Viewpoint: Heathrow, air pollution and the budget

Featuring debate on the Heathrow Court of Appeal ruling, air pollution in the Royal Borough and the fallout from the council's budget.

Viewpoint: Heathrow, air pollution and the budget

Don't overstate Heathrow judgement

Last week’s ruling by the Court of Appeal on the third runway at Heathrow, in which the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) authorising the expansion was declared void, was very welcome.

I really hope that it serves as a watershed moment in efforts to persuade governments to start treating climate change as the crisis it clearly is.

Far too often, when there are difficult decisions to be made, all those well-intentioned commitments to cut carbon emissions appear to go out the window.

We not only see this at a national level but also in local decision making (think the Borough Local Plan or the latest council budget cuts).

However, whilst cautiously optimistic, I think it’s probably best not to overstate the significance of the judgement at this stage.

It’s certainly not the death knell for Heathrow expansion that some have suggested and, if the political will is there, it’s not impossible that the present government could concoct a new ANPS that would pass the legal test set by the court.

It’s also not certain how far reaching the implications of this decision will be as this will be down to how broadly courts apply the precedent set in future legal cases.

Another aspect of the judgment, which seems to have gone unnoticed, is that the argument that won actually came from Friends of the Earth and Plan B Earth rather than from the group of local authorities.

However, the parties bringing the various challenges were directed to work together so it would maybe be a little unfair to deny our council a share in the collective victory.

Nonetheless, whilst it may seem to be rather pedantic, an unfortunate consequence of technically losing the case is that the council will now have to pay costs rather than being able to claim these from the government.

At the Climate Hustings during the General Election campaign I was given the chance to ask the candidates whether they oppose the third runway.

Perhaps it was not surprising that Theresa May, in response, gave a robust defence of the proposed expansion.

After all, it was under her leadership that the green light had been given.

Yet, now we know the ANPS produced by Mrs May’s government was fatally flawed, with her ministers unlawfully failing to take into account obligations under the Paris Agreement, I wonder, will this judgment provide Mrs May with a political opportunity to reassess her own position on the third runway, which is currently at odds with the local council, the cross-party group of MPs local to Heathrow and the prevailing view of her constituents?

ADAM BERMANGE

Boyn Hill Close

Maidenhead


Air pollution is an invisible killer

There is rightly a lot of concern about the coronavirus and the extensive news coverage is rapidly increasing public awareness. Conversely, there is very little understanding about another danger we are exposed to daily: the poor state of our air around the borough.

Did you know that there are currently five areas inside RBWM (including the centres of Windsor and Maidenhead) in which the levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are above the legal limit, and that has been the case for between 14 and five years?

Public Health England estimate that 69 annual excess adult (age 25+) deaths arise from very small Particulate Matter (PM) exposure in RBWM.

All of the organs and your blood in your body are adversely affected by breathing in air pollution which leads to increased risk of asthma, strokes, heart and circulatory disease and dementia.

Children (age 0-14) are most at risk as their bodies are still developing.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends that ‘children’s current exposure to air pollutants be reduced, particularly in regard to traffic-related pollutants’.

Similarly, King’s College London and Imperial College London state poor air quality is particularly damaging for children’s health, and NICE and Public Health England have recommended No Idling zones outside schools as air pollutants Nitrogen Oxides, Ozone and PMs are produced by vehicles.

The RBWM Council declared a Climate Emergency (CE) and the RBWM Climate Emergency Coalition (CEC) is working with the council to address it.

The RBWM CEC are launching a campaign to help schools address the air pollution caused by idling cars.

This No Idling campaign is just one of the things that the council need to do to improve our air quality.

The first of such is to help everyone to understand that we have, like the coronavirus, an invisible killer around us and we need to act now.

There is an opportunity with the emerging CE strategy being developed by the council to make our borough a much healthier place to live, but the strategy needs to be ambitious and some of the measures may seem to be unpalatable without the understanding of the dangers of poor air quality.

