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Viewpoint: Queen Street works, the Riverside by-election and council finances

Featuring debate on the Queen Street right-turn, the upcoming Riverside by-election and Labour policies on education. Scroll down for all letters.

Staff reporter

Staff reporter

Viewpoint: Queen Street works, the Riverside by-election and council finances

Where is the urgency in completing works?

How many people does it take to change a light bulb?

A similar question is how long does it take to carry on with with roadworks outside Maidenhead station on the A308?

This is an ‘A’ Road, a main thoroughfare, but for some reason this council has contractors making it a misery for hundreds of drivers each day.

None of these roadworks appear to be urgent, yet there seems to be no urgency in trying to complete the job, and there is no publicised schedule letting people know what is going on!

Enough is enough. Let us stop this misery, abandon all the roadworks and let the traffic get back to normal.

Then the buses may be able to start working to their correct timetable and people may be able to get to work on time.

Or is this council trying to create as much nuisance as possible, just because it can?

BRUCE ADAMS

Cox Green Lane

Maidenhead


MPs should comment on financial troubles

I’ve held off talking about legacy and the performance of the Royal Borough in the last few years but the news slowly coming out over the financial situation we find ourselves in is beyond comprehension.

Budgets not in compliance with Local Government Act 2003, medium financial planning limited, reserves low when compared to other authorities, budget monitoring reports inadequate, treasury management strategy inadequate and non compliant with code of practice, members able to circumvent the council’s approved policy framework.

The list goes on and on and it’s a catalogue of mismanagement, lack of scrutiny and governance.

How on earth did we get to this position in the Royal Borough?

We have a new political leader in Andrew Johnson and a new managing director. I trust in the coming weeks and months we will have full disclosure and transparency on who is accountable for this shambles .

It would also be appreciated if our two MPs Theresa May and Adam Afriyie would put politics aside and comment on this quite appalling financial mess our council is now in.

BRIAN MILLIN

Priors Way

Holyport


Climate change should be at top of agenda

A week ago, I gave a talk to 10-year-olds at a local school on hydrogen and its use in fuel cells for transport and heating (don’t yawn).

The cohort had climate change at the top of their consciousness and was fascinated that this technology only had water as a by-product, not CO2, and was consequently totally green.

I then read your interview with Andrew Johnson, the new Royal Borough leader.

Given the only declared ‘emergency’ in Royal Borough is climate change and net zero emissions, I was surprised this was not top of his consciousness.

The hygiene of finances appeared the focus.

With the publishing of the latest Royal Borough CO2 emissions showing, for example, 20 per cent is directly a consequence of domestic gas use, an opportunity was missed.

A desire to get the Borough Local Plan approved was expressed.

A meeting takes place this month to achieve council support for a revision document.

The BLP is fundamentally flawed and lacking vision as anyone who sat through the inspector’s examination will testify.

This plan has climate change as the last of eleven objectives.

It calls for 10,000 new homes with 14,000 new residents (10 per cent increase).

Mr Johnson, you aren’t tainted by the last 13 years of BLP failure, start again. Any minor revision will not pass muster.

The BLP needs to be visionary and bold.

Put the ‘emergency’ at objective number one.

Why not build a centre for climate change policy, research and enterprise, immediately dictate that no new homes be built with gas boilers or only hydrogen and purchase electric council vehicles from today?

Tough calls but the stuff of legacy.

The Royal Borough cannot solve climate change but can show leadership.

It requires the Royal Borough to appoint independent experts in emergency planning and climate change directly to its decision-making processesand not have them sat as another committee.

There are some 10-year-olds in this borough who want and deserve to see action.

PAUL STRZELECKI

Berries Road

Cookham


What are candidate’s views on Heathrow?

I see in last week's Maidenhead Advertiser that Greg Jones has written saying that he would be honoured to be a councillor for a beautiful part of town where he has lived for 22 years (Viewpoint, October 10).

I have lived nearby for 42 years.

The area will however be greatly ill-affected by a Heathrow third runway approximately one mile north and one mile further west of the existing two runways with an additional 700 flights a day, inevitably flying more over Maidenhead and our surroundings.

By way of explanation, there are many issues including the health ill-effects of noise and pollution, the need for action against Climate Change, the fact that Heathrow’s recent Masterplan is for a 30-year project costing £32 billion (and that cost will likely rise as almost all infrastructure projects do), substantial redirection of the M25 and A4, and bringing 30 years of construction hell to residents of the Thames Valley and West London.

