03:15PM, Wednesday 13 November 2019
A councillor admitted ‘there isn’t any money’ for the Maidenhead Waterways (MW) project at its AGM – but the scheme’s chairman remains positive about its future.
Cllr Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary’s), the council’s waterways champion, made the comment at a meeting held at Desborough Bowling Club on Wednesday, November 6.
Working in partnership with MW and developers, the council has so far invested £8million in the York Stream arm of the waterway.
It is also funding a £1million weir across the stream at Green Lane which will lift surface water levels throughout the town centre to fill the already enlarged channels and also back up into the Moor Cut.
This is expected to be finished early next year.
Cllr Stimson said: “For us to say we’re going to spend another at least £8million on clearing up the other side of the channel [Moor Cut] – we simply can’t commit to that,”
“Our spending has gone through the roof in terms of social care and the aged and that is where our commitments lie.”
She added: “That’s my message, and we’re giving it everywhere and it’s tough but I’ve got to be open with you – I don’t want to play games and say ‘maybe’ – at the moment there isn’t any money for the waterways project.”
Cllr Stimson did promise the extra money needed to complete the weir and funding for an access ramp and floating pontoons at Chapel Arches.
This will allow boat storage in the two closed off arches and to act as a base for maintenance of the restored waterway channels.
She also offered her support: “I’ll be one of your cheerleaders, I already am, I just can’t promise you something I can’t deliver because that’s the worse kind of promise.”
In response Richard said ‘no body’s expecting you to produce another cheque for £8million pounds tonight’ – although ‘it would be nice if you did’.
MW chairman Richard Davenport said the waterways projects should be seen in the context of the Borough Local Plan (BLP).
He believes investment and development in the town as part of the BLP will generate about £3billion.
“In that context it’s not so fanciful to think that there can’t be more of this - as long as we have a strategy that is incremental, long-term and avoids abortive costs,” he said.
Council leader Andrew Johnson, also present at the meeting, acknowledged the council is in a ‘challenging financial climate’ but that it was committed to blue-green infrastructure and suggested the money could be found elsewhere.
“I’m more than happy, short-term financial issues aside, to of course work with you, work with the bigger players – obviously Shanly [Homes], and Rob Tinkell Rob Tincknell and Areli [Real Estate], to see just how much private funding and finance we can leverage in to support the project.”
He added: “I think that looking at the town centre – looking at Maidenhead – it stands on the cusp of a golden opportunity in terms of its potential regeneration and future of the town.
“And I think genuinely it would be a lost opportunity were the waterways project not to be an integral part of that.”
After the meeting Richard said the MW project was ‘a catalyst for the development and regeneration of the town centre’.
He said: “We are very positive, this is a thing with huge public support,” he said.
“And we can pause, and will move on as and when we can find a way of doing that – with the council and developers – whatever partnership is needed.”
Richard cannot see why developers would not want to invest in the project.
He said: “It’s about mutual benefit, if a developers going to benefit from a water outlook the developer should contribute towards it.
“If you have a waterside property worth 10 per cent or more than one without waterside, and one overlooking a dirty, overgrown drug-filled ditch actually is not a premium at all – it is worth very little.”
Future plans for the waterways
Richard said progress made on the waterways this year has ‘moved the project forward hugely’ and there are ambitious aims for the future.
“We’ve just celebrated a really successful year that has moved the project forward hugely with the construction of the weir, which is nearly done,” he said.
“We’re suddenly moving forward again.”
Plans for the future include completing the ‘ring’ so small boats can operate around the town centre.
The ‘ring’ is where the stream coming from Bray Marina parts ways at Green Lane [one arm is York Steam and the other is Moor Cut] before converging once again.
The reinstatement of York Stream is now complete [with £8million council investment] but Moor Cut is still to do.
A lock will be added at a later stage to allow larger boats to pass through the town centre.
Another long-term goal is to join the waterway to the Thames in the South via the Bray Cut channel to allow small - and eventually larger craft - to enter from the Thames.
In the future the MW project also aims to restore and enlarge the channel from the Thames North – completing a larger circuit.
Richard did say there was a ‘missed opportunity’ at Chapel Arches to lower the hard invert under the bridge from 0.6metres to 1.3metres - the level of the channel either side of the bridge.
Richard said: that means any boats which need more than 0.6metres of hull water depth won’t be able to get through there – that’s a missed opportunity.”
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