Olney Town Council Reports

Photo of the Olney Sign in the Market Place

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

Mercury's reports for 2020

  • January 2020

    Olney Council report for 6th January 2020


    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 93407

    A Reindeer in Fountain Court, Olney

    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 3rd February 2020


    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.


    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

    Olney Council report for 2nd March 2020

    Public participation

    Julia Chapman, who runs ‘My Little Vintage’ in Olney, was first to speak. Many years a passionate advocate of craft and up-cycling, she explained she’d run various vintage events elsewhere with attendances in the thousands. For example, a recent event in Towcester attracted 6,000 visitors over a weekend. She’d come to Olney Town Council (OTC) to learn who she should ask in order to hold such events in the town, for example on the Market Place. Jeremy Rawlings said the Council would look into it, and asked for an item to be added to the next meeting’s agenda.
    James Cooper had complained to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about the state of Swan Court in Olney, where a mix of surface mud and leaf mulch made the lines hard to see and the surface slippery. While MKC acknowledged his reporting it, he had no way of knowing when the problem might be addressed. Peter Geary, a Ward Councillor, noted the appropriate ‘FS’ number to investigate. James also noted his concern re Angle Properties’ application to build retirement apartments near Sainsbury’s. Instead, houses and flats for young people were required, he felt. Chris Tenant explained that, with MKC having refused this application, Angle had asked for a Planning Enquiry but been given a, less costly, Planning Hearing for which the date was awaited. Chris explained that OTC had requested ‘Rule six status’, so it could have a seat around the table, presumably alongside Angle’s legal representatives, to put its case for refusal. Peter Geary noted that OTC needed to work with MKC, both having the same aim. The meeting will be public, likely in the Olney Centre, with anyone entitled to attend and contribute. OTC will publish the date once set.

    Annual meeting

    This item covered the deceptively simple task of setting the date of the annual meeting, when the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected for the forthcoming year and members appointed to Council committees. The annual meeting, usually arranged to coincide with a monthly full Council meeting, must be held more than four, but not more than 14, days after the Council elections, this year due to be held on Thursday 7th May. Thus, the combined annual-then-monthly meeting will be held on Monday 18th May.
    Note: As of 13th March, the local elections due on 7th May have been postponed for a year due to coronavirus concerns. At the time of writing, OTC’s website has May’s full Council meeting scheduled for the 4th, the first Monday in the month as usual.


    The Council reviewed and approved its risk management register. This covers risks including governance, for example breach of confidentiality, and finance, for example unexpected expenses and payments not received. It also briefly discussed the West Northamptonshire Strategic Plan, Chris Tenant noting that various of the Northamptonshire growth plans, for example in Wellingborough and Kettering, would increase traffic on the A509 through Olney. Councillors agreed to note the document, but give no immediate response.

    Allotment proposal

    Desmond Eley introduced a proposal that, from 1st October, the Olney Allotment Holders’ Association (OAHA) take over day to day administration of the allotments including plot management, invoicing and rent collection. He said the Recreation and Services Committee had recommended the proposal be put to full Council for its view before spending the money required to draw up a proper legal agreement. The proposal is for OTC to pay an initial £500 setup grant, and receive 50% of the approx. £4,000 total annual allotment rents. OTC has to pay for maintenance of the road to, and mowing around the edge of, the allotments, and the water supply. Jeremy Rawlings questioned whether 50% was the right figure. Des noted that the finances of the allotments do not make sense as far as OTC is concerned – its costs far exceed the current rents – but that it had a statutory obligation to provide allotments to suit the level of demand from local residents. The allotments are not meant to break even.
    Paul Collins felt the document too vague on financial considerations, including a reference to an annual subsidy or grant – what was this designed to cover? He also felt there’d be no saving in Council administrative costs, as the office staff would of course continue to be employed. In summary, he was concerned the Council was halving its rental income while exposing itself to the need to pay for annual subsidies or grants. Now allotment administration was coming under control, he felt there was equally a case for keeping it in house. Colin Rodden noted the access road being in need of maintenance.
    Desmond explained that the Council was increasing allotment rents up to the statutory annual limit of around 2%, but this increase wouldn’t nearly cover costs. Sally Pezaro felt that, while there was insufficient detail in the document, the OAHA taking on administration would in fact reduce the costs to the Council since its office staff would spend less time doing it, freeing them for other work. Desmond noted that the annual subsidy or grant was very much up for discussion and review, once a year or so had passed and a clearer idea of the finances emerged.
    Joanne Eley noted that this was not the final document, only agreement in principle being required at this point. Peter Geary felt the allotments would best be managed as locally as possible, by the OAHA, but care was needed in drawing up the detail of the agreement. Councillors agreed in principle to proceed down this route, with a full proposal expected in three months or so. Desmond concluded the item, noting his intention to find a similar legal agreement between another Council and its local allotment association and adapt it – not reinventing the wheel.

    Climate change working group

    Deirdre Bethune introduced this item. Some members of the climate change working group had been surprised to hear, around six months after having appointed a Council employee, that he was not in fact allowed to be in the group. While that decision was fine in itself, first she was frustrated it had taken so long to inform them, and second that the group itself wasn’t told, some of them instead hearing the news at a Recreation and Services Committee meeting. Also, the group wanted to learn its remit. For example, group member Jane Varley had volunteered to perform an energy audit on all OTC property, the group feeling that the Olney Centre was the best place to start. Was this something the Council would like done?
    Jeremy Rawlings explained that if it was a Council working group, then it had to abide by Council rules, including members declaring interests and signing the code of conduct. If all members were not prepared to do that, it couldn’t be a full working group of the Council and therefore, while it could formulate policies and present them to Council to consider and adopt, it would operate (with an advisory role) outside the Council.
    Deirdre replied it had indeed been set up as a working group, but had not done any of these things as it had not been asked to. She felt sure all on the group would abide by the code of conduct, but that it still needed a remit.
    Joanne Eley was keen to avoid duplication. MKC had outlined but was still completing its strategy, so OTC did not yet have its remit from the Council above. Peter Geary explained that if the group was advisory, it could be set up more informally and give advice to the Council for it to decide on. However, if set up as a formal decision making body, only members who are Councillors could vote. Governance of unelected decision making bodies was fraught with problems, he said. The energy audit, however, was a good idea.
    Colin Rodden thanked the volunteers for spending so much time to move this forward – a good example of public engagement. He felt the Council needed targets amongst the various committees – we all need to do our bit as Councillors.
    Steve Clark noted the membership of the group is fixed, Council represented by himself, Deirdre and Colin, and three members of the public, Jane Varley, Sarah Michalik and Catherine Rose. Desmond Eley noted that the members of the public on a Council working group must be approved by the Council.
    Joanne Eley noted that, with all six group members also being members of Olney Sustainable Futures, why couldn’t that group advise the Council instead? Deirdre and Steve disagreed with this, citing that all six were probably also members of the Olney Noticeboard. Chris Tenant felt making the group an advisory one would be a good idea, with its remit based on topics it discussed while being formed. It should concentrate on changes which could be made at the local and community level.
    Although no decision was made, the Council seemed to be moving towards making the group an advisory one.

    Exclusive Rights of Burial and Memorials

    Each full OTC meeting contains an agenda item ‘To approve Exclusive Rights of Burial and Memorials’. This generally passes with little discussion, reported rarely due to its personal nature. Jeremy Rawlings proposed removing it on the basis it’s not required and all Councillors do is say ‘yes’. Various views were expressed, Sally Pezaro thinking it be included only if controversial, Deirdre Bethune that it be retained as a courtesy to those who’ve died and their relatives.
    Peter Geary believed that Exclusive Rights of Burial are a legal agreement between the Council and whoever they’re granted to, which meant the item had to pass through Council even if only as a nodding exercise. Colin Rodden felt it should be retained and that, along with ‘Members’ Matters’ also coming off the agenda, this was part of a ‘dumbing down’ of the Council.
    Desmond Eley explained that an Exclusive Right of Burial is the right to have a body in the ground at a specified location, effectively the purchase of a plot. Therefore, if such rights remain an agenda item, Council must make sure those noted have purchased their plots. Joanne Eley felt the Council should let Andrea, the Town Clerk and absent this meeting, explain the case, her having just been on a relevant training course. The item was postponed until next month.

    Milton Keynes Futures 2050

    If you’re interested in the long term future of Milton Keynes, including Olney, surf to https://www.mkfutures2050.com/, scroll down and click ‘Learn more about the Strategy for 2050’, click ‘Read the Draft Strategy for 2050’ then search for Olney. The Council has until 17th April to submit its views on that document to MKC.
    Peter Geary explained that around 1500 houses were earmarked for Olney in the timeframe, reported elsewhere. The report notes ‘In areas that have poor access to services, additional people living nearby could help to make new facilities viable. As an example, growth at Olney would only be made feasible by the provision of a bypass and/or connection to the mass transit network, with significant benefits that created for the existing town.’ The Council had some fundamental decisions to make. For example, should it agree to this number of houses with only the promise of a bypass? Get this wrong, he warned, and Olney may end up with 1500 houses but no bypass.
    Chris Tenant noted that, at a recent Olney Development Group meeting, the group resolved that MK Futures 2050 should be an agenda item at this meeting. Yet it wasn’t. Jeremy Rawlings stated it should have been but this connection had been lost. Since it wasn’t on the agenda, Peter suggested closing the meeting, then having a general discussion to learn Councillors’ views so that an informed response could then be drawn up in time to be finalised at next month’s meeting and subsequently submitted. Further, he felt Councillors needed to talk to the public over the coming weeks to seek their views.
    Peter felt the 1500 houses would be ‘planned within months’ with developers keen to build them, yet a bypass would need national funding and could thus be a few decades away, if it ever happened. Chris Tenant noted that ‘a growth scenario’ suggested 1500 houses, and it was for Council to make comments on the various scenarios. He also referred to the mass transit system, which had a big ticket cost – fantastic, but something which Peter noted would perhaps not in fact make it all the way out to Olney.
    John Boardman asked Jeremy Rawlings if it was possible that Councillors could leave this meeting with some commitment from him to liaise with the Town Clerk to ensure the necessary mechanism be put in place to enable Councillors to comply with the matters Peter and Chris had raised. Jeremy noted that there was still time.
    Desmond Eley noted that the 2050 plan, with 1500 houses, is in complete compliance with Olney’s Neighbourhood Plan, which includes a bypass to the West, and which the people of Olney voted for by narrow majority. By having a Neighbourhood Plan, Olney had signed up for growth – Olney’s Plan had to be in line with MK’s Plans, he said. Therefore, Olney was having 1500 houses and he couldn’t see any way to avoid it.
    Steve Clark invited Councillors to research a Bedfordshire development called The Wixams, where a very large number of houses were built on the basis the development would get its own railway station. People bought houses on that understanding yet, after 10 years or so, the station is not built, and no funding is available for it to be so. Peter Geary felt this a very good analogy re the Olney bypass.
    Jeremy Rawlings closed the meeting

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th 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 any point that the Mayor decides is appropriate.

    Notice: Olney Town Council Reports

    If you wish to view past Mercury Reports on Olney Town Council Meetings you can use the following link which will take you to the last few years of meetings:

    These reports are created by our reporter, who covers the meetings and reflect what was heard at those meetings. Any parts of the meeting held in confidence we are not privy to, therefore cannot report on.

  • April 2020

    Olney Council report for 6th April 2020

    Notice: Olney Town Council Reports

    If you wish to view past Mercury Reports on Olney Town Council Meetings you can use the following link which will take you to the last few years of meetings:

    These reports are created by our reporter, who covers the meetings and reflect what was heard at those meetings. Any parts of the meeting held in confidence we are not privy to, therefore cannot report on.

  • May 2020

    Olney Council report for May 2020

    Public participation

    Given current COVID-19 restrictions, Council meetings are now being held online. Anyone wishing to speak in the public participation section is asked to submit the text of their speech in advance, to be read during the meeting.
    Ian Stokes, Chair of the Olney Town Colts Football Club, was the only person to submit a speech. Given that the football season had finished two months short of its usual nine, the Club intends to reimburse parents’ subscriptions to reflect saved expenditure. Ian asked, therefore, if it would be possible for Olney Town Council (OTC) to reimburse the Colts for two ninths of its annual rental. He explained that the Colts is a non profit making club, run solely by volunteers to provide football for over 360 local boys and girls. Ian’s request was passed to the Recreations and Services Committee for consideration.


    Pre COVID-19, Council meetings had to be held face-to-face, with everyone together in a room. A recent bill passed by Parliament allows the meetings to be held online but, if a Council wishes to do this, it must first vote to confirm its intention. Councillors voted in favour, so the meeting continued.
    Having approved the minutes of last month’s meeting, Councillors then had to vote on whether to agree postponing the Annual Meeting, the post-election meeting where committee chairs are agreed and Councillors take on their roles. That would have been tonight but, with the lack of an election and resulting changes in post, the meeting was no longer required. Councillors voted to postpone the meeting for a year, to May 2021.

    Milton Keynes Futures 2050

    As noted before, if you’re interested in the long term future of Milton Keynes, including Olney, head to www.mkfutures2050.com/ and read the draft strategy. This had been discussed, with some level of urgency but not as an agenda item, in the previous full OTC meeting, the strategy coming with a 17th April deadline for the Council to submit its views. That deadline had now been extended until 22nd May, and Chris Tenant had drafted a response, now in front of Councillors to agree.
    Chris introduced his draft response. MK Futures 2050 is currently a strategy paper, to guide Milton Keynes Council (MKC) towards a formal policy. It does not carry development plan weight. Thus, the cited figure of 1,500 new homes for Olney is a theoretical one. His response had been guided by two fundamental principles: First, infrastructure must come before expansion, second that decisions on land use issues must be conferred on to communities through their democratically approved Neighbourhood Plans. He felt the potential of the rapid transit network was very interesting, as was that for a Western bypass. He also felt it important to distinguish the handling of urban Milton Keynes from that of the rural hinterlands around it.
    All Councillors were in favour of Chris’s document. Peter Geary further noted that, when the world restarts in three to six months, MK Futures 2050 will continue but the needs which drive it may be different in the new, post-lockdown world. So, for example, it may be that its planners need to pause and start again.
    OTC will submit the document as its response to the MK Futures 2050 draft strategy.

    Exclusive Rights of Burial and Memorials

    This item was to discuss whether Exclusive Rights of Burial and Memorials should continue to have their regular place on the full OTC meeting agenda.
    Deirdre Bethune, in a minority from the start, felt they should continue to appear as a mark of respect – it was something people had come to expect, she said. Arguments against this point included that discussing Exclusive Rights of Burial may fall foul of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and that granting them was a job for the Proper Officer (Town Clerk, Andrea Vincent), requiring full Council attention only by exception.
    Councillors voted by majority in favour of removing them from the agenda, all in favour bar one against.

    Councillor Communications policy

    This item was to discuss the proposed policy for Councillor Communications.
    When Councillors express their views via press or social media, they must make it clear that these views are their own and not the Council’s. As with much of this part of the meeting, the devil was in the detail and the apparently innocuous proposed policy wording, “the Councillor is talking on behalf of him/herself as a Councillor and/or individual resident, and is not making comment on behalf of the Town Council as a whole,” provoked discussion. The point at issue here, first raised by Desmond Eley, was that as a Councillor, a person is always regarded as such and no longer as a normal resident. The wording must reflect this, he said.
    Sally Pezaro raised the following proposed wording, “When commenting on social media platforms Councillors, when using their title Councillor, must always ensure that every comment they make is followed or preceded by a statement such as ‘I am speaking as an individual councillor/individual resident and not on behalf of the Town Council.’ ” As a regular user of social media, including for her work, this could cause practical problems, she felt. After some discussion, the key here appeared to be to omit the ‘Councillor’ title from such posts, the rule not then applying.
    Andrea will seek advice on certain parts of this policy, amend and bring back to full Council for approval.

    Agenda and Minute policy

    This, similarly dry item, was to discuss the proposed policy for Agenda and Minutes.
    The Proper Officer (again, Town Clerk) has legal responsibility for determining what should appear on the agenda. Colin Rodden asked what would happen if a submitted item was refused – was there an appeals process? This raised the general concern that the Town Clerk may have to make decisions on controversial or difficult items. Andrea will look for some wording to provide guidance on what should and should not be allowed on agendas.
    The proposed wording notes that “Minutes of a meeting will include formal resolutions, proposers and, where applicable, seconders, as well as actions.“ Deirdre Bethune stated that it would be very sad if the minutes contained only resolutions and their proposers, omitting the discussions around them – they’d contain nothing of substance, she felt. Andrea noted that her training said that, while minutes should describe that there had been discussion around topics, they should focus on procedure and regulations. Deirdre felt OTC had previously had very good minutes which had told people all about the meetings, but guessed people could still rely on the Phonebox Magazine for that.
    Again, Andrea will seek advice on certain parts of this policy, amend and bring back to full Council for approval.

    Admission to Report Public Meetings policy

    Members of the Public are, of course, allowed and indeed encouraged to attend Council meetings. A new sub-section of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 notes that any person attending meetings is also allowed to ‘report’ on them. Its definition of ‘report’ includes “filming, photographing or making an audio recording of proceedings.” Therefore, for GDPR purposes, it is necessary that people be informed that a recording may be taking place, giving them the opportunity to say if they don’t want themselves recorded, in which case content containing them will be removed.

    Profit and loss

    This section was to review the pre-reconciliation profit and loss figures for the year ending 31st March 2020. Summarising, the figures are slightly better than break-even, showing a small profit. In Paul Collins’ view, this vindicated last year’s precept increase, stemming an ongoing reduction in reserves. Given COVID-19, the future was unusually hard to predict, he said. For example, the Olney Centre’s income was currently reduced to zero. However, the situation would become clearer as more Government guidance, on grants for example, emerged. How would people behave as the lockdown eased – how soon would public confidence return?

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    The Human Resources Committee had proposed that a full time post be advertised for Olney Centre caretaker with ad hoc cleaning duties. This work is currently performed on a contracted basis, but the Committee considered it better value to employ a person to do it. It also proposed that a contract be advertised to cover the cleaning, opening and closing of the public toilets together with regular deep cleaning of the Olney Centre, along with cover for the caretaker while on leave.
    Andrea asked whether, before the Council office got into full swing making arrangements for Dickens of a Christmas, Council should consider a Glastonbury-style fallow year.
    noted that, as Chair of the Dickens of a Christmas Committee, it would have been nice to have been asked about this first. She felt the Council should “hold tight” for a couple of months on the basis that the event may be, by Christmas, something the town would really very much want. Deirdre then closed down the discussion, noting the topic “wasn’t important enough to ask the chair about.” In summary Dickens of a Christmas is going ahead, unless events dictate and Council decides otherwise.

    The Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held online at 7.30pm on Monday 1st June, live streamed from a set of spare bedrooms near you. If you’d like your views read out at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

  • June 2020

    Olney Council report for June 2020

    Public access to meetings

    For the duration of the COVID crisis meetings of Olney Town Council will be held as online audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by clicking on a link on the OTC web page www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk Click on the ‘Announcements’ tab and scroll down to the announcement about the next meeting where you will find a link to the agenda and another to join the meeting on listen only.
    This meeting was rescheduled from a meeting due to take place a week earlier which was opened and adjourned due to several members being unable to join. There were still some ‘teething difficulties’ at this meeting with two members being unable to join the audio conversation but they were still able to participate in discussions and vote via the text comments.

