Viewpoint: Campaigners respond to councillor's golf club comments

Email Viewpoint letters to jamesp@baylismedia.co.uk or write to Viewpoint, Maidenhead Advertiser, Newspaper House, 48 Bell Street, Maidenhead, SL61HX.


Understand what we are set to lose

On December 21 our council has scheduled an extraordinary full council meeting to consider whether or not to adopt the Borough Local Plan (BLP). [Editor's note – this has since been cancelled]

The plan sets out how our council will accommodate development in our town.

It runs from 2013 to 2033, and allocates over 16,000 new homes, including 2,000 on the greenbelt land of the golf course.

It is currently going through the final stages with the planning inspector, who will decide whether or not the plan is sound.

In last week’s Viewpoint (December 2), Councillor Coppinger stated that concerns about the development of the golf course had only ‘relatively recently’ been raised.

This is not true.

Over 150 residents gathered at a meeting at SportsAble in March 2017 alarmed by the inclusion of the golf course for development in the BLP.

The Braywick Action Group formed and joined with 12 other groups from across the Borough under the umbrella of the RBWM Residents Action Group (RRAG), to make representations throughout the BLP consultation process.

Anyone who regularly reads the Maidenhead Advertiser will know there have been dozens of articles reporting on opposition to plans to build on the golf course, as well as a large number of letters.

Residents are concerned about the scale of the development, its impact on our infrastructure and environment, the destruction of our greenbelt and our council’s handling of the BLP process.

The fact that Councillor Coppinger seems to be unaware of the long standing strength of feeling against the development of the golf course, highlights our council’s inability to listen to residents.

Early in 2020, the Maidenhead Great Park group formed to raise awareness of the golf course land and the value of this space for our community – for wildlife, trees, mental and physical health, and as a green lung.

We believe it is vital that the people of Maidenhead understand how much they are set to lose if the BLP is adopted, and how the scale of the development planned will change the character of our town forever.

If the BLP is adopted, it will give our council permission to sell the golf course land to its development partner CALA Homes.

This land was bought by our council in 1953 to keep it as open space.

We are urging our councillors to reject the BLP when it comes to full council for adoption.

We want them to come up with a new plan that puts our environment and community first, uses up-to-date figures on housing need and focuses any necessary development on brownfield sites.

TINA QUADRINO (St Mark’s Road), DEBBIE LUDFORD (Rushington Avenue), Cllr GEOFF HILL (TBF, Oldfield)

On behalf of Maidenhead Great Park


Short memory over fears for greenbelt

In last week’s Maidenhead Advertiser, Cllr Coppinger claimed that concerns about building on Maidenhead Golf Course have only ‘relatively recently’ been raised, but I can remember a meeting back in early 2017 when over a hundred local residents gathered at SportsAble to register their opposition to the proposed development on the green belt golf course.

Cllr Wilson attended by invitation, I’d be surprised if he had forgotten to mention it to other councillors.

If Cllr Coppinger had bothered to look at the various consultation contributions throughout the BLP he will have noticed that the vast majority of comments about Maidenhead Golf Course strongly opposed development there.

In early 2019, 1,238 people signed a petition asking the council to put Tree Preservation Orders on the golf course’s trees ‘to protect existing natural environment from over-development by RBWM and its development partner’ – perhaps Cllr Coppinger missed that too!

So no, it is not only ‘relatively recently’ that concerns have been raised about this. It may, however, be only relatively recently that he has troubled to acknowledge them.

Not everyone reads the Advertiser and some Maidonians are only now becoming aware of the implications of this Borough Local Plan.

If RBWM had come up with a better plan, rather than just seeking to shoehorn the lion’s share of development for the whole borough into Maidenhead’s greenbelt, incidentally digging themselves out of a financial hole at the same time, perhaps we would already have a Local Plan in place.

We do need affordable homes, but only 40 per cent of the homes built on the golf course will be for sale or rent under the ‘affordable’ tag.

We need more family homes, but with 2,000 new homes, new schools, community facilities and roads, this will be a very high density development; the council has not yet produced figures as to how many may be family houses, rather than yet more flats.

Cllr Coppinger and other Conservative councillors have campaigned vociferously against housing developments in their own backyards.

Developers love building on green fields because it maximises their profits –- homes sell at what the local market will bear, not at what they cost to build.

Whether it is ‘available to the public’ or not (and there is a public footpath right across the middle, so everyone is able to enjoy this beautiful parkland landscape) Maidenhead Golf Course contributes to every Maidonian’s wellbeing by absorbing noise and pollution from the nearby motorway, helping to protect against flooding by absorbing excess rainfall, providing for biodiversity, and everyone is now aware of the importance of green space for mental health.

