05:00PM, Monday 07 December 2020
Trainline wildlife is being harmed
Our railway embankments have always been a haven of wildlife.
Living alongside the Maidenhead to Marlow line, I have been privileged to see many species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians that found safe refuge in the railway vegetation alongside the track.
Species such as slow worms, hedgehogs, toads and a variety of birds have depended upon the insects there and the wild fruits growing there – species of wildlife that are now becoming so rare.
Recently, local residents received a letter from Network Rail Community Relations to inform us that they needed to prune and, where absolutely necessary, remove vegetation within four metres of the track edge.
I contacted Network Rail Community Relations as I was concerned about the wildlife I knew was there.
I was reassured that this would mean just cutting a few branches off and some strimming where necessary.
However, last month I watched in horror as an almost complete tree removal took place.
Oaks, cherry, crab apple and elderberry – all the wild species that our wildlife depends upon – was cut down.
A poplar tree, the last in a line of them, was reduced to half its size and may not survive.
Brambles have been left by the metal fencing and partially hide the devastation.
Seeing logs being driven away, I wondered how many small creatures lay crushed under the heavy tree trunks.
I have regularly seen hedgehogs and slow worms disappear into the undergrowth and it is a toad migration route to the Strande Lake, going straight across the railway and down to the road.
Toads are already struggling for survival.
So, no more birdsong for us, no more shade from the hot sun and no more privacy from passing trains.
Thanks for nothing Network Rail.
We have been robbed of something special.
Clarifications on Claires Court action
I would like to respond to the letter in last week’s Viewpoint (November 26) by Lin Chen regarding my involvement in the Claires Court School public planning inquiry.
Ms Chen was disappointed to hear me state my ‘personal concerns’ regarding the negative impact the development would have on the highway network.
The highway concerns are not only my concerns but also those of a large proportion of Cox Green, Boyn Hill, Woodlands Park and White Waltham residents and those that use Cannon Lane on a regular basis.
This concern is shared by the statutory consultees Cox Green Parish Council and White Waltham Parish Council and corroborated by in excess of 900 written representations made to RBWM during the statutory planning consultation period.
My concerns are supported by surveys that I conducted, 30 years’ roads policing experience and having resided in Cox Green for 35 Years.
For Ms Chen to call it rank hypocrisy that, in my capacity as chairman of the Borough Development Management Panel, I voted along with all other panel members in favour of the demolition and rebuild of buildings at Foundation Park to include a two-storey parking provision is plainly absurd.
Foundation Park is an established employment brownfield site, the panel acknowledged there would be an increase in traffic but not sufficient to warrant refusal.
The Claires Court site is 48 acres of undeveloped Grade 2 agricultural greenbelt land, the school pupil roll would increase in excess of 400 per cent and would unequivocally attract a huge increase in traffic movements.
There is no comparison between the two sites and respective planning applications.
I have been the spokesperson of Cox Green Says No community group objecting to the Claires Court School proposals on greenbelt land since its formation in 2016, the group’s objections were supported by over 2,300 residents who signed the petition.
I was elected as Cox Green ward councillor in 2019 and see no reason why my involvement in the group should cease.
Ms Chen finds it ‘bizarre’ that RBWM and the Planning Inspectorate should allow me to represent an ‘unconstituted minority residents group’.
I’d like to clarify that RBWM and the Planning Inspectorate do not control me in that respect.
I am perfectly entitled to represent the concerns of the community, which in this case is via the ‘unconstituted’ group Cox Green Says No, whose objections have always been constructive, objective, policy and evidence based.
There has been no breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.
I have always made it perfectly clear that Claires Court is a great school.
Our objections have always been focused on the proposals, we have no issues with the school, pupils, parents or staff.
It’s also worth pointing out that not all Claires Court parents and staff agree with the proposals for the same reasons put forward by Cox Green Says No.
I do hope this has clarified the situation for Ms Chen.
