01:00PM, Friday 18 February 2022
Email Viewpoint letters to email@example.com or write to Viewpoint, Newspaper House, 48 Bell Street, Maidenhead, SL61HX.
How can BLP climate claims be justified?
As reported in last week’s Advertiser article ‘Councillors vote to adopt the Borough Local Plan at a fiery meeting’, the decision marked a major step towards thousands of houses one day being developed on what is currently greenbelt land.
Many local people were utterly dismayed that our council voted to adopt this environmentally damaging Borough Local Plan, but perhaps the most disturbing speech and vote in favour came from Cllr Donna Stimson, cabinet member for climate change, sustainability, parks and countryside.
Despite the fact that our council declared a climate emergency in 2019, and published a climate & environment strategy a year later which pledged to protect greenspace and biodiversity, Cllr Stimson greenwashed the plan by saying the plan addresses the impact of climate change through a series of policies.
She said these include Policy QP2 which aims to ‘contribute to the green character of the borough through the delivery of generous green infrastructure’ and to ‘secure multiple biodiversity and recreational health and wellbeing and environmental benefits, development proposals will be required to contribute to the maintenance, enhancement and where possible the enlargement of the borough’s existing green and blue infrastructure both in terms of the quantity and quality’.
How does this fit with concreting over the 132 acres of publicly-owned woodlands and greenspace at Maidenhead Golf Club, home to dozens of protected species, including owls, bats, kestrels and red kites?
It’s nonsense, but by using all the right terminology Cllr Stimson made it sound like it was all OK.
Making history with a plan that doesn’t work
History of the worst kind was made last week.
A plan to concrete over the golf course was approved by our elected local councillors. A plan that will bring disruption to Maidenhead town centre for 5-10 years.
That will significantly increase traffic on the main arteries into town.
A plan that will decrease further the already poor air quality for all who live, work, shop in Maidenhead.
That builds on greenbelt despite environmental commitments.
A plan that ignores Lord Desborough’s gifting of the land to stay undeveloped for the whole town.
A plan based on data that is 10 years old, hasn’t been reviewed to reflect changes to work and lifestyle due to the pandemic, is unfinished and flawed.
A plan that promises affordable housing - not social housing – but nobody could define affordable.
A plan that affects every resident in Maidenhead and that many residents don’t want. Please get involved to stop this plan: https://maidenheadgreatpark.co.uk/
Golf course motives are not about housing
Last week’s council meeting at the Holiday Inn to debate and vote on adoption of the Borough Local Plan was a complete farce.
As anticipated, the plan was approved, with the vote strictly on party lines – an indication of the strong whipping of the Tories.
The main topic of discussion, raising the most emotions, was the proposed development of the golf course consisting of some 2,600 new homes, two schools, and a medical centre.
There were some very good speeches opposing the development, from Oldfield councillors Geoff Hill and Helen Taylor, among others.
Tina Quadrino, leader of the Maidenhead Great Park Campaign, gave an excellent and emotional speech explaining why the development was unnecessary, unjustified, and would amount to environmental vandalism.
What was pitiful were the mistruths and misleading statements made by many Conservative councillors attempting to justify their reasons for voting for the plan.
The only councillor who spoke with any level of sincerity or conscience was Leo Walters, who is to be applauded.
This plan is not about ‘desperately needed homes’, new schools, or anything else.
The driving reason behind the council's desperation to develop the site is financial.
As previously reported, our council have amassed huge debts due to their own financial incompetence and mismanagement over many years.
It is interesting to note that this has been stated many times in previous editions of the Advertiser, but to my knowledge it has never been challenged by the council.
The proposed development would result in payments to the council from their development partner CALA Homes of over £225million, effectively clearing the council’s self-inflicted debts of £250million.
No co-incidence there then.
The council is not obliged to comply with the Government’s assessment for new homes. Brighton and Hove council, for example, have stated that they will build half the number of houses assessed by the Government due to the large amount of greenbelt land in their area.
Not only that, the council have unnecessarily included almost 2,000 new homes to meet Slough’s unmet need, and the inspector has ruled that there was no requirement to do that.
Worst of all, the council’s assessment is based on out-of-date government statistics from 2012, for 12,691 homes.
The 2018 figure was halved to 6,382 due to a declining population and birth rate and other factors.
RBWM however, have steadfastly refused to accept this, and have based everything on 2012, leading to a housing provision in the BLP of, I believe, 16,435 homes. This is a massive 2.5 times the 2018 government figure.
Of the 6,382 OAHN (Objectively Assessed Housing Need) in 2018, 6,000 of these have already been built, or have been given planning permission.
