Viewpoint: Housing, Cookham and rising COVID-19 cases

Featuring discussion on building on the greenbelt, Cookham's appearance and rising cases of coronavirus.

Some relief from wind tunnels and towers

I was delighted to read that at least one building of character by the river has been saved.

Unfortunately visitors to the town will be greeted by a concrete jungle of high-rise buildings with wind tunnels in the future.

Maidenhead has become a permanent building site.

One idea for the use of the ‘Landing’ space would be a free outside fitness circuit.

This would be quick and easy to erect – many parks now have them.

The people who would benefit most would be those living in the many high-rise flats or working in Maidenhead, the new sports centre being too far to use in the lunch hour and not everyone can afford the private fitness companies nearer the town centre.

When I first came to Maidenhead it was great to hear all the laughter from the outside swimming pool, especially in the school holiday.

It was not long before it became a car park for the Magnet!

One last point, it was wonderful when we were finally allowed out after lockdown to see the amazing patches of wild flowers in bloom around our town.

Thank you to those responsible.

ENID BARBER

St Luke's Road

Maidenhead


Housing requirements and actualities

Over the last few months there have been many statements and letters about what the housing requirement for the Royal Borough is.

As this is again the subject of some discussion, I thought that your readers would appreciate the full story.

The housing requirement in the Borough Plan, which is now moving to final stage of inspection, is for at least 712 dwellings per annum.

Allowing for some double counting the actual potential number of houses in the plan is 790.

As a result of the Inspector’s decisions we know that a number of sites will not come forward and others will deliver a reduced figure because of the latest work on flooding by the Environment Agency which will bring us down to the target.

This housing requirement comes from the Strategic Housing Market Assessment of 2012. This assessment would have given us a target of 672 dwelling pa, but we increased it to 712 because of local affordability issues.

The recently published 2018 Household Projections are not in themselves a housing target.

Were we to decide to withdraw our current plan then we would have to follow the Standard Methodology which would require 754 houses per annum.

The Government has recently published two consultations, the first is on a totally different way of undertaking planning across the country and the second, which will be implemented first is a new way of apportioning housing targets.

Under this plan we would be required to build 914 dwellings per annum.

If we have an adopted Borough Local Plan in place it is likely that we will be given a period of grace of some years before we have to produce a new plan.

My very last point is about the alleged supply of housing for Slough.

In the Borough Local Plan there is only one agreement with Slough, and it was negotiated and signed by me.

It was that we would ensure that we achieved a minimum level of affordable housing so that people who worked in RBWM could afford to live here rather than put pressure on Slough and other areas.

There are discussions on housing across a much wider area which are not part of the Borough Local Plan but include East Berkshire, Surrey and South Bucks

Cllr DAVID COPPINGER

Lead member for planning, environmental services and Maidenhead


Far-reaching effect of building on greenbelt

In a letter dated August 5, 2020 to Louise Phillips, who is examining the Borough Local Plan, RBWM indicated its desire to continue to release (build on) greenbelt land in the Royal Borough despite it not being needed for the needs of residents.

Instead, RBWM stated their continued plan to build on greenbelt land to satisfy the needs of Slough Borough Council and residents from the far future.

The consequences of needlessly building on greenbelt land will be far reaching and affect the quality of life of borough residents, as well as exacerbating climate change issues, biodiversity losses and local air pollution.

For example, according to Public Health England, 69 extra people die in RBWM each year due to local air pollution from carbon emissions in the area.

This is unacceptable to residents.

In his response to my challenge, Conservative lead member for planning, Cllr David Coppinger, said to the Advertiser ‘there is absolutely no intent that if there were any additional housing it would be used for Slough’ and ‘had I read the document those words would not have been there’.

I would like Cllr Coppinger to assure residents that the Conservatives will not release greenbelt and consequently also start to take seriously their responsibility to borough residents and their commitment to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution, to restore biodiversity, and to create infrastructure that mitigates the disruption caused by the extreme weather that this borough will face in coming years such as increased flooding and extreme heat, including the heat’s effects on exacerbating poor air quality. These matters are inextricably linked.

The last point on Climate Change Resilience is inexplicably wholly omitted from the council’s Environment & Climate Strategy.

Cllr WISDOM DA COSTA

WWRA, Clewer & Dedworth West, Windsor


Cookham was a little piece of heaven

I too have been greatly saddened by the appearance around our once beautiful ‘Best Kept’ village of Cookham (Viewpoint, September 1 7).

I moved to Cookham 56 years ago and truly thought I had moved to a little bit of heaven.

No, the streets weren't paved with gold, but the village was beautiful nonetheless – delightfully attractive and immaculately maintained.

