09:55AM, Wednesday 24 October 2012
Multi-millionaire businessman Peter Prior blasted ‘dishonourable’ councillors last night as he quit as chairman of Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group.
The Summerleaze boss, who had the original idea to restore Maidenhead’s stagnant waterways seven years ago, made an emotionally charged resignation speech at the group’s annual meeting in St Mary’s Hall in Maidenhead High Street.
Describing himself as ‘extremely angry’, Mr Prior said he had spent £1million on the waterways project and his plan to relocate Furze Platt Senior School onto his greenbelt land at north Maidenhead.
He added shareholders did not receive dividends for some years because of this.
But his commitment to improving the town where he was born and bred ended on July 24, he said, when Royal Borough councillors pledged to protect the area’s greenbelt boundaries, effectively scuppering the school’s relocation.
He had been confident the scheme would get the go-ahead and was shattered by the council’s 'policy change', he said.
The restoration of the waterways – which has been granted planning permission – would mean working with the council, something he was no longer prepared to do, he said.
“I am extremely angry. I cannot work with people who are dishonourable and that’s why I had to resign. I am not going to have anything to do with the council.”
After Mr Prior left the meeting, centenarian Sir Nicholas Winton, who is patron of the waterways restoration group, told members that they should not accept Mr Prior’s resignation.
The Maidenhead resident, who is best known for organising the rescue of Jewish Czech children before the outbreak of the Second World War, said that council decisions could be frustrating but, “after all, his original idea remains.”
John Foster, the group secretary, who had earlier thanked Mr Prior for his vision of the waterway and the vital work that Summerleaze did in the early days, said that he understood Mr Prior’s mind was set.
The annual meeting, which was attended by about 25 people, aged 16 to 103, heard that it was a milestone year for the group, because the scheme now had outline planning permission.
The £5million project to restore the ‘ring’ of water around Maidenhead town centre is expected to start in mid-2014, to be finished by 2016.
A detailed design will be drawn up next year.
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