02:20PM, Thursday 21 October 2021
Last week the council put forward a draft plan which outlines some key changes it aims to set in motion in the next five years to improve residents’ lives.
The draft corporate plan covers changes to buses, carbon emissions, health, education and housing.
The idea is to look at the borough’s biggest problems and create a roadmap for improving various systems and infrastructure.
One of the key concerns for residents is the high price of housing, making it very difficult for low or middle-income residents to get onto the property ladder.
As of 2020, the borough had a £500,000 median house price, compared to £342,000 across the South-East and £259,000 England-wide.
This is one of the few areas where the Borough is significantly under or over regional or national averages.
In response, the borough is looking to help 2,000 households into new and existing affordable homes, prioritising social and affordable rent.
At a meeting last week, leader of the opposition Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) raised concerns over the quantity of social housing included in that – but was told it was ‘not realistic’ to set the social housing target any higher.
The borough also wants to reduce the number of people in temporary accommodation down to less than 100 by April 2025.
On health, the Royal Borough is aiming to decrease the proportion of 10-11-year-old children who are overweight from 29 to 24 per cent by 2026.
It also aims to get 10 per cent more people with learning disabilities living in their own homes or with family by 2025.
For children, the council plans to deliver new and enhanced community and youth facilities, including at Blackamoor Lane, Larchfield and Windsor.
This, too, is a subject of controversy, given that the council recently switched to a new Family Hub model, centralising services and focusing on known vulnerable families.
Cllr Werner criticised the move, lamenting the loss of ‘universal’ services which he believes create more opportunities to spot those at potential risk but not currently in the system.
Transport is also on the agenda, with a proposal to invest in the A308 corridor, which has been causing a multitude of increasing problems for road users and pedestrians over the past few years.
Residents have previously flagged up a need for pedestrian crossings, cycle lanes and speed cameras on this stretch, as well as surface problems and difficulties turning on or off the main road.
Buses, too, are covered in the plan. The council wishes to increase the number of buses, as well as beginning trials for a better rural bus service.
In January last year, the council heard that Maidenhead has the local authority with the second lowest bus usage in the country, beating only Rutland, the smallest county in England.
Bus bosses said the town’s affluence, cheap town centre parking and the lack of road priorities for buses contributed to a low usage rate.
Earlier this year, a proposal to install a bus gate in Shoppenhangers Road went down very badly with residents – 95 per cent of 2,225 people disagreed with the plans.
The borough also wants to boost cycling by 50 per cent by 2025. However, in last week’s meeting, Cllr Julian Sharpe (Con, Ascot & Sunninghill) suggested that boosting walking by the same amount ought to be an equal, if not greater, priority.
Another prime goal is getting full fibre broadband to 95 per cent of properties by 2025.
The council also wants to eliminate 4G ‘not-spots’ in rural areas and establish a small cell roll out for 5G (coverage at a range of 10 meters to a few kilometres).
The corporate plan was influenced by a public consultation. Of 490 replies, more than a quarter of people said they wanted to see more examples of the council taking active steps to tackle sustainability and climate goals.
As it stands, the Royal Borough plans to drive energy efficiency improvements through its social housing providers, turning all homes to an EPC rating of C by 2030.
It also seeks to increase renewable energy generation ten-fold by 2026, from a baseline of 13,067 MWh in 2018.
By 2030, the council wants a minimum 10-per-cent biodiversity net gain through the planning system, meaning developers should factor this into new building proposals.
The council is also looking to increase recycling to 50 per cent of waste by 2025 and 65 per cent by 2035.
This has created controversy, as this goal was the reason given for switching to fortnightly general waste collections, as of Monday.
Another aim is to invest £10m on flooding prevention in Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury, and Old Windsor wards.
But the Borough has faced criticism in the past after opting out of a cross-country flood alleviation scheme and opposition councillors have suggested a £10m investment is too little.
These are among nine separate action points for tackling climate change in the draft corporate plan.
Nonetheless, opposition councillors have criticised the lack of a golden thread – or ‘green thread’ – in the plan, saying an environmental focus should be interwoven throughout.
To view the whole draft, visit tinyurl.com/yrb8s6m2
The UK has voted to leave the European Union in yesterday's referendum - and while the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead fell into the remain camp, Slough voted to support a Brexit.