Viewpoint: Reflections on plans for Maidenhead's Nicholsons Centre

This week's Viewpoint features opinions on the Nicholsons Centre redevelopment and a response to comments on tougher sentences for dangerous driver sentences.

Life sentence option for drivers who kill

While I agree with Mr Noden (Viewpoint, February 25) that there is much that this and previous governments could have done to improve road safety, I feel obliged to comment on his criticism of Mrs May and her campaign for increasing sentences for dangerous drivers who kill.

Having lost our daughter, Bryony, in 2015 to a drink-drug driver, we have communicated on a number of occasions with Mrs May on this matter.

Neither we nor Mrs May have ever remotely suggested that a 30-year-old be locked up for 40 years.

What is being sought, is that judges have a life sentence option for the severest of cases.

At present, the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years, but with a 1/3 discount for pleading guilty at the first opportunity and automatic release (yes automatic – not ‘time off for good behaviour’) halfway through the remaining 2/3, an offender who ploughed into a bus stop killing five schoolchildren could only be imprisoned for a maximum four years, eight months, i.e. less than one year per life taken.

They would then serve an equal period ‘on licence’, which could result in being recalled to prison if they offended again or broke their licence terms.

By contrast, a life sentence is given with a ‘minimum tariff’.

The offender must serve this minimum tariff before being considered for parole and is then subject to licence conditions and potential recall to prison at any point during their lifetime if they reoffend.

Not unreasonable, given that they have killed an innocent person.

The proposed change would allow a judge to give a life sentence with a five or six-year minimum tariff, which would result in the offender being imprisoned for a longer period that the current misleading ‘14-year maximum’.

MARK HOLLANDS

Cox Green


Oldfield roundabout ain’t broke, don’t fix it

There has been a lot of letters about various work to the roundabouts around Maidenhead but I have not seen anything about the impending work to replace the roundabout at the junction of Oldfield Road and the A4.

It is obvious to any one with any common sense that this will create traffic jams in every direction whereas for the majority of the day traffic flows very freely now.

It seems to me that RBWM has taken a Government grant just because it is available and thought how can we spend someone else’s money!

Well it is not someone else’s money, it is ours as tax payers.

The country is in enough debt already without RBWM taking advantage of a generous Government and wasting it on a crackpot scheme.

It reminds me of the old adage ‘if it is not broke why change it?’.

I predict that the problem traffic lights here will cause will probably mirror the
daft installations of traffic lights at the Sainsbury’s roundabout many years ago for the council to spend even more money taking them out.

Who will take me on with a bet that in a few years’ time someone will have a brainwave and decide to replace the traffic lights with a roundabout?

JON REEKIE

Oldacres

Maidenhead


‘Generation defining opportunity falls short’

This week our council is expected to decide that a 25-storey block of flats is an appropriate landmark to have at the centre of our town.

It’s not something that the Civic Society would favour and we’ve said so.

Last week in a decision delegated to a planning officer the council determined that five blocks of flats, including one of 10-storeys with bland architectural elevations, should form the eastern gateway to our town opposite the police station.

These decisions come in the wake of The Landing development, featuring a 16-storey tower, which though long-approved has still to begin building.

And threatening to swell the numbers again this week is an application for 439 flats on the former Magnet site.

There’s no denying that we face a housing crisis nationally and locally.

But our belief is that planning should be above politics and that instead of rushing to deliver unit numbers (85 per cent in RBWM at the last count were flats) more consideration should be given to what kind of dwellings people want and where.

Meanwhile, as the scaffolding came down to reveal the elevations, the new apartments next to the town hall and the library drew a mixed reception on social media, some for but most against.

At the time of this application, the Civic Society said it was ‘a generation defining opportunity which falls short of expectations, especially in architectural style’.

Our comments, sadly, fell on deaf ears.

But a council official last week, seeking to assure, said: “They’re very nice inside.”

BOB DULSON

Chairman

Maidenhead Civic Society


Zoom council meetings keep public engaged

Since the pandemic, many council meetings have taken place on Zoom, and members of the public have been able to observe, either at the time or later on YouTube.

What an invaluable development in local democracy.

We can see how ideas are discussed; we can see whether our councillors are engaged and effective; we can see how decisions are made.

Admittedly some of is not pretty, and a lot of it is boring, but I urge the Royal Borough to keep this online coverage going, in the interests of engaging with the residents. Previously everything was effectively ‘behind closed doors’ unless you were prepared to go to the Town Hall for three hours on a wet night.

