Viewpoint: Smart motorways and the Borough Local Plan

Email Viewpoint letters to jamesp@baylismedia.co.uk or write to Viewpoint, Newspaper House, 48 Bell Street, Maidenhead, SL6 1HX.

Really paying for a dangerous mistake

So Grant Shapps and National Highways are going to ‘pause the rollout of smart motorways and wait for five years of safety data’.

‘Pause’ is an interesting word, isn’t it?

It sounds sort of gentle and not at all harsh like that other ugly word, ‘scrap’.

But don’t worry, during the Big Pause they’ll be using drivers on the M4 amongst others, as guinea pigs, to check if the death rate will be as bad as they probably now suspect it will be.

And the reason for the great ‘Pause and Measure’ policy?

If you pause and measure, you avoid massive embarrassment for all those idiots responsible for this madness, both currently and in the past.

On the other hand, if you do the right thing now and scrap them, the public would then demand to know why you ever arrogantly pressed ahead with all-lane-running in the first place, despite the obvious dangers, just in order to try and save your faces and some money.

Also, pausing for several years rather than scrapping, means you have the option of quietly abandoning the project a few years down the line, when Smart Motorways are a mere misty memory and maybe there’s even another government in power. ‘Grant Who? Was he a character in EastEnders? Was he a used car dealer?…I’m sorry, I don’t remember him…’

Nick Harris of National Highways says: “While we pause those all lane running schemes yet to start construction, we will complete the schemes currently in construction. We will make existing sections as safe as they can possibly be and we will step up our advice to drivers so they have all the information they need. We are doing this because safety is our absolute priority and we want drivers to not just be safer, but also to feel safe on our busiest roads.”

Yes, seriously, Mr Harris, who is the CEO of National Highways actually said all those words.

Recently, after many emails to National Highways, I finally received an admission that if you break down in a live lane it could take up to three minutes for the emergency stopped lane signals to be activated.

Think of it - three minutes while huge lorries going at 60mph desperately try to avoid you.

And finally, Grant Shapps and Nick Harris ironically seem to be big fans of Mastermind because they have adopted the maxim, ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’.

So because they started this huge mess, they are really determined to finish it, with the help of course of Maidenhead drivers who’ll be acting as their unfortunate guinea pigs.

MALCOLM JAMES STRETTEN

Boulters Lane

Maidenhead


Foreshadowing mess of overdevelopment

I recently came across an article which appeared in the Advertiser, April 20 2017, by Martin Trepte, the paper’s previous editor.

At this time the Conservative Party had a huge majority in the RBWM council and it is important to repeat some of the serious concerns raised by Martin Trepte.

He begins: “There is a lot to be said about the effects of absolute power. But one of the most worrying aspects of an unassailable majority is it creates the delusion of infallibility – and the consequences of that are serious, not for just local democracy but for the everyday lives of Maidonians.”

He goes on to say: “If the Town Hall existed in an isolated bubble this might not matter too much. But it doesn’t and the decisions made there affect us all – now and for years to come.

“This makes RBWM’s wilful deafness to concerns about the Borough Local Plan (BLP) – its blueprint for development up to 2032 – all the more alarming.” How true!

This statement underlines the fact that as far back as 2017, people were genuinely concerned about the overdevelopment of our town and where the extra estimated 15,000 people will live.

He continues: “But also in the absence of any meaningful infrastructure plan, where will they park their cars, go to the doctor, where their children will go to school and how our roads will cope with all the extra traffic?” – all points raised by local groups seeking to limit the overdevelopment.

He states further: “The implications on the quality of life for everyone are enormous. But rather than engage with the concerns, the council has sought to undermine, sideline and now silence its critics.”

Since the council elections in 2019 the Conservative majority has been drastically reduced but the Conservatives still have a majority and continue to ignore the genuine concerns of people.

Together with others, I have tried to engage with the council for the last five years on many aspects of the Borough Local Plan.

Throughout this period the attitude of the council towards us matches exactly what Martin Trepte wrote in April 2017.

Maidenhead is set to be massively overdeveloped and it will have a very serious impact on the lives of all residents.

