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Viewpoint: the BLP, the Riverside by-election and education policy

Featuring letters on the revised Borough Local Plan, the upcoming Maidenhead Riverside by-election and responses to Simon Dudley's criticism of Labour's education policy.

Staff reporter

Staff reporter

Viewpoint: the BLP, the Riverside by-election and education policy

Land at St Marks Hospital is included in the revised Borough Local Plan

Tell council, good decisions need scrutiny

Is the Royal Borough ever going to learn from its mistakes?

Councillors were told that an Extraordinary Council meeting would be called ‘to approve a consultation being undertaken on the latest Borough Local Plan (BLP) amendments’.

Last week we were informed that we would actually be voting on whether to approve the amendments.

What followed was a deluge of reports and information that fed in to the approval process, with some marked ‘to follow’ therefore we are not in receipt of them on Monday (time of writing).

Councillors will not have had time to review these documents and were set to be voting blind on October 23.

This is not proper process and this is why the BLP and finances are in such a mess.

The Conservative administration’s refusal to understand that good decisions need scrutiny, and due process needs to be addressed and their ignorance as to the constitution being ‘plumbing’ has to end.

Cllr LYNNE JONES

Leader- Local Independents

OWRA, Old Windsor


Councillors misled over BLP consultation

Yet again the Conservatives have bypassed proper process! On Wednesday at an extraordinary full council meeting, ‘proposed changes’ to the BLP were due to be discussed.

Councillors were initially led to believe that they were being asked to vote on whether or not to go to consultation with all of this new information.

However, at some point very recently, officers were advised by counsel that members couldn’t just vote on whether to consult or not, they had to approve the content of that consultation.

But these new proposals have been prepared with no adequate pre-consultation with borough ward councillors, parish councils or anyone else –  this is basic compulsory duty to cooperate!

Councillors have been swamped by acres of reports with a lack of evidence to support many of the recommendations.

They have had over 3,000 pages to digest in less than seven days.

Last Friday, they published 10 appendixes, one of which has 22 links to updated reports, and at the time of writing, three are still marked ‘to follow’.  

I have come to the conclusion that the Royal Borough, once again, have backed themselves into a corner that they cannot extricate themselves from without a significant loss of face.

The Tories are effectively damned if they do and damned if they don’t and are bound to be ‘whipped’ on Wednesday evening.

This is a classic situation where they have to decide whether to be answerable to their electorate or to their political masters. 

The inspector has made clear that: ‘... no formal mechanism is available for changes to be made to the plan ... I will therefore continue to base my examination upon the submitted plan (as at January 2018) … if the need for further changes arises as a result of the hearing sessions, these must be consulted upon at the main modifications stage’. 

I therefore fail to see why these ‘changes’ need to go to consultation at all at this time – and how much will this cost council taxpayers? This is Groundhog Day!

The only reason ex-Cllr Dudley, supported by Conservative councillors, pushed for the flawed BLP to be submitted in January 2018 (dismissing all concerns), was to enable the release of the Maidenhead Golf Club ‘cash cow’ before the money ran out.

As residents have learned, that day has passed.

CLAIRE STRETTON

The Borough First candidate for Maidenhead Riverside

Leader, The Borough First


NHS land can only be sold if it is ‘surplus’

It is astonishing to see that the latest version of the Borough Local Plan (BLP) suddenly adds 54 houses to be built on the St Marks Hospital site, and 47 at King Edward Hospital.

The borough is set for tens of thousands of new residents, and desperately needs an A&E hospital, so how can it make sense to permanently lose the most obvious land on which to expand?

Moreover, the council has been advocating a less car-centric vision, and so should surely be promoting our accessible urban hospitals for new GP surgeries, extra convalescence beds and other services?

This would ensure as few of the dreaded treks to Wexham for routine procedures as possible.  

The BLP report also notes that all residents are within 30 minutes of a hospital ‘by car’, but does not give the equivalent figure for public transport, despite moves to create large new town centre developments with residents dependent on this transport.

NHS land can only be sold if it is ‘surplus’. So the question arises – what made the St Marks and King Edward health commissioners and clinicians sure that this is forever ‘surplus’, and that there won’t be increasing demand on health services within our Borough over the next 10 years of massive house building, and with an ageing demographic?​

The ‘sustainability appraisal’ states that for both hospitals this plan ‘...would involve the relocation of existing community facilities before the current ones are redeveloped’. Relocating where?

Surely this suggests that the land may not in fact be ‘surplus’?

