Abingdon Town Council Meeting – 28th June 2017

Abingdon Town Council
There was a meeting of Abingdon Town Council this evening. I could not get there but will do my best to do a report by reading committee minutes

The most significant current happening at the Town Council are the plans for the old part of the Guildhall. Once Abingdon Music Centre have moved out, the old Magistrates Court would be redeveloped as an extension to the County Hall Museum with space for art exhibitions.

The old staircase near the Roysse Room could also become a lift giving access to the upstairs rooms like the old Council Chamber.

The remaining money left from the £1.2m, given as a parting gift by the VWHDC (Vale of White Horse District Council) when it handed over the Guildhall, would be spent on the old part of the Guildhall. There are also proposals from the leader of the Town Council, Cllr Mike Badcock, that the Museum and Guildhall Committees combine and operate as one committee.
Abingdon Town Council
However there seem no plans for the new part of the Guildhall, closed down currently to save on business rates and other expense.

Another venture the Town Council is involved with is the South Abingdon Children’s Centre. They have offered a grant of £90K over three years to secure its future, and, before parting with the money, have asked some questions about governance to the group called Abingdon Carousel who are planning to run the centre.

It is important that this centre be open by September and continue to operate for the community and children that needs it.

44 thoughts on “Abingdon Town Council Meeting – 28th June 2017

  1. hester

    I find it surprising that, if the Childrens centre business plans have qualified for a share of the (very limited) County Council pot availabe for this purpose, the Town Council are going to take so long (several months by the sound of it) to agree to release their contribution. It is difficult to see how the group will be able to get contracts in place for September if they dont get the funding secured now.
    It is well recognised that – especially in an area like South Abingdon – the contribution which good Early Years provision makes to the future life chances of families and young people, and the former South Abingdon Childrens Centre had a very proud record of achievement in this respect. I do hope that the Town Council can find a way to expedite this matter – I cannot imagine that they have any other project which is quite so important to the wellbeing of the community they represent.

  2. Deedee

    Please forgive me for interdicting this thread? According to this weeks Abingdon Herald there is to be a new M&S food hall at the out of town Fairacres site? When I came here some eight years ago I remember reading several spats about Fairacres trying to install outlets that contravened the covenants that are/were in place prohibiting such?
    Apparently when permission was given for the creation of the complex it came with several conditions and covernants which clearly specified what could and could not be sold there? The then borough of Abingdon council insisted, in order to protect town centre vitality, against the sale of food, cycles, clothes and the like.
    Can I now ask through this valuable site, why the covenants in place on Fairacres have not been adhered too? Who allowed them to be ignored and what thought was given to the town centre and its business when permission was give?
    The feature said M&S have been searching for a site in Abingdon for years.
    Why didn’t the owners of the precinct make space available
    What now for Added Ingredients etc ?

  3. Julian

    Still..as long as the Councillors have plush surroundings to help them make their decisions on what the rest of us will put up with, that’s alright then. Doesn’t matter about the rest falling into even greater decay. This Council really ought to get it’s priorities right!

  4. Badger

    I fear the ‘Abingdon Gerald’ (as per many of its other news stories) may have jumped the gun a little, M&S may have an interest in placing a store here but I don’t think planning permission has been granted or anything signed especially with the restrictions placed on Fairacres.
    I’d love to see them or another similar retailer in the centre of the town but if you look around the trend is towards the very American retail outlet and car park arrangement where everybody drives… given the housing plans everyone is going to have to drive to the shops and given the lack of improvement of transport infrastructure locally it’s going to be busy on those roads. I don’t think he’s right but Julian’s comment further up suggesting ‘demolition’ carries some weight… flatten the whole bloody lot and hand the keys to Cranbourne Homes et al at a bargain price, I would however add that as far as the Guildhall goes should the choice be made to knock it down you will never have the luxury of that amenity again… be careful what you wish for.
    Also why are the same names still ‘at large’ in the Council chamber after the May election changes or was that just at County level?

  5. ColinB

    I remember when Lidl and Aldi, showed an interest on Fairacres. Told in no uncertain terms Covenant in place. That is for the ‘Homebase site’, any news about the Beales site??.

  6. Badger

    I thought one of those two were the suitors involved regarding the unit now occupied by B&M, I remember reading that Tesco objected heavily to either one opening in that location, I’m sure someone (cough) pointed out the terms of the site. It would be interesting to know if the restrictions on certain types of trade cover the whole park. The Beales site could of course also be converted into a small Cinema but the Council are adamant that we (the public) don’t want one of those, we should of course sit at home, be grateful for what we have and shut up!