I don’t believe councillors ‘thought long and hard about the golf course’ – they saw a financial opportunity and decided to boot the current leaseholders out!

TERESA BURTON

Maidenhead


Golf course concerns date back for years

Where has Councillor David Coppinger been for the last five years?

In The Advertiser (December 2) he wrote: “The golf course has been part of the Borough Local Plan since the very beginning, and it is only relatively recently that concerns have been raised.”

This is unbelievably inaccurate!

I would remind Councillor Coppinger that many many concerns have been raised regarding this controversial development over several years.

These include the following:

1. In 2014 Theresa May commented on The Borough Local Plan Preferred Options Consultation stating that there would be considerable concern at development on Maidenhead Golf Course, particularly in the numbers (nearly 1,000 dwellings) in the consultation document.

2. In March 2017, Cllr Derek Wilson, lead member for planning and David Coppinger’s predecessor, attended a large public meeting at SportsAble where residents expressed their dismay and concerns with the proposal in the Borough Local Plan to build 2,000 homes on the golf course. This was four-and-a-half years ago, I would not describe this as ‘relatively recently’.

3.Over the last four years, I with many other residents have attended numerous meetings with RBWM councillors expressing our serious concerns over this development. Furthermore, hundreds of residents submitted detailed written responses to the two Borough Local Plan consultations objecting to development on the golf course.

4. Councillor Coppinger’s latest letter suggests that he has not been paying attention to the concerns of residents.

If you need confirmation of the depth of feeling you only have to look at the front page of the Advertiser (November 25)
with pictures of hundreds of residents, including many young families, peacefully demonstrating outside the Town
Hall.

5. What is astonishing is that the Conservatives are the majority party in the Royal Borough and only a few weeks ago at the Conservative Party conference, Boris Johnson stated that building on the greenbelt should not take place.

This development is all about the money that the council stands to receive from developers.

During the examination of the Borough Local Plan with the Government-appointed inspector, she suggested that that the number of Objectively Assessed Housing Needs has now been reduced and that RBWM could amend its housing need downward which they declined.

Their aim was to keep housing numbers as high as possible to justify the huge development on the golf course.

The council’s financial deficit can be repaired. If this wonderful green space is developed, it will be lost forever.

We need to preserve this site for the benefit of future generations.

GEORGE MIDGLEY

Walker Road

Maidenhead 


Strength of feeling against development

Cllr Coppinger claims ‘it is only relatively recently that concerns (about building on the golf course) have been raised’ (Viewpoint, December 2).

In March 2017 about 150 local residents attended a meeting at SportsAble to express their concern and dismay about the inclusion of Maidenhead Golf Course in the emerging Borough Local Plan as a site for building thousands of homes.

Cllr Wilson was invited to the meeting to hear residents’ concerns.

Braywick Action Group was formed that night, and has worked ever since to raise awareness of, and oppose, the destruction of this beautiful greenbelt parkland, and the damaging effect such a massive development would have on our neighbourhood, and indeed the whole of Maidenhead.

Braywick Action Group, along with other neighbourhood groups, RBWM Residents Action Group (RRAG) and hundreds of Maidenhead residents, has responded at length to each round of consultation on the BLP.

It simply is not possible that the council was unaware of the strength of feeling against this development from the earliest of consultations, yet they chose to ignore it.

Braywick Action Group, along with others, has disputed the out-of-date projections the council chose to use to decide the number of dwellings required in the BLP; using more up-to-date projections almost halves these figures, just as the demand for school places was likely to be ‘lower than previously expected’ (Cllr Carroll, on page 6 of the Advertiser), so no need to build on our valued green spaces.

Cllr Coppinger says ‘it will be developed to provide essential affordable housing’ but the majority, 60 per cent, of the homes built will not be ‘affordable’.

Cllr Coppinger said ‘the inspector has decided that the plan is sound’, but the inspector has not yet made her pronouncement, and Cllr Coppinger has no right to anticipate her decision.

Cllr Coppinger says that if the plan is not adopted ‘there would be a free for all and our greenbelt would be decimated with developments in all the wrong places’ but such land cannot be built on unless it is first removed from the greenbelt, as the council seeks to do to the golf course and other greenbelt sites in Maidenhead through the BLP, and even then would need planning permission from this council.

The photograph on the front page of the Advertiser of hundreds of residents demonstrating outside the Town Hall shows the depth of feeling against this damaging plan.

Proposing to hold this vitally important vote on December 21 so close to Christmas, when they know that people will be at their busiest and focused elsewhere, shows just how determined they are to continue to ignore the views of residents.

