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Viewpoint letters (August 1)

Featuring debate on the Crooked Billet, the environment, NHS staffing and bonfires. Scroll down for all of this week's letters.

Staff reporter

Staff reporter

Viewpoint letters (August 1)

With no local plan, key buildings are at risk

The consequences for the Borough in not having an up-to-date Borough Local Plan (BLP), which residents and the Government inspector alike can support, were laid bare in the decision to demolish the Crooked Billet pub, on Westborough Road, and redevelop with six houses (reported in p3, Advertiser, July 25).

Having stood against each other at May’s Local Elections (Lib Dem, The Borough First), we found ourselves speaking together at the planning meeting with common purpose, strenuously objecting to this plan, together with Boyn Hill councillors Bhangra and Carroll, who also made powerful arguments for refusal.

We all shared concerns about poor design and overdevelopment of the site, together with loss of an irreplaceable pub – a community amenity for over a century and firmly part of our local heritage.

We were mystified as to why the council was willing to accept, as robust evidence, that the pub was no longer required, a deeply flawed marketing process in which the owner refused even to acknowledge the building was still a pub.

In the end, the development was permitted by the narrowest of margins (6-5) in a serious blow for many residents.

How could this happen? Well, it’s a sad fact that, in spite of genuine concerns, several councillors on the planning panel felt their hands were effectively tied due to a rule known as ‘tilted balance’.

Essentially, planning officers now concede that the council can no longer identify enough sites to build the extra homes we need for at least the next five years.

This renders our locally adopted policies, last updated in 2003, legally out-of-date.

So balance must now ‘tilt’ decisively towards developers in virtually ALL borough planning decisions.

Plans that would previously have failed may now have to be approved.

However, officers have been unwilling to release to us the background calculations that prove this position and it is something that we dispute.

Ultimately, the best safeguard is to have an up-to-date plan.

However, the BLP has been delayed until next year at the earliest, with its ‘prudence’ questioned by the examiner.

The new council, therefore, needs to take bold steps to produce a plan and a vision that everyone can get behind.

Until then it is urgent that the council brings forward its proposal to create a ‘local list’ of heritage assets, such as the Crooked Billet, to protect them from the ‘tilted balance’.

This would identify key buildings that are not nationally protected, yet are nonetheless a vital part of the local area’s heritage.

It empowers planners to prevent impacts on the ‘historic environment’ from being entirely overlooked, as they were here.

Without this list, more precious buildings, pubs and community facilities will likely ‘tilt’ into the abyss.


Boyn Hill Close



Rutland Gate


Man has already taken his fair share of Earth

I totally agree with Paul Tatham’s letter last week (It’s vital to limit the growth in population, Viewpoint, July 25).

We need to be far more open about debating this subject.

Mankind can do something to reduce the amount of plastic we throw away, or how many tin cans we recycle. But it counts for very little, if we need to generate ever increasing consumables and infrastructure to accommodate a population that has no limits on its growth.

Mankind has already taken up more than his fair share of our planet. We cannot keep building motorways, runways, airport terminals and the like at the expense of the limited resources available to all species.

We need to debate this, accept it and implement measures now.

It is probably already too late.


Altwood Road


How are golf course plans carbon neutral?

The Royal Borough’s plan to achieve a carbon neutral environment by 2050 is laudable but I have yet to see plans to achieve this.

We all abhor, and perhaps are even frightened, by the potential impact of the destruction, for example, of the Brazilian rainforest and acknowledge the importance of trees in minimising our carbon footprint.

Although it is a minor matter in the worldly scheme of things, I cannot see how plans to demolish trees in the central lung of our town i.e. Maidenhead Golf Course, and replace them with houses and schools goes any way to attaining this outcome.

If we need to fulfill the housing provisions required by central government, surely it would be better to build on the land, acquired for £1million on our behalf by the council, and include open green areas and trees.

The outskirts of the town would extend, of course, but what is wrong about that?

There would be attractive living areas, and we could retain the essential forestry and natural fauna of our town centre, which is very much a rarity.

This would also enable the many deer and other wildlife to retain their habitat.

I cannot imagine another site in Maidenhead to which they would happily relocate.