  7. Julian

    Badger….”you will never have the luxury of that amenity again… be careful what you wish for.”. We haven’t got the luxury of that amenity now? And whether the Councillors choose to bury their deluded heads in the sand or not…that “amenity” is only going to deteriorate further until it is no longer viable to do anything with. (Maybe the cranbourne resolution has already been planned/signed and sealed (behind closed doors of course), and they will get it for a bargain price which they have no intention of ever paying!
    As for the cinema…I would love to see one, but it MUST be in the centre of town, to attract footfall…and not on the outskirts. It is the only way that they can stop the town from dying on it’s a*se! The poundland site or the disgusting (now abandoned) Charter area would be ideal! (But apparently NO cinema operators are interested in Abingdon, because there’s a “Y” in the day, and another cinema in John O’Groats!)
    Incidentally, just WHY have the owners of the Charter area been allowed to renege on their promise to develop it??

  8. Badger

    Julian – Once the Guildhall is gone it’ll be gone forever, at least while it’s there a chance remains of its re-opening and re-use. I too would like a Cinema in the centre of town I believe it would draw people into town and add to the trade of existing businesses extending the daytime ‘life’ into the evening. Not sure the Charter is completely out of use, however Bury St and especially that end is a lonely place to walk through at night and closing the Car Park so early just adds to that emptiness.

    Talking of Car Parking http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-40432796 talk about failure to plan ahead, how long has the new Pound coin been in circulation? I’m sure all costs will be payed for by those parking in increased charges encouraging them to go somewhere you can park for free.

  9. Iain

    Julian – you are correct about the town cemtre, but again I must correct you about the interest in the town by cinema operators.

    Four reputable cinema operators submitted bids to set up a ‘proper’ cinema in Abingdon. At least two of those bids were attractive. It is the town council who decided they didn’t want it, not the operators.

    The people who arent interested in setting up a cinema in our town are the two big multiplex operators.

    A three or four screen commercially operated cinema, showing the latest films on the day of their release is perfectly achievable, and if the owners of a suitable venue came to the party (realistically only the councils or standard life) then we would have one within six months.

  10. Lyle Lanley

    I find it amazing anyone would believe anything written in the Herald.

    I wouldn’t trust them to tell me the time..

  11. Julian

    Iain, I stand corrected. But the Guildhall was NOT the venue for a cinema…it would not bring footfall into the town, it needs to be at one end of the precinct or the other. I ask again, why aren’t the leaseholders of the Charter area being held to account, being made to either fulfil their obligations or provide an entertainments centre, OR being told that as they have not fulfilled their obligation to the town to pack their bags as the contract with them is no longer valid! WE NEED someone who is interested in the town…NOT someone who was looking for a cash-cow and when it didn’t materialise just turns their back on the town! Come on Councillors/Vale…grow a pair!

  12. Badger

    Julian – As with planning appeals they are too afraid that they’ll lose and then it costs you/me/everyone.

  13. Geoffrey Bailey

    For a town the size of Abingdon not to have its own Cinema is a crime.What is up with our small minded councilors who upgrade bits and pieces but don’t seem to worry too much about the townspeople? If you say it is finance what do we pay our rates for?

  14. Steve E

    The Town Council is a shambles, led by do-gooders with little business experience, a narrow focus and a total aversion to risk. The net result of that approach is always managed decline. Those involved should do the right thing and step away from the role and let someone with suitable business nous develop a more forward thinking approach to re-generating the town centre.
    I will oppose M&S in Fairacres unless the council is able to articulate their strategy for the town centre. The two are linked. Making point decisions around planning consent for M&S outside of a strategic plan for the town is laughable.

  15. ppjs

    While I agree that lack of business acumen is problematic in town councillors, I would rather have do-gooders than do-badders.

    When I feel a really good rant coming on, I remind myself that I seem to be able to do everybody’s job but my own…

  16. Daniel

    Unfortunately Steve e, your confidence in ‘planning’ is sweet, but entirely ill judged. What is ‘better for the town’ is of no concern to planning consent. The covenants in place are likely stronger, yet equally flakey, restrictions…. entirely surmountable of course should a profit be available.

    Whilst the images shown in this article and elsewhere are entirely worthy of positive comment, regrettably, the fact the town “is thriving” – as the photos show, is the reason why what we have we should be grateful for. And ‘may you be cast out for saying otherwise…’

    I agree…a ‘modern way of running a town’ is well overdue….but alas a long way off.

    12 years I’ve been here. Overall…the same issues exist. And I’m a newbie! If, on those timescales, nothing has yet been done… i think that’s long enough for anyone to hold their breath!

