Agenda item

RBWM Borough Local Plan Submission Version – Proposed Changes

To consider the above report



Members considered proposed changes to the Borough Local Plan Submission Version (BLPSV).


Councillor Coppinger stated that he was delighted to put before full Council one of the most important and exciting papers he had ever presented. He explained that the planning system was plan led and making a development plan for a local authority area was a statutory duty. The current plan dated back to 1999 and in many areas was obsolete.


In June 2019 the Secretary of State for Housing said “The Government wants to see every community covered by an up to date plan for sustainable development meaning that communities are in control of development and not exposed to speculative development.”


There was an enquiry being held this week in Maidenhead for such speculative development in Holyport, because there was not an up to date Plan. Without a current plan the borough was exposed to such attacks.


The submission version was approved by Council in June 2017, submitted in January 2018 and had been subject to examination by a planning inspector Mrs Louise Phillips. A plan had three distinct and sequential stages. The first was preparation, which was controlled by the Local Planning Authority and must include consultation under regulations 18 and 19 of the 2012 regulations. The second stage was examination. The purpose of the examination stage was to determine whether the plan was sound and legally compliant and also whether the Authority had complied with its duty to cooperate.


In this stage the inspector controlled the process, not the council, and she would decide how the examination would proceed. The examination stage ended when the Inspector delivered her final report. The council would expect the inspector to propose major modifications to make the plan sound and legal.  The decision whether to adopt the changes would be made by the full Council.


After the stage one hearings in June 2018 the Inspector asked for certain work to be done which the council had been doing in the pause period. The council provided the Inspector with a comprehensive update on 2 July 2019. Proposals included convening an extraordinary Council meeting to secure Members’ endorsement to the proposed changes prior to consultation, which she agreed.


The key work that the Inspector asked the council to do was:


·         A review of all site allocations including using the latest Environment Agency data for flooding


·         A review of employment evidence


·         To explore additional options for Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space (SANG)


·         Review representations received in the earlier stages


The proposed changes would be subject to a further consultation for six weeks between 1 November and 15 December 2019, clearly avoiding the Christmas period which had upset people in the earlier consultation.


For the current stage representations must focus on whether the proposals were sound and legal.


Councillor Coppinger highlighted the changes that were proposed:


·         The borough had many constraints; 83% was Green Belt and large areas were either subject to flooding or were protected Crown Land. In the original plan the council allocated every available brown belt site but still had to give up 1.7% of Green Belt. Now because more sites had become available it had been possible to reduce the amount of Green Belt loss to just over 1% across the plan period which extended to 2033.


·         Changes to site allocations included new sites put forward


·         Employment space had been significantly changed and increased


·         HA11, also known as the triangle site, which was reserved for employment, had now been brought forward to provide a high standard gateway at the entry to Maidenhead from the M4.


Councillor Coppinger commented that it was however not just about sites. The plan was supported by an Infrastructure Development Plan which was a living document and would evolve as the plan progressed.  The ambition was also to produce future infrastructure schedules linked to geographic areas of the borough.


Every proposed site had a list of specific requirements before a planning application was received that had to be met. For example the triangle site had 28 to protect the environment, provide sustainable routes and design.


Members agreed to extend Councillor Coppinger’s speaking time by one minute given the important subject matter.


Councillor Coppinger continued to explain that specific plans had been produced for two key routes where it was known that traffic was a critical concern for all. Those were the A308 and the A329.


Councillor Coppinger concluded by setting out what has been achieved in the plan:


·         It had been shown that the Governments’ housing requirement could be met, which would stop speculative developers like the one in Holyport

·         The land devoted to employment had increased

·         Small employment sites such as Tectonic Place and Grove Park had been protected

·         All the Inspector’s questions had been answered

·         Specific policies on a number of areas had been included

·         The loss of Green Belt over the period of the plan had reduced from 1.7% loss to just over 1%


Councillor Coppinger thanked the Head of Planning and her team for the hours put in.


Councillor Walters congratulated officers on producing a professional and well considered version of the plan. It was an improvement on the original version which in part could be explained by the situation and atmosphere at the time of the first submission. Over the plan period instead of building 712 houses per annum, the plan proposed 816 per annum, far exceeding the building requirements. A six year supply had been identified. The borough had a historically high level of windfalls. He therefore hoped that the statistics would fend off the five year supply argument made by developers. In his personal opinion he hoped that the consultation would give the opportunity to again look at the wisdom of meeting 100% of the objectively assessed need as there was nothing more to compel the council to do so. The borough probably had more constraints than any other in England. Councillor Walters commented that he was pleased to see affordable housing on larger scale sites. He hoped this would be reflected in practice. He had noted that tall buildings would be subject to a strategy which was good news.  However he felt at the loss of the triangle site was particularly damaging. Provision of infrastructure was behind schedule, which must be taken seriously, for example the A308 was at capacity. Failure to carry out the consultation would leave the borough in limbo; it was sensible to now take into account public opinion.


Councillor Clark commented that the revised plan had been diligently produced based on an evidence base to allow the consultation to go ahead and enable residents to provide input. The issues of most concern to residents were infrastructure, education, open spaces, climate change, affordable housing and transport. Approving the report would allow these concerns to be properly considered.