That only leaves 382 new houses to be built by 2033.
There is, therefore, no need to build any houses at all on the golf course.
Using the allegory from the first protest, despite having had abundant opportunities, Cllr Johnson has made no attempt to alter the disastrous course set for the council by the previous leader, Simon Dudley.
With Captain Johnson at the helm, the good ship SS RBWM Titanic is heading for that huge iceberg lurking in the fog – the 2023 local elections.
Plan will meet needs of future generations
After all the emotion in last week’s edition I thought it worthwhile to confirm where we are.
We submitted a plan after nine years’ work, a plan which we believe meets the needs of the borough going forward to 2033.
We carried out a full consultation and at the first examination in public – every objector was able to make their case before the inspector.
She heard all the evidence on why we should not build that number of dwellings and why we should not use the golf club.
Following that examination, she asked for changes (known as major modifications) to be made.
We again consulted with all residents on these modifications and again the inspector heard all the objectors make their case.
Groups employed planning consultants to make their cases so that the issues could be explained clearly in terms that would be known to the inspector.
Following this examination, she issued her final document which is what I put before full council last week.
We now have a plan which will meet the needs of our children and grandchildren.
We still have a borough with 82 per cent greenbelt but now we can provide all the houses including affordable houses that are needed.
Ask yourself what the opposition would have done if they were in power.
Would they have produced a similar plan?
If you are to believe what they said last week they don’t want any new housing; they don’t want affordable housing; they don’t want employment opportunities.
When they knock on your door, I suggest you ask them.
Cllr DAVID COPPINGER
Cabinet member for planning, environmental services and Maidenhead
Climate change is not temporary, councillor
Cllr Coppinger seems to think climate change is temporary.
As reported in an article in last week’s Advertiser, RBWM councillors voted ‘to adopt the Borough Local Plan at a fiery meeting’.
So many local people are upset about this decision which will be extremely damaging to our local wildlife and environment.
When asked by a member of the public at the meeting about the plan’s failure to adequately protect our community in the face of a climate emergency, Cllr Coppinger, our cabinet member for planning, environmental services and Maidenhead, responded with the words: “Yes, we have an emergency and we will continue it until such time as we have a conclusion, which hopefully will not take too long.”
If one of the key architects of the plan thinks climate change is temporary, I think we have our answer as to why it doesn’t adequately address it, including destroying important wildlife habitats, woodlands and community owned greenspace at Maidenhead Golf Course.
Lack of answers over impact on air quality
So, the Borough Local Plan has been approved and residents will witness an enormous act of environmental vandalism when building eventually starts on Maidenhead Golf Course.
The Borough Local Plan commits the Borough to a significant building programme which will inevitably generate more road traffic pollution.
A report published recently (‘Building Car Dependency: The Tarmac Suburbs of the Future’) by ‘Transport for New Homes’ found that “… new greenfield housing has become even more car-based than before”.
I attended the EGM where our councillors discussed the Borough Local Plan and I’d like to share with your readers the question which I asked there; “Given that Maidenhead is one, big Air Quality Management Area, do you agree with me that we all need a ‘Maidenhead Great Park’ to ameliorate the aggregate air pollution effects arising from all the housing developments in the town?”
I’ll leave your readers to imagine the ineffectual response which the public received.
I accept that we need more affordable housing but the gargantuan building programme planned for the borough is, I believe, more about ensuring RBWM’s solvency.
I simply cannot understand why the people who purport to serve us would prefer to trash the health of its residents to achieve that financial objective.
Thank goodness we’ll soon have local elections!
Parcel solution for golf club affordable housing
It would seem that the elected RBWM council are hell bent on developing the golf club, and whilst I strongly disagree, it seems to be a done deal.
I have a suggestion whereby at least Maidonians can salvage some good from this nefarious act.
Readers will remember the posters dotted around the region proclaiming proudly that 33 per cent of houses built were affordable, and as I pointed out at the time, that means 67 per cent weren’t.
Developers are not to be trusted to build truly affordable houses.
The golf club could provide a golden egg in this respect.
With some 2,000 acres available I suggest that the land be broken up in to, say, 100 parcels with half sold on to developers and half retained by the council.
The council land would then effectively be zero cost.
The developer’s parcels would be interleaved with the council’s.
Each council parcel could then be built on under the council’s overall control.
The developer would be responsible for all the services, main access roads etc.
The council responsible for the extension of the services in to its own parcels.
