Council’s ‘NO’ to store

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THAME Town Council has voted unanimously against Sainsbury’s planning application for a store at the cattle market site.

At a meeting of the town council on Tuesday night, while Sainsbury’s and farmers spoke in favour of the application, residents, representatives from local businesses and market traders voiced their opposition insisting they want to ensure any new development would include a community building suitable for use by non-sporting groups and clubs.

An action group in Thame says the plans put forward by Sainsbury’s do not provide sufficient space, flexibility or dedicated parking.

Val Jonas from Thame Cattle Market Action Group (CMAG) said: “The community building submitted in the plans is totally inadequate. It’s basically just a room with toilets and an office.

“There is no foyer space, nowhere for parents to wait when they are picking up their children. There is no parking specifically allocated to the community building, no changing facilities.

“It’s a glass building, which looks very pretty, but people doing a ZUMBA exercise class wouldn’t want to be doing it in full view of people walking past.

“The proposed room is supposed to accommodate 250 people, but the plan has 177 seats in it, with no space for a stage or performance space, so if that was taken out there would really only be space for 120 seats.”

CMAG was formed in 2003 to ensure that any redevelopment of the cattle market site would achieve the best possible outcome for people living and working in Thame. More than 100 groups – including scouts, brownies, music, drama, exercise, toddler and church groups – belong to the action group.

Ms Jonas says: “The community building should be a hub for the community, somewhere for people to go and meet, and then go on from there to spend time in the rest of the town. We don’t want people coming in just to go shopping in Sainsbury’s and then leave to go home.”

CMAG has held talks with Sainsbury’s but in the last communication with them the supermarket giant said the footprint for the proposed community building was ‘as large as they could offer’.

In recommending refusal of the application, a statement from the town council shed some light on why it opposes the plans.

It read: “Thame Town Council opposes this planning application principally on the grounds that it is in contravention of South Oxfordshire District Council’s Policy THA1 of the adopted South Oxfordshire Local Plan and the emerging South Oxfordshire Core Strategy and it is premature in relation to Thame’s emerging Neighbourhood Plan.”

In December last year, South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC), the owners of the market site and the planning authority, proposed amendments to their core strategy to take into consideration Thame Town Council’s Neighbourhood Plan.

CMAG now intends to write a proposal to be included in that Plan and started a series of meetings with specialist leisure consultants Torkildsen Barclay last night (Thursday).

Ms Jonas said: “We need a building with a variety of rooms, and with space for some very large groups.

“What Sainsbury’s have offered is a very basic village hall. We need pull-out seating and access for performers.”