03:30PM, Wednesday 24 November 2021
Hundreds of people came out in force outside the town hall on Tuesday night to protest proposals to build 2,000 homes on Maidenhead golf course.
The Maidenhead Great Park group has been battling to get the council to reconsider its decision to sell off the land currently hosting Maidenhead Golf Club.
With the 132-acre site being earmarked for more than 2,000 new homes in the Borough Local Plan (BLP), the council is planning to end its lease with the club and make it available to be developed into housing.
The campaign group has condemned the loss of Maidenhead’s ‘green lung’ that would result.
Its proposed alternative is to turn the course into a large public outdoor space for residents to freely enjoy, known as Maidenhead Great Park.
A previous petition against the golf course plan fetched 4,400 signatures before closing in December last year – but the Borough held fast.
It has repeatedly stressed its need to meet housing targets, especially for family homes as opposed to flats.
Protesters arrived with banners and placards outside Maidenhead town hall at 6.30pm on Tuesday, some donned in animal masks, in objection to the ‘environmental vandalism’ of the plan to build on the greenbelt.
The protest was led by Tina Quadrino.
In a speech to the crowd, Tina said: “COP26 has made it clear that climate change is happening right now.
“If we don’t put the environment front and centre of everything we do, how can we look our children in the eye?
“How can we look at them and give them this broken planet?”
The purpose of the protest was to ask councillors to reject the current Borough Local Plan, she said, as the landscape has changed considerably.
“The Borough Local Plan was first developed in 2015/2016. Since then Crossrail will not terminate in Maidenhead, the housing need was halved in 2018 and the Royal Borough has declared a climate emergency,” Tina said.
“We have endured nearly two years of a global pandemic that has changed the way many of us work and how we value our green space.
“And we have an environment and climate strategy that has been in place for a year which mandates that we will halve our greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
“We cannot build 2,000 homes on the golf course and meet anyone’s climate target. It’s simply insane.
“The Borough Local Plan does not represent what we want. We need a Borough Local Plan that puts the environment front and centre of everything that we do.
“We don’t want hundreds of supplementary documents that correct all the problems with this plan, we want a plan that is right from the start and that reflects a future that we want.”
A number of children also attended the event, including some who gave their own short speeches on the need to save the park to save the future.
Maidenhead GP Dr Lan-Anh Hunter came with her children to the protest, concerned about the effect on health, including respiratory problems, and the extra burden this puts on doctors.
“We are massively overwhelmed at the moment, it’s a huge pressure on GPs,” she said.
She stressed the importance of green space for people to get outside and walk, especially as towns become more congested.
Ladies' club captain for Maidenhead Golf Cub, Eileen Clarke, also showed up – partly in the hopes of saving the golf club, but also in support of open space and wildlife in general.
At 7pm, a handful of protesters moved inside the town hall for a meeting of the full council, where members discussed concerns over the environment and the council’s aim to tackle climate change in its five-year plan.
During the meeting, the Conservative administration did not address the protest outside directly but did allude to it when discussing the possible location of eco homes.
In an article about the planned protest in October, a spokesperson for the Royal Borough said the redevelopment of the golf course was ‘a crucial part of Maidenhead’s regeneration.’
They added: “It will open-up significant parts of green space for public access, improve walking and cycling connectivity for residents.
“It will accommodate future population growth while preventing speculative greenbelt development across the borough through the adoption of a valid local plan.
“The Royal Borough recognises the challenges posed by climate change, and we remain committed to our Environment and Climate Strategy which was adopted last December.”
There will be displays at Windsor Racecourse and Legoland, local fireworks in Burnham and Twyford and smaller displays at schools in the Royal Borough.