Unfortunately over recent years it has changed.

Hugely neglected, weeds, grass and hedges left to grow out of control, and the litter – well don't get me started on that.

In a free society everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Some like nature uncontrolled whilst others, myself included, prefer it neat, attractive and tidy.

That is why I fully support Mr Copas’ views.

PAM REES

Cookham


Litter problem in overgrown patches

I am writing in support of G Copas’ letter.

Our once pretty villages of Cookham Dean have become overgrown and unsightly. These areas can also make good hiding places for vermin, litter and flytipping.

I also support A Darracott’s letter for the causeway path on Battlemead Common to be open for walkers for at least six months of the year.

Mrs H HOLLINGSWORTH

Hardings Green

Cookham Dean


How bad does Serco actually have to get?

Why don't RBWM impose financial penalties on Serco for their ongoing failure to provide the contracted refuse collection service?

One wonders if the council have naively forgotten to include such penalty clauses in the eight-year contract they've awarded to Serco?

They appear to regard the RBWM as a mug buyer who is willing to fall for excuse after excuse and broken promise after broken promise.

It could be that Serco are happier diverting their resources to more lucrative massive UK Government outsourced projects such as NHS COVID contact tracing.

Only last year Serco were fined £19.2 million for fraud and false accounting over its electronic tagging service for the Ministry of Justice after paying £70 million compensation in 2013, one of a list of controversies involving this company.

We can only hope that the council learns from this and improves their judgement and procedures before agreeing any future outsource contracts.

JOHN WALSBY

Kelsey Close

Maidenhead


Improve behaviour – and communication

It is alarming that coronavirus cases almost doubled last week in the Royal Borough (The Advertiser, September 17).

The seven-day average is accelerating quickly back to the numbers last seen in April and May.

People’s behaviour has changed; there seems a casual lack of social distancing and not enough of us are wearing face coverings in the town centres (advice is to keep your face covered between shops).

Communication by this government is poor and a major reason for the resurgence.

Typical of their muddled thinking, Mr Johnson, Mr Hancock and sundry scientists think they are the best people to communicate with the public about COVID-19.

This is, of course, nonsense and has to stop immediately.

We need short and simple messages delivered by communication and media professionals.

Not some blustering politician who shoehorns the phrase ‘world beating’ into every speech.

Mr Johnson has abandoned our country to a second wave, saying it is inevitable.

It is not inevitable.

Scientists are saying that 80 per cent of infections are acquired via the aerosol breathed out by all of us.

Social distancing is therefore the single most important action we can all take.

We need public information (as used to be broadcast on TV) pumped out every day across the media.

The Royal Borough needs marshals on shopping thoroughfares with loudhailers reminding us to socially distance and wear face coverings in town centres.

This Prime Minister is an anti-Midas: everything he touches turns to rubbish.

He’s got every major pandemic decision wrong: lockdown, care homes, PPE, Test and Trace, Cummingsgate, etc.

His actions and decisions are causing needless deaths and suffering, wasting enormous amounts of money and destroying our country and businesses.

This has to stop.

CRAIG McDERMOTT

Secretary

East Berkshire Green Party


Maintaining vigilance against the virus

During the last four weeks Windsor and Maidenhead have had 160 new COVID-19 cases, far more than any other Berkshire unitary authority.

Slough came second with 100 cases.

Maidenhead East has had the highest number of new cases at 25, and yet it has been impossible to get a test despite rising numbers.

Rome Fiumicino airport have been trialling tests on some flights requiring all travellers to have a swab test, the result of which is available within 30 minutes.

We really do need a way of being able to test anyone who is concerned that they may have the virus.

We must all continue to be vigilant, keep two metres apart, wear face masks where appropriate, take care and be safe.

BRUCE ADAMS

Cox Green Lane

Maidenhead


Concern for workers and young graduates

A ‘virtual’ Trade Unions Congress took place last week, against a background of fears concerning a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and of the Government’s ending of the Job Retention Scheme, or furlough, on October 31.

This decision will directly impact upon the estimated 20,000 plus workers who are currently furloughed in Slough.

We applaud the Chancellor for introducing the furlough; it was brave, bold, and the right thing to do for our country.

However, it is not past the point of return to prevent a wave of redundancies if the scheme winds up.

The TUC implores the Chancellor to extend the furlough scheme, the pandemic is not going to end in October, so neither should the furlough.

When this crisis began the Chancellor said he would ‘do whatever it takes’ – and he must keep to that promise.

The TUC worked closely with the Government earlier this year: indeed, the furlough was the idea of the TUC, and it is serious about stopping the catastrophe of mass unemployment.