Councillor Cannon highlighted that given the potential for flooding in the borough, the council had worked with the Environment Agency to identify all sites at risk and remove them from the plan. Ten had been removed purely based on flood risk.


Councillor Davies commented that, as Sarah Bowden had stated in her question, the first Sustainability Appraisal document was emailed to Members after 5pm the previous Friday. Like most people, she had made her best effort to read and understand it in the time available alongside reading all the other documentation. Then after 6pm Tuesday evening, two more volumes had arrived (the first 168 pages and the second 464 pages). This was the first time that the policy by policy, and allocation site by site analysis was made available to Members. She hoped Members would understand that if she had overlooked anything, this was the reason.


The cross-party working group on climate change had been mentioned numerous times in response to questions from the public as dealing with a diverse range of tasks. As a member of that group, she was slightly concerned as the group had only met twice in four months. If the group was to tackle all these very important tasks then it would need an adequate budget, expertise and resources.


The BLP had been amended to demonstrate commitment to biodiversity and ecological connectivity but that was not possible whilst developing over 176 hectares of previously undeveloped land without setting aside substantial areas for nature, and not amenity spaces such as parks, which were often green deserts. These also needed to be linked by habitat corridors for wildlife. As Fiona Hewer, Jan Stannard and Adam Bermange referred to in their questions, there was a need for a strategic plan for the cumulative impact on biodiversity and for a biodiversity action plan. The difficulty of trying to assess the environmental evidence without having completed a biodiversity action plan was commented on by Wild Maidenhead in their response to the BLP in January 2017, nearly three years previously.


According to the ‘State of Nature’ report (2019) nature was in severe decline and the UK was one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world with 39% of species having declined over the last ten years and 15% of species being at risk of extinction. Local authorities had a huge role to play. Biodiversity gain and ecological connectivity were the way forward. Wild Maidenhead was ready, willing and able to help take this forward with the council.


Additionally, according to Nature 4 Climate, nature-based solutions had the potential to provide around a third of the solution to climate change. As the Committee on Climate Change noted, the cost of doing nothing would be far greater than the costs of taking action now. Whilst it was hard to imagine the future in global terms, it was easier to think about specific examples. Wild Maidenhead had identified 20 species for special focus in their Biodiversity Action Plan, including some very common species that were much loved by everyone. Councillor Davies wanted the children and grandchildren of the borough to grow up as earlier generations did, with house martins nesting under the house eaves, with hedgehogs visiting to eat slugs and house sparrows having dust baths in the garden. She wanted them to watch bumblebees buzzing round in the sunshine and bats swooping through the dusk.


Councillor Davies concluded that, given the limited time to consider the SA, and as she could not see the evidence that the current form of the BLP would promote sustainable development she regretfully could not support the Borough Local Plan in its current form.

Councillor Stimson commented that as the Chairman of one of the Area Development Panels she, along with other Members, had felt the frustration of not having an up to date plan as the borough was vulnerable to speculative poor quality development in the wrong places.  An adopted plan was needed as soon as possible to get the high quality sustainable places and development needed for the next few years.

The plan took a holistic approach and the green place making focus would help with the regeneration programme and economic development the borough needed. Furthermore, the changes to the plan incorporated many aspects that residents and Members requested be changed. For example, officers had identified new areas of biodiversity and the provision of green and blue infrastructure would be given the highest priority.  She was delighted to see that three new sites had been allocated (Deerswood, Land north of Lutman Lane and Braywick Park). The place-making focus would see the provision of large areas of new green space, including the green spine through South West Maidenhead.  All of the areas would take an enormous amount of challenge. Coupled with trying to get to carbon neutral by 2050, it was going to be terribly hard work but it had to be started somewhere. The plan was a lot more sound and a lot more from the heart than the first version. The plan outlined how the council would increasingly reconnect residents with nature, recommending green and brown roofs, green walls, and exemplar quality green and blue infrastructure at both ground floor and upper levels.  A green and blue infrastructure SPD would be produced as quickly as possible to give more guidance to developers. In the meantime, the government would be introducing new legislation which developers would need to comply with: for example, in 2020 it would be enshrined in law for developers to achieve a net biodiversity gain.

The council had trod a careful and very narrow path between making the enhancing changes to the plan, and creating a new plan.  It had been a difficult and lengthy task but she felt a careful balance had been struck and the plan had been enhanced.  As the plan was developed some time ago it could only be stretched so far before it broke therefore what could be done in terms of climate change and sustainability had been done. When the plan was put to bed, the council would start on the new plan as plans were done very five years or so. In the meantime the council would start with the climate change programme. Councillor Stimson announced that by the middle of January the council would have at least three resources, with a fourth in time, who would be full time officers helping with the sustainability and climate change agenda.  This was from not having any; the council was starting to have the resources to develop the changes that would be needed. 

Councillor Stimson concluded that, as a number of the public questioners would know, she had been working with local groups and people in the council to start to make the changes. She thought the submission version was a super plan and she supported it.

