Viewpoint: Debate over Maidenhead Golf Course biodiversity

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


Find some spine – enough is enough

Reading last week’s Advertiser article about Maidenhead Golf Club, ‘Protecting species as estate is built’ made me wonder why people, such as proponents of Maidenhead Great Park, are so upset.

It really does SOUND wonderful, doesn’t it?

All that talk about ecological surveys and buzz words like ‘biodiversity’.

CALA Homes, people who incidentally probably stand to make millions out of it, say they ‘fully understand the importance of protecting wildlife and habitats…’ whilst at the same time covering the place with 2,600 properties (sorry ‘much needed homes’).

A report by Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre refers to the golf course as being an ideal habitat for many creatures, including hedgehogs, badgers, reptiles, stag beetles and also presumably the lesser-spotted council leader?

But whatever happened to the council’s beloved ‘Green Spine’?

It seems to have mysteriously turned into a ‘green/blue infrastructure network helping wildlife move across the site’. As they like to move about a bit, I guess this will get Ratty and Mole’s vote then.

But although the old Green Spine sounded like a nasty disease, a ‘green/blue infrastructure network’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

What’s more, it seems that the council have decided not to call it Maidenhead Golf Course anymore and instead they are opting for ‘AL13’.

Unlucky for most Maidenhead residents but very lucky for CALA Homes and the hapless bunch of losers running RBWM into the ground.

But then if you totally trash AL13 it just doesn’t sound so bad as trashing Maidenhead Golf Course does it? ‘AL13 TO BE REPLACED BY MAJOR DEVELOPMENT’. Sounds okay?

But I always look in the Advertiser for related stories.

And there it was, on page 23 where it said that the Tories have lost overall control of Wokingham.

I think our council should regard this as The Wokingham Wake Up Call.

You see, we don’t HAVE to keep voting this lot in time and time and time again.

It’s not mandatory to have a Tory council that mismanages finances to the point where they have to destroy Maidenhead Golf Course to balance the books.

The article went on to say that lifelong Wokingham Conservative voters have said enough is enough.

And in Wokingham they are not even threatened with Green Spine Disease as we are in Maidenhead.

How you vote in local elections has far more influence on your life than how you vote in general elections.

So, when those ‘boring’ local elections come around next year I hope many thousands of regular Tory voters will do as they’ve done in Wokingham and say enough is enough and get rid of this useless council.

MALCOLM JAMES STRETTEN

Boulters Lane

Maidenhead


Think of what will go to build 2,000 homes

Once again I see there are more totally misleading and disingenuous statements from RBWM, and now also from their development partner CALA Homes regarding the biodiversity of the proposed development of the golf course.

These statements are an affront, and an insult to the intelligence of the residents of Maidenhead, and they must continue to be robustly challenged.

An anonymous 'spokesperson for the Royal Borough' claims that ‘the development will include creation of a green/blue infrastructure network helping wildlife move across the site’ – a statement that defies belief.

If this development goes ahead, the minute the first excavators start working on the site, the wildlife will start leaving in an attempt to find somewhere quieter and more peaceful to live, never to return.

And obviously once the trees are cut down, the habitats will be decimated.

The spokesperson goes on to say ‘we are very clear that the development will need to deliver net biodiversity gain and this is key in our planning policy’.

With the destruction of over 1,000 mature trees, as well as mature bushes, shrubs and hedgerows, and the scale of the proposed dense housing development, it will not be possible for this site to be developed with a net biodiversity gain, which by law, the developer must provide.

The only way this could be achieved is for the developer to purchase an alternative site in the area, and plant more trees, bushes, shrubs and hedges than may be destroyed by this potential development.

An anonymous CALA Homes spokesperson said ‘CALA fully understands the importance of protecting wildlife and habitats, and work is underway to ensure that the appropriate measures are in place as part of our plans for Maidenhead Golf Course’.

How is this statement remotely compatible with what will be required to build 2,000 new homes?

Did the CALA spokesperson even think about the wording of their ridiculous statement before they made it, or was it just a generic message that they trot out about all of their developments?