DAVE SCARBROUGH AND SARAH SCARBROUGH

Bridle Road, Maidenhead

CATHY MOSS

RBWM CEC


More pressure on those who can least afford it

I have read today with interest and frustration about the budget that has been approved to try and resolve the financial issues the borough has found itself in.

As a result, I wish to write about the impact this situation will have on myself and my family.

I am a carer and support my mother in caring for a severely disabled father.

In a rare moment to myself, I opened my emails and read with considerable dismay and anger that the SIGNAL organisation, built to support carers, is ending on March 31 as a result of the cuts imposed by this budget.

As a carer with very little support on offer, the loss of yet another potential support network/organisation is a blow.

I am aware that the borough is not in a good position financially at this time, but I have little sympathy as on this occasion it appears to have brought it on itself by poor planning and management of the recent building and road projects.

My personal feeling is that the departed (and largely unlamented) Cllr Dudley may well have been one of the main culprits for these issues.

To use an analogy of the boy who whilst playing around, breaks a window and then runs away to try and avoid the blame.

I just feel it is a shame that he was able to 'run away' from the problem, and not be properly held to account and it is the residents who are now having to foot the bill for his and others ineptitude.

It is very unsatisfactory.

Now the council have decided to implement this horrible budget that, as usual with these situations, puts extra pressure on those who can least afford it with the increase in council tax, and cut services for those need help and support the most.

In the situation for carers, it will add to the workload for Optalis, and I just hope that they will be able to handle it.

I would hope they will allow for this and be able to obtain additional resource to handle whatever extra demands they will receive from this decision.

As a final point, my aunt, who has mobility issues also depends on the Advantage card discount for car parking. With that gone, she may have to try and avoid doing any shopping in Maidenhead at all, and now head out of town, hardly the ideal outcome when you are trying to 'regenerate' your town is it...?

JR SLOAN

St Margarets Road

Maidenhead


Once Good Ship RBWM on course for collision

The following letter was also a speech made by Cllr Hill a the full council meeting on Tuesday, February 25:

This is the story of ‘The Once Good Ship RBWM’ on her long voyage across the county of Berkshire.

It all started many years ago when Able Seaman Dudley joined the senior ranks, supporting Captain Burbage.

The course was set, reducing cabin fares and costs, and looking good at party headquarters.

‘Lookout’ Jones was the first to spot two Icebergs heading towards the ship. They were known as The Daddy of All Debts and Pension Fund Deficit.

Very few listened as ‘Lookout’ Jones battled to get a change of course.

Captain Burbage was demoted and newly promoted Captain Dudley took control of the ‘RBWM’.

Entering increasingly rough waters, ‘Lookout’ Jones persistently warned of trouble ahead. Hill and others, also seeing trouble ahead, started to openly disagree with Captain Dudley. All were swiftly demoted.

Hill and others pressed charges against the now all-powerful Captain Dudley. It came as a bitter blow when Captain Dudley, backed by all but a few, survived.

They knowingly stole away in life-boats but Hill stayed to walk the plank.

Hill, however, managed get back on board though one of the sea-doors.

Life on-board was getting tougher and tougher under Captain Dudley.

More crew members disappeared in life-boats.

The passengers were becoming restless and complaining about constant cuts in services and ever-increasing extra charges.

Things were looking bad for Captain Dudley as The Daddy of All Debts and Pension Fund Deficit could now be clearly seen on the horizon.

Then one morning an announcement came!

Captain Dudley had left in the dead of night never to be seen again!

There is mounting fear of Pension Fund Deficit, as if on auto-pilot, she will collide with the ship ripping a gash out of the hull.

The valiant but now skeleton crew will work around the clock to repair the damage.

Our new Captain Johnson (parachuted in from the mainland) unwittingly took the job only to discover just how close to doom the ship is.

