from the Orders be reviewed at this meeting. While their wording was from the ‘model’ clauses, he asked if any background information was available so a considered review could take place. There wasn’t, and Jane Brushwood asked if this review could be left until a new Town Clerk had been appointed, as she was unable to devote much time to it until then. Des replied that would be ok if Council agreed to the delay. Jeremy Rawlings said this discussion should be deferred until this meeting’s Confidential Items slot, during which they’d also be discussing the new Town Clerk’s recruitment.
    Second, he referred to various other clauses concerning access to staff records. During the 14th January meeting held to discuss Standing Orders, these had proved controversial and were referred to MKC for feedback. Its report concluded that their original proposed wording was correct and, finally, these clauses were agreed. That being so, it appears that next month OTC can attempt to sign off the resulting Standing Orders – something of an important moment, pending since its annual meeting of May 2018

    Works

    The Council is compiling the information required for it to approach EON in connection with the quality of its work installing the electrical points on the Market Place.
    As reported before, OTC paid for the resurfacing of the path leading from the toilet block, past the tennis courts to the next field South, the work having been completed some months ago. Des Eley noted that plans for the path had included a drainage channel down its middle, yet this had not been installed. Tony Evans replied that, as work started on site, it became obvious it would be better not to fit this channel, replacing it with kerbing on one side to guide water to drain. This kerbing accounted for the £700 increase in cost, he said. The work had been completed and approved – OTC had not overpaid for the work. Des said he’d look further at the detail, then raise the issue again if required.
    Colin Rodden again raised the issue of broken play equipment remaining unrepaired, citing various basketball hoops and the zip wire on Johnson’s Field. It would be great to get these fixed for young people to use over the Summer, he said. Jane noted that OTC had three replacement boards for the hoops but no time to install them, and that the rest of the equipment was MKC’s responsibility. Peter Geary suggested OTC write to Stuart Proffitt at MKC requesting the remedial work be done.
    Peter Geary noted the equipment required to improve the crossing adjacent to One Stop should have been installed by the end of June. It would take something over one day, with temporary traffic lights required.

    Schedule of payments

    Towards the end of each full OTC meeting, Councillors review the schedule of payments – a list of the Council’s outgoings during the previous month. Often passing through unchallenged, more recently the detail of individual payments has been requested. This month, Joanne Eley asked if the £4,320 payment to MKC concerning a grievance was the end of the matter: Were there any outstanding Human Resources costs? Jeremy replied there were none as far as he knew, although there were related matters to discuss. A payment of £630 to the Tennis Club was also questioned, Tony explaining it was for the Club performing certain maintenance tasks.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Next Meeting - 1st July

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st 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 2019

    Olney Council report for July 2019

    Public Participation

    Catherine Rose
    Catherine Rose spoke first in this slot on the subject of OTC considering whether to declare a Climate Emergency. She started by placing a bowl of flowers on the Council table as a symbol of the beauty of Olney and the surrounding area. Feeling that Olney was somewhat cocooned and ‘climate privileged’ she thought it beholden on the town to make climate-friendly changes. She knew that people wanted to make these changes, but didn’t know how – Olney needed a plan to guide families, schools, community organisations, etc. She asked Olney Town Council (OTC) to commit to two or three headline activities, for example reducing waste and planting trees. Finishing with a plea to ‘listen to our children’, she asked OTC to act.

    Jane Varley
    Jane Varley spoke next, representing Extinction Rebellion. Continuing with Catherine’s theme, she felt OTC had a moral duty to lead in this area – that Olney as a community had the power to make change happen. Like Catherine, she felt the next step was to plan. She also had a set of steps OTC could follow if, like Milton Keynes Council (MKC), it did choose to declare a climate emergency.

    Sarah Williams
    Last to speak was Sarah Williams. Continuing in a similar vein, she noted that individuals look to local government to facilitate change, but that there were huge contradictions between current policy and climate change. Declaring a climate emergency would give the Council a framework for change. While the UK has committed to ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, she felt we didn’t have 30 years to wait – people needed to act quickly.

    Approving the minutes

    A few items from the previous meeting’s minutes caused discussion. Desmond Eley explained he had not researched the Rugby Club purchase item, but merely stated that in order to proceed with the sale OTC should engage a solicitor. Colin Rodden was concerned about the brevity of the minutes, Jeremy Rawlings explaining that things should ‘get back on track’ in September, presumably when the Town Clerk post is filled making the office once again fully staffed. Joanne Eley had GDPR concerns about members of the Public being mentioned in the minutes. Jeremy explained that he understood her concerns but did not agree with them. Joanne Eley requested he take advice on this topic.

    Climate Emergency

    Steve Clark generally appeared in favour of declaring the Emergency, noting that other Councils had done so recently, and citing the hole in the ozone layer and associated reduction of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as an example of what could be achieved if people worked together. Deirdre Bethune felt OTC should look at what it could start to do, for example litter picking and installing water stations to discourage the use of single use plastic bottles. Paul Collins, first explaining that he respected the integrity and sincerity of the speakers, noted that the world’s greatest polluters are China, India and the USA, the UK being responsible for 1% of emissions globally. While the argument was to lead by example, he felt it naive to assume others would respond in kind. This was gesture politics, he said.
    Other Councillors spoke in favour of declaring, Colin Rodden noting that the required change would cut across many things OTC does, such as leisure, managing its land estate and making purchasing decisions. Peter Geary noted that MKC was delivering a Climate Emergency plan, perhaps around the end of the year, which OTC would need to review and mesh with. The Council is setting up a small working group to report back to full Council with recommendations of what should be done.

    Annual accounts

    Paul Collins reported that the Council’s accounts have passed their annual audit, though he was surprised the auditor didn’t comment on its low level of general reserves.

    VE Day 75

    Celebrations for the 75th anniversary of VE Day will be held on 8th – 19th May 2020, the first of those days being the shifted early May bank holiday. OTC supports this and will track the arrangements as more information becomes available so it can assist as required.

    MUGA marking

    The MUGA will shortly be marked out with new lines for netball, five a side football and basketball.

    Emergency Plan

    This item was to discuss OTC developing an Emergency Plan, a topic which was discussed a number of years ago but never came to fruition. Peter Geary explained that the Plan would be designed to apply in the event of local emergencies such as gas leaks or fires, rather than large scale ones such as plane crashes. It would, for example, note an emergency centre and a list of its key holders to allow access should the need arise. Jeremy Rawlings will open discussions with MKC, which had offered help if OTC didn’t already have a plan.

    Wildleaf

    Jeremy Rawlings noted that Wildleaf has started selling tea, coffee and sandwiches from a shed behind the Rugby Club previously used as a store. Jane Brushwood explained that the business owner had visited the OTC office a few days before to tell the Council he was doing this. She had asked if he’d obtained planning permission, but he didn’t appear to know whether it was needed. The Council agreed to inform MKC of the situation, explaining to Wildleaf its concern that planning permission may be required.

    Amazing Grace pilgrimage walk

    The 240th anniversary of the publication of Amazing Grace in the Olney Hymns is being celebrated on Sunday 15th September, with a walk from Central Milton Keynes to Emberton Country Park, taking in various Churches en route.
    Walking distances of 11, seven and five miles are planned and, if you’d like to be involved as a walker, marshal or musician, surf to
    www.amazingpilgrimage.co.uk for more information.

    Cemetery rules

    Following on from the public participation and subsequent discussion in last month’s meeting, this was more of an update on progress. The Recreations and Services Committee had reviewed the rules and recommended the removal of the sentence “No artificial wreaths, flowers, crosses or articles of a similar nature will be allowed to be placed on any grave.” Councillors voted unanimously to accept its recommendation. Jeremy Rawlings noted that he’s continuing attempts to organise meetings with each of the families who’d spoken at the previous meeting.

    Standing Orders

    The recently adopted Standing Orders will be uploaded to the Council website.

    Litter

    As well as litter in the area near the Rugby Club being discussed, Graham Harrison noted that the bin adjacent to Timpson’s Row was too small. Colin Rodden, frustrated, felt the real issue was that people should take their litter home.

    Funding

    Milton Keynes Council has announced the availability of a £100,000 Supplementary Fund 2019-20, for which it was inviting applications. The fund had come into being due to problems with the way the Community Infrastructure Fund 2019-20 had been communicated with Parish Councils. The time remaining to apply being surprisingly short, Councillors decided to apply for monies to install water stations.

    Lambs

    Colin Rodden noted he’d recently seen two lambs in the river near the Goosey, with someone trying to fish them out. Having previously mentioned the poor condition of the field fences there, he again raised the need to contact the tenant farmer to request they be fixed. Peter Geary
    pointed out that lambs tend not to fall into rivers, being good at navigating slopes, but are more likely to be chased into them by dogs. Colin felt it more an issue of good animal husbandry. The Council will write to the tenant to request the fencing be repaired.

    Bits’n’bobs

    Steve Clark reported that changes to the payment system to enter Emberton Park were being discussed, including the provision of a chip and pin terminal on the entry barrier, and a reduced fee to visit only the cafe. Desmond Eley noted there was an ongoing debate between those wanting to make the Park more commercial and those wanting it to function as a nature reserve as originally intended.
    Desmond Eley asked if this month’s £950 spend on diesel fuel was typical for a Summer month, Tony Evans replying that when the diesel tank needs filling, it gets filled up. Quotes have been obtained to improve the security of the tractor shed, one of which has now been accepted.
    Colin Rodden noted that the £2,000 of MKC community funding applied for in connection with Oakdown Crescent had now been
    awarded, matched funding raising the total to £4,000.
    Nigel Birrell had written to OTC to thank it for allowing him to perform his recent 24-hour vigil on the Market Place. Separately, the Armed Forces Day lunch at the Carlton House Club was successful and much enjoyed by those who attended.

    Declarations of interest part one

    Joanne Eley spoke briefly on the subject of her and Desmond Eley’s declarations of interest in December’s full Council meeting where, as reported, Jeremy Rawlings had advised they each declare an additional interest, which they chose not to do. For reference, these interests were in an agenda item to ‘approve costs of mediation process’ (Desmond), and in one to ‘consider recommendation from HR Committee regarding Job Evaluations’ (Joanne).
    Joanne explained that after seven months, her legal advice was that the declarations her and Desmond had made were perfectly correct. Jeremy and Liam Costello, then Town Clerk, had been given incorrect advice, having sought it from the wrong person at MKC. Mentioning a significantly longer time period of two years, she noted that nothing had been found other than her having full personal and professional integrity. Jeremy apologised, and Joanne said she wished to declare an end to the matter.

    Declarations of interest part two

    Desmond Eley spoke about the same declarations of interest raised earlier by Joanne. He noted that OTC’s Proper Officer at the time, ex-Town Clerk Liam Costello, had complained to the unitary authority (MKC) that Joanne and Desmond had breached the code of conduct. But they had not. Desmond stressed that he and Joanne had been investigated for two years and stated that he wanted a proper apology from the Council in writing. Jeremy Rawlings said he’d be happy to arrange that and would make sure it happened.

    Next Meeting - 2nd September

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

  • August 2019

    Olney Council report for August 2019

    There is not normally a Council Meeting in August

    August Meeting

    There is not normally a meeting of Olney Town Council (OTC) for the month of August. However, this year a meeting was convened at short notice and The Phonebox was unable to send a reporter. Therefore, the only records of the meeting are contained in the official minutes which are available on the OTC website but summarised below.

    Tony Evans presented a comprehensive report on the progress of legal papers concerning the lease of the former football club building to Body Force, where it was noted that OTC have paid £4000 for the surrender document for the Football Club and also that Body Force have engaged their own solicitors.

    Olney came home second in the Buckinghamshire Best Kept Village Competition with 90 points, losing out to Winslow with 93 points.
    Most of the meeting appears to have been to discuss HR issues, from which the public and press would have been excluded.

    August Meeting

    Minutes for the August meeting cannot be found at the moment!

  • September 2019

    Olney Council report for September 2019

    Public Participation

    Catherine Rose
    Following on from last month, Catherine Rose once again spoke in support of OTC declaring a Climate Emergency. Catherine said that she appreciated living in a beautiful town and surrounding countryside and knew that many people were concerned about the environment, both at home and in a broader sense. She said there was already great work being done in Olney, particularly Barnfield where the meadow is being regenerated, and the Climate Emergency Plan (CEP) working party originated at last month’s meeting had met. She quoted recent examples in the news such as the decline of the Great Barrier Reef, the hurricane in the Bahamas and the fire in the Amazon – the ‘lungs of the world’. Our own forests were cut down in the Industrial Revolution and ‘we’ have been polluting for 250 years and are still in the top 15 polluters worldwide. Blaming China, India and South America for all the pollution that is happening now simply will not wash, and much of the pollution in the continents is being generated for us as consumers. It was not necessary to make massive changes to make a massive difference, she said, and finance is available for various schemes which the council could explore. She said she was aware that some people, even on the council, see environment campaigners as ‘swivel-eyed disaster-mongers’, but they like to think of themselves as ‘clear-eyed disaster preventers’ and prevention is better than a cure.

    Sarah Michalik
    Next to speak was Sarah Michalik on the same subject. In an impassioned speech, Sarah explained that last year she decided to do more to fight climate change in our town. Since 1970 wildlife extinction rates were at a level never seen before, with climate change affecting one-third of our UK species. As a parent to two young children, she said she needed to be able to look them in the eye and say she did everything she could to secure their safe future. She started the Olney sustainable futures Facebook page that now has approaching 300 members who share ideas about reducing the impact on the planet. She runs the Eco-Schools programme at the infant school to teach the next generation, but we need to act now she said. By declaring a climate emergency we are saying ‘it matters’ and the dozens of willing volunteers (some of whom were present) want to work with the council and put Olney on the map and secure its future. Sarah finished by saying, let’s do something and get everyone part of the conversation to achieve carbon neutrality inline with UK targets by 2030. There was considerable applause from the audience and some council members around the table.

    Climate Emergency

    Chris Tennant
    Chris Tennant reported back on the first meeting of the CEP working party to discuss the way forward and presented a recommendation that OTC declares a Climate Emergency, as 200 local councils around the UK already have, covering 64% of the population. It will raise the profile of the issue and provide leverage in obtaining the extra support that OTC needs to achieve the necessary reductions to meet the plan. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) has published its own sustainability strategy running to 2030, many of the elements relevant to what OTC can do to become carbon neutral by then by reducing carbon emissions, increase energy security and improving air quality. OTC could look at how it runs its own estates such as heating and insulating buildings, more use of solar energy and moving from diesel to electric vehicles. Biodiversity could be enhanced across the estate and landowners could be encouraged to do the same. Green events could be run or supported in collaboration with the schools and businesses to encourage them to reduce their own energy costs and carbon emissions. The CEP can be developed to enable the wider community to become more resilient in the face of extreme weather conditions. There was real enthusiasm in the working group, he said, and he implored the council to support the proposal.

    Steve Clark
    Steve Clark supported the proposal and noted that OTC already supported energy efficiency and conservation by using low energy lighting and the work that is done at Barnfield with trees and wildflowers. It was important to note the contribution that young people are making all over the country, he said.

    Paul Collins
    Next to speak was Paul Collins, reading a prepared statement. A lot of the items being proposed were essentially good housekeeping, he said. He did, however, object to the term ‘climate emergency’ because he did not believe there is one. The earth’s climate has always varied over time and to have a true appreciation of climate you either need to be a geologist or a historian. Eco-guilt is a first-world luxury and is the new religion for urban populations who have lost faith in Christianity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is their bible and Al Gore their prophet. Man’s contribution to the thing we now call climate change was, and probably always will be, quite negligible. Terrifying because you cannot help but be appalled at how much money has been wasted and how much unnecessary legislation drafted because the problem does not actually exist. There is now a powerful and very extensive body of vested interests, governments that intend to use global warming as an excuse for greater taxation, regulation and protectionism plus energy companies and investors who stand to make a fortune from scams like carbon trading. Charitable bodies like Greenpeace depend for their funding on public anxiety, and environmental correspondents constantly need to talk up the threat to justify their own jobs. Finally, said Paul, he’d like to say a bit about consensus. If you’d asked any scientist or doctor 30 years ago where stomach ulcers came from, they would all have given the same answer: Obviously, it comes from acid brought on by too much stress. All of them apart from two scientists who were pilloried for their crazy, wacko theory that it was caused by bacteria. In 2005 they won the Noble prize – the consensus was wrong.

    Jo Eley
    Jo Eley asked what research into the costs and targets for OTC council taxpayers were likely to be, even if it only extended to a single electric tractor. Consensus would need to be obtained from them because there was a cost involved, and she would prefer it to be called sustainability, not climate emergency. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings said money would be available from grants. Chris Tennant replied that at the moment, the ‘nitty-gritty’ detail was not available, and the proposal related to setting policy objective. The IPCC had stated that there was less than 12 years to act to avoid the worse impacts and that, despite what Paul Collins had said, constituted an emergency.

    Responding to Paul’s statement, Steve Clark said that the effect of carbon emission had been measured over millennia through rock and wood samples and the science behind those measures was absolutely proven and there is no doubt that climate changes have been accentuated by mankind’s activities. He accepted that there has always been climate change, but whereas it was in the range of one or two degrees over thousands of years, those changes were now happening in a generation.

    Desmond Eley
    Desmond Eley noted that MKC had declared Climate Emergency and therefore OTC had no choice but to follow their policies as part of the unitary authority. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that he was on the working group for the MKC sustainability strategy which was due to be adopted in March 2020. Much of its work concerned the environmental impact of cows, he noted.

    The proposal for OTC to declare a Climate Emergency was passed by a vote of 6 to 2 with several abstentions. Desmond Eley stated that the reason for his objection was insufficient information and felt that a document should have been available to support a decision of such magnitude.

    Safety of bathing at Olney Riverside

    A request has been received from a group called ‘Slow Swimming’ wishing to hold a ‘mass participation social swim’ in the river next year and seeking to use the recreation ground for registration. Also, a letter had been received from a member of the public, drawing attention to a recent article in The Times concerning the hazards involved in wild water swimming in countryside rivers.
    It stated that no river in the UK could be considered safe for bathing due to inadequate testing in compliance with ecological standards. 86% of those that were tested fell short of the minimum threshold for healthy waterways, an increase from 75% ten years ago. The letter suggested that OTC might be liable for any death or illness caused by swimming in the river by holding and actively promoting the raft race, although the event is fact organised by The Olney Group, not OTC.

