07:00PM, Friday 03 September 2021
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Local support for Afghan refugees
Regarding your article on the Afghan refugees to be housed in Maidenhead, it does not surprise me that the residents of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead have been so generous in their donations of clothes, etc.
They always are in crisis situations like this.
I am glad that RBWM will be cooperating with Slough Refugee Support to help settle these people into our community, to which I am sure they will eventually be of great benefit.
I volunteered with Slough Refugee Support for 15 years and know how hard all the staff and volunteers work, often in very difficult, emotional and stressful situations.
I also know that any cash donations sent to them through their website will be really appreciated, and will be put to very good use.
Gift of a golf course and the gift of wildlife
On September 9, members of Maidenhead Golf Club will vote to decide on whether to continue to play golf on the site or to surrender the lease to the council, which plans to build 2,000 homes on the golf course.
This is a very important decision.
I hope the members realise that this wonderful and picturesque golf course has a long history, full of tradition and that it was gifted to the people of Maidenhead and surrounding areas by Lord Desborough in 1896.
But more importantly, the golf course which is covered in trees, and has an abundance of wildlife makes a vital contribution to clean air in Maidenhead since it is located adjacent to the town centre.
The retention of this precious green space is now even more important to counter the massive overdevelopment which is taking place in Maidenhead town centre.
Club members – vote to protect green space
RBWM wants to build 2,000 homes on green belt land in central Maidenhead.
This is despite having declared a climate emergency and promising before the last local elections to resist greenbelt release.
This will result in increased congestion and traffic for years to come and make air quality even worse in Maidenhead.
If that isn’t bad enough, RBWM plan to give almost £16million of public money to Maidenhead Golf Club to surrender the lease early.
We urge golf club members celebrating 125 years of history to vote to stay to protect this green space for the people of Maidenhead.
Building a big sundial over town’s disgrace
I arrived back to Maidenhead after a five-week trip in Europe, having kept abreast of the news via the Advertiser digital edition.
What a disappointment.
The town and its environs are unkempt and a disgrace.
This led me to start to think what is the purpose of a council?
Naively I thought the role was provide services for the benefit of its residents (what we pay for).
In local elections we vote for local people to represent us and address local issues.
On reflection, it doesn’t seem as if that is the focus of our council.
For example, the planning department is giving credence to a 25-storey accommodation block in the centre of Maidenhead, which would give the town the unenviable position of being the largest sundial in Berkshire.
Where is the benefit, or should the question be ‘who does it benefit?’
No doubt the developers, who will profit from their decisions, can market the upper floors with descriptions such as 'a stunning sea view' or a 'commanding view of the Queen’s apartments at Windsor Castle'.
So much for affordable housing.
An 11 – or is it 13 storey – development on the High Street will dominate a market town centre.
A shopping mall, which won’t be used.
Roads given over to cyclists based on Crossrail commuters? Not really, just think of swarms of E-scooters. Concreting over the golf course, a huge green space, while at the same time allowing very large numbers of flats to be built in tower blocks.
More people will be home working – not commuting – and need the empty spaces to get some relief away from the flats and houses which have no gardens.
In the town centre, the central carriageways are left unmanaged, verges and footpaths are overgrown.
Outside the town centre, the village roads are downright dangerous and depressing, with the verges and hedgerows overgrown in the name of ‘wilding’.
The overgrowth captures all the litter and if the council is not interested in keeping the borough clean and tidy there is no incentive for the litter louts to do the same.
What tosh to say ‘biodiversity’ – it’s simply budget saving dressed up to be something it isn’t.
Mind you, the money saved is available for daft road schemes to the detriment of drivers.
Remember the idea of blocking off Shoppenhangers Road?
The latest being a crossing on Bad Godesberg Way, 50 yards from the Castle Hill roundabout which has just seen an expensive remodelling to improve traffic flow!
It’s about time that the councillors stopped leaving their common sense on the coat hooks when they attend council meetings and work on behalf of us, and make our town and environs a better place to live.
One of the questions often asked during rural planning decisions is ‘can it be seen from the road?’
The equivalent question from the planning department when it comes to the town centre seems to be ‘can it be seen from the International Space Station’?
Never mind chaps, all’s well and let’s have another gin and tonic .
Three-year system to manage hedgerows
Recent correspondence in this newspaper has voiced the concerns of motorists and pedestrians about the way that uncut verges hinder sight lines and get in the way of push-chairs etc.
These areas of grass are being managed to allow wild plants and insects to flourish where they could not do so otherwise.
Perhaps this need not be a battleground between sincere environmentalists and other valued residents.
Would it be disastrous if the 1 metre strip next to the carriageway was always kept to a height of 10 cm?
There is no good evidence that pollinators, for example, can cope with the exhaust fumes from motor vehicles when so close to the road.
Such chemicals may be taken back to their nests in some cases.
The severe shaking of flower heads when cars go past can prevent insects from making effective use of these facilities.
Heavier vehicles disturb the plants even more.
