Councillors vote to adopt Borough Local Plan in fiery meeting

Shay Bottomley

The Borough Local Plan was adopted on Tuesday night, marking a major step towards thousands of houses one day being developed on what is currently greenbelt land.

Councillors congregated at Holiday Inn, Manor Lane, where they voted in favour of adopting the BLP 22-17, with Conservatives and opposition councillors voting along party lines respectively.

The result of the vote is set to shape the future of Maidenhead and the surrounding areas for the next 11 years, with Maidenhead Golf Course and Spencer’s Farm both likely to see development over the next decade, subject to plans being approved.

Following the public questions and a five-minute adjournment after interruptions from members of the public, Tina Quadrino of the Maidenhead Great Park campaign petitioned councillors to reject the adoption of the BLP.

“You are the representatives of the residents of this borough,” she said, to loud cheers from the public behind her.

Lead member for planning Cllr David Coppinger then introduced his motion urging councillors to mark the ‘significant milestone’ by adopting the BLP.

“So, what will happen if we don’t pass this tonight?” he asked.

“There are two possibilities; firstly, given that we effectively have not had a plan for some years, and our housing performance, although improving, is below what it should be, the most likely [possibility] is that we will be instructed to adopt it as has happened elsewhere in the country.

“The second option is far worse, every developer that has had their proposals rejected could submit a planning application, and even though we are likely to refuse, experience shows that on appeal an inspector will agree with them, because the housing need outweighs everything else.”

The leader of the council Andrew Johnson backed his colleague’s claims, saying the borough needed ‘a plan as quickly as possible to prevent speculative development and a free-for-all across the Royal Borough’.

Debate was opened to the floor, and opposition councillors launched their attacks on the BLP. Cllr Mandy Brar (Lib Dem, Bisham & Cookham) said the council ‘should be engaging with residents rather than stifling them’.

Cllr Lynne Jones (OWRA, Old Windsor) thanked residents, parish councils and community groups who have ‘contributed so much over the last few years’, and added: “Just because the Borough Local Plan is sound, it does not mean it is a good plan for the Borough.”

Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition Simon Werner said that the administration were ‘not listening to our residents’ on the issue.

“At the end of the day, we all know what this BLP is about: money,” he added.

Tory councillors defended the BLP. Cllr David Hilton (Ascot & Sunninghill) said the plan sought to
protect jobs, adding that

‘offices will be safeguarded against being converted into flats’ should the plan be approved.

Cllr Stimson (Con, St Mary’s) echoed her party colleague’s concerns and said there were more than a dozen policies within the BLP to limit the environmental impacts of development, including nature conservation, biodiversity, renewable energy and air pollution.

“Taken as a whole, this is why we need to adopt the BLP without delay,” she said. “Our borough will be a more sustainable borough with this BLP than without one.”

Ward colleague Cllr Gurch Singh (Lib Dem) insisted he would keep his speech ‘brief’, and said: “I love my ward, I love my town, and I love my borough; I cannot vote for this.”

Cllr Leo Walters (Con, Bray), a staunch campaigner for the greenbelt, said he felt ‘very concerned’ about number of houses within the BLP.

“We don’t need to have this number of houses,” he said.

However, he shared Cllr Johnson’s concerns that it would become a ‘free-for-all’ amongst developers should the BLP not be adopted, and would vote for its adoption.

Cllr Catherine del Campo (Lib Dem, Furze Platt) was unable to vote as she was self-isolating, whilst Cllr Helen Price (tBF, Clewer and Dedworth West) could not participate as she is a member of Maidenhead Golf Club.

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