    Public participation

    A member of the public asked if the council would consider offering space om the Market Place to companies such as cafes that wished to have outside space for tables and chairs because their premises were unsuitable for maintaining social distancing. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings reminded members that this had been discussed before, but no agreement had been reached as to how it might be implemented. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that MKC had made a fund of £230k available to ‘restart the High Street’ and Olney might be eligible to apply for up to £30k. The fund is intended to pay for hire of consultants and equipment etc, so he suggested that Town Clerk Andrea Vincent investigates. Steve Clark supported the idea in principle but asked what would happen if demand outstrips supply? It would be unfair to offer space to some businesses but not others, particularly as it was possible that pubs would be open first and may request space so OTC would have to be very careful how they allocated space. It was agreed that Jeremy and Andrea would manage the process between them without reference to the full council or Recs and Services committee.

    Agenda and Minute policy

    This subject was discussed at length at last month’s meeting and there now appears to be a much more formal approach to what may and may not be discussed. There was certainly a drive to stick strictly to the agenda from some members at the meeting. Last month it was agreed by a majority that Exclusive Rights of Burial and Memorials should be removed as an agenda item. It appears that Members Matters has also gone, which was an opportunity for councillors to raise issues of their own or that had been communicated to them by members of the public. Councillors must now apply to the Town Clerk for any such items to be placed on the formal agenda and she will decide if it is appropriate. Mercury assumes that this is to enable a more efficient running of meetings in the current situation.

    Town Clerk's Report

    Andrea Vincent said she and Deputy Clerk had done a great deal of work with Paul Collins, Chair of Finance, to bring the budget up to date and be ready to speak to the Auditor later this month to enable the Annual Governance and Accountability Return to be completed and signed off. She expressed concern about the forthcoming year as income would be significantly reduced due to lack of income from the Olney Centre hire and reduced market stalls. Finance was a separate agenda item later in the meeting when the schedule of payments for the month of May showed a net loss of £14k since the majority of outgoings were still necessary but there was considerable loss of income. Paul Collins pointed out that precept (the portion of MKC Council Tax which is paid to OTC for services) needed to be included to give an indication of the true state of finances. Local councils are being doubly penalised he said, because unlike private businesses they are unable to claim a Business Rate holiday but as precepting authorities they are unable to claiming the retail, hospitality or leisure grant from central government. The Finance Committee have not met since setting the budget and Schedule of Charges for 2021 and it was likely that that budget would need ‘throwing out of the window’ and be completely revised, he said.
    There appears to have been a misunderstanding amongst some councillors that they have a ‘Line Management’ role over the council workforce. Andrea stated that this was definitely NOT the case and all requests for work must come via the council office.
    A member of staff had left during the month, and Andrea wished him well. A show of appreciation was presented in the form of a few gifts and an afternoon tea. For Information: Richard Mynard was the member of staff in question and had been a Groundsman since 1984. The vacant post has now been advertised.

    Stacks Image 93637

    In addition to the Groundsman vacancy there is also a vacancy for a part time Caretaker. Detailed job descriptions have been produced and the caretaker post will also be advertised in due course. A spec has been created for the cleaning of the Olney centre which will be put out to tender and a contract will be created by the successful applicant.

    A COVID 19 plan for the council has been produced and is constantly evolving. The purpose is to ensure that OTC can reduce the impact of potential infection from Coronavirus and/or continue to function in the case of absence due to illness, self-isolation. Olney Centre, council compound and cemetery closures are included in the plan. It will ensure the safe re opening of services and the running of council business. Peter Geary noted that Olney, along with many other communities, had set up COVID support Groups and they had done a really good job. All groups had had to move quickly to understand what is required. At one point the Olney group were providing support to approximately 120 households with around 280 volunteers. That need was now easing up but could be required again in the future. Jeremy Rawlings said it would be useful if the group could provide a written report detailing what they had achieved and what they felt their strengths and weaknesses were.
    Andrea reported that there had been many complaints to the council about large groups congregating by the bathing steps, and the ‘detritus’ that was then left. The grass had been scorched by portable BBQs and a number of patches will need to be reseeded. There had also been complaints of dogs running rampant, she said. It had not been helped by the re-running of articles in two national newspapers advertising the area as ideal for wild water swimming. Steve Clark noted that the area was referred to in some quarters as a ‘Victorian swimming pool’ and the council should actively avoid using the phrase and discourage others to do the same. He noted that Google Maps was guilty of this and despite representations from several local people, had still not removed it. Signage will be provided in attempt to resolve some of the problems, but Andrea was uncertain how effective that would be, particularly as most visitors were thought not to be local. Joanne Eley said there was a public health concern which the council could not ignore due to the huge amount of human excrement that had been left in the ditches and around the various sports clubs. Where public toilets remain closed the government guidelines are to bag it and take it home, she said. Peter Geary suggested contacting the Environment Health Department at MKC for advice.

    Rugby Club Planning Applications

    Jeremy Rawlings noted that OTRFC has submitted plans for three separate developments. The first is for an extension to the clubhouse to provide two unisex changing rooms on land which is owned by OTC, the second is for a new car park with 48 car parking spaces plus 2 coach spaces on part of Doff’s Field which is owned by the club, and the third is for a fifty seat stand also on Doff’s Field. OTC is not a planning authority and does not decide on such applications but may submit recommendations to MKC via their own Planning subcommittee. Jeremy suggested that individual members of the council could submit comments via the MKC planning portal, along with members of the public. Steve Clark, as chairman of the subcommittee suggested members submit comments to him but Malcolm Messenger was of the opinion that a planning meeting should be held since it would have a big impact on residents of Austin Avenue and Mobbs Way. There is also a public footpath running across the land proposed for the car park, he said, and there had been considerable debate, both for and against, on Facebook. Joanne Eley expressed concern that pedestrians would be walking through a car park which comes out on a blind bend. It was agreed to hold a planning meeting the following week to discuss all three applications.

    OTC office hardware

    The hardware used by the Clerk and Deputy Clerk is now well past its prime and is to be replaced. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings handed over the chair to Steve Clark at this point as his company is one of those that had tendered for the work. The cost for two workstations, two docking stations and four monitors was quoted as around £3.2k with three years warranty from both suppliers but was available from Amazon for £2.9k with one year warranty. Paul Collins proposed that the equipment be purchased from Amazon which was passed unanimously with one abstention.

    Dickens of a Christmas

    Following on from last month’s discussion about whether to declare a Glastonbury style ’fallow’ year Jeremy Rawlings proposed that planning should continue, subject to government rules and regulations at the time and should be in the form of a very much cut-down version with a final decision being made in September. The Lions are very keen that it should go ahead, if at all possible, as it is one of their major fund-raisers and their income has seen a considerable reduction due to Covid. Peter Geary suggested that planning should continue until financial outlay was necessary and the final decision left to the organising committee, which was agreed. Andrea Rawlings said the office was already receiving many enquiries from ‘out of town’ traders and guidance was need as to whether they should plan for a full-scale or cut-down event. As Chairman of The Dickens Committee Deirdre Bethune supported holding a smaller event for local traders, which would reduce a lot of the workload for the office, with the Lions free to organise the craft fairs within whatever regulations exist at the time. Joanne Eley said that with social distancing rules still likely to be in place it was only fair to allow local shops who have had a bad year to have stalls in the road around the Market Place. It was agreed to plan for a smaller scale local event and make a final decision in September based on the regulations in place at that time.

    Stacks Image 93659

    Odds and Sods

    An audit of the allotments has taken place. In ‘normal’ times anyone not maintaining their allotment could lose it, but the council recognise that some holders are currently able to do so and will not be penalised. Desmond Eley reported that allotment holders had assisted the council in filling in some of the holes in the roadways and expressed his thanks.
    As of the beginning of June market traders selling non-essential goods have been invited back to the Thursday and Sunday markets, which have been well supported by the public.
    The Recs and Services Committee of OTC have discussed permanent closure of all but the disabled public toilets on the Market Place (which are currently closed), except to market traders. This would be dependant of alternatives being available and discussions will be held with businesses around the Market Place to see if they would be prepared to open their facilities to non-customers, as happens in many other towns.

    The Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held online at 7.30pm on Monday 6th July, live streamed for members of the public to observe proceedings. If you have any issue which you would like read out at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk This replaces the previous public participation agenda item.

  • July 2020 - On Line only from this date

    Olney Council report for 6th July 2020 - On Line

    Public access to meetings - www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk - Announcements

    For the duration of the COVID restrictions, meetings of Olney Town Council (OTC) will be held online using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by surfing to www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk, clicking the ‘Announcements’ menu and scrolling down to the announcement about the next meeting, where there’s a link to the agenda and another to join the meeting listen-only.

    Public participation

    Market Place proposal:
    A retailer on the Market Place was first to have her contribution read by Andrea Vincent, Town Clerk. Noting her awareness that a proposal to use some areas of the Market Place car park for seating had been discussed and rejected by OTC, due mainly to parking, antisocial behaviour and litter concerns, she wanted to express her and the majority of small retailers’ thanks for this. She was pleased the Council had listened to them. She continued that, if it wished to support the small businesses further, they’d prefer the Council to contact them directly rather than through a third party. Noting that Olney has a successful and attractive High Street and Market Place, she felt the lockdown had pressured many businesses, leaving some worried about their ability to survive. If help were available, they’d be very happy to work with the Council, she said. She concluded by thanking Councillors for their help with the situation on the Recreation Ground and bathing areas.

    A Timpsons Row resident had also been in contact, this time concerning the increased number of visitors to the Recreation Ground in recent weeks. They went on to share some incidents they’d seen, in the hope the information would be useful. The main issue in Timpsons Row was parking, it seeing typically 50 additional vehicles on warm days, obstructing pedestrians and traffi c. Noting that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) is responsible for parking in Olney, they encouraged OTC to work with MKC to take a firm stance on the issue – more restrictions and enforcement. Stating that most visitors to the Recreation Ground have to drive, they felt restricting parking would thus restrict visitor numbers – the issue wasn’t with people visiting the Recreation Ground, it was with their sheer number. Noting the nearby gate to the field and inadequate parking-related signage in the Row, they felt closing the gate during the Summer may help. Examples of antisocial behaviour have included residents being sworn at and threatened with violence, and a woman walking down the side of a house to change out of her swimming costume before getting in her car. A mass brawl was also noted, resulting in people walking past covered in blood. They asked residents, the Police, OTC and MKC to work together to devise solutions – else the situation would worsen each year. They concluded by thanking OTC for its work keeping the town in such wonderful condition.

    Closing the Public Toilets: Last in this section, another contributor noted the consequences of OTC closing the public toilets during lockdown. This was without legal requirement, they said, toilets in many neighbouring towns remaining open. It had led to antisocial behaviour with people urinating and defecating on the Recreation Ground, outside commercial premises and in alleyways. This was a health and safety issue, and the lack of open toilets had put people off visiting the town, particularly the young, elderly and disabled. Given COVID, commercial premises were understandably reluctant to let the public use their facilities, they felt. They asked the Council to open and regularly clean the public toilets. They also noted that the Government had congratulated towns which had kept their toilets open, urging those who had not to reopen them safely. Andrea concluded this section, noting that OTC was following Government guidance to reopen the toilets, with the significant cost implications entailed.

    Apologies for absence and declarations of interest

    Debbie Whitworth had sent her apologies. No declarations of interest were made.

    Approving the previous meeting’s minutes

    Colin Rodden asked whether the Council had talked about the public toilets being closed, as he couldn’t recall it, particularly given the noted possibility of permanent closure.
    Jeremy Rawlings replied that the idea of retailers opening their facilities for the public, as happens in some other towns, had been discussed. That discussion had been started as it raised the possibility that the maintenance, management and refurbishment of the public toilets would not need to take place.
    Desmond Eley noted that, pre COVID, a working group had been created to look into the remodelling of the Market Place, necessarily including consideration of the public toilets. The choices were to remodel, extend or close, retaining just the disabled facility and that for the market traders. The decision process is ongoing, pending the group gleaning the information required to make it.
    Deirdre Bethune noted she didn’t feel it sensible currently to talk with retailers about opening their toilets.
    The decision is on hold pending a clearer way forward with COVID.

    Town Clerk’s report

    Faster Internet Connection: OTC has engaged BT in order to achieve a faster internet connection and IP-based phones.
    Jeremy noted that, in his professional opinion, he’d not touch BT with a barge pole, and agreed to talk later with Andrea.

    Amazon Offer Expired:
    The Amazon offer for new OTC office hardware that the previous meeting agreed to purchase was time limited and now expired.
    Quotes from a third local supplier will be obtained, and the three brought to Council for a decision.

    Olney Centre Income required:
    Noting the need for the Olney Centre to restart generating income, Desmond Eley mentioned that Room 2, normally used for marriages, was currently occupied by the Olney COVID Support Group’s equipment. The Council had asked it how much longer, but not yet received a response.
    Jeremy will pursue this noting, at Graham Harrison’s suggestion, that the Council would need the full building in the near future.

    Andrea noted the incredibly hard work of Council staff during the COVID restrictions. They had received a large number of criticisms, mainly about the situation with the Recreation Ground, but also some thanks. She thanked the team, a sentiment echoed strongly by Jeremy. The litter issues, he explained, were due to the amount being discarded.

    Anti-Letter Signage:
    The Council had devoted the resources to clear it up. Councillors discussed whether providing more anti-litter signage on the Recreation Ground would help, Deirdre thinking it would. Although no consensus was reached, the weight of opinion appeared to be that it would not.
    Andrea noted that, even when the local Lions group had handed out bin bags to groups of people on the Recreation Ground, they had often not been filled. Joanne Eley noted that some of the unsung heroes in this episode were the Olney and Clifton Reynes Fishing association, working hard to clear up litter from the riverbank. Graham noted that this was a country-wide problem, not affecting just Olney. Jeremy explained that, although the “alcohol exclusion zone” signs were widely ignored, they gave the Police authority to act. Deirdre noted she may provide anti-litter signs at her own expense.

    Recreations and Services

    Recreation Ground Issues
    A multi-agency meeting had been held to discuss the issues on the Recreation Ground. Desmond explained what happened, the following is a brief summary: The mass gathering issue did not start with COVID, instead having grown over the last three or so years, fuelled in part by mainstream and social media. The option of closing the East Street car park or charging an admission fee was discussed and its many downsides noted, for example the logistics of charging a fee, and the impact on parking elsewhere including the effect on emergency services vehicle access. This was left with OTC to decide on and manage.
    The public toilets should be opened as soon as practically possible. Thames Valley Police is pleased with the recently installed “alcohol exclusion zone” signs. Fencing could be installed to funnel visitors to discourage walking across sports pitches. OTC has lost all its income streams due to COVID and, in spite of multiple requests, no funding or grants had been made available to help it tackle these problems. A key safe will be provided to allow emergency services vehicle access from East Street.
    The ensuing discussion was lengthy and, again, the following a brief summary: Deirdre asked Desmond to clarify the statement on fencing. The aim, he explained, was to funnel people entering the Recreation Ground from beside and behind the Rugby Club to walk between the Bowls Club and the MUGA, entering the Ground near the toilet block. That way, they’d be more likely to avoid the sports pitches, particularly the cricket pitch which had seen people walk across even while cricket was being played. Footpath locations and byelaws were discussed, as was the fact that OTC hires out the pitches to the clubs, which then expect a facility on which they can play sport safely.
    Colin Rodden
    asked how decisions were being made, particularly on the fencing and signage. Desmond explained that no money had been spent without committee approval, and Jeremy Rawlings that in these difficult times decisions had to be taken quickly.
    Jeremy asked Colin if he was happy with this, his immediate response being silence, and later one that more consultation was required.

    East Street Car Park:
    Re the East Street car park, Peter Geary outlined three options: First, continue as now – people turn up in whatever numbers, the Council attempts to manage the paths they take to the river, clears up after them and stomachs the costs. Second, try to dissuade people at all costs – for example lock the East Street car park, but that would disrupt visiting teams and displace parking. Third, charge for the East Street car park to help mitigate the money spent by the Council – but the logistics and inconvenience for legitimate users would be significant. None is a perfect solution, but people expect OTC to do something, even if that’s the first option. It is public open space, and we cannot stop people from accessing it, he said. There are no easy solutions although, as lockdown continues to ease, people will at least have more choice of places to visit.
    Skipping much of the discussion, the Council set up a small working group to look at charging for the East Street car park in peak season. Deirdre asked that the group keep all Councillors up to date, because that didn’t always happen. It was noted that, while there was insufficient time to make this decision in the very short term, it will not be straightforward to make in the long term either. For example, a permit holder scheme would help residents but be less obviously beneficial for sports match away teams.
    David Coles’ open letter, as published in last month’s Phonebox, was also noted for Council consideration. This section concluded with Desmond asking Deirdre about her earlier comment re working groups not reporting back to the Council. He asked which working group Deirdre thought hadn’t reported back. She did not respond.

    Opening up the High Street

    This item noted the reasons the proposal to use some of the Market Place car park for seating was rejected. These were that, in spite of sending a letter to each shop nearby, no responses at all were received, and that the Police thought the idea “madness” and would attract antisocial behaviour.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    The Council had received three quotes for Autumn and Winter bedding plants, accepting Alban Hill Nurseries’. It will also seek quotes for a new mower for the Cemetery. Desmond reported that, in the second half of May, there appeared to have been a significant and sudden drop in the Council’s store of red diesel. Measures have been taken to ensure control and monitoring of the store, with others pending if agreed.

    Allotment Association Agreement

    Desmond noted that, as reported previously, the Recreations and Services Committee had been discussing the formation of a service agreement with the Allotment Association, expected to move forward in October subject to agreement. This had been done informally so far, but formalising the group of Councillors involved as a working group with authority to make decisions would be appropriate to continue this work.


    Paul Collins provided a broad overview of the Council’s finances given COVID.
    His major area of concern was the current reduced income from the markets and Olney Centre room hire. He noted that many of the room hirers have memberships skewed towards the at-risk age groups, meaning the drop in income could be relatively long term. In the three months to 30th June, these sources of income were down £9,500 compared with a year ago.
    Unlike commercial businesses and non-profits, the Council had not been eligible for business rates relief or the Retail, Hospitality, and Leisure Grant – almost singled out for special, unfair treatment he felt. Further, none of the extra money paid by Government to higher-tier Local Authorities appeared to have trickled down to Parish Council level. Hopefully, this would change. In terms of expenditure, OTC had been mindful of the need to make significant savings, and thus expenditure for this financial year is more than £30,000 below that a year ago.
    However, this level of saving would not be maintained once the Olney Centre was reopened. He hoped that, by October, the Council would have a clearer view of how things will turn out. He also noted the costs of the antisocial behaviour on the Recreation Ground, and of the enhanced public toilet cleaning regime.

