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Musings from the editor's chair: Time will tell if Dudley's left the borough in better shape

Musings from the editor's chair: Time will tell if Dudley's left the borough in better shape

Simon Dudley has certainly crammed a lot into his three-and-a-bit years as council leader.

It seems hard to believe that it was only May 2016 when the Conservative councillor took up the role, when so much has happened in the past 40 months to shape Maidenhead for years, even decades, to come.

In that time we’ve seen approval for The Landing and York Road development projects, the submission and subsequent delays for the BLP, the purchase of Maidenhead Golf Club, the start of construction on Braywick Leisure Centre, planning permission for the Vicus Way car park (at the fourth time of asking) and this summer’s baffling project to rip up the town centre’s roads and pavements.

Maidenhead’s future hangs in the balance.

Giant cranes tower over a town which has essentially become Berkshire’s largest building site as it prepares for what we are told is a new era of prosperity and growth, supported by Crossrail’s eventual arrival.

Simon Dudley will point to the fact that, after many false starts, the regeneration is now in full swing, but critics will say their voices have not been heard over myriad issues – housing, the greenbelt, high-rise buildings, infrastructure, parking and economic viability among them.

The now former leader’s long-term legacy will be decided by the success or failure of the projects approved under his watch.

The impact of the decisions made by his council will not be fully felt for many years.

It might be that all the warnings were wrong and Maidenhead becomes a completed jigsaw of perfectly complementing projects to suit its residents’ needs.

It might be that whoever is in charge in 10 or 20 years’ time has one hell of a mess to clear up.

For now though, we have the short-term legacy.

Between all those key decisions, Mr Dudley has managed to provoke an international backlash with his comments about the homeless before the Royal Wedding, prompted councillors to quit his party in protest at his leadership, and attracted criticism for promises made at Maidenhead Mosque before the local election.

That local election, of course, saw the majority of Mr Dudley’s party slashed to just five, but he was elected to continue as a Riverside councillor.

For another four months, anyway.

The Advertiser interviewed Simon Dudley shortly after he took over in 2016.

He told us he was a ‘far more relaxed’ person than his predecessor David Burbage, promising ‘strong leadership’, ‘firm direction’ and a plan to ‘empower both officers and councillors’ with increased responsibility.

He finished by saying: “Whether I’m here for one year, two years or three years, I just want to leave the Royal Borough in better shape than when I became leader.”

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide how well those statements have aged...

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