PAUL SERJEANT, GEORGE MIDGLEY, JONATHAN LUDFORD, TIMOTHY LLOYD, SIMON HUGHES, ANDREW HILL, NORMAN GREGORY, NIGEL DRAYTON, TERESA BURTON

For Braywick Action Group


Plan is now being checked and verified

It has been pointed out to me that part of the letter that you published (Viewpoint, December 2) could be misinterpreted.

Where I say that the inspector has approved the plan what I should have said is:

The inspector has completed her examination of the plan and the plan is now with the Planning Inspectorate for checking and verification.

Cllr DAVID COPPINGER

Cabinet Member for planning, environmental services and Maidenhead


Low council tax has led to major debt

In his letter in Viewpoint, and earlier in the edition of November 25, the council leader Andrew Johnson proudly claimed, as did his predecessor Simon Dudley, that the borough has the lowest council tax in the county.

This is between £300 and £500 lower than the council tax of neighbouring councils in Berkshire.

What Cllr Johnson didn't reveal though, is the fact that RBWM Council is massively in debt, and that this is expected to reach £250million, or a quarter of a billion pounds, by the end of the year.

How does he possibly justify his claim then, that this is ‘one of the most efficient councils’?

I wonder where Cllr Johnson and Cllr Hilton, cabinet member for finance, learnt their economics and financial management skills?

Having such a low council tax is the main reason why the council is so much in debt, and it is therefore nothing to boast about.

If anything, it is quite the opposite.

The friends and neighbours that I have talked to would all be quite happy to pay a realistic council tax, comparable with that of some of our local councils.

The residents of Maidenhead are not stupid, and they will have the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the current council at the elections in 2023.

JOHN HUDSON

Rushington Avenue

Maidenhead


Brexit and EU cost benefit analysis

It does seem a pity that D.R. Cooper has found so much about the Brexit deal troublesome.

The accusation of disingenuous placard waving on the Irish boarder with its smaller neighbour is the latest irksome byproduct of the deal negotiated by David Frost, on behalf of the Big Buffoon.

What a pity that memories of the lies told by the Leave campaign have escaped such scrutiny:

Turkey was about to join the EU and 90million Turkish citizens were on their way to the UK.

The NHS was due to benefit from £350million pounds per week of extra spending.

Top notch trade deals were going to be forged worldwide.

Within a few months, the cost to the UK economy of Brexit will have exceeded the net total payments made to the EU and its predecessors between 1973 and 2018.

Those losses will continue.

Surely that’s more important than waving an allegedly bogus banner.

JAMES AIDAN

Sutton Road

Cookham


Sending thanks to a kind-hearted shopper

To the lovely young lady who rescued me on Monday, November 29:

A BIG, BIG, thank you to the young lady who came to help me on the Sainsbury's travellator when my trolley got stuck.

I was unable to move the trolley off the travellator, and others were coming up behind me.

She managed to get it off before a collision occurred.

The trolley then wouldn’t move onto the next travellator so she carried my bags to my car for me.

It is so nice to know there are good people out there!

TONI STEWART

Windrush Way

Maidenhead


A sense of escape for children in hospital

As 2021 draws to a close, we look forward to a long-awaited festive break with loved ones.

However, our thoughts must turn to the many seriously ill children who will be spending Christmas in hospital.

Being in hospital is difficult enough for any of us, but for children, being in hospital at Christmas, a time that should be happy, full of excitement and spent with family, can be heart-breaking.

Restrictions are still firmly in place in hospitals, meaning children are only able to have one parent with them at a time, and are separated from their brothers and sisters.

It can be a very lonely time.

However, there is a way to help.

Having access to toys and fun things to do in hospital can help a child cope with the anxiety of separation and treatment, reduce the long-term emotional damage of serious illness, and bring joy back into their lives, and that’s exactly what children’s charity Starlight does.

However, our research shows that more than half of all UK hospitals are without the budget or resources they need to make play happen for children in their care.

Toys that Starlight provides can make all the difference.

They can often go from being scared of tests and procedures, to looking forward to hospital appointments so that they can play with the toys and the wonderful NHS play specialists.

The transformation we see can be incredible.

But sadly, this is only happening in some hospitals, when it should be happening in all. This Christmas, we are urging your readers to support the charity’s Time to Play Christmas campaign, so that we can raise vital funds to ensure that all seriously ill children have the sense of escape, distraction, and joy of play in hospital, at the time they need it most.

Starlight is committed to providing essential toys, games and books to an additional 300 hospitals that don’t currently have play resources and are most urgently in need of our support, but we can only do that with your help.

Please visit starlight.org.uk/timetoplay to help us bring back joy into the lives of seriously ill children this Christmas.

Whatever you are able to give will be so appreciated.

CATHY GILMAN

CEO

Starlight

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