01:35PM, Friday 08 October 2021
Supporters and objectors to the proposed path across the East Field of Battlemead Common have responded to its approval.
The controversial plan, which has been the subject of more than three years of debate, was unanimously approved at Cabinet on Thursday.
Since it was purchased by the Royal Borough in 2018, supporters of the path have argued it would provide the ‘missing link’ between the River Thames and the Millennium Walk.
On the other hand, wildlife groups Wild Maidenhead and Wild Cookham have been outspoken about the potential knock-on effects on wildlife in the East Field.
Steve Gillions, of the East Berkshire Ramblers, said: “We are ultimately very pleased that the council has chosen to open the path across Battlemead Common.
“Naturally, we would have preferred to see the path open permanently, so walkers can enjoy the common and the environment around them.
“However, we think that opening it up from April to October seems to be a fair compromise.”
Wildlife groups have expressed concern over the timing of the decision, with Wild Cookham believing that public access should only be granted after the agreed ecological plan at Battlemead has had time to take effect.
Cllr Mandy Brar (Lib Dem, Bisham and Cookham) echoed this, adding the council was yet to publish its biodiversity action plan.
“My opinion is not that there should never be a path; the issue is the timing,” said Cllr Brar.
“There is an ecological management plan, but it needs time to take effect.”
“By pushing [the opening of the path] through, it will damage the wildlife already in place at Battlemead.
“They shouldn’t have decided anything until the results of the ecological plan had been published.”
Cllr Stimson confirmed at cabinet that a biodiversity plan had been ‘done’, although it had not been published yet. A virtual consultation on the plan was held on Wednesday.