Viewpoint: Phoenix Gym response to councillor comments

Send Viewpoint letters to jamesp@baylismedia.co.uk or write to Viewpoint, 48 Bell Street, Maidenhead, SL6 1HX


No end date in sight for these works

Your correspondent Mr Graham talks of jam (Viewpoint, July 1) but does he not mean treacle?

This whole Oldfield Road junction has become one sticky mess.

I have studiously avoided the whole area since these works began as the tailbacks have at times stretched well beyond Maidenhead Bridge and on some occasions back to the Berry Hill traffic lights.

I have diverted through Cookham to avoid the inevitable delays, and how does this fit in with the council's sustainability policy with millions upon millions of litres of fuel wasted, because of poor planning and execution?

Mr Graham you are right in your assertion that ‘anyone with an ounce of intelligence might draw a conclusion from such visual evidence’ but then the junction was badly planned when the Stafferton Way link was created.

This junction should have had two lanes onto the Bath Road, allowing traffic to flow left and right.

Another set of works which appear to be taking forever are at the top of Castle Hill at the junction with Grenfell Road and College Road.

How can a major refurbishment of the approach to the train station not have a completion date?

This is supposed to be an important station which needs substantial upgrading on the Elizabeth Line.

Ah well there is another project which is running some four years late, massively over budget and with no completion date!

Sounds familiar, maybe the RBWM are trying to emulate TFL’s performance record.

I work in the education sector and I cannot imagine a proposal for say, a new school, when you do not have a completion date so that you can recruit staff, plan timetables and accommodate pupils, instead of leaving them to home study.

With no completion date how do you control the costs of such a project?

MERVYN BUSTON

East Road

Maidenhead


Protection for some species being dropped

Your readers may be surprised to hear that, despite the fact that the UK is one of most nature-depleted countries in the world, proposals have been put forward to reduce the legal protection provided to species by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).

Hidden within the technical details of the five-yearly review of Schedules 5 and 8 are new eligibility criteria that would only protect species at imminent danger of extinction.

Species classified merely vulnerable to extinction, or near-threatened, will no longer be eligible for legal protection from, for example, being killed to make way for development.

Here in Maidenhead it means that hedgehogs, nationally designated last year as vulnerable to extinction following massive population collapse, will not be eligible for legal protection.

Wild Maidenhead is working to halt the decline in our hedgehog population by creating Hedgehog Highways through the town.

Common toads, sadly no longer at all common, are also set to lose out under the proposals of the five-yearly review.

Wild Maidenhead has helped to establish the largest toad ladder project in the UK to save toads from drowning in drainage gullies.

Our 2021 free-to-enter Wild About Gardens Awards scheme is open until July 31 and is helping hundreds of gardens provide habitats for hedgehogs, toads and other creatures.

The proposed legal changes are a terrible idea, and feels like a kick in the teeth for conservation workers.

Wild Maidenhead is supporting the campaign by 30 national wildlife charities to halt the five-yearly review's proposals.

We have written to our MP and are encouraging others to do so too.

Our council has an Environmental and Climate Strategy that promises to achieve biodiversity gain.

I hope RBWM will object to the proposals in the five-yearly review to reduce the species eligible for legal protection.

We must not limit legal protection to species for which, very sadly, it is already probably too late, but should extend protection to species that can still be re-established.

FIONA HEWER

Chair of Wild Maidenhead


Why no answer on Ockwells concert idea?

I read the letter in Viewpoint (June 24) about a summer night concert in the park.

I met Mr Pickering a few weeks ago whilst out with my dog, and he asked me what I thought of having a concert in Ockwells Park, and he spoke about his ideas.

I’ll tell you what, I think his ideas are amazing, so why doesn’t the person down there in the council speak to him?

ROBERT APPELTON

Whyteladyes Lane

Cookham


Printing lengthy letter from councillors

It has always been my belief that the Maidenhead Advertiser’s Viewpoint section exists as a valued space for publishing residents’ letters about issues affecting the town and its surrounding villages and that it should not be used as a political platform by local councillors of any party.

I was disappointed to see that in last week’s edition, a 900-word letter from Councillors Coppinger and McWilliams
was printed.

Councillors should be utilising their own communication and social media channels for such matters, not Viewpoint, and I also wonder why, when there is supposed to be a 300-word limit, that the paper allowed such a long letter to be published.

SALLY HALFACRE

Moneyrow Green

Holyport

Editor’s note: While I do believe in this case there was a public interest in including the councillors’ letter on a matter which has caused so much concern in the community, I admit it should have been cut down to match the length of other letters on the Viewpoint pages.

I have updated our Viewpoint guidance to recommend letters are kept to 300 words with a 500-word upper limit and will be stricter on this going forward.

In the interest of fairness, I have allowed Phoenix Gymnastics Club more space for its reply below.


Council ‘support’ is too little, too late

Thank you for your letter regarding the closure of Phoenix Gymnastics Club (Viewpoint, July 1).

Whilst I welcome your desire to ‘continue to support you however we can’ I feel that for Phoenix, whatever support you are offering is way too little, way too late.

I do not share your assertion that the ‘focus should not be on rehashing the past’ as I believe many valuable lessons can be learnt.

The trustees must, and do take responsibility for Phoenix closing, but the oft repeated assertion that the council would do everything it could to secure the future of this well-loved community asset was rarely, if ever, backed up with any meaningful, practical help.

