Concerns raised over removal of ancient Maidenhead hedge for new homes

Concerns have been raised over the proposed loss of an historic hedgerow in Maidenhead which is thought to date back hundreds of years.

Last month, plans were approved to build three new homes at 33 Cannon Court Road, replacing the existing detached house on the site.

However a debate has ensued about a hedgerow which forms part of the demolition proposals from developer King Charles Homes.

Speaking at December’s Maidenhead Development Management Committee meeting, planning officer Tony Franklin claimed the hedge could be taken down at any time as it is on private land and therefore not covered by protection laws.

This has since been disputed by local resident Benjamin Franklin, who is also a member of the Historical and Archaeological Society of Maidenhead.

He claims that the hedgerow is in fact a part of the public highway, making any unauthorised removal of the vegetation unlawful.

Benjamin claims that the Royal Borough’s trees department informed him that the highway of Cannon Court Road extends the first 1.45m width of the verge.

He added that because the hedgerow is situated with its stems inside this verge zone, it is legally part of the highway and must not be removed.

Speaking to the Advertiser, Benjamin said that the hedge potentially dates back about ‘1,000 years’.

“There is compelling evidence to suggest this hedgerow is the only remaining part of a historic track boundary dating back approximately 1,000 years, potentially even earlier,” he said.

“The ‘Cannon Court’ is first referenced in the Domesday Book, circa 1086, and this hedge would have been part of the original track boundary which formed the entry route from the south into the settlement.

“Cannon Court is referenced again at the time of the Reformation when it was liquidated by King Henry VIII into private hands.

“I find it very sad that heritage of this nature can be destroyed by a developer for a small profit with no restriction or moral obligation whatsoever.”

He added: “My argument is that it is on public land and therefore subject to the protection orders.”

Benjamin said that he would be happy if the developer returned back with new designs which did not include the hedgerow.

He added that he is drafting a letter to the Royal Borough’s legal team to outline his case.

The original plans had divided councillors at the planning meeting last month, with ward councillor Catherine del Campo (Lib Dem, Furze Platt) calling for the ‘ancient hedgerow’ to be restored.

Ward and party colleague Cllr Joshua Reynolds also raised concerns over the development’s impact on the appearance of the area.

But some members were positive about the plans, with Cllr Geoff Hill (TBF, Oldfield) saying he ‘rather liked the scheme’.

A King Charles Homes representative told the meeting that the development will provide ‘three high quality and sustainable homes on a brownfield site’, but did not mention the hedgerow specifically.

“The building has been carefully designed and would be fully in keeping with the street scene and character of the area,” they added.

A vote was held, as councillors voted six for and three against a motion to delegate the head of planning to approve the proposals, subject to conditions.

A Royal Borough spokesman said: “This application was from a private developer, relating to private land.

“Our role as the planning authority is to determine applications on their merits in line with planning policy.

“Sadly, there is no statutory protection on the hedgerow and the owner has never required council permission to undertake any works or remove it.

“However, the committee is requiring the developer to make biodiversity enhancements as part of the planning conditions.”

King Charles Homes could not be reached for comment.

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