From an Abingdon Town Council meeting

September 28, 2011

Pilings going in
A specialist firm is driving in pilings round what will be the lift at the rear of the County Hall. The hot weather continues and will do for a few days more. And this evening there was a meeting of Abingdon Town Council. I have gathered the points I found of interest from the meeting. I hope councillors can correct any points that I misheard. My hearing is not brilliant at times …

  • Abingdon Town Council unanimously supported a Fair Trade resolution.
  • Ex Lib-Dem Councillor Janet Morgan is to be made a Freeman of Abingdon at a ceremony on the 5th November.
  • £15K from the £20K playground improvement budget for this year is to be used instead on putting in salt bins round town.
  • It is proposed that Caldecott Rec and Boxhill Walk woods and park are designated as Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Parks in 2012. The government are looking to create 2,012 such QEJ parks. About 600 have been put forward so far, and Abingdon Town Council would add two more.
  • Since the Town Council has not always got the resources to paint over grafitti on bus shelters, the Community Payback scheme will be asked to help.
  • The council is to spend £30K on a feasibility study on improving the modern part of the Guildhall.
  • The Town Council will budget £25K on the Jubilee celebrations next June.
  • The new area for ashes at the cemetery will use a system for interring remains called Sanctum 2000 which involves holding caskets in vaults above ground.
  • The Mayor enlisted bowls players, rather than the usual volunteer councillors, in the annual Mayor of Abingdon v Lord Mayor of Oxford’s bowls tournament, and Abingdon won the trophy. Apparently Oxford have this practise anyway and it needed evening up.
  • At the next Town Council meeting, in a couple of months time, the Mayor would like to propose changing the name of Abingdon to Abingdon-On-Thames.

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36 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Just another resident  |  September 28, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Re: bowls match – I assume the aim was to win. But I was always taught it was the taking part that was mattered.

  • 2. Iain  |  September 29, 2011 at 7:17 am

    I believe the Abingdon team succeeded in winning after several years of Oxford success – well done to the Abingdon team

  • 3. Richmond  |  September 29, 2011 at 7:27 am

    At last Abingdon TC has realised that naming Abingdon ‘Abingdon-on-Thames’ might enhance its standing; tourists might be attracted to a town by the Thames, signage could link with the oldest town in the country etc, etc. I’ve never understood why this has been suggested before.

    I’m quite sure Henley-on-Thames has maximised its potential…so should Abingdon!

    30K for the Guildhall feasibility study….only good if the Guildhall is promoted and used. It hasn’t been in the past.

  • 4. newcomer  |  September 29, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Not germane to today’s blog, but there’s a programme on ITV1 tonight which might be of interest to readers.

    Death of the High Street:

    http://www.whatsontv.co.uk/tv-guide/programme/epg/genre/-/death-of-the-high-street-tonight/tomorrow/show/3119530/episode/25942076/ID/226051937/begin/0/page/1

  • 5. Iain  |  September 29, 2011 at 7:56 am

    That’s the plan. The £30k is a budget release rather than an actual cost. The idea is that this is then available to the guildhall committee to investigate the commercial feasibility of some different ideas for how the abbey hall could be used and to explore what some different ideas around how the modern part of the complex could look and what different options are likely to cost.

    There’s a high level update on progress on the project in the latest issue of the town crier. (unfortunately slightly limited in detail as some of project is currently commercially sensitive whilst contractors are tendering)

    Hope this helps.

  • 6. davidofabingdon  |  September 29, 2011 at 8:15 am

    My children will love playing in the salt bins. Thanks.

  • 7. MJB  |  September 29, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I hold the domain name abingdon-on-thames.co.uk but have never developed it. I wonder if the council would like to buy it off me!!!

  • 8. Colin Phab Secretary  |  September 29, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Demon bowlers to play bowls.

    I will make Phab aware of this
    (when the Mayors Challenge 2012!!!!!)

  • 9. John  |  September 29, 2011 at 11:42 am

    ..the number of comments shows it’s very helful to have these outline minutes.
    We have one of the best waterfronts in the country as BBC Oxford news shows; but the Nag’s Head!!

  • 10. Agnes_C  |  September 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks very much for sharing this with us. Really interesting information.

  • 11. doozer  |  September 29, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Great to have these meeting minutes – can they be a regular feature? Maybe the meeting could be ‘advertised’ on here before hand too?

    On a couple of the issues… £15k seems a lot on salt, especially out of the playground budget. Last ’snow season’ I heard about Sutton Council (in Surrey). They provided FREE a 10 (or maybe it was a 20) kg bag of salt for any household of their borough that wanted one – on the same philosophy that residents would then help keep their pathways and pavements clear. Why could they provide this for ‘Free’?…because, the council person said, was that buying in such bulk meant they got the bags at 20p each! Can we be assured that OUR council will also be exploring ‘less slippery’ avenues of enquiry before spending £15000? Even if a bag like this was provided for every resident (as opposed to every home)…we could halve that 15K…

    On the subject of spending money…What – MORE consultants and feasbility studies…!? What, even whilst we’re currently being ‘done over’ by consultants for the Abingdon redevelopment…having already been ‘done over’ by traffic consultants for [failed]AbIts…? Would it not be a good idea to “ask the shop floor”, AKA the residents of Abingdon what THEY may like done with the Guildhall? You never know..you may get some good ideas – for free!!! And get this…it may even be what people actually want!

    FInally, it is good (in my opinion – and everyone is entitled to my opinion) that the Abingdon-On Thames idea is being mooted, again. Out of interest…I know of at least one prominant road sign in Town that says “######, Abingdon-On-Thames”…does anyone else know where this is…and do you know of any more? Obviously, we need to be careful mentioning this, or any others…as the powers that have previously said “No” to Abingdon-On-Thames will be up their ladder as swift as can be to remove such a sign (Health and safety permitting of course)!

    I thought we weren’t “allowed” Abingdon-On-Thames as “on-Thames” is used to differentiate between multiple places with the same name, “Kingston-Upon-Hull / Kingston-Upon-Thames”. A silly reason I know…but it was the one given previously….as there is only one Abingdon.

    I think it can only do good to rename the town and make more of the fact we’re on the river. Out of interest…wasn’t the Gaol development supposed to make use of ‘the river’…we’ll see shall we. And isn’t/wasn’t ChAPS also supposed to be making more of it too? How many summers is that now…?

    Maybe when the residents are asked about the Guildhall…they could also be asked about the river usage…or just pay some consultants.

    Right…lunch break over…

  • 12. Iain  |  September 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Please excuse brevity as also on lunch.

    To pick up a few of doozers points:

    £15 is not just salt – mainly salt bins and some snow clearing equipment for the main public areas – Market square etc.

    There’s already quite a lot of ideas from public, users and all sorts of other places floating around. The challenge is to understand which of these are viable and also to understand the relative cost implications. We also need to get some drawings done to help people understand the various options around building design. Consultancy is a very broad church and is needed to help us make sensible decisions with public money.

    On the chaps point I know they are now starting to look at river front having been more focused on town centre to date.

    Hope this helps

  • 13. helen  |  September 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I have also noticed the Abingdon-on-Thames sign!

    I think it will help avoid confusion as, according to the bbc website, there is an Abingdon in London. And there are several in the US.
    There are also several places called Abington.

    However it could cause a different confusion. I had the honour of being brought up in a town locally known as Burton, widely known as Burton-on-Trent – but with an official name of name Burton upon Trent.
    Note the hyphens!

  • 14. doozer  |  September 29, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Iain – thank you for taking time from your lunch to answer; it is much appreciated. I’ll have a mull and if i have any queries…I’ll let you know.

    Helen – it comes as a surprise doesn’t it!? I’m on a hunt for another…there’s got to be another. But shh…we don’t want the party poopers to take it down – keep it between us.

    Newcomer – I saw your program. What did you think? I didn’t see anyone saying that a town centre supermarket is part of the solution… To be fair, it did make me appreciate how lively Abingdon-on-Thames actaully is (or indeed, can be). Let’s hope it was required watching for our decision makers…

  • 15. davidofabingdon  |  September 30, 2011 at 1:57 am

    There is an Abingdon Street in London, but not a place.

    “Abingdon” is unique in the UK.

    Interestingly there are 5 places called Burford. There are loads and loads of places called Drayton and there are four Steventons around the country.

    I think the rebranding of Abingdon as “abingdon on thames” coiuld be justified for tourism reasons but not using avoilding confusion as a justification.

  • 16. Ellen Fleming  |  September 30, 2011 at 4:15 am

    I am sure you would not mix Abingdon UK up for the following – http://www.abingdonvillage.com.au/miniatures.html
    or the Abingdon (ABG) Australia Airport – incase you cannot find this one try these – Longitude : 143° 12’ 0” E (?)
    Latitude : 17° 40’ 0” S (?)
    Greetings from Australia – a regular visitor to Abingdon.

  • 17. lema  |  September 30, 2011 at 8:49 am

    I think doozer makes some very good points. Re. consltants -I am still completely baffled as to how, in the age of the computer, the town centre road changes have turned out to be no better than the previous road layout but obviously very expensive into the bargain. I overheard a conversation in Masons in Stert Street to the effect that their trade had only just returned to the levels it was before the road works. This is hardly the ‘help’ that our town centre shops needed.
    I love the idea of giving all the willing residents our own bag of salt to grit our own roads and pavements with at then we adopt a different attitude to ‘our’ concerns rather the standard British approach of ‘It’s the council’s job!’ It’s also good for community spirit – I met more neighbours during the last flood than I had at any other time and I don’t expect that I was alone in that. Having said that the council would do it’s credibility a favour by not considering spending such a large amount on a feasability studies when as doozer said, the residents are a more obvious choice in respect of being effected, interested and free!

    I too would like these town council meetings reprted on more often and I’m sure that between us we can be useful unpaid consultants!

  • 18. newcomer  |  September 30, 2011 at 9:01 am

    doozer, it was an interesting programme, but depressing in the sense that Tesco and the Fairacres retail park have put the kibosh on Abingdon Town Centre returning to/becoming a vibrant entity as the programme showed in Skipton … now there’s a local council which knows what it’s doing!

    Through gritted teeth I’d say that Mary Portas had the most interesting input when she said that town centres of the future would probably provide a totally different range of goods and services than they do now. This implies that she’s applying some creative thinking, unlke seen in the Abingdon plan which appears to be predicated on the retail needs of the town centre of the future being exactly the same as it was in pre-superstore and pre-internet shopping times. As of yet I’ve seen no rationale as to WHY the types of shopping units shown in the Abingson plan are going to be relevant in the future … the last thing Abingon needs is to build an instant white elephant.

    It was interesting to hear the negative influence of high rents being hammered throughout the programme and the positive effect of plentiful and free parking.

    If there has to be a superstore let it not be too close in appeal to any of the existing offerings, which is why I’d opt for an Aldi, or a Lidl … anything with a demographic appeal too close to Tesco, Waitrose, or the Co-op will not generate the traffic on which smaller retailers thrive.

    BTW, I have a good friend who lives in Skipton and he tells me that the Town Centre is so good that people arrive there in charabanc-loads to do their shopping … perhaps our council could save a fortune in consultancy fees by asking Skipton Town council for their advice.

  • 19. TR6man42  |  September 30, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Hopefully these notes regarding TC meetings will become a regular feature of this blog.
    The Mayor is on record as saying he would like to return Abingdon to as it was? Well after his disastrous start he may just be onto something by reverting to Abingdon -on – Thames as was.
    He may just be onto something else if he were to advocate returning Abingdon to how it use to be governed also. Ted Heath’s disastrous local government re-organisation of 1974 substituted three layers of local government i.e.Town, District, County when previously just two Borough & Municipal were needed. This has been a beanfeast for ‘jobsworths’, duplication, inefficiencies and covert corruption.
    The last unitary authority to be created recently did away with over 700 councillors thus saving thousands of pounds in allowances! Do we really need councillors sitting on all three layers of LG being paid at least £12 to £13k per annum? What are they doing for that sum of money?
    Contrary to several posters, the fabled Abingdon waterfront is not that fabled in my view. Only the Abbey Meadow area including the outdoor pool & Wilsham road are public, the rest is private so that doesn’t leave a great deal of scope.
    But I forget the Anchor Inn & even that doesn’t have an outside public space where you could sit & have a drink whilst watching the boats sail by.

  • 20. Kat P  |  September 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I’m all for marketing Abingdon as ‘Abingdon-on-Thames’ regardless of whether that becomes the town’s official name. The whole of the other side of the river from the town is open to the public and this does allow for a very pleasant circular walk from Abbey Meadow. It would be great if we could get a footbridge from Wilshan Road at some point in the future.

    I’m all for grit bins but I don’t understand why the play area budget should be raided to pay for them. The town has a good number of Play Areas but the money budgeted for them should be spent on them so that they steadily improve. And is the promised snow plough on the way? £15K doesn’t sound enough for that.

    Regarding Skipton – it is worth noting that a) Skipton is a small market town on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales which is the nearest town for a very large rural hinterland and a strong summer tourist trade. It also doesn’t have a major traffic route running through the middle of it. I’m not saying there aren’t lessons to be learnt, but we need to be realistic that different towns have different advantages and disadvantages and Abingdon can’t realistically achieve what other towns can in the same way.

    I do think there is an important point, though, that we need to think about what town retail and services are going to be like in the future, not in the past.

    As for the Guildhall – good luck! Such facilities rarely survive without subsidy – but if you can identify enough things that are both popular ands viable, well done.

  • 21. Kat P  |  September 30, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    @TR6man42

    Town Councillors recieve a basic allowance of about £800 pa, Vale councillors about £3,700 and County Councillors about £8,000.

    I don’t disagree with your point about rationalising local government, but we don’t need to exagerate to make the case.

  • 22. Iain  |  September 30, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    TR6Man42 – Whilst I personally share many of your sentiments in regard to the advantages of moving to a unitary authority I find myself quite offended by your ill-informed view as to how much councillors receive.

    Let me be totally transparent with you. I am a town councillor and as such am entitled to an annual payment of £796 which is taxable and therefore becomes quite a but less in reality (you can do the sums if you want). This is a fairly nominal sum and is someday covering basic costs that you tend to incur in thecourse of doing the job (stationery, telephone, Internet, printer cartridges, etc).

    I receive no other monies of any description in relation to my duties as a councillor. As you can now calculate this is nowhere near you minimum estimate if £12-13k.

    If I take a look at ny duties and workload as a councillor I would conservatively estimate them as taking not less than 5 days a month. I am self employed and this is therefore a direct cost to me (although am able to do sone of this onthe evening fortunately).

    I think if you spoke to most other town councillors, regardless of their party you would find similar pictures.

    You are of course entitled to your point of view in terms of the decisions we make and the actions we take, but I think you are wrong if you believe that the average town councillor is jumping in some sort of gravy train.

    So in summary – by all

  • 23. John  |  September 30, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    See what a good debate you’ve generated and much better than the Abingdon (sic) Herald, which most people seem to have stopped buying. (notwithstanding some good letters this week).
    As I overheard in the consultation in the Precinct:- it would even be better if theTown centre reverted to mainly residential than have that white elephant monster in the middle!!

  • 24. Iain  |  September 30, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Just seen last line in my post – didn’t mean to suggest I was disappearing – phone snuck in half of a sentence I thought I’d overwritten :)

  • 25. newcomer  |  September 30, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Kat P, of course you’re right … Abingdon’s proximity to retail alternatives Oxford and Didcot mean it’s in a totally different retail environment to Skipton. That town also has the foresight to be fighting off Tesco, which is a lesson Abingdon doesn’t seem to have absorbed. Apart from that, Skipton seems to be proactive in promoting itself.

    As far as the current plans for the Town Centre are concerned I’m sure that the architects and builders are keen to foist their unimaginative ‘vision’ on the Town as this requires little in the way of thought and imagination … just build a clone, take the money and run, and leave the town with something that might be totally unsuitable in the future.

    There’s no rationale, there’s no WHY the plan is a good plan. No argued and detailed vision as to what a town centre will be used for in the future. As far as the public consultation is concerned it’s a hollow exercise … why don’t the planners book The Guildhall (at commercial rates) and have public meetings to tell townsfolk where they think market town retailing is going, relating it to Abingdon’s special circumstances (town-edge superstore and retail park) and telling us WHY their plans will work.

    I guess it’s because there’s no rationale, it’s all emperor’s new clothes.

    The success of any plan will be revealed when we see how many townsfolk use the new centre … they are the arbitors, not the planners.

    I suspect the planners are just winging it on past experience … so what changes?

  • 26. Pete  |  September 30, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Please stop going on about tut Skipton being a perfect town to copy… its physically an entirely different shaped town centre with one central very wide street with the market down each side. Beyond that it has a massive Morrisons and massive Tesco and the only reason people head there in charabancs is that its impossible to park there most days and on market days the traffic is virtually static. Nothing against it, jolly nice place with some great shops & a lovely castle…ooooo and a fab pie shop :O) but hardly a planning masterpiece.

  • 27. TR6man42  |  September 30, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Ian & Kat P – Look at who you’ve elected. There are four Town Councillors who are sitting on every level of local government as well as being the Mayor.
    I make that £12,500 in allowances, what are they doing for it?
    I rest my case.

  • 28. Iain  |  September 30, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    There are 21 counsilors on Abingdon town council – only 4 are in the position you describe. My marths is a bit rusty but that does not go anywhere near all councillors getiing at least £12-13k per your earlier post – iI resent the implication.

    The councillors to whom you specifically refer are more than capable of defending themselves, however I would say that we were elected on a clear manifesto. It included taking action on issues such as town centre vitality, parking, snow clearance. You may not agree with what we are doing but you cannot argue that no action is taking place to deliver on these promises.

  • 29. Iain  |  September 30, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Sorry about spelling – can’t type on this phone

  • 30. doozer  |  September 30, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Golly – if you ask me there is some strong feeling about all this! You know what would improve my opinion on things…I want to hear what ChAPs think about all this. I want, as newcomer says, to have a public meeting in the Guildhall about all of this. Why is no one listening – or even seeking our opinion?

    Newcomer – I also thought it was a reasonably interesting program for many of the reasons you sight. High rates, poor parking, supermarkets…all not helping the highstreet. (And all mentioned in other programs in recent weeks). The highstreet needs to adapt, or die. The highstreet needs to change to meet the needs of the 21st century shopper. What IS that…I don’t know. I have ideas…but the highstreet can’t do it alone, not with such an unlevel playing field (supermarkets with free parking etc) and that is where councils come in and that is why I get dispondant because I don’t see…or feel that enough is being done to counter the decline (this isn’t just an Abingdon-on-Thames issue, I mean in general. But here too)!

    Don’t get me wrong, much in town thrives (some weekends, and it’sbetter than it’s been). But is it enough?

    Our town’s future teeters on a knife edge, yet we’re blindly being led down the clone town route. Is that IT. Is that ALL we have and are going to have to offer!!?

    I don’t think that “copying Skipton” is necessarily the answer, or copying Totness, or any other town that is bucking the highstreet decline trend. But the lesson to learn is how these places are going about playing to their strenghts.

    What are OUR strenghts?….and how can we exploit them further?

    I want to know WHO is asking these questions for us and I want to know what answers they are coming up with.

    If they are asking the right questions, and the answer is STILL a Sainsbury’s, then I’ll shut up. Promise!

  • 31. doozer  |  September 30, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    The annual general meeting of the Choose Abingdon Partnership is set for Wednesday, October 12, in the Roysse Room in the Guildhall from 7pm.

    …maybe enough people should go, so there’s “Standing Room Only” and we can pose some of our concerns?

    They get a fair amount of money to promote Abingdon-on Thames (indeed…it is FOUR times as much as for salt bins!) – I’d be keen to know what they’ve been up to, and what they are planning..but also what they think of “all this malarky”.

  • 32. Iain  |  October 1, 2011 at 1:13 am

    There’s a website if you’d like to hear more about what chap have been up to (minutes etc are published), sone headlines would be:

    - choose abingdon loyalty scheme
    - town maps helping tourism
    - quarterly what’s on leaflets
    - community shop
    - gazebos for use by community groups
    - local excellence Market
    - tourist walking leaflets

    And I’m sure there are lots of other things I’m forgetting. Jeather brown in particular has really driven a lot of practical activities to help tge towns vionrancy. If you’d like to hear more at rhe agm then the more the merrier.

  • 33. doozer  |  October 1, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Again, thanks Iain for the heads-up on the ChAPS sight. I am reasonably ‘up’ on what they have been up to to date. For me though I am eager to know what they think of many of the issues bought to light recently here. What does James and Heather think of Sainsbury’s – or any supermarket coming to the town centre…a good idea, or bad – and so? What do the people they represent think likewise and how are they going to address any mismatches.

    The “making Abingdon-on-Thames” a tourist destination (there’s a great letter/idea in the Herald on line this week)….do they think initiatives like that suggest good – good enough to take forward.

    I guess, what i want to see and hear from people who have decisions to make…I want to hear the same sort of urgency, energy and passion that comes from the residents.

    Hopefully the AGM will have time to discuss “initiatives going forwards” too.

  • 34. Paul  |  October 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I think the potential harm done by a further supermarket in the precinct is overstated.

    Also, anyone that thinks it should be an Aldi or a Lidl does not seem to thinking about the town’s image. Yes those stores would compliment perfectly the Pound store but I, for one, want the image of he town to go up market, not down.

    Sainsbury or M&S food would do it.

    Such a store could mean more people foregoing the drive out to Tesco and bring more people unto town thus increasing the footfall and potential sales for other businesses in the precinct.

  • 35. doozer  |  October 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    …as it appears to be a “done deal”…let’s hope you’re right!

  • 36. Colin A,.S.R. Galloway  |  March 28, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Who keeps our streets clean of litter, who removes items which are dumped like a bed base or a bike dumped along Audlett Drive. The bike on between Water Station and Snakes and Ladders and the bed base is along the road almost on the verg of the road.

    A feedup Resident of Abingdon on Thames

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