    My advice….enjoy the pretty flowers. Make the most of the glorious local events as they happen…but put “the town” to the back of your mind. You’ll be happier for it.

    Get yourself “out there” in order to get the most of the town. You’ll get a lot out of it. Unfortunately, all the other towns are getting themselves out there… which is why we’ll always be second fiddle…

    I say this…having enjoyed a few hours in Abbey Meadow park today, extolling the virtues and good fortune that fate bought me in order to end up here…

    I remain hopeful.

  17. Iain

    I think you need to be a bit more specific. There are two councillors, on opposite sides who drive the political agenda in this town. They both read this blog and have the power to make a difference.

    So, Mike Badcock and Neil Fawcett, maybe its about time you told us why we should keep on bothering to reelect you?

  18. Iain

    Nope, just a statement if reality. Many of the commentators on this blog talk about ‘the council’ as if they are shapeless mega-institutions which can’t be influenced, but the reality is they act at the direction of the councillors we elect.

    If you dont think they are doing what you want we should question the specific people making (or not making) these decisions.

  19. Daniel

    …i thought that “the council” is staffed by “council officers” who are unelected and uncountable yet it is THEY that drive ideas, and policies and agendas and budgets. They then inform “the councillors” who can then consider how those decisions may, or may not, help or hinder their political aspirations.

    Otherwise…it will be minuted, what is the name of the councillor who said “lets sell off The Old Gaol”? Which councillor said “ignore the electorate and build Moorland Gardens on Drayton Rd”? Or….was it that the Officers do the doing….the Councillors then enact those ‘recomendations’?

    I genuinly believe that the elected councillors are of course good people with Abingdon’s welfare at heart. Unfortunately however, it is the unelected officers who hold the power.

    But, that said… they do have an eye for a good flower box scheme!

  20. Hester

    Just a quick observation – the issues being discussed here conflate the Town and District Councils. These operate in very different ways and – however archaic this may seem – have different responsibilities: so whether we like it or not, the Town Council have very little power in relation to planning or “strategy”; they also have very few officers, so for the areas they DO cover (including the Guildhall and the grant for the Children’s Centres) the elected Councillors DO actually call the shots.
    So I agree with Iain, we should hold Councillors – of whatever hue – to account, but try to focus on the right level for the particular issue.

  21. Iain

    Agreed Hester, there is a useful page on the twon council website which explains which council is accountable for which activities


    To add to Hester’s observations, I think we sometimes conflate what a council wants (or doesn’t) want to happen, and what they have the legal authority to make happen (or not). The old gaol and drayton road were very different. The councillors at the time wanted the old gaol to happen, they didnt want the drayton road development to happen but were unable to legally prevent it (although that henley occ councillor could possibly have done so by the back door if they had decided to decline the traffic scheme at the double roundabout).

    For the Drayton road we should be complaining about the time it has taken to deliver a local plan which is the root cause here, not the actions taken to try and prevent the development once the developer submitted an application

  22. Daniel

    Whilst I am happy to stand corrected, issues such as ‘a local plan’ are a red herring.

    The local plan merely sets out how and where a “council” is to develop in order to meet its imposed housing need.

    The “people” however do not want development; period. Or, perhaps, infrastructure first and the remedying of substantial issues before those issues are exacerbated further by said development.

    I think it is disingenuous to conflate some notion that a local plan would address the second point above. It wouldn’t. It would just identify houses to go elsewhere, with those same issues also ‘elsewhere’.

    The root cause here is that development had got to happen, no matter what. The “no matter what” is where we expect our councillors to step in. But they didn’t, they don’t, or they can’t. And it is THAT that’s the issue…..

    Likewise, the semantics, or indeed practicalities is that different councils are responsible for different things. Again… most people aren’t that bothered in who is or isn’t responsible, they just see that things aren’t improving…

    “Don’t blame me, blame them” isn’t the answer people are looking for. This might work…but the various councils or councillors need to blow their trumpets a little more vociferously regarding what they have successfully stopped happening…

    Tell me, when has a 1000 home development been stopped by the TC? When has The Veil got some infrastructure in place before planning approval etc etc…

  23. Iain

    Difficult to pick up all the points you raise in a short post Daniel, and please don’t take my post as being in any way apologist for the performance of our councillors, as I agree it is not, with some honourable exceptions, generally good enough.

    The Town Council has no legal power to stop any development, that’s not their job. They are allowed to, and do, comment on proposed developments but that’s it. You are being unfair to them if you hold them culpable for this.