Anyway, they are a joy to see in their present location which, with its public footpaths, is available to all.

I am sure we would all appreciate publication of the council plan to achieve the desired carbon neutral outcome.


The Avenue


Rural hedgerows need proper maintenance

I have read several letters recently extolling the virtue of letting the hedgerows and roadside verges run wild to promote havens for wildlife and a panoply of wild flowers creating colourful passageways on rural roads.

I can only surmise that comments come from urbanites, since reality is very different.

In open country, the wildlife and flower preservation is just the other side of the hedgerow in where a field buffer strip and the base of the hedgerow provide a habitat for the wildlife and flowers.

On the roadside, narrow lanes become even narrower with overgrown couch grass, cow parsley, brambles, dock and ragwort (poisonous to horses) taking over – not a sea of colourful wild flowers.

Sight lines are minimal and even if the council cuts a 1m wide swathe near junctions, the overgrowth further along the junctions prevents a clear view.

The wild verges cover potholes where the edge of the paved way is destroyed by overuse of lanes as commuter rat runs, and hide branches which damage vehicles.

Doubtless those who live in the nearby towns would soon protest should their open spaces be deliberately left to run wild: ’Simon!... don’t forget to mow the lawn!’

For us who live in rural areas this is bad enough without the added irritation of cyclists flying around bends in the middle of the road like the Red Arrows in a Big Nine formation.

It may be an idea to devolve the management of the road boundaries to the local parish councils, who are proud of their patch and would ensure that their boundaries are managed properly using Royal Borough funding.

In France, for example, the rural roadside is full of wild flowers and the verges are mown and maintained as a matter of pride by the local maire. Trees are managed as well.

Well done, we’ve saved the Borough money by letting the countryside run wild. We can spend it on another council ego project.


Beenhams Heath

Shurlock Row

Swap your gas guzzler for a greener option

There is nothing quite like the feeling of rolling up to the school gate, the company car park or the party venue in your top-of- the-range SUV or the really big diesel saloon, is there?

You can almost feel the envy of those who are less successful than you. Here in SL6 there are loads of these great cars.

Extinction Rebellion is in danger of being written off as a group of well-meaning, informed and environmentally-aware folk led by some men with worryingly anarchistic beliefs and a wish to bring in a ‘New democracy’.

We hear very few suggestions of practical steps to reduce global warming.

It was nice to see all the children making the most of their day in front of the cameras too.

What can we do to reduce climate change? We can look at our cars.

We can exchange the diesel vehicles that we own for petrol ones, preferably petrol-electric hybrids that charge themselves.

This type does not need to be plugged-in to an electricity supply to top up the battery.

If you can afford to own one of the poisonous diesel monsters then you can afford to swap it for a more environmentally acceptable one immediately, even if it is not a top-of-the-range one.

Similarly, if your car is part of a hire-purchase scheme then you can go and swap it as easily.  The planet can no longer afford such status symbols.

Our children are learning at school that most motor vehicles are serious polluters and have a really bad effect on health. 

Adults can no longer pretend to be ignorant of these dangers. Instead of wringing our hands and putting on a concerned face when the subject of global warming comes up, we have to take responsibility for our role.

Next term, your image will be so much better and your family will be so much prouder of you when you appear in a petrol-fuelled car or one with a hybrid engine and you will know that you are being responsible. Your friends will admire you for using your money so caringly, and your image will shine!


Dean Lane

Cookham Dean

Trust stripping hospital staff of NHS benefits

Friday, July 19 saw a great turnout of hospital staff, trades unions and campaigners at both Wexham Park and Frimley Park hospitals who are opposed to the plans by Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust to transfer the jobs of a significant tier of workers to a wholly owned subsidiary company.

More than 800 staff working for the trust including caterers, porters, security workers and administrative staff will be affected. If the plans go ahead, these staff will no longer be NHS employees and so they will have no guarantee of retaining their NHS pay, terms & conditions. While all Frimley workers currently receive salaries based on a national NHS pay deal, after April 2021 those transferred to the trust’s private company will not be entitled to any pay increases their NHS colleagues receive, despite doing similar jobs.