In terms of the business case, buried in the Department of Transport’s own documentation they say that after costs for pollution, health etc, the net return to the economy over 60 years is close to zero and could well go negative.

Meanwhile the real benefactors are Heathrow’s foreign owners who receive £500 million or more in dividends each year – and they want more.

Another real issue for RBWM and other local boroughs is that we have an area of relatively full employment.

So workers will have to come to the area to fill the jobs that Heathrow promise.

The Airports Commission determined that this will require an additional 70,000 homes or an additional 5,000 homes in each borough, and of course additional infrastructure for travel, schooling, health etc will be necessary.

None of this is in current borough plans and there are already these same infrastructure issues before considering additional homes for Heathrow. 

The Royal Borough has always been part of the campaign with Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, Hammersmith & Fulham Councils, the Mayor of London and environmental and climate groups who are petitioning the Government in the High Court to realise that with the current climate commitment for net-zero (including the recent RBWM vote for net-zero), that a third runway cannot be allowed to proceed. 

The interesting point is these claimants have been granted an appeal in High Court which starts this Thursday, October 17 - today when you see this letter.

So my question to Greg Jones is, as a Royal Borough councillor would you be supporting the campaign to stop a third runway?

As your local election is on October 30, you have time to write and let everyone know in the Advertiser on October 24.

We look forward to hearing, thank-you.

PAUL GROVES

Tithe Barn Drive

Maidenhead


Developer should fund waterways works

Last week’s report headed ‘Budget cannot just be waterways or bust’, misunderstands MW’s position and our concern about the streamside aspects of Countryside’s development at York Road.

Linking the issue to RBWM’s services budget problems is also a distraction, when the council’s capital programme is not overrunning and substantially underspent last year.

To be clear, MW is not proposing the Royal Borough should fund improvements to Countryside’s development by adding an access to the water’s edge within their site.

We recommend that Countryside funds this relatively small but important improvement to the consented plans.

Having access down to the water level – to allow residents to sit close to the water, slip a canoe in to help maintain the channel, or simply to feed the ducks – in our view would only add to the appeal and commercial viability of this waterside site.

The suggestion that bio-diversity would be harmed by allowing a single set of ‘chunky’ steps down the 2-3m drop to the water (as already developed by Countryside’s design team) is scarcely credible. 

MW helped develop the Area Action Plan, which seeks to bring the waterway corridor to life as a key feature of a rejuvenated town centre.

Policy MTC 3 expects waterside developments in the town centre to ‘..conserve or enhance biodiversity’, but equally importantly it also requires developers to ‘..allow for continuous pedestrian and cycle access along the waterside’ and to ‘..improve access to the waterside’.

Without including at least some access to the water, the danger is that the occupiers of the 229 new apartments at York Road will have their desirable water outlook, but residents and café users at ground level will discover too late that they have only limited views of the water because of the steep banks and continuous dense planting currently proposed along 100 per cent of the site.

Surely Countryside and RBWM can work together to resolve this issue, optimising the interface with the waterway for everyone’s benefit… while there is still time to refine the plans.

The hard invert opportunity at Chapel Arches got ‘talked out’ and has now been abandoned, please don’t let this be another missed opportunity.

RICHARD DAVENPORT

Chairman

Maidenhead Waterways (MW)

Editor’s note: I do not agree that it was the report itself that ‘misunderstands MW’s position’. Rather, this was the stance taken by a Royal Borough cabinet member (Cllr Donna Stimson) when she was questioned on the the issue.


Labour’s policy is an assault on aspiration

It is all too easy (and understandable) to allow a singular focus to develop in our national politics at the moment.

However, as a founder of two local free schools called Holyport College and Forest Bridge School, I am acutely aware of the dangers facing our local education system.

Buckinghamshire has some of the greatest selective state schools in the country.

In fact, they are so good, that over 150 pupils a year come to Buckinghamshire grammar schools from the neighbouring local authority the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

Incredulously, the Labour Party wants to seize the assets of independent schools nationally (confiscating private property), abolish selective grammar schools, abolish free schools and abolish academies.

This all out assault on aspiration and opportunity is a real and present danger.

A vote for any other political party than the Conservatives risks putting Jeremy Corbyn into government.

A Marxist government propped up by an alliance of Liberal Democrats, Scottish and Welsh nationalists and Independents.

