10:20AM, Thursday 13 January 2022
Maidenhead Neighbourhood Forum (MNF) has been left ‘reeling’ after the Royal Borough said unparished Maidenhead was not an ‘appropriate or logical’ area to be designated under one neighbourhood plan.
A council email, shared by MNF, dismissed a draft submission of a proposed plan by the forum as ‘not appropriate’.
The plan is designed to set out planning policy in further details and on a more local level than the Borough Local Plan, although it cannot directly challenge the BLP. It would cover seven unparished wards in the town.
Neighbourhood plans allow residents a greater say in the type of developments which are permitted in the town and where they should go, and also allows residents to influence how the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is spent.
Andrew Ingram, co-chair of MNF, said: “To us, Maidenhead seems a logical area, as a town with a core and an identity, but apparently RBWM need more evidence that Maidenhead is logical and appropriate for a neighbourhood plan.
“They were also concerned that the town is too large to have a neighbourhood plan, but we showed that several much larger towns have one such as Bracknell, for example.
“Maidenhead is also the only area within RBWM which does not have either a neighbourhood plan in place or in development, or a group designated to create one. With the BLP targeting around 70 per cent of the total borough-wide housing growth at the town, leading to around a 40 per cent increase in its overall population, Maidenhead arguably needs a neighbourhood plan more than any other part of the borough.”
In an email sent on November 24 and shared by MNF on January 3, RBWM’s principal policy officer Rebecca Raine said she did not consider the draft submission to be ‘logical’.
“Our recommendation to you is to further consider splitting the area into at least two, with three unparished areas in each, and to establish clear local connections supported by evidence,” she said.
“There is a sense when reading the submission that the area proposed is put forward because it’s the area that has not yet been designated, and that if this area isn’t designated, it would result in many smaller neighbourhood plans.
“However, we consider that this may not be the case, as the area could logically be split into two or three areas with a smaller number of wards in each.”
She added: “Multiple neighbourhood plans are not detrimental; in fact, the resultant policies could be more localised and have more of a positive impact on the communities involved.
“Although this may be ‘impractical to resource and co-ordinate’ this is not a reason to designate a large single area of some 70,000 people.”
MNF said it would be completing a survey of resident opinion before responding to RBWM.
A council spokesman said: “The email published by the forum is intended as informal feedback on their draft submission and reflects informal advice that’s been given consistently throughout the engagement process. We remain open to working with the forum.”
A cross-party coalition of 28 councillors from three different factions has been formed at Wokingham Borough Council.