Filed under: council

Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council makes yearly report to residents

yearly report to residents
There were about 100 people in the audience – probably a record for one of these meetings. A new feature this year was that the public were invited to come early to visit displays in the Old Magistrates Court and talk to many of the community groups who receive council grants. This seemed to be very popular.

Each Committee chairman presented his/her report on their activities in the past year and their future plans. These Committee Reports are on the Town Council website if you want to see the full details

One new Committee was set up this year: the Green Advisory and Scrutiny Committee. It advises and supports all the other committees to ensure that their activities and projects take proper account of environmental considerations. They have a more flexible structure than the traditional committees and draw on the expertise of community groups such as the Carbon Cutters, AbiBike and Abibinit. Their main areas of activity so far have been:

  • Carbon emissions and air pollution – looking for ways to reduce emissions from the Council’s own buildings and activities;
  • Bikes and buses – planning for improved infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Bees and trees – sheep grazing and beehives in the cemetery, possibly some additional trees on council land
  • Plastics and waste – ensuring appropriate practices at Market Place events and Fun/Music in the park
  • Town planning – they support the idea of a Neighbourhood Plan which they believe will enable a stronger environmental focus in planning decisions.

yearly report to residents
After the reports, there was a presentation on the proposals to launch a ‘Neighbourhood Development Plan’ (NDP) for Abingdon. The Council have engaged a consultant, ‘Feria Urbanism’ to undertake a scoping study over the next 3 months. Depending on what emerges from that the Council will decide whether and how to proceed to a full plan. An NDP is produced at parish level, with full community involvement, and has to be approved by a local referendum. Once fully approved, an NDP is a statutory planning document, binding on the local planning authority. However it cannot conflict with an existing Local Plan, so in Abingdon it is unlikely to be able to change the strategic plans for major housing developments but what it can do is influence the detail of those plans. It can also lay down rules for change of use, which could be of interest in relation to Abingdon town centre. The consultants were only appointed a few days ago so were not able to talk about specific ideas for Abingdon. They focused more on how they operate, particularly in getting real community involvement. The Town Council will shortly be letting us know how people can register a wish to be involved.

The next part of the meeting was a series of brief presentations by groups who have had major grants from the Town Council: Abingdon Carousel, Be Free Young Carers, Citizens’ Advice, The Abingdon Bridge and the Friends of Abingdon Abbey Buildings Trust. A common theme from all of them was that as well as being useful in itself, the Town Council financial support was absolutely key in enabling them to apply successfully for grants from other bodies.

The final part was questions from the audience. Issues raised included:

Parking on verges, ruining some of our attractive green spaces, what can be done? Answer, the whole question of parking enforcement is a long-running problem as it crosses councils, but new arrangements are under discussion and should be in place soon.

What is happening about disabled access to the Abbey Hall (cinema)? Rather than replace or repair the lift at the back a platform lift is to be installed from the foyer to the Abbey Hall entrance. This will enable all visitors to enter via the same route. Work is due to start imminently.

Can the Town Council press for the Lodge Hill interchange work to be done before the new houses are built? The Town Council have consistently pressed for that but to no avail. However work is going ahead on the interchange and it will be done – the exact timing in relation to the completion of the houses will depend on the speed with which each project progresses.

Can the Town Council press for action on the Upper Reaches, Old Abbey House and Charter toilets? The Town Council has no authority in these matters, but since they have been raised publicly at this meeting they will write to the Vale again to press for actions.
yearly report to residents
And finally, warm words were said about Steve Rich, the Assistant Town Clerk and Head of Services who is retiring after 17 years with the Town Council. Steve is a well-known figure around town and will be missed in this role.

Thanks to Hester for this report and to Steve for the first picture. The second picture comes from the Feria Urbana website. The final picture shows Steve Rich and Nigel Warner inspecting the Michaelmas Fair in 2009.

2 Comments March 12, 2020

Annual Parish Meeting of Abingdon-on-Town Council (2019)

Annual Parish Meeting
Yesterday (12th March 2019) was the annual Parish Meeting of Abingdon-on-Town Council. It is not a council meeting but a chance for the electors to hear what the Town Council has been doing. Chairs of committees sat at the front of the Roysse Room in the Guildhall and reported back on what had been done by their committee, followed by questions from the public. There was also a short presentation by Ian and Sue Wiper, who now run the Abbey Cinema, and manage the other rooms of the Guildhall. About twenty five people had come to listen. The Mayor, Councillor Margaret Crick, introduced and chaired the meeting.

