11:30AM, Tuesday 31 October 2017
A multi-million pound development to build 2,000 homes on Maidenhead Golf Course has progressed to the next stage following an extraordinary council meeting last night (Monday).
Hundreds of frustrated residents packed into Maidenhead Town Hall to find out more information about the development, which would see the council spend up to £20m acquiring residential and commercial properties for road access to the site, and finding a development partner.
More than an hour was spent answering questions, which had to be submitted in advance, covering subjects including which houses would be purchased, traffic and infrastructure, and why the council was bringing forward the paper before the Borough Local Plan had been adopted.
Oldfield resident John Hudson said: “You have clearly identified these homes, why not just give us the numbers now because this is extremely concerning for residents?”
He was subsequently told to stop by the Mayor, Cllr John Lenton, for going over his allocated time slot.
He shouted over the mayor: “He [council leader Simon Dudley] has made statements and I would like the chance to do the same.
“You are dismissing free speech and it’s absolutely outrageous,” he added, winning a round of applause from the audience.
Cllr Dudley (Con, Riverside) said the council was looking at purchasing eight properties but no mention was made of commercial properties, despite speculation on social media that Fredrick’s Hotel and Restaurant could be purchased.
Oldfield resident Rodney Siddons asked if the development was allowed under a covenant relating to the land.
Cllr Dudley replied: “There is no covenant, there’s never been one. That is a myth.”
Presenting the report to councillors, Cllr Jack Rankin (Con, Castle Without) spoke of the benefits the development would bring, including 30 per cent affordable homes for the younger generation and vibrancy to the town centre.
But Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) questioned what definition of affordable the council was using and said there was no evidence the borough would deliver on affordable housing, before shouting ‘you are making a fiction of reality, you really need to get a grip’.
Oldfield ward councillors Cllr Asghar Majeed and Cllr Geoff Hill (both Con) urged councillors to vote against the paper saying it was ‘years too early’ and Cllr Claire Stretton (Ind Con, Boyn Hill) said that, should Maidenhead Golf Club find a new golf course, the earliest they would be able to leave the site would be spring 2022.
Cllr David Evans, cabinet member for Maidenhead Regeneration (Con, Hurley and Walthams), said his role was not just to fight for individual residents on one issue, and he had a wider duty.
Addressing the audience, he said: “The silent majority are not here tonight.
“This will actually speed up that process. What’s been suggested is to delay this, kick it down the road, well that’s going to increase anxiety for years and years. By moving this onto the next stage we can start bringing clarity to that anxiety.”
Before the vote, Cllr Dudley said: “It’s wrong to bring down the BLP thinking MGC development won’t happen.”
He said development would be brought forward on the golf club site even if the BLP is not adopted.
In a named free vote, councillors voted 41 in favour. Cllr Malcolm Beer (Ind, Old Windsor), Cllr Wisdom Da Costa (Ind, Clewer North), Cllr Geoff Hill (Con, Oldfield), Cllr Asghar Majeed (Con, Oldfield), Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) and Cllr Claire Stretton (Ind Con, Boyn Hill) voted against. There were two abstentions from Cllr Leo Walters (Con, Bray) and Cllr Derek Wilson (Con, Bray).
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Police have closed part of Ray Mill Road West to traffic this afternoon.