    Jeremy Rawlings
    Jeremy Rawlings said that his view was that the safety of bathing in the river was down to the individual as he personally swam there and has done so for many years.

    Steve Clark
    Steve Clark said he had no problems with organised groups or competent adults swimming in the river, but the newspaper article was complete nonsense and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    Sally Pezaro
    Sally Pezaro said she wasn’t comfortable with the existing sign that says swimming is at ‘own risk’ and would prefer the council to officially advise against swimming but noted that it could not be policed.

    Peter Geary
    Peter Geary said the council do have a responsibility as they own the land and need to follow due process. He suggested investigating the MKC Parks Trust policy to ensure that OTC can be seen to have considered the risks. He said that the river in Olney was the cleanest it had been for 150 years, and in the past the sewer from Emberton used to discharge directly into it, although he noted that with the amount of rats that were currently to be seen around the bathing steps he personally wouldn’t want to swim there.

    Chris Tennant
    Chris Tennant said that he knew of people that had been injured by broken glass at the bathing steps and wondered if it might not be time to consider a swimming pool in the town, possibly to the rear of the new Sainsbury’s.

    Paul Collins
    Paul Collins said that while a pool might not be expensive to build it would certainly be expensive to maintain and besides which a good swimming facility existed nearby in Newport Pagnell.

    Emberton Park

    Steve Clark said that the Emberton Park User Liaison Group was meeting regularly once again and was making good progress. Jeremy Rawlings noted that there had been a lot of discussion on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook group, mainly about litter. Steve agreed, saying that it would be good to prevent the large groups that descend on the park unannounced, but Emberton was one of the only parks in the area where this was possible. Jeremy noted that MKC Parks Trust have a rule that large groups must make a booking. Changes had been considered to provide more automation for admissions but were proving very expensive. Peter Geary said the park was ‘work in progress’ and the ward councillors had met with MKC and requested a 5-10 year strategy on how they intended to manage it because hundreds of thousands of pounds of spending is required.

    Grant for school PHSE programme

    A teacher at Olney Middle School had submitted a request for a grant towards a resource pack for a PHSE (Personal, Social and Health Education) programme called Jigsaw PHSE. The government has mandated that RSE (Relationship and Sex Education) and Heath Education are now compulsory for all schools but presumably not made any additional funding available. The letter noted that young people are increasingly putting themselves or finding themselves in vulnerable positions and it is important that schools are in a position to prepare them with the skills and resilience to deal with real-life situations and to stay safe. The resources would be utilised by both the Olney Infant Academy and Middle School, and the total cost would be £1,925.

    Desmond Eley noted that there was no particular budget for this, although Jeremy Rawlings stated that OTC has a fund (formerly known as the Sidney Dix Fund) which could be used. Jo Eley questioned what the requested resources would actually look like, and Jeremy referred her to the link in the email hwww.jigsawpshe.com/ which describe the programme in some detail. Each school has already raised £500, so the requested grant is for the balance. Des Eley pointed out that two-thirds of the existing Section 106 allocation already goes to schools so questioned why the additional grant was necessary.

    Chris Tennant said that section 106 could only be used for capital projects so was not appropriate. Paul Collins replied that the original request had been for the full amount and it was only when the council’s ‘matched funding’ policy had been pointed out that the schools had ‘found’ £1000 between them. The government had just announced a massive increase in spending on schools, he said. Des Eley said he did not think the council had sufficient information to make a decision so suggested that a representative be asked to give a brief presentation at a future meeting, which most members seemed to agree with.

    Colin Rodden thought it unfortunate that the council was spending so much time discussing a grant of £925 when it had readily given out larger sums to other bodies in the past.

    Odds and Sods

    Peter Geary reported that the surface of the newly laid path between Olney and Weston Underwood is already ‘failing’ because the preparation of the sub-layer was poor. It is covered by a two-year warranty and will be referred back to the contractors. Later in the meeting, he observed that the hedges were currently neatly cut back (presumably to enable the resurfacing work), but it was unlikely that MKC would maintain it so suggested that OTC obtain funding from MKC and do it themselves a couple of times a year.
    The tenant farmer on the Goosey has replaced 120 fence posts, but Peter Geary thought there is still some work to be done and proposed a meeting with him and group of councillors to decide who would be responsible for any additional work.

    Jo Eley reported back from the recent Parish Forum where the PCSOs had noted that the signs banning the consumption of alcohol in public spaces appear to have fallen down. While not totally preventing the consumption of alcohol, it meant that the PCSOs cannot react to drink-related antisocial behaviour or confiscate alcohol from under-aged drinkers.

    A letter had been received from The Olney Group (TOG) requesting permission to hold the annual fireworks display on Sunday, November 3rd, which was granted.

    Councillor Tony Evans

    Jeremy Rawlings announced that Tony Evans had resigned from the council and they had lost a valued and well-respected member. He expressed his sincere thanks for all his work over more than 40 years for the council.

    Next meeting - 7th October

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th 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 2019

    Olney Council report for October 2019

    Deputy Town Clerk

    Before the meeting commenced Mayor Jeremy Rawlings welcomed the recently appointed Deputy Clerk Sarah Kennedy, congratulating her on her appointment and thanking the interview team.

    Public Participation

    As reported last month, a teacher at Olney Middle School had submitted a request to Olney Town Council (OTC) for a grant towards a resource pack for a PHSE (Personal, Social and Health Education) programme called Jigsaw PHSE. Members did not think the council had sufficient information to make a decision on financial assistance so suggested that a representative be asked to give a brief presentation at a future meeting. This month Lucy Coleman, a teacher at Olney Middle School, was present to provide that information. Lucy began by saying that children and young people’s mental health is on the decline due to pressure such as social media. There has been a huge drop in funding for outside agencies to support schools and parents/carers with children’s emotional well-being. Previously the schools could direct parents to agencies, but these just don’t exist anymore. Of the remaining counselling services many are now not able to take on young people unless they are in extreme need – often a suicide risk. The school learning mentors are overrun with children in extreme need and have no time to support those with lesser needs. This is often left to teachers who are already overrun trying to meet educational needs but are expected to be experts in every field. She finished off by saying that schools were doing their best to create happy, secure, respectful and resilient children who will be an asset to the wider community.
    Next to speak was Lindsay Heath on the subject of the Thursday Market. She said she was concerned that if people don’t use it, they will lose it. It gets no publicity, she said, and it needs to be advertised widely as happens with the Sunday Farmers Market. It is a high-quality market with amazing fresh local produce and the latest addition is a stall for sharpening knives and other implements. She appealed for the council’s help in promoting the market, particularly as Sainsburys will soon be opening. Jeremy Rawlings said that OTC had been involved in a number of promotion initiatives over the years, the most recent being an invitation to the market traders to promote their wares on the Olney Notice Board which had received a zero response.
    The next speaker was Kevin McPartland who noted that OTC had recently declared a Climate Emergency, part of which pledges to improve the air quality in the town. Why after 30 years of discusses has the issue of a bypass not been addressed, he asked. With 350 new homes plus a new Sainsburys on the horizon, traffic will increase, and pollution will get worse. For the past 15 years Milton Keynes Council have issued air quality reports but no action has taken place on the findings. In 2009 the transport research laboratory issued a report which proposed remedial action to reduce HGV traffic in Olney, but 10 years on no action has been taken. In 2005 and 2017 the local plan identified it as an issue but still no action. He asked the council to look at the issue and pursue the provision of a bypass. Jeremy Rawlings responded that both proposed bypass routes are shown as reserved in the local plan but the main issue is funding.
    Last to speak was Lynda Batty on the subject of the Youth Centre. She said that two years ago she had attended an OTC meeting to ask what was happening with the building and why had a group of regular users not been regularly invoiced. Two years later they were still waiting to be invoiced for May 2019 onwards. Surely the council need the money because the building requires a substantial amount of repair. At the original meeting she had been told that there was a problem with the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) scheme to OTC. As far as she was aware no further information was available. The building is ideal for use by older members and youth of the community and is sadly under used. Collecting fees would help with the upkeep and enable the employment of an admin person to manage the hire, she said. Jeremy Rawlings said that the building was managed on behalf of MKC by an independent committee of four people, including himself. This group act as tenants and are responsible for all repairs to the building but it was difficult to find new volunteers. The existing committee were on the verge of giving up and handing it back to MKC, he said. In that case MKC will simply close the building, he said. He will be posting information on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook group in due course.

    Grant application for school PHSE programme

    Following Lucy Coleman’s presentation, a discussion took place about the need for the grant. Des Eley asked why it was necessary and Jeremy Rawlings, declaring an interest as a school governor, said the rhetoric coming from central government about school funding increasing year on year is a ‘tissue of lies’ because he sees the figures for funding and there is no doubt that it is actually declining. Peter Geary proposed that a grant of £925 be made, which was agreed. Lucy will provide feedback to the council at a future meeting.

    Co-option of new member

    Following the resignation of Tony Evans, a vacancy exists on the council. One person had put themselves forward for co-option but was not present at the meeting. It was decided to hold this over to the next meeting.

    Emergency/ Resilience Plan

    Clerk Andrea Vincent presented a plan based on a template produced by MKC for situations where an emergency arises (actual or potential) and the emergency services are unable to provide the normal swift assistance, due to weather conditions of or priorities elsewhere. Under those circumstances a member of the council might be called upon to arrange for emergency reception centres to be opened and liaise with other agencies and community groups. It was agreed to adopt the plan.

    Climate Emergency

    The development group has met since the last OTC meeting but Chris Tennant was not present so no report had been submitted.

    Land to the rear of the Bowling Club

    A landlock strip of land exists between the building formally occupied by Olney Town Football Club and the Bowling Club which is not used and has become overgrown. It is currently owned by OTC and is part of that land that is due to be leased to Body Force, although they are not intending to use it. The Bowling Club have approached OTC with a view to buying or leasing the land to provide a
    viewing and seating area. Des Eley explained that it is not possible to sell the land as it is part of the recreation ground but it is currently unused and polluted by rodents. It was agreed to lease the land to the Bowling Club for a ‘peppercorn rent’, with all associated costs being born by them and subject to access being allowed to the rear of the building occupied by Body Force and Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC).

    Councillor Tony Evans

    Jeremy Rawlings announced that Tony Evans had resigned from the council and they had lost a valued and well-respected member. He expressed his sincere thanks for all his work over more than 40 years for the council.

    Next Meeting - 7th October
    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th 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.

    We do apologies for a cut and past mix up. To keep a true record on what went into the Phonebox Magazine we have left this in here. But there is a correction in next month's magazine.

  • November 2019

    Olney Council report for November 2019

    Omission from last month's report

    Due to error on the part of your reporter the following items were missed from last month’s report and are now included here for completeness:
    Olney Town Colts Football Club has recently suffered a good deal of vandalism to its premises and facilities. A letter has been received requesting permission to install CCTV covering the clubhouse, stand and dug-out. It was noted that The Rugby Club already have CCTV covering the Olney Town Council (OTC) owned car park at the front of their clubhouse. While sympathetic to the request a number of members had concerns about the coverage of the cameras and who would view the footage, particularly around the changing rooms where minors would be present, and there were safeguarding obligations to consider. Jeremy Rawlings said it would also be important to consult Caveman Conditioning, who use the grassed area in front of the building for classes. It was agreed to hold a meeting of all stakeholder users the area, along with a security expert who can provide advice on CCTV covering such sensitive areas.
    The electricity supply to the Market Place has still not been completed by EON to a satisfactory standard, the making good around the control box has not been completed, and there is some doubt as to whether it has been commissioned correctly. Desmond Eley is investigating and will report back.
    Many of the trees in the High Street have now been pollarded by Milton Keynes Council (MKC), as requested by OTC.

    Stacks Image 88068

    One of the pollarded trees on Olney High Street

    Public Participation for the November Meeting

    First to speak was Chris Roberts on behalf of the Olney Branch of The Royal British Legion. Chris thanked the members of the council for their continued support of the Remembrance Day parade and requested that two councillors attend to read out the names of the Olney men who died in WW1 and WW2. It was agreed that Joanne Eley and Steve Clark would perform that duty.
    Next to speak was Patricia Gadsby. Patricia explained that she is the Activities Co-ordinator for Broomfield Residential Care Home, which care for 40 residents and specialises in dementia care. There is currently a major refurbishment taking place, and Patricia said she is trying to create awareness and stronger links with the community, which has attendance by a group of Pre-school children to perform song and dance and talk to the residents, which has two-way benefits. Members of The Baptist Church have also performed there, and it is hoped that residents will be able to participate in the Amazing Grace 250th anniversary celebrations. Patricia said the councillors, either collectively or individually, would be most welcome to get involved with activities. She said that there would be a grand opening of the refurbished premises in January and all councillors and the local MP (whoever that might be) would be invited to attend. Mercury interjected to say that his old mate David Pibworth would no doubt be delighted to attend should the voters of the Milton Keynes North constituency return a Monster Raving Loony Party MP at the forthcoming general election!

    OTC Code of Conduct

    Paul Cummins, Deputy Monitoring Officer MKC, was present to give a presentation on the Code of Conduct which has been adopted by OTC. Also present was Monitoring Officer Sharon Bridglalsingh. Paul did not state the purpose of the presentation since OTC adopted the code in 2012, but Mercury assumes it was a timely reminder to all members of the ethical standards required of them. The code was introduced in order to comply with the Localism Act of 2011 and is intended to be ‘light-touch’ compared with the more formal standards regime of the predecessor Local Government act of 2000. The code states that councillors, along with everyone else in public office, should uphold the principles of accountability, honesty, integrity, objectivity, selflessness, openness and leadership known as the Nolan Principles. The council must maintain a Register of Interest for all members which includes Disclosable Pecuniary (financial) Interests (DPI) applying to councillors and their spouses or partners. If any member becomes aware of a DPI during a meeting that is not already on the register, they must declare it at the meeting and register it within 28 days. Any gift or hospitality over £100 in value must be declared, including a series of lesser value gifts totally more than £100. The full Code of Conduct can be viewed on the council website https://www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk/
    Kevin Viney asked how many investigations into breaches of the code had taken place in 2019 across all parish councils. Paul replied that four alleged breaches were currently being investigated at a cost to Council Tax payers of approximately £30K.

    Co-option of new member

    Following the resignation of Tony Evans, a vacancy exists on the council. Debbie Whitworth was the only candidate to put her name forward and was present to address the council. Debbie explained that she had lived in Olney for 28 years, and her three sons had all attended local schools and had played for Olney Town Football Club. Since being diagnosed with MS six years ago, Debbie said she had become very aware of the daily obstacles affecting the elderly and disabled in the town, bad parking being a particular issue of concern. As there were no other candidates, it was not necessary to hold the usual secret ballot and Debbie was elected unopposed and welcomed to the council by Mayor Jeremy Rawlings.

    Supplementary Fund application

    Parish councils are permitted to apply for funding for projects which support MKC Themes and demonstrate public benefit. The Limit on the total value of bids is £5,000 (£10K project value as parishes are expected to match any grant by 50%). Each Parish or Town Council may submit a maximum of three applications. OTC has applied for and been given two grants – one for fencing around the children’s play area on the recreation ground and the other for drinking fountains in the town, for which the council are looking at designs.

    McCarthy and Stone development proposal

    Angle Properties and McCarthy & Stone have submitted a detailed planning application for 48 retirement flats and ten houses on land to the rear of the new Sainsbury’s store. The MKC Planning Officers have recommended acceptance of the plans which were due to be presented to the MKC Development Control Committee (DCC) two days later. Chris Tennant explained OTC objections to the plans, being:
    • The land is earmarked for retail use in the Neighbourhood Plan.
    • Insufficient evidence has been submitted to prove that an attempt has been made to find a retail customer for the site.
    • The site is unsuitable for retirement housing, due to its location.
    Chris said as Chair of the Olney Development Group he would be speaking at the meeting, along with Ward Councillors Peter Geary and David Hoskings. Colin Rodden said he understood that Sainsbury’s had signed a non-competition clause in the agreement with Angle to ensure that a similar retail operation would not be permitted on the site. Chris responded that the marketing report submitted by agents BNP Paribas confirmed this. Deirdre Bethune wondered if this excluded a petrol station and Chris replied that there had been enquiries of this nature, but since petrol stations usually include a convenience grocery section this would be considered competition to Sainsbury’s. Steve Clark said that OTC had only recently discovered that the non-competition clause existed, and Angle had met with them several times and claimed that there had been no interest from other retailers so believed that there had been deliberate deception on their part.
    Update: At the meeting on 7th November, MKC DCC decided not to accept the MK Officer recommendation and refuse the application due to its conflict with the Olney Neighbourhood Plan. The applicant was given advice by Councillors that where communities have come together to produce a Neighbourhood Plan, planning decisions will be made in accordance with the Neighbourhood Plan and Plan:MK. It is not known at this stage if there will be an appeal.

    Astro-turf pitch

    Chris Tennant said consideration was being given to the provision of a full-size 3G Astro-turf pitch locally. Some Section 106 money is available, and MKC and the Football Foundation would provide additional funding. The FA has identified that there a number of locations in MK that are lacking such facilities and are committed to providing 1000 pitches nationally. As chair of the Olney Development Group, he had recently met with the FA, representatives of local sports clubs and Ousedale School with a view to providing a pitch at the Ousedale Olney campus. It would be managed by the school with a community use agreement out of core school time, he said. Chris said the cost would be in the region of £750K, which caused some consternation amongst members. Dierdre Bethune was sceptical of the community use suggestion, pointing out that OTC had agreed to release a large part of the council-owned Barnfield for creation of the school playing field on condition that it would be available for community use and that agreement had not been honoured by the school. She also pointed out the irony of a council that had recently declared a climate emergency proposing to lay down plastic grass. Peter Geary said that finding capital funding to provide such facilities was often not a problem, but the council should bear in mind that the life-span is usually in the order of 10 years, after which a six-figure sum would be required to replace the surface otherwise it would have to close on safety grounds. It was important that a ‘sink fund’ was set up right at the start to cover this, he said. This meant that the fees for using it would have to be quite steep in order to build up this fund.

