02:50PM, Thursday 07 October 2021
A contentious planning application to build 80 homes on Maidenhead open space has been resubmitted following a calamitous council meeting.
Developer CALA Homes wants to build on land to the south of Ray Mill Road East, which is earmarked for development within the Borough Local Plan.
The resubmission of the plans arrive after a planning meeting in the summer, in which identical proposals were due to be debated.
But to the bemusement of the public and councillors, the plans were withdrawn at late notice with no reason given.
CALA Homes has now – via a cover letter submitted with the new application – outlined how it felt the application would not have been determined in a ‘quorate and fair manner’ at the meeting on August 18, which saw councillors from opposing parties lock horns over a last-minute change of members.
Three ineligible Windsor Tory councillors were due to sit but this was contested by Councillor John Baldwin (Lib Dem, Belmont) during a private technical briefing.
The meeting would have been considered fair despite the loss of the trio, but Conservatives Cllr Andrew Johnson, Gerry Clark and Donna Stimson were then drafted in.
The issue angered councillors Baldwin and Geoff Hill (The Borough First, Oldfield), with the latter calling for the ‘poorly briefed’ members to leave.
Chairman Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green) has reiterated that he sought legal advice and was given the all clear to start the meeting.
Speaking to the Advertiser, Cllr Baldwin has called CALA Homes’ cover letter ‘confusing and insulting’, and has asked for it to explain why the application would not be fairly judged.
“CALA may have become aware of the tension in the room,” Cllr Baldwin said.
“If they had said that they were concerned about the atmosphere and heard raised voices, then fair enough. But unfairness – that seems very specific.
“The telling question for CALA is: at what point did they think they would be treated unfairly – and what was the trigger?”
Cllr Haseler said that he has ‘not seen anything’ within CALA’s letter that causes him ‘alarm’ but added that he could ‘understand why’ the developers would have been concerned.
“It was clear by comments made that one side of the room was upset about certain members being on the panel,” he said.
“Anybody has got a right to withdraw something and put it back in planning if they felt it was not going to be heard fairly.
“And I can understand why they [CALA] thought that because of the conversations going on.”
Previous plans were recommended for refusal because of fears over whether legal agreements to secure affordable housing and open space could be provided.
A spokesman from CALA Homes said: “The application has been submitted for consideration at a forthcoming committee, and we look forward to presenting our proposals to deliver 80 new homes, over 45 per cent of which are affordable, as well as improving and enhancing publicly accessible green and open space.”
To view the latest application, search for reference 21/02866 on the Royal Borough's planning portal.
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