There were also some announcements about what the Vale of White Horse District Council (VWHDC) have planned for Old Abbey House, Upper Reaches, and the Charter. Anyway here is my typed up record of the meeting
Annual Parish Meeting
Amenities Committee – Thanks were given to the staff who go out in all weathers. The snow equipment got an outing on the Market Place. New Fishing Signs have been erected by the River and the effect will be monitored. New play equipment has been put in at Elizabeth Avenue, and Hill View play areas. More is planned for Box Hill and Masefield Cresent play areas. Abingdon in Bloom flower displays last year were a great success. Council staff also maintain cemeteries and bus shelters, one of which was knocked down by a car and needs reinstating. Christmas Lights were up as usual.

Community Committee – Grants worth £18K have been given to community groups and a list was read out. Fun and Music in the Park were a success, and will run again this year. The Council communicate mainly through their website. Asked about noticeboards in the town centre we were told that was being looked at. I did not hear a mention of the Community Led Plan but may have blinked.

Guildhall Committee - Councillor Dennis Garrett has been a star on this council and has put in a lot of hours in to get this project near completion. A little work still needs doing but that has to be done round cinema hours not to spoil the cinema experience. The old rooms have been reopened as reported in previous blog posts, and the cinema. Once the muniment room is ready, the town’s records can be brought back – currently in Berkshire Records Office. During the revamp money was spent future proofing as far as possible. For example, the new pavement has been built to a high standard and can take emergency vehicles. Hire Rates have been set at a level to encourage community groups. I asked what had happened to the Guildhall tables and was told they had been a finger trip hazard and were got rid of. Some of the smaller ones are now at the Beacon in Wantage. Chairs have been kept where they are usable. Somebody commented that the front of the Abbey Hall looks shabby and was told the Abbey Cinema will be seeking planning consent for improvements.
Annual Parish Meeting
Museum Committee – A Heritage Lottery grant helped finance the WWI propaganda exhibition. We were told the next exhibition will be ‘Rubbish’. People laughed at this point. It was explained this was about discarded household items and the story they tell. I asked whether a better site would be found for the Information Centre, currently in the museum, and was told that is being looked at.

Planning and Highways – We were given a description about the work of this committee. Objections to plans must be ‘material’ to succeed. ‘Material’ means that they are in line with the various local plans such as the VWHDC local plan and County Council mineral extraction etc. The town council agreed 95% of the time with VWHDC who actually make the final decision. If the Town Council does object to a plan then they ask VWHDC to call it in so it is discussed in public at committee, and a Town Councillor often goes to speak in such cases.

Finance & General Purposes Committee – This committee gathered together the needs of the other committees and set the precept at £1,549,607. (need to double check figure). It was also noted that the Town Council no longer gets the localisation grant, or funding from other councils towards the museum. Bigger grants are given by the Town Council for Citizens Advice, Abingdon Bridge, the 41 Bus Service (the council got a good price by using the Drayton School bus at  times outside the school run),  Children’s Centre (£90K over 3 years), town centre PCSO.

The Town Council has 17.4 staff: 6 officers. 5 outdoor staff. 4.1 museum staff. 1 residents parking warden, 0.9 Information Centre and 0.4 (gym? cannot read my notes). There is also an unpaid honorary Town Archivist, and Mace Bearer and museum volunteers.

Non Town Council Abingdon news:
A hotel operator is interested in taking over the lease of the Upper Reaches. If their offer is agreed by the current lease holder then the hotel could be re-developed and re-opened.
Old Abbey House is still intended to be used for affordable housing. Providers of Social Housing are  being asked whether they want to take it on.
Something was also said about the Charter area but I did not hear what. I expect that will appear in Conservative leaflets as these announcements are partly political. The Conservatives want to retain the control of VWHDC in the election on May 2nd.
Annual Parish Meeting
Ian and Sue Wiper – Abbey Cinema and Guildhall
There were over 1000 visitors during the Guildhall Open Day.  They have an events manager, marketing person, and caterer to help run the Guildhall. People seem happy with Community Rates and there are 150 bookings so far, and many enquiries.

Since opening there have been 11,000 visitors to the new cinema, which is in line with projections. They are now marketing it more strongly with leaflets to houses. Currently there are 164 seats, and that will rise to 174.

I did ask the council why there was no large room for public meetings in the town centre – one with over 100 people. The Council Leader, Cllr Mike Badcock, said that I was wrong. There was the Amey Theatre at Abingdon School.

14 Comments March 13, 2019

New Commemorative Benches at Abingdon Guildhall + announcement of Annual Parish Meeting

The front view of the Guildhall no longer has the silhouettes of servicemen from WWI. Instead there are two commemorative benches.
One bench shows scenes from WWII with the years 1939 – 1945 and a dove of peace.
The other bench shows scenes from WWI with the reminder Lest we forget and the years 1918 – 2018.