Senior Technical Officer Sharkey managed to get expert help to diagnose the faults with the rudder and engines. Combined, Johnson and Sharkey battle to find ways to repair the damage done by lack of maintenance of previous commands.

Desperate to raise cash but hamstrung by company policy, Captain Johnson is set to increase cabin fares – sadly the highest proposed increases must go to cabins housing the poorest passengers.

The Captain must also increase costs for all manner of much-needed rations.

Passengers are becoming even more restless and very angry.

However, those vital supplies are becoming beyond the Captain’s reach.

Nevertheless, some on board continue to be blissfully unaware of what an iceberg can do to a ship, let alone being without funds to buy much needed supplies.

No one quite knows the future of the ‘The Once Good Ship RBWM’, for certain there have been many failures of governance, scrutiny and leadership.

On her current course bankruptcy looms along with fatal collision.

The Captain desperately tries to change course but finds himself stuck between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

There is little room to manoeuvre in the now renamed ‘RBWM Titanic’.

Cllr GEOFF HILL

The Borough First councillor for Oldfield 


Sorry seems to be the hardest word for council

Famous Royal Borough resident Sir Elton John once sang: "Sorry seems to be the hardest word."

I don't think he had the current Conservative administration in mind when it was written, but the sentiment is just as relevant.

Those who witnessed RBWM council's meeting last week, in which the budget was discussed, might have felt a touch of humility and contrition was required by those in power, especially to those on limited resources.

But there was a distinct absence of any sense of guilt or ownership of the reasons behind the shortfall in funds.

Quite why that was the case, I'll let the public draw their own conclusions.

But the word 'sorry' was never mentioned.

Cllr CLIVE BASKERVILLE

Lib Dem councillor for Pinkneys Green


Free weekend parking would show town is ‘open for business’

I delayed writing last week in case the council did not pass a resolution of crass stupidity. I should have known better.

Ratepayers no longer get a discount on parking on property which they paid for through their rates.

Yes, there are overheads, but come on guys, surely non-residents can cover those.

The upside is that they can get rid of those ridiculous car parking machines.

If they don't need to read our cards, then yank them out and put them on eBay.

I have yet to talk to anyone queuing to pay who has not complained.

I go to a remote car park in Dinton Pastures, and a solar powered machine asks me for my car registration number, if I want to prepay or not. Job done in a matter of seconds.

In Maidenhead if you are colour blind or dyslexic forget it and go back home.

I was clean shaven when I started in Hinds Meadow and had a substantial growth by the time I had finished.

However, why make things easy? Complicate everything and then people will think they are the ones who are stupid.

Now, why don’t the council meet us, payees of their salaries and expenses, help the town and make parking FREE at least at weekend when most people have leisure time to spend money.

In my village in France, parking is free all the year around and at very busy times, blind eyes are turned to parking on roundabouts, verges, anywhere apart from where it is dangerous.

The result is that at weekends everyone is welcome, and yes! people arrive in droves, are happy, spend money and the place is buzzing.

Contrast that to Maidenhead.

Trying to develop the town centre without making an allowance for cars on 'eco-policy' is plain daft, because no car parking spaces now, means no parking spaces in 20 years time.

So will we be having the same conversations then?

Put the car spaces next to the shops. Who wants to carry bags long distances?

Jump on a bus to an out of centre car park? Forget it.

Free parking at weekends would make a huge difference and have a unique selling point for Maidenhead to attract people in to the town, and emphasise we are 'open for business'.

But, well done guys, we have added to our income to offset our mismanagement, pats on the back all round, let's have another gin and tonic now the money is back in the petty cash tin.

Meanwhile the parishes can go to hell.

RALPH JONES

Beenhams Heath

Shurlock Row


Common sense not to build on a flood plain

As the climate changes and our winters become ever wetter, the decision to refuse a planning application for 80 homes in the flood plain at Deerswood Meadow is sheer common sense.

After all, the reason Maidenhead grew up west of York Stream was that it was built on rising ground free from flooding.