It is too late to change many of the planned developments in Maidenhead but there is ONE development that can be stopped.

Instead of building 2,000 homes on Maidenhead Golf Course the Council should see sense and turn this very precious greenbelt land into a park

If you feel strongly about the preservation of the golf course please contact your local councillors as soon as possible making your views known.

GEORGE MIDGLEY

Walker Road

Maidenhead


Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone

In the January 6 Advertiser, one letter noted that building on the green belt is all about money, but according to RBWM, building on the greenbelt may also be the solution to the environment emergency!

Hard to believe (I don’t), but:

For planning application 20/01779/OUT at Honey Lane in Hurley, the Maidenhead Development Control Panel report dated October 20 2021, paragraph 9.70 concluded that the (DEFRA 3.0) Biodiversity Impact Calculation demonstrates that the proposed development (to build 26 dwellings on 2.3 hectares of the greenbelt currently covered in willow trees, frequented by deer, with confirmed sightings of grass snakes and removing an established, decades old hedge), will result in a 15.63 per cent net gain in biodiversity units and 21.21 per cent net gain in hedgerow units at the site, which will make a positive contribution to local biodiversity.

Given that the current environment emergency has arisen during a period when emphasis has been placed on abstract calculation, rather than local knowledge, maybe it’s time for RBWM to consider if reliance on those tools has helped or hindered the emergency.

In addition RBWM (and others who think it’s OK to build on the green belt) need to ask themselves what message they are sending to our international neighbours.

On one hand we want them to stop clearing their green belts for financial gain in order to protect our climate and environmen.

But at the same time we reserve the right to build on our greenbelts.

It’s not too late to re-think these decisions and find more environmentally friendly solutions, but when the green belt is gone, it may be too late.

DAVID SMITH

Honey Lane

Hurley


Chance to forge links with Argentine town

This is a call for interest in a programme for Maidenhead to twin with an Argentine town.

Maidenhead has a proud history of twinning and has four European towns to its credit, ably supported by councillors.

We think it would be nice to twin with a town in our old ‘enemy’ Argentina.

I will be travelling there next year and am happy to do the work for free as the council has no capacity.

It would be good for business, as Argentina is keen on UK goods.

But the question is, are Maidenhead people ready for Tango diplomacy or are they going to remember the Falklands War (like many, I have friends who were involved) and take a more negative view of our idea?

Personally I think it’s time to make friends with this highly developed South American country.

There is a strong British cultural influence in Argentina and a large Argentine-British community around Buenos Aires.

A joke in South America is that Argentinians are Italians who speak Spanish but pretend they are English.

Our countries have much in common: diversity and tolerance for different races and religions, a very high literacy rate (Argentinians love books and movies), and a treaty of friendship that goes back to 1825, after Argentina won its war of independence from Spain.

Argentinians love football, rugby, hockey and polo; they have some of world’s greatest writers and some of its bravest journalists.

And as I’ve discovered recently, many Argentinians are very hospitable, kind, and keen to meet us.

If you’d like to be involved, please email me on ngroffman@hcrlaw.com

NICOLAS GROFFMAN

Maidenhead


Investing in services across the community

The Royal Boroughs’s finance reports are open and transparent and we include all known risks so the residents we are privileged to serve can fully understand the council’s financial position.

Some like to focus on the council’s debt which is money borrowed to build and improve community facilities such as leisure centres, for infrastructure to support our growing population and the important regeneration of Maidenhead.

We forecast debt to be £213million at the end of the financial year but in 2024/25 this will start to reduce, if we chose, capital receipts would allow us to be debt free by 2036.

What is more important to residents is the impact of the draft Revenue Budget that is still open to public consultation at https://rbwmtogether.rbwm.gov.uk/budget-consultation.

I anticipate that many would be surprised to learn that we propose to invest an additional £5.3 million in council services including bus services, climate change and protecting vulnerable children whilst making savings of £3.3 million, not through cutting or compromising the quality of services but through our highly successful transformation programme.

No one likes increased costs, but the likely council tax increase of 3 per cent will be below inflation and residents of Windsor and Maidenhead will benefit from the lowest council tax outside of London and for a Band D property between £280 and £500 less than our neighbouring local authorities.

