Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council Meeting – 29th January 2020

Town Council Meeting
The Amenities Committee resolved to allow the grazing of sheep within the meadow area of the Spring Road Cemetery on a trial basis. Members also resolved to permit bee hives in the area with appropriate warning notices.
Town Council Meeting
The Council agreed to ask council officers to investigate disposing of the land north of the pedestrian subway in Stratton Way. It has become a site of anti-social behaviour, was difficult to maintain and had little amenity value. Officers will now investigate and report back on possible uses.
Town Council Meeting
It is back to the drawing board. The recently elected Lib-Dem Council are to undertake a Neighbourhood Development Plan. As people may remember the previous Conservative council started a Community Led Plan but it did not get completed. Before that South Abingdon undertook a South Abingdon Residents Plan which did not get completed. The Council will first advertise for a consultant to undertake the Neighbourhood Development Plan. They will then shortlist, and appoint a consultant to scope the plan.

The Mayor reported that he or the deputy Mayor had attended 45 events since the last Town Council meeting. He highlighted the Over 70s Party and thanked Hilton Garden Hotel for hosting the event. He attended the John Mason Chater Day and had to field lots of difficult questions from scholars of John Mason about Abingdon’ history. Last week he attended a Holocaust Memorial 75th Anniversary event and quoted the German Pastor Niemoller:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Town Council Meeting
The Green Advisory and Scrutiny Committee are due to receive an energy audit report arranged by Abingdon Carbon Cutters, and undertaken by Oxford Brookes University at no cost to the council. It is hoped this will highlight some immediate actions to reduce the carbon footprint of the council. The committee is looking for CO2 & NOx reductions. They are also looking at Bikes and Buses and promoting their use.

The budget was set by the council for next year. This will be funded by a precept of £1,633,160 (tax paid by Abingdon Council Tax Payers); about £40,000 from reserves, and some money from fees and charges. Not every item in the budget was shown in the papers, just some highlights. Last year’s precept was £1,549,607. The Town Bus Service was not mentioned directly but it was said £15K would go towards green transport. It was also said that in some areas the Council would have to spend to save. The Guildhall has 70% of the Town Council energy usage and future plans include replacing the roof, lighting and heating system, and adding double glazing.
Town Council Meeting
I also see the council are considering re-introducing a lift up the stairs of the guildhall for the Cinema. In December the lift at the back of the building broke down and could not be mended immediately.

There will be 4 Town Crier magazines a year as part of the council communications strategy. New notice boards have been ordered for Stratton Lodge and Roysse Court. Officers are trying to locate a manufacturer of a circular noticeboard to be sited in the Market Place.

Councillors are reported to be keen on tree planting on Abingdon Common ( across the A34 from Tesco) which is owned, in part, by the Town Council and a report has been requested on that.

Among the grants from the Town Council (and the JET fund it controls), towards improving the town fabric:
* £2,000 will go towards St Nicolas Church Tower to preserve the tower fabric and enable the bells to be rung again.

* £11,000 is needed towards work on the war memorial itself, the stonework and topping. Previous work, a few years ago, was to stabilise the structure.

* £5,000 will go towards work needed on the Albert Memorial following a periodic inspection which estimates work needed of £24,500.

* £25,000 will go towards the Friends of Abingdon, Abbey Buildings initial development phase.

In terms of larger grants towards social needs:

* There was a grant of £7,000 towards Be Free -Young Carers, something that does not get funding by Oxford County Council Social Services.

* The annual grant to the Oxfordshire South and Vale Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) will go up from £15,100 to £18,100. John Bright, a Director, had given a presentation before the council meeting saying 2,000 people had attended the Abingdon service last year, a 15% increase. The largest areas of concern from people attending the CAB are benefits and debts. The CAB did try out an outreach service at Abingdon Carousel last year but it didn’t work there.

* There was also an annual grant to Abingdon Bridge (young people’s counselling and support service).

High Profile planning applications that had been considered during this cycle of the Town Council included:

* Army Rowing Club development on Wilsham Road – Town Council recommended refusal – VWHDC allowed.