Councillor Brar congratulated the public questioners from Cookham. She commented that when looking at the history and heritage of Cookham it was clearly a very special place. One famous resident, the artist Sir Stanley Spencer, once called Cookham ‘a village in heaven’ and he painted biblical scenes with the village as a backdrop. Another person who found inspiration in the unspoiled beauty surrounding the village was Kenneth Grahame, author of Wind in the Willows who spent his childhood living in Cookham Dean.


Councillor Brar stated that it was not possible to live in the past, it was important to look to the future and accept that some change was inevitable. However, at the centre of the planning system was the idea of sustainable development, ensuring that the plans made now met current needs without causing a burden for future generations. Looking at the Borough Local Plan, including the proposed changes Members were being asked to agree, she had to conclude that the three allocation sites for housing within Cookham, all crammed within Cookham Rise, would lead to unsustainable development.


This was not just her opinion but was a view shared by many of Cookham’s residents. Formal objections were made in representations to the original BLP proposals in 2017 on the grounds of heritage, environment, water pollution, sewage issues and traffic gridlock. In the north of the borough Cookham Rise had been allocated 270 new dwellings whilst other villages were left untouched.


Councillor Brar questioned what would all the additional homes mean? Hundreds more children needing education in schools that were full both primary and secondary. Hundreds of additional people requiring a GP; there was only one surgery and already it was oversubscribed and very hard to get an appointment. Hundreds of additional cars on the roads. Cookham had narrow lanes such as Lower Road, Dean Lane and The Pound. Cannondown Road railway bridge was not wide enough to take the extra volume of traffic. There were already problems with sewage and surface water under the bridge.


On the issue of congestion she also believed there had been a failure to comply with the duty to cooperate with Wycombe Council leading to a serious risk to traffic flow on Cookham Bridge, due to the building of 600 new homes in Buckinghamshire. This would have a serious knock-on effect in Cookham.


Site AL37, the land at north of Lower Mount Farm, was a large Green Belt site, now proposed for 200 new homes. Releasing the site went far beyond limited infilling and represented a major expansion. The proposal was the major driver of the issues she had already mentioned.


AL38, land east of Strand Park, was in the flood plan and liable to flood. She remembered in the last major flood vulnerable people were trapped with carers having to use dinghies to reach them. She believed the 2009 data used for measuring flood risk was out of date. There were also specific concerns for the biodiversity impact of developing on this site which was a grassland habitat for slowworms, toads and badgers.


AL36, the gas holder site on Whyteladyes Lane was a brown field site and Councillor Brar supported the idea of making good use of such sites. The site needed to be cleaned before it could be developed and she was concerned the cost of the clean-up would lead to developers claiming that providing affordable housing on the site was not economical. There were real concerns about sewage capacity as Thames Water had already objected to one application on such grounds. She noted also the proposed housing density had been increased by 25% without an explanation. The issues must be addressed in order to make the development sustainable.


Councillor Reynolds commented that for many years Maidonians had not felt the town was a place they could play, shop or eat; it had been more about making do. The latest plan version would see almost 2500 new homes in the town centre, which was already crowded, under resourced and had poor transport links other than into central London. There was only one train an hour north of Maidenhead, incredibly poor cycle routes and an inadequate bus service. The plan did not provide an answer for Maidenhead town centre. The tall building study had only been made available earlier that day. The summary said that buildings should not be higher than 19 storeys in Maidenhead Residents were rightly worried about tall buildings that were often overbearing and ugly. It was known that Maidenhead needed to get taller but there was a way of doing so. The town centre was not ready for buildings of 19 or more storeys. The town needed attractive buildings that built on the historic assets it already had.


Councillor Reynolds commented that 30% affordable housing was just a pipe dream. He referred to the last two big sites in the town centre that had come to Panel, where the developer had claimed affordable housing was not viable. A developer had told him recently that it was almost impossible to sell a flat in the town without parking yet, the council was saying town centre schemes needed no parking. It was not clear when Crossrail would come forward. The bus service was not reliable. Adequate parking for residents in the town centre was needed and it had to be one space per dwelling at minimum. The plan was not right for the town centre and was not fit.

Councillor W. Da Costa explained that he was going to use some information from the RBWM Climate Emergency Coalition.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had stated that there were just 11 years left to prevent 1.5 degrees warming; warming beyond 1.5 degrees represented a threat to the future of humanity, and even warming limited to that level would wreak havoc upon the livelihoods of countless people across the world.Nature was declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and the rate of species extinctions was accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.  The world was experiencing an emergency as defined in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 as an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare… [and] … serious damage to the environment … in the United Kingdom”.  An urgent and rapid response was now necessary.

There was a need to put the word emergency back into the council’s approach to Climate Change, reducing carbon, reducing greenhouse gases and strengthening biodiversity and green infrastructure. The BLP was a key document to set the expectations for new developments and adjustments to existing developments for the next 10-15 years. The council should be including standards and targets that developers must adhere to but with the language in the plan, the council had put the ball into the developers’ court, using language such as ‘All developments will demonstrate how they have been designed to incorporate measures to adapt to and mitigate climate change’ and objectives phrased as ‘green energy’ rather than setting targets that moved over time and promoting that carbon and greenhouse gas emission reductions must be demonstrated in all aspects of the design, build and operation of buildings. The document should be enforcing the law on Climate Change as demonstrated in NPPF Policies 8 and 148 – 154, but it did not.