The spokesperson goes on to say ‘we are committed to engaging with the local community and stakeholders in developing proposals for the allocation and look forward to sharing our approach to the protection and enhancement of biodiversity on AL13 in due course’.

If you have been reading the Advertiser in recent months, you will be aware that this proposal is deeply unpopular with the residents of Maidenhead, who do not want or need this development to go ahead at all.

JOHN HUDSON

Rushington Avenue

Maidenhead


No one reassured by ‘biodiversity support’

Shay Bottomley’s article in last week’s Maidenhead Advertiser, ‘Further biodiversity details will ‘come forward’ on Maidenhead Golf Course’ (May 12, 2022) highlights a lot of questions regarding our council’s claims that its Borough Local Plan will ‘support biodiversity’.

RBWM says they ‘worked constructively with Natural England in preparing the BLP’.

I’d be very keen to hear how Natural England perceived the experience!

This administration has repeatedly ignored the thoughts and concerns highlighted by local people and other stakeholders, in relation to their environmentally damaging BLP.

Our council’s track record on biodiversity is far from exemplary.

Given that they haven’t met the targets set out in their own environment and climate strategy, and they have deferred the adoption of the Biodiversity Action Plan for who knows how long, I am not very optimistic about any ‘supporting biodiversity’ details that may come forward.

CALA Homes is not known for its biodiversity credentials either.

A quick glimpse at their website shows that they tick that particular box by having an Urban Wildlife Strategy; I am not quite sure how you ‘optimise opportunities for urban wildlife throughout all of our developments’, whist decimating around 50 acres of mature woodlands, complete with native bluebells, deer, owls, slow worms, red kites, bats and other protected species, and then replace them with a green spine of new grass, plants and trees.

This proposed development includes high density housing right next to a fragile ancient woodland.

The Woodland Trust advocates a buffer zone for any development, but with one of this size, I believe they would advocate a buffer of between 50 and 100 metres to mitigate the damage to the wildlife that relies on ancient woodland.

Our council say they are committed to engaging with the local community, but they have repeatedly ignored our pleas to halt their development plans for this publicly owned park land leased by the golf club.

Shall we see how constructively they will work with other experts going forwards when it starts to impact on the size of this development?

TINA QUADRINO

Maidenhead


Be clear-eyed, the air is going to degrade

I read with incredulity, the article ‘protecting species as estate is built’.

This refers to the proposed massive development of 2,000 homes on Maidenhead Golf Course.

A spokesperson for the Royal Borough confirmed that it had ‘worked constructively with Natural England in preparing the Borough Local Plan’ and would continue to do so.

The council states that it is very clear that the development will need to deliver net biodiversity gain and this is the key to their planning policy. This is an unbelievable statement when considering:

1.2,000 homes on a 132 acre site; this is a high density development.

2.It will lead to the loss of approximately 50 acres of mature woodlands and about 1,000 trees. A mature tree absorbs about 25 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year and therefore this loss equates to 25 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide being released to the atmosphere. This is why the golf course is referred to as Maidenhead’s Green Lung.

3.The planning policy contravenes the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 and The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. Development of the golf course will lead to the unavoidable destruction of the habitats of protected wildlife.

I have written several letters to the Advertiser drawing attention to this unnecessary and damaging proposed development and summarized below are some of the key issues:

1.Originally the council tried to prevent residents commenting freely on the Borough Local Plan. They only backed down when they were threatened with legal action.

2.Theresa May was opposed to this development when it first surfaced in 2014. In particular she was concerned that the number of homes proposed was almost 1,000!

3.The golf course belongs to the residents of Maidenhead. The council is the custodium acting on our behalf. Maidenhead Council purchased this land in 1953 to ensure that it remained as a green space.

4.The petition in 2021 to turn the golf course into Maidenhead Great Park contained almost 4,500 signatures. The petition was defeated by only one vote.

5.Maidenhead residents are not NIMBYs. The latest Borough Local Plan proposes that 6,144 new homes, out of a total of 8,296 planned on allocated sites across the whole Royal Borough will be built in Maidenhead. Worryingly this amounts to 74 per cent of the planned new homes.

