10:34AM, Friday 12 April 2019
The Advertiser is running a series of election features in the run up to the local ballot on May 2, writes reporter George Roberts. All of the Royal Borough’s 41 seats will be up for grabs and parties are already campaigning. Each week, the Advertiser will cover a key topic, focusing on what the parties’ politics are on a particular issue. This week we are looking at the Borough Local Plan and infrastructure.
The candidates were asked for their position on the Borough Local Plan, and how they thought it would impact the borough. They also set out what infrastructure projects would be the priority if they came into power.
The Borough First candidates Claire Stretton (Riverside) and Geoff Hill (Oldfield)
We must first point out that the submitted Borough Local Plan (BLP) document has been ‘paused’ by the council because insufficient evidence was made available to the inspector to enable her to declare it legally prepared and ‘sound’.
Despite this, council officers have been advising that it has ‘significant weight’ in decision making. But planning appeal inspectors disagree. Their position is that the BLP has no weight at this time.
To make matters worse, Conservative councillors have been giving permissions for applications outside the rules of their own which undermine the balance between housing and employment land.
Effectively, we are in a mess and the current planning position in the borough is precarious.
TBF’s position is clear. We need to re-boot this urgently; open a positive dialogue with the BLP inspector and follow her advice.
There is an opportunity to reassess the amount of housing we legally have to provide. We will also urgently speak with all agencies, residents’ groups and others, as we are legally required, but the current administration has significantly failed to do.
Infrastructure must be in place before development, but we need to identify the latter before we can plan the former. We know our current infrastructure is inadequate; our roads cannot take an increase in vehicles; and our bus services are the worst in the South East and are ranked 101st out of 113 nationally.
TBF is committed to work urgently towards putting in place an adopted BLP and Infrastructure Plan, which truly respects and reflects the needs of the borough’s residents and businesses.
Conservative candidate David Coppinger (Bray), cabinet member for planning and health (including sustainability)
We need to supply more dwellings to enable our children, grandchildren and most importantly essential workers like doctors, nurses and teachers to live in the borough.
Having an up-to-date local plan enables us to achieve this.
The plan is now in examination and we are working with the inspector to ensure that the plan will meet these needs.
Change is never easy, but the end result will be a borough for all. We guarantee that 30 per cent of dwellings on Borough land will be affordable with many social rented properties in the mix.
We will ensure that infrastructure is in place before the housing whether it be roads, schools, leisure or health.
We have already set up a delivery group and an overview and scrutiny panel for infrastructure and will be creating a specific cabinet role combining housing and infrastructure to ensure the highest focus.
Labour candidate Jacob Cotterill (St Mary’s)
While purporting to be a long-term strategy, the Borough Local Plan highlights the short-term thinking that dominates the thinking of Conservative politicians both here in the borough and at a national level.
The Borough Local Plan rightly points out that more should be done to:
But how many local people would recognise a single step taken to achieve that?
Instead we have eye-watering property prices for young people, patchy and expensive public transport, boarded-up shops destroying our architectural heritage, and shameful levels of poverty, homelessness and foodbank use.
The current leadership has sold off the family silver – such as public spaces and vital services for the elderly and people who need extra support – in an attempt to keep afloat the national Conservative government that has hollowed out the NHS, left schools unable to pay for necessities such as toilet roll, and jeopardised our collective future pursuing a damaging Brexit path.
The Labour Party would seek to reverse these damaging trends that are storing up misery for generations to come.
The Borough Local Plan will not do that, it needs a drastic overhaul because at present its only achievement is hundreds of new flats that do little to make Maidenhead, nor the rest of the Borough, the thriving community it should be.
Only a plan that puts people over profit will make that a reality by planning from the bottom up to meet local needs.
Lib Dem candidates Oliver Baldwin (Boyn Hill) and Joshua Reynolds (Furze Platt)
There is a generation of young people in the Borough whose experience is of a broken housing market, because they cannot afford a place of their own either to rent or buy in this area. But to provide housing, we must also make sure we get the infrastructure right.
We have been telling the council that the current BLP is flawed and now the planning inspector has agreed with us. Among other things, the inspector has highlighted the failure of the Conservatives to consider the objections raised by residents.
The Lib Dems want to see a resident-led Borough Local Plan where the community has come together to make the decisions about how this area should develop over the next few years. Sadly, the current plan is developer-led, and the residents have been ignored by the council.
One of the other criticisms by the planning inspector was that no greenbelt review was carried out. We will involve the community in selecting suitable replacement sites and carry out a greenbelt review combined with an infrastructure review before deeming a site to be suitable.
There are obviously difficult decisions to be made but by working with the residents, we can develop a BLP that will gain public support and be approved by the planning inspector. Our borough has amazing potential, and it would be a tragedy to destroy that.
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