To confuse matters further, the plan states mysteriously that the land may transfer to an unnamed ‘adjoining’ health trust, rather than Berkshire Healthcare Trust.

Why wouldn’t Berkshire Healthcare Trust be ultimately responsible for Berkshire hospitals?

Healthcare is increasingly a joint issue for councils and health trusts, and often decentralised to smaller more responsive sites.

In October, the Care Quality Commission reported on a successful ‘joint integrated commissioning’ trial in Manchester which said it’s vital that councils and NHS trusts ‘..change the way they work together so that the right services are being offered to the people that need them where they live’.

Goodness knows what previous generations would make of this.

Those who built the hospitals knew that our health needs would evolve over time so gave it plenty of space to develop far into the future.

But we propose to know better – and to relinquish space we can never get back.

When we come to realise that we need enhanced accessible community hospitals we may find to our shame that we have no urban land left to achieve it.

ANDREW HILL

Rutland Gate

Maidenhead


Hoping to redress equality at local level

I am an equalities officer for Maidenhead Labour party and standing as the Labour candidate for the Riverside by-election on October 30 as a campaigner for making politics accessible to all.

Following our campaign at the local elections in May, the Royal Borough has changed its council meeting venue in Windsor from the Guildhall, which is inaccessible to people with mobility needs, to the newly-refurbished Sheet Street offices.

We were very pleased to work with the council on this move, which means that residents once excluded are now provided with a basic democratic right to participate in local politics.

As a wheelchair user myself, it’s great to be representing Maidenhead Labour Party in this by-election with Labour’s values of fairness and access for all.

In a democratic society Parliament should reflect the nation, local government and the community.

The most recent figures show that although 16 per cent of the working age population has a disability, they make up less than one per cent of MPs.

This picture is not much better at a local level, so I’m really proud of the work we are doing to promote equality.

It is important to strive for inclusivity and a council representative of its residents.

We look forward to continuing our work in making politics accessible for all and supporting residents to have their voices heard.

SHARON BUNCE

Labour candidate for Maidenhead Riverside


Conservatives must be allowed to finish job

The important Riverside by-election on October 30 draws ever closer and I would urge all residents to vote.

As promised in my earlier letter, I would like to lay out my policies and ideas to protect and enhance the Riverside area.

The by-election falls at a time of great upheaval with the Brexit situation, but I would urge voters to consider the local issues and not national ones.

I have lived in Maidenhead almost all my life. I was educated locally and have enjoyed living in Riverside for the last 22 years. I know the area very well and I am extremely keen to maintain, enhance and preserve this very special part of the town.

I have spent the last few weeks walking through the ward, talking to hundreds of residents to find out first hand what really matters to them.

Key policies for Riverside are:

Parking – I am acutely aware of the parking pressure felt by many residents due to commuters and visitors. The Conservatives have listened to the issues raised by residents and have successfully introduced permit-parking schemes in areas with parking issues. The new extension to the Boulters Car Park will add much needed extra capacity and I shall be pushing for electric vehicle charging points.

Roads – The roads in Riverside are in generally good repair. However, we cannot be complacent and I will be noting their ongoing condition. The council’s online “report a pothole” system works very well in my experience and we pledge to have any reported pothole fixed with 24 working hours. Speeding is an issue and I will be looking at this issue if elected.

Parks and Riverside – We are truly blessed in Riverside with excellent parks and one of the most beautiful stretches of the River Thames. The towpath walk up to the new Battlemead Common is really wonderful and I will be working to protect these very special areas. I intend to liaise with the Environment Agency to remove unlicensed, abandoned boats moored on the river bank. Many of these un-maintained boats will eventually sink, polluting our lovely river with fuel and battery acid etc.

Litter – We are looking at methods to improve park bins and recycling. We will also be vigorously protecting the weekly bin collection.

The by-election marks an exciting period for the Borough with inspired and capable new leadership.

Maidenhead town centre is at a crucial juncture in its development and the Conservatives must be allowed to finish the job.

PS - I will give Mr Groves a direct answer to his direct question in last week’s paper (Viewpoint, October 17) about the third runway at Heathrow. I am against it.

GREG JONES

Conservative candidate for Maidenhead Riverside


Riverside ‘cannot afford another Dudley’

Councillor Dudley’s abrupt resignation as our Riverside ward councillor remains a mystery.

Was leading a council with a substantially reduced majority just much less fun?

Was he concerned that the looming financial crisis the council faces would be laid at his door? We may never know.