    Andrea noted that cleaning both sets of toilets will cost £700 - £1,000 per week. Desmond raised the opportunity to promote Room 2 of the Olney Centre for marriages, noting the potential logjam for such events – it was important to know what was happening with that room. Jeremy will further ask the COVID Support Group about its plans. Although feeling that marriage bookings may not pick up until next year, Steve Clark agreed that OTC should indeed aggressively market use of the Centre for marriages. Deirdre asked about the state of the Recreation Ground toilets. These had been vandalised seriously pre COVID and, while that had delayed their repair, it would happen shortly.

    Olney Development Group

    Chris Tennant reported that a review of Olney’s existing Neighbourhood Plan had started. He then ran through the local development sites, of which just the residential ones are covered here.
    On Site A, Lavendon Road, work had started on the building of 50 homes.
    On Site B, Warrington Road, outline permission had been granted.
    As for Site C, off Osiers Road adjacent to the business park, while not allocated for housing the construction of 66 homes was in progress.
    On Sites D&E, off Aspreys and Yardley Road, very large scale archaeological site investigations had started. The reserved matters planning application for the 250 homes on those sites is live and out for consultation, with further drawings and reports received. OTC had objected to this application and asked for it to be considered by the MKC Development Control Committee. Chris noted issues with MKC Planning Department not necessarily consulting with members of the public and Councillors, something it is now reviewing. He felt this an effect of lockdown.
    At Site R, the Sainsbury’s store is open but the planning application by Angle Properties and McCarthey & Stone, for sheltered and retirement living on the remaining land had, contrary to the Neighbourhood Plan, been allowed on appeal.
    Jeremy noted that the Sites D&E reserved matters application contained significant changes. Chris agreed noting that, of most concern, a significant proportion of the promised public open space had since been extracted, no longer forming part of sites’ D&E delivery, never envisaged in the Neighbourhood Plan.
    Chris felt the MKC Chief Planner at the time, who’d since moved on, had perhaps dropped the ball in that regard by allowing this change as part of the Section 106 agreement. Essentially, the town was being held to ransom on a future development option North of Site E. He felt it important to note that OTC was unhappy with this situation – we can’t have part of a playing pitch delivered, where OTC hasn’t considered a future planning application on a site outside the settlement boundary. Other issues include access: The original land promoter did not own the land strip which could provide access from Aspreys so, while MKC and OTC were previously keen to pursue that access, it was not in the promoter’s gift to offer. However, the strip is owned by the chosen developer, Vistry (ex Bovis), meaning that it could, if it chose, deliver that access. Finally, the reserved matters application includes some three storey apartment blocks, never originally envisaged. It was already the highest site in Olney in topographical terms. He felt this change perhaps a little disingenuous. Peter Geary, agreeing with much of Chris’s description and noting it pretty disappointing, expressed confidence in the current MKC Planning Offi cer. Re the issues with the playing field, he felt these were known about before and were one of the reasons he was against the outline application. This was not exactly in the spirit of things, and he felt Chris was right about the current situation. Desmond asked Chris whether, given the recent building work, there were any Section 106 monies which OTC could draw down, with a view to accessing funds to spend around the town. Chris will look into this.

    The Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 7th September, at 7.00pm if online else 7.30pm if in the Council Chamber. If you’d like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.

  • Olney Council Extraordinary Meeting (20th July) reported in Phonebox Magazine in August 2020 - Olney Public Toilets

    Discussion to decide if the Public toilets should be reopened (Held online on Monday 20th July.

    An extraordinary meeting of Olney Town Council (OTC) was held online, Monday 20th July, to discuss reopening the Market Place and Recreation Ground public toilets, closed since lockdown. Apologies for absence were received from Chris Tenant. No declarations of interest were made.

    Jeremy Rawlings reported that, as part of the ‘Olney is Open’ initiative, delegated to himself and Andrea Vincent (Town Clark), the Council had sought and received two tenders for ongoing cleaning of the toilets and, under those delegated powers, chosen the cheapest. It was, however, very expensive and raised concern from a number of other Councillors about the ongoing cost and whether OTC should bear it for the sake of reopening, so he organised this meeting in response.
    He noted that the retailers, and Thursday and Sunday Market stallholders were keen for the toilets to open, a sentiment matched by the general consensus of an all-comers meeting at the Rugby Club.
    The ongoing cost involved was indeed significant at around £700 per week, equating to around £3,000 per month, for the duration of the pandemic, itself an unknown quantity. It would allow the toilets to open 8am – 5pm, closing three-hourly for cleans at 11am, 2pm and 5pm, that being the period specified by the Council’s insurers for COVID-19 infection control. The cleaning, using bleach or equivalent, would include all surfaces around the toilets and sinks, internal surfaces and floors, and all the touch points - door handles, etc. The contract could be stopped by OTC at short notice.

    Colin Rodden suggested obtaining sponsorship, but this would be hard in the current climate.

    Malcolm Messenger suggested employing someone to do the work, but that would incur start-up costs and come with commitments.

    Desmond Eley felt sorry for OTC’s staff, working harder for less pay than this, and that the tender was not good value.

    Graham Harrison asked for the cost if just the Market Place toilets were reopened, Andrea replying it’d be half, and Deidre Bethune that the Recreation Ground toilets were also important given recent complaints.

    Joanne Eley noted the earlier than usual closing time for the Recreation Ground toilets – what were people meant to do after 5pm?

    Paul Collins, chair of the Finance Committee, reported that OTC had seen a significant reduction in income and, to date, received no Government or Milton Keynes Council (MKC) money due to COVID-19. Having started to get the Council’s finances under control and set a budget for the year, this toilet cleaning alone would add £18 per year to the average home’s Council Tax precept. He felt the toilets wouldn’t be used much and that the Council could not afford this cost. He strongly opposed the idea of reopening.

    Peter Geary, noting this a difficult decision, proposed reopening both toilets pending a review at the next full Council meeting on 7th September.

    This proposal, amended to first wait for upcoming advice from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and a final positive discussion with the Council’s insurers, appeared to receive a consensus. It would result in a cost of around £5,000, and the responsibility for taking the decision to reopen was delegated to Jeremy, Desmond and Andrea.

    In the meantime, the Council will continue trying to extract funding from MKC and Government. It will write to our local MP, stating it was under the impression that some funding would be available for this purpose and, unless some came forward, it would not be able to keep the toilets open. Also, it will attempt to gauge opinions in the town with a Facebook poll, notices and a Phonebox article.

    Jeremy Rawlings concluded the meeting, thanking Councillors for their input and for reaching a consensus.

  • Olney Council Meeting August 2020 - On Line on Monday 10th August

    Town Council Controversy

    Intimidation Resignation & Regret

    August is usually a month Olney Town Council do not have a meeting. With all that is going on at the moment a special meeting was called to discuss some recent problems, especially the Public Toilets in the Town.
    This meeting turned out to be a bit more lively that unusual, and caused the resignation of two councillors, following hard on the heels of a third councillor making a total of four resignations since February, and six in the last 15 months!

    Public Access to Meetings

    For the duration of the COVID crisis meetings of Olney Town Council will be held as online audio meetings using Microsoft Teams. Members of the public can listen to the proceedings by clicking on a link on the OTC web page www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk Click on the ‘Meetings’ tab and scroll down to the announcement about the next meeting where you will find a link to the agenda and another to join the meeting on listen-only.


    There is not normally a meeting of OTC in August but as there were a number of issues to be discussed this meeting was called at short notice by the Clerk Andrea Vincent and Mayor Jeremy Rawlings in the light of ‘a rapidly changing situation’.
    Deirdre Bethune asked why the minutes of the July meeting stated that an August meeting would be held when at that stage none was planned. Andrea said she had amended the draft minutes for the July meeting the day before. This was picked up under matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting and the amendment removed.

    Public Participation

    In the absence of the opportunity to speak at public meetings, the public may submit written items to the clerk to be read out. Mercury would normally name those who speak at an open meeting, unless they specifically ask not to be identified. Under the new regime, the clerk redacts the names from any correspondence under alleged GDPR rules, so there exists the situation whereby councillors and public are not permitted to know who has submitted the written items. Note: If any member of the public wishes to be identified as the originator of correspondence to the council, they should state that in the letter/email to overcome any GDPR constraints.

    This month there was an email from a person who owns a business but does not currently live in Olney, but in a neighbouring village. This person said they wholeheartedly supported Deirdre Bethune’s proposal to use the Sidney Dix Community fund (or any other funding source) to enable the public toilets on the Market Place and Recreation ground to remain open, as they are an asset to the town. (This was the subject of a later agenda item). A town meeting should be called before any decision is taken, they said. David Pibworth has contacted The Phonebox and asked to be identified as the author of this email.

    Another resident had also emailed to ask that the final decision on the toilets should be made by the public in the name of good governance, transparency, and democracy. The final decision should be delayed till after the May 2021 election with candidates declaring how they would act on the issue, this person believed. Kevin Viney has contacted The Phonebox and asked to be identified as the author of this email.

    Regarding the first email, Malcolm Messenger questioned Deirdre as to how a person living outside the town could know that she was going to present her proposal at the meeting. Deirdre explained that this person was ‘very local’, having interests and working in the town and her (Deirdre’s) intentions were public knowledge. Malcolm proceeded to press her very strongly, asking who had told this person. Deirdre explained that it was on the published meeting agenda which was in the public domain. Malcolm asked Andrea on what date the email had been received to which she replied that it was the date that the agenda had been published.

    A letter had also been received from Trevor York on behalf of Friends of Cobbs Garden Surgery, which donates over £2000 per month for health-related projects, equipment and services. A book of photographs of Olney over the years is being proposed as a fund-raiser, and Trevor asked if any colour photos in the possession of OTC could be included. It was agreed that OTC would loan any photos in its possession for the project.

    Apologies for Absence & Declarations of Interest

    There were no apologies for absence or declarations of interest. Jeremy reported that Debbie Whitworth had formally tendered her resignation, would not be joining the meeting and was no longer a councillor. Deirdre Bethune asked if a reason could be given. Jeremy declined to give one, but said Deirdre could ask Debbie if she wished. Deirdre replied that the public would really like to know why Debbie had resigned. Jeremy replied that it was up to Debbie to inform the public, not him. Deirdre suggested that perhaps the town Clerk would like to provide input as well, saying that Debbie had been considerably upset all weekend and did they care? She hoped the public were listening, she said.
    Jeremy said Debbie had tendered her resignation and he had accepted it. Joanne Eley asked Jeremy to move on, saying that quite clearly there are reasons which are well documented in emails, and this was not a ‘show-boating exercise’. Jeremy closed the conversation by saying that if ex-councillor Whitworth wishes to make a public statement, then that is her prerogative, bearing in mind that whatever she says is still covered in part by the code of conduct.

    Proposed Reopening of The Olney Centre

    Andrea reported that the organisations that were previously regular users of the Olney Centre had been contacted asking when they wished to resume bookings. Not all had replied, but six that meet monthly had indicated that they wished to return in September. None of the weekly groups had provided a date, mainly because their members were previously in the shielding category and are not yet willing to commit.
    Age UK previously held a lunch club once a week but were currently looking to only commence operations at the Peartree Bridge Centre from October and asked if the council could assist with travel expenses for users. If the Olney centre were to open it would need to be done with a caretaker and cleaning contract in place, but the council would need to consider the shortfall of income, Andrea said. Perhaps as a public body, OTC should consider reopening as a sign of the ‘bouncing back of the High Street, etc’? Jeremy asked what would be the cost vs income of opening in September? Andrea replied that each booking would provide in the region of £70, but outgoings would be considerably more. Colin Rodden asked how this would impact on the reopening of the library, which was not in Phase 1 of Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) plans. Jeremy said that the library could open independently as MKC had their own cleaning contract. Graham Harrison said it was a ‘chicken and egg’ situation because if people saw the building open, they might come, but he would not like to see the building open before October. However, if an intended opening date were published, maybe more people would consider using it. Jeremy said much was dependant of the oft-hinted Second Wave. As Chair of Finance, Paul Collins suggested waiting till the September meeting when a proper cashflow could be provided. If a caretaker is employed, it is not easy to ‘turn the tap off’, he said, and the current budget was based on a pre-Covid expectation of £34K in room hire income. The current income this financial year is £900, so there are considerable financial implications he said. The £900 is from pre-bookings which may yet be refunded in the future, he explained. It was agreed to review the situation at the September meeting.

    Building Works for OTC Office

    As chair of the Olney Centre Management Committee Deirdre Bethune presented a proposal for changes to the OTC office, for which planning approval had been granted and had previously been discussed by the council. It would make for far greater safety when the Clerk or Deputy when working alone as the door could be locked and it would still be possible to communicate with the public through a hatch, which would make it easier to be Covid compliant, too.
    It would create more usable space whilst distancing the clerks without having to make other changes to the existing arrangements. She’d hoped that it could be financed by a Covid grant, but the clerk had advised that this was not possible. It is, however, possible to take out public works loans which attract very little interest. The work could be done while the centre is currently closed, she said.
    Joanne Eley said that in this uncertain time and without a cashflow she didn’t think that OTC should be taking out a loan at all, since the council could easily function with the current configuration. The council and residents should not be put into debt for a ‘nice to do’ she thought, since the duration of Covid is unknown, and the council currently has no income. Deirdre interjected to say she believed the work to be essential. Joanne continued that she would like to see the Management Committee produce a clearly thought out evidence-based plan on how it could be funded without taking out a loan.
    Graham Harrison said he was astonished that the council could even think about spending £15k on the work but then tell residents that there was no money for anything else. It was just a ‘non-starter’ he thought.
    Jeremy said he agreed that at this time the expenditure was inappropriate. Malcolm Messenger was of the view that when and if the centre opens Covid distancing could be provided with the use of a screen, and the door could be closed when privacy was necessary. Desmond Eley asked Andrea if she thought the changes were necessary to perform her duties. Andrea replied that there was already a reasonable plan to make the office Covid safe, so it wasn’t immediately necessary, but at some time in the future it was essential that changes were made to improve disabled access. Additional space could be found by moving some documentation into storage, she felt.
    Colin Rodden expressed the view that keeping the office staff safe should be a priority, so as the Covid situation improves then anything that could be done to provide a better working environment would be helpful. Jeremy asked for a seconder for Deirdre’s proposal, and Colin Rodden declared himself prepared to second it. However, he then declined to vote in favour, saying he wanted more information. Joanne Eley interjected to say that it was not legitimate for a member to second a motion that he or she was not in favour of, but Peter Geary said it was a perfectly legitimate situation, which Joanne thought ‘crazy’. Deirdre said that there was obviously no support for the proposal and withdrew it. Jeremy said that the situation would be reviewed in the future as there may well be ways of resolving the issues without spending £15k.

    Use of The ‘Sidney Dix’ Community Support Fund to Support the Continued Opening of Public Toilets

    Full details of the rules for this fund may be found on the OTC web site but to summarise:

    The OTC Community Support Fund (previously known as the Sidney Dix Fund, after a local benefactor) exists to provide financial support for voluntary and community groups in the Parish. Grants will only be awarded for applications that promote or improve the economic, social, or environmental well-being of their area, and to organisations based within the Parish. Grants are normally only given for items of a capital nature which will have an ongoing benefit to residents of the town, although in exceptional circumstances other awards may be made.

    Deirdre Bethune put forward a proposal that under these exceptional circumstances it would be justified to use the fund to keep the toilets open for this year, providing a much-needed service for the town, which would avoid using funds from the Council Tax Precept. With many visitors to the town, including those to the museum for the forthcoming Amazing Grace celebrations, it was essential that public toilets were available. Those visitors will also be supporting businesses in the town. The high expense of keeping the toilets open seemed to be based on employing the services of a limited company with all the associated overheads, she said, and asked why it was not possible to employ an individual at a cheaper rate.
    The decision was made by the HR Committee, the workings of which are not divulged to other council members, she said. Paul Collins said whether the toilets were open or not was not a big factor with regards to the museum, because most visitors are in large parties who then go to a restaurant to use their facilities, plus the Amazing Grace celebrations will not be taking place for two years.
    He went on to say that because the Community Support fund is a ‘restricted fund’ the money therein cannot be transferred to other funds and cannot be used for purposes other than those stated. The philanthropist that set it up did so with the intention of providing modest grants to community groups. By no stretch of the imagination is OTC a community group and it is not legitimate to use the fund to meet OTC overhead costs, he said. He reminded councillors that on 28th April 2011 the councillor making the proposal reported to the annual town public meeting that the Sidney Dix Fund would shortly be renamed the OTC Community Fund and that its purpose would remain unchanged. It is a totally invalid proposal, he said. Deirdre replied saying she thought the community of Olney would like to be able to go to the toilet as part of their recreation, so it would be a justified use of the community fund.
    Joanne Eley interjected to say that the proposal was against the council’s Community Grant Policy to which Jeremy agreed. Desmond Eley then read a statement explaining how the current situation had arisen. To summarise, he said pre-Covid the council recognised that a number of issues need to be resolved regarding the Market Place and the state of the toilets was one of them. A working group identified that the cost of refurbishment would be between £30k and £60k, depending on the solution chosen. The Recs and Services committee was informed by some members of the public – complete strangers unknown to the council, he said – that residents didn’t like or use the toilets, would not like to see that amount of money spent on the toilets and felt there must be better uses for the money. It was then suggested by ‘a councillor’ that the toilets be closed, with the exception of the disabled toilets, and only used on market and event days. Deirdre was actioned to ask retailers around the Market Place if they would be prepared to let the public use their facilities, but Covid meant this could not be completed. A meeting of the recreation ground Joint User Adjourned Group and others resolved that the then closed Market Place and Rec toilets should be opened as soon as possible.
    This was reported back to the council which resolved to reopen them at a cost, established Adjourned by the clerk, of £38k per year. Because of the high cost, this would be reviewed at the September OTC meeting.
    An Internet Poll would be created to gauge public opinion. He finished by saying that in his opinion, the use of the Community Support Fund was inappropriate.
    Jeremy Rawlings said at no point had OTC talked about permanently closing the toilets. The temporary closure was due to Covid, and they were now open again with additional costs in the region of £700 per week. The decision to be made at the September meeting would be whether OTC would be prepared to continue with that funding. To use the Sidney Dix fund would be an abhorrence and absolutely disgraceful, he thought Peter Geary asked how much cash was currently in the fund (a figure of £35k was quoted) and what was the result of the poll which appeared briefly on the OTC and Olney Noticeboard Facebook pages? He suggested the final decision be delayed in order to give sufficient time to look at the conditions of the Community Support Fund, noting that after a year the fund would be exhausted and suggested that the agenda item should be adjourned.
    Malcolm Messenger said that the poll was not a true vote as some respondents lived in New Zealand, Norfolk, and Scotland. It should be a ‘paper vote’ to all households that pay the precept, he said. Jeremy said he agreed and wasn’t happy about the poll being posted. Deirdre asked where the figure of £18 per household came from. At this point, Joanne Eley interjected to say that the item under discussion was whether to use the Community Support Fund, not the finances and the proposal should have contained that information.
    Deirdre responded by saying that the figure of £18 had not be made available until the poll went up. The following conversation was indecipherable with many people talking over each other, and Jeremy called the meeting to order. Colin Rodden felt that the council needed to understand how many people use both lots of toilets. He had been looking at the Covid website, and it was not clear how much cleaning was actually required as there seemed to be more emphasis placed on individuals to look after themselves. Cost could be cut by reducing hours spent cleaning, he suggested. Peter Geary, returning to the online poll, said it should be taken as a steer of public opinion and was not a referendum. It should be used as input to the building of the budget and setting the precept for the next financial year once the public had been given a full breakdown, he said, and once again recommended adjourning the item.
    Paul Collins interjected saying he did not believe there was a need to adjourn since the point under discussion was quite specific and was an abuse of the fund. Graham Harrison said he had suggested at the last meeting that OTC place an advert in The Phonebox since Facebook was full of ‘Chinese whispers’ and not relevant. Deirdre pointed out that should already have been done as it was already an action from the minutes of last month’s meeting.
    Colin Rodden felt that all councillors should be involved in the wording of any survey since he wasn’t happy with the wording and ‘binary’ nature of the poll that had been posted and then removed. Andrea pointed out that the matter of the toilets had been devolved by full council to herself, Desmond and Jeremy, and she had consulted with them before the poll was posted. Jeremy said he was minded to adopt Peter’s suggestion to adjourn the item, but Joanne Eley asked how OTC could award themselves a grant and match fund it, as per the conditions of the fund. ‘The proposer’ was the immediate past financial Chair and should be fully aware of how these things work, she said. Graham Harrison suggested a vote and Jeremy agreed and asked for a seconder. Nobody offered to second the motion, so Jeremy said the proposal therefore fell. The following discussion is reported verbatim:


    Deirdre: Can I just have a word please?
    Jeremy: Yes, and then we’ll move on.
    Deirdre: We will - well, I won’t because I am resigning. I have no confidence in this absolute shambles of a council. It has just been going downhill; we cannot keep staff. I’m sorry, I’m out of it – I resign.
    Jeremy: If you’d like to put that in writing, thank you Deirdre. Deirdre: I will put it in writing, but I am resigning, I have had enough. Unknown: Move on.
    Deirdre: I have been on that Council for 42 years…
    Graham: (Harrison): Yeah, that’s the problem.
    Deirdre: The last year has been HELL and the year before that was
    also HELL, and there are certain Councillors and certain (indecipherable – spoken over) that have made it that way. Malcolm: (Messenger): You cannot do this in public.
    Jeremy: That’s enough, thank you Deirdre. Thank you VERY much,
    that’s enough. Thank you. OK, moving on…
    Graham: Turn my microphone…

    OTC to Take Over Running of Youth Centre from MKC

    A letter had been received from the new Youth Centre Management Committee explaining that they were not asking OTC to take over the running of the Youth Centre but to provide a level of support and financial help in tackling the problem of rent and cost of repairs. More specifically, they were seeking help in negotiating an acceptable lease agreement with MKC which was currently demanding £12.5K per year rent, making the operation unviable based on current predicted hires. The building has become dilapidated through neglect by MKC over many years and now requires considerable investment, including what Peter Geary referred to as a six-figure sum to repair the roof.
    The committee are in a stand-off position with MK Council and cannot seem to be able to converse with someone who can make a genuine decision. Indeed one person seemed to be deliberately obstructive. Jeremy said that when he and Steve Clark were on the previous management committee, they had similar problems. A long discussion took place, which would normally be reported in detail, but which unfortunately will need to be abbreviated due to space restraints.
    Colin Rodden reported that he and Peter Geary had recently attended a meeting with the new management committee. He reminded councillors that some years ago OTC were in the process of taking over full responsibility for the Youth Centre under the Community Asset Transfer Scheme, but MKC had withdrawn from the transfer when the Neighbourhood Plan identified the site for potential health service use, since a condition of the transfer would be that the entire site retains its original usage. Many local groups are currently using the Youth Centre, and it could be a valuable community asset with the associated green space. Peter said that as Ward Councillor he would be negotiating with MKC to get a resolution which he hoped would result in MKC completing the major building works to enable the building to remain open. He will report back regularly to Olney Town Council.

    Update on Section 106 Monies Due to OTC

    As Chairman of the Development Committee (DC), Chris Tennant gave an update on the progress of applications for Section 106 (Planning Gain) grants available to Olney Town Council. Developers pay an agreed sum to MKC, and local councils and other community groups can apply for portions of that sum for projects related to services that they provide as developments progress to completion. The Olney Neighbourhood Plan lists projects that the DC would endeavour to seek funding for and make applications on behalf of other community groups.
    Desmond Eley said it was important that the DC started to deliver on the promises in the Neighbourhood Plan. Chris reminded Desmond that as a member of the DC, he (Desmond) had been actioned at the last meeting to test the process by providing a costed solution with a design of the Whirley Pits play area. Desmond said that, unfortunately, Covid had got in the way of the design process. Chris said he looked forward to receiving Desmond’s report at the next DC meeting. Joanne Eley asked how the promised public consultation with residents about the refreshment of the Neighbourhood Plan would take place. Chris said at a previous DC meeting, at which Joanne was present, the Communication and Engagement Strategy which contained that information was tabled and agreed. Joanne asked what that document looked like. Chris responded that it had been issued to her as a published document, but at the following meeting she had resigned from the Development Committee.

    The Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Monday 7th September, at 7.00pm if online else 7.30pm if in the Council Chamber. If you’d like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, please contact the Town Clerk, townclerk@olneytowncouncil.gov.uk.


    After this meeting Deputy Mayor Sally Pezaro also resigned from the council.

Mercury's Olney Town Council 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 86746

    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.

    Stacks Image 86758

    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.

    Stacks Image 86806

    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

    Mercury's 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.

    Stacks Image 86831

    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.

    Stacks Image 86843

    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%.

    Stacks Image 86873

    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

    Mercury's 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

    Mercury's 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.


    Des and Joanne Eley were absent from this meeting.


    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.

    Stacks Image 87012

    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.

    Stacks Image 87036

    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.

    Stacks Image 87048

    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

    Mercury's 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

    Mercury's 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 87144

    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 87166

    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


    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

    Mercury's 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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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

    Mercury's 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

    Mercury's 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

    Mercury's 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.

    Lucy Coleman
    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.

    Lindsay Heath
    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.

    Kevin McPartland
    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.

    Lynda Batty
    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

    Mercury's 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 87441

    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

    Mercury's 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
    There was an unusually low turnout of members for this month’s meeting with only nine being present.

    Public participation

    Hillary Terry
    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
    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.

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    Moores Hill

    Sue Warren
    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.
    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.
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    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

    Next Meeting - 5th February

    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.


    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

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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


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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


    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.

    Stacks Image 88981

    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 89067

    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 89103

    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 92873

    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 92909

    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.

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    Goosey Fireworks


    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.


    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.

Mercury's reports for 2017

  • January 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. While householders had now received the residents parking scheme consultation, some were struggling to understand it and, in particular, the annual £50 permit charge. This topic is dealt with in the main body of the meeting below.

    Rod Parker
    Rod Parker also spoke about parking, this time in Orchard Rise. This has worsened over the last ten years. The main problems are safety (there’s no pavement), reduced road width (due to the line of parked cars) requiring larger vehicles to mount the grass verge, and lack of access to driveways (due to poor parking). Residents formed a small committee around a year ago and, keeping the residents informed throughout, it’s looked into various solutions and discussed the issue with both Olney and Milton Keynes Councils. Yellow lines were suggested and rejected due to them being too expensive and restrictive. A residents parking scheme was then suggested. The Committee liked the idea so a petition was sent to Milton Keynes Council (MKC). Again, this topic is dealt with in the main body of the meeting below.

    Election of Deputy Mayor

    With Ron Bull having left the Council, a vacancy has arisen for the post of Deputy Mayor. There were two candidates: Sally Pezaro (in her absence) and Desmond Eley. Votes were taken and Sally was elected Deputy Mayor with six votes, with Desmond having four.

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    The consultation document has now been sent to those living in the Crescent plus the houses in the immediate vicinity, first online (not ideal for the elderly residents) then printed. If 70% or more respondents are in favour, the scheme will be in place within six months. While parking permit schemes within Milton Keynes Borough are free in the current financial year, there is a proposal for an annual £50 permit charge starting April 2017 – hence it being raised as a concern in the Public participation part of this meeting.
    Deidre Bethune felt it was not ideal that pensioners would have to pay for parking permits. Peter Geary replied that this point had been raised for a number of schemes and that there was a proposal for them to be free for pensioners, although it was uncertain if or when this would be agreed. He also noted that the advantage of residents paying was that the schemes would likely be better enforced. Martine Stoffels asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) should be trying to help the residents understand the scheme, though Jeremy Rawlings noted that it had no jurisdiction in the matter – it could only comment and suggest.
    Joe Stacey said that the issue was a ‘bit of a mess’, ‘disgraceful’ and had ‘gone on and on’. He suggested that OTC write a strong letter to MKC’s Chief Executive to get this remarkably long running issue sorted out. Peter felt the Council should hold back on that option for now, explaining that writing now could provoke the easy response that ‘a process was underway’, as the parking scheme for which OTC had pushed was moving forward. He felt the time to write would be if less than the required 70% of the respondents were in favour of the scheme, in which case further thought would be needed.

    Parking in Orchard Rise

    This item required a decision on whether the Council would support a consultation on the requested residents parking scheme in Orchard Rise. The debate on this was comparatively brief since, while Joe Stacey wanted to know more about the issue before the Council expressed its opinion, the general view appeared to be that sensible investigations had already taken place, there was no financially viable alternative and it didn’t seem democratic to ignore the views of the residents and MKC. The Council voted all in favour of expressing a positive opinion, bar one abstention.

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    Orchard Rise parking problem

    Hanging baskets

    The hanging baskets mounted on the lampposts along the A509 in the Summer have been organised by Ron Bull for the last 11 years, and his wife Sheila for around five years before that. He’s stepping down from this task, and has asked the Council if it would take over. Colin Rodden thanked him for his hard work over this long period. Tony Evans noted that the time needed for basket planting and subsequent growth meant that a decision was required in the next month or so. Councillors agreed to see if another organisation, for example Olney Events, would take on the task with the proviso that, if not, the Council would take it on with Councillors doing the organisation so as not to create more work for Council staff.

    Market Place Christmas tree

    Deidre felt that the tree had insufficient impact in its current position South of the toilet block near the High Street, and suggested it be moved to the High Street side of the grass area behind the war memorial. She’d talked with some members of the local Royal British Legion (RBL) and they were content provided the tree was not too close to the memorial. The general view was that the idea was good, so it will be investigated further and the RBL contacted for an official response.

    Milton Keynes Council budget consultation

    As reported previously, MKC needs to find £20m of cost savings next year plus a further £60m by 2020. Peter Geary spoke about a few of the ways in which this will likely affect local Councils. The effects on landscape maintenance, the filling of grit bins and weed spraying have been reported previously. He added another two planned cuts: MKC’s Emergency Planning Service (which swings into action in the event of a major incident such a gas explosion) may soon operate only 9-5 Monday to Friday, and the subsidy given to bus companies for Junior Tripper bus passes may reduce causing their price to increase. It was also noted that the precepts charged by local Councils would almost certainly increase as a result of responsibilities they took over from MKC.
    John Boardman was unsure how MKC could achieve the 60m savings, noting that the Council Tax from the planned additional dwellings would nowhere near cover the shortfall. Peter Geary noted that growth was actually much of the problem: Councils have to provide services, such as schools, to new housing areas before they’re fully built and generating Council Tax revenue. He also noted that MKC’s current cutting and slicing of services could not continue and that what was really needed was a radical change to the way it functions and provides services. He felt that the Government would not stop cutting until Councils bit the bullet and transformed, for example by empowering the people at the bottom of the organisation. Finally, Peter noted that OTC would pretty much have to ‘stomach’ the changes for this year, but plan ahead for which cuts it will accept and which it will fight over the coming three years.
    The increasing importance of developing a two sided good and cooperative relationship between OTC and MKC was noted.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Pinders Circus will be held on the Pyghtle from Thursday 27th to Sunday 30th April.
    As reported previously, Kevin Viney was concerned about the colour of light which would be provided by the new LED lighting units when the lamp posts on the High Street were replaced. A verbal response has now been received but, being quite technical, has been requested in writing. Separately, the lighting units on all lamp posts in Olney and Newport Pagnell are due for replacement in the next financial year.

    Olney Wine Bar and Brasserie

    As reported last month, the MKC Licensing Committee considered an application from John Shayler on behalf of the Olney Wine Bar and Brasserie to align the hours permitted for the sale of alcohol, performance of music and performance of dance. After noting OTC’s objection to the later hours requested, the Committee voted to curtail these hours, and approved the application with the sale of alcohol permitted 10am – 11pm Sunday to Thursday, and 10am – midnight Friday and Saturday. It is also a condition of the licence that drinks must not be consumed in the outside area after 9pm.

    Yardley Road Solar Park

    Tony Evans reported that construction of the Yardley Road Solar Park was now well underway. There are 2-300m of field track leading from the turning on Yardley Road and, while some attempt has been made to keep this track in good condition, it has not been successful, so mud is being pulled onto the road by vehicles exiting the site. He felt this was a safety risk, particularly with the exit being on the crest of a bend which is taken quickly by many drivers. Jeremy Rawlings noted that it was a statutory duty not to bring mud onto the highway from such sites and Peter Geary concurred, saying it was an issue for planning enforcement.

    Next Meeting - 6th February

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

  • February 2017

    Olney Council report for February 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. The results of the residents parking scheme consultation have now been published and as this was an item on the main agenda it will be covered in the main body of the report.

    Co-option of new councillor

    A vacancy had arisen on the council, following the resignation of Ron Bull. There had been no request from the electorate for an election so it fell to the council to fill the post by co-option. There was only on applicant for the post, that being Kevin Viney, who was therefore elected unopposed. In his letter of application Kevin stated that he had lived and worked in the town since 1994 and been the director of two companies that created eight part-time vacancies drawn from Olney and four from neighbouring villages. He had also helped successfully fight the closure of the local day centre at the Kitchener Centre.

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    The parking scheme consultation document was sent to all residents of Oakdown Crescent and those of 70-92 Weston Road (even numbers only). The latter are houses that face the grassed area of The Pyghtle and back on to Oakdown Crescent, with no parking outside their homes so are effectively ‘land-locked’. A total of 33 surveys were sent out of which 31 were correctly completed and returned and the result was 61% against the introduction of a resident parking scheme, although 87% agreed that parking was either a problem or a serious problem. This was below the 70% required for the scheme to go ahead. The main objection to the scheme appeared to be the likely £50 per permit charge recently announced by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for all such schemes in the borough, although there is a possibility that this might be waived for elderly residents. Sue Warren, whose mother lives in Oakdown Crescent, expressed her disappointment at the result and said that the MKC officer who had visited the residents expressed the opinion that the charge would probably not be applied. If that were the case the vote would almost certainly have gone the other way, she felt. She was critical of Olney Town Council (OTC) for not getting sufficiently behind the scheme but accepted that the vote meant it would not now happen. Her sister now has a blue disabled badge, she said, and so would be campaigning to ensure that a disabled space was provided. As a resident of the Weston Road houses, Bryan Rice expressed his frustration at the length of time it had taken to get to the current stage and said that the right questions had not been asked of the right people. He felt that the market value of his house had been adversely affected by the delay and was considering legal advice on compensation. Some of the children of the ‘land-locked’ residents would soon be getting cars of their own, so the situation was only going to get worse, he said.
    John Boardman and Mayor Jeremy Rawlings felt it was unfair to criticise OTC as the members and Town Clerk Liam Costello had done a tremendous amount to find a resolution. A discussion took place about what the next step should be, as the issue remains that the existing layout is unsatisfactory and the surface is breaking up. Joe Stacey was of the opinion that OTC should decide on a way forward and ask MKC to implement it, but Colin Rodden thought that MKC should identify the most cost effective solution, as they have experts who are paid to know such things. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said it was unlikely that MKC would take the initiative on any further action, since they would only progress projects where there was agreement of those impacted and the survey had proved that there wasn’t. The next step would be for OTC to agree on a layout to maximise the available space and to get it resurfaced, he said.

    Community Skate/BMX Park

    An Invitation to Tender document has been produced by the committee that was working to provide this facility, but it had only been sent to the council on the morning of the meeting and many members felt that they hadn’t had time to fully study it. Although absent from the meeting, Desmond Eley had provided written comments. His main points were around the fact that the document appeared to be placing the main responsibility for the tendering, planning, construction and ongoing maintenance of the park with OTC. At a previous meeting OTC had agreed to support the project with funding. Tony Evans reminded members that the final position relied on the successful relocation of the existing zip wire and was concerned that it was still too close to the cricket pitch. He wondered how a tender date could be declared if the full funding was not yet available. It needed to be ‘sitting in someone’s account’ he thought. Peter Geary said it was good that the document had been produced but the location needed to be agreed by all affected parties before the request for planning permission could be submitted. It was agreed that a weekend site meeting should be set up to include representatives of the Cricket Club, Bowling Club, Tennis Club, Football Club including Colts, skaters, and parents of children who use the play equipment.

    Financial matters

    MKC needs to make savings of £56m over the next four years and had proposed reducing the previously agreed grant for Devolved Landscape Service for the next financial year by a third. This grant covers litter picking, grass cutting and play area maintenance. Following submissions made by OTC and other parish councils MKC has agreed to defer the decision for a further year in order to gain agreement as to how the savings can be made.
    The OTC budget for 2017/18 was presented to the meeting, including the Parish Precept, which is the portion of the MKC Council Tax that is allocated to the parish councils in order to provide the services that they are responsible for. The precept for Olney will be increased from £177,081.76 to £185,050.00, an overall increase of 4.5%. The figure usually used to benchmark average Council Tax is for a Band D property, the precept portion which will see a rise from £70.79 to £73.57 – a rise of 3.93%. It was noted that this considerably less than the average rise across the rest of Milton Keynes. The budget was proposed and passed unanimously.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    A Neighbourhood Plan is document that sets out planning policies for the neighbourhood area which is written by the local community, rather than the Local Planning Authority and is a powerful tool to ensure the community gets the right types of development, in the right place. The Planning Authority, in this case MKC, is obliged to use it to decide whether to approve planning applications. Joe Stacey reported that the Olney plan had completed the consultation stage and had been submitted to MKC. The next step would be an independent examination before going to a public referendum. Liam Costello explained that, although it is not formally adopted until approved in the referendum, it is supposed to gain weight as it progresses. However MKC have indicated that the recommendations therein will not be taken into account in the forthcoming planning decision about housing development on existing land earmarked for employment.

    Emberton Park PLUG

    Until a year ago stakeholders with an interest in the park were able to raise issues of concern with MKC at regular Park Liaison User Group (PLUG) meetings. Due to staff reductions brought about by budget cuts MKC are no longer able to resource these meetings, relying instead on their online portal for raising concerns and complaints. At the request of OTC they have offered to hold six monthly meetings with stakeholders to explore strategic suggestions and improvements to the park. Peter Geary was in favour of the offer and suggested that OTC and Emberton Parish Council should work together to agree a joint approach. Colin Rodden thought that the park was starting to deteriorate quite badly and it was important for MKC to have some sort of strategy for its future. He wondered whether it would be possible for OTC and Emberton PC to run it between them, in a similar manner to Harrold Country Park. Steve Clark said that Harrold Country Park was supported by a massive subsidy from Bedford Borough Council.