ANDREW INGRAM

Boyndon Road

Maidenhead


‘Town is resembling a downtown US suburb’

I received my first Covid vaccination last month at the Salt Hill Community Centre in Slough, and I just wanted to express my gratitude to the staff there for such a terrific fantastic service.

The whole process was slick and efficient.

Arriving at the Salt Hill community car park I was greeted by car park wardens who told me exactly where to park and to wait in the car until I was called, which was under two minutes.

Then into the community centre to register, no queue, then swept onto the two nice medical staff who were going to carry out the pre-medical check and administer the vaccine, all the way greeted by friendly and cheerful staff who also seemed to know who I was, calling me by name and it was all over in minutes.

I just compare this with my husband’s and mother’s experience at the Desborough Suite at Maidenhead Town Hall, whereby they both had to queue outside in the cold to receive their vaccine.

One of the main problems is that there is now nowhere to park in the vicinity since we have lost the town hall car park to that huge monstrosity which I believe is a very ugly block of flats.

I am deeply saddened that the Maidenhead community has lost this vital town centre amenity for normal life events such as attending weddings, registering a death or birth or attending one of the many productions or musical events which the Desborough Suite can hopefully host again, for the sake of yet more flats.

Instead of Maidenhead becoming a ‘little Venice’ as we were led to believe, Maidenhead is starting to look like a downtown American suburb.

ANGELA SMITH

Southwood Gardens

Cookham


Congratulations RBWM on new leisure centre

Over the years I have launched many brickbats at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead on your Viewpoint pages.

Now a bouquet.

Congratulations RBWM on the new Braywick Leisure Centre.

It is superb and I look forward to revisiting it in April.

JON FOSTER

Fotherby Court

Maidenhead


No place in Viewpoint for councillors’ letters

I am writing in response to last week’s Viewpoint letter (February 25) from Jonathan Baker and your request for feedback on the particular point about councillors’ letters

Some 20 or so years ago I wrote to the editor on this very same subject and my views have not changed over time.

I sincerely believe that councillors should, under no circumstances, have political letters published in Viewpoint... especially if it prevents a ‘normal’ reader’s letter being published.

Firstly, there is the issue of balance each week and then week on week.

If there is a letter from a Lib Dem councillor, should there not be and equal number from the other parties?

Secondly, there is the issue of advertising or promotion of a particular political party or councillor or party policy. This in my view is not appropriate in a letters page.

The suggestion I make now is the same as I offered 20+ years ago.

There should be a separate page in the Advertiser that is dedicated to councillor letters – similar to the Opinion columns.

There should be a contribution to the cost of producing that page which could be shared by all the political parties represented, either on a proportional basis or equally.

I would situate it opposite the first letters page to facilitate cross referencing.

It would be OK for if a councillor wanted to write in a purely personal capacity or a non council matter but his title should not be included and there should be no overt mention of political issues or decisions.

Just my thoughts!

MIKE PETERSON

Laburnham Road

Maidenhead


Did councillors’ vote lead to recent tirade?

The recent letter from Mr Geoffrey Copas (Viewpoint, February 25) piqued my interest.

Apart from being a delivery system for a couple of snide jabs at my ‘Liberal’ (sic) colleagues, councillors Brar and Reynolds, I could not quite fathom its purpose.

After all, he was granted the permission he sought, with the predictable assistance of all five Tory votes.

It is Mandy’s [Cllr Brar’s] duty to reflect the concerns of her residents and there is no inconsistency in her position.

She is not anti-football, she’s not anti-Cookham Dean FC and she is fully aware of the mental health challenges in her ward and throughout the Borough.

She was deeply troubled by a recent fatal road traffic incident, very close to the proposed site of this development and her concerns about the access via Long Lane are perfectly understandable, both in planning and road safety terms.

Cllr Reynolds (Lib Dem, Furze Platt) shares those concerns. His is the neighbouring ward and is connected to the proposed site by that fatal highway.

So why all the vitriol?

I dwelt on it for a while and then the penny dropped.

On November 20, 2019, the Maidenhead Area Development Management Panel met to consider application 19/02442/OUT.

The applicant was none other than Mr Geoffrey Copas.

The officer’s recommendation was to refuse. A motion to accept that recommendation was proposed and seconded and was unanimously carried.

The minutes tell us that the proposer and seconder were… drumroll… Cllrs Brar and Reynolds!