Cllr PHIL HASELER
Resident & Conservative councillor for Cox Green
Baffled yet interested in undeclared interest
Sometimes things that people write on the letters page baffle me.
Even more so perhaps than why DR Cooper continues to preach to us about the merits of Brexit.
Last week it was a vitriolic attack on Cllr Haseler from Lin Chen.
She questioned how he could vote in favour of allowing the expansion of offices and parking at Foundation Park in Cox Green AND dare to state his opinions about another matter in Cox Green, namely the traffic flows that would result if Claires Court is allowed to expand its site.
Lin Chen suggested this amounted to ‘rank hypocrisy’. Really?
I think she should perhaps consult a dictionary before using such offensive words.
Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case.
So I am not sure how that quite fits in here?
Cllr Haseler showed that he has one opinion about one matter and another opinion about a completely different matter.
Instead she tried to skew the facts in the way that a politically driven tabloid journalist might.
Surely no rationally thinking person can draw a parallel between saying yes to building on a brownfield site and saying no to building on grade 2 agricultural greenbelt land?
You wouldn’t think that to compare the extra few cars that may result from an expansion of offices (perhaps meaning more jobs locally) would be treated in the same breath as a five-fold increase in pupil numbers, would you?
One other thing strikes me about Lin Chen’s letter: she doesn’t declare if she has a personal interest in the Claires Court development.
Cllr Haseler is honest and upfront about his affiliation to a worthy local project on behalf of the community.
In her letter she doesn’t admit to being a parent of a pupil at the school. Is that the case Ms Chen?
Are your views just those of an unrelated third party?
Surely that is relevant, as if she has a connection to the school, then perhaps it is actually she who purports to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case.
Our green spaces are busy – and few
Why do our councillors keep insisting we have plenty of parks and greenspace in Maidenhead?
Maidenhead Riverside and Boulters Lock car park are nearly always full.
I am surprised Ray Mill Island is not sinking with the footfall.
People come from Slough and London to enjoy the beauty of our Riverside. Greenspaces are what bring people to our town - to live and visit.
If we develop on the last large green space in Maidenhead – the golf course – we are condemning our town to becoming an extension of outer London.
Those who moved here for its proximity to nature will move out.
There are over 1,000 houses and flats for sale right now, and over 350,000 sq feet (not counting Three’s HQ) of empty office space that could be converted into eco friendly homes.
We must consider what is best for residents in the long term. Destroying trees, wildlife habitats and greenspace on the golf course clearly isn’t.
What would be best for residents, would be to turn it into Maidenhead Great Park.
That way we can all live happier, healthier and more sustainable lives.
Huge changes since golf club scheme made
I read with interest Adrian Williams’ article in last week’s Maidenhead Advertiser, ‘Borough Local Plan delay makes golf club’s relocation ‘very difficult’.
It seems the golf club may not want to leave, and over 3,600 local residents have signed a petition to the council asking for the golf course parkland to become a Great Park for everyone.
Since the agreement with the golf club was first made, three major things have happened.
Firstly, our council declared a climate emergency, placing new emphasis on the value or our green spaces.
Secondly, the objectively assessed need for new housing in our borough has been halved.
And thirdly, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated home working and online shopping trends, bringing forward more brownfield sites for development.
So, why is the ruling Conservative Group still committed to this unnecessary, irresponsible and unpopular development?
A large body of residents have worked out that this space must be kept green.
Cllr GEOFF HILL
TBF councillor for Oldfield Ward
Homes are more than bricks and mortar
RBWM is currently putting together a draft housing strategy, which will be going to public consultation in the near future.
The strategy will look at the crucial question of ‘WHY’ we need new homes, not just ‘WHERE’.
The debate around housing can often focus too much on targets and site locations, and loses focus on why building homes is important to creating a thriving local economy and community.
The Local Plan is currently going through its second examination and for those of us who want to stop speculative developments – like the one at Ridgeway in Cox Green – we hope that the Local Plan can be concluded.