    Local Events

    The council granted permission for the following events:
    Motorama on the Market Place – Sunday 11th June
    Fun Fair, Recreation Ground – 19th to 26th June
    Riverfest – Sunday 2nd July
    It was noted that BOTO (formally Booze on the Ouse) has been cancelled for this year.

    Dumping of waste on Goosey Island

    Although not a formal agenda item, having occurred after the agenda was published, it was raised under Members Matter by Rosemary Osbourne. Over the previous weekend members of the public had observed and photographed a van driver unloading waste material on to Goosey Island via the narrow wooden bridge and were up in arms about it, she said. Liam Costello said it had been reported to the Environmental Agency as commercial waste being stored without permission. It appears that a ‘Mr Chan’ purchased the island and bridge some years ago when the tannery closed down. He claims to own the land at the other end of the bridge and says that the public have no right of access. He also claims that he has stored a greenhouse on the island which has been vandalised. Steve Clark was of the opinion that it was waste, not storage, and the owner required a licence to transport and deposit it.

    Stacks Image 89381

    Goosey Rubbish

    Odds and Sods

    Age UK are planning to close the Tuesday lunch club held at Clifton Court due to declining numbers. OTC currently pays for the transport of residents that cannot make their own way. The Thursday lunch club at the Olney Centre will continue, so OTC will transfer its funding to the Thursday club.
    An agreement has been reached with all interested parties to relocate this year’s Christmas tree to the north end of the Market Place by the war memorial.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th 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 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent, remaining unhappy about the negative outcome of the residents parking scheme consultation. Frustrated that properties near the Crescent had been included in the survey – the ‘land locked’ even numbers from 70-92 Weston Road – and even claiming Council bias in the way they were chosen, she felt the result would have been positive had they not been included. She also felt that the £50 per household cost, which would in fact have been waived for elderly people although that was unclear at survey time, impacted the result. Noting that on most nights and weekends at least 18 cars were parked in the Crescent, she also stated that emergency services vehicles could not get near the houses. She cited an example of a recent ambulance arrival, where it could not reach the house it needed to visit. She finished by vowing to continue fighting for a solution to this parking problem.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Now that the consultation result had gone against the introduction of a residents parking scheme, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had asked Olney Town Council (OTC) to send it a list of options to help resolve the situation. Deidre noted that the surface of the Crescent was in very poor condition and unsafe to walk on, the holes patched by MKC having quickly reappeared. OTC has drawings of two proposed layouts for parking in the Crescent, one with parking around the edges and one with parking in a central rectangle, and these will be sent as a possible basis for a plan moving forward.

    Skate and BMX park

    Although the park was not discussed as a formal agenda item, it was raised during a review of the minutes of last month’s Council meeting. Colin Rodden disagreed with this section of the minutes, but the resulting discussion didn’t really clarify the current state of the project. Since readers may be interested to learn how preparatory work towards the park is progressing, Mercury asked for and the Council provided a brief update: “The Council initially approved in principle a location for the Skatepark, subject to detailed plans being prepared, where the zip wire is located. It has become clear that siting it there will compromise the operation of other clubs and facilities. Consequently, the Town Clerk has been tasked to review and assess alternative locations. The Council has earmarked £33,000, from future developer contributions, towards the project. The Skate park group need to raise the remaining funds.”

    Yardley Road/Aspreys development

    As reported before, a large new housing development is planned on the land to the West of Yardley Road and Aspreys. A Preplanning Application has now been received for a proposed development of up to 250 houses, plus the associated community facilities and public open space.

    Yardley Road development

    A Planning Application for up to eight houses with detached garages on a parcel of land to the West of Yardley Road, which was refused last July, has now been appealed and a new application submitted. A member of OTC spoke against it at a recent MKC Development Control Committee meeting, but the application was granted by the Committee by one in favour and four abstentions. One cited reason was that there was no realistic chance of the land being passed back into employment use. OTC felt this was surprising, given that local business Scorpion Mouldings had tried to buy the land four times before and still wished to do so now. Using a little cited clause, the Council has asked MKC to look again at the process to see if it had been performed incorrectly, and thus it will have been considered by the time this is published.

    Goosey Island

    As reported in the previous article, a van driver has been unloading rubbish on Goosey Island. Rosemary Osborne again raised concerns about this but it appeared that, having informed the Environment Agency and MKC that waste was being stored on the land without permission, there was little more OTC could do other than wait. Specifically, it is MKC which has the enforcement powers; OTC does not.

    Standing orders item 23

    Item 23 of OTC’s Standing Orders (those being the rules which govern how a Council works), states:
    Unauthorised activities:
    (a) Unless authorised by a resolution, no individual Councillor shall, in the name or on behalf of the Council, a committee or a sub-committee:
    (i) inspect any land and/or premises which the Council has a right or duty to inspect; or
    (ii) issue orders, instructions or directions.
    Colin Rodden reported that he’d received art designs from Olney Middle School to include in the circular walk around Olney. He also mentioned that Milton Keynes Council had offered to do some public artwork for the walk. Joe Stacey replied stating that Colin’s emails on this topic and on a Section 106 matter were in breach of Standing Orders item 23 because he was effectively ‘going solo’, without the knowledge and agreement of the Council. Colin, explaining that he’d not been looking to take any decisions in this way, apologised if he’d done anything wrong.
    The resulting discussion went on for some time, with nearly all Councillors who contributed speaking along similar lines to Joe. Peter Geary put forward a differing view, that Councillors can seek advice (on Section 106 and other matters) and that, in any case, there was effectively no way to enforce Standing Orders. He also felt that the only way for the Council to work effectively was together: Olney Council was nowhere near a split but, having seen the effect of splits in other Councils, he didn’t want to see one happen here. Colin rounded off the discussion, stating that he’d not been “trying to go behind anyone’s back” and that it was the “first time he’d heard about it”, which was “very disappointing”. Finally, Peter noted that the Council must resolve this issue outside this meeting, and that it would “need change from all of us”.

    Next Meeting 3rd April

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd 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 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent, saying that she was upset that it was not an agenda item, having been assured some years ago that it would be a monthly agenda item to keep the momentum going. ‘Where was the feedback from the Highways Dept and Ambulance service?’ she asked, following her statement last month that an ambulance had been obstructed by parked cars. The poor condition of the pathways has still not been resolved, which is becoming more of a problem as the better weather means the residents are getting out and about. If one of them falls there would be a ‘huge compensation claim’, she said. Oakdown crescent is not a quiet or nice area for senior citizens and they are paying exorbitant rents just to live in a car park, she said. She finished off by asking the councillors if they would let their mothers live in a car park?
    Note: later in the meeting when reviewing outstanding actions it was noted that the ambulance service has no record of the alleged incident of obstruction and resurfacing is due to commence this month.

    Public Realm Services

    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings, Milton Keynes (MKC) Ward Councillor Peter Geary, Olney Town Councillor (OTC) Helena Newbould and Town Clerk Liam Costello recently attended a conference of MK Association of Local Councils, to look at how local councils can work with MKC in order to deliver important services at lower cost. To date MKC has cut £111m from its budget, but needs to find another £22m next year and £60m by 2020. In order to do this it is looking to transfer responsibility for a number of services to the local councils. Olney has already taken over responsibility for landscaping and has the necessary equipment and staff, but this is not an option for some smaller parishes. However, OTC could sell its services to smaller neighbouring parishes. MKC currently has two separate contracts with Serco to provide Landscaping (including play areas) and Street Cleansing, which still have some time to run. It is able to negotiate a ‘bulk’ price to cover the whole of the borough, but at the expense of excluding smaller companies that could not service on such a large scale. However, individual councils would now be at liberty to engage with smaller companies directly and might be able to negotiate a more favourable price. Possible future service options are:
    ● Councils take over management of MKC’s contract with Serco in their Parish, pay them directly and top up to the standard they want. MKC provides them with base level funding.
    ● Councils provide their own contractors. MKC provides base level funding to them directly.
    ● MKC provide base level service and councils pay MKC for any top up they want.
    ● MKC provides base level service and councils provide their own contractor for any top up they want.
    Parish councils have until August 2017 to decide how they want to move forward, which Joe Stacey did not think sufficient. Peter Geary said it was important for OTC to decide what it would and wouldn’t be prepared to take on and then produce a strategy, since environmental services such as landscaping and street cleansing were much less complex than ‘people services’ (presumably such as education and welfare).

    Plan MK

    MKC has now entered into a 12 week public consultation, from 17th March to 9th June, on the Draft Plan. When it is adopted it will be the new Local Plan for Milton Keynes, setting out how and where developments will take place up to 2031. Jeremy Rawlings said it wasn’t particularly controversial for Olney yet, and Peter Geary said that Olney would have its own adopted Neighbourhood Plan, so would not be required to accept more houses than it had already signed up to. The proposed expressway from Buckingham to M1 J13 is an important pre-condition to any development on the east side of the M1 though, he said. The draft plan is available at https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/planning-and-building/planning-policy/plan-mk or Milton Keynes and Olney libraries.

    Yardley Road development

    As reported last month, a Planning Application for up to eight dwellings on a parcel of land to the West of Yardley Road was refused last July, was appealed and a new application submitted and subsequently passed. OTC invoked Para 51 of the MKC constitution to review the decision making process and see if it had been performed incorrectly, since the land is currently earmarked for business use in the draft Neighbourhood Plan. An adjacent company wished to purchase the land for employment purposes but had been refused. Once again the MKC planners have ignored the wishes of OTC and the draft plan, despite representations from OTC members present, and apparently voted along party lines to reject the call to review the decision.

    Replacement street lighting

    As reported previously, the lamp posts in the High Street have reached the end of their life and are being replaced by MKC, using a similar design to the existing ones. At the same time the familiar yellow sodium lights will be replaced by high efficiency LED lights. In December, prior to becoming a member of OTC, Kevin Viney spoke at a council meeting about the impacts of the much brighter white LED lights that will be used. He also wrote a letter to MKC outlining his concerns about the visual impact of what he considered the ‘morgue like’ 4000°K white lights and associated health impacts to those who were exposed to the light. At the time he also suggested that warmer 3000°K lights could be used instead. A rather wordy reply was written, but has only just been received from the Street Lighting Manager of Ringway Infrastructure Services, who manage the street lighting for MKC. It stated that the proposed LED lights would provide savings of at least 50% over the existing sodium lights on energy alone, although the warmer 3000°K lights requested by Kevin are 15% less efficient than the 4000°K white lights. Added to that, the current lamps have to be replaced every four years, whereas the LEDs would last in excess of 25 years. The yellow lights were only introduced in the 1950/1960s, the previous lighting being white and prior to that gas lighting existed, which would also have been white. Thus, it was claimed the new white lights would create a more historically accurate look. The letter also denied that there is any known risk to human health, including disturbed circadian rhythms, when LED lights are employed. LED lighting has major benefits to facial recognition and colour rendition leading to safer streets in terms of crime reduction and a better lit environment for both pedestrians and vehicles. The letter said that change is often seen as a negative but LED is the future of all road/footpath and public lighting and is something that the public will not only get used to but also embrace.

    Stacks Image 89470

    Sodium Light v 4K LED Light - Oundle Town Centre (April 2017) © Kevin Viney

    Kevin presented a picture that he had taken in the historic town of Oundle which has been fitted with the Woburn style lamp posts that are due to replace the similar ones in Olney and where one sodium light had been left. This enabled comparison of the intensity and colour with the modern LED lamp replacements. On the left of the picture is the warm yellow light (see illumination on pavement) and to the right is the somewhat harsh intense light from the 4K LED fitting, along with the similar colour of the fluorescent white of the shop front illuminating the ground. On a wet surface the white light would give a lot of glare, he said. Replacement in Olney is due to commence at the beginning of April, but Kevin suggested that OTC request MKC to delay for a period of six weeks until Holophane, the supplier, can obtain the warmer 3000°K lights. These are the norm in the USA, he said. John Boardman wondered if MKC had had any feedback from other parishes where LED lighting had been deployed and thought that High Street residents would be the first to complain when it happened in Olney. Joe Stacey asked if OTC actually have any authority to delay the deployment and Jeremy Rawlings questioned whether as a council they wanted to. Sally Pezaro was of the opinion that the yellow lights are part of the Olney atmosphere, particularly with the Christmas lights. The council agreed to request the delay.
    Update:A response has been received from MKC refusing to agree to the delay and stating that the replacement of lighting in the High Street will commence on 18th April and then continue to the rest of the town. The reply stated that “the design of the lights has already been reduced from the 5000k that have been used on the grid road network that has formed part of our overall replacement programme. It has been proven that the temperature of the proposed units replicates moonlight, which is the best type of light source for the human eye to view at night.” A number of the lights already exist in the town for residents to compare for themselves. They are the top of Spring Lane, the footpath on Aspreys between Sillswood and Hollow Wood, and The Knoll close to the (A)Maya restaurant. Any comment should be addressed to MKC Street lighting on 01908 252353 (Mon-Fri).

    Fun Fair

    John Scarrott and Sons will be bringing the funfair to Olney between 19th and 26th June. As Chairman of the Recs and Services Committee, Tony Evans has requested that it is not located on the Nursery Field (football pitch) due to damage that has been caused previously and is now repaired (note: last year Scarrotts voluntarily cancelled at the last minute, for fear of causing damage as the ground was so wet). Joe Stacey questioned whether the damage had actually impacted the football club and suggested that if damage is caused then Scarrotts should be asked to pay for it. Jeremy Rawlings said that there really was nowhere else it could be held and suggested that it go ahead this year with a review in July, which was agreed.

    Town Meeting

    The Annual Town Meeting will take place on Thursday 18th May at 7.00 pm in the Olney Centre, with cheese and wine after. This is your chance to come and meet your councillors and police representatives and question them on any matters concerning the town and its future. Perhaps you have an opinion on LED street lighting? Are you in favour of the growth of the Town? Are you happy with the level of policing? Alternatively, you could just have a moan on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page….

    Next Meeting - 8th May
    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 8th 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 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren spoke on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She’d been in contact with Milton Keynes Council (MKC), who’d stated that the footpaths in the Crescent would not be repaired, even though Olney Town Council (OTC) had claimed this would happen in May. She also noted that MKC would have been happy to survey just Crescent householders for the residents parking scheme, it being OTC who insisted that those nearby also be surveyed. She asked why OTC had not insisted on the same treatment for Orchard Rise which, in pretty short order from the idea being put forward, will very likely have a parking scheme. She also noted that MKC told her no money had ever been ring fenced for improvements to the Crescent, which she felt contradicted an assurance given to her by OTC. Sue concluded by asking Councillors if they’d let their mothers live in a car park.

    David Chennells
    David Chennells spoke about the poor state of the Long Lane bridleway section heading West from the crest of the hill. That and the section to its East have suffered damage due to vehicle movements associated with g2 Energy connecting the Yardley Road solar farm to the grid. However, while the Eastern section has been very well reinstated, the Western section has not. Instead, while a broken land drain has been repaired and a French drain installed, the surface appears simply to have been flattened using a road roller. David felt this inadequate because the grass which used to grow there, providing a surface mat and stabilising the ground with its roots, had been chewed off by the vehicles and was no longer present. He was particularly concerned about this from a horse riding perspective, as horses’ gaits puts them in danger of injury from boggy ground. He concluded by saying that as soon as we saw some sustained wet weather, this section of the bridleway would turn into a quagmire

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    As reported before, there are two proposals for providing marked parking spaces in the Crescent, one sighting them at the edges of the central area and one in its middle. Councillors continue to prefer the latter. The Council had received an email from MKC stating that it was happy to look at either option but that OTC must apply for it through the Community Parking Fund, which would see MKC and OTC each pay half the cost. OTC must apply for this before 23rd June, at which point MKC will consider the application. The email also stated that the footpaths in the Crescent would not be repaired, as the surface was not sufficiently poor to meet the intervention level criteria and there was little or no budget for housing footpaths.
    Responding to points raised by Sue and by MKC’s email, Peter Geary explained that money had been earmarked for the Crescent rather than ring fenced, and suggested OTC challenge why the paths had not been resurfaced since he’d been told they would be. Responding to Sue’s question about whether Councillors would let their mothers live in a car park, he stated that this was just what would be happening if either of the proposals was enacted.

    Mayor and Deputy Mayor

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

    Long Lane bridleway

    Councillors suggested that a working party, including a representative from MKC, have a site meeting with David Coles so he could show them the extent of the problem.

    Orchard Rise parking

    The survey to see if Orchard Rise should have a residents parking scheme has found that 87% of the households were in favour so, this being well above the 70% threshold, a statutory consultation will take place shortly and the scheme is expected to be introduced within six months.

    Waste on Goosey Island

    As reported before, there is a growing problem with the landowner depositing waste on Goosey Island. He has been served with two notices in an attempt to remedy the situation: The first was to remove the waste within 14 days, a time which has now expired. The second was to remove the structures, for example containers, within 28 days. At the time of writing, it’s part way through this period yet more structures continue to appear.
    It was noted that Goosey Bridge has two owners, the Council and the landowner each owning up to half way across. With it being an old bridge and there being vehicle movements associated with this issue, the Council will ask a Structural Engineer to assess its safe weight limit, with the aim of then placing a sign to display it.

    Air quality

    Kevin Viney met with MKC’s Air Quality Officer. A few years ago, the roadside pollution monitoring cabinet near the Church Hall was installed in response to the NO2 levels being above the permitted maximum. It is now becoming unreliable and reaching the end of its life. During that time, pollution levels have dropped to below the permitted limit but remain significant, with the Officer noting various issues which may cause further concern: traffic increase due to the economy and the proposed additional houses in Olney, windless days leading to a pollution hot spot in that location, and the possibility that the Government may tighten regulations to include smaller particles which the current equipment cannot measure.
    All that said, there was cost pressure to remove the unit along with a similar one in Newport Pagnell, with the only one remaining in the area being at MKC’s office. The criteria for that choice were interesting, the latter unit being chosen to remain more to continue a long running data collection than in response to high pollution levels at its location. The Officer suggested that OTC consider replacing the unit with a more modern type funded from Section 106, for example money from the developers of the forthcoming new houses near Yardley Road and Aspreys. Modern monitoring units can, in addition to the measurements captured by the exiting unit, also measure the smaller particles from diesel engines, and can make their readings available near real time. So, for example, a run could be planned to avoid the area if current pollution levels were unduly high. Councillors will consider this although, with money being tight, it was not obvious that the unit will be replaced.

    Alleyway between High Street and East Street

    This item concerns the alleyway which runs from the High Street to East Street, emerging near the football pitch. In spite of the existing pedestrian chicane, concerns have been raised for the safety of those exiting the alleyway into East Street. Cars often mount the pavement there and, with it being a narrow stretch of road, often parked on and close to a corner, visibility is poor. OTC will see if MKC can place bollards on the pavement either side of the alleyway exit.


    Late last year, MKC’s Licensing Subcommittee voted to restrict the opening hours of Olney Wine Bar to below those which the business applied for, OTC having objected to the times in the application. The Wine Bar appealed this decision, so MKC sought legal advice as to whether to fight this. Given the facts of this particular case, the advice was that it could not be defended so MKC felt compelled to agree to the licence as applied for.
    More Than Just Coffee (Taylors old premises) has applied for a licence to supply alcohol on the premises from 12.00 - 23.00 Monday to Sunday, with late night opening, from 23.00 - 01.00, on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. Councillors did not raise any objections.