6.If the latest household projection figures issued by the government in 2018 were to be used then the number of new homes required in the Royal Borough would be significantly less. The council does not want to reduce this figure and remove the golf course from their development plans since they want the money from the sale to developers to rectify their mismanagement of the borough’s finances.

The only way to stop this unnecessary and very damaging development on this wonderful greenbelt site is for residents to support the Maidenhead Park Group and to urgently contact their councillors expressing their concerns.

GEORGE MIDGLEY

Walker Road

Maidenhead


Heritage in danger of being lost forever

Thank you, Maidenhead Advertiser for your extensive and accurate article in last week’s (May 12) edition – Developer ‘did not listen to concerns’, which detailed Bray Parish Council’s decision to recommend refusal for Wates’ application to develop land on the edge of Windsor, north of the A308 and residents’ concerns regarding destruction of heritage assets of The Willows.

The Willows Estate, is located on both sides of the ‘old Maidenhead Road’ and dates back to the 1800s when the Duke of Sutherland owned it, and is a Non-designated Heritage Asset.

The estate is included in the Windsor and Eton Society’s 2021 Non-designated Heritage Asset list and is described as ‘The most complete set of estate buildings and structures remaining in the area of Windsor.’

Part of it, which used to be the kitchen garden of the Willows Estate, borders the fields, now known as AL21 in the Borough Local Plan, and it is this border which is under threat from developers whose intentions are: – ‘New housing is intended to be sited immediately to the west of the existing walled boundary to the former kitchen garden, and so would extend and integrate with this existing area of suburban housing at the settlement edge’ – so part of Windsor’s heritage would be merged with new build and lost from public view for ever.

This boundary wall is crucial in marking the limits of this important estate and preserving its identity.

But developers continue to ignore residents’ pleas to save it.

The parish council discussed this issue in detail and came to the conclusion that this is unacceptable, as your article confirmed.

As you also correctly highlighted, there are many other problems associated with this development.

Traffic/infrastructure – the impact of development of AL21 is unimaginable on the already congested A308. The borough was given funds to commission a study on traffic on the A308 in December 2018 and the full conclusions of that report have still not been published. A development of the scale contemplated at AL21 can surely only be fully assessed when these are available?

Flooding – The lead local flood authority concluded that ‘from the information provided it appears that dwellings are proposed at the north of the site in proximity to an area of surface water flood risk’.

Poor air quality – a knock-on effect of the traffic problems is air pollution and the resulting respiratory illnesses. Motorists travelling along the A308 would be exposed to higher levels of air pollution, particularly when stationary, in traffic jams. Residents, both existing and proposed, living close to the A308 would also be at risk.

We are at a loss to understand why this stretch of greenbelt, on the edges of Windsor, was ever released for development, when the borough has allocated more than 2,000 more homes than were necessary to meet their Government target, and given all the problems associated with this development.

A TAYLOR, L GILLES, L JENNINGS

On behalf of Willows residents


Suffering under a barrage of suffixes

What with Watergate, Partygate, Beergate, Pledgegate, Porkygate and MPs trying to Mitigate any ‘Whichgate’ as it occurs, no wonder the nine most frightening words in the English language are: “I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”

Arrghh! Disastergate!

Now send in the Daleks – “Extermigate!”

T D SMITH

Village Road

Dorney


Post-Brexit changes to the UK’s food imports

D. R. Cooper makes some valid points in his contribution to Viewpoint on May 12, although there are a few, probably unintentional, errors.

Anybody who is aware of the standards required by the EU for consumer goods would be pleased that these are entering the UK with no checks.

Of course, the UK maintains these standards since to do otherwise would further damage the country’s export efforts.

The difficulty comes with products such as food.

In order to attempt to paint a few positives from the Eton mess of Brexit, the Government has tried to open up food markets to Australian and the USA. Imports.

The farmers of the UK, most of whom supported Brexit, have stated that this would involve a drastic reduction in food safety standards.

That may be what Leave supporters were prepared to accept to achieve their vision of isolation and separation, but in a situation where such products could find their way into the EU (the Irish border, of course) then action had to be taken.

Given that the chief British negotiator, David Frost, has said that the treaty he negotiated was such a poor effort, perhaps he should consider paying back his fees, although the same could be said for the whole of the cabinet.