    The District Councillors do have this power, but can only object to a proposed development if there is a legal reason for them to do so. The law currently presumes in favour of the developer where there is unmet housing need, like in the Vale. The main grounds upon which a council can object is if they can show the need will be met elsewhere, and this is what a local plan does. Where there is no local plan, then the developer wins. The local plan is also the place where conditions around infrastructure etc can be set out.

    You can reasonably argue against the law, and you can also argue that there are too many layers which muddies accountability (and I agree with you).

  24. newcomer

    The electorate … when do they get to have a say?

    Party politicians … Tammany … are voted in for their loyalty to party/personal interests. The electorate only choose every few years from the ‘make-weights’ and ‘place-persons’ that the parties put in front of them … all ‘reliable’ people.

    Once the elections are out of the way the politicians get down to the nitty-gritty and screw it up.

    Level of ‘government’ doesn’t matter … the Millennium Dome, the Garden Bridge, Abingdon Guildhall … all disasters brought about by people who like authority, but soon disappear when it comes to who’s responsible.

    You can hear the rats scuttling away as the Grenfell Tower disaster is probed.

    Dimmo-Smith … one down … thousands to go.

  25. ppjs

    If the town and district councils are not one homogenous lump, nor is “the people”.

    My wife and I don’t agree about everything; the idea of “the people” having a unanimous view on any single issue seems to me to be highly improbable.

    We live by elective majority rule. It’s not very good, but it is (as Churchill commented) “better than the alternatives”.

  26. Abby Don

    It does on the face of it seem as if the town centre is neglected, and I think the majority of us would like to see a cinema built in the Guildhall site. What with that now empty , the lovely building next to it also empty, which would make a great boutique hotel / anything rather than empty.

    There does seem to be a lack of accountability and general vision of the future, which Didcot does appear to have.

    We have a lovely river setting and some very beautiful historical areas ( some like the Unicorn theatre very hidden gems )

    Bath Street for example could be a lovely street it was pedestrianised for the weekend Eater to October with cafes allowed to place tables and chairs on the street, right up to and including the monument. The cabs could be held at the Rye Farm car park until space is available at the rank. ( a system of red/ green lights set up at Rye farm to indicate available space on the rank for example)

    Basically any small simple economical steps to help foot fall and improve the town centre should be looked at, otherwise we risk turning onto just another blob on the landscape.

    Not sure who is responsible for what but a plan that is implemented rather than constant discussion and nothing appears to be a slow death for the town centre.

  27. Badger

    Just had ‘Didcot Garden Town Proposed Delivery Plan’ by SODC & VOWHDC fall through the letterbox… potentially big things happening in Didcot over the next 15 to 20 years.

  28. Julian

    Abby Don, the majority of us don’t want to see a cinema in the Guildhall….that would be a completely wasted opportunity. The cinema/entertainments venue, needs to be in the precinct….to entice footfall into the shopping area. The Guildhall option might just as well be to put it at Fairacres…or Lodgehill….it won’t get people into the town centre.
    As for the Abbey Buildings being a boutique hotel….I’m sure that has already been concluded behind closed doors, and the towns favourite builders will have got their grubby mitts on that for luxury apartments!
    Still, all will be well when we get our Abingdon Parkway railway station……at Culham!!!

  29. Hester

    Julian – I take it that you mean Old Abbey House (former Town Council offices) not the Abingdon Abey Buildings – home of the Unicorn Theatre and Long Gallery? The latter belong to the Friends of Abingdon and are most definitely not for sale!
    Re Old Abbey House – it is highly unlikely that anyone would want them for private accommodation since the Vale have accepted that the gardens have to remain open to the public; however the delay in concluding negotiations with a potential new occupier does seem to be inordinate – we are trying to find out what is going on.

  30. Badger

    Julian – Glad you’ve become the mouthpiece of the majority, I don’t necessarily agree about the Guildhall not being a good location for a Cinema it would be equally on par with one in or on the Charter site, parking as close and also just as close if not closer to other things like restaurants etc.
    Also if anything Radley would become our Parkway station as it’ll be closer and better connected to the new housing to the north of the town.

  31. Julian

    Hester, my apologies. Yes I did mean Old Abbey House. I don’t think that the gardens remaining public will deter our favoured town developer….after all, the public access to the Old Gaol didn’t! They just make it more difficult for people to access, but not impossible. (Oh, and has anyone else noticed, they STILL haven’t replaced the willow tree that they were obligated too, despite that being a condition of the planning laws that they breached!)
    Badger, I just meant that not ALL who are posting on here favour the Guildhall as a venue for a cinema. It would not be on a par, you have a physical barrier of a road to cross to get to the shops…don’t underestimate the power of a physical barrier, no matter how innocuous, to deter people from going to another area.
    If Neil Fawcett has his way, I think you will find that Radley will not be used as our Parkway station, but Culham (despite the traffic congestion at every peak time!), will. Again, I will stand corrected on that if you know different.