I was a member of the panel on that night. I vividly remember Mr Copas’
tirade after the vote and he castigated
us for our ingratitude and implied we would rue the day.

He appears to be a man of his word!

Cllr JOHN BALDWIN

Lib Dem, Belmont


Concerns about size of Cookham development

Mr Copas castigates Councillor Brar (Lib Dem, Bisham and Cookham) for representing the views of many of Cookham residents.

Concerns are about the size of the development, not the development itself.

His plan to build playing fields was passed with reservations and concerns about extra traffic.

Copas then put another application to prepare more pitches with a greatly increased clubhouse and parking.

This always happens – plan A becomes plan A plus plan B and so on.

This leads to the distrust many residents have of development plans.

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED


PCC is not a mouthpiece for chief constables

On February 18, I heard on BBC Radio Berkshire part of an interview with the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Thames Valley, in which he expressed his (unfavourable) views about so-called ‘Smart Motorways’, into which a lengthy stretch of the M4 is currently being made.

This minute, I cannot recall if the next edition of this series was to be an equally-riveting interview with the Reading Borough Rat-Catcher, to get their opinions on the same matter, or the equally-inconsequential views of the PCC on whether Don Revie or Brian Clough was the greater football manager.

At one point, the interviewer (Andrew Peach) even asked the PCC if he knew what the police force thought about the issue.

If radio broadcasters, or journalists of any kind, wish to know what the police think, they should approach chief constables or their staff.

The PCC is not the chief constable.

The electorate does not elect PCCs to act as a substitute or mouthpiece for chief constables.

Nor do council tax-payers pay substantial sums of money for the running of the office of the PCC, in order to hear the PCC engaging in pontification on random matters.

On the contrary, the role of the PCC is to do much more humdrum things such as hold the chief constable to account for their running of the police force, and to act as appropriate authority for complaints which may be made about the chief constable.

Unfortunately, of late many PCCs seem to think they are being paid their hefty salaries to engage in third-rate party-political broadcasting and commentary.

While the nitty-gritty of police spending and performance against priorities set out in Local Plans may be less exciting than going on radio shows, it is what PCCs are being paid for.

If PCCs do not want to hold chief constables to account, ought they to consider a change of career?

JAY FLYNN

Moneyrow Green

Holyport


Should be leading with vaccination passports

The Prime Minister has now agreed to look again at vaccination passports, with a review being led by Michael Gove to be reported by June 21 – the same date that stage four where all legal limits on social contacts could be removed.

The EU has stated that digital vaccination certificates will probably be available before the summer, since it will take about three months to create the technical basis for such a document.

It seems that to travel in Europe a vaccine certificate would be required, or a test for non-vaccinated people.

We should be leading with vaccination passports and it now appears that we are, with the ‘myGP’ app launching a new feature soon which will enable the public to provide simple, clear, assured proof of their vaccination protection status, wherever and whenever they may need to.

Perhaps someone should tell the Prime Minister about this initiative?

BRUCE ADAMS

Cox Green Lane

Maidenhead


Waterski day trip to Bray is nigh

Re the Waterways development, may I use your organ to alert Cookham & Maidenhead Waterski Club members? The day trip to Bray is nigh.

If our powerboats run aground in the shallow bits our mini hovercraft will get us under Chapel Arches and other bridges.

Green Lane Weir is a hazard but we rely on the new, shiny electric pump (see Abstract Licence) to push water upstream into the basin so making the cascade navigable.

A podium finish with champagne soon!

M D GEARY

Forlease Drive

Maidenhead


Could you give time to help Parkinson’s UK?

The Parkinson’s UK Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead Branch supports anyone in the area whose life is affected by Parkinson’s Disease.

All our regular in-person activities were suspended on March 13 last year but we continue to give support, information and advice to our local community.

We are in the process of making plans for our return to in-person activities when government restrictions permit.

The branch has exercise classes on Zoom and YouTube, and monthly social meetings and carers’ coffee meetings on Zoom.

Parkinson’s UK has an excellent website www.parkinsons.org.uk and their Helpline 0808 800 0303 is a free confidential service where trained advisers, including specialist Parkinson’s nurses, can provide information and advice about all aspects of living with Parkinson’s, such as: medical issues, including symptoms and treatments, employment and benefits, health and
social care, emotional support, local activities and signposting to other sources of information. They can also put you in touch with a Parkinson's local adviser if you need more local or in-depth support.