Now we have a by-election (more cost for taxpayers) on October 30 and realistically three candidates standing in Riverside have a chance of election.

The Conservatives had difficulty finding a candidate it appears, but now we have a candidate that, on paper, looks very much like a ‘Dudley clone’. Riverside cannot afford another Dudley – literally and figuratively.

Liberal Democrats have fielded Kashmir Singh who stood for election in May in Riverside.

The Lib Dems stress they are only viable party to effectively challenge the Conservatives, but in May Mr Singh attracted 150 fewer votes than I did.

They also stress his local credentials and his local campaigning.

I met Mr Singh one evening in May when we were both canvassing and he asked me how to get from Summerleaze Road to Ray Park Avenue – hardly extensive local knowledge.

The Liberal Democrat commitment to Riverside was further demonstrated by the fact that neither of their candidates – including Mr Singh – even bothered to attend the vote count in May.

In truth the only effective opposition to the discredited Conservatives in Riverside is my running mate from May, Claire Stretton.

Claire had the courage and integrity to resign the Conservative whip in 2017 given her concerns over Cllr Dudley’s leadership and the way the council was operating.

She served out her term as an independent councillor and founded and leads The Borough First party.

She covered every inch of Riverside with me in May and came very close to being elected, finishing just 101 votes behind the Conservatives and 202 votes ahead of the Liberal Democrats.

Now the failings of the Conservatives in our council are exposed we need a councillor capable, with the experience and energy, to effectively challenge the Conservatives on a consistent and effective basis.

That is Claire Stretton.

Serendipity has given the Riverside voters the chance to change the decision they made re-electing Dudley in May.

We have a chance to elect a councillor who is transparent, respects voters and has immense integrity. Let’s not waste our votes this time around.

MICK JARVIS

The Borough First

Boulters Riverside


Right to abolish free schools and academies

There are many points arising from Simon Dudley's letter to you last week (Viewpoint, October 17), but I particularly wanted to take issue with his assertion that abolishing academies and free schools would somehow be an assault on aspiration.

It has been reported extensively that the lack of democratic accountability of these establishments is a problem – 14 academy chains are deemed ‘unfit’ to be awarded further schools due to falling education standards and financial mismanagement.

The Public Accounts Committee themselves have said that these schools are not sufficiently transparent or accountable to parents and local communities.

I support that the status of these schools be abolished and that they be overseen by local democratically accountable structures.

In view of recent reports in this publication, I sincerely hope that Mr Dudley’s two free schools’ finances are in a better state than he has left the Royal Borough’s finances in!

JO SMITH

Belmont Crescent

Maidenhead


Equal opportunities for all children is needed

I’d like to take issue with Simon Dudley’s recent intervention on Labour Party education policy in his capacity as acting chair of Homes England.

While it is difficult to understand what education policy might have to do with Homes England, let’s consider the value of his argument.

Would low paid workers in the UK applaud the continued existence of private educational establishments because they can aspire to attend them even if there is no chance that they will ever be able to send their offspring to them?

In my view, they would more likely see that, whilst wealthy voters have the option of sending their children to private educational institutions they need not concern themselves too much with the effectiveness of national state education policy or its funding.

Creating a level playing field where every child gets equal opportunity is undoubtedly the aspiration of the Labour Party policy.

I believe that the policy will ensure that everyone has a stake in driving our state education system to be the absolute best that it can be and that funding a world class education system becomes a priority for everyone.

We need an education system that values teachers and where the teaching profession is viewed as an aspirational vocation.

We need world-class schools open to all children.

We need to ensure that every school gets the funding it needs to achieve and that parents can be confident that, no matter which school their children attend, they can be confident that they will get an excellent education.

Social mobility isn’t achieved by handing out crumbs to a handful of bright poor kids, it comes from providing equal opportunities for everyone.

MALCOLM BURTT

Camperdown

Maidenhead


Simon Dudley should explain fast departure

I was interested to see that former Royal Borough councillor and leader Simon Dudley had written to Viewpoint on the subject of Her Majesty’s Opposition’s education policy last week, but apparently using his official (but, I understand, currently provisional) title of ‘Acting Chair’ of Homes England.

I have to confess that the connection between this subject and his grandiose title was somewhat unclear to readers.

Furthermore, he wrote about pupils ‘coming’ to schools in Buckinghamshire, neglecting to mention, I notice, the large numbers of children who flow the other way to Maidenhead’s excellent comprehensive schools to avoid the Bucks struggling secondary moderns.