Cllr DAVID HILTON

Cabinet Member for Finance and Ascot


Laughing all the way to the bank at drivers

Well said, John Walsby, about Euro Garages’ amazing fuel pump prices – amazing not only that they can dare to charge so much but also because we motorists are mugs to pay it (Viewpoint, January 13).

The queues at Shoppenhangers and Braywick attest to this when so many other sites are far cheaper.

Perhaps the normally-reported ‘billionaire Issa brothers’ owners of EG and now ASDA should have the letter P prefixed to their name: they’re certainly taking the proverbial – but all the way to the bank, clever them..!

DEREK SEARLE

Bramble Drive

Maidenhead


See the bigger picture on food production

The ‘How to stay eco-friendly this Christmas season’ article (Thursday, December 23 2021) wanted support for LOAF acronym, when it comes to purchasing goods to ensure it is Local, Organic, Animal Friendly and Fairtrade.

The problem is for food producers to be organic is that not using medicines to cure animal and crop diseases, not using genetically modified plants that produce less food and need less medicines to cure crop diseases, and restricting fertiliser to animal waste, needs more animals to be fed food that could be available to humans.

Yields per acre will be less and therefore more land is needed for food production and therefore less land for wildlife and growing trees and more forests being destroyed as our population continues to rise and we try to make sure nobody goes to bed hungry.

It is always important for people promoting single issues to consider the side effects that can cause bigger problems.

GEOFFREY COPAS

Copas Farms


Cavalier attitudes from the current PM

Do your readers, like me, fail to understand how the Prime Minister, and those around him, can be so cavalier in ignoring the rules they imposed on the general public?

Clearly the Prime Minister, his ministers and staff think the rules are for bending where they are concerned.

The Prime Minister’s excuses are totally pathetic.

The rules in May 2020 were perfectly clear regarding the meeting of people outside your own household, as well as those relating to work.

Having had COVID himself not long before, the risks of mixing were well known.

It must be heart-breaking for all those who complied and thus did not visit loved ones or could not see friends or family who were seriously ill or dying.

People had to decide who they could include in a shortlist for a funeral and those who wanted desperately to say goodbye could not.

Now it appears that the PM is waiting for an investigation to finish to see if his skin, and those who blatantly broke the rules, can be saved.

It should not be left to a civil servant to decide.

When will the electorate come to say those famous words of Oliver Cromwell when he closed the long parliament: “It is high time to put an end to your sitting.........”

NIGEL SMITH

Australia Avenue

Maidenhead


Sound is just one of aircraft concerns

Andrew Hall writes from time to time about aircraft flying off-track and low over Windsor, Maidenhead and our surrounding area.

As a comparison, the latest serious incident at a major airport was when an Emirates Boeing 777 destined for Dulles, Washington did not take off properly at Dubai airport on December 21.

The aircraft failed to climb and was only 175ft away from impacting the ground.

In the past there have been major crashes at Heathrow (which the Airports Commission called ‘ground incidents’) in 1968, in 1972 and in 2008, also with other more minor incidents at other times, including a Boeing 787 suffering a nose-wheel collapse on the ground whilst being loaded, just seven months ago in June 2021.

Schiphol in Amsterdam – an airport with which Heathrow frequently likes to compare itself – saw crashes in 1992, when a Boeing 747 crashed on take-off into an apartment block, in 1994 when a Boeing 737 crashed short of landing, plus other smaller incidents.

These examples illustrate the kind of risks to which populations around major international airports are exposed.

Andrew Hall is right to express concerns about aircraft low and off-track over Windsor, Maidenhead and our surroundings, together with aircraft activity outside an eight-hour night time curfew as recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Unlike most other major international airports, Heathrow’s operations take place over millions of people across the Thames Valley and London.

Other airports have mostly been better positioned but Heathrow has been allowed to grow in the wrong location.

For many of us within the Royal Borough, the prospect of Heathrow having further expansion and nightflights doesn't bear thinking about.

The size of their operations is already far beyond what they should be.

The thought of an additional 700 flights per day over our heads, increasing pre-pandemic numbers by 50 per cent, with increased risk including at night fills me with dread.