    Climate Emergency

    Chris Tennant reported that Climate Change Group had held their third meeting where they had discussed how they could work with local organisations. A workshop will be held in January, focusing primarily on food issues such as food waste, sourcing food locally, and what the council can do in terms of procurement of goods and services. Consideration has been given to reducing grass cutting in order to reduce fuel costs and enhance wildlife habitats and planting additional trees.

    Odds and Sods

    The Local Authority Publishing Co Ltd (a private company) have approached OTC concerning an update of the Town Guide. This is at no cost to the council as the revenue comes from advertising. It was noted that previous editions had contained a number of errors so the council will proofread before publishing.
    The Children’s Air Ambulance charity have approached the council about locating a textiles collecting bank somewhere in town, but it was decided not to follow it up as a similar facility already exists outside the fire station.
    The Market Place will be closed for the annual Pancake Race on 24th and 25th February 2020. Jeremy Rawlings suggested that the marquee company are requested not to drive stakes into the tarmac surface of the Market Place as usual, but Dierdre Bethune pointed out that the areas where the surface has broken up is due to traffic movement, not piercing by stakes. The marquee company will be asked to consider alternatives in advance of the future refurbishment of the Market Place, when piercing of the surface will be banned altogether.
    Deidre Bethune and Jeremy Rawlings expressed their thanks to TOG (The Olney Group) for their hard work in providing the ‘fantastic’ fireworks night that had taken place a few days before.
    Graham Harrison reported that the Allotment Association would like to create a Community Orchard on part of the field behind the allotments as part of the Amazing Grace 250 celebrations, to be called the Newton Orchard. Funding is available from several sources so it would be at no cost to OTC. This will be considered at a future Recs and Services meeting.

    Next Meeting - 2nd December

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd 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 2019

    Olney Council report for December 2019

    Public Participation

    Danny Conway
    First to speak was Danny Conway, from the Milton Keynes area of UNISON. He started by noting that he was attending because Olney Town Council (OTC) was planning to discuss discretionary powers related to the local government pension scheme. He explained that OTC did not seem to have consulted its staff on this change to their conditions, and it would have been good industrial relations to do so. Further, he felt that what the Council was doing was to its financial disadvantage, the relevant clauses sometimes being useful.

    Martin Allen
    Next up was Martin Allen. Around a year ago, he had asked OTC to consider resurfacing the area between the Recreation Ground play area and the MUGA. Noting that this had not been done, he asked if the Council would look again at the area, as he felt it dangerous especially if puddles froze over. He asked if the S106 monies from the development behind the Rugby Club could pay towards it. He concluded by noting that the Dennis Timpson Stand, next to the football pitch adjacent to East Street, appeared to be being misused as a public lavatory. Jeremy Rawlings noted that both issues would be placed on the agenda of the Recreations and Services Committee, the Police already having been informed of the latter. Desmond Eley noted that the resurfacing work had not been forgotten, and was instead waiting for budget, for example from S106 monies, to proceed.

    Mary Swallow
    Mary Swallow spoke briefly to ask why the double yellow lines outside her house had not been repainted. She believed this work had been authorised but, while other yellow lines on the High Street had been repainted, hers had not.

    Tom Winter
    Tom Winter, Secretary of Olney Rugby Club, was next to speak. He explained that he’d written to OTC with reference to the Council’s submission to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about the change of use of the Football Club building. In that submission, he explained that OTC had written that the Rugby Club was not in a financial position to put forward a business plan. He noted that these references to the Rugby Club were factually incorrect – it was in a position to take over the lease and make structural alterations to the building as needed. OTC did not go back to the Rugby Club to ask for a business plan, in spite of the Club having formally expressed an interest in the building back in September 2018, noting it was in a position to move forward immediately. Over the next few months, he’d reiterated that the Club had the financial resources to go ahead. However, in one of those conversations, he felt a misunderstanding may have arisen over work on its clubhouse, which is subject to funding from the Rugby Union, which is temporarily unavailable. Its expressed preference at the time was for Olney Town Colts FC to take on the lease, with itself taking it on if they could not, while also noting that the Rugby Club retained an interest in the building. The Club is concerned the submission is somewhat misleading, that information has been put into the public domain which should not have been, perhaps calling into question the integrity of the way the Council worked. Perhaps it had been misrepresented to support a position OTC had taken. He concluded by saying that the Club has no issue with Bodyforce – but sees the misrepresentation as a matter of principle.

    Phil Morden
    Last up was Phil Morden who, having lived nearby and been a regular visitor over the last 35 years, had recently moved to the town. He was appalled at the amount of traffic passing through Olney and also Weston Underwood, which now seemed like a de facto bypass. He’d been interested to read how OTC had helped get the Lavendon Road residential development overturned, due to it not being in the Neighbourhood Plan. That plan had also included the need to reduce traffic problems, he noted, for example reducing the number of HGVs travelling through the town. He could see no evidence of OTC or MKC having done anything about this. He asked if any progress was being made, and for regular updates for people in the town. Jeremy Rawlings noted that Northampton Council had just approved a new housing development just South of Brackmills, from which quite a few residents would likely be travelling along the A509 to and from Milton Keynes. He also explained that the two routes identified for a bypass are preserved in the Neighbourhood Plan – none of their area is allocated for building purposes. However, he explained that a bypass would be dependent on Central Government funding – it costing a significant number of millions to build.

    Approving the minutes

    Kevin Viney had an issue with one item on the draft minutes of last month’s meeting, in which Councillor Eley had noted that there had recently been a political stand on the Market Place and that this was neither allowed nor authorised. He felt that description significantly cut short the ensuing discussion, in which the Town Clerk had confirmed that authorisation had been given and in which Kevin had noted that, in the past, all political parties had been welcome to use the Market Place provided this had been properly requested. So, he felt this wording on its own was somewhat misleading, and that those extra points should be added. Jeremy Rawlings noted he was happy for that to be changed.

    Amazing Grace 250

    AG250, shorthand for Amazing Grace 250, is the 250th anniversary of the Amazing Grace hymn being written by John Newton to be delivered at a service in St Peter and St Paul church on 1st January 1773. Paul Collins stepped out of the meeting for this item, having declared an interest because the Cowper and Newton Museum, of which he is a trustee, may benefit from part of any monies granted by the Council towards the Town’s celebrations in general. This was felt to be a laudable aim and, after some discussion, the Council concluded it was minded to grant up to £5,000 for each of the next three years. This will likely come from the Sydney Dix Community fund.

    Pensions discretions policy

    This item, to approve OTC’s pension discretions policy, followed on from Danny Conway’s speech during the Public Participation section. As background, Andrea Vincent noted that most Council staff were members of the Local Government Pension Scheme administered by Buckinghamshire County Council (Bucks CC). One staff member had asked for retirement on a flexible basis, and this required OTC to get an up to date Employer Discretions Policy, it’s current one being some 20 years outdated and thus not valid as far as Bucks CC was concerned. Councillors had a template policy which discussed what employers might want to do in addition to the terms and conditions. She noted she’d checked with Bucks CC and they’d confirmed it was an employer’s policy and not part of the terms and conditions, and that the Council as a whole needed to agree an up to date policy. She described various discretionary points from the Policy, namely, giving extra pension where someone might retire early, adding sums of money for people taking flexible retirement, waiving age limits due to illness, and about the ’85 year rule’ being switched on or off. That rule means a retiree can start to draw benefits if the sum of their age and years worked under the scheme add up to at least 85 years. All of these came with significant costs, and it was up to OTC’s discretion to decide which it would allow.
    The Human Resources (HR) Committee had recommended a policy on each discretion, and OTC debated whether to approve these policies. The long ensuing discussion is summarised for brevity. Joanne Eley noted that any discretionary payments would have to be made from Council funds (in other words, Public funds) resulting in money needing to be raised from the Precept. This point was noted widely. She noted that the pension was more generous than those elsewhere and that the amounts involved would be very significant for OTC. She also noted that Councillors should be aware that a discretionary amount, which could be up to £6,500 per year per retired staff member, would burden the precept payers and future Councillors. It was not an easy decision to make, she said.
    Kevin Viney, the Councillor coming out most strongly against the policy, felt this a mean spirited financial attack on the staff, no consultation of whom had taken place. Given that morale is already low, he felt the policy’s approach to work conditions represented a move from a John Lewis to a Sports Direct – like relationship with its staff. He asked that the proposal be returned to the HR Committee and that full consultation be performed with staff representatives.
    Joanne Eley noted that delaying approval of the policy meant delaying a member of staff’s retirement. She asked if Kevin was aware of OTC’s 24.4% contribution to staff pensions. Peter Geary noted that the HR Committee had looked at this, made its recommendations and, if the Council had to go through the issues again, that’s what it must do. After some confusion concerning the impact of the potential extra £6,500 per year per staff member, Desmond Eley explained that, if given to two staff members, it would be an extra 7% on the precept.
    After further discussion, Jeremy Rawlings asked whether, given that approval for this proposal was required in order for the staff member to retire, Council could approve it in this meeting, reviewing the proposal in six months if felt necessary. This was seconded, voted on and agreed by a comfortable majority.

    Update on former FC Planning Application

    This refers to the topic which Tom Winter spoke about in the Public Participation section. Jeremy Rawlings introduced this item, noting that BodyForce had submitted a second planning application for the former FC building. There were plenty of submissions on the MKC Planning Portal in favour of the application with just one or two against, he said.
    Paul Collins started by explaining that Olney Town Football Club had found it impossible to continue and could not meet its obligations to maintain the building. A deed of surrender was prepared and signed, resulting in OTC becoming the freeholder of the building. A survey identified the poor, dilapidated condition of the building, and the Council’s Working Group gave consideration to who could restore and use it. Discussions were had with interested parties, including the Rugby Club and BodyForce, the latter allowed to remain in the building for an interim period. Various of those parties had aspirations for the building, but the Working Group’s genuine feeling from the discussions was that neither the Rugby Club nor Olney Town Colts FC had the financial capacity to improve the building, although clearly this was being disputed this evening. BodyForce had come forward with a detailed business plan and information on how it could be funded, so an announcement was made back in April that they were the preferred tenant. That announcement generated no negative reaction from the other interested parties, and it is only when the change of use planning application is being considered that they started making a comment. He felt the Council had acted properly, protecting the precept payers and ensuring a wide range of amenities were available to the town.
    Desmond Eley noted that there are past and present Councillors with strong ties to the sports community, but they are unpaid public servants and thus have a duty to Olney’s residents. Councillors are required by law to follow rules and regulations, and to make responsible decisions on how public money is spent. The former chair of the Recreations and Services Committee had led a Working Group to resolve the issues with the Football Club building, which otherwise carried the potential to saddle a huge debt on Olney Residents. This Working Group had presented a paper to full Council recommending it proceed with BodyForce. This had been agreed unanimously and the decision published on the Council’s website. Since then, the Council has spent time and money following that agreement. In the eight months since he joined the Working Group, no group or organisation had asked for an explanation, or what could be offered to enable a reassessment by the Council. He was disappointed that there seemed to be ongoing attempts to thwart the business of the Council.
    This second planning application will come before the MKC Development Control Committee on 23rd January. Desmond Eley suggested resurrecting the regular Joint User Group meetings for those using the Recreation Ground as a way of avoiding misunderstandings in future.

    Bits ‘n’ Bobs

    A speed detection van will be spending around 16 hours per week in Olney for a period. This was as a result of speed data collected by Olney Speedwatch. The van has already issued 20 tickets for speeding on Aspreys in its first week of operation.
    Kevin Viney pointed out that, due to the way in which the white lines around the Market Place have been repainted, it is no longer clear that there are four disabled parking spaces, there appearing to be only one. He suggested the Council ask MKC to paint ‘disabled’ for the three remaining spaces.
    Colin Rodden noted that there were drainage problems at the side of the High Street both outside Brocks and the old Natwest building. Peter Geary suggested Councillors take pictures next time these areas flooded, to send to MKC to help justify it investigating.
    Chris Tenant noted that the Sainsbury’s developers had not replaced the 30 MPH turrets, which were meant to be moved further down Lavendon Road. OTC has asked MKC’s Highways department to reposition them. He also noted that, when pulling out of the Sainsbury’s car park, visibility left onto Lavendon Road is poor. With Kevin Viney also noting a road crossing issue in the area, Peter Geary suggested the Council arrange a meeting of the MKC Road Safety Team to discuss issues around the new Sainsbury’s development.

    Next Meeting - 6th January 2020

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


Olney Town Council reports for 2018

  • January 2018
    Mercury Report
    Olney Town Council
    There was an unusually low turnout of members for this month’s meeting with only nine being present.

    Public participation

    First to talk was Hillary Terry on the subject of the re-submitted Planning Application for four 4-bed houses with detached double garages behind numbers 63 & 65 Moore’s Hill. She said the main difference to the original application appeared to be an alleged wider access to the site and did not know of any residents in Moore’s Hill who think this application should be approved. There had been a recent residents’ meeting at which five Moore’s Hill households were represented, plus one from Dinglederry and three from Maybush Walk, with several apologies from others who also feel very strongly that this application should be turned down.
    Moore’s Hill is a sub-standard single width road of between 3.75 and 3.85m, and vehicles are required to drive on the pavement to pass. Both driving on, and parking on, the pavement is dangerous to pedestrians. It is often the case that pedestrians with children in push chairs need to walk in the road because of cars parked on the pavement. The situation is further aggravated enormously by the proximity to Olney Middle School, when Moore’s Hill becomes a car park and there is barely room to get a small car between the rows of parked cars. Building four extra houses will further aggravate the traffic problems in this road,
    she said. The application is misleading and inaccurate, she felt. The developer is now proposing to demolish part of No. 63, without giving any details, suspecting the removal of the downstairs toilet. Hillary called into question the extra width the developer alleges for the proposed site access and pointed out that the boundary with Maybush Walk properties is incorrectly drawn on the application.
    Access is also hampered by a hedge which gives a difficult, if not blind, exit, not to mention the fact that traffic going in would be head-on to traffic going out.
    Although the applicant claims to have considered parking, in reality he is reducing parking for 63 and removing it completely for 65, Hillary said. She concluded by saying that the proposed development would be totally out-of-character with the houses in Moore’s Hill, thus fundamentally altering the character and nature of Moore’s Hill, an historic development long known for its old houses and spacious gardens. It is ill-advised, ill-conceived, dangerous and unsuitable, she said.
    Ralph Terry briefly spoke next, reiterating to points made by Hillary and asking that Olney Town Council (OTC) recommends rejection of the revised plan at the next meeting of the Planning Committee. He said that a more detailed document had been provided to that committee detailing where the plan was contrary to Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) own planning guidelines.

    Stacks Image 86835

    Moores Hill

    Finally, Sue Warren spoke on the subject of the parking situation in Oakdown Crescent. Sue repeated her firm belief that OTC had interfered in the request for a residents’ parking scheme by requesting that residents of Weston Road were included in the survey. Why were residents of West Street not included in the survey for a parking scheme in Orchard Rise, she asked. Ward Councillor Peter Geary’s assertion that OTC did not interfere was ‘ludicrous’, she said. Sue said she would wait till the end of the year when she would apply again, only this time she would not inform OTC,
    as the residents of Orchard Rise hadn’t. She presented some photos which showed the scale of the problem, unlike the photo in the December edition of The Phonebox which appeared to have been taken in the middle of a weekday when it was not a problem. She concluded by asking if there was any news on funding from the MKC Community Parking Fund, which had been expected months ago. Town Clerk Liam Costello said that there would not now be any funding from that source. Later in the meeting Peter Geary said he and a number of other MKC councillors and officers had recently attended a site visit but the reception they had received from the residents had put back their case considerably.
    Events

    Requests had been received to hold a number of events on the recreation ground, all of which have been approved:
    ● The annual Riverfest (raft race) on Sunday 1st July.
    ● Riverfest Rocks – a public charity fundraising music event in the Riverfest Marquee on the night of Saturday 30th June.
    ● The Olney 5km Stagger Race on 12th May to raise funds for the NSPCC.

    Bollards and weight limit in Silver End

    MKC has recently received a complaint relating to lorries mounting the pavement outside No. 4 East Street and is proposing to install bollards outside, similar to the bollards installed outside The Swan. They are also proposing a 3.5t weight limit from the Market Place, along Silver End until just beyond the property. Whist broadly in agreement with the bollards, members were concerned that the weight limit might cause problems elsewhere, meaning that large vehicles would gain access to businesses by travelling south along the length of East Street, or even via Church Street and Coneygere. OTC will write to MKC with their concerns.
    Stacks Image 86900

    East Street


    Community Hall on new development

    At the last meeting of the MKC Development Control Committee the planning application for 250 new houses west of Yardley Road was deferred, due to outstanding issues with the section 106 contribution for the community hall. Chris Tennant reported on meetings that had subsequently taken place between himself, MKC ward councillors, officers from MKC and the applicant, where the focus had been on what would be required by the community. The applicant is proposing a building with a total floor area of 150m2, the hall area being 100m2. Tony Evans supported the proposal but was concerned that access would be via the new housing estate and might create access and parking problems. Peter Geary said that the building design need to allow for future extension and should consider residents that do not play sports. This led on to a discussion around the proposed provision of playing fields with either grass or 3G/4G synthetic turf. The problem with the latter, he said, was that it would have a maximum lifespan of 10 years and would cost a six-figure sum to eventually replace. Maintenance needs to be agreed from day one, otherwise the replacement cost would fall to OTC. Colin Rodden thought that the proposal should go out to public consultation, but Peter said there was no time for that because the DCC meeting will be held on 8th February and necessary reports will need to be in place by the end of January. A vote was taken on the community hall proposal and passed by a majority.

    250th anniversary of William Cowper and Mrs Unwin moving to Olney

    To celebrate this event the Cowper and Newton Museum will be holding a showcase event at the Carlton House club on 15th February to which supporters of the museum and various dignitaries will be invited. OTC agreed to pay £250 towards the cost of catering for the event.