    High Street lamppost replacement

    As you’ll no doubt be aware, MKC’s contractors are working to replace the lampposts on the High Street, at the same time upgrading their lighting units to LEDs which emit a whiter light than the existing lamps. Kevin Viney explained that the new posts were not as ornate, and noted that the swan fittings had not so far been transferred to them. The Council will ask MKC about this, having been told they would be retained. Kevin also noted that residents can complain if the new posts light areas which, previously unlit, are now troublesome. Although there’s a £130 charge for rectifying this, it can be waived under certain circumstances.

    Next Meeting - 5th June

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 5th 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 2017

    Public Participation

    Residents are permitted to speak on any subject they wish at the start of Olney Town Council (OTC) meetings. They are allocated three minutes and the councillors are not obliged to respond unless the matter is a formal agenda item. The matter can, however, be made an agenda item for a future meeting. The three minute rule was strictly enforced by Mayor Jeremy Rawlings at this month’s meeting.

    Bryan Rice
    First to speak was Bryan Rice on the subject of parking In Oakdown Crescent. Bryan lives in one of the ‘landlocked’ houses backing onto Oakdown Crescent and would not have been able to park near his house had the now abandoned residents’ parking scheme gone ahead. He said that he had being doing some historical research into the issue and had found a three-year business plan for Olney produced in 1963 which had included building the houses (presumably Oakdown Crescent). At this time there was a roadway to the rear of the now landlocked houses in Weston Road. The houses in Oakdown Crescent were built in 1968 and the car park built in the middle. When that car park was built it was intended to be for residents of Weston Road and Oakdown Crescent but the residents of Weston Road were subsequently informed that their tenancies would be terminated if they parked in the crescent. Finally, Bryan said that he had some ideas for the proposed layout of the new parking space that he would be happy to share with the council.

    Sue Warren
    Next to speak was Sue Warren on the same subject. She wanted to know why it was not a formal item on the agenda as it was resolved at the last meeting that three items should be pursued. Sarah Gonsalves, Head of Policy and Performance at Milton Keynes Council (MKC), was present at the meeting so Sue addressed much of her statement to her. She presented some photos taken the previous day, saying that the situation was ‘horrendous’.
    She repeated that her sister, also present, was registered disabled and there was no disabled bay, even though MKC are obliged to provide one. She said OTC had ‘interfered’ with the residents’ survey by insisting that residents of Weston Road were included, which had resulted in an overall vote against a residents’ parking scheme. Why had the residents of West Street not been included in the similar survey for a scheme in Orchard Rise, she asked? She repeated her statement that the paths were a disgrace and MKC had better be prepared for a huge claim if any of the residents had a fall as a result.

    Bryan Rice
    Bryan Rice attempted to respond but Jeremy Rawlings refused to let him speak, saying he’d had his allotted three minutes and bringing down the gavel several times to call the meeting to order.
    MKC Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that Bryan’s reference to historical events was irrelevant as there had been several changes in the local authority since 1963. Also the tenancy act had been introduced, which meant that tenancies could not be cancelled in such circumstances. Jeremy Rawlings said the reason that it was not an agenda item was because there was nothing new to report.


    A discussion took place regarding the proposal for 250 homes on Land West of Yardley Road and West of Aspreys. Peter Geary noted that the current plans show a single access from Yardley Road although OTC had expressed a preference that there should be a second access from Aspreys. He said that he would formally raise an objection to the plans as Ward Councillor, in order that the second access was included. Asked by Heléna Newbold to clarify comments made in the Councillor Corner column of The Phonebox, Peter said that the published plans are nothing more than a picture of what the site could look like and the minute details of what would eventually be provided cannot be controlled in planning. At a later stage in the meeting the member discussed the Section 106 contribution, which the developers have to pay to MKC as a ‘planning gain’ and will be in the region of £5m for the development. All agreed that it was essential that as much as possible of that amount is used to benefit Olney and not the greater Milton Keynes. Of particular interest was the £112.5k allocated to landscaping, all of which should come to OTC as it manages its own landscaping.

    Public Realm Services

    Kay Pettit and Sarah Gonsalves were present to speak about MKC’s plans to deliver Public Realm services under the current financial restraints. Sarah said this was one of a series of meetings with the parish councils to get an understanding of the issues they face, not just in public realm services. She explained that it had been necessary to reduce costs but not much more cutting could be done without services suffering. Landscaping and waste service had attracted most attention, she said, noting that OTC along with some other councils had devolved responsibility for landscaping, although MKC had little understanding of how this was working and agreed that the relationship between MKC and the parishes was not as good as it could be. MKC intend to produce a framework of methods to progress the various options, she said. There could be no more devolving of Landscaping, though, because MKC was tied into a contract with Serco till 2020.
    Kay Pettit, Programme Manager, spoke next, explaining that MKC was looking at best practice around the country and Bedford was one council that stood out. She had visited many parish and observed many different approaches, she said. Asked by Desmond Eley if the current Serco contract would be extended beyond 2020 she replied that it was under consideration. Deirdre Bethune expressed concern that MKC might again attempt to renege on the funding for devolved service. Jeremy Rawlings pointed out that although OTC manages its own landscaping, residents are still paying MKC for the landscaping of other parishes via the Council Tax. Peter Geary said that OTC had been ‘bluntly’ told at a meeting with MKC that the funding would be reduced, even though this could not actually be done due to the ongoing contract with Serco. A senior manager at MKC had assured OTC in February that the pathways of Oakdown Crescent would be repaired and then promptly left office leaving no record of the agreement, he said. This approach had caused much damage which would take years to repair and communication between the councils needed to be a two way street. Sarah responded that she was happy to look at decisions made by colleagues and recognised that it would take time for trust to build up. ‘Judge us by our actions’ she asked. Kevin Viney asked if anyone had calculated the real cost of cancelling the Serco contract. Peter Geary responded that it would be £2.5m for each remaining year and none of the contracted work would be done so it was not a viable option. Colin Rodden was of the opinion that litter was not being cleared up often enough. Sarah said that it was possible to reduce pick-ups in some areas to concentrate on areas where the problem was worse. Peter Geary noted that in Weston Underwood MKC were clearing litter more often outside of the village, since the villagers had volunteered to be responsible for litter pick up between the village signs. More use could be made of volunteer litter collection groups, such as the session recently organised by staff of local company MPA Group, he suggested.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    After three years of hard work by the steering group the Neighbourhood Plan for Olney is now ready to be presented to residents for adoption, but first the majority of the electorate have to vote in a referendum. For information, The Localism Act introduced a right for communities to draw up Neighbourhood Plans that can become part of the formal planning framework for the area. Once adopted, these Neighbourhood Plans form part of the statutory Development Plan for the area and give the local community more say and control over development in the area. The plan for Olney, if adopted, will guide development till 2031. Steve Clark said there had been lots of discussion and consultation during the evolution of the plan, but from comments on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page, it appeared that some people thought that it could be ‘tweaked’ to make it correct. All the tweaking had been done during the development of the plan, he said, and the referendum was a simple yes/no vote on whether to adopt it. Although individual members of the council could encourage people to vote ‘Yes’, as a council they could not. Desmond Eley asked what would be the implication if only 5% of the electorate bothered to vote. Peter Geary replied that it would be carried by a simple majority under normal election rules. The council will advertise through leaflets, The Phonebox and social media, encouraging resident to use their vote.

    Waste on Goosey Island

    As previously reported, there is a growing problem with the deposit of waste and illegal erections by the landowner on Goosey Island. He has been served with two notices, both of which have expired, with no remedial action being taken. Town Clerk Liam Costello reported on the current situation but in a statement reminiscent of the computer Deep Thought from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy said “You’re not going to like this….” However, rather than the answer to the Great Question being ‘42’ it is, in fact, ‘H&S’. It appears that the landowner has stated that it was necessary to erect the barriers on Health and Safety grounds. The Planning department appear to have accepted this and say they will review the situation in six months or so (it took Deep Thought Seven and a half million years!) The Environmental department have taken no action, saying they were leaving it to the Planning department. This obviously caused much outrage and Peter Geary said that the MKC Planning Enforcement Officer is not an H&S expert and it was essential to get the senior planning enforcement and environmental people round a table as soon as possible. Kevin Viney said it was hugely disappointing and implied that residents could not make cosmetic changes to their garages, for example, but could get away with such violations of regulations. He doubted that the environmental officer from MKC had even visited the site.

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    7th June - Two operatives were seen at the Goosey site, but were simply adding fencing to the structure, despite apparently having been served notices to remove the rubbish.

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    Pictured at the beginning of the year showing two otters on the bank of Goosey Island. Disturbing their place of rest is highly illegal and has been reported to Milton Keynes Council who have said they would look into the matter.

    Odds and Sods

    The Town Council’s annual financial statement has been prepared and may be inspected by members of the public between 11th June and 21st July.
    In May 2018 the Data Protection Act will be replaced by an EU directive known as the General Data Protection Regulation. The Government has confirmed that Brexit will not affect the UK implementation so councils are being advised to prepare now.
    Kevin Viney said that the replacement of the lights in the High Street is progressing and is due to be complete w/e 9th June. There has been a delay with some as they are adjacent to gas pipes. It is expected that those in the High Street in Newport Pagnell will be changed before the team return to Olney to start on the rest of the town.
    Tony Evans said that the recent Farmers’ Market had been the ‘best ever’ in terms of attendance by traders and the public and thanked Martin Ward for covering in his absence.
    Heléna Newbold thanked the volunteers from Olney Events for putting up the floral baskets in the High Street.

    Next Meeting - 3rd July

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd 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 2017

    Public Participation

    Peter Gage
    Peter Gage spoke on the subject of the upcoming Orchard Rise residents parking scheme. As someone who parks in the area and is employed nearby in The Works, he felt there was not a real problem – residents could park and they have driveways. He asked about the criteria by which these schemes are judged concerned that, if this application was approved, the floodgates could open and other roads with no real problem could end up controlled by such schemes. He concluded by noting that Riverfest was a great day and thanking those involved in running it – The Olney Group (TOG) and a band of volunteer helpers.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren was next up, speaking about parking in Oakdown Crescent. In summary, she asked whether the Council had applied to the Community Parking Fund for money towards the implementation of Option B, parking in a single block in the middle of the main square. This was confirmed. She also questioned why the potholes on the Crescent had still not been repaired, in spite of assurances that they would be.

    With there being no related agenda item, this topic was not discussed further.

    Neil Biggs & Phil Kermeen
    This meeting was held three days before the Neighbourhood Plan referendum so, particularly in view of the wide ranging discussion on Facebook, it was unsurprising that people wished to talk on it here. Neil Biggs and then Phil Kermeen both spoke about the issue. Neil, who works in traffic management with Thames Valley Police, understood that the developer for the Yardley Road estate would be re-applying for outline planning permission, this time with access from Aspreys, and he had some related concerns. Now, until a few days before this meeting, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) were due to attend for a discussion on this planning application, but they’d then pulled out, citing concerns about closeness to the referendum. Neil understood this, but noted it was not ideal because people wanted answers to planning questions before voting in the referendum. He also asked whether, in the light of MKC’s recent statement, that Olney is no longer required to build these homes, there was any longer a need for the development to proceed. Phil then spoke briefly, reiterating Neil’s last question then asking whether, in the event of a ‘no’ vote, piecemeal developments would occur around the town.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    Jeremy Rawlings spoke briefly to explain that, when MKC had pulled out of attending the meeting to discuss the Plan, the item had been removed from the agenda. That left no remaining item under which the Plan could be discussed, so it could not be talked about further. This left a rather odd situation where various members of the Public, who had attended to put their points of view and learn more about the Plan before voting, couldn’t interact with either their local Councillors who’d been involved in writing the Plan or with Peter Geary, the Ward Councillor present. So they left, perhaps with the impression that the Council simply didn’t want to discuss it with them.

    Council vacancy

    Olney Town Council (OTC) has a vacancy to fill, with Martine Stoffels having left the Council. Sally Pezaro returned to this later in the meeting, stressing the need to advertise the vacancy widely and offering to publicise it on social media.

    West Street residents parking

    This item covered the Orchard Rise residents parking scheme, concerns about which had been raised earlier by Peter Gage. Colin Rodden shared Peter’s concern that this scheme might lead to a cascade of applications elsewhere in Olney, although Peter Geary noted that OTC could only comment on applications, it being MKC which made the decisions. He also noted that concerns, including the narrow width of Orchard Rise and the need for large vehicles to mount the kerbs on occasion, had been raised when OTC was originally informed of the application.

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    West Street in Olney

    Nursery field and fair

    The fair had recently visited town, based as usual on the Nursery Field, the football pitch adjacent to East Street. The associated large vehicle movements had resulted in some damage to the field, and Tony Evans was asked to comment on this. He felt that the ground would recover in time for the football season, although did question how popular the fair had been. Helena Newbold noted that, the two times she visited, it had been packed with happy looking families. John Boardman explained that the Council collected around £900 from the fair, so there was some benefit there. Tony then noted that OTC had spent money reseeding and spiking the field, and it seemed odd to do so only to have the fair damage it each year. The item concluded with the Recreations and Services Committee being asked to discuss it and recommend the best way forward.

    Summer football camps

    The Council had received an email from Pete Lindsay, who runs the children’s summer football camps. These were started by Olney Town Colts FC but are now run as a private operation, although one which contributes to the Colts to cover costs of equipment and changing rooms. Liam, having provided that background, asked whether, now it was a private operation, OTC should start to charge for its use of the field. Tony Evans was concerned that the email stated when the camps would be held rather than asking permission for them to be held. Councillors decided to let the camps proceed this year free of charge, review, then consider charging next year.

    Licence applications

    OTC had received licence applications for the Bull Hotel and the Cherry Tree, both in the High Street, and Gabriella’s in the Market Place. All were supported, mostly because Councillors welcomed the new establishments and partly because they felt MKC didn’t really listen to OTC’s views on licensing anyway.

    Skate Park

    This item was to discuss the assessment of possible sites for the Skate Park. Tony Evans reported that the process had started a few weeks ago, but that work relating to the Neighbourhood Plan had delayed it. So, the item was postponed until the next meeting.

    Waste on Goosey Island

    As reported previously, there is a growing problem with illegal structures and the deposit of waste by the landowner on Goosey Island. Action on this is painfully slow, but the Head of Environment at MKC has agreed to look at the issue in detail. Peter Geary, noting that solving the problem would require action from both MKC and the Environment Agency, felt OTC needed to get the two bodies working together in order to address it.

    Deputy Town Clerk

    Jeremy Rawlings welcomed Jane Brushwood, the new Deputy Town Clerk.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    OTC will remind the Recreation Ground gate key holders that it’s meant to be kept locked, with vehicles limited to 5MPH on site.
    The yellow lines near the junction of Chantry Rise with Weston Road are faded and broken, leading to people parking on them. MKC will be asked to investigate.
    The open space off Stonemason’s Close is seeing some damage because, when it’s busy, cars are parking with two wheels on the grass. OTC’s groundsmen will investigate and recommend a solution.
    As reported before, The Youth Centre has now been withdrawn from the Community Asset Transfer scheme. Steve Clark noted that the Centre has a small pot of money to work from and that, with its only income being from local users, he didn’t know what would happen to the Centre when the pot was empty. Desmond Eley noted that the building required more than £100K of remedial work. Finally, Peter Geary explained that, if MKC wished to sell the Centre, they’d need to offer it to the local community to buy for six months before selling it elsewhere. He also asked whether MKC would wish to sell it for use as a Doctors' Surgery (as outlined in the Neighbourhood Plan).

    Next Meeting - 4th September
    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 4th 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 2017

    There is not normally a Council Meeting in August

    True to form, there was no Council Meeting in August.

  • September 2017

    Public Participation

    Such was the popularity of this month’s meeting that Mercury had difficulty finding a seat. There were a record number of seven members of the public wishing to speak.

    Christine Platt
    First up was Christine Platt, who thanked the members of Olney Town Council (OTC) and Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Ward Councillors for their assistance in getting the pavements in Oakdown Crescent resurfaced. Despite their unsightly state, MKC’s Highways Officers had decided that they did not reach ‘intervention levels’ for repair. The MKC ward councillors have persuaded them otherwise and repairs should be carried out over the next few weeks.

    Mike Totton
    Next to speak was Mike Totton from the Allotments Association. Mike outlined the work of the society over the last 15 years and explained the dramatic development which occurred three years ago when the Community Allotment was set up. This had enabled mature, disabled and young people to get involved. An eco-toilet has now been installed, which was due to be officially opened by MP Mark Lancaster on 16th September. It was agreed that Mayor Jeremy Rawlings would also attend.

    Joanne Eley
    Joanne Eley asked what facts did OTC think that the MKC Ward Councillors had got wrong in their statement prior to the recent Neighbourhood Plan referendum. The question was noted.

    Lynda Batty
    Lynda Batty, on behalf of FOLIO (Friends of the Library) asked that the noticeboard at the back of The Olney Centre be moved, as it is hidden by rubbish bins on collection day. If it can be moved nearer to the post box it is more likely to be seen, she said.
    Sue Lamming said she had lived in the town for 35 years and thought the hanging baskets and flower beds were currently looking splendid. However, she also said that the bus shelter is full of cobwebs and is a disgrace, as is the town bridge and the estate where she lives is full of weeds and the pavements are in a bad state of repair. Peter Geary said that MKC are responsible for killing weeds and they only do this once a year.

    Andy Davis
    Andy Davis spoke about the Section 106 funding (‘Planning Gain’), which is due to be received as a result of the Yardley Road development agreed in the Neighbourhood Plan. He urged the council to find ways to fully engage with the public and pledged his own support in any way he could provide it.

    Anne Walker
    Anne Walker, MKC’s Service Manager for Older People spoke about the Kitchener Centre. She said a few years ago the centre was under threat of closure but is now running well. She said that she would like to find ways of using it during weekend and evenings in order to bring in more revenue. This was an agenda item later in the meeting where it was agreed that an article would be produced for The Phonebox. Like the majority of residents Mercury has never been inside the centre. Could an open day be used to increase awareness, he wondered?

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    Olney Allotments Toilet

    Community Circular Walk

    Colin Rodden gave an update on the project, assisted by Mike Totton from the Allotment Association as well as Tom Jones and Amanda Molcher from The Cowper and Newton Museum. The vision is to have a series of walks looking at all that Olney has to offer. The walks will provide a whole day’s experience, encouraging visitors to see the cultural attractions and visit the shops and restaurants.

    Neighbourhood Plan S106 agreements

    This is a sum of money that developers are required to pay to the planning authority (MKC) and is spread across such things as schooling, health, recreation, amenities and public art. Joe Stacey reported that now the Plan has been formally adopted the Steering Group will now be replaced by a Development Committee, the first meeting of which will take place on 25th September. It is likely that this committee will consist of six councillors and six lay members and will consider, amongst other things, how to allocate the Section 106 funding. Peter Geary felt it was important that the needs of the town resulting from the new development be considered. The money can be spent over a period of ten years and Peter said it was important that some should be kept in reserves so that OTC reserves are not used in launching projects. Helena Newbold suggested that the breakdown of how funds are allocated to the individual categories is made available to residents via the OTC website. Joe Stacey felt it important not to under-estimate the amount of work involved and suggested that it might be necessary to engage a consultant.

