To receive a presentation on the Waterways project.
Richard Davenport, Chair of Friends of Maidenhead Waterways, gave the Forum a presentation on the waterways project. Maidenhead was a town that had the River Thames flowing through it but this was far from the centre. The abandoned York Stream ran through the centre of the town but was largely derelict and in a poor state. The 2011 Area Action Plan allocated six opportunity areas for redevelopment, which included sites adjourning the York Stream at Chapel Arches, York Road and Stafferton Way. The goal of the project was to restore the waterway to a navigable standard, integrating the waterway with ongoing regeneration to create a high quality, safe, green corridor through the town centre. The development of the Borough Local Plan provided additional opportunities to link the waterway with much of the regeneration and redevelopment which was planned for Maidenhead town centre.
There had been a number of challenges to the waterway project:
· It was a bold, complex and unique project.
· The waterway had been designed to avoid adding to the flood risk.
· It was important to balance the needs of ecology and amenity.
· There was a long-term strategy which depended on funding in stages.
· Contractor disputes and delay penalties had added to the cost.
Richard Davenport explained that the waterway, Chapel Arches and the weir were together Maidenhead’s largest and most visible regeneration/transformation project to date. Richard Davenport showed the Forum a number of pictures of the waterways at various locations and at different times in the development and construction process. The waterways had brought resurgent wildlife back to the town centre, with the deeper stable water allowing new habitats. Fish and eel passes had been built into the new weir and there was fish passage through Maidenhead town centre for the first time. A number of birds and other species were now present on the waterways.
There was still some outstanding work to be completed on the York Stream arm of the waterway:
· The flood wall under the A4 needed to be fixed to prevent path flooding.
· Boat launch facilities needed to be added to activate the waterway and enable maintenance of the town centre channels.
· A maintenance programme of inspections and routine works was to be established.
· Removal of a low pipe bridge underneath the railway bridge.
· Finishing touches: more trees, signage and info boards.
The next steps for the waterway, which were subject to funding:
· Complete residual works on the York Stream.
· Clear a passage along Bray Cut for small boats, linking with the Thames.
· Develop the Ivy Leaf club waterside site once it was available.
· Restore the Moor Cut arm to join with the York Stream to complete the town centre ‘ring’.
· A step by step joined up long term strategy was essential to avoid significant cost.
Councillor Baskerville commented that it had been an impressive project. He had noted that the Chapel Arches bridge was 200 years old in 2025 and asked if the waterway would be completed by then. Councillor Baskerville asked if there would be enough room for boats to use the waterway.
Richard Davenport said that it was feasible the project would be completed by 2025 but this was dependent on funding. Small boats were already able to use the York Stream arm of the waterway but there were a few ‘pinch points’ preventing passage by larger boats.
Councillor Baskerville asked if the waterway would attract fishermen.
Richard Davenport confirmed that it could and already was doing so. The waterway was officially a side channel of the River Thames and therefore the same rules applied.
Councillor G Jones said that the waterway was a great asset for the town. He asked if provision had been made for boats to be moored up.
Richard Davenport said that planning permission had been gained for an access ramp and pontoons at Chapel Arches which would allow access to and from the water. Things like a boat hire could potentially be explored in future.
Councillor G Jones further asked about the Green Lane weir and whether there were weir gates or would all boats have to use the rollers.
Richard Davenport explained that in the planning permission there was provision for a lock on that section, but the lock would not be added until such time as boats large enough to need one could reach the area. In the interim, the rollers would be able to take a boat of a certain size.
Councillor Bhangra thanked Richard Davenport for the presentation and said the work on the waterways had been done well.
Councillor Stimson said that work on the ramp and pontoon project was moving forward, the waterway was a fantastic piece of infrastructure that was important for Maidenhead and for wellbeing.