* The Knowl, 52 Stert Street, turn to multiple Occupancy – Town Council recommended refusal – VWHDC allowed.

* The application to build flats on the sports fields next to Abingdon United Football Ground – Town Council recommended refusal – VWHDC refused and it went to appeal.

* Land North of Dunmore Road – the Town Council reiterated the need for the A34 interchange to be built before most of the houses. (Timescales were released for that project last year but as far as I could make out it still is being delayed by Highway England).

In one recent planning meeting a member of the public had complained about people not getting any notification about works on Stratton Way that brought the town to a halt. Councillors replied the Town Council often did not get notified either.
Town Council Meeting
There was a lot more in the 144 pages of council minutes. This is a brief selection and not all of even this was discussed at tonight’s meeting. It was good to see an Abingdon Herald reporter at the meeting. She waited around to do some interviews afterwards. I left the building at 8:40 pm.

15 thoughts on “Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council Meeting – 29th January 2020

  1. PPJS

    Daniel – here’s your chance, lots of consultants being appointed!

    We do need a coherent town plan, but reconciling all the various (sometimes conflicting) interests may require more patience than we are prepared to give.

    Thanks to those who serve us in local government.

  2. ChrisS

    Why do we need a consultant, at our expense, to tell us what to do with the Stratton Way land ? Aren’t there enough concerned citizens able to work together, for tea and biscuits, to come up with a solution ? More effective policing to stop an attractive area becoming a site of anti- social behaviour would be a good first step.

  3. Iain

    That’s not what it says in the article Chris. The report says they have asked officers to investigate not consultants.

  4. ChrisS

    You’re absolutely right Iain: should’ve gone to Specsavers or read it more slowly.

    Surely the “ amenity value” of that corner is that it is a little bit of the green lung we should be encouraging to try to counter- act the pollution produced by the Bath Street/ Stratton Way junction ?. More shrubs, less flower beds perhaps ?

  5. Iain

    Yes, will be interesting to see what they come up with. I must admit i think the current layout is a bit twixt and between, and can see why it might attract undesirable usage, so maybe an opportune time for the council to stand back and review it.

    The real longstanding eyesores in town are the old abbey house and the upper reaches. I appreciate these are the responsibility of the Vale, but I hope the Town Council are applying plenty of pressure to finally get solutions for these areas.

  6. John

    Thanks as always to Backstreeter for a helpful, unbiased report of council affairs. Not too long, not sensationalist, just excellent, competent, professional reporting. Well done.

  7. Julian Annells

    Iain, you forgot the Charter area/toilets and car park…. the first thing that many see when they get out of their cars. Absolutely disgusting. Why isn’t Scottish Widows/Aberdeen Asset management being held to account for this??

  8. Hester

    Thanks Backstreeter – a very Interesting morning useful summary.
    It is a pity that the Vale District Council holds all its meetings in Wantage: I guess that is nearer the geographical centre of the district, but it would be nice if they rotated them round the three main towns to make it easier for the public to go along and ask questions about issues such as those mentioned by Iain and Julian. As it is, all we can do is lobby our District Councillors to ask on our behalf…..

  9. Janet

    The Neighbourhood plans are a waste of time and money. It is just an excuse to set up another impotent committee. Actual residents are rarely involved and consulted.

  10. Helen Flynn

    Thank you Alistair for this comprehensive and unbiased report of some of the issues being tackled around the neighbourhood. Thank you also for all the work you do to bring this and other news to us which no doubt takes up large chunks of your time on a regular basis.

  11. Helen Flynn

    I am pleased to see that sheep grazing is to be allowed on the Springfield Road cemetery. I come from a small village in Sussex where this has been done for years.

  12. Helen Flynn

    Re: the land North of the subway along Stratton way. Whilst true that it has become a magnet for anti-social behaviour and is regularly heavily littered, part of the problem being the layout with lots of dark out of site areas.

    However, I think the area could be opened up and permanent cycle racks put in place. This would make some good use of the area without getting rid of the trees etc. I might suggest to the council.


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