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Viewpoint: New restrictions, parking permits and bins

Featuring discussions on new COVID-19 restrictions and what they mean for pubs and football clubs, anger at changes to parking permit systems and the ongoing row over bin collections.

Regeneration for healthy generations

Andrew Johnson, leader of the Royal Borough, said in an article about regeneration in Maidenhead in the Maidenhead Advertiser, January 1, 2020: “If local people do not benefit, there is little point in regeneration. It is all about making a place better, more competitive, more attractive to live in, and more inspiring to visit.”

At what point are the council’s plans to develop the greenbelt land currently occupied by Maidenhead Golf Course consistent with this viewpoint?

Firstly, our council has admitted in its response to the planning inspector’s reduction in the objectively assessed need for housing in our borough, that they want to build on our greenbelt to provide homes for a neighbouring borough.

Secondly, how do 2,000 new homes, including tower blocks, make our town a more attractive place to live in?

The scheme will increase pollution, congestion, flooding and pressure on local services.

It will remove wildlife habitats, biodiversity and the green lung that helps with oxygenating our air.

And, tragically it will take away the opportunity to create Maidenhead Great Park, which would genuinely make our town a more attractive place to live in and an inspiring place to visit.

DEBBIE LUDFORD

Maidenhead resident and member of the group campaigning to Create Maidenhead Great Park


Magpies’ terraces safer than the pub

I write reference the current COVID rules being imposed on us all.

We can, if we like, drink indoors from morning to 10pm at night.

If I visit a supermarket there will be people inside without masks as mask wearing is not enforced.

When shopping just this week I have had people brush past me with no regard for social distancing .

Maidenhead United start their season next week and, at this moment in time, without supporters allowed in the ground.

Peter and the York Road team have worked tirelessly to provide a safe place for fans to watch our team.

This is in the open air (far safer than indoor activities).

We are not talking about the many thousands that watch Premier League sides.

If we still live in a free democratic country why can’t Magpies supporters assess the risk and make their own minds up to go to a game or not?

I for one would feel a lot safer on the open air terraces of York Road than an enclosed pub.

Perhaps if more of our MPs had any interest in their local football clubs there might be a better understanding of their finances and how they operate.

PAT McDONALD

Maidenhead United supporter

Woodlands Park


Are the latest rules based on research?

Rules to combat COVID-19 are essential but are the latest rules sensible or stupid?

Government ministers frequently claim their rules are based on advice from science ‘experts’, but the very essence of science is to question everything.

In 1660 Sir Isaac Newton with Sir Christopher Wren, Boyle and others formed the Royal Society, the still highly regarded scientific institution with the motto (when translated from Latin) ‘take nobody’s word for it’.

I certainly question whether closing a local pub at 10pm rather than 10.30pm or 11pm will have any impact on the spread of COVID-19.

I further question the new rule that all pubs, even if they are small and don’t serve food, must now provide table service.

The new rule increases the risk to the often solo bar staff and to the customers in small pubs. These pubs will have already put markings on floors to direct customers, provided hand sanitisers and often, in common with shops and buses, erected plastic screens to prevent direct close breath contact with customers across the bar.

In shops we queue two metres apart at the checkout, we only board buses when the person in front of you has paid for their ticket and moved into the bus and in pubs we keep an eye on the bar and go to order your next drink only when the bar is clear - these systems work.

The new system increases danger.

In a small pub which perhaps has just a dozen customers in an afternoon there will be one person on duty.

He/she is now required to explain the new system to customers as they arrive and direct them to a table.

Most pubs around Pinkneys Green have two bars, a forecourt and a garden, all with tables.

When the customer is ready to order, the bar person goes to the table and takes the order.

He/she will be standing and the new arrivals will be seated, possibly having joined friends so there might be four people seated at the table.

The bar person will be exposed to breathing in the exhaled breath of four customers.

And when he/she takes the drinks to the table it will happen again.

He/she will then serve another table and go through the same process – the system seems designed to transmit infection as far as possible.

Somewhere in the Government system there should be minutes of meetings recording who agreed to what seems to be irresponsible idiocy.

Perhaps Mrs May our MP can throw some light on the issue.

We should however be grateful that we are not living in the 1660s.

The plague was then the scourge and in 1665 was thought to have killed 100,000 Londoners.

The authorities at the time were still able to gather data similar to that we see today.

The data for the week ending August 22, 1665 listed 37 causes of death. The total was 5,230 – the plague 3,880, spotted fever 190, stopping of the stomach 16 and gripping in the guts 74. The then Government decreed that houses with plague infected occupants be shut up with the residents left to die – the bungling on care homes was not quite as bad as that?