The risk is greatest for the 800,000 young people who have left school or university this year – the Resolution Foundation has estimated in its’ report, ‘Class of 2020’, that youth unemployment could rise by 640,000, taking the total to over a million.

The TUC’s ‘Jobs Protection and Upskilling Deal’ argues that we must use this moment as an opportunity, for a concerted national effort with which to both protect jobs and for upskilling the workforce.

We can gradually upskill workers, rebuild productivity and reopen the economy, and in doing so we should be following the example of our European competitors, such as Germany, France and Italy in extending the furlough.

Other measures outlined include proposals that involve short-time working and sector-specific schemes which are targeted and offer more flexible support than the government’s current ‘one-size-fits-all’ scheme.

Had the Government introduced lockdown a week earlier, epidemiologists estimate, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved; now as mass unemployment draws nearer, the Government must act.

Working people carried the burden of the pandemic – they must not bear the brunt of any recession.

KEVIN BARRY

Slough and District Trades Council


Blackspots for cyclists must be addressed

The latest shocking near-fatal collision involving a young cyclist on the Mill Lane Roundabout at the egress of Clewer Village is further proof that dangerous conditions there must now be addressed comprehensively as a matter of urgency.

Of Berkshire's 16 worst blackspots for cyclists, data collated from police traffic records confirmed this roundabout is third on the list.

One of the ‘High Priority’ costed schemes for Windsor in the RBWM Cycling Action Plan (2018-28) is a ‘toucan’ lighted crossing for pedestrians and cyclists to upgrade the current zebra crossing west of this roundabout.

Linking to Sustrans NCN4 route as it passes through Clewer, a regulated crossing here would provide cyclists one of the ‘safe passages’ they desperately require.

Increased national and local support for cycling with respect to health and wellbeing during the pandemic as well as cycling’s positive impact on CO2 emissions relating to Climate Change give RBWM every justification to take pro-active, robust measures here in line with their adopted policy.

The roundabout provides essential safe egress for drivers exiting Mill Lane and was reinstated following public outcry for its return after the 2012 Olympics.

What it cannot provide is an equally protected route for cyclists.

International research over a lengthy period consistently illustrates the principle that roundabouts and cyclists just don't mix – for all the reasons this recent ‘close call’ so clearly demonstrates.

S SHEARER

Bailey Close

Windsor


Sovereignty and the internal market rule

Parliament’s website restates the traditional view of its sovereignty: “It makes Parliament the supreme legal authority in the UK, which can create or end any law.”

But many MPs disdain that ‘most important part of the UK constitution’.

Thus in 2006 MPs voted 318 to 136 against a clause allowing disapplication of EU laws, ‘notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972’.

Our MP, Theresa May, voted on the right side, as directed by David Cameron.

However in 2008 he changed his mind and only 48 MPs, not including Mrs May, voted for a clause to defend the supremacy of Parliament.

Then again in 2011 when MPs were asked whether they wanted the words ‘The sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament in relation to EU law is hereby reaffirmed’ inserted into an Act only 39 MPs voted for it, with Mrs May one of 256 Tory MPs who voted against it.

But then in another reversal her own Chequers plan would have reserved the right of Parliament to reject EU rules.

The sovereignty of Parliament has since been reaffirmed in the Act to approve the EU Withdrawal Agreement, yet the same issue has now arisen again with the Internal Market Bill.

Surely it should be accepted that while it may not be wise for Parliament to authorise the violation of a treaty it cannot be ‘illegal’ under the law which matters most, that enacted by Parliament itself?

Dr D R COOPER

Belmont Park Avenue

Maidenhead


The rule of ‘do as I say and not as I do’

Barnard Castle? The Internal Market Bill? If the Prime Minister and Dominic Cummings don’t care about the law, how can they expect the British people to obey their ‘Rule of Six’ law?

RICHARD POAD

Cookham


A rhyme for these times

Wild animals were taken, to the market for baking.

Coronavirus was there and now it is here.

People who were old, are now very cold.

Lockdowns got imposed, many attractions were closed.

It’s not all bad, time to be had.

This will suit some, less travelling to be done.

Less noise from planes, and quieter road lanes.

Working from home, relying on the phone.

Improves the work life balance, but it can be a challenge.

Enjoy the countryside, with loved ones by your side.

No holiday where its sunny, but it saves your money.

Local trade is thriving, pollution is diving.

Reduce your carbon footprint, helps save the planet.

Climate to manage, take up the challenge.

We must not shun, this chance to get it done:

Nature we must chose, we must not abuse.

ROY REEVES

Windsor

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