Whilst the Conservatives are putting an additional £14 billion into schools across the country, the enemies of aspiration are massing.

As we approach the inevitable general election, our thoughts must turn to protecting what is most dear to us.

The amazing schools we have locally and the future of these precious institutions.

It is these schools locally that are the engines of aspiration and opportunity.

Sometimes you don’t really understand what you had until you lose it.      

SIMON DUDLEY

Senior Independent Director and Acting Chair, Homes England 

Founder, Holyport College


Queen Street decision is poor governance

The Royal Borough scrutiny panel that took place Wednesday, October 9 to scrutinise the cabinet decision to abolish the right turn on Queen Street was yet another example of poor governance in the Royal Borough.

Put simply, when the panel was faced with overwhelming evidence as to why the decision should be fully revisited, it was voted through by the ruling Tory group.

The online poll of residents showed overwhelmingly that they wanted to keep the right turn in place.

As this did not favour the abolition of the right turn it seems another poll was commissioned from pedestrians ‘on-street’ which gave a result more favourable to the outcome desired by The Executive.

This has shades of the Vicus Way Car Park decision in that the Royal Borough Executive will keep exploring different options until it feels it can justify the outcome it desires rather than follow due process and diligence, and above all listen to residents’ wishes.

Indeed, with our new leader emphasising the need for transparency, it is of concern that the letter of objection from Courtney Buses detailing the impact on seven bus routes and loss of service to Maidenhead Station was not in the public domain for the cabinet meeting and only available several hours prior to the scrutiny panel.

In my view there were two options, given the evidence before us:

 a) keep the right turn as indicated by the online poll, or b) have a public enquiry which should have been triggered by the letter of objection sent to the Royal Borough by the bus operator Courtney Buses.

We challenge the new leadership: are they still heading down the same old road as before where The Executive does what it wants unchecked, without due regard for representations whether made privately, at cabinet or at scrutiny? This demonstrates a complete disregard for due process. 

Certainly, with Royal Borough finances showing forecast overspend of circa +£4m, debt of £174m and a stalled Borough Local Plan the need for more humility, openness and cooperation from our executive leadership couldn’t be more pressing and urgent.

Cllr GEOFF HILL

The Borough First, Oldfield


Think carefully before voting in by-election

From the moment that Simon Dudley announced his immediate departure as both Royal Borough leader and Riverside ward Councillor, many residents have been asking what caused him to cut and run so abruptly, just a few months after he squeaked home in the local council elections.

Was it the acceptance that his many controversial decisions – on allocating S106 monies to one school rather than all, appalling comments on the Windsor homeless, pushing through multiple votes on a new Vicus Way car park, extraordinary pre-election promises about the Ivy Club, using our money to adorn the streets with misleading electioneering banners, and support for greenbelt destruction in Cox Green, among many others – showed poor judgement that let down residents of the Royal Borough?

As a light now shines on the gross mismanagement of Royal Borough finances under his watch, resulting in an unplanned overspend of £4m in just one month, perhaps Mr Dudley has exited stage left to avoid having to fix his own mess?

Whatever the reasons for his hasty departure, Royal Borough residents - particularly the voters of Riverside - deserve to be told the truth by the ruling party and its prospective candidate, and to be given clear commitments on what they will do differently after the by-election.

The chief instigator of so many wrongs in the Royal Borough may have fled the scene, but residents face more of the same unless he and his colleagues are held to account.

Think before casting your vote on October 30, or face more of the same.

GARETH EBENEZER

Cannon Court Road

Maidenhead


Who is responsible for roadworks shambles?

Whilst I can sympathise with Alison Lewis’ annoyance and frustration at not feeling safe using the improvised crossing outside the station in Maidenhead which is ‘an accident waiting to happen’ (October 10, p7), I think she may be mistaken about the traffic lights.

Whilst some may not be able to distinguish the figure in the traffic light on the opposite side of the road, the red light changes to green when the ‘walking’ man is shown, and should be easily visible. These two lights are repeated on the upright posts next to the wait button and so are much easier to see being closer.

On Saturday morning at 9.10am there was congestion on the Braywick Road stretching back to the Stafferton Link roundabout and having sat at the bottom of Shoppenhangers Road watching three light changes and moving nowhere, my three/four-minute journey from Crescent Dale to East Road became 12 minutes as I had to proceed through Norreys Drive, Norden Road and so on.