If you are newly diagnosed, we strongly recommend the First Steps Programme which is currently being run online.

For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact the First Steps team on 020 7963 9831 or email: firststeps@parkinsons.org.uk.

Several members of our branch committee, including our treasurer, are about to retire after many years of service.

Consequently, we are actively recruiting volunteers who would like to give a few hours a month of their time to support the local Parkinson’s community by helping at social events and fund-raising activities and raising awareness of Parkinson’s.

We have specific roles if you have skills in finance, IT and PR, which can be done remotely, and full training is given by Parkinson’s UK.

For more information about Branch activities and volunteering roles please contact the Branch Chairman, Paulann Walker: chairman@parkinsonsswm.org.uk

PAULANN WALKER

Chairman

Parkinson’s UK Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead Branch


Nicholsons plan failing on climate emergency

The Nicholsons Quarter proposal heard on Wednesday is a key part of the regeneration plans of this Tory administration however, according to RBWM Climate Emergency Coalition, this major development is set to add one per cent to RBWM’s carbon emissions. This is unfortunate and needn’t have been so.

The council, aware of applications in process, and the failings of the Borough Local Plan, had the opportunity to create an Interim Sustainability Position Statement (ISPS) to help prevent carbon emissions, to protect purchasers of these properties from the extreme weather effects of climate change predicted for the area (climate resilience) and, to boost biodiversity.

Instead, the development may escape without constraints as it has been recommended for approval by officers based on old planning documents.

But worse than that, the ISPS planning document approved by cabinet on Thursday contains a shadow of the climate standards necessary to stave off the extinction-level drops in species we are experiencing in the UK, to building in climate resilience to our buildings and infrastructure, or, to help us achieve zero carbon emissions quickly.

Other councils are achieving but, RBWM is not.

Other councils such as Wokingham and Cornwall are investing £71m, and £58m, over the next three years in a concerted effort to drive down carbon emissions quickly enough to stop the planet’s temperature from rising by 2oC by focusing on the energy used by vehicles and buildings, which together comprise to 80 per cent of our carbon emissions.

By contrast, RBWM have included a paltry £165k of investment in its budget/plan for our future.

What is most galling is that we could have helped foster a thriving local green building economy, generating millions of pounds of prosperity and hundreds of jobs, through our planning documents.

These continual failures by the current administration represent huge body blows to the future of our children.

There seems to be no urgency in this council’s Climate Emergency. It’s time for change, for the sake of our children.

Cllr WISDOM DA COSTA

WWRA, Clewer & Dedworth West


Additional £2m for adult social care and health

At full council last week, the budget for 2021-2022 was agreed.

A number of the proposals relate to adult social care. I want to take this opportunity to offer reassurance to our service users and their families, not least given the stream of negative comments from opposition members. Regrettable comments given overall we are investing an additional £2million in adult social care and health.

The savings we proposed are aligned with the already published adult social care transformation strategy, which was unanimously agreed through the cross-functional Health and Wellbeing Board and with NHS colleagues prior to the pandemic.

The core purpose of adult care and support, as set out in the Care Act, is to help people to achieve the outcomes that matter to them in their life.

Our proposals are not cuts but savings as part of transformation. Opposition claims to the contrary are just wrong and misleading.

I want to assure residents that the council will continue to meet its statutory responsibilities to meet people’s assessed and eligible care needs, whilst embracing best practice and emerging evidence on how best to deliver services.

Overall, the council is spending more on adult social care as set out in the budget so whilst there are some savings from existing packages, there is also funding to pay for increased packages if that is what the assessed need happens to be.

In short, we have taken decisions to put more money into adult social care and protect services, whilst reforming areas in need of change.

I was deeply disappointed with some of the comments at the meeting from Liberal Democrat’ and Independents, which implied that the proposals, particularly around day centre transformation, would be implemented in a hurry and not be sensitive to the needs of the people affected.

This is not true – we committed to a full 12-week public consultation on these proposals and any changes would be implemented at a pace that would be appropriate for each individual.

This proposal is based on expert evidence and the need for a more blended offering to our overall service provision.

Transformation is an exciting opportunity to optimise our services and to support residents to live independent and fulfilled lives.

Yes, there will be savings that come out of that – but our primary goal is to have services that are flexible, reflect best practice and offer a personalised approach.

Cllr STUART CARROLL

Lead member adult social care, children services, health and mental health

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