JOHN ALLISON

Clarefield Drive

Maidenhead


Let’s not hail a town centre loudhailer

Craig McDermott’s suggestion of the use of loudhailers in our local shopping centres shouting out instructions would be one step too far (Viewpoint, September 24).

There is little enough footfall already in Maidenhead town centre without being blasted out by megaphones advising us of which arrows to follow.

Perhaps he also has not noticed that we are already being treated to a daily dose of ‘public information’ gloom and scaremongering being ‘pumped out every day’ courtesy of the BBC, causing many to use the off switch.

His negative remarks about the Prime Minister and the advisory scientists who are wrestling with the pandemic are unwarranted, and it has become apparent that over the past few months that the national opposition parties, together with TV media commentators, have all suddenly become Professors of Hindsight and yet have nothing constructive to offer.

The blame for disobeying the current restrictions lies not with the silent majority which includes the over 60s who have been shielding and cautious over the past six months, it is those who think they are untouchable by the virus by socialising in large numbers, ignoring self quarantine after holidaying abroad and attending mass demonstrations in their thousands.

These are the people who do not seem to know the meaning of the word NO.

PAMELA SMITH

Maidenhead


Broadbrush approach to parking permits

I read with interest your article of September 24 informing us that, for simplicity, ‘one size is to fit all’ as resident administered parking schemes are unilaterally abandoned by RBWM.

The absurdity of taking all resident parking into the public sector might have been expected from a council of a different political stripe.

Under the threatened council-run scheme we are informed that eligibility for permits will be reduced if we already have any off-road space: perhaps a handful of properties in Chauntry Road would be eligible to buy a permit.

So Cllr David Cannon may be mistaken in his estimate of the revenue which will accrue to the council following ‘nationalisation’ of resident-managed schemes which, once set up, don’t cost the council a penny to run.

Of course, income from Penalty Charge Notices will remain unchanged.

The proposals seem certain to raise minimal additional revenue for RBWM and completely miss the point of the scheme in the first place - which RBWM offered us just a year ago.

Our resident-run scheme was designed to stamp out inconsiderate day-long, sometimes week-long, parking by town centre workers and commuters who parked for free in residential roads, augmented by overspill parking from adjoining roads.

The narrow entrance to Chauntry Road was regularly obstructed with non-resident cars, blocking access to driveways and with double parking on the pavement causing a road safety issue for residents, public service, and emergency vehicles.

Most resident-administered parking schemes were set up to tackle similar issues and by all accounts they work well, in which case why suddenly abandon them?

My neighbours do not welcome the choices - either of adopting the inflexible council run scheme, or of abandoning controls altogether and reopening free on-road parking to allcomers who will no longer need to use the chargeable town centre car parks that the council runs.

A further loss of revenue for RBWM.

Cllr Cannon is reported as saying ‘…it was agreed to make it simpler we would have one system’.

Agreed without consultation, but not known where and by whom?

The council budget papers in February this year proposed new permit charges for council-run schemes, but made no mention of the impact on resident administered schemes.

Certainly, the administrators of all the resident-run schemes we have talked to were kept in the dark for six months.

Council Leader Andrew Johnson rode into town promising transparency and openness.

Surely COVID cannot be blamed for abandoning that ambition?

Come on gentlemen - engage with us and explain the real reasons for this ill-thought-out decision.

Discuss the options with an open mind please before we are thrown to the dogs.

DAVID SNELGAR

Chauntry Road

Maidenhead


How can they make such a stupid decision?

Our council is proposing to abolish successful community-managed parking schemes without consultation or explanation.

It is obvious to us that the rationale is to raise money for a poorly run council that has long boasted of its ability to cut council tax without damaging services, something that was always impossible and has resulted in a financial shambles.

On the revenue raising front, it seems that the current council-run road parking scheme is so unsuitable for our location that not a single resident of our road will be permitted to apply for a Resident Parking Permit to park in our road.

How on earth does the council believe that this will raise revenue and improve parking? What is the point of it? How can it make such a stupid decision?

On the revenue expenditure front, I believe that the council will be breaking the law if it spends any money raised through this process on anything other than maintaining the parking scheme from which the revenue was raised.

The council may well be unaware of the law, confirmed under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (RTRA 1984) (R (Attfield) v London Borough of Barnet [2013] EWHC 2089 (Admin).