The annual parish meeting will be on Tuesday 12th March at 7 pm in the Roysse Room in the Guildhall. This is when the Town Council reports back on their work and achievements during the last year.

The annual parish meeting is also the opportunity for anybody living in Abingdon to ask questions of the Town Council. For more detail see the agenda at Annual Parish Meeting.

6 Comments March 4, 2019

Town Council meeting in North East Abingdon

Town Council
As work continues at the Guildhall, the Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council meeting was moved to another part of town.
Town Council
The council met at the North East Abingdon Community Centre, next to the Peachcroft Shops.

The meeting began with the presentation of grant cheques to community groups. Then members of the public were allowed to speak.

A business person gave an update about the closure of the BID (Business Improvement District) after a petition showed businesses overwhelmingly wanted the district council to wind it up. But questions remained about BID accounts and when businesses would see some of their money back.

Pat Bryden showed the maps she is a designing as a tribute to Alan Bryden, an ex Councillor. They will be the other side of the River and Rye Farm car park.

There was a question by Councillor Angela Lawrence, the one Independent on the Council, about progress on the Community Led Plan, something she is keen on. She was told that only 4 people turned up at the last meeting by the Chair of the Plan Committee, who is waiting for community groups to come back having made progress on their actions before calling another meeting. The Chair said it was a Community Led Plan not a Council Led Plan.

The Mayor announced forthcoming dates which include the Over 70s Christmas Party on 17th December, and a quiz at a yet to be decided date – due to uncertainty about the Guildhall.

There was some discussion about the Guildhall where refurbishment is over budget by over £300K due to 3 unforeseen factors: the need to remove asbestos, water ingress issues, and the biggest factor – changing regulations for fire detection and emergency lighting .

However the chairman of the Guildhall Committee said they had the money thanks to the £1.2M pot that the District Council gave to the Town Council to take over the building, and the money saved because the Guildhall has been closed for three years. The old and new parts of the building will be outsourced and run by the company who are going to open the cinema in the Abbey Hall, and that will mean reduced running costs for the council. The building will also be fit for the next twenty or thirty years. It had been neglected in the past under the previous owner – the district council.

It had been proposed that 3 flags be erected in the newly refurbished Roysse Court, at a cost of £5K, but the Council decided not. Councillor Pat Lonergan said the town was over-flagged anyway. The council are to purchase a WWI memorial bench and a WWII memorial bench for the Roysse Court.

Three silhouette soldiers have been given to the Council who wanted to find a good location where they would not be vandalised. They could go in Roysse Court or beneath the County Hall Museum.

The Council flicked through a lot more committee minutes with few comments. There are of course the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War Years events in Abingdon. They include a Bun Throwing on 10th November, and a special service on the same day with readings from the Roll of Honour.

11 Comments October 17, 2018

Report on today’s F&GP council meeting

The leader of the council, Councillor Mike Badcock, thanked those who had come to the Finance and General Purposes meeting on such an inclement evening. Snow like tiny polystyrene balls was being blown about on the road outside.

Councillor Mike Badcock also said it was nice to be back in the splendid Council Chamber. We got there by way of the staircase that some people have been trying to protect from the Town Council’s plans to install a lift. There were lots of empty chairs with only seven members of public in attendance in the Council Chamber.

Before the meeting proper, Hester raised a couple of points about the short term use of the Abbey Hall, and Jim Halliday asked for a breakdown on what had been spent in capital costs of the £1.2m dowry that came with the Guildhall.

Then we came to questions raised at the previous Finance and General Purposes meeting. The leader said that the replacement Ock Bridge would be coming on 23rd March, and installed the week after that – weather permitting. In answer to the question about the BID (Business Improvement District) which some traders have not been happy about and asked the Town Council to facilitate a meeting, we were told (and I hope my hearing is correct) that the management company running the BID had handed in their notice, and there would be a meeting with the district council later this week to discuss matters. He also announced a Bun Throwing ceremony to commemorate the end of WWI on Saturday November 10th.

The committee then considered the answers given to about half of the questions from the public meetings. The Guildhall Committee will consider those more appropriate to their committee on Thursday. When all are approved they will be formally published on the Town Council web site.

The committee then considered the architect’s report on reopening the Abbey Hall – in the short term. There were outstanding questions about whether all the works quoted as a minimum were essential. So when that has been discussed, and the agreed minimum cost clarified, the report will go to the Regal Evesham who can decide whether to move forward to a formal offer on using the Abbey Hall. There are also other short term possibilities for the hall such as the internal market suggested by one member of the public, and previous users such a ADFAS returning.

Anyway, I had to leave at that point…

13 Comments February 26, 2018

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