10:53AM, Monday 04 November 2019
Local Plan scrutiny was a total shambles
I was astonished and horrified to learn at the emergency council meeting on Wednesday evening, which was convened to agree to substantial amendments to the local Borough Plan, that councillors had been sent documentation (they are obliged to scrutinise before a meeting) only two hours before the meeting.
Apparently some of this documentation runs to hundreds of pages!
The non Conservative councillors reasonably asked for a two-week extension to allow them to read the papers so they could vote properly and this was rejected outright.
What a shambles the current leader presides over!
This is not due process and I for one shall be complaining about this when the plan hits the public consultation stage.
I hope the inspector takes note of how this council operates.
Traffic congestion must form part of Local Plan
Well the BLP paper won the day at last week’s council meeting.
I must admit I’m not surprised but I am a little mystified and perplexed that the requested slight delay to allow more scrutiny of documents was voted down.
More time gives you the opportunity to read, digest and research.
I’m very concerned about many elements of the BLP and will at the appropriate time contribute to the next consultation – a consultation that may or may not be irrelevant depending on how the Inspector views the tinkering with a flawed BLP .
One point I would raise now is that of traffic volumes.
I was recently told by a Royal Borough officer that the congestion on the A308 was unlikely to be resolved by junction improvements and that we would have to have smarter ways of getting around. The car was not the answer.
The member for Bray ward (the A308 runs through Bray ward) and lead member for planning, Cllr David Coppinger, was present and didn’t contradict or comment.
My concern with the BLP and its link with the A308 is the sheer volume of sites allocated for housing and light industrial adjacent to it or so close it must impact on the already overcrowded and polluted road.
Government figures, updated in 2018, rather than see ‘smarter ways‘ of getting around on our roads predict increased vehicle ownership, more congestion, slower journey times but probably less pollution as we move away from the internal combustion engine.
The really smart cars we may see on our roads – driverless cars – won’t help either as they are more likely to contribute to congestion as they will be more conservative in how they drive, unlike humans.
I will finish with some of the UK Government figures and ask our lead member for planning why our BLP doesn’t appear to recognise this vehicle growth prediction in its planning?
Traffic volumes are forecast to rise between 17 per cent and 51 per cent by 2050.
Key drivers are population growth and decrease in vehicle running costs.
By 2050 the road network is forecast to have an additional one to two vehicles for every three currently using the road network.
Car ownership in England and Wales is forecast to grow from 29 million (2015) to between 38 million and 42 million by 2050.
This is a growth of approximately 30 per cent and 45 per cent over 35 years.
Make sure your voice is heard on Local Plan
Following on from Claire Stretton’s Viewpoint of last week (October 24) I attended Wednesday’s extraordinary full council meeting on the Borough Local Plan proposed changes.
I witnessed something sinister, alarming and simply unacceptable.
The revised plan itself, heralded as ‘the most exciting proposal ever’ remains ‘unsound‘. I cited the unsustainable Cookham allocations, but now skyscraper flats in Maidenhead are not justified and it has no relation to the Royal Borough emergency commitment to net carbon zero.
However, despite the incompetence, it’s the shocking display of arrogance and disregard for process that is the concern we should all have and resist, no matter what your political persuasion.
Documents supporting the plan revisions were still arriving minutes before the meeting and well after the Monday deadline for residents’ questions, given written non-answers as we took our seats and allowed one minute for a supplementary.
What was the point if, as in my case, the question was totally avoided with patronising responses? A charade.
The topic was cleverly diverted and there was a refusal to reorder the agenda. More time was spent on whether the town hall should have computer docking stations or ethernet cables than the entire time for public interaction on the local plan!
To the plan, reasonable councillor complaints were made about no time for scrutiny.
The leadership refused to postpone decisions for two weeks, bleating that the inspector would take over. If only.
An amendment requested for post public consultations to allow full council debate of major change proposals was voted down with a whipped response.
The sheep looked sheepish.
Which public do they believe they represent?
This week, public consultation will start.
I urge all residents to make your feelings on the plan known to the inspector at Bankssolutionsuk@gmail.com to be sure your voice is heard.
We need a plan from visionary experts but with scrutiny.
Councillor Johnson, don’t waste our time with your pathetic Halloween games and kangaroo court.
Apologise, be bigger than this, put your nonsense in a ditch. There is a vacant one today, ask your namesake.
Biodiversity will suffer from passage of boats
Yes, the Waterways Project needs to finish soon (column, October 24), but most importantly be restricted to the central loop of navigation within the centre of Maidenhead – with navigable water kept at a useful depth by a dam at the downstream end and allowing ingress of occasional floodwater from upstream to top it up when needed.
