11:40AM, Thursday 09 August 2018
The £8million town centre waterways project may fail to reach its potential due to a funding stand-off.
Concerns have been raised that most boats will not be able to travel all the way around the ring of water, as had been planned, unless cash is provided to increase the depth by lowering the bed at Chapel Arches.
A letter sent to the Advertiser by a source, who did not wish to be named, said the project has been designed with a water depth of 1.3 metres but the maximum depth under the eastern arch of Chapel Arches will be 0.6 metres unless work is done.
This means that almost all motorised boats will not be able to pass all the way along the channel.
Despite there being planning permission to reduce the water level, the Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group does not have the funds to do so.
Both Shanly Homes, which has worked with the restoration group and is developing around the waterways at Chapel Arches, and the Royal Borough, which has funded the majority of the project so far, have not been willing to provide the cash yet.
Maidenhead Waterways predicts the work would cost £300,000-£400,000 on top of the £8million already committed to the project.
At its current depth, only rowing boats and kayaks will be able to safely pass below the arches, meaning the project will not achieve the vision that was first set out for it in 2006.
Richard Davenport, Maidenhead Waterways chairman of trustees, said: “We are disappointed that the council and Shanly have not agreed to lower the level.
“The concern is it will limit the potential of the waterway now and in the future, our long-term strategy was to allow large boats in over time.”
Shanly Homes began work on phase three of the Chapel Arches project, a 182-home development, earlier this month and currently has workers on the site.
Mr Davenport suggested that if the council was prepared to pay for the work to be done, it would be cheap and convenient for Shanly Homes to carry it out while it is already on the site.
Mark Evans, Shanly Group residential managing director, said: “The area under the Chapel Arches bridge is the responsibility of the Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group who applied for the planning permission.
“This did not form part of either the Shanly Homes outline or detailed planning application and was never part of our scope of works.”
Mr Evans suggested, however, that Shanly may be prepared to help complete the works if Maidenhead Waterways and the council can reach an agreement.
He said: “We understand the Waterways Group have been in discussions with the council on this work for some time and we will try and help where we can as and when the two parties can agree the extent of the works.”
The council has not responded to a request to comment.
A developer contribution of nearly £1.9million was ‘no longer required’ when Shanly Homes submitted fresh plans for phase three of the Chapel Arches development.
The housing developer was originally set to pay £1.89million in Section 106 payments, which can be used to fund community infrastructure projects, based on its 2012 application for the land.
But after submitting a revised application in 2017, which includes 20 additional homes but a mostly unchanged building footprint, that number fell to £13,200.
The second application was submitted after changes were made to the way developer contributions are collected.
The new regulations would normally mean the developer would have to pay a new tariff-based Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) for the additional homes, but the council’s CIL rate for the town centre was set at £0 per square metre to encourage development.
Mark Evans, Shanly Group residential managing director, said the original Section 106 payment was no longer required under new planning policy, but the ‘detailed application came forward with a package of work and affordable housing to a value in line with the amount originally required’.
He added: “The revised scheme was designed with a reduction in office and retail space and a greater number of smaller apartments to help more first-time buyers get onto the housing ladder. The only way to achieve these revisions was through a new detailed planning application which was submitted in 2017.”
The council had not commented at the time of going to press.
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