With this element of the housing debate hopefully being settled in the not-too-distant future we can start to think about what we want our housing market to be like.
Delivering new homes is about much more than hitting housing targets and a home is much more than an investment of bricks and mortar.
As policy makers, we cannot see homes simply as financial assets but as the building blocks of a strong society.
The huge success of our borough has seen an influx of talented individuals, young families, entrepreneurs, and people seeking a slice of the good life.
However, as ever, this success has not been without some losers and no doubt some younger people, vulnerable residents, and life-long residents who have fallen on hard times may feel that they have not benefited from the economic growth and success of our borough.
These are not people who have moved to an area they cannot afford, but local people, who feel they are shut out from taking a stake in their own community.
We do not want to be a borough where children of life-long residents feel they need to leave to get a place of their own; we do not want to be a borough that does not have sufficient social housing to give our rough sleepers a second chance; we do not want to be a borough where life-long residents are forced to move away because they can no longer afford to rent.
We want to be a borough that delivers new homes not only for those coming into the borough, but for those who are already here.
We want a housing market that proactively supports a wide range of residents through a mixture of different homes with a mixture of affordability.
We have started the drafting process by holding initial consultation events with councillors, parish councils and our partner organisations, such as homeless charities and housing associations.
From here the draft will go to cabinet to approve it for public consultation; feedback from the consultation will be analysed before the final housing strategy goes to Cabinet next year for adoption.
I hope this will start a really important debate in RBWM that is focused on why we need new homes, not simply how many and where.
These latter points will hopefully be concluded through the Local Plan process shortly.
There will be plenty of opportunity for all residents and groups to feed in, but I hope this has helpfully set out our ambitions for the strategy and the borough we want to build together.
Cllr ROSS McWILLIAMS
Lead member for housing, communications and youth engagement
Conservative councillor for Cox Green
Acknowledging error is crucial to progress
It is interesting how U-turns are viewed with such distain in the world of politics, yet are part of the fabric in the world of entrepreneurship.
U-turns are what entrepreneurs are made of – “We tried this, it didn’t work, so we tried something else.”
And so it goes on until you have success.
Somehow in government you are seen as a failure if you make ‘a U-turn’; you will be perceived as weak.
The notion was no doubt strengthened by Margaret Thatcher’s 1980 ‘The lady’s not for turning’ remark.
How refreshing it is for someone like me to hear Boris Johnson acknowledge his error of judgement in the capacity of wind power.
I have no problem with admitting to making a mistake.
I have made many.
I am only 57, so will no doubt make many more.
I was quick to teach my children to own up to their own mistakes to such an extent that one of their junior school teachers still teases me for the openness of one of their particularly stark and public confessions.
I see it as a strength, almost a super power, and it disarms those who find such an unbosoming humiliating.
In government you are scrutinised at every turn, so how do you test things out without making mistakes?
The truth is that you can’t.
Even in local government our attempt to be entrepreneurial is exhausting for many who work here.
With the lowest council tax outside of London we are already severely restricted by resources.
So, to the frustration of my officers no doubt, in my two portfolios of climate change and sustainability, and parks & countryside, we make the odd U-turn, or at least right turn.
Last September, as a new councillor, I was elected to cabinet with the climate change portfolio.
The council was committed to delivering an environmental and climate change strategy within a year.
Lacking internal resources and funding, we gathered the community around us and developed a vision.
That vision and strategy was subsequently published, went out to public consultation, and will come before cabinet in December as a far stronger strategy.
If approved by cabinet we will go into delivery phase.
I am sure we will make some U-turns along the way.
But they will be in the right direction – as we move swiftly towards reducing our carbon footprint and improving the wellbeing and sustainability of our great borough.
Cllr DONNA STIMSON
Conservative councillor for St Mary’s
Care from neighbours and key workers
This week, unfortunately one of my elderly neighbours passed away.
He was a wonderful old man who lived on his own.
