(Notice of such matters would be appreciated and should be sent to the Town Clerk).
Further to the updates from Committee Chairs, the Mayor opened the floor to questions from the public.
Q1. I’m Rev’d Jackie Bone, I’m the Leader of Witney Baptists Church, I moved to Witney in June. My question is about the new development, Windrush Place. I am funded by the National Baptists Union to work with new communities on developments, particularly Windrush Place. What concerns me is that there is no community space due to be built until 2021 when the school is due to open and we are up there already doing events. There is money for artwork – District Council – but I have been in touch with them already and they’ve said we can’t do anything because there’s no space so is there any chance of getting something like a portacabin or something on the development so that the community can be there altogether.
The Mayor thanked Rev’d Bone for her question and said that this was something that would need further discussion by the Town Council and they would let her know when and where it would be discussed. He commented that he thought it was a terrific idea.
Cllr Price said that as a County Councillor she shared the frustration at the lack of infrastructure accompanying new developments and was aware of the impact it could have on the community. She promised to look at section 106 money from a county perspective to see what could be done, if Rev’d Bone would pass on her details.
Cllr Doughty, a District Councillor, added that she was also aware of this. There was section 106 money in the system but it needed researching. When a new estate was built it needed adopting by the County Council which could take years and sometimes section 106 was not released until right at the end.
Q2. I’m new to understanding how the town council, district council and county council all work together but there needs to be a plan for infrastructure so that the Secretary of State doesn’t call the shots. There needs to be a plan to make sure that all the services such as doctors and such are all in place.
The Mayor replied that the District Council Local Plan was now in place and the Town Council was very aware of infrastructure. Cllr Ashbourne added that the District Council had been about to implement CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) but sadly they had decided to put a 0% levy on large estates. There was currently a consultation on this and she urged people to respond to it.
Cllr Smith spoke about the pollution of the rivers and asked the public to sign the community petition.
Q3. Where is the tiny forest that was mentioned earlier in one of the councillor’s reports?
The Mayor replied that it was at Eton Close, Cogges.
Q4. Why is there no bus shelter at the shops at Burwell? There are others in the town like the one at Marriott’s Walk that is unused so why can’t it be moved?
Cllr Smith explained that the Council had replaced the bus shelter at the other end of Burwell but the one that the lady had spoken about was unfortunately regularly vandalized and therefore the Council was trying to find one that would stand up to vandalism. The Town Clerk added that there was a budget for this to be done and the Marriott’s Walk shelter would not survive being moved.
Q5. What are the plans to safeguard Witney as a retail hub?
The Mayor explained that the Town Council didn’t own any retail units and didn’t control business rates or rents. He hoped that people could be encouraged to buy locally and that the council would source locally too. The Town Council worked with the District Council on the environment – there was free parking which was a great bonus for visitors. He asked for any ideas that the public had to help with this. A resident commented that the free parking should be kept as it encouraged people to spend longer in the town. Another resident suggested a Trade Fair on Church Green once again.
Q6. What is the Town Council’s plan to pressure Oxfordshire County Council to repair roads?
The Mayor advised all issues to be reported on Fix My Street. The town had a number of “superusers” and they were permitted to use spray paint to mark areas needing repair, potholes had to be 20cm wide and 2 cm deep. The superusers effectively cut out the middle man and were able to order the repairs direct from the contractor.
Q7. Can we stop the temporary fixes? How many potholes have been repaired several times?
Cllr Price explained that often a temporary fix was a response to an emergency situation. It just prevented immediate danger. She did agree that there had been a lot of temporary fixes in relation to the West End roundabouts. The County Council had increased its budget for potholes and also the Chancellor had announced further funding that day. Hopefully improvements would start to be seen.
Q8. I want to say that people who live around Church Green and Corn Street can’t park for more than 2 hours without being slapped with a parking ticket!
The Mayor advised that this was something that the District and County Councils were working on.
Q9. Is there a guarantee period for repairs?
Cllr price advised that the contractors were accountable if a substantial fix had been carried out and Highways staff did go out and check these. However, there were not enough staff to do this all of the time. However, there were stricter regulations coming in where the Council held a bond from companies such as utilities doing works.
Q10. Is it still intended to build on Woodford Way car park?
The Mayor replied that this was an allocated site in the local plan but there was no firm plan or when or what it might look like.