Perhaps Mr Dudley’s confusion might be helped by his writing again to the Advertiser about his abrupt departure from the borough, together with explaining his many rather opaque decisions resulting in a £4million overspend last month alone.

It would certainly help the confused residents of Riverside before their by-election on October 30th - they deserve an explanation before voting for another Simon Dudley.

GARETH EBENEZER

Cannon Court Road

Maidenhead


Grammar schools should be thing of the past

As someone who has passed through selective education, and seen its impact on those who didn’t pass the 11+, I feel compelled to respond to Simon Dudley’s letter last week.

The fact that pupils do well at grammar school is almost entirely a self-fulfilling prophecy — a group of children with academic talent, whose parents are willing and able to pay for additional support, are likely to achieve good results.

They would also do well at any one of our excellent comprehensives, where teachers are skilled at getting the best out of pupils from across the academic spectrum, and whose results every year speak for themselves. 

When my parents went to grammar school in the 1950s, before 11+ tuition became a thing, the system did genuinely identify talented children from poorer backgrounds and lift some of them out of poverty.

Then as now though, that advantage was achieved at the cost of those who did not pass the test — people like a relative of mine who was gifted at maths, but the school she went to was not in a position to stretch to her and other outliers like her.

She should have gone to university to study maths, and I’m certain she would have done if she had gone to one of Maidenhead’s comprehensives.

For children from disadvantaged backgrounds, the biggest enemy to aspiration has to be the seemingly impossible task of breaking into a system that is founded on wealth and privilege.

That’s why the best thing we can do for children of all backgrounds is to offer them the same opportunities and allow them to interact with each other.

We may never entirely eradicate social disadvantage, but wouldn’t it be great if people didn’t have to deal with it at the age of 10?

CATHERINE DEL CAMPO

Lib Dem councillor for Furze Platt


Politicians: ‘It’s the environment stupid’

Is climate change such a big issue?

Scientists claim pollution from fossil fuels and discharge of greenhouse gases cause global warming and we must cut our carbon footprint.

But climate does change: 12,000 years ago most of Britain was under ice, a century ago people skated when the Thames froze over and coal is the remains of tropical forests. However, if the consequences could be as drastic as some scientists suggest then risk analysis dictates that those scientists should not be ignored even if there is just a small risk that they are wrong.

This is particularly sensible when there are other relevant, less science-based concerns e.g. many local people are concerned at the expansion of Maidenhead in the past few decades and across the UK there is concern regarding continued immigration and overpopulation.

There has to be a limit to the number of people the planet or the UK can sustain and many of us understand that fossil fuels and technology sustain present population levels.

Our lifestyles are such that almost all meat, corn and vegetable products we eat will have been produced using fossil fuel based nitrogen fertilisers, transported in fossil fuel driven ships, aircraft and trucks and it might be contained in plastic derived from fossil fuels.

When it is stored in freezers in the UK at least some of the electricity will have been produced by hydro or wind.

Every brick, every tonne of metal and every tonne of concrete has carbon footprints which start with mining the raw materials which then go to furnaces or kilns which process them into the construction materials we see every day.

But much construction is needed simply because of population levels.

The Thames sewer system, one of the largest engineering projects in the UK, is needed because of London’s expansion.

It is using vast quantities of concrete and steel which have a high carbon footprint and construction activity adds to the footprint.

The Borough Local Plan proposes higher buildings in the town centre.

High buildings need more steel and concrete, they need lifts and additional safety factors and depending on how high they are, wind chill factors can increase heat loss.

They are also more difficult to demolish at the end of their life, again adding to their lifespan carbon footprint.

These new buildings were not demanded by local people; they were imposed by quota from Westminster by politicians.

I would imagine ‘the economy’ was the driving force for Maidenhead’s quota.

Economics has been around for a mere two centuries (Adam Smith, Malthus, etc) but is considered hugely important.

The Bill Clinton era coined the phrase ‘it’s the economy stupid’.

One way of growing an economy is to increase the numbers of consumers – more people. The environment and a low carbon footprint, however, benefit from more trees but fewer people.

Also economics can be local (Maidenhead can do well while Durham might not), but climate change is a global issue, not seemingly apparent to demonstrators trying to shut down London.

Perhaps we need ‘it’s the environment stupid’ to persuade politicians and the people that there is something more important than the economy!

JOHN ALLISON

Clarefield Drive

Maidenhead


People are ignoring no U-turn sign under bridge

I have noticed, more than once, that people are ignoring the no U-turn sign at the traffic lights under the railway bridge.

