12:00PM, Thursday 04 March 2021
The full council has rejected a proposal to turn Maidenhead Golf Course into a great park.
The proposal to convert the course into a park instead of building homes on the land was supported by a petition which fetched 4,448 signatures – nearly 3,000 more than is needed for a petition to be brought to the full council.
Petition leader Tina Quatrino, speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, said: “Anyone who understands the threat of climate change knows it is irreconcilable to talk about carbon net zero in one breath, and destroying green spaces in the next.”
She, alongside opposition councillors, urged the council to rethink in light of the pandemic and projected long-term changes.
Those in favour of the park felt that the increase in homeworking would free up brownfield sites, currently containing offices, for houses.
Royal Borough head of planning Adrien Waite warned councillors that voting for the proposal would result in the ‘loss’ of 2,000 new homes and threaten the Borough Local Plan (BLP).
An officer’s report said that it may also be necessary to increase the density of new housing developments within town centres across the borough to make up for it.
Councillor Geoffrey Hill (TBF, Oldfield) said that, according to Freedom of Information requests, there are more than 6,500 dwellings in the pipeline, which would address the borough’s housing need without building on the golf course.
However, Mr Waite said these numbers were ‘simply not correct’.
Cllr David Coppinger, lead member for planning, said that though there are other greenbelt sites that could be built on to meet the borough’s housing requirements, these are ‘not sustainable.’
“They will require transport to reach schools, shops and medical facilities – they will all put pressure on local communities,” he said.
He warned that accepting this proposal would delay the BLP for three years, at a cost of £1m.
The administration highlighted that, if the housing plan did not go ahead, Maidenhead Golf Course would continue its lease until 2039, meaning the land will not be free for any other project until then.
Leader of the council Andrew Johnson said: “I certainly do not intend to pay taxpayers’ money to facilitate the early surrender of the lease to create anything other than the status quo.
“I see this as nothing more than an attempt to remove this site from the BLP.
“It would blow the lock off the carefully choreographed set of sites we have put forward. We would see a rise in speculative developments.
He added: “I hear time and time again the cry ‘We need houses’ rather than flats, and houses are very much what we are looking to deliver.
“We signed the development agreement many years ago and we stand resolute on those decisions.”
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