Every year, he used to post through my door a hand drawn and painted Christmas Card, he would have spent so much time doing this and it now makes me so sad that he won’t be able to share his talents this year.
I wanted to let the people of Maidenhead know that we should be very proud of our police, ambulance, and private ambulance services – they carried out their work with efficiency, dignity and respect.
It is so sad when people die alone at home.
It was thanks to caring neighbours that emergency services were alerted.
At this, Christmas time and all year round, we must look out for each other and be grateful and thankful for our wonderful emergency services who do very amazing jobs.
So I wanted to say a big Thank YOU!
Reindeer touch down at road full of lights
On the recommendation of my daughter, I walked around Heynes Green tonight and what a wonderful sight it was. Nearly all of the houses in the road are lit up spectacularly with Christmas lights and the many reindeer are especially delightful.
If you want to start getting into the Christmas spirit I highly recommend you visit this road, children especially will find it quite magical.
Well done to all the residents of Heynes Green for getting together and putting on such a wonderful show.
I’m sure you are bringing joy to a great deal of local people.
Second lockdown and threat of a third
So we have lockdown 2, which incidentally had been ruled out beforehand.
A week before this ends a toughened tier system is introduced, which for many is worse.
We have a brief respite for Christmas, followed up by threats of lockdown 3 in January if we enjoy ourselves too much!
Great festive morale booster for the nation.
Lockdown 2 isn’t even yet over, but the next two are already planned. Also the difference between tier 2 and full lockdown is somewhat blurred to say the least.
A vaccine is around the corner and infections are falling but still this government is running around in circles, stacking up these lockdowns in all but name and the promise of a ridiculous four months this time!
Come spring, five million unemployed, massive mental health problems, an economy decimated and COVID all but beaten.
Don’t count on being voted back in come the next general election.
Learning lessons on how we treat animals
Let’s find some things positive from the current epidemic.
We are discovering that to eat wild animals is harmful for us, to breed and cage wild animals for their fur for the fashion industry is harming us, factory farming is harming us, and we are therefore learning WHAT NOT TO DO to keep us safe and well.
While these painful lessons are going to affect those people who abhor the way humans treat animals (and they too may catch COVID-19 and die), may those who remain learn and listen to what nature is telling us.
I have a card which I was given many years ago which reads: “We are waging a war against nature. If we win we will find ourselves on the losing side.”
Please, if this terrible year has taught us anything, may we heed those words for future generations.
There are customs that come with borders
May I invite Dr Cooper to look at the Eda customs office in Sweden? It says,
– ‘Information to you who are transporting goods: Report the goods – otherwise you are committing a crime!’
– ‘Information to you as a driver: Go to the customs office – otherwise you are committing a crime!’
– ‘Forms: Information required for the calculation of import duty and identification of debtor liable for payment in connection with illegal importation of goods to the EU’.
Dr Cooper can read it for himself online at tullverket.se. Norway is in the single market but not in the customs union. That is why there are border posts between Norway and its EU neighbour Sweden.
Has Dr Cooper been able to explain how such a border could be avoided between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland without a legally operational agreement in place?
Member, European Movement UK
Choose how you race – and help by miles
This year has been tough on every single one of us. Scout Groups in Maidenhead are doing their best to help young people gain skills and find their place in the world.
But some groups around the UK have told us they’re struggling to pay their bills and even keep the lights on. We can’t afford for that to happen. We won’t let it.
That’s why we’ve launched an epic new challenge – our Race Round the World.
We’re asking everyone in Maidenhead to travel a mile or more (or do a project at home) and get sponsored for it.
Miles will be added to the total and help us get the 43,000 miles round the world. It’s about a lot of us, doing a little, to make a massive difference.
You can donate directly, or travel a sponsored mile (anyway you like) and support us in our mission to save our groups and Race Round the World. You can sign up in less than a minute at www.scouts.org.uk/raceroundtheworld
This is our moment to show how much we care; to show our solidarity and our friendship. So join me on the startling line for the biggest race of the year.