No boats, even canoes, should be either upstream or downstream from this central section.
These two river types out of town are extremely rare in the Maidenhead area – full of wildlife and biodiversity potential which would suffer greatly from the passage of boats however big or small.
Ok, the existing Widbrook north of the town and the Cut downstream both need some very carefully considered management but NOT to satisfy the vicarious need of a few people in boats or canoes, but for the needs of wildlife.
The borough, more than ever before, has a responsibility to improve biodiversity locally and this is an opportunity to do so.
Feed the town duck? Ok. Paddle from quad to quay in town? Ok.
But wildlife is much more than ducks and smart riverside banks, mown grass and colourful planted trees.
Also, the river may have been navigable throughout in past history but times have changed... and I hope our priorities too.
Waterways project key to town’s prosperity
I am writing to respond to the Opinion piece written by Gavin Ames in the Advertiser last week.
I completely agree with him that the waterways project is the key to Maidenhead’s town centre prosperity.
If the scheme is properly implemented then Maidenhead will have a point of difference, a destination, a focal point in the town centre that we can be proud of– especially if there is a place to launcha boat, feed ducks, have a picnic, walk a dog etc.
The minimum requirement must be that boats can sail along it.
It is ridiculous that there is even the remote chance that this might not be possible.
The Royal Borough, with Shanly and Countryside must surely see this and do something about it.
‘No U-turns’ signs are ignored by the selfish
I am afraid the closure of the right turn out of Queen Street can only make illegalU-turns in the area around Grenfell Place more common, as highlighted by G C Lewis’s letter (Viewpoint, October 24).
Not only around the bottom of Shoppenhangers Road but also from this road right into Braywick Road which isreally dangerous.
I am afraid these drivers are just selfish, lazy and so full of their own importance they are dangerous to other drivers.
This practice also takes place at the top of Grenfell Road with drivers turning right onto Castle Hill and even cars with pupils from Claires Court school turning right onto Castle Hill from College Road!
These drivers just do not agree with the road directions interfering with their journeys.
Placing signs saying ‘No U-turns’ is about as effective as a signs saying ‘no milk today’.
Still a need for medical services on site
Further to Andrew Hill’s letter last week concerning the development of ‘surplus’ NHS land.
I am currently receiving medical treatment that has necessitated numerous trips around the area to get to my appointments.
I have attended clinics at King Edward VII, Windsor, and Wexham Park, Slough, hospitals followed by scans at Harefield Hospital and Heatherwood.
My next appointment will be at Royal Berks in Reading, followed by treatment at Bracknell Urgent Care Centre.
I am retired but still able to drive myself to appointments where I receive an excellent quality of care and my treatment has been implemented speedily.
I wonder how less mobile people manage to cope with travelling to these widely separated places and deal with the stress of getting there by public transport.
The NHS is an amazingly good service, especially when you really need it, but having more facilities on one site would be a real bonus to patients.
Free trees available from Woodland Trust
The Government has committed to planting 5,000 hectares of new forests every year in an attempt to reach a target of 1.5 billion new trees by 2050. This drive is seen as one of the major planks in the policy to reduce carbon dioxide levels.
It is disappointing yet unsurprising to read that only 1,420 hectares were planted in England in the year to March 2019.
The figures all look very daunting and could leave the individual wondering what part they could play.
One tree seems insignificant when 1.5 billion are needed.
There are, however, small steps that we can all take.
Is there room for a new tree or piece of hedging in your garden?
If you don’t have a garden, a very small donation to a relevant charity could enable it to plant on your behalf.
Many of us have links to local schools, who, in their own right, have grounds in which there may be space for new trees.
The beauty of this suggestion is that free trees are available from The Woodland Trust, and in quite significant numbers if required.
Details, as ever, are available on their website.
Air quality is a subject in which we all have an enormous interest. Don’t be daunted by the scale of the task that has been set.
Every marathon starts with but one step.
All-weather athletics track is long overdue
It is time Maidenhead gives an all-weather track to SportsAble and Maidenhead Athletic Club (MAC).
The Japan 2020 Olympics are due within a year and our classic cinder track can no longer serve all athletics’ needs.
Even in the Seventies when I competed for MAC, most other clubs we visited had all weather sports facilities.
Para athletes, especially the wheelchair racers, need an up-to-date track to get ready for their events.
Among all the current construction plans around Maidenhead please do not delay this long overdue upgrading work.
Let us give modern sporting facilities which our athletes deserve.
Pro bono publico.
Kids of all abilities like to play in playgrounds
Last year the Royal Borough adopted its first ever Inclusion Charter for children and young people.
