Mayor of Sint Niklaas, Town Council Meeting, and ‘I do not have 4 legs’

October 19, 2017

Mayor of Sint Niklaas visits
Thanks to Brian for this picture of the Mayor of Sint-Niklaas, Lieven Dehandschutter, with the Mayor of Abingdon, Jan Morter. During his time in Abingdon, Lieven spoke to about 300 children at St Nicolas School. It was the then headmaster of St Nicolas school who fifty years ago initiated the twinning between Abingdon and Sint-Niklaas. Lieven toured Abingdon with Jan Morter and had lunch at the Nags Head. He spoke as an invited guest to Abingdon and District Twin Towns Society on 800 years of Sint Niklaas. This was followed by frites with mayonnaise, waffles and Belgian beer. He also gave an interesting talk to Abingdon Town Council at the start of their meeting. He spoke on the subject of twinning.
Mayor of Sint Niklaas visits
This was followed by a talk by the deputy Director of the local Citizens Advice. She told members that the CA helped over 1700 people from Abingdon last year. The CA has very few paid staff – they rely heavily on volunteers and it is calculated that, in addition to financial savings for their clients, every £ invested in the service produces over £26 in public value (economic and social) and nearly £5 in direct savings to government.

As to the Town Council meeting there was a good turnout of members of the public.

Under Matters Arising from previous meetings they heard some good news: The X3 Bus will once again go to Oxford Station as from Monday 23 October – but only till 8pm and with variations to the route – it may not be possible to join it in St Aldates. Check before you travel!

The Town Council has now released its promised funding for the Family Centre at the former South Abingdon Childrens Centre.

The District Council have now approved the release of “S.106” money, their contribution, for the Lodge Hill slip roads so hopefully work will be able to start soon.

The matter which had brought most of the audience to the meeting was the discussion on the Guildhall and Abbey Hall. Over 1500 people had signed the online petition and nearly 300 had signed a hard copy. The two main issues of concern were the proposed loss of the Abbey Hall as a venue for community use and the plans to remove the 1731 staircase in the old part of the building to allow room for a lift and a narrower staircase. In response to these concerns, the Council agreed to look into ways of bringing the Abbey Hall back into use and to get professional advice on alternative ways to improve disabled access to the old parts of the complex, without causing irreparable damage

There may also have been a formal request for a public meeting about all of this. So that could be happening fairly soon.

After the Guildhall discussion there was a brief update on the Community-led Plan proposal. The results are still being analysed but the organisers were disappointed that more young people hadn’t taken part and that those offering to help with the follow-up work were mainly people already active in the community – they are keen to reach out much more widely. Hopefully they will find a way of doing that.
Mayor of Sint Niklaas visits
During the meeting there was a long discussion, followed by a vote, on whether the word Chairman should be replaced by Chair (or Chairperson) – which was was lost. Monica Lovatt was one of the opponents, and said ‘I do not have 4 legs’.

Filed under: council, twinning

18 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Monica lovatt  |  October 19, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    Instead of my comment about not having four legs, I wish you had mentioned my agreeing that Angela Lawrence had a point in saying that the new Guildhall and Abbey Hall plans had lacked public consultation. Maybe we would not have had so many emails, letters and a petition if people had been consulted, as they have been in the past, about their town hall.

  • 2. ppjs  |  October 20, 2017 at 5:18 am

    One way of listening to the public is to keep in regular blogs like this. Occasionally, there are rants, but generally the conversation and comments here are pretty civilised. Calling people our for evening meetings is no longer a successful way of canvassing public opinion. It hasn’t been for years – if it ever was.

  • 3. ppjs  |  October 20, 2017 at 7:58 am

    Sorry, typo: Calling people out for meetings….

  • 4. Steve  |  October 20, 2017 at 8:20 am

    I’m intrigued why Monica said she doesn’t have 4 legs – did someone really mistake her for an animal?

  • 5. Deedee  |  October 20, 2017 at 8:21 am

    This is excellent news re the Town Councils new approach to the Guild & Abbey halls. Now it’s the turn of the district council to act not only with common sense but more importantly for the good of the people within its community.
    I refer of course to their outrageous proposal to replace Old Abbey House with social housing!
    They say they’ve been unable to sell it? Has anyone from Abingdon ever seen it on the market? Has any one of our dozen or so estate agents been asked to market it? Has it ever appeared in an estate agents window or even had so much as a fir sale sign outside?
    Of course not and just as council already have an ulterior motive for leaving the Upper Reaches site to rot, I suspect they’ve all along had an ulterior motive for NOT trying to sell Abbey House and as we found with the”disposal” of the old Gaol another piece of the family silver will be disposed of without consideration of our best interests!
    So here’s my challenge to the district council. Let us, the people of Abingdon, see you actively marketing the property to the best of any local estate agents ability and if, after a year of not finding a buyer at genuinely reflective price then so be it with your housing plan!
    Of course this challenge also extends to any estate agent who feel they could successfully bring about a sale to contact Mr Barber and offer their services at a reduced cost. As a gesture of good will !

  • 6. Iain  |  October 20, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I welcome the decision of the Town Council to take some professional advice on their plans for the historic parts of the Guildhall and to investigate the reopening of the Abbey Hall, and well done to those councillors who have pressed for this concession.

    I would suggest we treat this with a little caution however, as they have only committed to look into these matters and there still appears to be a strong desire by the leadership of the Council to press on with their scheme. We have still not received the long awaited public statement on their plans for the Guildhall. Let’s hope we hear more at the public meeting mentioned above.

  • 7. hester  |  October 20, 2017 at 9:03 am

    While I completely agree that it is a disgrace to consider demolition or drastic alterations to Old Abbey House and we must do all we can to prevent that, your account of the history is not quite right.
    The Vale did put it on the market in 2014 (through Savills); there was coverage on this blog and in the local press at the time. Some expressions of interest were received, but the process was put on hold when the Friends of Abingdon successfully applied for it to be listed as an “Asset of Community Value” in order to give community organisations a chance to bid for it. No community bids came forward so it was put back on the market again in 2015, again with Savills. A number of bids were received, one of them from a company who wanted to use it for small-scale office accommodation for charities, community interest companies and start-ups. They wanted to lease it and were still interested as recently as this summer, but were unable to secure an acceptable arrangement with the Vale.
    As you say, there are three buildings under threat in Abingdon’s town centre conservation area, which is a disgraceful situation. The Friends of Abingdon are lobbying the relevant authorities, but it is an uphill struggle so we would welcome assistance/support from others. Please contact us via our website if you would like to know more.

  • 8. Deedee  |  October 20, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Hester, many thanks for the time line on Old Abbey House, my interpretation of what you’ve written is one of do gooders ( the friends of Abingdon ) doing bad !
    So the district council in seeking to realise some much needed cash from that asset aid the Town Council £1millionbpoind to move out? They then put it on the open market for sale? But you and the Friends decided it should become a community asset in the hope someone from the “community” will take it on? It’s then taken off the market while you pursue your aim? You succeed, but I’m stead of procuring an occupier before you began your folly, you waited until it was granted community status before you realised no one was going to take it on?
    In effect you’ve turned a saleable asset into a dead duck?
    Moreover you seem surprised the district council wouldn’t lease it out? The whole idea was to dispose of it, that’s why they evicted the Town Council,
    Isn’t this a case of mischievous meddling ?

  • 9. Hester  |  October 20, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Sorry Deedee I misunderstood your original post. I thought that like many other people you were concerned about the Vale selling off the Abingdon people’s “silver”. I now understand that you do want them to sell it off – just not put it to use as affordable housing. My mistake.

    Also, unless there have been two £1m payments, the money from the Vale to the Town was a dowry with the Guildhall complex, nothing to do with OAH.

  • 10. Angela  |  October 20, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    PPJS comment 2.
    My point was that much of the discussion re. involving the public was around subjects that should inform the Community Led Plan (CLP) Involving the public is there in the title COMMUNITY LED. There are plenty of members of the community and various community groups who have the relevant skills and knowledge who would like to be involved and have not yet been invited to be involved except to attend the public consultation events that took place over the summer. A particular case in point is the Transition Town (TT) work which is now under the unmbrella of the CLP Working Group. We shouild continue to include the member of Carbon Cutters who had been co-opted when the TT work had its own working group, since the aim of the TT work is to substantially reduce carbon emissions.
    Cllr Alice Badcock made the point that something like only 2% of the population took the trouble to attend any of the CLP introductory consultation events and fill in the questionaires. That is worrying and we need to find out why, but that doesn’t give the council a good reason for not inviting those members of the community with relevant knowledge, experience and interest in the plan to become part of the CLP Working Group.

  • 11. Monica lovatt  |  October 20, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Steve, the four legs was in reference to a chair that has four legs and I am not one of those.

    About public consultation, meetings are important for some people as they can see the plans and talk to someone about them. Perhaps they are not online. There are many ways for people to engage in a consultation they just have to have the opportunity to do so.

    The Councillor that remarked about the low turnout took it to mean that people are not interested in their Town, I beg to differ as the people I meet are very interested and concerned and want to know what is happening to their Town and what the Council is doing about it.

  • 12. Deedee  |  October 20, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Hester, I believe you’re trying to over complicate what should have been a simple exercise?
    The Vale had an asset that was “coming back to them” because the lease they granted the Town Council was due to expire, the offered to TC the guild hall complex along with £1 million pound to bring that building up to date ( no doubt relying on the sale of OAH to replenish their expenditure) that sounds quite a reasonable proposition especially given the hope the building may become a hotel or restaurant, even a business premise, but now you’ve practically rendered the building unsalable by having degignated a community asset you’ve left the council with little option other than to build something themselves?
    Of course we need social housing, but that’s not the place for it, is it? Otherwise you wouldn’t have made it a community asset?

  • 13. Angela  |  October 20, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    and nearly 2,000 people are interested enough to have signed the Guildhall and Abbey Hall petition.

  • 14. Angela  |  October 20, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    ‘and nearly 2,000 people are interested enough to have signed the Guildhall and Abbey Hall petition’
    that coomment was backing up Monica’s comment at 11, but Deedee suddenly came between us.

  • 15. Daniel  |  October 20, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    I think the ‘clp’ only having a 2% turnout is more to do with well-intentioned but poorly executed events.

    Having said this, it surely can come as no surprise that “the community” has been mislead and/or ignored so many times….what’s the point?

    “Poor managers, who don’t listen will soon find themselves leading teams with nothing to say”, this can be adapted and apply to ‘us’ and how we are councilled.

    If our glorious leaders stepped up to the plate and *really* represented us then all development in and around Abingdon would cease until the infrastructure is able to serve its current community….. Then, and only then, might that community see the value in giving their opinion on how things might move forwards WITH us from that point onwards. As it currently stands, we are merely a nuisance that needs to be placated by ‘good intentions’.

  • 16. lyle lanley  |  October 20, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    I’d say the poor response to the CLP is more a reflection of what the average Abingdonian thinks will be the real impact of any CLP, local plan, or consultation.

    Past performance and all that..

    Its quite clear to most, that so called local democracy, public consultations, and local plans don’t work and just have no weight, when considered against developers plans and unfulfilled promises.

    If you feel your voice isn’t heard, your opinion not genuinely considered, and that these exercises are just a tick box exercise, then eventually you don’t bother.

    You only have to look at the long list of developments and decisions to see this.. Morland gardens, ( how is moving those traffic lights working by the way.. ), Oxford road trees, guildhall non development, north Abingdon expansion and now the abbey gardens.. with Culham’s expansion to come..

    No wonder no one is feeding back to the CLP, what difference will it make….

    I guess in the words of the Python’s.. what has a local plan of ( any sort ), ever done for us….


    that’s not to say I’m not grateful for the efforts that many in the community and who post here put in, just that…its no wonder the average person doesn’t bother..

    And when you see that council want to debate whether the chair man, should be a man/woman/person, instead of sorting out our real issues… well…

    still the flowers were lovely this year Daniel, and my plans for a monorail linking lodgehill and culham are progressing well…

  • 17. newcomer  |  October 21, 2017 at 6:37 am

    And, of course, a CLP is a same old same old ‘consultancy’ approach whereas the ‘community’ might have felt more enthusiasm had it been a neighbourhood plan.

  • 18. Janet  |  October 22, 2017 at 8:34 am

    I agree with you Newcomer. I participated in the South Abingdon Residents Plan. It succeeded in including local residents to start with. We had successes in clearing litter and graffiti. It soon became a consultancy excercise and the interest of the local residents waned. To be honest local residents had very little influence over issues such as traffic and planning. Budgetary restrictions limited anything else. It would have succeeded in South Abingdon had it been a local residents group with information and interest of local residents in the area.

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