05:00PM, Thursday 01 April 2021
An update on plans to redevelop a major Windsor car park were revealed at a meeting this week – but opposition councillors have asked why the latest details were revealed at a Maidenhead meeting.
The Windsor and Maidenhead council wants to enter into a joint venture with a developer to overhaul the Alexandra Gardens coach and car park in Alma Road.
The site is earmarked for a ‘mixed-use development’ on the two parking areas, and the nearby Baths Island to the north, it was announced at a Maidenhead Town Forum meeting on Wednesday.
Included in the council’s early plans are a new coach drop-off/pick-up point in Windsor town centre and the ‘replacement’ of parking – but it is not known where this will be relocated.
The site is a controversial one and has been the subject of campaigns, most notably run by the local Liberal Democrats, to ‘save’ the nearby Alexandra Gardens.
Windsor and Maidenhead council has continuously denied claims that it is building on the gardens.
This week’s meeting learned that the council is on the hunt for a joint-venture partner to help it move the project forward.
Barbara Richardson, managing director of the RWBM Property Company, also told the meeting that extensive consultation would be carried out with a chosen partner in the summer, in order to come up with a development ‘vision’ for Windsor.
“This is very hot off the press because we do not have a joint venture partner to take this one forward yet,” Ms Richardson said. “It was put on hold while we have been in lockdown.”
She added that the pandemic had made it ‘very difficult to progress the details of this site’.
Following the meeting, opposition councillors in Windsor have expressed anger that these details were announced at a Maidenhead meeting.
They also accused the plans of being kept secret behind confidential ‘part two’ stages of cabinet meetings and were left in the dark about more information on the plans being released on Wednesday.
“For it to be announced at the forum which is not even for Windsor residents – I think that was the wrong thing to do,” said Councillor Amy Tisi (Lib Dem, Clewer East).
“It was complete chance that I saw it – I don’t normally go to Maidenhead Town Forum’s.
“We have had some information that has been in part 2 of meetings and we have not been able to discuss it – there are very strict rules.
“There is still just a lot of secrecy. It [the development] just keeps popping up like whack a mole.”
Cllr Neil Knowles (OWRA, Old Windsor), added: “We only had the Windsor Town Forum last week and it was not even mentioned.
“I am in no way saying Ms Richardson did anything wrong, somebody must have given her clearance. I can’t see how she would go off on her own tangent.
“I just wish they would talk to people before doing stuff – it is a very simple thing.”
Cllr Knowles also asked questions about where the alternative parking – that is planned to be ‘replaced’ – would be provided.
“It is the biggest car park in Windsor – what are we going to do with all this capacity?” he added.
After the meeting, forum chairman Cllr David Coppinger (Con, Bray) said that plans were discussed in part 2 of a cabinet meeting back in April last year.
He added that the news was not ‘new’ and was in fact announced about a year ago.
“At that time we said we were putting it back because of COVID, and it has now come back, because we are pulling out of COVID,” he said.
“The key thing is, this is not a done deal. This is something that will be coming to part one of a cabinet meeting shortly. The principle was being spoken about [at the meeting].
“We will be working with residents, and opposition councillors, to agree what happens to that site.”
Cllr Coppinger, who is lead member for planning, added: “Nothing is being hidden from anyone.
“It is good news for Windsor residents that we are putting more money into Windsor.
“Ms Richardson wanted to share all the good news in terms of development, and although I was not expecting it, I think it was great that she did actually talk about Windsor.
“In hindsight, maybe she should have saved it for the Windsor meeting. I am assuming that we weren’t in a position at that meeting to discuss it.”
A Windsor and Maidenhead council spokesman said: “We are surprised that there has been concern over the ideas for the improvement of the car park and coach park in Windsor as that has been in the public domain previously.
“This piece of work was postponed last year due to COVID and will restart this summer.
“Once the work has taken place to secure a development partner, consultation will take place with plans, drawings and artist impressions being shared with the aim to improve this part of Windsor.
“The update last night was a general update on the work of the property company by the managing director of that company.”
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