Hedges can also be a problem if they expand and get in the way.
The official advice from wildlife charities is that hedges are cut on a three-year rotation with one side being cut in year one, the other side in year two and the top in year three. This allows insects that feed on new buds, twigs and leaves to have constant access to fresh food.
This way of managing hedges also prevents them from turning into lines of trees.
Where a hedge on public property causes a problem to traffic, there is a clause in government legislation that allows them to be cut between March 1 and September 1.
This would otherwise be illegal.
I look forward to reading other viewpoints on this matter (and perhaps suggestions about banning vehicles from parking on pavements).
Dr ADRIAN DOBLE
Meadow should be returned for everyone
I am writing in response to the recent article regarding the planning application to Deerswood Meadow (land behind 18-20 Ray Mill Road East), and the fiasco that unveiled at the planning meeting on August 18 in which CALA homes withdrew their application.
The withdrawal of the application after a change in councillors present at the meeting raises questions.
As a resident of Ray Mill Road East I would like to remind the councillors that it has been recommended by the EA and EP to reject the application due to the safety of the local residents.
The land has since been removed from the future borough plan for building and recategorised as flood zone 3. Since this was CALA’s chance to appeal/resubmit plans for the land on their existing contract, and they have now chosen to withdraw that application, will the matter be closed once and for all and the land returned to the beautiful meadow space for all to use?
How much longer will the residents be kept in the dark as to the future of the land due to the fiasco at the meeting? It seems that little information is being shared as to why the events unfolded and what happens next.
Ray Mill Road East
Lasting commitment to proper representation
The comments that appeared in your last edition, attributed to Cllr. Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green) regarding my alleged politicisation of the planning process are so skewed that they cannot go unchallenged.
I did object to someone’s attempt to sit three ineligible members on the Maidenhead Development Management Committee (MDMC).
The terms of reference for the MDMC stipulate the wards from which panellists can be drawn and the original three did not qualify.
I would have done the same had they been Liberal Democrats.
The political balance of any planning panel should be irrelevant.
What is far more important to me is that the members present are drawn from the appropriate part of the borough, given the location of the applications being considered.
My commitment to localism is sincere and enduring.
I am acutely conscious that neither Maidenhead nor Windsor residents have parish councils through which they can express their views.
Nor do they yet have town councils, though Windsor was denied one by Conservative bloc voting only a few weeks ago.
Keeping the decision makers as close to the most affected residents as possible is difficult to achieve at Borough level.
The separate planning committees for Maidenhead and Windsor will help, but only if they are constitutionally compliant.
Now Cllr Haseler has implied that he was unaware of the selection of the substitutes.
It seems very strange to me that whoever did ask them to attend failed to mention it to the committee chair.
After all his own vice chair and ward colleague and all his other previously nominated Maidenhead members and substitutes were out and every replacement would be from Windsor!
However, once he became aware, and that was more than an hour before the scheduled start of the public meeting he should have acted in line with the terms of reference.
He did not, hence my intervention.
After the dust settled, the situation was that a quorate panel of five eligible and fully briefed members were present.
For the record there were three Liberal Democrats, one Independent and one Conservative but, to emphasise the point again, that shouldn’t matter.
So, when Cllrs Johnson, Stimson and Clarke arrived, why did the chair simply tell them they were not properly prepared, and neither were they required?
HE was playing politics.
Cllr JOHN BALDWIN
Liberal Democrat, Belmont
Awareness and action are different things
It may have become unfashionable in certain quarters but I still prefer to listen to the experts.
Following publication of the most recent climate change report by the UN IPCC last month, the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, commented that ‘there is no time for delay and no room for excuses’.
It’s certainly no time for complacency.
The council has issued a press release dated August 23, 2021 encouraging responses to the consultation on its draft corporate plan.
In it Councillor Andrew Johnson states that ‘promoting a clean, sustainable, and biodiverse environment must underpin every decision we make’.
But that isn’t what the draft plan framework says.
What it actually says is that the council will promote awareness in every decision that it makes.
Three years spent campaigning in the borough against the threats of plastic pollution and climate change have taught me that awareness and action are two completely different things.
It’s action that’s required now.
As far as I can see, the timetable for approval of the corporate plan – by full council in October and cabinet in November – doesn’t allow time for a public consultation on the final draft.
This may be the only chance that we get.
That’s why the document produced by the RBWM Climate Emergency Coalition is so important.
It goes into the level of detail required to turn the current framework into the final plan – the detail that we’d submit if there was a consultation on the final draft.
The corporate plan will cover a five year timeframe.
These are critical years if you believe the expert opinion that we have just 10 years to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and as a result are to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Our council can’t spend those five years raising awareness – it has to lead.
So please respond to the public consultation using the Climate Emergency Coalition’s document to guide you.
It shouldn’t take long – there are only 14 questions and the document makes responding very easy.
If you need a copy just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be delighted to send it to you.