The Victorians and Edwardians were sensible enough to build their riverside houses on mounds – and stay away in the winter.

It is no use CALA Homes saying that Deerswood Meadow would only flood once in a hundred years.

When the Jubilee River was built it was to cover a one in sixty year event such as the 1947 flood. But now the likelihood of a flood of that magnitude is judged to be one in forty years, and the odds are shortening on a repeat of the great 1897 flood, formerly the one in a hundred years yardstick.

The argument that houses can be built above 'any predicted flood levels' is flawed, since those predictions are changing all the time.

In any case the residents of raised houses will still require rescue and emergency services at public expense.

RICHARD POAD

Cookham 


Encourage good hygiene to help town stay well

We would like to ask local shops and services if they could help in keeping Maidenhead well. Some suggestions are:

Signs saying ‘Wash your hands here’ with directions to basins, soap and dryers; bins for tissues, signs reminding people to cough and sneeze into a handkerchief and providing alcohol gel at tills are some ideas.

Here is a link to local NHS guidance.

www.berkshirehealthcare.nhs.uk/news/news-archive/coronavirus-covid-19-information/

RONA NOBLE

Women’s Officer

Maidenhead Constituency Labour Party


Public disillusioned over broken promises

I find myself in despair at the state of our nation.

We have a Government desperately trying to heal the self-inflicted wound caused by our departure from the EU all because it wants to honour the result of a deeply flawed referendum in 2016.

The Government is obsessed with doing deals with non EU countries.

Yet, I can go to any supermarket in Maidenhead and buy lamb and wine from New Zealand.

I can buy wine from Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and California.

I can buy a Chevrolet car, a Harley Davidson motor bike or a Fender Stratocaster guitar from the United States.

It seems to me that our leaders are shoulder charging an already open door.

This proves that the leave vote was based on lies and misinformation.

I am proud to be one of the 48 per cent who voted remain and always will be and I have no doubt that Brexit will be an historic failure.

Johnson will spend billions of pounds of money he hasn’t got in an attempt to try and heal this wound.

He will not succeed.

It is my considered opinion that in the not too distant future the public will be so disillusioned over all the broken promises and being worse off they will welcome the return to the safe haven of the EU and won’t even demand a referendum.

CLIVE BLAKESLEY

Beverley Gardens

Pinkneys Green


Little to be gained – or lost – by trade deals

On August 27, 2015, the editor was kind enough to publish a letter headed ‘Trade deal a threat to our national democracy’, in which I pointed out that on the UK Government's own figures we would gain little from the proposed EU-US trade deal known as ‘TTIP’.

Then the projected increase in our GDP was £10billion, which would have been ‘a one-off benefit equivalent to the natural growth of the UK economy over just three months’, or about 0.6 per cent.

Now the Government has announced that it hopes to gain £3.4billion from a trade deal with the US, a third of the 2015 estimate; less than 0.2 per cent added to our GDP, similar to growth over one typical month.

Clearly special trade deals like that made around the world would not go far in compensating for massive economic losses from any new impediments to trade with our continental neighbours; fortunately, as repeatedly pointed out, those potential losses have been vastly exaggerated.

The overall picture is that since the last war, liberalisation of international trade has been so extensive, with for example average tariffs being cut from about 22 per cent in 1947 to just a few per cent, that really there is now little more to be gained by new trade deals, or indeed lost by termination of the single market arrangements with the EU.

Dr D R COOPER

Belmont Park Avenue

Maidenhead


When ‘should’ makes all the difference

This to correct my letter published last week (February 27).

The European Commission has recommended that future EU-UK police and criminal courts cooperation should depend upon the UK continuing to support the European Convention of Human Rights.

I missed the word ‘should’ -– so I failed to quote accurately that this was the advice of the European Commission in its recommendation that was published on 3.2.2020.I apologise for the error.

PHIL JONES

Member, European Movement UK

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