08:00PM, Wednesday 22 July 2020
The appeal against a rejected application to convert a Maidenhead landmark into flats will be held virtually next week.
The application outlines a plan to change the Thames Riviera Hotel in Bridge Road into 15 apartments, and demolish an annex to build 11 more.
It was rejected by the council in 2018, following a campaign by residents started in 2016, who claim that the hotel is a heritage site to be preserved.
Speaking for Thames Reach Residents Association (TRRA), Harry Bodenhofer said:
“If we lose this amenity for the community, it’s a huge loss – the residents like to sit by the river, and if the appeal is successful, that means it’s gone forever.”
The appeal, launched by developer Galleon Hotels and Arena Racing Company, was due in April but was postponed due to COVID-19.
It will now be held virtually on Tuesday and Wednesday.
However, TRRA is concerned about the prospect of a virtual appeal, as it feels this is exclusive of a number of residents who would like a voice.
“There are a lot of specifically older residents who will want to take a stand on this,” said Mr Bodenhofer. “Not everybody has Skype or Zoom.”
He also felt that it caused a problem for those still working during the week.
“[The appeal] takes place over two days – for people who still work, there’s no way they can take two days off to listen to an appeal,” he added.
A spokesman from the Royal Borough said: “For all appeal events, the appointed Inspector is responsible for managing speaking rights and ensuring the appropriate people are given time to speak and this is no different for a virtual event.
“Holding these meetings virtually is a safer option due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also enables those who wish to participate to do so from wherever they are.
“We don’t believe they are a barrier to involvement.”
Cllr Gurch Singh, (St Mary's), who launched a Facebook group opposing the plans in 2018, said: “The planning application for demolition of this heritage site and construction of 26 luxury apartments is not appropriate.
“The application was refused on sound planning grounds and the appeal should be dismissed.”
Cllr Chris Targowski (Con, Riverside), who represents the ward containing the Thames Riviera, also supports the original decision of the planning panel.
“Personally, I want to see a vibrant riverfront that works well for both residents and visitors,” he said.
Galleon Hotels could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.
Those interested in attending the appeal can request to do so either as an observer or a speaker, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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