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Claires Court plans for Cox Green rejected by councillors

Claires Court applications recommended for refusal

A private school has failed in its bid to build a new complex near Cox Green in a victory for campaigners last night.

Claires Court hoped to secure planning permission to move its senior boys and girls sites to its junior boys site in The Ridgeway, off Cannon Lane, at the Maidenhead Area Development Management Panel in a town hall meeting.

Councillors voted 9 to one to refuse permission in a win for Cox Green Says No, a community campaign group opposed to the plans over issues including loss of greenbelt, traffic fears and the plans’ effect on wildlife.

The panel heard how the school’s existing buildings are past their useful life and could face closure if it couldn’t move to the site. Representatives for Claires Court told the panel the borough would lose its ‘10th biggest employer’.

To gain planning permission for development on the greenbelt the school needed to prove there were ‘very special circumstances’ to do so.

Panel member Cllr Chris Targowski (Con, Riverside) said: “The decision we will make here will have a significant impact on our residents.

“It is not an easy decision to make.”

And proposing that councillors approve the plans, he said: “In my opinion the benefit of school choice constitutes very special circumstances in this case.”

But Cllr Hill said: “For me, I don’t quite see it.

“I think the school can survive.”

Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams), said the area is a ‘site well worthy of preserving’.

All panel members voted to refuse the plans except Cllr Targowski – to the delight of some in the crowd of about 100 people at the town hall’s Desborough Suite, which included both opponents and supporters of the plans. The meeting was broadcast to the main council chamber which served as a spillover for residents wanting to watch the panel.

It was a bad start for Claires Court, which had a further four applications to be considered by the panel – all of which were rejected too.

Plans for new artificial grass pitches, artificial grass practice areas and a new pavilion building for use by Maidenhead Hockey Club – together with an artificial rugby pitch and recreation areas – were also turned down.

Club chairman Dave Taylor told the panel the club had ‘outgrown’ its facilities.

Cllr Joshua Reynolds (Lib Dem, Furze Platt) said it was ‘totally understandable’ the club wanted to relocate and added: “The hockey club is a really fantastic community facility.”

But he said: “I don’t think this is the right location for it. I don’t think siting this in the green belt is the right approach.”

He asked for the club to contact the council’s planning team to find a solution.

Councillors voted to turn down the plans unanimously.

The final application relating to the site off The Ridgeway was a Berkeley Homes application for 157 homes, and was rejected unanimously by the panel. Council officers found it would be inappropriate development in the greenbelt and the scale would harm the character of the site.

The panellists also turned down outline applications for 53 homes at the Claires Court senior girls site in College Avenue after council officers recommended they be turned down because of the ‘loss of an important community facility’ in the day nursery there, and loss of ‘important open space’.

Plans for 11 homes to replace Claires Court’s senior boys site were also refused permission.

The sites would have been redeveloped had Claires Court gained permission for its Ridgeway campus project.

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  • jb1815

    09:09, 30 August 2019

    That's a fair summary of the night's events. However a couple of factual errors need to be corrected. The Desborough Suite accommodated over two hundred and fifty people at the start of the meeting and there were approximately one hundred and eighty more in the Chamber and reception. Council officers went to extraordinary lengths to meet the demand and understating the attendance necessarily diminishes their efforts, which were Herculean. Our thanks to them. Your last sentence is entirely incorrect. The five applications were considered independently as they had been submitted in that form. We would have been within our rights had we approved the school campus and then rejected any and or all of the remaining four applications; or rejecting the school and approving any and or all of the etc. etc. For the first time in many years Maidenhead has a panel that is able to make decisions in a logical and consistent manner. To be able to do so members have to be prepared to dedicate their time. Reading officers' reports thoroughly, reading and listening to the contributions of objectors, applicants and officers alike and actively participating in the often robust, sometimes very robust, debates between themselves. Combined this has all led to a healthy absence of party block voting. The attendance, the procedure, the commitment of panel members, the non-partisan ethos are all huge gains for the quality of our local democracy. Cllr. John Baldwin, Belmont MADMP member.

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