Members of staff are extremely concerned that being forced out of the NHS by the trust opens the door to the creation of a two-tier health system. The aim for this outsourcing – effectively privatisation – is to reduce costs by exploiting a tax loophole.

The unions – Unison, Unite and GMB – are united in their view that this is another form of privatisation by the back door. Both hospitals – Wexham Park and Frimley Park (with potentially Heatherwood in the future) – will be affected.

This is also a move which will be divisive in the workforce and do nothing to aid recruitment which is an ongoing problem across the UK. It will also increase uncertainty in the whole workforce as other staff members begin to question the security of their own futures.

In short, it is a disastrous plan.

Given our long-term relationship with the trust, we had been particularly impressed at the way it has shown its loyalty to the NHS by valuing its NHS tradition and referring to staff as ‘belonging to the NHS family’.

It is therefore an outrage that the trust is effectively facilitating the break-up and privatisation of the NHS.

These plans have caused huge upset to the workers directly affected and also those who work alongside, leading to a campaign mounted by the trades unions who represent them. There has also been a great surge of support from other individuals and groups in the community.

Friday, July 19 saw the health unions and their members supported by members of the local Labour party branches, Slough Trades Council, the local National Pensioners Convention branch, local councillors and Slough’s Member of Parliament Tan Dhesi.

As a well-established and long term group campaigning to save our hospital, we fully support this new campaign mounted by the unions.

This was the first mass show of support on the street at the site of both hospitals which can only gather strength unless the plans are withdrawn. We salute you in your efforts and join you to fight on!


On behalf of the Save Heatherwood Hospital campaign group

Misery caused by noisy construction in town

Summer is here and windows are open, and town centre residents are suffering due to the greatly increased impact of noise pollution caused by the construction work.

For eight-and-a-half hours a day, five-and-a-half days a week we are bombarded with  banging, drilling, grinding ,digging, shouting, tooting of horns, and many other diverse but equally loud noises.

Please spare a thought for us residents who are enduring the stress this is causing, as the Royal Borough appear oblivious.

At least two years more to suffer until this concrete high rise transformation is completed. Only then will we be able to pass judgment on the scheme.

However, beware the ‘artist’s impression’ which we all witnessed with the Sainsbury’s Piazza.


Fotherby Court


Consider neighbours when lighting bonfires

Summer is here once again and we are all enjoying ice creams in the summer weather, but it isn’t all fun and laughter.

Picture the recent heatwave we experienced and, come the end of a really hot and humid day, all you want to do is open as many windows as possible to let in that lovely cool breeze and bring some relief to the hours of sweltering heat you and your loved ones have had to endure, only to discover what the ‘cool breeze’ carries with it –  all the toxic fumes from your neighbours' bonfire straight though your whole house.

AND the bedsheets you have hung out to dry earlier on now need to be washed again.

To this day, there is still no law against this. Am I living in a Third World country? The housing estates are built in clusters, surely people cannot be so selfish not to realise that they are just adding to the already poor quality of life for others?

I won’t even go over bottleneck parking facing oncoming traffic two metres away from a junction.

Wishful thinking.




Back to opening fetes and handing out prizes

Now that we have a performer in Downing Street, I have a superb candidate to open Maidenhead fetes, declare the winner at best hairy dog competitions and give away the prizes at school sports days.

Step forward one Theresa May.


Forlease Drive


Lib Dems are neither liberal nor democratic

In his letter last week to the Advertiser (How is it fair when not all have a vote, Viewpoint, July 25), Paul Janik made a number of incorrect or unproven assertions about the effect on the UK of leaving the EU, and goes on to demand a ‘People’s Vote’, i.e, a second referendum.

I do wonder how he would define ‘the People’. Surely, they are all of us and so would very likely vote again in the same way.

But no doubt he thinks rather like the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson who, in a recent BBC interview, said that if there was a second referendum which went the ‘wrong way’, then she would no more accept that result than she accepted the first. So much for democracy!

It is surely time that the Liberal Democrats changed the name of their party to reflect the fact that they are neither liberal or democratic and are nothing more than a protest party.

Meanwhile, the UK is leaving the EU on October 31 in accordance with the outcome of the referendum, which David Cameron agreed to hold because he thought he would win it, and look what happened to him!