Councillor W. Da Costa commented that the plan was a key document, probably the key document to ensure the council did its part to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases but, rather, the Sustainability Appraisal noted that the current BLP would in fact increase local carbon emissions by approximately 22.5%.

Strategic enhancements of biodiversity based on good science was a more difficult proposition as the understanding and methodologies and technologies were still in their infancy. Professors of Biodiversity at the University of Reading, with close connections to Defra, wanted to work with the council and resident groups to help create robust policies; those in the plan were not. They did not allow coherent movement towards a vision and targets and they contained no science-based targets.

As science and technology developed so the policies must, but the council’s Climate Change and biodiversity policies did not allow for subsequent change.

Councillor W. Da Costa was glad to hear from Councillor Coppinger’s answers to residents that the cross party working group would include in equal priority both reduction in greenhouse gases and strengthening biodiversity, not to mention improving resilience and facilitating residents groups. As Councillor Davies had said, the group was moving too slowly and it was good to hear that resources were coming, but it had wasted 6 months.

To its credit the policy on Green and Blue Infrastructure did refer to upgrading with a subsequent successor document. However, it was also a long way short of best practice such as that of Salford.

In short, notwithstanding his opposition to development on the precious Green Belt on the edge of Windsor, Oakley Green and Bray, Councillor W. Da Costa concluded that the document was lacking in sophistication, lacking in ambition and paid lip service to the emergency that was faced.

Councillor McWilliams referred to South Oxfordshire which had point blank refused to take forward the housing numbers set by government. Any authority that took that position would find that central government would come in and take away its power. The borough had a severe lack of affordable housing. It was important to get the plan in place so that targets in the SHMAA could be achieved.  Councillor McWilliams announced he would be bringing forward a housing strategy to set a threshold, demonstrate how to encourage developers to deliver affordable housing, and how to deliver affordable rent through the property company and private landlords. The plan was an opportunity to correct an imbalance in society.


Councillor Johnson highlighted that without a proper plan in place the borough was at the mercy of the markets.  The plan before Members was a result of the legal and regulatory framework in which the local authority operated. The plan was not perfect for the end of 2019 but that was why as soon as it was adopted, the council would seek to make further amendments in relation to biodiversity, sustainable development and technological innovation. In relation to climate change the council had declared an emergency. There was now a Cabinet member with responsibility for the issues.  The plan would lead to opportunities in the long term for more jobs, economic growth, development to get people onto the property ladder, infrastructure, schools, and health provision. It would also create a set of sustainably linked places. Maidenhead remained a centre of vision and excellence and a place that attracted investment. The potential transformative effect of what could happen to the former Nicholson’s centre was key. As one borough, the council was also looking to protect the historic aspects of Windsor and Eton whilst also unleashing the positive, sustainable elements of the good growth agenda. This was growth that delivered benefits to local communities and sustainable outcomes and addressed climate change whilst ensuring the area remained one of economic prosperity. Without economic prosperity the resources to deliver the ambitious agenda would not be available. The Conservative party was committed to addressing climate change including new legislation that would create a new Office for Environmental Protection, a body that would have the powers to enforce environmental legislation. 


Councillor Johnson concluded that the plan was not perfect but no long term plan was without the ability to change. The plan was going in the right direction. He saw the borough becoming the Royal Borough of innovation and opportunity. 

Councillor Del Campo explained that she usually tried to read the document pack three times over before a meeting, but she had only managed this one twice. Members had been given not nearly enough time to read the many documents, digest, understand, cross-reference and, most importantly, scrutinise them. Members were being asked to take a leap of faith and approve the plan because if it did not, something worse might happen. The problem was that for some of her residents, the plan already presented them with a worst-case scenario, one that had been causing stress and loss of sleep for the last seven years.

Councillor Del Campo explained that she was referring to Spencer’s Farm, which should not even be under consideration because in 2012, councillors voted almost unanimously to ‘protect the existing greenbelt in the forthcoming Borough Local Plan’ and to ‘carefully consider the responses received to consultations on the Borough Local Plan’. Councillor Del Campo felt that if either of the pledges had been honoured, that would have been the end of the matter. In September 2013, she understood the RBWM Highways team had ruled out the site over highways issues. That should also have been the end of it, yet it was still included and the same arguments as before, about access via the dangerous bend on the Cookham Road, were being made. She had been told that Highways were now happy with the site, but she was not allowed to know why as the document was not in the public domain. If the document was not in the public domain, it could not be scrutinised so it should not be able to influence the plan.

Councillor Del Campo explained that the site was also known to flood and to have surface water issues. She had been told to trust that the issues would be mitigated but the facts around flooding on Spencer’s Farm were alarming. For example, proposed emergency access to the site was over a mixture of Flood Zone 2 and Flood Zone 3 land, and the sequential test document stated any land that was currently Flood Zone 2 could be presumed to become Flood Zone 3 over the next 100 years due to climate change. This change also meant that land to the north and the south of the site currently planned for housing and a school, would also become Flood Zone 3.  There had been floods in 1990, 2000, 2003, 2012 and 2014.