Also traffic is doing a U-turn at the bottom of Shoppenhangers Road traffic lights, causing a hold-up.

There is no sign to say this and this causes a jam for people going up Shoppenhangers Road.

This could cause an accident.

Presumably these drivers don’t want to go around the roundabout at Stafferton Way to enter the railway station car park.

This had been happening even before the closure of the right-hand turn.

G C LEWIS

Somersby Crescent

Maidenhead


Can planners make water travel uphill?

This Green Lane weir is redundant.

The canal loop diversion water level, throughout its length, can only be the same level as its parent, the River Thames.

Unless planners have found a way to make water go uphill –  can they walk on it also?

The weir, claimed to lift the water level, actually holds it back from zero until river level is reached. A lift of sorts perhaps.

M D GEARY

Forlease Drive

Maidenhead


EU a vital part of Good Friday Agreement

Dr Cooper (Viewpoint, October 10) may underestimate the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement.

At the rally in London on Saturday, Alistair Campbell played a video to the crowd about the effort that went into the 1998 Agreement.

Stephen Pound MP told Wycombe’s Pulse of Europe on October 6, ‘the EU runs through the Good Friday Agreement like the letters through a stick of rock’.

I went to the Irish Border Communities’ protest in London. The protesters set up a mock-up of the border posts that there used to be.

Over beer in a nearby Irish pub, John Sheridan, 56, the organiser, told me: “It’s bringing the border back in our minds, that’s the torture of it. We can never forget it. It’s imprinted on our minds. It’s Europe that’s brought the peace. If it hadn’t been for Europe, and Gerry Adams, and Tony Blair, there’d be no peace in Ireland. We suffered. We don’t want our children, or our grandchildren to suffer, like we did.”

The customs union was set up in 1968. Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined the then EEC in 1973. The single market came in 1993.

The customs posts on the Irish border were no longer needed – but British Army security checkpoints stayed until 2007.

The GFA was made with the help of the USA’s George Mitchell.

Taking part in EU projects such as rural development is mentioned in the GFA.

The EU’s ‘Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Region’ has helped.

PHIL JONES

Member, European Movement UK


What happens when you limit a town developer’s sight?

Independence!

The most overlooked but crucial aspects of a human’s life skillset.

Independence gives us freedom and the ability to proceed with the choices we make.

Confidence helps us to be brave and MAKE those choices. When these two are combined, we can live our lives to the fullest.

I am Maleeka, a 13 year old VIP (Visually Impaired Person) and the founder of online blog, Meeks Speaks VIP.

I live near the town of Maidenhead and love it, however going into town has always been a challenge for me due to the problems that I mention in my videos such as lamp posts and uneven surfaces.

So, when it came to my attention that Maidenhead’s town centre was being rebuilt; I jumped at the chance to share my opinions on how the town could change to accommodate accessibility needs of a person with physical challenges.

My squishy brain had an idea: ‘What if I blindfolded one of developers and gave them a once in a ‘VIP’ lifetime experience?

I planned on trying four experiences with senior architect, Emmet O’Sullivan, who kindly volunteered.

1. Completely blindfolded

Emmet naturally was very cautious and nervous. His walking pace slowed down significantly. Emmet told us that he could hear the sounds of running coffee machines and many other otherwise unnoticed sounds. This proves that when sight taken away, your other senses are sharper

2. Partially sighted

Emmet’s confidence rose as he gained more visibility. Still a little cautious, he moved faster and said that he could differentiate some colour and light. He did walk into a few chunky posts though, typical for a VIP!

3. Partially sighted with a sighted guide.

We saw a drastic change in Emmet’s posture, stride and overall confidence.

Even with audio help he still relied on another person to ‘be this eyes’.

4. Partially sighted while outside… all on his own!

We let Emmet wander free into the big wide world.

There were many more obstacles outside; this meant that a higher risk for injury.

Overall, I learnt a lot during my experience of VIPifying Emmet.

Seeing the drastic impacts we made just by limiting someone’s sight was truly astonishing, and I can safely say that we rely on our eyeballs way too much!

I also learnt how an average person who is suddenly limited by sight has the natural instinct to utilise their ‘powers’ hidden in other senses.

I wanted to make an impact, not just by handing in an essay, but by giving someone a live experience of what us VIPs have to face every day.

In fact, we can educate the whole community by implementing these changes. Young children will let curiosity take the lead and ask millions of questions and this will help increase awareness in society.

MALEEKA ABBAS

Holyport

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