01:00PM, Thursday 06 December 2018
Phil Haseler, pictured crouching left of banner
A Conservative candidate for next year’s local elections is ‘disappointed and deeply concerned’ that the council leader has backed a private school’s expansion project.
Phil Haseler said he was ‘surprised’ to see Cllr Simon Dudley’s (Con, Riverside) remarks on social media at the weekend, in which the latter said he ‘fully supports’ Claires Court’s plans.
Cllr Dudley has said the comments did not represent a change of mind but Mr Haseler pointed to a Facebook post from November 2017, in which Cllr Dudley said Cannon Lane ‘simply cannot support the increased traffic so we don’t support the scheme’.
The school wants to merge its College Avenue girls’ site and its senior boy’ campus in Ray Mill Road East into a new development at the junior boys site off Cannon Lane, where 157 homes are also planned.
Claires Court anticipates it will be able to prove ‘very special circumstances’ which would permit the development.
Cllr Dudley’s endorsement has concerned members of the Cox Green Says No campaign group, formed by residents worried about the plan’s impact on nearby roads, the loss of greenbelt land and potential harm to wildlife. Mr Haseler leads the campaign and will stand for the Conservative group in the local elections in May.
“If they satisfy very special circumstances for the development of their new campus, plus appropriate highways improvements, they would vacate this site in Maidenhead Riverside for a fantastic new campus,” Cllr Dudley wrote on Facebook on Saturday, referring to the Ray Mill Road East site, which would become homes.
“I wish the school all the best over the coming months in satisfying these critical planning tests,” he added.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Haseler said: “I was surprised, disappointed and deeply concerned to read Cllr Dudley’s Facebook post at the weekend which appeared to be a contra view to the one given last year.
“I have received a deluge of messages from Cox Green residents who are also deeply concerned and I believe deserve an explanation from Cllr Dudley. I have spoken to Cllr Dudley, expressed my concerns regarding the contra views and invited him to publish a public clarification for Cox Green residents. The invitation was declined.”
He added he ‘will continue to be a Conservative’, and stand in Cox Green next year, and ‘passionately represent Cox Green residents by fighting for what’s right’.
Cllr Dudley insisted he had not changed his mind from last year because if the concerns he raised were properly addressed the scheme would pass. He said that candidates will fight for their wards based on issues that affect their residents, adding that the application is a planning issue and that no policy has been adopted on it.
The application is not expected to be decided on until the new year.
Claires Court academic principal Hugh Wilding said the school has ‘been working with the council to address their questions about the proposals and we look forward to the council reaching a decision on our application in the near future.”
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