    Odds and sods

    Rosemary Osbourne reported that the double yellow lines on the Weston Road/Chantry Rise junction were fading leading to them being ignored.
    Peter Geary reported that MKC had appointed a new Deputy Monitoring Officer responsible for enforcing the laws on declarations of members personal interests. His view is that when such matters are discussed the member must leave the meeting, which is not what currently happens with OTC where the member remains but may take no part in discussions. He also reported that the MKC budget is currently being discussed.
    Proposals are:

    ● A 6% rise in Council Tax
    ● Grit bins will not be filled
    ● Graffiti squads cut from 4 to 3
    ● £500k cut from road resurfacing budget
    ● Pot hole repair budget cut by 15% or £100k. Also, removal of 28 day timescale for holes greater than 50mm deep. Currently if a repair is made within 28 days of a hole being reported MKC do not have to pay compensation for vehicle damage. Members were concerned on the impact of this measure.

    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings was concerned that MKC have been ‘slipping in’ LED replacement street lights without consulting OTC. The standard replacement is an eight-point high intensity array with no diffuser, he said (Mercury had noted that that particularly bright lamp at the top of Spring Lane is actually a double array of 16).
    Tony Evans reported that there is a large road depression on the route of the pancake race.
    Kevin Viney reported that collection of evidence to provide a right of way over the privately owned section of The Goosey is progressing well. A report on the proposed weight limit on the bridge is due at the end of the month. A meeting with the Environment Agency to discuss the unauthorised structure and rubbish is being held on 15th January. A new gate, including a pedestrian gate, is being erected on the Weston Road entrance.
    Work to upgrade the electricity supply on the Market Place has been delayed until March.

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    Cowper & Newton Museum

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 5th 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 2018

    Olney Council report for February 2018

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren was first to speak, on the topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She stated again that the reason Oakdown Crescent wasn’t granted a parking permit scheme was that Olney Town Council (OTC) had insisted on Weston Road residents being included in the survey. Noting that OTC existed to improve the lives of Olney residents, she said this seemingly did not apply to those in Oakdown Crescent, Deirdre Bethune being the only Councillor to speak with them about the parking problem. She advised the Council that she’d made a formal complaint to the Local Authority Ombudsman regarding how OTC handled the application for parking permits in Oakdown Crescent, compared with the successful application for Orchard Rise.

    Christine Platt
    Christine Platt, Sue’s sister, then spoke briefly on the same topic. She noted that the Phonebox Magazine had reported Peter Geary as saying that he and other Councillors had visited the Crescent but that the reaction of those they spoke with had put back their case considerably. In her view, it was instead the case that, while Councillors had spoken with the residents, they did not want to hear what they had to say.

    Peter Geary

    Peter Geary responded to this specific issue. He took a group of Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Officers on a site visit to the Crescent in an attempt to convince them that work needed to be done to alleviate the parking problem. He stated that, factually, the Officers had been less impressed by the residents’ case after the visit than before. Addressing Sue and Christine, he stated that they needed to work with the Council in order to move the situation forward - their current approach was not helpful, he said. He concluded by saying that he supported them contacting the Ombudsman. If they had a problem, that was a sensible way to address it.

    Events

    The Council gave permission for Cherry Fair to be held on Saturday 16th June on The Glebe, and for Motorama to be held on Sunday 10th June on the Market Place.

    New development and Community Hall

    This topic concerns the planning application for the site to the West of Yardley Road. First, some background kindly provided by Liam Costello after the meeting. The planning application is for “Outline permission (with all matters reserved except access) for the residential development of 250 dwellings and associated public open space, car parking and community facilities including a multi-use community building”. This means that the applicant is seeking permission for the principle of those items, with their detail to be agreed at a subsequent more detailed application termed a “Reserved Matters Application”. So, the only things due to be agreed and set in stone at this stage are the highway access details and the Section 106 (S106) agreement. With regards to the S106, the MKC Development Control Committee (DCC) will approve the heads of terms of the S106 at their committee meeting, and afterwards solicitors for MKC and the developer will agree the S106 arrangement, which is a binding legal document.
    Now back to the meeting. Chris Tenant reported that he, Peter Geary, David Hosking, Tony Evans and Liam Costello had met with Providence Land and MKC Officers on a number of occasions to progress the Community Hall item. This covered the scope, layout, form, design and principle of the proposed building, along with the Section 106 package, due to be assessed by the DCC on Thursday 8th February. He noted that all this was “indicative” meaning that, as explained above, the precise detail of the Community Hall will not be agreed at this stage.
    Peter Geary noted that, in the amenity area, one of the two sports areas will be laid out as a pitch, while the other will remain the property of Providence Land, effectively their ‘lever’ to help secure the remainder of the Site E development area, which is essentially the remaining Westerly section of the Southernmost field of the overall development. Tony Evans noted that this second sports area needn’t be a pitch and could, for example, be a running track - although OTC would need to pay for the work required to achieve this.
    Chris and Peter then covered the ‘phasing’ of the amenities becoming available versus the houses being built. The application currently commits to this happening only after 180 dwellings are built which, assuming a build rate of 50 dwellings per year, could be in around seven or eight years’ time. OTC would prefer, and will push for, a figure of more like 125 dwellings (50% of the total), thus ensuring that the first buyers have the benefit of the facilities earlier. Chris noted that the build rate would not be linear. For example, much infrastructure work would be required before the first house was built. He also noted that the foot and cycle path to Aspreys was similarly slated to be available only after 180 dwellings had been built, and this was not nearly early enough. Peter felt that this was fine tuning, on which he felt the developer would likely compromise.
    Note: In their meeting of Thursday 8th February, MKCDCC unanimously resolved to grant outline planning permission (with all matters reserved except access) for the residential development of up to 250 houses and associated public open space, car parking and community facilities including the multi-use community building.

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    How Olney’s new Community Centre may look. Supplied by David Hosking

    Stacks Image 89068
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    Edgar Mobbs Close off of East Street. Right: Edgar Mobbs

    Section 106 Museum and Archives monies

    Paul Collins, Councillor and trustee of the Cowper & Newton Museum, proposed that it administer the Museums and Archives part of the Section 106 monies from local developments, currently £58,924 assuming the new 250 dwelling development. He noted that the Council nominates two people on the Museum board. Peter Geary asked Paul to confirm that the Museum would effectively have oversight of where the monies were spent, rather than necessarily spending them on itself. Paul confirmed this, and Councillors voted unanimously in favour, bar Paul who was not allowed to vote.

    Goosey Island

    Kevin Viney provided an update on the temporary structures on Goosey Island. The deadline for the removal of these structures expires in March and, if not heeded, MKC Planning Enforcement will take action at the owner’s expense. Further, the Environment Agency (EA) will write to the owner to remind him that, while temporary permission for scaffold poles under the weak wooden bridge has been given, he must now submit a permanent proposal.
    High winds have torn off a section of a gate coated with anti-climbing paint, and it’s likely that this paint is dangerous to aquatic life. The EA has been informed, and concerned residents are advised to report the issue to its incident hotline.
    Finally, a planning application has been submitted by the owner of Little Goosey Island to install a cattle grid and gates, the land deeds indicating that he is allowed to keep animals. While this is clearly a concern, Peter Geary noted that an application can only ever be assessed on its own merits so, if OTC was to recommend against it, it would need good planning grounds on which to do so.

    Budget and Precept

    Councillors voted unanimously to approve OTC’s budget for 2018-2019. This includes an increase in its precept by 2.99% to £190,585 which, for various reasons, will result in only a 2% increase in the part of your Council Tax bill which goes to OTC.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    The street name for the 14 house development off East Street will be either Edgar Mobbs Close or just Mobbs Close.
    OTC will take on the administration of the Hanging Baskets which furnish the High Street and nearby roads during the summer, Jeremy Rawlings noting the Council would review whether its office staff required additional help.
    OTC’s Planning Committee has objected to an application for a retail food store with up to 26 residential units on the land at the corner of Lavendon and Warrington Roads. That was because the site was allocated purely for retail development under the Olney Neighbourhood Plan, and it was important for the sustainable future of the town that retail space be available to meet its growing population’s future needs.
    Tony Evans passed on OTC’s best wishes to Jeremy Rawlings who, as Mayor, would be in Liberal, Kansas for the Pancake Race.

    Crossing outside One Stop

    Deirdre Bethune introduced this topic, explaining that she’d heard of further incidents involving drivers not seeing pedestrians about to cross. Other Councillors, including Jeremy Rawlings and Tony Evans, agreed the crossing was dangerous, and fair to neither pedestrians nor drivers due to a mix of lighting and nearby parking. Noting that OTC had to be clear about what action it wanted, Peter asked that all such near misses be reported with dates and times. That would help increase the priority of any improvements, he said.

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    Olney’s One Stop Crossing

    Councillor vacancy

    Although not discussed in this meeting, Liam Costello asked Mercury to note that OTC will look to fill a Councillor vacancy by co-option at its next full meeting on 5th March. If anyone would like to be considered, please contact the Council, 01234 711679 or townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, for details and an application form.


    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 2018

    Olney Council report for March 2018

    Public Participation

    Ralph Terry
    First to speak was Ralph Terry. He thanked the members of Olney Town Council (OTC) for their continued support in objecting to the resubmitted planning application for additional houses in Moores Hill. Ralph said there were four other points he wished to make. The first was the matter of the huge pothole and puddle at the end of West Street which had been there for over a month. The second was about the new street lights in the High Street. The Olney crest had not been replaced on a significant number of them and one had been left as a cut off stump. Thirdly, the footpath from Johnsons Field to the Middle School was in a bad state being covered in vegetable matter with the bank falling away and trees growing over the path. Lastly, he said that dog mess was particularly bad along the path, which he and his wife use several times a day and both had resorted to picking up the mess themselves.
    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings responded that the sawn-off stump was probably due to an existing lamppost which had been found to be very close to a gas main during replacement and Transco were due to investigate and rectify. Dierdre Bethune explained that all the crests were supposed to be replaced as part of the lamppost replacement scheme, but Ringway, Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) service provider are yet to complete the job. Later in the meeting there was a discussion regarding responsibility for clearing leaves from footpaths, which generally is down to MKC. Tony Evans noted that the mobile sweeper did not appear to have visited for some time. Colin Rodden pointed out that many footpaths had never been formally handed over from the numerous developers to MKC so remain unadopted.

    Ruth Ayling
    Next to speak was Ruth Ayling. Ruth said she understood that the Thursday Market was struggling for business and wondered if the opening hours were precluding many people from using it, who otherwise would. She suggested that perhaps it should be open later as a trial to see if it gets more use.
    Steve Clark noted that the recent bad weather had meant that some stalls had been unable to attend, and footfall had consequently been low. The suggestion of later opening will be put to the market traders.

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    The Olney Crest

    Co-option of new councillor

    A vacancy having arisen and there being no request from the electorate for an election to fill it, it fell to the council to fill the vacancy by co-option. Residents Graham Harrison and Mike Hughes had put their names forward and, both being present, were invited to introduce themselves prior to the secret vote. Graham spoke first explaining that he had stood unsuccessfully in the recent election but the support he had received had encouraged him to put himself forward for co-option. He said he had been an Olney resident for three years and prior to that had lived in Warrington for 35 years and been the Parish Meeting Chairman for the last 10, attending Rural Area Forum and Neighbour Action Group meetings. During this time he had, with others, successfully opposed the building of the Nun Wood wind farm and the supermarket at Warrington BP station. In 2016 he retired as a magistrate after 23 years.
    Mike said that he had been an Olney resident for 23 years. During the next few years the town will be going through momentous change and, having previously served as a councillor and mayor, felt that he had the experience and ability to once again be of service. He explained that he is currently OTC’s representative on the Petsoe End Windfarm Committee, a member of the Ann Hopkins Smith Alms House Trust and member of St Peter and St Pauls Church Fabric Committee.
    A secret ballot was held and Graham Harrison was elected by nine votes to four.

    Draft Framework for Parish and Town Councils to have an increased role in service delivery

    Desmond Eley explained that MKC have big budget restrictions and are looking to cut expenditure further when the current contract with Serco for some services expires in two years’ time. One of the proposals is for Parish and Town Councils to take on and pay for some services themselves. He felt that OTC needs to proactively get an understanding of what residents are prepared to pay for. Jeremy Rawlings said that the problem is that it is not yet clear what MKC are likely to be dropping. Steve Clark suggested that OTC should reply saying that they are keen to work with MKC but felt that recent experience with the transfer of landscaping responsibility and the abortive attempt by OTC to take over ownership of the Youth Club under the Community Asset Transfer scheme had been a bad experience. There was no guarantee that Olney would not get ‘shafted’ again, he said. Peter Geary said that OTC was in a better position to take on the work than many other local councils as it has its own ground staff. The current MKC Public Realm Service Director had come into the job with the intention of cutting many services but it had since become clear that they could not all be cut, he said.
    OTC has for some years been responsible for its own landscaping services on a devolved basis from MKC. Instead of paying Serco to do the work, as happens with most other parishes, MKC gives OTC a grant to do it on their behalf. There had been some concern that MKC could arbitrarily reduce this grant due to changes in their budget, so an ‘extension of and deed of variation to agreement’ document has been drawn up and will be signed by both parties. The agreement ensures that:

    ● The grant will be reviewed annually, rather than quarterly as proposed by MKC.
    ● Any variation in the grant at the annual review shall not reduce the grant below a level which would have been charged by Serco.
    ● Any disagreement resulting from the review will be referred to binding arbitration.

    Street naming

    Local historian and resident Elizabeth Knight had been approached by MKC to provide suitable street names for the proposed new developments in the town. She noted that a 1970s document identified a field in the Stilebrook area as ‘Foul Slough’ which Mercury thought particularly appropriate, given the proximity of the proposed houses to the sewage works. She also commented that the proposal to name the new development off East Street as Mobbs Close, after local sporting and WW1 hero Edgar Mobbs was very appropriate. This provoked a discussion initiated by Tony Evans as to whether his full name should be used. It was agreed that this would be more respectful and might provoke locals to investigate his life and achievements further.

    Silent Soldier Campaign

    The Royal British Legion are inviting sponsors to get involved in the campaign by donating to receive a ‘Silent Soldier’ silhouette to commemorate the end of WW1 and as a tribute to those who didn’t return and to those whose lives would never be the same again. Council agreed to donate a sum to be decided. The silhouette will probably be displayed at different locations around the town.

    Citizens Advice – Community Outreach Project

    OTC pays £4,400 each year so that Milton Keynes Citizens Advice can provide sessions for Olney residents once a fortnight at the Olney Centre. These sessions can be booked by calling the clerk or deputy clerk at the Olney Centre on 01234 711679. The report for July to December 2017 showed that 27 people had been helped to resolve and address 59 separate legal, financial and personal problems. Joanne Eley noted that the two detailed case studies appeared to duplicate what is provided by the health services and wondered if the service essential or just a ‘nice to have’. Peter Geary replied that since MKC no longer provided the funding the parishes had agreed to provide support so that the 2-3% of residents who need advice on issues such as housing can obtain it locally. These are the most vulnerable members of society, he said. Desmond Eley asked why MKC had withdrawn funding. Peter replied because they were short sighted and the easiest thing to cut in a financial crisis is such grants. John Boardman reminded members that the councils of surrounding villages had been approached to contribute to the funding, but none had done so meaning that residents of those villages were now directed to the service in Milton Keynes. Dierdre Bethune was concerned that residents of those villages were not being supported and suggested that they speak to their own parish councils in order to provide their own service. Peter Geary noted that the cost for signing up for a further three years would be £4,293 per year, a discount of just over £300 in total. He said it was important for the providers to have commitment as they needed the continuity to plan ahead and ensure that they had people in place with the right skills. He suggested that OTC renew for a further year with a view to extending to three years next time the contract was up for renewal, which was agreed

    Market Place CCTV

    This matter came up during the finance agenda item where it was questioned whether OTC is getting value for money for the annual fee. Jeremy Rawlings was of the opinion that the service had been miss-sold. Pictures from the camera are stored 24/7 on a memory card which can then be remotely accessed. It was agreed to look at the possibility of getting the camera centrally monitored by the police in Central Milton Keynes.

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    Market Place Power Bollards

    Odds and sods

    The installation of power bollards on the Market Place is due to run from 10th to 21st of March and will hopefully be complete by the time you read this. This work will enable market traders to connect to a power supply close to their stalls, instead of draping overhead cables back to the main power box by the toilets.
    A temporary fence on the new development on East Street is encroaching 2-3 metres on to the Youth Club field. The estates team at MKC will be informed.
    It was noted that the cobble stones have been removed from outside the front of The Bull and replaced with a resin and gravel surface as part of the redevelopment. However, this is in accordance with the submitted plans and has been done on health and safety grounds.
    It was noted that the water consumption on the allotments was unusually high and will be investigated.


    Next Meeting - 9th April

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

  • April 2018

    Olney Council report for April 2018

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    First to speak was Susan Warren who reported that the Local Government Ombudsman would be taking up her complaint about the way that OTC (Olney Town Council) and MKC (Milton Keynes Council) had dealt with the issue of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She said it was nice to see officers from MKC present at the meeting now that the Ombudsman would be investigating.

    Martin Allen
    Next to speak was Martin Allen on the subject of the High Street premises previously occupied by T A Bennett & Sons. He asked if members were aware of any planning applications for the premises and if not, could they ask the owner to paint the rather unattractive boarding. Members were not aware of any application at that time.

    Kate Bostock
    Next to speak was Kate Bostock. Kate said that the bay window of her house in Bridge Street has been struck by vehicles twice in the last four months, the latest in a long line of such incidents over many years and each time she has had to bear the cost of repairs. Although the road was repaired a few years ago the camber seems to be getting worse again, she said, and was concerned about the safety of pedestrians. She had spoken to the MKC Ward Councillors about the possibility of a speed restriction or bollards on the bend.

