Royal Borough refuses plans to relocate Maidenhead Target Shooting Club to Holyport

The council voted against ‘the last opportunity to save Maidenhead Target Shooting Club’ last night.

Councillors discussed proposals to relocate the club from Braywick Park to land at Stroud Farm in Holyport at a Maidenhead Area Development Management Panel at the Town Hall.

Mr Sal Pinto spoke in favour of plans to build a clubhouse, shooting ranges, car park, bunds, fencing and associated landscaping at the greenbelt site off Forest Green Road.

He told the panel the club was founded in 1908, and in 1967 leased a greenbelt site in Braywick - but that in 2018 the lease was not renewed to make way for Braywick Leisure Centre and Forest Bridge School.

The council recommendation was to refuse the application because it constitutes inappropriate development in the green belt - which should not be approved except in very special circumstances.

When addressing the panel Mr Pinto said it was ‘a very poignant evening for all members of the shooting club’ and urged the panel ‘not to consign a historic club to history’.

“This is the last opportunity to save Maidenhead Target Shooting Club” he said.

“We’ve searched exhaustively for an alternative site with council assistance, however, Maidenhead is surrounded by Greenbelt and national trust.

“Many sites were unsuitable, unaffordable or unrealistically short in terms of lease, we’ve worked with the council officers and external consultants, we’ve listened to local objectors.”

Mr Pinto went on to list all the issues raised and addressed in respect of the new site - including environmental and ecological and drainage.

He added: “The provision of appropriate facilities for outdoor sport is a proven justification for development in greenbelt and we believe our outdoor range is an appropriate development.

“The impact of our clubhouse on greenbelt is insignificant, this is not urban housing sprawl it’s the relocation of a historic recreational facility.”

After Mr Pinto finished his submission a round of applause erupted from the public gallery which was full of the club’s supporters – and some opposing Holyport residents.

Cllr Walters said: “There’s certainly nothing wrong with shooting clubs, I’ve shot myself occasionally, but I’m afraid this is the wrong site.”

He added: “This is a greenbelt site and the principle of greenbelt is it remains open on a permanent basis.”

He moved a motion to accept the officer’s recommendation to refuse the plans.

Cllr Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary's) told the panel she used to live nearby the proposed location in Langworthy Lane and knows the site ‘like the back of my hand really’.

She proposed to second Cllr Walters motion.

“I’m really sorry,” she said. “I think it’s important to have a shooting club and I’m very happy to meet with you and look at other options, I don’t believe you’ve exhausted them, but I do not think this is the right site.”

She added: “While there is obviously a precedent for having outdoor space for sport, quite a bit of your facility is indoor, and indoor is not okay.”

Cllr David Cannon (Con, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury) was empathetic that the club, previously sited on greenbelt land, was ‘in effect relocating to another area of greenbelt’.

He asked officers why a sports facility originally on greenbelt land would not qualify for very special circumstances.

Royal Borough head of planning Jennifer Jackson said policy dictates, nationally and within the Royal Borough, that officers need to consider the impact on the greenbelt - both in terms of inappropriate development in principal harm, and the actual harm – the visual harm on the openness.

She said: “We are told that we have to give that substantial weight, so a case of very special circumstances has to outweigh that, so unfortunately it just doesn’t follow that a sports facility is going to be acceptable in a greenbelt location.”

Cllr Maureen Hunt (Con, Hurley and Walthams) said she was ‘very concerned about this’.

“My concern arises because the borough has not extended the lease again on this greenbelt site, has cancelled the target shooting club, but is about to build on the greenbelt site.”

Her comment was also received with applause from club supporters.

She added: “Unfortunately with 83 per cent greenbelt in the Royal Borough it’s going to be pretty nigh impossible, with the constraints upon them, to get anywhere in the Royal Borough.”

Ms Jackson said: “As Cllr Hunt will recall, because I think she was on the panel when the Braywick Leisure Centre proposal came forward, it was made quite clear in the officer report that this facility would be lost and it was one of the factors that weighed against the development and the planning authority, the panel in that instance, decided to grant permission.”

Comments from the Lead Local Flood Authority had not been received at the time of the meeting.

Therefore the motion made was to refuse the application, and defer and delegate the decision to the head of planning pending those reports.

A total of six councillors voted for the motion, four abstained and Cllr Cannon voted against.

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