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Extra £1.5m agreed for waterways scheme to avoid 'channel of mud'

Extra £1.5m agreed for waterways scheme to avoid 'channel of mud'

An extra £1.5m will be spent on completing the York Stream stage of the waterways scheme after councillors had ‘no choice’ but to vote for additional funding or be left with a ‘channel of mud’.

The funding was approved by full council last night (Tuesday) – but the details of why extra funding was needed were discussed during ‘part two’ of the meeting, which was heard in private.

Cllr David Evans, (Con, Hurley and Walthams), cabinet member for Maidenhead regeneration, explained the scheme was critical to the town’s rejuvenation.

He said: “The genesis of the scheme was a bunch of volunteers who came together and saw potential to open the flood channels which flow through the town centre.

“So far we have provided £6.7m for building the first phase, however more funding of £1.5m is required to finish the scheme.

“Many councillors and colleagues have asked me how we got into this position of requesting additional funding.

“A detailed paper on how that came about is in part two for a very obvious reason. But the reality is, if we stop now all we will have is a channel of mud. Let’s finish the job.”

A total of £1m will be added to the council’s capital programme in 2017/18 and £575k in 18/19. The money will be borrowed by the council.

Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) compared the scheme to the Stafferton Link road, which went £1.25m over budget, and said: “Has the council messed it up again?”

But Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside), leader of the council, was quick to reassure councillors of the benefits the waterways scheme will bring to the regeneration.

“The gross development value of the four joint venture sites, three of which have the waterways flowing through, is £600m,” he said.

“Our residents will benefit from this strategic investment 10 times over.”

Cllr MJ Saunders (Con, Bisham and Cookham), cabinet member for finance, said the project has been brought to life against ‘multiple uncertainties’.

He added: “We got on the back of this bucking bronco and we have tethered it into submission. It is our project management skills which have kept tight to the reins.”

Cllr Malcolm Beer (Ind, Old Windsor) began to criticise a lack of risk assessment and the contract management by the council but was told to stop as he was discussing part two details.

The council unanimously agreed to support the paper.

Opposition leader Cllr Lynne Jones (Ind, Old Windsor), who was not at the meeting but followed it on social media, told the Advertiser: “It’s a ditch… We have no choice but ‘how we got here’ needs full investigation.”

Speaking after the meeting, Richard Davenport, chairman of Maidenhead Waterways, said: “The council made the right decision for the scheme and for the town.”

He said a weir, which will raise the water levels in the stream, could be installed by the end of next year and the waterways group is in discussions with joint venture partner Countryside over future stages of the project.

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