Assurances that assistance would be given in finding an alternative site produced nothing and financial grants related to the planning application on our rented Water Oakley site disappeared when that planning permission was not acted upon, and failed to reappear in the current application to expand and redevelop Bray Studios in Water Oakley.

It was the trustees of Phoenix that found and negotiated a lease for the Fifield site, owned by Summerleaze, who we would like to thank for their generosity.

It is all very well writing in a spirit of cooperation now, when what we needed was cooperation months, if not years ago. To be fair, there were some notable, singular efforts to assist our last-minute search to find a temporary home, but one councillor is not enough.

What would have really assisted would have been a coordinated and concerted effort to provide practical help, but none was forthcoming. I believe the opportunity to ‘secure the future of Phoenix’ was missed as far back as when the redevelopment of Water Oakley was first mooted, and I hope lessons can be learned from that.

However, the focus recently has been on our attempts to erect a temporary training facility in parallel with our proposed new facility in Fifield.

The only reason Phoenix has been ‘unable to continue in its present guise’ is that we have a gap of a mere nine months from the demolition of our current facility at Water Oakley to the ability to generate income at our purpose-built facility at Fifield.

We never expected any special treatment with respect to ‘planning relating to substantial development in the greenbelt’, permission for which we already have.

The only reason we tried to erect our own temporary facility was that all other options had been exhausted.

I note with irony that at our previous home in Water Oakley, a greenbelt site, numerous large industrial buildings have sprung up, all allowed under retrospective, temporary planning permission. In fact our attempt to erect a temporary building on the Fifield site was partly informed by this fact.

We took advice and believed that we had the urgent business need required to utilise parallel planning permission.

We certainly did not intend any planning breaches and were confident that any unintended mistakes could be quickly rectified, but what we did not expect was the enmity or determination of the council’s efforts to halt our temporary training facility, culminating in a stop work order that cost us many thousands of pounds.

These costs, added to the prospect of being unable to generate income, were the final nail in the coffin for Phoenix.

We will forever regret that we have failed to provide the training facility that they deserve to the gymnasts who train so hard.

Seeing young gymnasts, who for months diligently completed Zoom classes from their living rooms, have this rug pulled from under them, is heartbreaking.

Talented coaches, some of the best in the country, have sadly been let go, along with a dedicated team that comfortably and creatively kept the business going through the pandemic.

We were over-subscribed, self-funding and no burden to the taxpayer for more than three decades, but sadly the borough will now not see one of the best gymnastics facilities in the region and beyond opening in just under a year and has also lost the largest Sport England grant of £450,000 at a time when youth sports clubs are struggling to survive.

So, whilst our ex-home at Water Oakley continues to expand, our club, that has self-sufficiently served the community for decades, will disappear.

We have been squeezed out and whilst I believe the councillors are genuine in their regret at the fate of Phoenix, they have allowed it to happen and must take some responsibility.

There are dedicated and talented individuals within the borough providing alternative gymnastic provision and I hope they do not take it as a slight that they will not be able to provide the depth and breadth of training that Phoenix was able to provide. Any gymnastic provider in the borough with such aspirations will come up against the same hurdles we did, of finding an affordable facility in which to provide both recreational and top level, elite training.

Joni Mitchell, in her song, Big Yellow Taxi wrote: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

I fear that we will all come to realise that this is true in the case of Phoenix.

For those of you that would point out the song was about the development of green spaces I would suggest alternative lyric to says: “They paved a small corner of an unremarkable, soon to be gravel extraction site, and put up a world class, children’s sporting facility, promoting health, fitness, confidence and resilience in our children that will be with them for life,” which to be fair, doesn’t scan as well as Joni’s lyrics.

Exhausted and demoralised as we are, the Phoenix trustees will always make themselves available to discuss any potential future for the borough’s young gymnasts.

ALISDAIR THORNTON

Chair of Trustees

Phoenix Gymnastics Club


This protocol is an embarrassment

‘No one foresaw that any government would make such a mess of Brexit’.

That is the rather whimsical title of a recent article by Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, but is it true?

It did not go entirely unnoticed that David Cameron's EU referendum law was silent on what should ensue if we voted to leave, so there were already suspicions that a Tory government would resort to dirty tricks to try to overturn or neutralise a “wrong” result.

More than five years on and we have Lord Frost, Brexit minister, and Brendan Lewis, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, using the pages of the Irish Times to beg the EU to go easy on us over the Irish protocol agreed by Boris Johnson and passed by Tory MPs.

This is the protocol which a judge in Belfast High Court has just declared to be lawful even though it repeals part of the 1800 Act of Union which unites Great Britain and Northern Ireland, despite Boris Johnson saying in Parliament that it did not have that effect.

Just another brazen lie, like his statement during a television interview that ‘there’s no question of there being checks on goods going NI to GB or GB to NI’ – which is the very subject of this pathetic wheedling ‘please be gentle with us’ article in the Irish Times.

But then to be fair it was Theresa May who first put the UK into the position of a supplicant, constantly trying to please Brussels at the same time as she placated the CBI and other business pressure groups, and throwing away our strongest negotiating cards.

This is a national humiliation, for which we can thank the Tory party, although it is not as bad as some we have experienced in our history and it is still remediable.

Dr D R COOPER

Belmont Park Avenue

Maidenhead

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