She appreciated the offers made the previous day by the Lead Member to meet to discuss concerns and she invited him to come and talk to residents on the Aldebury estate and explain to them how the plan mitigated the concerns of both residents and the inspector over flooding.

Councillor Del Campo also wished to discuss whether appointing an empty homes officer and bringing the borough’s 553 empty homes back into use could allow removal of Spencer’s Farm in Furze Platt, and Lower Mount Farm and Strande Park in Cookham, a total of 550 homes. She appreciated it was not a simple numbers game, but there were very strong reasons for taking these particular sites out of the BLP.

Another matter her residents felt strongly about was that of housing for people with disabilities. She had received a well-researched email from a residents who had serious concerns about the BLP, and Councillor Bond would speak about this in more detail. The Disability and Inclusion Forum had worked hard to make their views heard, as had the Climate Emergency Coalition and a great number of other local groups, yet they felt that they were being ignored. The plan was already delayed by six years. Councillor Del Campo therefore felt that taking a little more time now to put residents and the environment front and centre of the process would pay dividends in years to come.

Councillor Baldwin stated that he was dissatisfied with the piecemeal release of the papers into the public domain given the Extraordinary meeting was agreed in August 2019. He felt this represented a cavalier approach to consultation with Members and therefore wondered how the public consultees would be treated such as those in attendance at the meeting including representatives of parish councils, neighbourhood forums, Wild Maidenhead and the Climate Emergency Coalition. It suggested such committed residents would be treated as necessary but resented window dressing to give legitimacy to the plan. Residents could take their revenge at the ballot box but this would not be until 2023 which would be too late for many communities. Until then it would be this plan, with all its acknowledged faults, backed up by Development Management Panels with an inbuilt Conservative majority and Overview and Scrutiny Panels rendered useless by overwork and partisan solidarity. Councillor Baldwin encourage the administration to give the full Council the time it needed to scrutinise the plan properly and engage with the Opposition so all could support it. If this did not happen it would stagger out of the door and the Inspector would inevitably reject it. He opposed the motion.


Councillor Werner proposed a motion to defer the item to a meeting at the earliest the week commencing 10 November 2019. The Leader had said it was not a perfect plan and he wanted a more collegiate approach. Members had heard from the public the adverse effects of the plan on climate change, on the highways of north Maidenhead. Members had received a number of the reports late. The plan was clearly not ready to go to consultation.


Councillor Johnson requested to make a personal explanation. He explained that he did not say the plan was flawed but that it was imperfect in so far as being judged by the Inspector on a national planning framework which had slightly moved out of date. That was not the choice of the council; it was part of the process the council was locked into. It was not the council’s plan to rewrite comprehensively. The Inspector had given a clear direction which had been followed in moving to a period of consultation he had faith in the residents that they would engage fully with the process and raise valid concerns which the Inspector would take into account.


Councillor Jones seconded the motion for deferral. Members therefore debated the motion.


Councillor Knowles commented that information had been coming in waves; this had affected all Members. He appreciated the borough needed an up to date plan but it needed to be fit for purpose on as many points as possible. Everyone needed to work together. Some issues may be insurmountable but they needed to be looked at. There was not a lot of trust in the consultation process, for example he was concerned people with cars would be discounted given the track record.


Councillor Reynolds stated that he supported the deferral. He did not believe a deferral would change the timetable. The opposition wanted to sit down and discuss a few key changes that all could agree to. Members had been given 3000 pages to read, some of them only hours before the meeting.


Councillor Hill stated that he supported the motion. The situation had become absurd; it had been difficult to keep up with all the documents being published. He would welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues in his ward.


Councillor W. Da Costa stated that the opposition wanted to work with the administration to benefit residents. It wanted to discuss key issues that were stopping all agreeing the plan. It needed to include clear and robust targets on climate change and biodiversity.


Councillor Davey commented that he expected 95% of the councillors in the room had not read the documents properly. If they then voted, he questioned whether they would be truly representing their residents.


Councillor Walters highlighted that previous speeches had over-exaggerated the council’s powers. The power sat with central government who set the target for housing. If the council did not accept the demands of the Inspector, it would be out in the wilderness. Developers were waiting in the wings to see more delays. It was time to give the public the opportunity to say what they thought through the consultation.


Councillor Carole Da Costa commented that she really wanted to approve the plan but had not received the documents in time. There was a need to stop developers doing what they wanted but she requested additional time to read the papers.


Councillor Jones referred to the last letter from the Inspector which clearly stated it was the borough’s wish to consult on the changes to the plan before proceeding with the hearings. Therefore a Regulation 19 style consultation was reasonable. Although the council may like the Inspector to include the amendments, she may not do so. She understood the wish of the council to only go to consultation on a plan approved by Councillors but to do this councillors needed time to make evidenced decisions; documents including site allocations had not been available prior to the previous Tuesday. A briefing had been arranged at the last minute but had clashed with a Local Independents’ meeting with the LGA. She had not approved the original submission for good reason as it was not based on evidence. New councillors needed to ensure they understood the original plan, and then the changes proposed.