    Ken and Gill Simmond
    Last to speak were Ken and Gill Simmonds from Long Massey about speeding traffic on Aspreys. Ken said that the speed and noise of traffic was increasing and the recently installed Speed Indicating Device (SID) had recorded one vehicle traveling at 57 mph. He said there were an increasing number of lorries and works vehicles using Apreys and believed that some companies were advising their drivers to use Aspreys to avoid congestion in the High Street.
    He asked when the data from the SIDs would be available and whether it would be made public.

    Peter Geary agreed that the data should be made public but Town Clerk Liam Costello said that the raw data is not easily understandable. He would be happy to explain it to Ken and Gill, he said. Gill said that even the data from the SIDs would not be a true reflection of the speeds because she had observed vehicles slowing down when the drivers saw the SID.

    Mayor Jeremey Rawlings said the usual procedure was for the SID data to be sent to Thames Valley Police (TVP) and they then decide if further action is necessary.

    Colin Rodden said that there were plans to implement a community Speedwatch, which would be covered later in the meeting.

    Oakdown Crescent parking

    Present at the meeting were Bernie Ibekwem (Interim Highways Community Manager) and Naveed Ahmed (Senior Highway Liaison Officer). Bernie explained that he was new to the role and was attending to look at the issue, listen to concerns and then take to the next stage. When he’d first picked up the issue he was under the impression it had only been going on for around two years but having investigated further it was clear it had a much longer history. Sue Warren said she had been fighting to get it resolved for 10 years and Steve Clark said he had seen some minutes of a meeting 38 years ago where it had been discussed.
    Dierdre Bethune asked Bernie how long his tenure was likely to be, as one of the problems seemed to be that too many temporary officers had promised action and then moved on. Bernie said it was ‘number one’ on his priorities and the new MKC Head of Highways was keen for the matter to be resolved. A plan had been produced some time ago but it appeared this had not been forwarded to OTC.
    Peter Geary said he had seen a plan which involved turning the entire central area of the crescent into a car par park for 14 vehicles.
    Sue Warren said the residents had been presented with a number of options and had chosen ‘Plan B’ which consisted of a central circle with one-way traffic. Naveed said that that plan did not pass the safety review, so the current plan allowed for just 11 vehicles and she then presented plans showing the proposed layout. Sue observed that the current ad-hoc arrangement allowed parking for 18 vehicles.
    Jeremy Rawlings asked if the scheme would be fully funded by MKC and Bernie replied that the current ball-park figure was £30k split evenly between OTC and MKC.
    Liam Costello said that an application had been made in the last financial year for funding from the MKC Community Parking Scheme, but no awards had been made that year. Sue noted that there was no dedicated disabled space or Doctor/Nurse bay. It was agreed that a disabled space could be provided and enforced, and an emergency vehicle bay could be marked out but wasn’t enforceable.
    Peter Geary noted that MKC enforcement officers visit Olney on average three times a week so could be asked to enforce the scheme. A vote was taken as to whether the proposed plan was acceptable, which was passed unanimously.
    Sue Warren said that next December she would be reapplying for a residents’ only parking scheme, so it looks as though this will run for a while yet

    East Street – Holes Lane general improvements

    John Boardman said that the first phase of the two-phase housing development off East Street was coming to a close which should release around £30k in Section 106 (planning gain) funding. Two years ago MKC had put forward three possible improvement schemes and John suggested now would be the time to revisit these. Colin Rodden asked if it could be considered as part of the overall Section 106 funding from the proposed new houses off Yardley Road, but Jeremy Rawlings said legally it had to be spent in the vicinity of the development. This generated some discussion around what improvements could be made. One suggestion was to continue the footpath around the bend close to the recreation ground but Peter Geary said it would result in the road becoming too narrow for two way traffic and it would have to become one-way. Steve Clark said a one-way system would result in an increase in traffic speed. The alternative might be two way with priority in one direction but that would probably involve the installation of traffic lights, he thought. Chris Tennant said such a scheme would not be appropriate to S106 and would need to be a major capital project which in turn would need to consider all traffic movement around the town. Peter Geary said that with the current financial situation at MKC it was unlikely that funding would be available. Jeremy Rawlings proposed that the matter should be progressed outside the meeting and Desmond Eley expressed the opinion that it was only a matter of time before there was a ‘serious incident’

    Community Speedwatch

    Thames Valley Police have identified a scheme whereby communities can sign up to take part in exercises where they can themselves actively be involved in monitoring traffic speed in their locality. Two communities that have taken part in a trial have seen positive feedback. The scheme works by residents volunteering to assist in the setting up of the Speedwatch equipment and logging vehicles that are exceeding the speed limit. Offenders are then written to, via TVP, advising them of their excessive speed and given guidance to avoid speeding in the future. Vehicle details are recorded on the TVP Speedwatch database. OTC has requested volunteers via Facebook and to date around six people have expressed an interest. If you would like to volunteer, please contact the council office for more information.

    Land at corner of Lavendon Road and Warrington Road

    As previously reported, Angle Property have submitted plans for a retail foodstore and up to 26 residential units on this site and officers of MKC Planning Department were recommending acceptance of the scheme. Peter Geary reported that he and a number of other councillors had attended a meeting with the developer where the developer’s objective had been to persuade OTC to drop its objection to the scheme. OTC’s objective was to get the housing element of the scheme removed because the recently adopted Neighbourhood Plan (NP) had reserved the site solely for retail use. Chris Tennant said that at the meeting the developer confirmed that the foodstore would be occupied by Sainsbury’s and they considered the site to be in-fill and therefore not subject to the restrictions of the NP. Peter Geary said the change in the retail market meant that the size of new stores was reducing, but it was not in the interests of the town to see the whole scheme fall apart. No one had been able to demonstrate a sound reason why the NP should be changed or challenged, he said. Tony Evans was of the opinion that anything that OTC did which weakens the status of the NP would cause problems further down the line and the recommendations of the plan must be observed. Steve Clark thought the submitted plans would be bound to be rejected by the forthcoming MKC Development Control Committee (DCC) and his advice would be to resubmit without the housing. Peter Geary asked if OTC wished to reconsider its decision to object to the plans in the light of all the information they had before them. This was put to a vote and was unanimously rejected. Hew then asked if the housing element was removed would OTC support the application. This was unanimously agreed.
    Note: After a short debate at the DCC on 12th April the developer withdrew the application for the housing element. They undertook to resubmit the plans with a stand-alone supermarket within the next two weeks

    MKC affordable housing

    MKC has published a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which aims to make clear the council’s responsibilities in providing affordable housing, both as a housing landlord and as an enabler and regulator to assist others in meeting the housing needs of the community. One of the objectives is to provide more clarity on options for affordable housing delivery in the rural areas. Joanne Eley doubted whether affordable housing will be built in Olney and Peter
    Geary said that Olney is not a popular location with housing associations due to the limited public transport links with nearby centres of employment. Jeremy Rawlings noted that the size of development requiring affordable housing has been reduced from 15 to 10. The consultation period runs from 19th March to 27th April and it was agreed that Joanne Eley will liaise with MKC on the matter.

    Olney Town Football Club

    The entire committee of Olney Town Football Club (OTFC) have announced that they will stand down at the end of the current season and unless sufficient volunteers come forward to replace them, the club will fold. Tony Evans said he would be sorry to see the demise of the club, but it is no longer a local club as all players and the manager come from outside the town. He noted that the separately run Olney Town Colts now had a seniors team and said he would like to see the club grow. Joanne Eley said that unlike other local sports teams the players receive a match fee and do not get involved in running the club. Steve Clark was disappointed that OTC had been mentioned in the club’s Facebook announcement, particularly when they had bent over backwards to help them with the barrier around the pitch, in the face of public opposition. The leagues need to recognise that many smaller clubs play on town/parish council owned recreation grounds and will not get permission for stands, turnstiles and the like, he said. Liam Costello said that a 99 year lease for the land on which the club house stands was signed in 1983 so it was important that the contract terms should be obeyed by OTC and OTFC during the winding-up process. The lease does not include automatic use of the pitches he said, which get renegotiated each year.

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    Olney Town Football Club

    Odds and sods

    The installation of power bollards on the Market Place has been completed, but to a generally poor standard. Some bollards are in exposed locations and are at risk of being damaged by vehicles. A meeting will take place with the contractors.

    Kevin Viney reported that most of the illegal structures on Goosey Island had finally been removed. The metal scaffold poles on the bridge had been removed but those on the island remained, as did the rubbish. MKC will be reminded that the owner has not yet been fully compliant with the enforcement order.

    It was noted that the recent wet weather had resulted in the Long Lane bridleway becoming impassable again.

    A large pot-hole has appeared at the entrance to the Co-op, probably caused by delivery and construction vehicles. Repairs are in hand and will be completed shortly.

    Deirdre Bethune was concerned that vehicles are continuing to park in front of dropped kerbs required for disabled access. She also noted that delivery vehicles to the newly opened Cherry Tree pub were blocking the footpath in Spring Lane during deliveries and causing problems to the users of mobility scooters.

    The old Natwest Bank building has been sold. The ‘Town Clock’ mounted on the wall of the building was provided by public donation for the Silver Jubilee in 1977 and is maintained by OTC. The new owner has agreed to continue with the existing wayleave arrangement.

    The Annual Town Meeting will take place on Thursday 17th May at 7:00 pm at the Olney Centre.


    Next Meeting - 14th May

    The next OTC 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.

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    Potholes in Stanley Court

  • May 2018

    Olney Council report for May 2018

    Olney in Bermuda

    Olney Bean and her husband Lee had travelled from Bermuda to see the town she was named after. Introducing herself and clearly joyful to be here, she explained that her mother had been given the middle name ‘Olney’ because she’d been delivered, in Bermuda, by a midwife from Olney UK. Wanting to continue the line, her mother then named her Olney, a favour she conferred on the next generation by giving it to one of her daughters as her middle name. She exchanged gifts with Jeremy Rawlings, she giving him various books and cards, and he reciprocating with the Olney Hymns book.

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    Olney Bean and her husband Lee had travelled from Bermuda to see the town she was named after

    Public Participation

    David Coles
    David Coles, the only person to speak in this section, explained that David Coles Architects has bought the old NatWest Bank building to become its business premises. He has applied for permission to build a single storey rear extension to contain a toilet, and to change the class of use from A2, financial and professional services, to B1, business. He plans to maintain a shop-front-like exterior, so people can look in to see what services the firm offers. The clock, which currently falls under a wayleave agreement between Olney Town Council (OTC) and NatWest, will now fall under a similar agreement between the Council and David Coles Architects.

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    The old NatWest building, purchased by David Coles Architects

    Elections

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

    Peter Evans

    Peter Evans, former caretaker of the Olney Centre, recently passed away. Jeremy Rawlings led all present in standing for a minute’s silence.

    Admin

    This being the first meeting of the new Council year, various administrative matters were discussed and taken care of.
    Deidre Bethune asked Councillors to consider whether, for confidential discussions in the Human Resources Committee, Councillors outside that Committee should be excluded, along with the press and public as now. Peter Geary felt this would be a misstep, noting that each Councillor has a responsibility and that taking away their right to attend any meeting they wish would be a dangerous step. After further discussion, Deidre withdrew the request.
    The Council voted to adopt the General power of Competence, a new power available to local authorities in England to do “anything that individuals generally may do”. Brought into force for local authorities in 2012, it was provided for in the Localism Act 2011 and replaces the well-being powers in the Local Government Act 2000.

    Bits’n’bobs

    The Human Resources Committee is considering outsourcing some of its work as the area it covers becomes more regulated and complex.
    The Council agreed to give the Rugby Club permission to use the Nursery Field as parking for Rugby 7’s day on Saturday 23rd June, subject to reasonable weather. It will also inform the Club of the requirements for proper marshalling and signage, along with the potential for a Park and Ride service to help alleviate the overall parking problem.
    The Council is considering upgrading its website and perhaps also its email system.
    The recent repair to the large pothole at the entrance to the Co-op car park, paid for by one of the smaller nearby businesses and acknowledged temporary, will be completed more permanently, funded by a group of the larger affected businesses including the Co-op and the Bull.

    Planning

    Chris Tenant reported that the mixed retail and residential application for the site to the North East of the Whirly Pit roundabout had been discussed at a Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Development Control meeting. He and Peter Geary had spoken on behalf of OTC to object, inviting the applicant to withdraw the residential aspect. Rather than risk the application being refused, the applicant took the highly unusual step of withdrawing the whole application.
    The applicant has since requested a meeting with representatives from OTC to explain what it proposes to do next, the expectation being that it will submit an application for retail only. Peter Geary suggested that Councillors listen to its proposal and restate OTC’s policy that, as the Neighbourhood Plan designates, the site is for retail only. Chris noted that Councillors should also encourage the applicant to engage with the Public, for example sending a newsletter to local residents then holding a public meeting to discuss the application.
    Finally, Colin Rodden noted that the Council must do all it can to avoid a part residential plan from being granted permission. It was “the elephant in the room”, he said. Peter agreed: If MKC rejected the new application, the applicant could appeal and, if at that point MKC was having difficulty meeting its five year land supply, the applicant’s chances of successful appeal and subsequent grant of retail and residential permission would be increased. OTC would need to remain vigilant.

    Cobbs Garden Surgery

    As noted in the Olney Neighbourhood Plan, the Surgery is around half the size it should be, with long term population and care projections suggesting that a larger site will certainly be required. The Plan identified the site adjacent to Austen Avenue alongside the Youth Club as being suitable.
    Chris Tenant reported that Councillors had met with representatives from Cobbs Garden Surgery, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in which it operates and those responsible for finance. The Surgery is keen to expand the range of services it offers as well as increasing the number of patients it serves, but is highly constrained physically. Doctors from the Surgery have visited the new site and are very impressed with its potential. Department of Health (DoH) funding for a new site may be available and it was felt that it’d be great to see this Neighbourhood Plan proposal become a reality.
    Peter Geary noted that a crucial element was what MKC, the new site’s owner, would be prepared to sell it for versus what the DoH would be prepared to pay. He explained that MKC has a duty to maximise revenue from such sales but that, given the associated benefits, that may not be its only consideration when setting the price.

    Market Place electrics

    As reported before, the installation of power bollards on the Market Place has been completed but to a generally poor standard. The contractor has submitted an interim bill, but the Council is not intending to pay it, partly because no interim payment was agreed and mainly because the Council is not yet satisfied that the work has been completed to a sufficiently high standard. Tony Evans concluded the discussion, noting that “not a penny should go out of OTC” until the work is properly completed.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Peter Geary gave an update on the situation of parking in Oakdown Crescent. He said that Sue Warren had made a complaint to the MKC Standards Committee, which investigates complaints that Councillors are in breach of their Code of Conduct. The first stage of handling such a complaint is an assessment by an independent person to decide whether it should be referred on for a formal investigation or dismissed. Sue’s complaint was dismissed.
    As reported before, Sue had said at previous meetings that she’d lodged a complaint against OTC with the Local Government Ombudsman. However, the Ombudsman doesn’t investigate complaints about Town and Parish Councils. It does investigate complaints against Borough Councils, but OTC is not aware of any such complaint against MKC.
    Colin Rodden raised the idea, discussed before, of converting the Crescent’s garage block area to parking. Peter agreed that, in general, more parking was needed. He described the issue with parking as being like a balloon – you squeeze it in one area and it pops out in another.
    Sue had also said that she intended to re-apply for a Residents Parking Scheme in December. Peter noted that MKC had been asked whether, should such an application happen, Weston Road residents would be consulted as before. The answer was that they would be. He stressed that, to obtain a solution, it would be necessary to work with the people affected.
    OTC has submitted an application for money from the Community Parking Fund, and does not plan to take any further action regarding Oakdown Crescent until a decision has been made on that.
    Thank you to Liam Costello for providing assistance with the background and content of what was an important but fast moving part of the meeting.

    Bobs’n’bits

    The hanging baskets on the High Street and nearby roads will have been erected by Olney Events and friends before this article is published. Deidre Bethune thanked the Council for organising the baskets’ sponsorship, and for watering them throughout the season.
    Colin Rodden reported that a section of fencing in Kitchener Close had been damaged in order to provide an unofficial route into the recreation fields. The fence is believed to be owned by a housing association, so it will need to replace it, perhaps with one of a more substantial design.
    Graham Harrison noted that the potholes on the driveway to the allotments were becoming deep. Tony Evans explained that the groundsmen have material to fill them but, due to high workload, it would not happen soon.


    Next Meeting - 4th June

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 4th 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 2018

    Olney Council report for June 2018

    Public Participation

    Ashley Pankhurst
    Ashley Pankhurst was first to speak in this slot, concerning a project to fund and locate a 24/7 accessible defibrillator in the town centre. He suggested that a suitable position for the unit would be on the Market Place bus shelter or public toilet. He’d already secured funding from The Olney Group (TOG), Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) and the Newport Pagnell and Olney Lions, and asked if the Council would feel able to purchase the unit and claim back the VAT.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke next, on the topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Referring to Peter Geary’s comments in last month’s meeting, she reminded him that it wasn’t her who’d made the complaint – it was the residents of Oakdown Crescent. She expected an apology for this error, she said. She felt the Councillors who attended the site meeting in the Crescent on 7th December 2017 to see the problem first hand had no respect for the elderly people who’d met them there. She also showed a picture of an ambulance in the Crescent which could not, due to parked cars, park outside the house it needed to attend. She finished by claiming the Council didn’t care about the electorate, even the elderly, but that she would do whatever it took to make Oakdown Crescent a nice place to live with space for visitors to park.

    Teresa Riley
    Teresa Riley spoke about a parking issue affecting certain houses in Silver End, asking the Council to support their residents’ application to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) to lease parking spaces in the Old Cattle Market car park, including one 24 hour disabled space. She noted that the residents of nos. 2, 4 and 8 currently park there but that it’s becoming harder due to the success of Olney, for example with the expanded evening dining provided by the various new pubs and restaurants attracting visitors from out of town.