The council can then build small groups of mixed housing in a ‘close’ format on each parcel so that local communities can organically develop, rather than one huge estate. The main single cost of housing, i.e. the land, is covered, and mixed housing of various sizes can be built to a good standard but at low cost, suitable for modern day needs with gardens and open spaces.
These houses can then be sold off or rented with deeds stating that they can only be resold at the purchase price plus inflation thus perpetuating affordability irrespective of the increase in the open market.
Restrictive covenants could define who qualifies to buy, e.g. key workers.
Income from selling housing on one parcel can be used to develop the next.
This major project can be devolved from direct council control and a separate body formed to implement the agreed plan without constant council interference.
A competent team with appropriate powers can then look at the overall development and act quickly when problems arise.
Lastly, Cllr Coppinger should be kept a million miles away from the project.
Council u-turn welcome but it’s time to engage
So the cabinet is now recommending that funding for the arts at Norden Farm and the Old Court is not just to be reinstated but enhanced.
But why should it take so much heartache, protest and petition to achieve this?
The Civic Society has supported Norden Farm from the outset including a modest contribution to their recent fundraising appeal.
RBWM really has to address how it engages with the community in a more meaningful way, especially in this new media age.
More than ever it needs to find ways of garnering considered opinion, rather than knee-jerk reactions, on issues like arts and culture; planning and the environment; transport and infrastructure.
There’s an encouraging prototype in the new youth council set up last year to advise officers and elected members on young people’s attitudes.
It would be good to see something similar covering other areas too.
Maidenhead Civic Society
MPs must protect right to protest peacefully
The right to protest peacefully is a cornerstone of democracy.
It is over 45 years since I reached my majority and I have only taken advantage of this right a few times, but preventing people from protesting peacefully is an affront to democracy, yet that is what the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill intends to do.
Some of the most troubling provisions in the Bill were recently defeated in the House of Lords.
A clause banning protests in Parliament Square was overturned thanks to cross-party cooperation from peers and the dedication of organisations such as Best for Britain.
The Government’s large majority may yet overturn this in the House of Commons.
I hope your readers realise just how much we could lose.
Demonstrations in Parliament Square must not be taken away from us.
The Government wants to clamp down on civil society and prevent ordinary people from having any political influence outside of elections.
MPs must do the right thing when they consider the Bill once more and protect their constituents’ right to have their voices heard.
Are we letting rebate go down the drain?
Following my recent receipt of my water bill, I must advise everyone of the likely rebate due to property owners that have ‘a soak away’ within their property.
Many years ago the normal building practice was to allow rainwater to soak into the garden via a provided pit (soak away) further down the garden.
With the building of many modern terrace houses, flats and attended living homes the modern practice is to allow this rain water/surface water to drain into the sewer pipes.
This is charged as ‘down the drain’ standing charge and an estimated usage charge by Thames Water/South East Water.
However, under the same heading ‘down the drain’ they state: “This is the water which has left your property. If you think that there is no way for the rainwater to soak into the main sewers from your property, YOU MAY BE ABLE TO CLAIM A SURFACE WATER REBATE for that part of the charges. If you receive this already you will see it highlighted in the blue box.......if not, to find out more and apply for a rebate please go to our website and fill in the online form.”
It is with an enquiring thought that I ask how many households have asked or have known about this rebate as, no doubt with Maidenhead having some mature properties, this sum could be quite a large amount owing to the residents/
We all have increasing utility bills and our suppliers are declaring large profits, so isn’t it fair to ‘give some back’ to those that may have overlooked this rebate?
Conflict arises as soon as borders exist
D R Cooper is right to point out that there are two countries on the Irish mainland, namely Ireland and Northern Ireland (Viewpoint, February 10), and there is a difference in governance, administration, revenue raising and all the other factors which make up an individual nation state.
There is, of course, no physical border separating them.
Journey from Belfast to Dublin and there is no check on the traveller’s progress, or on the trade of goods.
The reason is illustrated clearly by current tensions in Ukraine.
As soon as borders exist, conflict arises.
Although D R Cooper writes frequently blaming the EU and the government in Dublin for the ongoing traumas suffered in Northern Ireland, it should be remembered that this was what the British government acceded to.
David Frost and his negotiators could have said no to it, but in order to wave their flag of Pyrrhic victory to the conned UK population the oven ready deal was pushed through regardless.
When a once honest political party adopts a vengeful narcissistic liar as its leader, the consequences are predictable.
Perhaps those who voted Leave in 2016 should have spent a little longer considering the possible outcomes.
Planning permission for 200 new homes on the outskirts of Hurst have been declined by Wokingham Borough Council.