It is important to recognise that, in general, it’s the younger members of the UK population who stand to lose the most from Brexit, with the demise of the Erasmus scheme, the opportunity to work visa free in the EU and more difficult travel restrictions, though John Henesy (Viewpoint, May 12) should reflect on the scarcity of care workers and NHS staff since so many returned to Europe after being made to feel so unwelcome.

This may affect him now or in the near future.

The Leave campaign was full of lies, not inaccuracies; so many Brexit voters are realising they’ve been conned.

JAMES AIDAN

Sutton Road

Cookham


No ballot on leaving the Single Market

I’m sorry John Henesy didn’t take James Aidan seriously in last week’s Advertiser (Viewpoint, May 12), I certainly did.

As for the referendum being the largest democratic vote, well that’s questionable.

Leave won the referendum by cheating, lies and misinformation. Where is the £350million a week that was promised for the NHS?

Leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union was not even on the ballot paper!

John Henesy does raise an interesting point about the EU not showing a united front in terms of sanctions against Russia – Hungary and Slovakia choosing against the oil and gas boycott at the present time.

However, this shows that EU member states can make their own sovereign decisions which exposes another Leaver lie.

The political turmoil in Northern Ireland is now turning toxic.

The arcane complexity of the Protocol would not even exist if we had stayed in the EU.

Brexit is a monumental unfolding disaster, a self inflicted wound that continues to haemorrhage and, regarding price rises and shortages, this is just the start.

Come on Leave voters, give us some hope?

But telling us that the decision is made and we just have to accept it or that the benefits won’t show for 20 years is not allowed.

CLIVE BLAKESLEY

Beverley Gardens

Maidenhead


Rise in bureaucracy, fall in dairy exports

I am confused by Dr Cooper (Viewpoint, May 12).

If the EU single market is ‘marginal’, why does he feel the need to keep emphasising the point?

Other things are more important.

The EU is about peace, solidarity, democratic values, human rights and the rule of law.

Please see article 5 of the Treaty on European Union. One of the basic principles is no discrimination against anyone from any other member country.

By contrast, ‘free trade’ is not a fundamental value of the EU.

Meanwhile, the British government is now missing out on £32billion a year in lost inland revenue.

That’s £615million a week. The letter of Michael Lake in the Financial Times on May 4 2022, is available online.

More civil servants are needed to run the country without the European Conformity (CE) mark on toys and electronics, and without the EU agencies.

Dr Cooper is lucky he is not a business owner in shellfish or cheese.

British sales of dairy products to the EU have fallen by 90 per cent. The loss of £2bn of exports is a ‘disaster for our industry’ because of ‘new trade barriers with the EU’, according to Dominic Goudie, the head of international trade at the Food and Drink Federation (The Guardian, June 18, 2021).

These are not actually new barriers.

The UK has moved itself to the other side of the barriers that it helped to make while it was a member.

To export British-made goods to the Netherlands now means two lots of customs charges.

The buyer has to register for UK VAT.

Unsurprisingly, many buyers in the EU have stopped ordering from GB because there are too many charges and there is too much bureaucracy.

The EU has never done a zero-tariffs zero-quotas deal with a ‘third country’ before.

A GB producer with 100 per cent UK origin has to do bureaucracy to qualify for the tariff-free.

It is good there is a EU-UK deal, but it is ‘scraps from the table’, according to the University of Liverpool’s Michael Dougan.

The EU has good reason to be concerned about what comes from the UK.

In the 1980s-90s there was BSE mad cow disease. In 2001 there was foot and mouth disease.

In 2011-17 the UK failed to collect the correct amount of customs duties and VAT on cheap shoes and clothes from China, causing losses for the rest of the EU.

The British government is being trusted by the EU to enforce the necessary checks for Northern Ireland.

The European Commission has said that the credibility of the guarantees given by the British government are in question.

In NI, those who only have a UK passport cannot buy property in France; and cannot register a business in France; and cannot stay more than 90 days out of 180.

Northern Ireland now has 53 members of the NI Assembly in favour of keeping the Protocol and 37 against.

PHIL JONES
Member, European Movement UK

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