    Stuart Dorrill
    Next up was Stuart Dorrill, founder of local health, fitness and wellbeing company Bodyforce, which would like to take on the lease for the recently vacated Olney Town Football Club building. Founded in 2010, Bodyforce has grown to a team of seven qualified professionals providing group and individual training, as well as local outreach programmes. Noting that Bodyforce had trained 150 people on the day of this meeting, Stuart outlined its philosophy to inspire and empower people to take control of their health, fitness and wellbeing while having fun with people they might not otherwise meet. Bodyforce already uses part of the building for fitness sessions, but would like to extend the facilities it offers by taking on the lease and thus being able to control the whole space. Noting that Bodyforce has a stable, proven business model with finance in place to ensure maintenance and development of the building, he said it’d engaged an architect for initial design ideas and aimed to have a more detailed, costed plan in the near future.

    Paul Collins
    Paul Collins asked Stuart to outline Bodyforce’s commercial relationship with the Football Club. Stuart explained that it hires a room in the Club and also pays Olney Town Council (OTC) to hold sessions outside on the Recreation Ground.

    Silver End parking

    This item was to discuss the issues Teresa Riley raised in her Public participation slot. She had contacted MKC about the issue in 2014, and it had responded positively, citing various costs including a £350 per space yearly rental, and some conditions including that each household must be responsible for insuring its space. The residents did not take up MKC on its offer but, with parking becoming more difficult, they’d like to pursue it now.
    Colin Rodden noted that, if OTC backed these spaces, it may come under pressure to do the same for further spaces in the area. Graham Harrison felt that, with the Old Cattle Market car park having no disabled spaces, it may be sensible to add one. Peter Geary, explaining that he had no problem with the disabled space and did not necessarily disagree with the rest of the request, noted that it was MKC not OTC which controlled that car park. He said that the Council could push for waiting restrictions there to help parking overall. There was further debate, which concluded with Councillors agreeing to ask MKC for a disabled space in the car park and to ask it to propose a solution for the affected residents’ parking.

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    Silver End Parking

    Riverfest parking

    Following high attendances at Riverfest 2017 and the notable lack of on-site public parking, TOG had asked if it could use the Nursery Field for this purpose. The Council agreed subject to reasonable weather.

    Finance Committee

    It recently being the start of a new Council year, committees have been electing their chairs. Jeremy Rawlings noted that the most recent Finance Committee meeting had seen proposals for Deidre Bethune and Paul Collins to be elected chair but, with so few people being present at the meeting, they didn’t feel able to elect a chair. Peter Geary noted that this was bizarre – it was the Committee’s first meeting of the year so it should elect its chair. Paul Collins noted his concern that, while the accounts had been approved, the auditors’ report was not tabled at the meeting in spite of being received before it took place. Liam Costello noted that the report had been received after the agenda had been sent. There did not appear to be an inference that anything hinged on the report not being tabled

    Speeding on Aspreys

    Councillors reviewed the data collected by the Speed Indicator Device (SID) which had been placed at various locations along Aspreys over the preceding few weeks. There were many graphs and some difficulties interpreting the data, but the average speed at the faster locations looked to be around 34 MPH, with 85% of drivers at or below 39 MPH with a few peaks of above 50 MPH generally late at night. It being a 30 MPH limit, the Council saw this to be a significant problem and will pass the data to the relevant authorities. Regular mobile speed camera checks and enforcement seem likely.

    Olney Town Colts FC pitch request

    Olney Town Colts requested, and OTC acceded, that it formally take over the rental of the Nursery and Charity Field pitches, allowing it to bring back two teams which currently play on the sports fields at Emberton.

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    Olney Town Football Club building

    Plan:MK examination

    OTC has the opportunity to present further comments on Plan:MK. For tonight, discussions centred on whether Olney, currently designated a Key Settlement, should instead be designated a Selected Village. Des Ealey was concerned that some aspects of Plan:MK are unclear about how development will happen in Key Settlements and had thus been talking with MKC. The key relevant question from the weighty information pack is: “Is the role of Key Settlements sufficiently clear? Does the policy comply with paragraph 154 of the National Planning Policy Framework which requires that policies should provide a clear indication of how a decision maker should react to a development proposal?”
    There was much debate on this, with there being clear concern that, should Plan:MK be rejected, Olney would have much to worry about: By then, it would be more than two years since approval of its Neighbourhood Plan and thus, with that much time having passed, it would carry less weight. So, Olney had no interest in risking that rejection by pushing too hard for the designation change. But, there was also a feeling that it would be advantageous to at least ask the question. Councillors voted unanimously to submit that OTC supports change in designation from Key Settlement to Selected Village at the next appropriate moment, and to seek advice on its effects.
    It’s worth noting at this point that OTC is commendably free of party politics, issues instead being discussed on an apolitical basis. Perhaps uniquely in Mercury’s experience, the matter of political allegiance was raised during this topic: Colin Rodden, while noting that, with the Neighbourhood Plan vote being so close, the Council needed to listen to local people, stated that he was an independent and Peter Geary a Conservative. Peter responded to this by saying that the usual Conservative position is to back rural areas to the hilt, but that Councils couldn’t make up policies on the hoof.

    War Memorial

    Historic England had informed OTC that it would like to list the Olney War Memorial due to its special architectural and historic interest, with the aim of affording it additional protection. It asked the Council for its views. Councillors were concerned that listing would bring with it unnecessary bureaucracy, with Peter Geary noting that, for small Councils particularly, the additional cost could yield an effect opposite that intended. Feeling that OTC has, is and will continue to maintain the structure to a high standard, Councillors agreed to recommend against listing.

    Market Place electrics

    As reported before, the installation of power bollards on the Market Place has been completed but to a generally poor standard. Due to holidays and other unavailability, the situation has not progressed since last month. One significant problem appears to be that, while the manufacturer of the electrical outlets specifies that the holes in which they’re mounted must be connected to a drain or have drainage holes drilled into the subsoil, EON had not included either action in its subcontractor’s specification

    East Street footpath

    John Boardman asked for the issue of there being no footpath on East Street between the Nursery Field and Fountain Court car park to be added to the list of ongoing actions tracked at each Council meeting. Plans for this path were drawn up by MKC 10 years ago but not progressed. The Section 106 agreement for the nearby 14 home development off East Street makes a contribution of £35,000 towards its provision.

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    Market Place Power Bollards

    Planning

    As reported previously, the mixed retail and residential application for the site to the North East of the Whirly Pit roundabout was withdrawn by the applicant due to OTC and others objecting to it on the basis that the Neighbourhood Plan designates the site retail only. Angle Property has since requested a meeting with the Council to discuss what, given the new, smaller retail only application, will happen to the rest of the site. Councillors agreed to stick with the view that the site was for retail only. Steve Clark concluded the topic by noting that the original all-retail Sainsbury’s application included facilities to deal with the effects of flooding, an aspect missing from the current one.

    Swimming Steps

    Colin Rodden reported that a young girl had cut her foot on a submerged broken bottle at the Swimming Steps. There was some debate about how to stop such problems, perhaps through signage asking people to take their litter home or the provision of a glass and plastic recycling bin near the existing general waste bin. There was also clear frustration with a feeling that, against someone leaving a broken bottle in such a location, what good was either measure?



    Next Meeting - 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 2018

    Olney Council report for July 2018

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke first, on the topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She said since the last meeting two ambulances had failed to be able to park to take residents to hospital and said if the same situation arose with her mother it would be all over the local press. She said that before the council discussed the £7k cost of a ground survey (a later agenda item) they should consider using some of the money which they would shortly be receiving from the Grace Park development on East Street. She thought £7k was nothing in the grand scheme of things, compared to expenditure she had observed from the previous months Olney Town Council (OTC) accounts, and noted that the members were sitting on newly purchased chairs. If the survey decreed that the planned work was not viable the only solution would be parking permits. She finished by asking the council to consider the elderly residents, and their relatives who save money by caring for them.

    Bethan Courtman
    Bethan Courtman briefly spoke next about the now vacant Olney Town FC club house. Following the statement last month from Stuart Dorrill, founder of local health, fitness and wellbeing company Bodyforce, she reiterated that the company would still like to take over the lease of the building and had sought initial costing from an architect for changes to the infrastructure. She issued an open invitation to the Bodyforce summer fundraising event on 18th August 9.30 to 13.00 on the recreation ground.

    Ian Stokes
    Ian Stokes from Olney Town Colts FC spoke next, on a similar subject. The council had agreed that the colts could rent the Nursery Field pitch from next season, but there were unresolved issues around the lights, fencing and clubhouse, he said. To date he had been unable to make much progress due the absence of any proof of ownership or asset values of these items. Before any progress could be made he needed to know if the fence would be remaining, he said. If the fence was removed, then the pitch would not be safe to play on due to the associated concrete path. Would the colts have access to the clubhouse and the floodlight power at the back of the building, he asked? The Football Club situation was a later agenda item in the confidential section of the meeting from which press and public were excluded.

    Julie Lane
    Last to speak was Julie Lane about the possibility of the council purchasing land either side of the Goosey Bridge which has been the subject of unauthorised construction and depositing of rubbish. Julie said she was excited about the prospect as it would be a wonderful asset to the town with it’s views of the Church and where historically wildlife has had a chance to live alongside us in relative peace. Goosey Island is especially important as it provides a complete sanctuary for wildlife free from disturbance by people and dogs etc, presently being home to otters, goosanders, kingfishers and many more species. She said purchase of the land and subsequent good management would safeguard the wonderful views and landscape, secure a future for the wildlife and provide an opportunity for residents to get out into the countryside, thus improving mental and physical wellbeing.
    This was another item that was later discussed under confidential matters.

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    Olney Town Football Club

    War Memorial

    As reported last month Historic England had informed OTC that it would like to list the Olney War Memorial due to its special architectural and historic interest, with the aim of affording it additional protection. The council have now received the initial assessment report, which is a factual report which Historic England will use as the basis for its recommendation to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The view around the table was that OTC are quite capable of maintaining the structure to a high standard and do not want it listed.

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    Olney War Memorial

    Swimming Steps

    Colin Rodden reported that a young girl had cut her foot on a submerged broken bottle at the Swimming Steps. There was some debate about how to stop such problems, perhaps through signage asking people to take their litter home or the provision of a glass and plastic recycling bin near the existing general waste bin. There was also clear frustration with a feeling that, against someone leaving a broken bottle in such a location, what good was either measure?

    Oakdown Crescent parking

    Milton Keynes Council (MKC) has informed OTC that in order to provide a detailed design and quotation for any proposed works it would need to undertake some surveys of the existing ground conditions. This would involve some slip trenches and coring and the maximum cost would be £7k. This would identify what services existed and where, as well as the depths of pavement layers which would be required if the area is to be turned into parking. The cost would form part of the Community Parking Scheme and OTC would only have to pay 50%. Desmond Eley was of the opinion that this was ‘putting the cart before the horse’ since OTC and MKC’s preferred scheme had already been rejected by the residents. Paul Collins agreed, saying without a scheme that is supported by residents there was no point in carrying out a survey. Steve Clark suggested that the council go back to MKC to confirm what their financial obligation would be and ask if they had confidence to carry out a survey without an agreed scheme. MKC should have received the original plans for the development when Newport Pagnell RDC was disbanded, he said, making a survey unnecessary. Chris Tenant suggested that the survey might be required in order to decide what is possible. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings proposed that OTC do not proceed with the survey ‘at the present time’ and seek further information from MKC, which was passed by a majority vote.

    Deputy Mayor’s chain of office

    As well as the Mayors chain of office, to be worn at official functions, a second chain exists and there has been some confusion recently as to whether it is intended for the Mayor’s consort when accompanying the Mayor, or the Deputy when representing him/her. Dierdre Bethune clarified the matter, saying it was intended to serve as both. When representing the mayor at short notice it is not always possible for the deputy to obtain the chain as it is locked in the safe at the council offices. It was not considered an urgent or particularly important issue, but Steve Clark wondered if a local person or business might like to sponsor another chain.

    MK East Local Stakeholder Group

    The Milton Keynes East Strategic Urban Extension (MKE SUE) will see largescale development to the East of the M1 as part of Plan:MK and MKC is currently pursuing funding from Government to enable development on the site to begin before 2031. MKC is engaging with the community by creating a Local Stakeholder Group (LSG) made up of representatives from parish and town councils. It was agreed that OTC will provide reps into this form to reflect any issues and concerns raised by residents. This initiated a discussion about the impacts on Olney of MKE SUE and one of the inevitable impacts will be an increase in traffic. Kevin Viney said that improved pollution monitoring would be essential as the existing equipment is obsolete and only just held together ‘by wax and string’. Chris Tennant stated that the development would take the A509 beyond critical capacity so some of the funding should be used for an Olney bypass. Desmond Eley noted that the currently favoured route had been decided many years ago and wondered if the electorate should be asked to decide if it was still appropriate.

    OTC Website

    Jeremy Rawlings reported that the current website is ‘looking a bit jaded’ and does not meet current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), having had no money spent on it for several years apart from content updates. The provider had little interest in upgrading or supporting it, consequently it is getting very difficult to maintain. The council have approached local company Nuwave Design who have put together a proposal and they will be invited to present them in more detail prior to a decision being made.

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    A jaded website

    Market Place electrics

    As reported before, the installation of power bollards on the Market Place has been completed but to a generally poor standard and the drainage does not meet requirements. There has been no progress since last month, so Colin Rodden said it was now essential to impose dates and deadlines. Desmond Eley pointed out that the new bollards cannot be used until certified and tested. Deidre Bethune said it was important that the matter is resolved before the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) on the weekend of 8th and 9th September.

    Odds and Sods

    MKC has agreed to pay for repairs to the Speed Indicating Device (SID).

    Colin Rodden said the footpath between Olney and Weston Underwood is getting narrow and overgrown. He asked if any reply had been received to OTC’s letter about the poor state of the boarding at Bennett’s butchers. Town Clerk Liam Costello confirmed that there hadn’t.

    Kevin Viney expressed his concern about traffic on the bend in Yardley Road at the site of the old railway bridge as it is a blind corner and an accident waiting to happen in his opinion. The new housing close to the bend will exacerbate the situation, he thought.

    Steve Clark reported that the English Regional Transport Association who are committed to reopening the Bedford to Northampton railway line recently held a meeting in The Bull. The currently proposed route was designed in 2001 and notes that the office park to the north of the town ‘may have to be demolished’ in order to facilitate this!


    Next Meeting - No August meeting - 3rd September

    There will be no August meeting, so 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.

    Stop Press - There will be a meeting in August

    In an unusual move Olney Town Council have decided to hold a full meeting in August, as there some matters to resolve

  • August 2018

    Olney Council report for August 2018

    Public Participation

    Mike Totton
    First to speak was Mike Totton on behalf of the Allotment Holders’ Association. Mike explained that the current system of allocating each plot a number was confusing and unpopular and the association would like to give each row a street name and display a map at the entrance. A list would be drawn up and agreed with OTC to ensure that it did not contain anything that could cause offence. It was noted that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) policy prohibited roads being named after a living person, but Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that this only applied to public thoroughfares. Normally the council would not make decisions on matters raised during the public participation part of the meeting but in this case made an exception and agreed to support the proposal.

    Howard Tanner
    Next to speak was Howard Tanner. He and Ashley Pankhurst had previously attended the Recreations and Services Committee meeting to discuss their proposal to provide two Public Access Defibrillators (PADs) in Olney with funds raised locally. It was agreed in principle at that meeting, but the actual locations would need to be decided by the full council and was therefore an item on the formal agenda. Howard was concerned that the existing PAD in the Olney Centre was only available during opening hours and suggested that it should be relocated to an outside cabinet to give 24-hour access. This could be done at a cost of approximately £300 which he suggested could be raised with the support of local businesses.

    Public Access Defibrillators

    Following on from Howard Tanner’s presentation the location for the PADS was discussed. Mike had been in discussion with the General Manager of St John Ambulance about placing a unit there, who was supportive but said it would have to go through the central organisation Estates and Facilities to decide. Dierdre Bethune reminded members that the local St John was no longer active and the unit might need to be relocated if the building was sold. It was agreed to look at a different location and eventually it was decided to investigate the possibility of using one of the bus shelters along Aspreys. A suggested location for the second unit was the now redundant BT phone box on the Market Place. BT has offered to sell it to OTC for £1 but Peter Geary was concerned that the sale would be delayed by bureaucracy. It was decided to locate the second unit in the Market Place bus shelter and to progress with locating the existing unit at the Olney Centre to an outside wall.

    OTC Website

    As reported last month the current OTC website is difficult to maintain and does not meet current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), having had no money spent on it for several years apart from content updates. The council has approached local company Nuwave Design who has put together a proposal and Matt McAuliffe was present to discuss his proposal. Matt explained that he provides website design and support for several international, national and local companies as well as developing the OlneyApp to help local businesses get online. He explained how he could work with OTC to create a site that would be WCAG compliant so that it would be accessible to visually impaired residents. Text and background colours need to be chosen carefully to enable viewing by people with colour-blindness and links and pictures need to have full descriptions behind them so that they can be converted to meaningful audio by content readers. Paul Collins said he thought that the guidelines were only advisory, not mandatory, but Sally Pezaro believed OTC should want to be compliant. Matt said his interpretation was that any site published before 23rd September this year would need to be compliant within two years. A vote was taken as to whether to stay with the existing supplier or employ Nuwave to develop a new site. Nuwave was agreed by a majority.

    Neighbourhood Plan (NP) – the next stage

    The full council meeting closed at this stage and the members of the Neighbourhood Plan Development Committee remained for their inaugural meeting. The first task was to elect a chairman and Chris Tennant was elected unopposed. The Terms of Reference for the committee were reviewed and it was decided to name it the Olney Development Group. The group can comprise a number of OTC councillors and up to five external or ‘lay’ members, but Mayor Jeremy Rawlings thought that it was unlikely five volunteers would come forward. Tony Evans pointed out that if the group contained non-elected members then it could not ‘spend’ any of the Section 106 (planning gain) money, only recommend projects for funding to the full council. Concern was also expressed that external members would not be able to vote and would not be accountable to anyone but themselves. After some discussion it was agreed to create a ‘person spec’ of areas of expertise required to take the plan forward. The group will look at three or four projects at a time and engage the appropriately skilled resource as and when required.
    In the 12 months since the Olney NP was written and adopted by a local referendum the government has revised the National Planning Policy Framework and MKC has issued Plan:MK for public consultation. Chris Tennant was of the opinion that nothing in either would require a revision of the NP but said the group should be mindful of any changes that might. Major changes would require another referendum. He proposed that an update be issued to the public explaining the progress of the plan and the status of each proposed development. For information, Site D/E ‘Land West of Yardley Road and West of Aspreys Outline permission (with all matters reserved except access) for the residential development of 250 dwelling houses and associated public open space, car parking and community facilities including a multi-use community building’ was approved by MKC on 31/07/2018. The council successfully objected to the inclusion of housing on Site R ‘Land at Corner of Lavendon Road and Warrington Road’ as it contravened the NP which states that site should be used for retail only. Jeremy Rawlings said he hoped that this latter decision will have persuaded some of those that were against adoption of the plan that it has proved its worth.