Councillor Jones acknowledged some of the changes were an improvement, but she had concerns about allocation of hospital sites for housing. The A308 was another anomaly that needed to be addressed. She had not seen the fact that the King Edward VII Hospital site was included until the previous Tuesday. She was then expected to do all her research in a week whilst also working. She therefore questioned how she could approve the plan and represent her residents.


Councillor Werner concluded that a two week delay to get the plan right was not too much to ask. It would send a good message to the Inspector if the approval were unanimous.


Members voted on the motion to defer the debate to a meeting no earlier than the week commencing 10 November 2019.


A named vote was taken as at least five councillors made such a request, as per Part 2 C17.3.3 of the constitution. 17 Councillors voted for the motion; 21 Councillors voted against the motion. The motion therefore fell.


Members returned to debating the motion in the agenda.


Councillor Carroll explained that planning was underway already in co-ordination with the Department for Education (DfE) for additional school places if needed. A number of schools were enthusiastic about the opportunity to expand. In terms of GP capacity, the issue was regularly discussed at the Health and Wellbeing Board and with the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG). It was a requirement under NHS England to ensure an adequate number of GPs and surgeries. The CCG was confident that it could cope with an increase in demand if needed. A Borough Local Plan was required to know what would be needed and to plan for growth. Councillor Carroll commented that he knew Salford well; it provided an example that addressing climate change was not mutually exclusive from regeneration. The council had an ambitious commitment to addressing climate change and would bring forward a number of policies. It was misleading to say the council was not doing anything.


Councillor Carroll highlighted that Key Workers were pivotal for Adult Social Care and Children’s Services. The issue of affordable housing was always raised in terms of recruitment and retention.  He commented that there had been confusion and misinformation about the hospital sites. He would be happy to forward a statement from the CCG to clarify there was no plan to reduce services.


Councillor Hilton commented that the plan being considered had been on a very long journey. Councillor Christine Bateson and he had started that journey as members of the Local Plan Working Group in late 2010; it would be good to bring the protracted process nearer to a close. The working group had reached the conclusion that against a backdrop of an aging population and housing shortage, in order to maintain an appropriate number of working age residents and economic vibrancy, more new homes affordable for younger people were needed. To achieve this, it became obvious that a modest release of Green Belt would be needed to achieve a balance between the economic, social and environmental priorities. The council could not just stop building the homes desperately need by residents.

In a rapidly changing world such was the process for plan making that it was inevitable that some new thinking was omitted, but rather than being fixed for all time, in today’s world the plan would be more of a living document. There was a requirement to review it every five years but the council could add new policies at any time. In the same way as the main plan, the policies would need to go through consultation and examination in public. 

Even if collectively Members could not agree on every point, he was sure that all wished to protect the Green Belt and biodiversity. An adopted plan was the only way this could be achieved. Without a plan there could be a flood of planning applications from developers, including those whose land holdings had been rejected for development and some of those would be successful. Members may not like some aspects of the plan but it was by far better than the incoherent sprawl that uncontrolled development could bring.

 He highlighted that he was the Lead Member for Finance and Ascot. Ascot was included because it was classified as a growth area. Before boundary changes his ward included some 2000 homes. The pro-forma in the plan would deliver in excess of 700 homes to this area, much of it in the Green Belt. This was a 33% increase which he imagined was as much as any other ward in the borough. Across the whole of the south of the borough there would be 15% growth.

One of the reasons that he had stood in the 2019 elections was to ensure that the rejuvenation of Ascot was delivered such that, once complete, those who complained along the way would say ‘well, this isn’t so bad, in fact I quite like some of it’. From talking to developers and by using the Ascot Place Making paper, he knew that this was possible.

The provision of more than 14 Hectares of Suitable alternative Natural Green Space to support these developments would add to biodiversity.

Development across the Borough would create opportunities. In Ascot proposals would deliver a double-sided high street, new, smaller and affordable homes close to a community building, a piazza, new retail, cafés and restaurants. His ambition was to attract younger people to the area as a balance to the aging population and create a vibrant Ascot that reflected the international standing of Ascot Racecourse. If he were to achieve his ambition the plan needed to be adopted as soon as possible. Delay would only bring harm so he would be supporting the recommendation and suggested others should too.

Councillor Hill commented that the revised version was a missed opportunity. He felt that the existing plan should have been withdrawn and the areas lacking should have been completed, with the old plan at hand and a new plan re-submitted. There was no full Green Belt Review or Duty to Cooperate.  On the upside the employment land allocations were much better and there had been a good re-evaluation of the flood plain. In relation to infrastructure, he questioned why Vicus Way was still listed as a car park when it was clearly employment land and good alternative proposals had been made.


Councillor Hill stated that there was no justification for the development of Maidenhead Golf Club to housing without a comprehensive Green Belt review.  Unless of course it was being used as a cash cow to pay off the £175m debt mountain building up.


