Housing and home to school transport discussed at RBWM cabinet

Housing and home to school transport discussed at RBWM cabinet

A council housing strategy which aims to ‘drive up’ the number of affordable homes in the borough has jumped its latest hurdle after cabinet gave the document the green light last week.

The strategy, which sets out the council’s housing priorities up to the year 2026, was debated at Thursday’s meeting and will now progress to the full council for adoption.

The Royal Borough’s cabinet member for housing, Councillor Ross McWilliams, said that the pandemic had highlighted a need for more affordable units.

“There is huge economic growth in the borough, and that is fantastic. But there are lots of residents who may feel that they have not kept up with that growth,” he said.

“It means our social fabric gets stretched because there is not that availability of homes at different price points. The housing strategy looks at correcting that.”

Cllr McWilliams added that he wanted the strategy to reduce reliance on temporary accommodation and that his focus was to ‘drive up the number of homes, particularly affordable rent and social rented units’.

Member of the public Andrew Hill raised concerns over the number of affordable homes being delivered, with none yet proposed within the new Nicholsons Centre redevelopment.

He also made reference to the impact of air pollution and disagreed with the council’s proposed decision to build thousands of homes on the Maidenhead Golf Course.

“It seems that these policies are great in words, but they have to be delivered upon,” he said. “Words are cheap and they can’t just be true until a development comes forward and you just give up on it.”

Cllr McWilliams responded by saying that the council is being ‘robust’ with developers when it comes to affordable housing and promised that, on council-owned land, a total of 30 per cent affordable housing would be provided as promised.

Cllr Wisdom Da Costa (WWRA, Clewer and Dedworth West) asked if the strategy would be compliant with council climate targets, with carbon neutral homes a suggested route of interest.

In response, Cllr McWilliams said that the housing strategy was being delivered alongside the borough’s climate commitments.

“I think we have it fairly comprehensively covered,” he added. "I hear you, I agree with you.”

Also discussed at Thursday's meeting of the cabinet were a series of changes to the council's home to school transport policy, set to come into force from September 1.

At Thursday’s meeting, the Conservative group agreed to give the green light to recommended changes to the policy, so that it is ‘fairer to all residents’ and ‘better reflects’ guidance.

A consultation on the plans was launched by the borough earlier this year (ending on April 12) - but some of the alterations proposed to the non-statutory concessions received a backlash from residents in both Maidenhead and Windsor. 

A cabinet report stated: “A review of the borough’s home to school transport policy has concluded that it needs to be more consistent, reflecting the statutory guidance so that it is fair to all residents including our most vulnerable families."

It added: "In conclusion, nothing unexpected has arisen from the results of the consultation and therefore the recommendations remain the same."

Included in the plans approved by cabinet last week is the removal of automatic free transport provision to Cox Green School for existing and future pupils from Holyport village – despite just 6.7 per cent of consultees agreeing with the change and consultees saying that Cox Green was the nearest school for Holyport children. 

Also approved is an option for SEND students aged 16 and above to make a contribution towards the cost of their transport by paying a flat rate charge of £651. Students from low income families will receive a 50 per cent discount on this.

Another change includes the removal of a concession for Eton Wick residents, so that those living in this area will pay the same as other residents for a season ticket on a school coach (£651). 

It is estimated that the council hopes to save £74,000 by making these policy alterations.

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