    Premises License application – Sainbury’s

    Sainsbury’s have submitted an application to sell alcohol Monday to Sunday 06:00 to 24:00 and provide Late Night Refreshments Monday to Sunday 23:00 to 24:00. The council had no comment to make on the application.

    Next Meeting 3rd September

    The next full council 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.

  • September 2018

    Olney Council report for September 2018

    Public Participation

    Sandra Hearn
    First to speak was Sandra Hearn. As one of the owners of The Nest at No. 9, next door to the recently ram-raided Barclays bank in the High Street, she noted the effect that the works to make safe and clean up the bank were having on her business. The Nest had seen an immediate reduction in takings following the Barclays raid, meaning that neither owner could any longer take a wage from the shop. She was concerned that, if the works took as long as allowed, the end of September, the shop would have to close. On one day, their takings amounted to £30, less even than in the midst of this year’s winter snow. It’s worth noting that, at the time of this meeting, the works’ fencing entirely blocked the walkway, and stretched across the full width of The Nest, only a few metres in front of it. The walkway has since been reopened and the fencing reduced, although, as you’d expect, the hoardings in front of the bank aren’t pleasant to the eye or thus conducive to good business. Subsequent works will be required for the bank to reopen. This topic was discussed later in the meeting.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren was next to speak, on the topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She pointed out what she felt to be an anomaly, that the Mayor appeared to believe that the residents of the Crescent had not agreed any plan to improve the parking situation, and noting that in fact they had agreed Option B, parking in a single block in the middle of the Crescent, back in June 2016. She backed this up by providing a handout, to every Councillor, of meeting minutes relevant to the Crescent over the last three years. This topic was also discussed later in the meeting.

    Jariath McElroy
    Jarlath McElroy, from Olney Rugby Club, spoke last. He explained that the Club’s facilities are limited and somewhat dated, requiring additions and improvements for ladies and younger players. The Club is looking to expand its facilities and, thus, would like to take over the lease on the Football Club building. If this was successful, the Club not being the only contender, it would still want to see football played on the Recreation Ground pitch, so would come to an arrangement with the Olney Town Colts Football Club and also with Caveman Conditioning so its range of sports could continue. He noted that if, for example, the Council still had money owed to it from the previous occupants, the Rugby Club would see what it could do to help. Finally, he noted that the alternative was to expand its existing facilities onto Doff’s Field.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Olney Town Council (OTC) had been in correspondence with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about a possible parking scheme in Oakdown Crescent, and this had progressed to the point where MKC wanted to perform a ground survey prior to costing and implementing the scheme. If agreed, OTC would need to pay £3,500, half the survey’s cost, MKC match-funding the remainder. This scheme would provide 11 marked spaces in the Crescent.
    This started a lengthy discussion. Joanne Eley noted that the proposed scheme had two fewer spaces than one discussed before. Peter Geary noted that a ballpark cost for the scheme itself might be £20-30,000, and that deciding whether to perform the ground survey needed to be seen in the context of the overall cost. Joanne felt that bays for carers and the disabled should be provided, Peter noting that that carer bays were not enforceable and that, although disabled bays were, they wouldn’t meet the real need.
    Chris Tenant proposed working with MKC to get a design which regained the two lost spaces, a mutually agreeable solution, then performing the survey as the first step towards starting work. This proposal was not carried – five Councillors voting in favour, six against and two abstaining.
    Chris then suggested that a scheme be devised where the bays could simply be painted on the ground. Peter questioned whether, while this would be cheap, it would help. Malcolm Messenger, back as a Councillor following a short break in the Channel Islands, suggested that an ambulance bay would be useful and, in general, such bays were respected. The Council will contact MKC to discuss marking out one or more bays for ambulances and carers only.

    Barclays bank robbery

    Councillors acknowledged the problems being experienced by the Nest at No. 9 due to the works resulting from damage caused by the recent Barclays ram-raid. Peter Geary noted that the current works, which involved clearing asbestos from the bank (hazardous work requiring specified minimum clearances, etc.), had been given permission to continue until 24th September. When the rebuilding then started, he felt the subsequent permission must require the pavement to be kept open, even if adjacent parking bays could be closed. Des Eley noted that, while the September date was that until the current works had been given permission to continue, asbestos removal could often prove more complicated and time consuming than initially predicted. In reality, bar advising Sandra Hearn to apply for the various types of compensation available, the Council did not appear to be able to do much to remedy the immediate situation.
    The Council, doubtless along with residents, is very keen for Barclays to reopen, and will write a letter to the bank expressing support for its reopening and offering to assist, for example by expediting the planning process.

    Stacks Image 88682

    Barclays Bank Robbed

    Electric vehicle parking space

    The Council voted to support a proposal to have an electric vehicle space and charging point in the small parking area where Midland Road meets the A509. Access to the bay will be restricted to electric vehicles currently being charged.

    Cherry Fair

    The next Cherry Fair will be held on the Glebe on 15th June 2019.

    Tennis court track resurfacing

    The Recreations and Services Committee had recommended to full Council that the track between the tennis courts and the toilet and workshop block be resurfaced to improve drainage. There were questions as to whether it was worth spending around £16,000 on this work, but Tony Evans noted a related issue – that the new tennis courts’ surface would deteriorate faster if players tramped in mud from the nearby track. This was, in part, why the Multi Use Games Area’s surface degraded, he said. The Council voted on whether this work should be done, subject to Section 106 funding, and the vote was carried by majority, six to five, with two abstentions.

    Speeding on Driftway

    Following further measurement of vehicle speed on Driftway, it’s clear that speeding is commonplace, with around 90% exceeding the 30MPH limit. Kevin Viney raised an interesting point: Given that no houses front on to the road, should it in fact be a 40MPH limit? Peter Geary suggested initiating an open dialogue with MKC Highways Department to discuss road design, speed, etc. Malcolm Messenger asked if data was available on road traffic collisions on that road. A dialogue will be opened with MKC.

    Milton Keynes expansion

    Des Eley had attended a meeting of the Milton Keynes East Strategic Urban Extension Stakeholder Group. The East Strategic Urban Extension area is that immediately to the North East of the M1, South of Newport Pagnell and roughly bisected by the A509 section North of M1 Junction 14 (see map). MKC wants to promote Milton Keynes expansion and has government quotas to work to, but is having trouble funding the required infrastructure, Section 106 monies proving insufficient. This is one reason why development is proceeding more slowly than desired. MKC has now applied for £75 million of government funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund towards the Eastern expansion. This Fund contains £2.3bn to help deliver new homes in England by funding delivery of infrastructure ahead of development – a worthy attempt to address a common ongoing problem. The Eastern expansion, which could comprise up to 8,000 homes, had been timed for after 2031 but, to attract this funding, the monies would have to be spent by 2022. This being considerably sooner, brainstorming sessions were being run to work out how to achieve it. Des noted that this money included funding for an additional M1 crossing, though not an Olney bypass. The final decision on funding will be made early to mid 2019.
    Peter Geary noted that a Planning Inspector had concluded a public examination of Plan:MK over the Summer and, subject to minor changes, passed it for MKC to adopt. The Eastern site is included in Plan:MK but only as a reserve site. So, the plan effectively gives the green light for this area being developed. But, he felt it would be a huge mistake to push ahead with the funding and earlier build. It was ‘scandalous’ that ‘back of a fag packet estimates’ had been made in order to apply for the funding. They would not pass the normal spending criteria, he said. A major concern was that if MKC had underestimated the funding required, it would either have to pick up the tab or live with the resulting terrible infrastructure. Steve Clark noted that the body language of those in the meeting suggested they felt the works could not be accomplished in the required time.

    Stacks Image 88688

    Strategic Urban Extension: Milton Keynes East

    Trees and hedges

    Colin Rodden noted that various residents’ hedges were protruding onto pavements making it hard for pedestrians, particularly the elderly or disabled, to get around. Householders are responsible for trees and hedges which overhang from their property, while MKC is responsible for ensuring that footpaths are kept clear for pedestrians to use.


    Next Meeting - 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 2018

    Olney Council report for October 2018

    Public Participation

    PCSO Terry Rhodes
    First to speak was Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Terry Rhodes. Terry introduced himself to Olney Town Council (OTC) and members of the public present, explaining that he had been in post as the dedicated officer for Olney for approximately six weeks, having taken over from Tina Lewington who had held the post for the previous 10 years. He said he had been actively working with the local Speedwatch team and had approached Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about repainting of some double yellow lines in the town. Terry said that his shift pattern was a mixture of days and late shifts but would endeavour to be present in town during specific events, especially if organisers could inform him of such events.

    Richard Hillier
    Next to speak was Richard Hillier. Richard explained that as the user of a mobility scooter he was getting increasingly frustrated by the poor parking in the town, particularly in front of dropped kerbs, which meant that he often has to take a considerable detour just to cross the street. The kerb outside the old Nat West is one such area, he said. He often finds parked cars there preventing him crossing and when he then attempts to cross outside McColl’s there are cars parked there as well. PCSO Kirsty Martinson said she was aware of the situation but felt that the hatching on the road was not sufficiently clear in some places. She said she frequently receives abuse from drivers when cautioning them for bad parking, claiming that they are ‘only slipping into a shop for a minute’. Terry Rhodes said in certain circumstances PCSOs can issue a £30 parking ticket for obstruction.

    Stacks Image 88741

    Dropped Kerb outside the old Nat West Bank

    MKC Community Infrastructure Fund

    This item was brought forward on the agenda as it was thought that it might assist with some of the parking issues discussed in the public participation section. Steve Clark explained that the fund was part of a scheme to replace three previous Parish Grants. Bids need to be in place by the end of October, but these can be in the form of a Statement of Interest, rather than a fully worked up application. The fund enables a variety of different Public Realm schemes that have a positive impact upon a community to be implemented that would otherwise not meet funding criteria for council funded schemes. These can include highways, transport, environment, landscaping, play area or outdoor leisure schemes. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said the scheme would partly replace the Parish Parking Fund, so could be used to address some of the town’s parking problems. He thought that the situation outside the old Nat West could be improved if the kerb was ‘squared off’ making it more difficult for cars to just nip in to park. Colin Rodden suggested that area on the market place in front of the BT Broadband cabinet could be used for motorbike parking. It was agreed to apply for a grant from the fund to improve the dropped kerbs in the Market Place.

    Litter on Lavendon Road

    A letter had been received from Robert Marchant saying that he and Mike Price had recently spent a Sunday afternoon picking up litter along the highway between the Wellingborough Road roundabout and Uncle Jack’s corner. Robert said he understood that there are many calls upon budgets but asked if it was possible for proper formal endeavours to be made by those responsible to keep the town and its approaches looking nice, particularly as the town is now receiving more visitors due to the opening of new establishments. He wondered if it might be possible for retailers, businesses and residents to contribute to a general fund to keep the place looking smart. Peter Geary said that litter picking along a highway is the responsibility of MKC, which used to provide a regular service, but each road was now only done once a year. It might be appropriate to ask MKC’s contractors Serco to quote for additional litter picks, he thought. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings said that because it was a dangerous and fast road with no footpath it would not be appropriate for voluntary groups to be asked to do it. If Serco were asked to quote then it should include the other approaches to the town from the parish boundary, he thought.

    Overhanging trees in High Street

    Jeremy Rawlings explained that when the new LED street lighting was installed in the High Street, MKC carried out a survey of the trees and the requirement to trim, as appropriate. This was not only because they were already overgrown, but because the horizontal stems of the new lampposts were shorter than the originals, thereby exacerbating an existing problem. No trimming had taken place and the problem had got worse. Declaring an interest as a resident of the High Street, Deirdre Bethune said that an upper story room in her house was in almost perpetual darkness, due to the problem. Peter Geary said that the required work would take 60% of the total MKC tree budget. Most of this budget is held in reserve for storm damage he said, and even if the trees could be crowned by the required 30% they would need doing again in five to six years’ time. OTC will write to MKC requesting that the work is carried out.

    MK East – Sustainable Urban Extension

    For a detailed description of this project see last month’s Mercury report. Newport Pagnell Town Council has commented on the proposals with particular reference to the impact of queuing traffic and impact on its shops. Peter Geary said that in order to avoid a massive increase in traffic over the existing and proposed M1 crossings to get to Kingston a new eastern District Centre would need to be built and this could have a detrimental impact on the shops in Newport Pagnell. Although government funding has been sought for an additional M1 crossing, no provision has been made for an Olney bypass, the cost of which would be around £100m. Steve Clark said a series of workshops are being held, which OTC members should be encouraged to attend.

    Civil Ceremonies at the Olney Centre

    The licence to hold civil ceremonies at the Olney Centre expires in March 2019 and will cost £2.5k to renew for a further three years. This is an increase of £1k from when it was last renewed in 2016 and whilst it was agreed that this service brings in hire revenue for the centre, some questioned the justification for such a large increase in the fee. The council will write to MKC requesting a breakdown of the fee, since it is supposed to just cover costs to MKC and not make a profit.

    Stacks Image 88735

    Civil Ceremonies at the Olney Centre

    Odds and Sods

    The new electrical installation in the market place has been completed by EON. Colin Rodden said he thought it had been done to a very shoddy standard and OTC should be looking for a discount. It was also agreed that new Risk Assessments need to be carried out based on market stall holders’ routing of cables from the new pillars.
    Colin Rodden reported that the Johnsons Field play equipment is in a bad state of repair, with the zip wire and basketball hoops both broken and the ramp defaced by graffiti. It was time to revive the proposed skate park, he said.
    Deirdre Bethune noted that when MKC had disposed of 102 Weston Road it had held back part of the garden to provide parking for residents who were currently parking in Oakdown Crescent. What was the current situation, she asked? Steve Clark said there was also a gravel area behind the houses on Weston Road that had come about by taking some land from the existing houses. This area was sufficient to park 11 cars, but a recent check indicated that it wasn’t being used he said. Peter Geary reminded members that if any of this land was turned into formal car parking then MKC would require OTC to provide 50% of the funding.
    Colin Rodden reported that the spotlights on the zebra crossing by One Stop have been removed making it difficult for approaching cars to see pedestrian after dark. Deirdre Bethune noted that the overgrown trees were adding to the problem.

    Confidential matters

    Very often the final item on the agenda is ‘to consider exclusion of Public and Press Representatives pursuant to the Public Bodies (admission to meetings) Act 1960 on the basis that publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest by the confidential nature of the business to be transacted’. A vote is taken as to whether members of the press and public should be asked to leave (they always are) and the rest of the meeting takes place behind closed doors, details of which are not recorded in the minutes made available to the public. In this case the matter being discussed was the ongoing issue of the now dissolved Olney Town Football Club and its assets.


    Next Meeting - 5th November

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

  • November 2018

    Olney Council report for November 2018

    Public Participation

    Chiv Parslow
    Chiv Parslow spoke first in this slot. He’s a coach driver whose work includes taking children to and from local schools. He asked whether the bus stop adjacent to Olney Middle School could be marked, as are all the other stops he uses. He felt the lack of marking to be a safety issue – parked cars meant he sometimes had to drive around the block in anticipation of a space becoming free, or stop on the brow of the hill. He noted that the School head teacher had asked if he could raise this issue.

    Gill Simmons
    Gill Simmons spoke next. As part of the local Community Speedwatch group, she noted the excessive speeds, up to 80mph, recorded by the Speed Indicator Devices (SIDs) on Aspreys. She felt signage was required to reinforce the 30MPH limit, drivers perhaps not appreciating that pedestrians need to cross that road. This topic was discussed later in the meeting.

    Elaine Herniman
    Elaine Herniman spoke last, on the subject of creating a communal area within the allotments. She explained that this could be used for a mix of purposes including helping local schools, ‘Men in Sheds’ (usually an Age UK initiative), workshops, talks on wildlife and the countryside, and to help people with mental health issues. She asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) would like to support a planning application to remove two old sheds and replace them with a modular cabin building on a permanent concrete base, ideally with electrical and water connections. Again, this topic was discussed later in the meeting.

    Visit Olney partnership proposal

    Founded by Sophia Sanger, the Visit Olney website, https://www.visitolney.com, launched around ten years ago and is to become a Community Interest Company (CIC) with local directors. It’s requested a formal partnership with OTC, as its ambition is to make Visit Olney a tourism site, promoting Olney as a destination town. It’s not requesting funding as it’s created a business model based on monies from subscriber and partner listings.
    Colin Rodden felt the site was a great idea and one the Council should support. Deirdre had a slight concern that the Council should not be seen to endorse one local website over others. Jeremy Rawlings concluded the item, saying that the site was a good thing and looking forward to future interactions with Visit Olney.

    Allotments cabin

    Following on from Elaine’s introduction, this project is essentially the removal of two old sheds, which are in a poor state, and their replacement with a modular cabin atop a permanent concrete base of essentially the same footprint, all supplied by Dunster House. The cost of the cabin would be in the region of £10,000 excluding electricity and water connection costs. After some discussion, the Council agreed to submit and support the planning application when received, the former since it pays only half price on planning applications.