  32. Badger

    Julian – Yes, willow tree still not replaced, the last excuse referred to it not being ‘the growing season’ and yet here we are 6 or 9 months later… still they haven’t missed a re-payment yet but then I wish I could get such favourable terms!

  33. Abby Don

    Thanks Julian & Badger, either option would be good, so long as there is no more pontificating and someone does something ( other than give it to house builders !)

  34. Captainkaos2

    I’ve said for years now what we need is a visionary dictator? Someone who can act for the people and the good of the town without being bogged down by party politics or spending more time point scoring than doing the job?
    Ideally this should be the job of your appropriate councillor? He/she should be walking their ward and picking up on issues instead of relying on Joe Public to report them? Street lights not working, broken paving, anti social behaviour, weeding etc are all things I would expect part of their remit?
    As for the bigger issues like why isn’t the old gaol finished? Why is the upper reaches still boarded up? Why hasn’t Old Abbey House been moved on? Why are we allowing 900 houses to be built to the north when we already have an oversupply of new build ( they can’t sell Morland green) are also issues you can raise with your local councillors.
    Or how about why has part of Abbey House car park still closed 2 months after a few roof tiles fell off? I see the busted paving around the taxi rank has been cordoned off? Shame the PCSO’s and police didn’t stop them parking there in the first place? But then again the ward councillor is just as responsible for the area? If the electorate are unhappy wth an issue then bombard your councillor for an answer!

  35. Daniel

    I think Abbey Don you hit the proverbial nail. There is no ‘vision’; which is a shame.

    There are a great many well intended ideas and activities, but without a driver; a mutual goal, or that “vision”…. these are merely steps, rather than steps-in-the-right-direction.

    On another, yet trusted issue; how long did it take for the Chilton A34 junction to happen – from concept, to design, to opening? Lodge Hill is a decade away at best, was Chilton the same?

  36. Hester

    Daniel – re your last point, the Oxfordshire County Council rep at the consultation on the North Abingdon housing development last summer told me that the project was “shovel-ready” and that if the funding was approved in the Autumn statement (which of course it wasn’t) they would be complete by 2020. So it is all about the money…..
    (However Nicola Blackwood told us during the election campaign that she had cast-iron guarantees that the funding was there so presumably it still is!)

  37. Deedee

    Looking at the Valed planning applications I see an application from Mays properties to remove covenants that exist to prohibit the sale of specific goods, apparently the covenants were imposed by the then Borough of Abingdon council to protect town centre vitality, can we assume that the town council will object to this application and in doing so encourage the promissed precinct development to be completed? I see also the Chamber of Commerce have been invited to comment? Can we take it they will object to the application too on the grounds of protecting their town centre businesses?

  38. Daniel

    Thanks Hester. I did a quick Google, and the Chiltern interchange cost a paltry £11m, and took a mere 13 months…

    It is sadly par the course that such things for Abingdon cost far more, and work to far greater timescales…

    Still, we have a new MP now….so who knows how things might be come 2020!

  39. Daniel

    ….just lok at e article above this, about Culham Green belt. All that development….all that profit. Abingdon (and of course Culham) simply doesn’t stand a chance.

  40. Lyle Lanley

    Anyone who thinks the Lodge hill diamond will get completed before the 900 houses are built, is sadly dreaming.

    It aint going to happen till OCC build their lorry park and ride across the road, so they can sell off Redbridge for housing.

    Its nice to tell yourself that yours views are being heard, and they do count, but the reality is anything but.

    The deal has been done, its happening, the present planning ‘consultation’ is just a box ticking exercise.

    Just as the proposed deal, where the developers build a few hundred of the houses as a a starter, but agree not to sell them till the infrastructure is there, is also a dream..

    Its just something put up to quell the natives for now, but when push comes to shove, it wont be enforced.

    Anyone who thinks whichever town/district council will be able to enforce such an agreement, when they cant enforce the tree replacement on the small Oxford road development, or the bigger charade at the Old Gaol, is dreaming.

    It will all come back to, ‘we cant afford the lawyers’ to fight it.

    Anyhow, back to what originally made me reply, I don’t think we need a cinema either, what we really need is a monorail.


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