Oldfield Ward was set to take circa 3000 addition homes on top of the circa 3500 existing homes.   St. Mary’s found itself in a similar pattern.   With this almost doubling of dwellings in central Maidenhead and no real attention to infrastructure other than the fairly obtuse encouragement to walk or cycle forgetting that most would have to drive. central Maidenhead risked becoming a high rise heavily congested dormitory with associated health and community challenges.


Having read the emails from RBWM Climate Emergency Councillor Hill stated that he agreed entirely.  The Borough Local Plan and suggested amendments was the biggest and most devastating failure in the borough for a generation. The most damming evidence of this was the environmental vandalism which was taking place on Maidenhead golf course and the Land South of Harvest Hill Road.  This was the eradication of the last remaining green lung in Maidenhead resulting in a dramatic loss of green space, bio-diversity, traffic chaos, air quality degradation with associated pollution and potential ill-health of local residents.


Councillor Hill concluded by referring Members to a speech by the Leader of the Council outside the Royal Courts of Justice six days previously regarding Heathrow Expansion and the reasons to fight it. The speech referred to exposing ‘the flawed process’, the ‘detrimental impact on bio-diversity’, exposing ‘the flaws surrounding air quality,’ the ‘huge massive blight of air pollution that not only will affect the Royal Borough’. Councillor Hill commented that these sounded like familiar problems and were very close to home with the Borough Local Plan.  The Leader’s speech had closed with ‘We fight to win, the fight goes on. He therefore closed by asking the Leader to fight to: reduce the ridiculous Objectively Assessed Need for housing in the borough; throw out the flawed Borough Local Plan and re-start (keeping the existing good work of the old plan); and do the process right, fully representing the needs and views of residents and protecting the environment for future generations.


Councillor Targowski commented that there had been a lot of talk about representing residents. The Conservative manifesto in 2019 had committed to defend the Green Belt from speculative development and to build affordable homes. The report was vital to achieve these commitments.


Councillor Larcombe highlighted problems in Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury including air craft noise, traffic pollution, parking, floods and air pollution. If areas of land liable to flood were allocated for housing it should be expected that they would be thrown out. In his ward there were two motorways, three railway stations, three working gravel pits and a vast recycling site with a thousand lorry movements per day. He was pleased that two sites had been removed. However he criticised the stakeholder meetings that had been held, in particular the slides that had been presented. Councillor Larcombe had always lived within three miles of his current address therefore he knew the area well. He felt that his ward was ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Unauthorised and tolerated development was carrying on at pace. He had no comment on the Traveller local plan. He would vote to put the plan out to consultation although he disagreed with the content and the timing of the consultation as it was important to get it into the public domain. He questioned how much had been spent on the plan to date. Panel members who voted without the emerging plan and were oblivious to the flood plan and Green Belt issues would have a lot to answer for. He questioned whether the construction of earth bunds without planning permission, the blockages and the failure to maintain drainage were sustainable development. Wraysbury Parish Council had declared a motion of no confidence; he did not have the exact wording but it related to planning.  The River Thames Scheme route was meant to be protected but only the previous month councillors had approved a scheme to cover a large piece of land with concrete. This had simply added value for the landowners.


Councillor Bhangra commented that he was glad to see that Boyn Valley Industrial Estate was not a site listed in the revised Borough Local Plan. Councillor Carroll and he had been working closely with the businesses of Boyn Valley Industrial Estate in Boyn Hill assisting them to ensure their livelihoods and businesses were secure for the future. Councillor Carroll had raised issues with the Lead Member for Planning over the last year, as the site was previously included in the Borough Local Plan. They had been working with the businesses of Boyn Valley Industrial Estate as part of their industrial plan. It was a very important and a valuable site for small factories and small businesses which were vital employers to the local area and these businesses were critical. The majority of the residents he had spoken to in Boyn Hill wanted the council to proceed with the Borough Local Plan, whilst being ambitious about the biodiversity plan also. Young people wanted the council to ensure affordable housing, social housing and key worker housing and to combine that with environmental imperatives. He thanked Councillor Coppinger for listening and for taking residents’ and business owners’ views into consideration in the revised Borough Local Plan.


Councillor Sharpe commented that he was delighted that the plan was about to move to consultation. The impact of recent planning decisions in the south of the borough made it clear that there was a need for greater protection for residents. He felt that the parking plan was not correct as more spaces were needed per property. An approved plan would be crucial in the planning process so all were on the same wavelength. The council should use the opportunity to build communities across the borough that residents wanted. The consultation would therefore be for the benefit of all.


Councillor Bateson commented that she had first been involved in the plan process eight years previously. When the government policy changed it had been a requirement to give up some Green Belt land. The Inspector had come back with a great number of modifications; she congratulated the Head of Planning and her team in dealing with these.

Councillor Davey commented that he was very disappointed. No-one was against the plan as it was a very important thing to have but a two week delay would make no difference. He felt the plan was getting waved through. Last month he had asked a question about the A308 corridor review; yet he had not had any feedback. His suspicion was that it would cause bad news for the 450 housing plan for the areas. He felt that he could not make a decision on the Borough Local Plan without reading, digesting, sharing, discussing, thinking, reflecting, evaluating and mulling it over for a while. He needed to consider what his residents thought, as surely what he thought had to mirror their thoughts?