    Community Speedwatch speed awareness signage

    Continuing from Gill’s public participation slot, Colin Rodden explained that SID data for Aspreys and Driftway showed more than 75% of vehicles travelling above the 30MPH limit. Daytime recorded speeds, all MPH, have been up to 50 on the High Street, 46 on Yardley Road, 62 on Aspreys and 48 on Driftway.
    During the discussion which followed, all Councillors who spoke appeared to appreciate there was a problem, differing only on how to solve it. Peter Geary felt that road markings and coloured tarmac could help but, really, the solution was to speak with MKC’s road safety team to see what it recommended. Deirdre, while supporting the need to reduce speeds, noted that adding signage risked creating a surfeit of signs. Steve Clark felt that Thames Valley Police catching and fining speeding motorists would quickly result in speed reduction. Sally Pezaro was keen to learn what measures were proven to work. Gill Simmons explained that studies show it’s a mix of measures – for example speed cushions, additional signs and road narrowing – that slow people down. Peter Geary concluded the item, suggesting OTC request then consider a proposal from Speedwatch.

    Commemorative benches

    On 2nd October, Steve Clark made a post to the Olney Noticeboard. It contained a picture of a bench in Suffolk, believed to be https://www.davidogilvie.com/ww1-seat, designed to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. This post garnered support to site a similar bench in Olney, perhaps near the War Memorial on the Market Place. In addition, there appeared to be a will for this to be part funded by the public.
    A brief discussion covered the basics: The bench is comfortable to sit on and solidly constructed so felt unlikely to be damaged. Councillors felt two such benches should be purchased, likely sited replacing the existing wooden ones. Councillors agreed to fund the benches, with the Public also being given the opportunity to contribute toward their cost. Contributions are most welcome and may be made through the Council: Please call 01234 711679 or email townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

    Inspection of East Street

    John Boardman and Peter Geary had walked the length of East Street to view the condition of the roadway and paths and discuss some specific issues, the main one pedestrian safety on the ‘S’ bend to the rear of The Two Brewers. Regarding that issue, there’s no pavement on this section and, to address it, Peter felt OTC would need to take the lead and engage with Milton Keynes Council (MKC). He noted that creating a pavement there would narrow the roadway, implying one-way traffic, perhaps alternated by traffic lights, for at least that section of the roadway. Chris Tenant explained that Section 106 monies from a nearby residential development were allocated for East Street improvements, Peter noting that the improvements would happen.

    Olney to Weston Underwood hedges

    Weston Underwood Parish Council had contacted OTC to ask if it would consider a joint agreement to cut the hedges bi-annually on the road between Olney and Weston Underwood. Tony Evans noted that much of the hedge line is privately owned, that between Weston and the Parish boundary (the hump back bridge) having been cut by its landowner during summer. He also explained that the section uphill towards Olney needed to be cut first by hand, and that the path itself was the responsibility of MKC Highways Department. Deirdre Bethune requested that, if the ‘wonderful tunnel’ there is cut back, it be done sensibly. Peter noted that perhaps the tunnel could be widened, thus allowing future cutting by machine. Regular machine cutting was thought to be only in the region of £200 for a bi-annual cut. A group of Councillors, including Tony, will walk the path then report to the Recreations and Services Committee.

    Milton Keynes Eastern expansion

    As reported previously, Milton Keynes is looking to expand into the East Strategic Urban Extension area, that immediately to the North East of the M1, South of Newport Pagnell and roughly bisected by the A509 section North of M1 Junction 14. Des Ealey and Peter Geary remain concerned, feeling the process is being rushed to meet Government funding deadlines. Des noted that the Cambridge – Oxford arc is now being called the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford arc, reflecting the key part Milton Keynes is expected to play in it.
    Peter noted that, while MKC appears to want the Eastern expansion, it had no policy saying it should build in excess of 200,000 houses. He felt its actions had instead grown from various informal meetings. Chris Tenant said he got the sense that Officers were running MKC rather than Councillors. Peter agreed, stating the expansion was their agenda and that, “if was in charge, some of them wouldn’t be there.”
    Although this expansion might seem mundane and far in the future at this point, it really is neither. If you’d like to find out more, http://bit.ly/2T5odWD, contains a link to the National Infrastructure Commission’s final report on the arc and one to the Government’s response to it.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    The snagging process with the Market Place electrical outlet installation continues. The location of the Oakdown Crescent emergency vehicle parking bay has been agreed and OTC will submit an application for it to be implemented. The tarmac surfacing of the roadway adjacent to the tennis courts has attracted an additional £4,000 cost due to the Anglian Water sewer below, expected to be 2.5m below ground, actually being only 0.9m down, thus requiring a concrete cap along the roadway’s full length.

    Colin Rodden noted some broken play equipment: The zip wire on the Recreation Ground, one football net on the MUGA, and the zip wire and bucket swing on Johnsons Field. Apparently the first of those will be repaired, but it raised an interesting more general issue. Peter Geary explained that MKC’s responsibility is to inspect and make safe existing adopted play areas, the point being that making them safe may involve decommissioning broken equipment rather than fixing it.

    The topic of defibrillators was touched on in passing, which seemed like a good excuse to print the locations of the Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in Olney. AEDs are currently sited at the Market Place on the Toilet Block and on the Recreation Ground by the Council workshop. By the time of publication, there should also be one just off the High Street on the wall of the Olney Centre a few metres right of the main doors.


    Next Meeting - 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 2018

    Olney Council report for December 2018

    Public Participation

    Martin Allen was first to speak, with a request that Olney Town Council (OTC) spend some of the Section 106 monies from the development adjacent to the East Street car park on resurfacing the area on the recreation ground between the children’s play park and the MUGA (Multi Use Games Area). Jeremy Rawlings passed this request to the Recreations and Services Committee for consideration.

    Apologies for absence

    Steve Clark was unwell so could not attend this meeting.

    Declarations of interest

    This is the part of the meeting in which individual Councillors can declare their interest in various topics on the agenda. Normally pretty dry, the Mercury report tends to skip this bit. However, this time it was more interesting.
    After all interests had been declared, Jeremy Rawlings stated he’d been advised that Des Eley should declare an interest in an agenda item to ‘approve costs of mediation process’, Joanne Eley already having done so, while she should declare an interest in an item to ‘consider recommendation from HR Committee regarding Job Evaluations’. Both these items, while on the publicly available agenda, fell in the part of the meeting where public and press were excluded. Des and Joanne chose not to declare these interests. Jeremy concluded the discussion noting that this was what he’d been advised but the decision was up to them.

    Car parking and dropped kerbs

    Local resident Debbie Whitworth had passed a 230 signature petition to the Council, asking it to take a long hard look at the appalling car parking situation in the town. In a note to the Council, she took particular issue with poor parking around the Market Place and, as a wheelchair user, felt acutely the effects of selfish and inconsiderate parking. She cited an example where carers were attempting to push two elderly patients in wheelchairs across the road near McColls but, with a car parked blocking access to the dropped kerb, had to lift the chairs down a high kerb risking tipping the patients out. Asking where the traffic wardens were, she requested a meeting between residents and Council so the former could air their views.
    Peter Geary reported that he’d inspected the site very recently, had seen a vehicle parked adjacent to the dropped kerb outside the old NatWest building for some of the time he was present, and vehicles parked on nearby double yellow lines for all that time. So, he felt that double yellow lines adjacent to the dropped kerb would not help – something more physical was required. He hoped that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) officers would draft a proposal to address the issue. Deirdre Bethune noted that the two dropped kerbs near McColls should also be considered. Peter and Jeremy plan to present the petition to the next MKC Cabinet meeting, adding weight to the request. Peter concluded by saying that he hoped a scheme would be drawn up by February.

    Goosey fireworks

    Jeremy Rawlings reported that, on Saturday 17th November, a substantial fireworks’ display had been held on the Goosey. The Council was concerned about this primarily because it was fired from its land without its permission. The land in question is leased to Brian Reynolds, a farmer who grazes sheep there. He wrote to the Council to explain what happened: Brian learned of the event at around 2.30 that afternoon, receiving a text from a dog walker concerned about fireworks being set up in a field near his sheep. He was then called by the fireworks company, Illusion Fireworks, noting they were setting up ‘a few fireworks’ and were concerned about sheep nearby. He agreed to the display, as there’d be only a few fireworks and the sheep would move away. To shorten a rather involved story, as he learned more including the large scale of the display, Brian moved the sheep to a further field, then got to meet the organiser, Joe Wheeler, some time after 7.30 that evening and, ‘after a few strong words’ they settled that the display could go ahead.
    Kevin Viney was concerned both about the lack of valid permission and the proximity to the sheep. Peter Geary noted that Brian was a very experienced sheep farmer, so Councillors shouldn’t necessarily be more concerned than he about the welfare of his sheep. But, he felt that in any case the display should not have happened. Joanne Eley didn’t think Brian had willingly given his permission – it felt like he’d been ‘strong armed’. Deirdre noted the display had been fired from a similar location for the last few years but the Council had only just realised. Councillors agreed to write to the organiser and fireworks company, stating the display was fired from private land without the landowner’s permission, and that it was very unlikely the Council would ever grant such permission. Finally, and independently of the display, MKC is already looking at siting a stile and locking gate to restrict access to the field from which the display was fired.

    Stacks Image 88974

    Goosey Fireworks

    Chipper

    Tony Evans explained that their current chipper was old and incapable of dealing with thin, bushy material, which therefore had to be burned on his farm – not ideal. A replacement chipper had been chosen, the Recreations and Services Committee proposing the Council purchase it for £9,950. This would be part paid for by the part exchange of a, now almost unused, triple gang Hayter mower for £4,000, plus £500 for the old chipper. Paul Collins noted that the Hayter mower, purchased in 2014 for £17,000 was now to be exchanged for very much less. Tony noted that the mower was bought when Olney took on more landscaping work and, while some found it useful, others did not and, with the Council’s rotary mower more manoeuvrable and able to do everything required, was now rarely used. Peter Geary noted that machinery tended to depreciate quickly after purchase and, as the ground staff’s method of working had moved on, there was no point in leaving it idle in the shed. Des Eley asked why the cost of the Hayter hadn’t been depreciated in the accounts, Liam Costello replying that Council account guidelines are not to depreciate. John Boardman, noted that, with Tony and Peter best qualified to take the decision and in favour, would it not be sensible to vote on Tony’s proposal? After a surprisingly long discussion, Councillors voted in favour of the proposal, eight for, none against with six abstentions. Paul Collins explained that he’d never normally dream of abstaining, but wanted the Council to learn the lesson not to incur big losses due to short term thinking.

    Football Clubhouse

    Olney Town Football Club had agreed to hand back the clubhouse building to the Council, and planned to sign the deed of surrender in the few days after this meeting. Later in the meeting, having voted on whether to exclude press and public, Council was to discuss who the building would then be passed to.

    Standing Orders

    Standing Orders are normally agreed annually during the May Council meeting when the Council re-forms. For various reasons, the Standing Orders due to be agreed in May still haven’t been, with drawing up of ones on which Council could agree having been delegated to a working group – Paul Collins, Des Eley and Peter Geary. The agenda item for this part of the meeting was ‘Standing Orders – To agree a process for reviewing changes, and request that a schedule of proposed changes and reasons be supplied by the working group.’ Liam introduced this item, explaining that the planned agenda item, essentially to adopt the Standing Orders produced by the working group, had been changed to give more time to consider them.

    Des Eley explained that the Council was meant to adopt the Standing Orders in the May meeting but, with a hard copy of the Orders provided to Council only three days earlier and with no detail of the changes made, there were various queries and they were not adopted – so there were currently no adopted Standing Orders. Jeremy Rawlings interrupted to say that the previously adopted Orders remained in force, Des Eley noting this was ‘possibly’ the case, the minutes not noting a Council decision to adopt the previous ones. Des continued that the last few meetings’ minutes noted the working group would draft the Standing Orders, which were then supplied for review in this meeting. He felt slightly disappointed that they’d not been adopted today, and asked Councillors to put forward their views on the proposed Standing Orders. Jeremy replied that the Council would have the chance to adopt them in the January meeting.

    Peter Geary felt the way this had worked fell outside the Council’s constitution – the agenda item should have remained unchanged with Councillors able to vote to defer consideration until the next meeting if needed. Liam disagreed noting that, having consulted with Jeremy (the meeting’s chair), he had the right to change the agenda under certain circumstances. Specifically, he felt that some of the changes were not legally sound and noted ‘other concerns’. Following up with Liam after the meeting for clarification, he felt that other changes were not consistent with recent Council decisions, and that the information the working group provided initially did not make clear what the changes were (later rectified). He also cited two of the previously adopted standing orders, 4(d) and 4(e), reproduced below:

    ● 4(d). If the wording or nature of a proposed motion is considered unlawful or improper, the Proper Officer shall consult with the Mayor or, as the case may be, the Councillors who have convened the meeting, to consider whether the motion shall be included or rejected in the agenda.

    ● 4(e). Having consulted the Mayor or councillors pursuant to standing order 4(d) above, the decision of the Proper Officer as to whether or not to include the motion in the agenda shall be final.

    Back to the meeting, Paul Collins stated that, given views had been expressed re certain changes lacking legality, he wanted to see a paper detailing why. Des Eley noted that he wanted the working group to take on the feedback and provide a revised set of Standing Orders. Peter Geary said that Council needed to see the revised Standing Orders. Jeremy concluded the item, stating that the Standing Orders will be available, with tracked changes, to be discussed and voted on in the January meeting.

    There was clearly a range of views expressed in this part of the meeting and, in the usual way, it is the Town Clerk, Liam, who Mercury calls on with post-meeting questions, requests for context, etc. This is part convention and, reading the Standing Orders relevant to relations with the press/media, presumably also the Council’s intent:

    ● 28(b). In accordance with the Council’s policy in respect to dealing with the press and/or other media, councillors shall not, in their official capacity, provide oral or written statements or written articles to the press or other media.

    Dickens of a Christmas

    This was part of an agenda item where the Council receives minutes from various subcommittees such as Planning and HR. Again, it’s normally pretty dry but at times more interesting. Joanne Eley reported that the draft minutes of the Dickens of a Christmas meeting did not reflect the meeting accurately. Liam asked her to submit her concerns, which she said she’d do in writing.

    Children’s play areas

    Colin Rodden was frustrated that, while he regularly raised issues related to broken play equipment, such as zip wires and basketball hoops, it needed to become an agenda item in order to ensure ongoing focus and action to resolve the problems. Liam replied that he appreciated this, but the responsibility was with MKC. Peter Geary suggested Liam contact Phil Snell at MKC. If it turned out that equipment was not being repaired because MKC couldn’t afford it, Liam should ask what OTC was meant to do. Either way, it would require OTC to keep raising the issue.

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    Children's Play Area

    Milton Keynes Eastern expansion

    Peter Geary explained that Milton Keynes Council is looking to apply for £75 million of Government funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) towards the Eastern expansion. They’d originally planned to do this in December but now plan to do so in March. Noting that, back in October, he and David Hosking had called in the decision to apply for the HIF bid, he felt that had resulted in the detail behind that bid becoming available for inspection. No decisions will be taken on the design of the development itself until it’s known whether the HIF bid has been accepted – infrastructure must come first. If and when the HIF bid is accepted, and Plan MK insists on the development being required, only then will an implementation plan be drawn up. The bid has been delayed because it’s become clear that Government are scrutinising the value from such bids very carefully, so MKC is working to make a good case. Peter had put forward a motion asking for the HIF bid to be put on hold, but didn’t receive MKC support.
    Peter concluded by noting that, in parallel with the HIF bid issues above, Mark Lancaster and Iain Stewart had been concerned by the housing deal, which MKC was planning to sign without any corresponding firm Council decision to approximately double the size of Milton Keynes. They’d noted that this could not happen without proper Council agreement, which has resulted in a pause while MKC worked out how to proceed.

    High Street trees

    A High Street resident has contacted the Council because a tree has pierced their sewer and, while Anglian Water has agreed to fix the issue, presumably by lining the pipe, they felt the Council should be aware. Following up with Liam after the meeting, he explained that the Council has for some time been raising issues with MKC about trees on the High Street affecting adjacent properties. MKC hasn’t taken remedial action due to budgetary constraints, but their latest stance is they’ll survey all the trees along the High Street, prioritising the worst for remedial action.

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    High Street Trees

    Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford Arc

    Des Eley reported that he and Graham Harrison had attended an informative presentation on the Arc, where Des asked for and was promised data on the anticipated extra traffic flow on the A509 due to the forthcoming expressway.

    Pollution monitoring

    Kevin Viney reported that the air quality monitoring equipment near the Church Hall would shortly be replaced, the new equipment measuring NOx levels more frequently, but no longer particulates as they have thus far tracked levels already measured in Milton Keynes. He noted that NOx levels had reduced significantly, now only around half the threshold at which concern would be raised – diesel engines have become cleaner, Jeremy noted. Kevin also noted that the number of cars passing through Olney each weekday is approximately 17,000, North and Southbound combined.

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    Polution Monitoring

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Chris Tenant noted that over 200 young people had undergone heart screening by Cardiac Risk in the Young in the Football Club building over the weekend of 10th to the 11th November. This was made possible by fundraising following the untimely death of Alden Leuan Price in May 2017 due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Chris said that this had been a big success, and he hoped it would be part of an ongoing legacy.
    Tony Evans explained that Yardley Road would be closed near Olney for periods over the next 18 months for works related to the new housing development near the Industrial Estate, one which OTC had recommended against. He felt that light controlled one way traffic for the affected section of road would be achievable, significantly less disruptive than the closure. Peter Geary noted that requests for such closures are always scrutinised by MKC, but recommended OTC question this one to see if the closure times could be reduced with, for example, the road always being open at weekends.
    Des Eley proposed replacing the dog bins with ones of a larger size, thus avoiding the need to empty them as often. He believed this would cost around £2,500 and pay for itself in the first two months or so. Jeremy referred this to the Recreations and Services Committee for a decision.

    Highways

    Peter Geary reported that, in the next few weeks, there would be a solution proposed for the One Stop crossing issues, for example illuminated columns for the lights to improve visibility.
    John Boardman reported that he, a group of Councillors and two representatives from the MKC Highways department had visited East Street. He felt sure that progress had been made towards resurfacing and noted that MKC would consider how best to address the pedestrian safety issue on the ‘S’ bend to the rear of The Two Brewers.


    Next Meeting - 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.


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