As we start 2022, Heathrow's operations need to be better controlled.

The Government must impose an 8 hour curfew from 22.00 to 6.00 or from 23.00 to 7.00 as well as end the threat of further expansion at the earliest opportunity.

Our area puts up with enough already.

PAUL GROVES

Tithe Barn Drive

Between Windsor and Maidenhead


Misleading pictures of film lot on greenbelt

Draft design pictures for new film studios in Marlow show outdoor filming with dog walkers and cyclists going past and tall trees towering over the open aspect buildings. This is not what film studios are like.

The proposed buildings for the site are, in the main, 22m+ in height – they will not be masked by the tall trees that are currently planted by the road.

Film studios are, effectively, industrial sites where casual strolling and cycling would not be permitted for health and safety reasons, quite apart from the confidentiality and data protection required by film companies.

The pictures are fanciful PR.

The site already has two designations legally agreed: greenbelt and country park.

This is where the discussion should end for planners.

However many environmental assessments are done by Dido Properties (Guernsey) Ltd, it does not alter the fact that building on greenbelt destroys the benefits that greenbelt brings, forever.

Country park is not country park if it is used for industrial purposes.

Robert Laycock calls the land ‘neglected’.

Perhaps it would be better designated as ‘rewilding slowly’.

Wild Marlow say how important this site is for wildlife and by extension to us all.

We, in the UK, now recognise that we have a civic duty towards climate change and nature recovery and these two crises are closely linked.

We must protect greenbelt at all costs for us and for the coming generations.

The many problems that will emanate from this proposed development will not just be confined to Marlow but affect surrounding areas too.

I urge you all to look at Save Marlow’s greenbelt website www.savemarlowsgreen
belt.org to see all the other reasons to oppose the development: traffic issues creating traffic chaos and air pollution, water issues when the local Thames Water facility cannot cope with inflow, claims about local employment, unsubstantiated claims about net gains to the economy, the proliferation of extensions to other studios already in production thus making any extra studio space unnecessary, and others too numerous to outline here.

ANTHEA FALK

Save Marlow’s Greenbelt


Deals, no deals and mountain molehills

I sense that James Aidan has a low opinion of Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Viewpoint, January 13).

I concur, but with the caveat that I also have a low opinion of his predecessor.

As I made clear previously, in a letter about the lack of preparation for leaving the EU without any special trade deal, just defaulting to the existing WTO treaties:

“But after she had spent three years telling all and sundry that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal,’ surely she would have made sure that by the time she handed the reins over to Boris Johnson all the necessary preparations for a no deal exit were well advanced?

“I am no fan of Boris Johnson, far from it, but how can it be right for a politician to say one thing but do another, and then stay silent while her successor is pilloried for the dire situation she bequeathed to him? (Viewpoint, September 19 2019.)”

Well, we are where we are, as they say, and where we are is that Boris Johnson rightly condemned the Chequers plan proposed by Theresa May as ‘vassalage’ and ‘Brexit In Name Only’, but to get his precious trade deal with the EU he was prepared to impose that on people in one part of our country, Northern Ireland.

But then he was only put on that track because Theresa May had declined to challenge the Irish government when they fabricated an insurmountable mountain out of a molehill on the land border, seeing their nonsense as a useful pretext to give the CBI and other business pressure groups much of what they were demanding.

Dr D R COOPER

Belmont Park Avenue

Maidenhead


With gratitude for a life-saving NHS team

I would like to write an open thank you letter in particular to A&E, AAU, Ward 17, Aaron and Brian the paramedics and the wonderful doctors and nurses at Wexham Park Hospital who literally saved my life when I suffered an acute asthma attack recently.

I’ve luckily never been hospitalised before, and was most impressed and in awe of the work these tireless dedicated professionals do, day after day, week after week.

They don’t just deserve a clap, more like a medal, and more pay.

We take good health for granted, but when it’s gone it makes you realise what’s important – the day to day trivia that we unnecessarily stress about just fades away.

I am eternally grateful for all that you do, but hope never to see you again!

EILEEN HARRIS

Windsor

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