Grenfell Road


Don’t they realise what ‘democracy’ means?

Paul Janik (Viewpoint, July 25) complains that some UK residents were not allowed a vote in the EU referendum.

I spent 20 years of my working life in South Africa and I kept my UK nationality during that time which meant that I could not vote in any SA election.

The rule was that only SA citizens were allowed to vote and I accepted this.

No doubt Mr Janik would like a second referendum. However, very recently, the new Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and the Green Party leader Caroline Lucas have both stated in interviews that even if a second referendum still resulted in a Leave vote they would still not accept the result.

Why don’t these people, as well as Mr Janik, understand the meaning of the word democracy?


Broad Hinton


No EU treaty seeks a federal European state

Dr Cooper (Research the data on EU opinion polls, Viewpoint, July 25) misquotes the European Union’s founding documents.

He fails to mention that the EU is only for the things that can only be best done together, and only the minimum.

EU membership is voluntary. The only policy areas that apply to the UK are where UK prime ministers have freely signed up.

Dr Cooper mentions ‘ever closer union’ but the 1957 Treaty of Rome calls for ‘an ever closer union amongst the peoples of Europe’. It continues, ‘to confirm the solidarity which binds Europe and the overseas countries’ and ‘to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty’.

Setting up an independent High Authority to oversee coal and steel was a practical and symbolic step.

What there is now can be called a shared governance but not a government. The idea of a federal US of E is not mentioned anywhere in the treaties.

Dr Cooper has not accounted for article 5 of the 2007 Lisbon Treaty. The EU is only to do the things that can only be best done in a shared way. Everything else is the job of each country. This is called the principle of subsidiarity.

And the EU is only to do the minimum. That is called the principle of proportionality.

Dr Cooper seems to misrepresent poor Robert Schuman. Schuman said on May 9, 1950: ‘Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which create a de facto solidarity’.

Nor has the EU or its predecessors ever been a mere trading area. The European Coal and Steel Community treaty speaks of world peace, non-discrimination on ground of nationality, and improving conditions for workers.


Member, European Movement UK

Blown away by the new children’s hospice

On Monday, July 8 and 22, as an independent (one of many) fundraiser for the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service (since its early days in 2007), along with some folk from various churches in Reading who have supported my fundraising – and my thanks to them all – I had the privilege and pleasure of touring the charity’s hospice at Snowball Hill.

Everyone was ‘blown away’ (to quote more than one visitor) by everything in and around the totally unhospice-like but fully functional hospice.

We had all stayed in hotels far less bright and welcoming.

The sensory garden and hydropool left the most lasting impressions for many, along with the tasteful and well thought out bereavement suite.

The Alexander Devine team must have undertaken a huge amount of training in order to deliver their specialist splash sessions, day care provisions (currently three days a week), palliative play sessions and their care in the community, currently supporting 120 children but estimating a demand of over 600 at any one time.

The only dampener of the day was that we all left frustrated that due to lack of funding/public sector financing, the amazing overnight stay beds remain unused to date.

Otherwise we all left feeling totally impressed at what Fiona and John Devine and their team have achieved in such a relatively short time and how much their love, dedication and joyfulness showed throughout.

An amazing achievement, an amazing team of divine folk and a charity we should all surely support how and whenever we can.


Wensley Road


Join the Memory Walk in aid of dementia care

Across Windsor and Maidenhead, around 1,400 people are living with dementia.

Dementia is now the UK’s biggest killer, with someone developing it every three minutes. Of the top 10 causes of death, dementia is the only one we cannot prevent, cure or slow down.

Alzheimer’s Society is calling on family, friends and colleagues to unite against dementia by signing up for Memory Walk.

I love taking part in my local Memory Walk every year. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the life of my Nana Iris who I lost to dementia, whilst uniting with thousands of other walkers who are also affected. I’d love to see more people attend Memory Walk than ever before.

We need new treatments for dementia now. There have been none in the last 15 years. We owe it to the 850,000 people in the UK currently living with dementia to do something to change this.

Every pound raised will help Alzheimer’s Society provide vital information and support, improve care, fund research and create lasting change.

Unite against dementia and sign up to the Windsor Memory Walk on Saturday September 21 at  


Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador

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