Google said that a Place Plan was an opportunity for a community to come together and help to play a part in shaping the place that mattered to them. The report had taken over 10 years to take shape, but Members were being  expected to digest it in less than seven days and then vote on moving it forward. CIPFA were currently reviewing how the council operated and are not very impressed. The Inspector had already kicked the plan into the long grass once, he did not want to be there again.

Councillor Davey highlighted that in 2009 people were asked whether they agreed with the following statement:

“By 2026 the Royal Borough will be a place guided by the principles of sustainable communities where everyone can thrive in a safe and healthy environment, take active part in decisions and continue to learn throughout their lives. It will be a place where the unique character, history and setting is respected in providing a strong economy and meeting the needs and expectations of residents, visitors and those who work in the borough. Development will be carefully planned, maximising the re-use of suitable land within towns and villages”.

Councillor Davey highlighted sections of the statement and made the following comments:

·         Was the council taking climate change seriously in?

·         Food banks in 2019 were busier than ever

·         Members were being urged to vote the new BLP through before they had had a chance to look at it properly, as they were being warned that the inspector may ‘pull the plug’

·         There was a £4m hole in the budget

·         Procurement was unable to tell him what the council was actually doing for local businesses

·         In relation to the A308 Corridor Review, “They were too busy with other things” was comment reportedly made at Parish meeting.

·         8 million tourists visited the borough yet there was a proposal to close the Tourist Office and the Visitor Management Forum had been canned.

Councillor Davey stated that in in 2009 Legoland had said: ‘Would like to see greater reference to the economic benefits brought to the Borough by tourism. The Core Strategy should place a greater emphasis on the retention, enhancement and expansion of existing tourist facilities.’ Councillor Davey explained that the regional economic multiplier effect said that £1 that went to a local business would go to seven or eight more.

The Conservative administration had put forward the following Borough Local Plan with no real consultation with the Opposition.


Councillor Bond commented that it would be good to hear more information from Councillor Carroll on the hospital issue as St Marks was in his ward. He believed there was a covenant on the land that said it could only be used for a hospital. There was a need to ask searching questions. The issue of Children’s Centres was most concerning. When assets were converted into revenue it led to a weaker balance sheet. He was also concerned about often overlooked mental health services.  He wondered where the saving came from if some services had to move off hospital sites and pay commercial rates for accommodation. There was an appetite for more detail on all hospital services. He was aware that there was a church with an active congregation in the grounds of St Marks. It was a one of six listed buildings on site. Only one of the pro-forma stated the building would be preserved which was concerning.  Councillor Bond highlighted that very little of the existing housing stock was fully accessible for those with mobility issues. The number of residents with such issues was due to rise from 26,000 to 32,000 yet the plan included a target of just 5%.


Councillor Haseler commented that the submission version was under inspection. The Head of Planning had been in close communication with the inspector and had a very good understanding of what the issues were with the current version. She and her team had been working very hard to address those issues and make proposed amendments. He urged Members to approve the report so that residents could begin to make their views known.


Councillor Jones commented that she had listed to Councillor Bhangra about how he and Councillor Carroll had been able to talk to Councillor Coppinger about the industrial area in their ward. She would have welcomed a similar opportunity to discuss King Edward VII Hospital which was in her ward.  Residents had hoped for a minor injury unit as it was a 30 minute drive to Wexham Park. If such inputs were welcome all needed to be included well before seven days before a Council meeting. She had not had sufficient time to ask questions. She proposed a motion to amend recommendation ii) so that only ‘minor’ revisions could be made under delegation.


Councillor Werner seconded the proposal.


Councillor Coppinger stated that he did not accept the proposed amendment.


The Managing Director referred Members to paragraph 2.18 of the report.


A vote was taken on the amendment via a show of hands; the motion fell.


Councillor Coppinger concluded the debate. He explained that the council had already submitted a plan. The council was now responding to questions by the Inspector therefore it was essential that the public were given an opportunity to provide views. There was no such thing as a two week delay because Christmas was approaching. It was important to approve the report and begin the consultation as soon as possible. Once the plan was in place the work of the cross party working group would continue.


It was proposed by Councillor Coppinger, seconded by Councillor Walters, and:


RESOLVED: That Council notes the report and:


i) Approves the Proposed Changes to the Borough Local Plan Submission Version (Appendix 1), together with the Sustainability Appraisal and Habitats Regulations Assessment updates, for public consultation.


ii) Delegates to the Executive Director, Place in consultation with the Lead Member for Planning, to make such revisions to the Proposed Changes to the Borough Local Plan Submission Version as are necessary and/or appropriate to address responses received to the Proposed Changes public consultation, before it is submitted to the Inspector to progress the Examination of the BLPSV with Proposed Changes.


(A named vote was taken as at least five councillors made such a request, as per Part 2 C17.3.3 of the constitution. 22 Councillors voted for the motion; 15 Councillors voted against the motion; 1 abstained)


Members congratulated Councillor Targowski on the recent birth of his baby daughter.

Supporting documents: