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Snippets from the Council Meeting

Last night (19th October) there was a Town Council meeting. The Vicar attended the meeting and outlined some of the new building and restoration work going on in the church. New rooms and facilities are being created in the bell tower and the chancel.  In the space created by the removal of the old organ the superb alabaster tomb which has been fully exposed for the first time in a century will be restored and form the centrepiece of a wonderful collection of old monuments from the church which have been obscured - or even left outside. The programme goes on for several years and will eventually involve a new floor for the body of the church. Wow! that will take some fundraising. The County Councillor Hilary Biles told us that she had met with the local Police  Inspector Rory Freeman. He emphasised that Chipping Norton still had two PCSOs and two Neighbourhood officers on duty 24 hours a day. He had given instructions to the local police that it was their job to sort out parking problems in the town until the new Community Wardens are appointed next February. Hilary also reported that she had been successful in persuading the WODC Cabinet to agree to lift the covenant which they hold on Greystones House. This should allow the building to be sold for substantially more money - proceeds from the Sale are going towards the new Youth Centre. Everything now looks set to start marketing the building. Many thanks to Hilary for her efforts on this and to the WODC Cabinet for their agreement. But probably most of all to Andrew Tucker - the Director of Planning - who has steered our request through so skilfully and has been really keen to help. District Councillor Coles reported that she  had attended a meeting of the WODC Environment Committee and had been told that the signposting of HGVs away from Chipping Norton was now complete. About time too! They had also discussed Dean Pit. Councillor Graves interjected with the latest news from the waste disposal front. She had been rung up by Lord Chadlington (no less) that very afternoon and told that the application by OCC to its own Planning Committee earlier in the day to extend the licence of Dean Pit for a further five years had been rejected and the extension reduced to two years and that the OCC must show that it has considered viable alternatives before any further extension will be granted. It was reassuring to hear that WODC had stated clearly that Dean Pit would not be allowed to close until an alternative was open. (Watch out Enstone!) The Town Council heard that  three of its recommendations from the last meeting on local planning applications had been simply ignored by the WODC Planning Committee. (situation normal)  Gina Burrows announced that there is to be a Town Hall Open Day at which members of the Council will be in attendance to answer residents' questions and users of the Town Hall will be displaying the work of their organisations. To be held on a Wednesday because the Town Hall is fully booked on Saturdays through to the end of the year. NOVEMBER 25th is the day. Then out of the blue we were informed that the Town Clerk was going to have a baby, next May. Well blow me. We all fell off our chairs and broke into applause. Good for you Vanessa. Congratulations. We will think about how we will cope later! We were told that Chippy Jazz Day has raised 5,500 - an unbelievable effort by the Rotary. Half the proceeds going to the Air Ambulance. Grants  to Local Voluntary Bodies were announced - ranging from 3,000 to the Lido down to 60 to Vitalise. (Some of us had to ask what Vitalise is. A Witney-based charity apparently which arranges respite trips for carers.) It was good to see 500 going to the new Skater Hockey Club which was only formed this year - based at the new MUGA. Money worries took up the rest of the meeting. We  have been granted 100,000 by WODC towards Town Hall repairs and refurbishment but it all depends on 80,000 matched funding. We are 30,000 short and we have to come up with the goods by the end of the year or the whole deal is back in the melting pot. Who is to decide Can we raise the 30K Who will conjure up the readies Is this the responsibility of the Mayor The Finance Committee or the Town Hall Committee or the new Friends of the Town Hall A bureaucratic muddle. Hilary (who is the Cabinet Member in charge of this grant funding) made it clear that she wanted one person to talk to at the Town Council. Would the Council please decide who this was to be - and quickly  Grants were being cut back at this very moment and unless the Town Council got its skates on they would lose out. Your correspondent slunk into the corner and adjusted his dunce's cap - as he always does after a wigging from Hilary. There is to be a meeting later this week to sort it all out.



18th October Town Council

Well that was a lively meeting!

Councillor Biles told us the Youth Centre was safe. The contract was about to be signed. Fingers to remain firmly crossed but things were looking good. Big vote of thanks to Hilary and Louise Chapman who have both fought like Tigers for this.

Councillor Greenwell said that an estimate for fixing the Town hall roof had come in at a price which means that selling Greystones House would probably pay for it. Now that is really good news.

Councillor Alcock reported that attempts to clear up various queries about the Councils title to Greystones House in preparation for a sale were moving forward albeit at a snails pace. We had got temporarily bogged down in the subject of how to split the septic tank costs with WODC. Exactly how much of the septic tank capacity was being used by the Bowls Club is this weeks delicate question.

Councillor Greenwell reported that there was a slight delay to the work on the steps at the Town Hall because the actual excavation of the steps had revealed the existence of a massive block of stone supporting the steps which nobody knew was there. This meant that the whole waterproofing plan had to be reworked.

Councillor Watkins proposed that after last winters experience the Town Council should invest a couple of thousand pounds in a ride-on machine to clear pavements of snow. He had identified one and was asked to present the details at the next Town Council. Everybody thought that it was an excellent idea. (But dont forget about Insurance somebody gently reminded him) 

Councillor Coles reported that nothing had happened at the District Council in the last month (situation normal then) except our three District Councillors had all joined a coach trip to Bridgend in South Wales to go and see how our new waste contractor does things. They were mightily impressed and spent a lot of time quizzing residents out shopping about the standard of waste collection in Bridgend. Apparently it is amazing. Join the District Council and not only get an expenses allowance but see the world as well!!

The Planning Application by the Co-Op to build a huge new store (three times the size of the present one) on the Burgage Plots had been approved. Full marks to Annie who (the minutes show) had tried to raise the Town Councils concerns about the design of the new building (another really ugly modern. monstrosity to match the new Care Home) However as usual the towns worries were simply dismissed. 

Several councillors had attended a presentation by a developer of plans for housing next to the Football Club. Apparently they had been favourably impressed and the developer had now written to the Town Council asking if a town councillor would join them at a meeting with WODC planners to speak in support of their plans. Do these scheming developers think us yokel councillors were born yesterday.

Glyn Watkins produced the Time Capsule which is to be buried under the refurbished Town Hall steps. David Cameron had written a special letter to be included which contains the immortal line.Becoming Prime Minister earlier this year inevitably means that I spend more time in London. but I always look forward to coming to our house near Chipping Norton which is the place that Samantha, the children and I call home. All together everybodyAhhhhhhh! Somebody suggested that all the schoolkids in town should be asked to write down a short piece saying what they thought life in Chippy would be like in fifty years time. This could be put on a memory stick and buried in the capsule until such time as the headmaster of the day decided he would like to embarrass all the contributors by reading out the predictions in front of their grandchildren. Great wheeze everybody thought. Lets do it!! Except for Councillor Jarrett who thought that technology would have moved on so far by capsule-opening time that they would not be able to read from a memory stick. Doh!

The County Council had written to us saying they wanted our opinion on how many county councillors there should be in the future. More than that they would be running a seminar in Banbury for Parish councillors to brief them on the issues. Who wanted to attend Not surprisingly there was no mad rush of volunteers. We thought this kind of nonsense was being abolished in the new cut-down Britain.  Why dont we just reply and say Reduce the number of County Councillors by 40%  That seems like a good number. That's the way the government does it."

And so on to the Big Question for the meeting. What was the hospital to be called. To everyones astonishment a few weeks ago Councillor Graves (Chairman of the Hospital League of Friends) announced that she had decided that the Hospital would be called the Chipping Norton Community Hospital and the War memorial name would be dropped. As a result of this astonishing move Councillor Greenwell had tabled a resolution for this meeting asking the Town Council to support the retention of the name War Memorial Hospital. Councillor Graves claimed and Councillor Coles repeated the claim at this meeting that Councillor Graves decision had the agreement of both the Hospital Action Group and the Healthcare User Group. This was a big surprise to councillors since we all personally knew distinguished members of those groups who were opposed to the name change. There was misrepresentation afoot. So what was Councillor Graves up to for goodness sake  She gave us one of her finger-wagging lectures saying that it was now time to move on to forget about world wars and to look forward to the future. But most of the town disagrees with her. Councillor Wilkes reported that in her pub the vast majority of people wanted to keep the War Memorial name. Councillor  Bartholomews customers felt exactly the same. To everyones astonishment Councillor Evans (who is usually firmly on the side of the dinosaurs) came out in support of Councillor Graves  thrust to the future. What does the Chairman of the British Legion think.came a cry from the ranks.  The Chairman of the British legion is of course none other than the Mayor who was chairing the meeting and should probably have remained impartial. Not at all. His Worship said he thought it would be absolutely wrong to drop the words War Memorial. A certain tension existed around the debate because the PCT were waiting to know what words they needed to print on letter headings and official documents. Hilary had explained to them there was a degree of unhappiness in the town about Councillor Graves decision but all would be settled at this Town Council meeting and Hilary promised to text the result though as soon as the final decision was made. During the meeting Hilary received a reminder from the PCT. Still waiting the text message said. Sensing the way the cookie was crumbling Councillor Burrows lobbied hard for a compromise that Councillor Greenwell had suggested earlier. War Memorial Community Hospital she suggested might satisfy everyone. And indeed everyone except one councillor clambered on the bandwagon. 11 votes for and one abstention.  Hilary sent off the decision to the PCT.  Job done.  Only the redoubtable Councillor Graves saw no virtue in the compromise. She argued to the bitter end. But once the vote was taken Jo Graves immediately showed the flexible side of her determined character, I never thought the name was important anyway she announced to an incredulous meeting.

Off for half term now folks.

PS Hilary tells me that the contract for the Youth Centre has been signed and its all systems go for the building. Finding the money to run the place will be the next problem