    Skate park site assessment

    A number of sites have been considered, all with pros and cons, which have been identified in a document produced by Town Clerk Liam Costello. They are the recreation ground, the allotment field, Johnsons Field, The Pyghtle and Emberton Park. The site preferred by OTC is the allotment field, mainly due to its accessibility and distance from any housing. Colin Rodden was concerned about the remoteness of the site and Mike Totton, from the public gallery, expressed his concern at the impact on the small parking area available to allotment holders and that it might lead to a return of the vandalism experienced some years ago. Tony Evans said it was unfortunate that OTC had given the skateboard committee the impression that the current site of the zip wire on the recreation ground was the best location but further investigation had shown that it was not suitable. He thought that Emberton Park would be the best site, where a much larger facility could be built. Steve Clark reminded members that the park is actually owned by MKC and if there were any serious thoughts of locating the skate park there it was important to consult with Emberton Parish Council. Desmond Eley said that whatever site was chosen it was important that there is a water supply nearby, since OTC would be responsible for the upkeep and it would be necessary to regularly wash it down for safety reasons. Peter Geary was concerned that the allotment field is liable to flood and since much of the facility would be below ground it could fill with water. He suggested that OTC take pre-planning advice from MKC as there are planning regulations which might preclude some of the suggested sites. It was agreed to do this and discuss at the next meeting.

    Goosey erections

    Kevin Viney and Rosemary Osbourne have been in communication with Carole Mills, Chief Executive of MKC, about the unsightly scaffold, gates and rubbish on Goosey Island. The reply stated that because the gates are two metres in height they are classed as permitted development, even though the supporting scaffold is much higher, and therefore there is no action that MKC can take. The rubbish has now been put in builders’ bags, but the risk remains that flooding could result in it entering the river flow. This is the responsibility of the Environment Agency, who have no apparent concerns. The land owner also owns part of the larger southern island and Rosemary said that there was a possibility he may want to erect ‘no access’ signs. Peter Geary repeated his previous opinion that the only solution is to request that MP Mark Lancaster arranges a face to face meeting between MKC and the Environment Agency, since MKC seem to have ruled themselves out of any enforcement action.
    Additionally, OTC has been approached by solicitors for the land owner requesting that they sell their part of the Goosey. This was obviously rejected out of hand. It appears that he has divided his land into 21 plots that have been offered for sale as an investment for future building. Some of these plots have been sold and the aggregate value of the plots is believed to be in the region of £600k. Kevin expressed his opinion that this was a ‘shabby, speculative operation which was probably not even legal’. Desmond Eley asked if it would be possible for OTC to compulsory purchase the land. Peter Geary said yes, but it would need to be purchased for a particular reason, would be a five-year process and would involve paying the owner the market value. Kevin suggested that OTC should start the process of obtaining a public right of way along the entire bank of the southern island, which was agreed. The Clerk will write to the land owner’s solicitors formally rejecting their clients request to purchase the land and with a counter-offer of interest in purchasing his land.

    Parking outside One-Stop

    The MKC Ward Councillors have received a request from a resident requesting that a loading bay is provided outside One-Stop, to overcome the problem of traffic building up during deliveries. This way it could be managed in the same way as deliveries to the Carlton House Club. They passed it to the MKC Highways Dept who have considered the options and consulted OTC via an email. The email noted that any loading bay will require a Traffic Regulation Order, which would cost £2,056 and require consultation with all affected parties, including nearby residents who would lose parking outside of their properties and would probably object. Funding would be required for the implementation of the scheme. Peter Geary reminded members that this had been discussed by the council on previous occasions and if it was done for One-Stop, it would need to be done for all other businesses. There was a risk that Olney would end up with a High Street full of loading bays and no parking, he said. Colin Rodden suggested that One-Stop could be asked to make deliveries earlier in the day but Peter pointed out that there are deliveries from different suppliers during the day. Deirdre Bethune suggested that a loading bay could be situated outside of the Olney Centre, rather than outside residential properties. It was noted that the Carlton House Club does not have a formal loading bay, rather the manager cones off parking spaces the night before deliveries are due and removes them when complete, thus causing minimal disruption. It was agreed to seek the views of residents regarding provision of dedicated loading bays outside of the Carlton House Club and The Olney Centre.

    Joe Stacey

    Joe Stacey announced that he would be standing down from the council with immediate effect. He had notified the clerk of his intention to stand down in July but had stayed on to complete some outstanding work on the Neighbourhood Plan. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings formally thanked Joe for all his hard work on the plan and said he would be very sorry to see him go. As a result, a vacancy additional to that which will be filled by the forthcoming election now exists. If ten members of the electorate request that it be filled by an election, then it will be necessary to hold a further election, otherwise it will be filled by co-option.

    Market Place parking weight limit

    There has been considerable discussion on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook page about the stated weight limit of 1.5 Tonnes, which would preclude a number of family cars and all market traders’ vehicles. The previous notice stated 50 cwt but it appears that Napier Parking set it at 1.5 Tonnes when they were engaged to enforce the time limit restrictions. The original limit was set to prevent parking by lorries so Napier will be requested to amend the notices to 3.5 Tonnes.

    Odds and sods

    Peter Geary asked if any comments had been received about the new street lights in the High Street. Liam Costello said there had been complaints that they were originally too dim, but had now been increased in brightness by 30% and no further complaints had been received. Kevin Viney said there are still locations where the lights are obscured by trees, since the horizontal sections are shorter on the new post. The contractors had now agreed that power points for the Christmas lights could be fitted, he said.
    Tony Evans reported that the grass cutting on Yardley Road by MKC stops half a mile short of the county boundary.
    The Pre-School have a requested a grant of £3,000 to assist with the £18,000 cost of resurfacing the play area and replacing equipment. The majority of the funding has been obtained from other community funds so OTC agreed to the request.
    Desmond Eley reported that a hearing-impaired resident had had a ‘near miss’ whilst crossing the road near the Hallelujah Lamp-post. This was due to the state of the pavement, but also due the speed of the traffic which is a particular problem late at night.
    Sally Pezaro reported that the location code of the defibrillator at the recreation ground has been scratched off. Liam Costello replied that anyone dialling the emergency services would be provided with the access code.

    Next Meeting - 2nd October

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd 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 2017

    Public Participation

    Julia Clarke
    Julia Clarke was first to speak, explaining how hugely disappointing she found it that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had pulled out of the recent public planning meeting in which the 250 home development was due to be discussed. She asked for assurance that the planning process would not proceed further until the meeting had been rescheduled and held. Peter Geary noted that MKC’s absence was due to the Planning Officer concerned being taken ill, then a communications breakdown meaning that an alternative Officer did not attend. He was then pretty forcefully interrupted by Tony Evans, saying that Officers should have attended. Liam Costello noted that Olney Town Council (OTC) was trying to rearrange the meeting within the next few weeks and would publicise the date when it was finalised.

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren, speaking on her usual subject of Oakdown Crescent, thanked the Ward Councillors for getting some of the pathways resurfaced. Explaining that her fight would continue, she noted that people were already driving over them, which would likely mean they’d not last long. She concluded by asking if there was any news on the application from the Community Parking Fund. Liam replied in the negative, Peter Geary noting that it’d be at least a month until there was some.

    Ralph Terry
    Ralph Terry spoke about a proposed development of four, four-bedroomed houses off Moores Hill with access through the gap between nos. 61 and 63. A meeting of nearby residents had been held, with all attending being against the development. He cited the narrow entrance to the new development (disputing the builder’s figures), the narrowness of the main section of Moores Hill and the associated danger to pedestrians caused by pavement parking, as reasons OTC should object to the development, and urged it to do so. He felt the development would change the character of the road, and be a ‘cul-de-sac off a cul-de-sac’. He also noted that various people living close to the proposed development, within the zone in which MKC should have informed residents, had heard nothing about it.

    Maria Tennant
    Maria Tennant spoke on the subject of traffic concerns near Olney Middle School. Noting that Aspreys is a fast road, she felt that a zebra crossing was required across Aspreys, around 20m West of Woodpits Lane. She also felt that a part-time speed restriction outside the School would be beneficial, slowing traffic while pupils were entering and leaving the site. As it stood, she did not think it safe to let her child walk to or from the school unaccompanied.

    Philip Geech
    Philip Geech spoke next, noting that Olney had character and charm, primarily due to it having the right balance of architecture, people, community spirit and shops. He felt these helped make it a ‘destination’ town, but was concerned about that changing with a gradual influx of chain stores tending to make the town ubiquitous. He questioned whether they were appropriate and asked what OTC could do in this regard. As an example, he noted the change in the McColls store frontage for the addition of Subway, also asking what planning use class had been applied for.

    Neil Biggs
    Neil Biggs, a Traffic Management Officer from Thames Valley Police, asked whether the zebra crossing, discussed earlier by Maria Tenant, was related to the nearby 250 home development. He said that the related traffic survey had noted that crossing assistance would be needed, but he hadn’t seen what was being done to address it.

    Alan Smedley
    Alan Smedley spoke briefly to reinforce Ralph Terry’s view on the proposed Moores Hill development, and to ask why there was often such a long wait between pedestrians pressing the button on the lights at the Wellingborough Road crossing and the lights changing to let them cross. Finally, Colin Cook spoke, also in support of Ralph Terry’s views, noting that fire engines would be too wide to enter the proposed new development.

    Subway at McColls

    This item was to discuss the planning issues associated with the new Subway branch opening inside McColls on the Market Place. Regarding the frontage change, Peter Geary suggested OTC speak with MKC’s Planning Enforcement team in order to find out whether it was allowed without a Planning Application. In terms of Philip Geech’s views on chains, Peter explained that the Council had to make its decisions based on policy, for example whether another perhaps-hot food outlet in the area was one too many.
    There followed a short discussion on whether a change of planning use would need to be applied for – A1 being for shops, A3 for restaurants and cafés and A5 for hot food takeaways. Colin Rodden, agreeing with Philip Geech’s views on chains, explained that, with Tesco having taken business from McColls, the latter was now presumably trying to maximise the revenue from its floor space by utilising its partnership with Subway.
    Peter Geary felt OTC should seek advice on how to develop a policy to protect the town’s character. Jeremy Rawlings concluded the discussion, noting that OTC would seek advice on the Subway and policy issues.

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    Subway Frontage

    Section 106 consultation for 250 home development

    Peter Geary explained that the pictures in the Planning Application were illustrative only, the hard facts being limited to the development boundary, the entries and exits, and the Section 106 agreement. Thus, while a Community Centre had been mentioned, he felt clarification of who’d build it was required in writing before OTC gave its final view on the Planning Permission. Things like that needed to be tied down in the Planning Permission, he explained.
    Following on from the public meeting cancellation noted by Julia Clarke during the Public Participation section, Deirdre asked that OTC be given more time to compose its view on the development – the public meeting had not yet taken place and, in fact, its date still had to be agreed. Peter Geary said he’d be happy to request a delay to the planning decision but that, since it may result in MKC missing a Key Performance Indicator, it may prove unwilling to accede to the request. He noted that OTC should ideally submit its views to MKC by mid October, in time for MKC Officers to write a report for its November Planning Meeting. Colin Rodden sensibly noted that, with likely so little time available, some kind of project plan with milestones was needed. Jeremy Rawlings concluded the discussion, noting that OTC would request a delay.

    Aspreys zebra crossing

    This topic was to discuss the crossing issue raised by Maria Tennant earlier in the meeting. Colin Rodden noted that vehicle speeds on Aspreys were too high, with Thames Valley Police doing little to reduce them. He felt that a crossing would be a good use of part of the Section 106 monies from the nearby proposed 250 home development, although it may be required earlier than that money becoming available. Helena Newbold noted that she supported a crossing in this location. Continuing with his theme, Colin noted that, if people wanted to participate in reducing vehicle speeds, volunteers could be trained to use speed cameras under the Community Speedwatch programme. Neil Biggs, speaking briefly from the Public area, noted that an opportunity had been missed: When the traffic calming measures were agreed for the Ousedale build, they could have included the crossing. Peter Geary suggested the Council could ask Neil to look at any ideas or proposals.

    Public planning meeting postponement

    Mercury reports cover what happens during Council meetings, not outside them. However, every so often something is said, or not said, during a meeting which is worthy of further investigation. The postponement of the public planning meeting to discuss the 250 home development is a case in point.
    At a recent OTC Planning Committee meeting, it was decided to hold the public meeting. OTC asked the Ward Councillors to help it ensure that MKC officers attend the meeting, and was assured this help would be given. The meeting, organised by OTC, was due to take place on the evening of Thursday 28th September. That day Justin Booij, the MKC Senior Planning Officer due to attend, was unwell so he called and emailed OTC around midday to send apologies for himself and another Officer, Andy Swannel, and to say that “we will need to reconvene before the Council (MKC) determines the application”. Shortly after receiving that email, OTC decided to postpone the meeting and publicise its decision. But, if OTC had instead contacted MKC Officers or Ward Councillors, it would have learned that a replacement for Justin was in fact available and therefore the meeting could have gone ahead as planned.
    This has left both OTC and MKC frustrated, each seeing the issue in a different light. OTC contends that MKC did not make anyone else available, that it sent apologies for both Officers due to attend, and asked for alternative dates for the meeting to take place. MKC contends that OTC, as the organisers of an important time critical meeting, should have pushed back at MKC, for example talking with the Ward Councillors who’d assured it that Officers would attend the meeting, to see if other Officers were available.
    The new date for the public meeting is Thursday 26th October. While this will certainly be before MKC meets to determine the application, it’s unclear whether MKC will postpone that decision such that the MKC Officers’ report is written after the public meeting. So, both the choice of words in Justin’s email and the decision by OTC to postpone the meeting have turned out to be big calls.
    Thank you to Liam Costello and David Hosking for the above information.

    Now back to the Council meeting...

    Goosey Bridge

    Kevin Viney introduced this topic, asking the Council to consider listing Goosey Bridge. A survey of the bridge had been performed and its keystone found, dating the bridge at 1795. Most buildings of a similar age are listed and, with the bridge having links with William Cowper, he felt it should be recognised and retained for future generations. Peter Geary noted that achieving listed status would make the bridge more expensive to work on. Councillors agreed to work towards achieving listed status for the bridge. Neil Biggs noted that there was a related technical point they must consider, and Jeremy Rawlings asked him to raise it after the meeting.

    Skate Park

    Progress on finding a suitable location has been painfully slow and, while the latest idea to site it in Emberton Park appeared broadly supported by MKC, it seems likely that Emberton Parish Council will be strongly opposed to it.

    One Stop deliveries

    Deliveries to One Stop can cause traffic problems in the High Street. David Hosking has been collecting local views and, as before, some would like a loading bay while others think the resulting lack of parking would be too big a disadvantage. If an easy solution exists, it’s certainly not been found yet. Jeremy Rawlings noted that, albeit once a week, the Monday 7.30am waste and recycling pickups by the dustmen probably caused more traffic problems than the deliveries.

    Goosey Island

    As reported previously, the problems of unsightly constructions and rubbish on Goosey Island continue. Peter Geary explained that MKC is working on the issue and, thus, it wouldn’t be productive for OTC to keep pushing it for progress. This was a complicated issue so progress would be slow, he felt.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Colin Rodden asked why the Parish and small Town Councils don’t get together to keep the foot and cycle paths between them clear. This was felt a good suggestion, which will hopefully be followed up.
    Helena Newbold noted that, while canvassing house to house before the vote on the first vacant OTC position, Joanne Eley had often been told that OTC was too slow to respond to emails and letters. She felt the Council should have a Communications Policy, stating how soon responses could be expected.

    Next Meeting - 6th November

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th 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 2017

    Ron Bull

    Before the start of the meeting, members stood for a minute’s silence to remember former councillor and Deputy Mayor Ron Bull, who had recently passed away.

    Public Participation

    Christine Platt
    Christine Platt provided some photographs of the pathways in Oakdown Crescent which have recently been resurfaced. Because the parking situation had not been resolved she felt that the surface will not last long, which would be a waste of time and money. She asked if there was any progress on the request for funding from the Community Parking Fund. Later in the meeting Milton Keynes Councillor (MKC) Peter Geary said that there wasn’t. She said that on a recent visit to Newport Pagnell she had observed Traffic Wardens everywhere and asked if parking could be prevented at the bus stop on Weston Road, as it was not easy for bus drivers to see passengers waiting at the stop due to parked cars.

    Bob Spray
    Bob Spray spoke next about the request to provide a loading bay outside of One-Stop in the High Street. He said he had visited the shop to discuss it with the manager and had been only the third person to do so. He said he was appreciative of the issues, but the problem was caused by a lorry that arrives three times a week and unloads for a period of one hour maximum. Small trucks deliver more frequently, but they manage to park off-road or elsewhere. He suggested that perhaps the lorries could park in West Street and then unload via the footpath through Cobbs Garden. If the proposal for a dedicated loading bay went ahead the main beneficiaries would not be Olney residents but through traffic, he said. The losers would be residents and shoppers. This issue was an item on the main agenda and the mayor agreed that it should be discussed next.

    Feedback on loading bay for One-Stop

    MKC Ward Councillor David Hosking explained that after a number of complaints from residents about traffic congestion being caused by unloading, an officer at MKC had suggested a dedicated loading bay and he was now able to provide feedback from an informal consultation which had recently taken place via Facebook. Some 116 comments had been received but, being the Olney Noticeboard, not all were relevant or repeatable. Of these, eight were in favour, but seven only mentioned safety and not congestion. 54 were not in favour, many of them suggesting other options. 28 were comments about the nearby pedestrian crossing so were not directly related. Many of the comments against concerned the removal of parking spaces and setting a precedent, and having dedicated delivery times outside of rush hour, which David thought would be difficult to enforce. He said that he and his fellow ward councillors would be meeting with the One-Stop Area Manager and Transport Team to agree a way forward.
    Dierdre Bethune said that if the lorries park directly outside of One-Stop it causes a visibility problem to users of the nearby pedestrian crossing. If they were to park the other side of the crossing that would not occur, she said, but recognised it would be a longer walk for unloading. Steve Clark reminded members that when Tesco was applying for planning permission for their Market Place premises, a condition was imposed that they used smaller lorries to prevent congestion. He wondered if One-Stop could be requested to do the same. Kevin Viney suggested that the problems with the crossing could be alleviated by replacing it with a traffic light controlled puffin crossing. Colin Rodden said that because the spotlights on the crossing are out of action, it is difficult for approaching drivers to see pedestrians waiting to cross at night, the problem having been reported to MKC who are responsible for repairs. This then lead on to an unrelated discussion about the slow response of the Whirly Pit crossing lights, which MKC has agreed to address. Bringing things back on track, Peter Geary was of the opinion that even if a loading bay was installed it would have to be enforced and therefore wouldn’t work. Dierdre Bethune tabled a proposal that the council do not proceed with providing a loading bay which was passed on a vote.