The charter sets out how all children and young people should be considered when accessing services in the local area.
To support the Inclusion Charter, I asked that the Royal Borough install ‘inclusive’ play equipment in all swing parks where it is practical to do so.
Children of all abilities like to play and should be able to play in our swing parks.
The Royal Borough can make a real change for many young people through their Inclusion Charter and by providing play equipment that is accessible to (and useable by) all children.
Grateful to Windsor’s Memory Walkers
On behalf of Alzheimer’s Society I would like to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to readers for uniting against dementia by supporting the first Windsor Memory Walk.
We are so grateful to all the walkers and volunteers who made the event possible.
Across Berkshire, over 9,300 people are estimated to be living with dementia and 850,000 are affected UK-wide.
Dementia devastates lives.
Every penny raised through Windsor Memory Walk will help Alzheimer’s Society provide vital information and support, improve care, fund research and create lasting change for people affected by the condition.
Windsor Memory Walk has already raised over £150,000 with sponsorship still coming in, helping us in our commitment to invest £150 million into research over the next decade.
If you didn’t get a chance to take part in Memory Walk, our annual Elf Day festive fundraiser will be taking place on Friday, December 6, so make sure you get your best Christmas costume ready.
Please visit alzheimers.org.uk/elfday for more information and we look forward to seeing you at Memory Walk in 2020!
Area Manager for Berkshire
Simple solution to the Irish border ‘problem’
Why does Phil Jones of the federalist European Movement suggest that I underestimate the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement, when I have never offered any comment on that matter (Viewpoint, October 24)?
What I have said is that the problem of the Irish land border has been vastly exaggerated, a mountain deliberately built up out of molehill, and there is a simple solution which would eliminate any risk to the peace process which might have arisen from Brexit.
Mr Jones may recall spoof images of British customs officers stopping traffic at the border which were produced by a campaign group and given wide circulation in the media, especially in outlets opposed to Brexit, when the UK Government had no intention of setting up any border posts and doing so would now be unlawful under Section 10 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
The solution I have proposed in a long series of letters which two successive editors have been kind enough to publish is not entirely original. It is already being used to keep the border between Liechtenstein and Switzerland open, and in 2016 the SNP mooted that the same principle of ‘parallel marketability’ could be applied at the Anglo-Scottish border.
Moreover similar proposals have been made recently by Sir Jonathan Faull, who previously held a high position at theEU Commission, and by Lord Empey, who was previously the leader of the Ulster Unionist party.
The question which needs to be answered is why neither Theresa May nor Boris Johnson has ever been prepared to pursue these ideas.
Dr D R COOPER
Belmont Park Avenue
Here’s to 20 years of ‘appalling governance’
Never in my life have I seen such appallingly poor governance of this country over the past 20 years – by both Labour and Tory politicians.
1) Blair follows the cretinous Bush into Iraq and is thus indirectly responsible for an illegal war that leads to a terrible civil war in Syria, ISIS, the rise and dominance of Iran and a refugee crisis which threatens European security.
2) Theresa May as Home Secretary presides over a 20,000 reduction in police, leading to a massive increase in crime and inability to catch criminals.
3) The Tory Government, obsessed with saving money, renders our border force ineffective, thus the vile people traffickers continue to profit.
4) The lovely David Cameron calls a ludicrous referendum of ordinary blokes and women on the vastly complex and technical subject as to whether we should leave the EU! And he calls it purely as a gamble to silence Farage and eurosceptics within the Tory Party. He effectively subverts Parliament, runs away and leaves someone else to try to clean up his public schoolboy mess.
5) Theresa May and her colleagues approve the unbelievably stupid third runway for Heathrow which will gridlock our area, the M4, M25 and most of West London. It will also cause increased noise pollution for millions and massively contribute to climate change. And all so a few more people can fly off to Thailand for their hols. Meanwhile Boris Johnson, who said he’d lie down in front of the bulldozers cannot even bring himself to lie down in front of Theresa May!
6) Various idiot politicians on both sides, including The Idiot-in-Chief Chris Grayling, push ahead with the ludicrous HS2 project that will probably cost well over £100billion, flattening and devastating communities along the route and will mainly benefit London.
7) Hopeless governance of useless managers at Crossrail leads to it being postponed for at least two years and will cost at least £3billion more than estimated.
8) The ’smart’ motorway programme is progressed, conceived by idiots and unless the gaps between refuges are drastically reduced will lead to more deaths on our motorways.
And now we are left being run by a practised waffling liar who cannot even agree with this week’s Brexit Secretary on the details of his deal.
But he was good on Have I Got News For You, wasn’t he?
MALCOLM JAMES STRETTEN
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