On the council decision-making front, the council has so far failed to present any evidence that the council did indeed vote formally to abolish community-managed schemes, as required by Statute.

Finally, the council has never, at any stage, attempted to show how the introduction of this ridiculous proposal will improve parking in the borough.

In our case, the result will either be a return to unmanaged chaos, or a costly bureaucratic nightmare.

Surely any council decision should be made with the intention of improving road parking.

Or is it beyond the capability of our current crop of councillors and council to think through their diktat?

Councillor David Cannon claims publicly that this approach will be simpler.

It may be, for the council, but it will cause frustration and unnecessary expense for residents.

Our ward councillors are failing in their duty to defend the interests of residents in this respect, and to rigorously question poor policy.

Instead of doing their jobs, they are becoming Conservative Party jobsworths.

This is not good enough, council and councillors.

Show some humility and abandon this ill thought through proposal.

PAUL FOLL

Lock Avenue

Maidenhead


Proper penalties for continued bin failures

Once again Serco have failed to empty our black bin on Friday, for many years the standard day for collection.

I would therefore wholeheartedly support John Walsby's comments (Viewpoint, September 24) on the imposition of financial penalties on Serco for their ongoing incompetence in failing to provide a satisfactory service.

However I should stress that such penalties need to be both punitive and meaningful.

Mr Walsby mentions Serco's false accounting with the Ministry of Justice.

One of main concerns in my long experience as an Independent Monitor for the prison service (MOJ) was the apparent inability of the service provider to comply with strict time parameters with regard to the ferrying of prisoners to and from court.

On occasions young offenders aged 15 and 16, or even as young as 14, were delivered to prison at 8/9pm at night, sometimes as late as 10pm, having been remanded in custody by the court earlier that day and certainly before lunch.

I campaigned long and hard on this particular issue to the extent that a question was raised in the House of Lords but it made little difference.

The financial penalties were so derisory that seemingly the contractor was content to pay the fines imposed and treat the expenditure merely as an on-cost to be set against income.

Like so many I fail to understand how a most acceptable arrangement for the collection and emptying of bins has sunk to such a level. Yes, impose financial penalties by all means but no doubt Serco have 'large pockets'.

Surely a more appropriate action would be for RBWM to withdraw from the contract altogether with a view to returning to what previously was a most acceptable and satisfactory service.

GRAHAM CHAMBERLAIN

Snowball Hill

Maidenhead


Fed up to the back teeth with Serco

The answer to John Walsby’s question in last week’s edition (how bad does Serco have to get?) is ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet!’

When the lockdown restrictions were announced on March 24 I was one of two vehicles forced to back out of the Stafferton Way civic amenity site at 8.03 am that morning although there were already people unloading their cars and we were both inside the gates.

The Serco employee then proceeded to film the event although there is CCTV operated by the RBWM at the site.

When the Rt Hon Christopher Soames, the chief executive officer of Serco Group PLC was asked to comment on this activity he failed to reply, but one of his minions responded that ’the employee has no recollection of the event’.

Rather surprising as he saw fit to record it.

When Serco then reopened the site they operated two adjoining bays at each end of the row so that when a driver exited his vehicle he was within two feet of any passenger exiting the adjoining vehicle, breaking the social distancing rules.

The logical thing would have been to use alternate bays to allow a safe distance between vehicles.

Some residents have had to wait four weeks for their bins to be emptied which the council described as ’teething problems’ which sounds to me like the spin doctor Alastair Campbell has been employed here.

They say that birds of a feather flock together and here is a defunct council employing a defunct organisation!

MERVYN BUSTON

East Road

Maidenhead 


Why remove the handy one-hour parking?

In their infinite wisdom the Royal Borough has removed swathes of free one hour shoppers parking spots in Maidenhead town centre.

Due to COVID-19 and the rush towards online shopping footfall is down massively, this is another body blow for struggling businesses. To quote the 1981 Specials hit ‘this town is coming like a ghost town’.

I can’t see the much vaunted Nicholsons Quarter or Landing projects changing this.

Meanwhile construction continues of hundreds of town centre apartments futilely pitched at non car owning buyers.

JOHN WALSBY

Kelsey Close

Cox Green


Keep wildlife habitats without the nettles

It is easy to understand the comments of G Copas and others in the Maidenhead Advertiser (Viewpoint, September 17) about the appearance of Cookham Moor and its former role in Cookham’s Best Kept Village appeal.

The look of untidiness may well be due two factors; a positive policy to support wildlife, and the lack of staff to do the normal maintenance work because of the effect of COVID-19 on the finances of Cookham Parish Council and the National Trust.