    Consultation on Proposed Submission version of Plan:MK

    The council had received an email from MKC regarding Plan:MK which is the new strategic development plan for Milton Keynes outlining how the Borough will grow through to 2031 and is MKC’s new Local Plan to provide homes, jobs and infrastructure that will be needed. It will be submitted to the Government in spring 2018 for independent examination and there is a period of public consultation from 8th November until 20th December. 26,500 new homes will be built over the next 15 years and land has been identified east of the M1 for 5,300 new houses, although those are not due to be built until after 2031. However, the plan states that this may come forward once decisions on the new Cambridge to Oxford Expressway are made and if the council are struggling to provide enough housing elsewhere. Peter Geary was concerned about this latter aspect and reminded councillors that a group of developers are pressing for a substantial industrial site at the top of Chicheley Hill, which is not included in the Sherrington Neighbourhood Plan and both would bring Milton Keynes much closer to Olney. Having said that, it was important that positive comments about Plan:MK should also be submitted, he said. The email offered parish councils an unstaffed exhibition explaining the proposals and also said that officers would be open to attending parish council meetings. It was agreed to accept both offers and start December’s meeting half an hour earlier at 7.00 pm in order accommodate the latter.

    Bill for by-election held on 5th October

    MKC has presented Olney Town Council (OTC) with a bill for £6,691 to cover the cost of the by-election held on 5th October. There is no budget for this, so if paid in the current F/Y would need to come out of reserves. Peter Geary said that when the charge was introduced it was agreed that it could be carried over into the next F/Y when the council can raise the precept (element of Council Tax) to pay for it. In view of the second forthcoming election, which had been requested by residents, a proposal was made to approve £13,382 and seek to delay payment until next year, which was passed on a vote. Tony Evans questioned the cost, asking was it really necessary to have 12 people manning the three polling stations for such a minor election with a predicted low turnout. Peter said that the main cost is in mailing out polling cards and postal votes.

    Wicker Ladies

    As previously reported the two wicker ‘Pancake Ladies’ in the Market Place are being replaced by more substantial wire versions at a cost of £1,800 each, and the council hope that funding can be found from MKC’s Public Art budget. The first is progressing well, but the council decided to delay ordering the second so that the first can be reviewed. Tony Evans reminded members that while the wicker originals were flammable the replacements would be metal and portable, so it was important that they were well cemented in.

    Odds and Sods

    MKC is carrying out a review of polling districts and places. OTC are happy with their existing arrangements of two stations in the Olney Centre and one in the United Reformed Church.
    For the last two years OTC have paid £6,000 to MKC to fund six hours of library staff time per week. Dierdre Bethune said that OTC had originally said that they would only provide the funding on a one-off basis, but it was right and proper that they should continue to do so, so funding was approved for another year.
    McColls/Subway have submitted a retrospective planning application for the changes they have already made to the front of the premises.
    Gabriella’s Dolci and Cucina on the Market Place has applied for increased alcohol hours until 23.00 Tuesday to Saturday and 12.00 to 21.00 Sunday. The council raised no objection.
    Desmond Eley reported that the power sockets on the newly replaced lampposts still hadn’t been installed. These sockets are necessary to power the Christmas lights. It was agreed to chase MKC to ensure that the contractors complete the work in time for the late-night shopping and Dickens events.
    Colin Rodden thanked everyone who had been involved in organising the previous night’s firework display. He also noted that fly tipping was taking place at the lay-by on the way to Weston Underwood and that the road surface in East Street was in a very poor condition. Peter Geary said it was important that any hole deeper than 50mm was reported to MKC via their website.
    Kevin Viney reported that the Market Place toilets are in a bad state and suggested a deep clean.
    There has been no response from the owner of the Goosey to OTC’s request to purchase his land. Rosemary Osbourne said she had received a lot of feedback from residents which will help with the proposal to create a right of way along the riverbank.

    Next Meeting - 4th December

    The next meeting will be held at 7.00pm on Monday 4th 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 2017

    Public Participation

    Sue Warren
    Sue Warren was first to speak, on her regular topic of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Furious that Orchard Rise had been granted a Parking Permit scheme while the Crescent had not, she felt there was one rule for people with money living in expensive houses and one for the poor and elderly. She felt Olney Town Council (OTC) had interfered with the Oakdown Crescent scheme – presumably by broadening the set of homes to be surveyed beyond just those in the Crescent, an action not taken for the Orchard Rise scheme. She stated that the elderly people living in the Crescent deserved an apology from the Council, and suggested Councillors go and see them to ask what they think of the Council. Finally, she took the Council to task for laughing at her sister, Christine Platt, during last month’s meeting.

    Stacks Image 89866

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    John Bates

    Second to speak was John Bates, who made two formal requests to the Council. First, he asked for a full debate on the Neighbourhood Plan to establish its shortcomings and agree amendments to protect the town from excessive development projects through to 2031. Second, he asked the Council to withdraw support from the 250 home development to the West of Aspreys. He felt that this development fell short of the obligations required by the Plan: It would very likely result in the 300 home target being exceeded and would not provide sufficient funding for infrastructure and the promised community building.

    Welcome and congratulations

    Jeremy Rawlings opened the meeting by welcoming the two new Councillors, Chris Tennant and Paul Collins. Later in the meeting, he also read out a letter from David Hosking, absent from this meeting, which noted that those willing to stand and campaign for election deserved credit and that he looked forward to working with them. Jeremy congratulated Sally Pezaro, also absent, on the recent birth of her and Mike’s baby daughter.

    Plan:MK presentation

    Andrew Turner, a Senior Planning Officer at Milton Keynes Council (MKC) gave a talk on the proposed submission version of Plan:MK. Only a brief summary of the talk is given here but, to learn more, surf to https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/planning-and-building/planning-policy/plan-mk. Plan:MK contains the strategy to meet MK Borough’s development needs until 2031. He explained that part of the plan was to allocate more land to ensure a five year housing supply and that, while there was currently sufficient land for this purpose, that state of affairs was vulnerable because of appeals against developments and scrutiny over how the amount of land required was calculated. He noted Plan:MK would strengthen Neighbourhood Plans, and that a robust land supply was required to fend off speculative development.
    Across the Borough, 26,500 new homes are required until 2031, 19,725 of which are planned already, leaving the remainder, 6,775 homes, to be built in new allocations. The bulk of the development would be in the expansion areas East and West of Milton Keynes. Andrew explained that the Borough is short on land for large format warehouses but had enough land in general. A large area of land East of the M1 and South of Newport Pagnell is identified as a strategic reserve site for homes and businesses after 2031 – although government infrastructure funding to improve transport links across the M1 towards Milton Keynes will be required for this to move forward. Finally, he noted that planning for the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, although shrouded in uncertainty, was progressing, with a decision on the corridor it would follow from Oxford to Milton Keynes being due Summer 2018.

    Questions on Plan:MK

    Once Andrew had finished his presentation, he took questions, some of which are covered here. Des Eley asked if the Plan contained any intent to improve public transport between Olney and Milton Keynes. Andrew replied that this did not fall within Plan:MK’s remit, it being more relevant to the MK Mobility Strategy 2018-2036, out for consultation until the end of January. Peter Geary pointed out that Milton Keynes wanted industry other than ‘big automated sheds’ (large format warehouses), as these occupied large areas but provided few jobs – and providing jobs was the aim. Noting that a site near Sherington is being considered for a warehouse style development and thus would impact traffic on the A509, he asked what Councillors should do to oppose it. Andrew suggested they say that the current sites provide sufficient employment, that new ones are not required and that the additional A509 traffic would cause a problem.
    Kevin Viney asked if rural areas with ‘made’ Neighbourhood Plans, such as Olney, should feel a real sense of security, as there’d be no development ‘surprises’ there or in the surrounding areas. Andrew replied that Olney’s Plan would stand, up to 2031, irrespective of Plan:MK, with the latter taking the rug from under speculative developments. He also noted that both Plans will need to be reviewed in five years’ time. Peter Geary asked whether, for rural areas with no ‘made’ Neighbourhood Plans, there’d be no further housing allocation. The reply was neither a straight ‘yes’ or a straight ‘no’. Helena Newbold asked what would happen if, for example, a farmer owning land just beyond the proposed 250 home development west of Aspreys was to sell it to a developer. Peter Geary replied that they wouldn’t get planning permission unless Plan:MK changes or Milton Keynes suddenly has an insufficient five year land supply.

    Planning and Development Committees

    A decision was made recently to merge the Planning and Development Committees. Councillors now thought that was incorrect, so voted to separate them, with all in favour bar Deirdre Bethune against.
    The Development Committee, previously termed the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, has seen the balance between Council and Public membership skew towards the former as members of the public have left or, in one case, joined the Council. Councillors agreed that a ratio of 10 Councillors to five Public should be aimed for, with the detail of how to achieve it being left to the Committee.

    250 home development

    Jeremy Rawlings will attend the MKC planning meeting on 14th December to speak about the proposed 250 home development. People from the public area can’t speak in favour and, with OTC broadly pro the development, Jeremy’s contribution will instead be to promote the need to clarify the situation with regard to the proposed community building. The developer has stated it will create the building, but information on it, such as size and facilities, is scarce and it’s unclear how it will sit with the developer’s Section 106 contribution.

    Oakdown Crescent

    Deirdre Bethune opened the discussion, noting that the current situation was embarrassing and unfair. Peter stated that OTC needed to know when MKC was going to deliver funding for the parking improvements. Liam noted that he’d very recently chased MKC, and Peter said he’d do the same within the week. Peter also asked that the record be corrected: The Oakdown Crescent Residents Parking Scheme was rejected because it didn’t achieve the required 70% agreement from those polled.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Currently, the only electrical outlets on the Market Place are near the toilet block, resulting in a maze of overhead cabling on market days to supply power to all the stalls. OTC has been working towards providing outlets spread around the area, and it’s hoped the two weeks’ work can be completed in January. It’s possible that one or two Thursday Markets may be cancelled as a result, but any decision will be taken in consultation with the market traders.
    Tony Evans noted that the replacement wire version of the ‘wicker ladies’ looked very good – a fantastic job had been done.
    Progress on the structures and waste material on Goosey Island continues to be slow. Peter Geary explained that there were two relevant methods of enforcement – via the planning route and the Environment Agency. The first was acknowledged to be a slow process, but Kevin Viney will invite the latter agency to a site meeting, with Peter assuring him that an MKC planning enforcement officer will also attend.
    Kevin noted that the Goosey right of way application was progressing well.
    Deirdre stated that Dickens of a Christmas had been a very successful event. She thanked the Council staff, who organise much of the event behind the scenes, for their work.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    Although not specifically an agenda item, the level of controversy over the Neighbourhood Plan means it keeps ‘popping up’, this time within the Members Matters item, in which Councillors air areas of concern. Most of the discussion was centred on a contribution from Phil Geech. Although this wasn’t read out until part way through, it’s clearer to cover it first, followed by the resulting discussion. Phil had requested the statement be read verbatim. Joanne Eley did that and the full text is below:

    “There has recently been some consternation surrounding a proposed development at Aspreys and the Neighbourhood Plan that encompasses it. Whilst the planning application is within the purview of Milton Keynes Council and will be addressed elsewhere the Neighbourhood Plan falls within the remit of Olney Town Council. I submit that, given new information that is available and some concerns over the conduct of the campaign, that a review is not only desirable but essential to ensure that the will of residents is properly understood. I would therefore ask two things of the Council:

    Will you support a review of the Neighbourhood Plan?
    In the interests of transparency will you ensure that no party concerned in the original plan is part of such review and that a balance of membership is between Council members and interested residents?

    I would ask that the question and answers to both are formally minuted.”

    Jeremy Rawlings noted that only minor changes to the Plan were possible, the law not allowing major ones. He felt the Plan would have to be started again if significant changes were required. Peter Geary explained that, even if such work started now, it’d not be possible to remove items from the existing (and ‘made’) Plan. Chris Tennant noted that the locality website has a FAQ section where this point is dealt with, see the last question on mycommunity.org.uk/help-centre/faqs/np/. While there are various caveats, the main thrust of its answer is “Currently, to update a made Neighbourhood Plan it is necessary to go through the same process as done for making the original Neighbourhood Plan, including pre-submission consultation, submission to local authority, independent examination and referendum.” Joanne noted that Phil Geech had talked to a barrister about the issue, prompting Chris Tennant to reply that if Phil had legal evidence, “let’s see it”.

    Next Meeting - 8th January

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 8th 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.

Mercury's reports for 2016

  • January 2016

    Olney Council report for January 2016


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

    Public participation

    Four people spoke about the closure of the Kitchener Centre:

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

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

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

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

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

    Oakdown Crescent

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

    Youth Centre Community Asset Transfer

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

    MKC Budget Consultation

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


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

    Development adjacent to sewage works

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

    Kitchener Centre

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

    Town Meeting

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

    Next Meeting - 1st February

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

  • February 2016

    Olney Council report for February 2020

    Public Participation

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

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

    Oakdown Crescent

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

    Circular Walk

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

    Citizens Advice Bureau

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

    Budget 2016-2017

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

    Lavendon Road Section 106 requirements consultation

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


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

    Purchase of new mower

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

    Town Meeting

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

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

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

    Next Meeting 7th March

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

  • March 2016

    Olney Council report for March 2016


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

    Public participation

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

    Oakdown Crescent

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

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

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

    Leave of Absence

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


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

    The Olney Centre

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

    Neighbourhood Plan

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

    Circular Walk

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

    Riverside right of way

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

    Youth Centre Community Asset Transfer

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

    Odds and Sods

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

    Town Meeting

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

    Next Meeting - 4th April

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

  • April 2016

    Olney Council report for April 2016

    Public Participation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Oakdown Crescent

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

    Skateboard Park

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


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

    Youth Centre Community Asset Transfer (CAT)

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

    Swimming Steps

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

    Bits ’n’ bobs

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

    Next Meeting - 9th May

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

  • Annual Town Meeting April 2016

    Olney Annual Town Meeting


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


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

    Sainsbury’s Planning Application

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

    Bits ’n’ bobs

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

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

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

  • May 2016

    Olney Council report for May 2016

    The First Meeting

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

    Public Participation

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

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

    Election of Mayor

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

    Co-option to fill vacancies

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

    Oakdown Crescent

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

    Neighbourhood Plan

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

    Sainsbury’s withdrawal of planning application

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

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

    Disturbance at the Bull

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

    Odds and Sods

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

    Next Meeting - 6th June

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

  • June 2016

    Olney Council report for June 2016

    Public Participation

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

    Multi Academy Trust

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

    Oakdown Crescent

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

    Stacks Image 90391

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    Lavendon Road Section 106 Requirements Consultation

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

    Dickens of a Christmas

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

    Council audit

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


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

    One Stop deliveries

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

    St Peter & St Paul churchyard wall

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

    WEEE and textiles bank

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

    Swimming Steps

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

    Next Meeting - 4th July

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

  • July 2016

    Olney Council report for July 2016

    Public Participation

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

    Oakdown Crescent

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

    Stacks Image 90461

    Oakdown Crescent, Olney

    Refusal of permission for 50 Houses on Lavendon Road

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

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

    Community Skate Park Update

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

    Riverbank footpath Carey Way to Clifton ‘Planks’

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

    Merchant Navy Day

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

    Odds and Sods

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

    Next Meeting - 5th September

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

  • August 2016

    Olney Council report for August 2016

    There was no meeting in August 2016 of the Council

    Stacks Image 90505


  • September 2016

    Olney Council report for September 2016

    Public Participation

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

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

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

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

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

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

    A509 congestion caused by lorry deliveries

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

    Stacks Image 90535

    A lorry


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

    Skateboard Park and zip wire

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

    Recreation Ground toilets

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

    Future direction of Local Services

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

    Street lights

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

    Next Meeting - 3rd October

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

    Stacks Image 90578

    A lorry

  • October 2016

    Olney Council report for October 2016

    Oakdown Crescent

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

    Street lights

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

    Steps near Co-op and Oxfam

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

    A509 congestion caused by lorry deliveries

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


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

    Stacks Image 90618

    The Barnfield

    Johnson’s Field zip wire

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

    Stacks Image 90630

    Johnson's Field Zip Wire

    Neighbourhood Planning

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

    Changes to MKC planning delegation

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

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

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

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

    Hanging Baskets

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

    Next Meeting - 7th November

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

  • November 2016

    Olney Council report for November 2016

    Public Participation

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

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

    Oakdown Crescent

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

    Community Skate Park

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

    High Street streetlights

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

    Olney Wine Bar – license application

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

    Changes to MKC planning delegation

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

    Devolved Landscape Maintenance

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

    BT removal of public payphones

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


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

    Olney IndieGo Collective Festival

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

    Stacks Image 90718

    The IndieGo Collective

    Steps near Co-op and Oxfam

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

    Public Art in Olney

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

    Odds and Sods

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

    Next Meeting - 5th December

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

  • December 2016

    Olney Council report for December 2016

    Public Participation

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

    Kevin Viney

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

    Oakdown Crescent

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

    Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF)

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

    Olney Youth Centre

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

    Recreation Ground Sewer

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

    Olney Wine Bar and Brasserie – license application

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

    Stacks Image 90782

    The Olney Wine Bar

    Devolved Landscape Maintenance

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

    Traffic on Aspreys

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

    Odds and Sods

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

    Next Meeting - 9th January

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

Mercury's reports for 2015

  • January 2015

    Olney Council report for January 2015

    Public Participation

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

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

    Oakdown Crescent

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

    Consultation on parking charges in Olney

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

    MKC budget consultation

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

    Underwriting BOFF

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

    Sports pitches and parking

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

    Swimming Steps

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

    Next Meeting - 2nd February

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

  • February 2015

    Olney Council report for February 2015

    Public Participation

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

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

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

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

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

    Oakdown Crescent

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

    Windfarm Fund

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

    Mayor’s Prize for Ousedale School

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

    Olney Library closure

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

    Annual budget and precept

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

    Sports pitches and parking

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

    Ousedale School Admissions Policy

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

    Odds and Sods

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

    Next Meeting - 2nd March

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

  • March 2015

    Olney Council report for March 2015

    Public Participation

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

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

    Ousedale admissions consultation

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


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

    BOTO and fair date clash

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

    Community Asset Transfer

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

    Neighbourhood Plan

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

    East Street car park

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

    Warrington Road development

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


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


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

    Next Meeting - 13th April

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

  • April 2015

    Olney Council report for April 2015

    Public Participation

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

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

    Alan Richardson

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

    Recreation ground play area

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

    Austen Avenue parking problems

    John Boardman reported on his recent experience of the thoughtless and selfish parking by some users of the sports facilities on the recreation ground and Charity Field. On a recent Sunday the entrance to the pumping station was blocked, despite a sign saying 24 hour access required and cars were parked head to tail on the grass and the pavement and in the turning area at the bottom of the Task. John said he had observed a police officer giving out tickets who told him he had almost run out of tickets and had not yet dealt with the cars parked on double yellow lines. John said he had been approached by mothers with prams and mobility scooter users frustrated and annoyed that nothing is being done to resolve the problem. John said he didn’t think it was enough for OTC to rely on the provision of extra parking spaces to resolve the problem and people are looking for action now, possibly by more police involvement. Jeremy Rawlings thought that the sports clubs need to take more responsibility for informing their users about correct parking and said it had been discussed many times at the Joint User Group. Colin Rodden said it was great that the sports clubs wer