I cannot get the time back but who pays for the extra petrol used? Not the council.

I enquired of Royal Borough on the Twitter feed to be told that there was one lane closed in Grenfell Place and I could plan my journey using one.network, which I regularly do.

Here I find that there are no scheduled works in Grenfell Place but the roadworks on Bell Street (?) are now scheduled to last until December 31 and on Grenfell Road until April 4, 2020.

What happened to the 20 weeks from May 13?

Using the website is only useful if the information provided by the council is valid.

What is so amazing is despite all the complaints in your columns, on social media and elsewhere, a new leader at the council, as yet no one has stood up and accepted any responsibility for this shambles, neither in the elected council or in the highways department.

I have the word ‘accountability’ ringing in my ears but not loud enough for it to be heard in St Ives Road.

MERVYN BUSTON

East Road

Maidenhead


Looking for memories from WVS volunteers

To mark the 80th Anniversary of the start of the Second World War, Maidenhead Heritage Centre is preparing a new exhibition to pay overdue tribute to the women of the local WVS, WRVS and RVS. 

We would love to hear from any Advertiser readers who have memories or photographs of volunteering for the WVS.

The WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service) was founded in 1938 by the Marchioness of Reading to recruit women to support Air Raid Precautions (ARP) in a country preparing to face wartime aerial bombing.

Soon the role of the WVS extended beyond Civil Defence, helping with wider social issues such as evacuees and the distribution of food and clothing to air raid victims.

More than 80 years on, the Royal Voluntary Service continues its work, having become independent from Civil Defence in 1968.

The legacy of the Maidenhead WVS, and its successor organisations, can be seen in the community centre in York Road, and in the memories of those helped during the floods and the great fire at Windsor.   

NICK FORDER

Curator

Maidenhead Heritage Centre


Thames Estuary idea was closely examined

In response to E Shepherd (Viewpoint, October 10), who suggests an island in the Thames Estuary would be better than a new runway at Heathrow, I’d like to make a few points.

The Thames Estuary scheme, along with the Gatwick proposal, was closely examined by an independent commission in 2015, which decided that Heathrow was the only airport that could deliver the extra capacity and economic benefits for the country.

The local benefits here are clear, for an area where you will find people with Heathrow related jobs in every street.

The additional jobs for people in the local boroughs, as well as thousands of new apprenticeships are not to be sniffed at, at a time of economic uncertainty.

Where E Shepherd and I agree is on the need to ensure there is no increase in road traffic to deliver this local and national economic boost.

Thankfully, major improvements to local public transport links are at the heart of the scheme.

PARMJIT DHANDA

Executive Director

Back Heathrow


Putting the Irish border problem in perspective

David Condon upbraids me for referring to a ‘molehill’ on the Irish land border (Viewpoint, October 10).

Well, after more than two years of the UK government allowing the Irish government to vastly exaggerate its importance the present administration has started to emphasise that the goods crossing that border comprise about one per cent of total trade between the UK and the EU.

While 20 months ago it was pointed out in these pages that those UK exports comprise a mere 0.1 per cent of UK GDP (Viewpoint, February 22, 2018, ‘Easy solution to EU border conundrum’).

Perhaps the government will eventually catch up with that, and with other statistics which put the problem into a proper perspective.

For example, that goods driven across the Irish border correspond to less than 0.2 per cent of total imports into the EU, and to an insignificant 0.02 per cent of EU collective GDP.

Some months later the editor was kind enough to print another letter which started ‘Clearly our Prime Minister is still confounded by the mountain that the EU has made out of a molehill on the Irish border’ and went on to suggest a draft of a letter which she could send to the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (Viewpoint, July 5 2018, ‘The solution to the Irish border question’).

That draft included a good offer, that the UK would pass strong export control laws to prevent the border being used as a backdoor for contraband goods to enter the EU Single Market. 

Although in truth it would be a pretty small backdoor, more like a cat flap.

As one of her constituents I sent a copy of that letter to Theresa May; and it was duly acknowledged by her assistant with an assurance that she had taken on board the thoughts it contained, before she went on to do more or less the opposite.

Dr D R COOPER

Belmont Park Avenue 
 

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M4 closures this weekend

M4 closures this weekend

The motorway will be out of action from junction 6 for Slough and 8/9, Maidenhead from 8pm tomorrow night (Friday), until 6am Monday.