If we do nothing to help wildlife then in a few years’ time there will be no hedgehogs or field mice, no butterflies or bees, no blackbirds or skylarks, and very little fresh food for us to eat.

Today we all know that steps have to be taken to restore the places where these creatures go to feed and find shelter.

Their habitats have declined because of urbanisation, chemical control of ‘pests’, and the demand for food.

These pressures can be addressed without turning every bit of spare land into a wilderness of thistles and nettles.

There is no reason why public areas like Cookham Moor cannot be kept in a state worthy of a ‘Best Kept Village’ but it is essential that much more land is managed in a way that allows insects etc to flourish again.

This applies to road verges and bits of waste land like Poundfield that have huge potential as larders for all creatures that the food chain is built on.

A balanced, informed approach involving local councils, gardeners and businesses will allow us to live in villages with enough beauty and value for wildlife to satisfy most residents.

Some wildflower areas outside schools and in public parks, and pollinator strips grown by farmers, are beautiful to see.

In the winter when the flowers die down we have to find pleasure in the permanent structural features and remember that there is a reason for it. We must take action to save wild animals that we are ignorantly killing in their thousands every day.

ADRIAN DOBLE

Dean Lane

Cookham Dean


Concerned about false negatives in virus tests

My nephew was married last Saturday, September 19 and on the following Monday was rushed to hospital with severe breathing difficulties.

His consultant came to see him in the isolation room before his swab result to say that even if he gets a negative result he will write a letter to explain he had the COVID-19 virus.

He explained why he was convinced it was COVID-19 and said the swab test gives 30 per cent false negatives.

That’s a third of people being told they don’t have COVID-19 when they do!

His swab result did come back as negative.

A negative result means there is no track and trace and no support for connected people to isolate.

So unless you have a sensible manager/headteacher it is not clear cut, especially when patience for all this has run out, what to do.

The letter says his family should isolate for 14 days, not anyone who was at his wedding, so it doesn’t help them.

He has been keeping them all involved so they can make the best decision they can.

If they can isolate then yes they should.

He didn’t want his family to know how bad it was because he didn’t want to upset them, but in all seriousness he wouldn’t want anyone to go through the first few days of his infection.

So while he was lying in a pool of his own fever sweat, scoffing nauseating antibiotics by the handful, unable to take a proper breath, he ask that everyone remembers how serious this whole COVID-19 issue is.

BRUCE ADAMS

Cox Green Lane

Maidenhead


Three cheers for the GoodGym volunteers

Thank you to the fantastic GoodGym volunteers for making a clean sweep of the Relate MTB counselling centre in Maidenhead, clearing weeds, leaves and debris.

If you have passed along Marlow Road in the last week you will have seen what a fantastic difference they have made, filling an astonishing 15 bags, pulling up weeds that had taken advantage of lockdown to flourish, cutting back the overgrown shrubs and sweeping clean the entrance and drive.

Although we were hoping to be able to welcome back clients in person, the latest restrictions mean we will be continuing to provide vital support for local people through our successful web-counselling service so please get in touch through our website at www.relatemtb.co.uk

Thanks to charitable supporters, including the Prince Philip Trust, the Louis Baylis Charitable Trust and National Lottery Community Fund we have a limited number of funded counselling sessions available for those most in need of relationship counselling as the emotional, mental and financial impacts of COVID-19 increase.

To find out more about GoodGym, visit www.goodgym.org

FIONA GREENFIELD

Relate Mid Thames & Buckinghamshire Centre Director


Clause for thought about trustworthiness

Dr Cooper is no doubt right to argue that Parliament can legally authorise the violation of a treaty, in this case the EU Internal Market Bill.

If you have enough of a majority of MPs in Parliament you can pass any law you like, however misguided.

However, respect for law and convention have always been intrinsic to the way that parliament works.

Our unwritten constitution relies a lot on Governments behaving in a way which respects obligations.

I would have thought that one obligation is to keep to treaty agreements, particularly when that treaty has only recently been negotiated.

Crucially, this action has eroded TRUST.

We are clearly a country which cannot be trusted to keep to our word. We feel we can fiddle with clauses we don’t like whenever we feel like it.

And then we expect the countries we have let down to continue to work with us on a beneficial trade deal!

If the people of Britain feel this is the way to conduct our relationships with other countries I fear for the country’s future.

Personally, I feel ashamed for the country about Boris Johnson’s total mismanagement of the situation.

TED GOODHEW

Stamford Road

Maidenhead

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