Plastic Free Windsor
Emphasise priorities to corporate plan survey
There are several consultations running over this summer period – the Borough Local Plan, gambling policy, adult day services, night flights, corporate plan, active travel.
I want to draw your attention to one which you might overlook – the corporate plan (rbwmtogether.rbwm.gov.uk/rbwm-corporate-plan-consultation, closing date September 12.
Why is this important?
Because whatever is agreed will set the direction of RBWM up to 2026.
It will determine what the aspirations for RBWM will be and the priorities to be addressed.
This consultation is at very high level and I doubt that any residents will do other than strongly agree with the statements, and if that is all that they do I am concerned that this will not be a ‘meaningful’ consultation.
So, what is really important is that you respond in the ‘further comments’, ie the free text option.
Do you feel that more priority needs to be given to social housing, youth service, access to special needs support, elderly care support?
Do you feel that resident parking is an issue or support for local shops?
Do you feel that there has to be genuine partnership working? If so, with whom?
Do you feel in light of the recent UN Climate Change Report that ‘promoting awareness’ in Q10 is sufficient? If not, say so, and why.
Q13 is a key question: “What things do you expect to be different?”
Please do complete this thinking carefully about what is important to you and the place you want to live in for years to come.
This is YOUR borough and it is YOUR priorities that need to be addressed.
Cllr HELEN PRICE
The Borough First, Clewer and Dedworth East
Cheers for our own talented Paralympian
Disability does not mean inability, either in day to day life or in elite sporting events.
The GB Paralympics team has been proving this day after day in Tokyo.
The oldest woman in the GB team is our local Paralympic superstar Jeannette Chippington, 51 years old and competing in her sixth Paralympics.
Her first four were as a swimmer, but she changed disciplines to paracanoeing and at her first outing won a gold at Rio.
She is in Tokyo, with heats in her two events on September 2, with the semis and finals the following day.
We wish her the best of luck, and invite readers to discover more about Maidenhead’s Olympic and Paralympic connections at a special exhibition which continues at the Heritage Centre in Park Street until September 11.
Chairman, Maidenhead Heritage Centre
Jumping through hoops trying to see the GP
I can remember that old comedy series called ‘Doctor in The House’.
Well, most GPs are in the house – their own houses.
I reckon the majority of GPs have had a really good pandemic.
In the main they now won’t see you face to face.
Instead, you have to fill in some stupid critical path analysis online form and then maybe they will then deign to call you.
If you are really lucky they will see you face-to-face.
Maybe it’s that GPs are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 than dentists, chiropractors, opticians, hospital doctors, surgeons, private doctors etc etc.
And what about supermarket check-out staff, who regularly come face to face with hundreds of people every day, some of whom will not even be wearing masks?
The big difference of course is that GPs get paid whatever they do or don’t do.
In fact, that sacred cow, the NHS is itself very sick.
People always go on and on about the wonderful NHS.
Yes, most hospital doctors, nurses and others are incredible and deserve all the praise they get, but the NHS as an entity is now useless.
If you need attention and it’s not life-threatening then you’ll just get sicker or continue in pain – unless you can pay.
If you’re lucky it might be a six to eight months’ wait just to see a consultant on the NHS.
Go online and you’ll see loads of private services, enabling you to see a doctor today, get an X-ray or MRI scan now – to jump the NHS queue.
This is ultimately the fault of governments and useless bureaucrats past and present in the civil service.
There are not enough doctors because for the past 30 years we have not been properly incentivising young people to choose medicine as a career.
Meantime three censuses will have predicted an ever ageing population that will need, guess what – more doctors!
So agreed, the NHS needs more money but it also needs to stop wasting so much on unnecessary paperwork and inefficient procurement.
And once we have many more GPs maybe doctor will finally be able to see you now.
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED
Shifting position and goods after Brexit
Simon Bond correctly points out that I offered no alternative to the Northern Ireland protocol in my letter printed on August 19.
However I did so in previous letters, with the first headed ‘Easy solution to EU border conundrum’ printed on February 22, 2018.
I am glad to say that at last Government thinking seems to be moving in the right direction, with the recent Command Paper.
I have here an email from the Cabinet Office, stating that the proposals now being made: “would mean that full customs and SPS processes are applied only to goods genuinely destined for the EU while allowing goods made to UK standards and regulated by UK authorities to circulate freely in Northern Ireland.”
That seems perfectly sensible to me, because while the EU clearly has a legitimate interest in the nature of the goods entering its own territory it has no comparable interest in goods circulating outside of its Single Market.
Whether that be in Northern Ireland, or in the rest of the UK, or in any other ‘third country’.
Or are we to suppose, for example, that the EU should be able to dictate to the US Government what goods are permitted in the US?
Moreover the UK Government makes a generous offer to help the EU protect its Single Market by bringing in: “new legislation to deter anyone in the UK looking to export to the EU goods which do not meet EU standards or to evade these enforcement processes.”
Which is in fact close to the central suggestion that I offered to Theresa May some three and a half years ago.
Dr D R COOPER
Belmont Park Avenue